I know its been years. But I just wanted to let you know that I never forgot about this. This last chapter isn't much different from the original ch 26 of this story. I just changed a few things around to make it the official last chapter, because I hate unfinished stories. I hope some closure will be helpful for you as well. Many thanks.
Edward and I ran and jumped and played and chased each other until the rain ended, almost an hour later. It was ridiculous but so much fun. When we finally returned to the house we were both soaked to the bone and covered in mud. Esme absolutely refused to let us in the house without a serious scrub down. We cleaned up, laughing at how completely covered we both were. When Esme judged us both clean enough to come back inside we both bathed in order to get the remaining mud off of our skin and out of our hair. You couldn't really tell there was any in my hair just by looking, the color was too close to mine. But Edward's hair was streaked with mud from when he had slide tackled me in the middle of the woods. I hadn't thought it was too amusing at the time, but seeing him utterly demolished and still strangely beautiful brought a smile to my face.
Edward, being the eternal gentleman, let me bathe first, and when I was through I went to find some clothing from my wardrobe. Edward had, for the time being until we decided otherwise, moved his things to another bedroom so not to create any confusion or other accidents in which I flashed a member of his family.
We passed each other on my way to my room and his way to the bathroom. We exchanged smiles and I held in a laugh, noticing a spot right below his ear. I could tell he was trying not to stare as I passed him in just a towel and I held in the urge to finally win our little game by accidentally flashing an extra bit of skin. He probably would have gone into spontaneous combustion, so I thought better of it.
I got into my room, and closed to door behind me slowly. I was still amazed at how much control I needed to exhibit to do simple things like close a door, or open my wardrobe, without breaking something. My body was just not meant for such menial tasks, it was possible, completely doable of course, I did it everyday, but everything was made for human strength and human use, it did cater to my strength or abilities.
So while pondering this I opened random drawers in my wardrobe and found clothes to wear. I was digging around in my underwear drawer when I heard the distinct crinkle of paper. Of course my curiosity was piqued and I dug through the garments and withdrew a brown paper bag tied with a piece of string. I stared at it curiously, not remembering where it had come from or what could possibly be inside of it. And so I untied the tiny string and turned the bag over and garments fell onto my bed, shimmering even in the dim light. For a moment I had no idea what I was looking at. And then I realized what they were and practically shrieked. I had no idea why I would have ever needed such things, tiny and shimmery and seductive as they were. As far as Edward had told me we had only ever made love when we were both human, and I would have had absolutely no way to buy something like this while I was living with Jacob. Since then we hadn't been intimate in the least bit, so why would I have purchased them? Did Edward know they were there? How utterly embarrassing!
I held up a few of the negligees, curious. A few of them were more pretty than anything else, but a few of them were absolutely shamelessly enticing, meant for one thing only. And even then I was sure they wouldn't exactly stay on for very long. I had no idea what would have ever possessed me to buy such things, especially while I was human and Edward was a vampire. Had I been insane? Didn't I know that there was no way I could have been with him in any other way than the surely torturous way we already were? Edward was fighting every fiber in his being just to be around me, I knew just my seeing my memories and knowing how difficult it would have been for me to do the same things he was. I must have been completely out of my mind to think to buy lingerie for myself at that point in my life.
But there it was, too many for me to have worn in a week, laying there on my bed. I had bought them and they were still here, even though I had no idea what to do with them. Really, I had no other option than to just pack them back up in their paper bag, tie the string and forget all about them and pray that Edward never found out.
As if my unspoken prayer had been heard and ignored, there came a knock at my door, along with Edward's voice, asking if I was decent. I was frozen, my body unable to move, I couldn't let him in now.
"Bella?" he asked again.
"One moment!" I called desperately. This was one of the many times I loved my vampire speed. I packed up the lingerie in less than ten seconds and shoved it back in my drawer, closing it quickly and pulling on the clothes I had grabbed from my wardrobe. I told Edward he could come in after less than a minute and he opened the door slowly, in case I was still not dressed. I was sitting, trying to play it cool, on my bed smiling with as much innocence as was physically possible for me to muster at that exact moment.
Edward smiled at me for a moment and then his eyes got this skeptical look in them. I smiled wider, trying to contain my utter humiliation at finding such things among my clothes and my guilt for having bought them in the first place. He watched me carefully for a long moment, raising his eyebrows trying to provoke a response. I was struggling under that intense, knowing look. I felt myself start to squirm, just because he was looking at me with this look in his eyes, like he already knew what was going on.
"Are you going to tell me what has that incredibly guilty expression on your face or shall we continue string at each other for a few minutes until you eventually break?" he asked. I opened my mouth to protest the veracity of that statement and then closed it. He was right. If he kept staring at me like that I was sure I go insane. I couldn't handle it. He was slowly but surely wearing away my will, like the tide on a beach.
But I couldn't bring myself to tell him what I had found so I only pointed to my underwear drawer. He gave me a questioning look crouched and opened it, revealing the paper bag sitting on top of any of my underwear. He paused and looked at it for a moment and then just closed the drawer slowly.
"I should have hidden those better," he said with a sigh. I looked at him, my eyes wide. He knew about them. He was the one who had shoved them to the back of the drawer? He looked up at me and my expression must have been amusing, because he laughed hysterically.
"Oh, Bella, why the confusion?" he asked.
"You…knew about those…items?"
"Yes, I knew. It was a long story, but in short, the sisters bought you lingerie as a joke gift for you, and I managed to find out about them. That was actually what led to our first kiss, come to think of it, but I wasn't sure what you would say if you found them, so on one of your many hunting trips I stashed them in the back of your drawer. I guess that wasn't necessarily the best place to hide them, but I thought it would do for the time being. I see I was wrong," he explained. I nodded but said nothing.
"It isn't anything to be embarrassed about, Bella. You didn't do anything wrong. It was actually quite amusing when it came down to it."
"I'm just glad to know I wasn't thinking about…I mean there is absolutely no way we could have…"
"Of course not, the sisters were looking out for your future, as far as you told me, you vehemently refused to partake in the purchasing, but they insisted. You were only human, after all, you literally couldn't refuse them if they really wanted to buy you lingerie."
I sighed in relief and Edward looked at me quite strangely.
"I'm just relieved that I wasn't insane as a human. I thought that I had bought them, thinking that you and I could…be together and obviously that would have been utterly impossible."
"I think you will find, Bella, that your current insanity and the level of insanity of your human days are about tantamount," he replied in teasing. I glared at him, feigning anger and he only shrugged at me. We both knew I wasn't mad.
"Well I guess that insanity works to my advantage," I returned, "because I think we both know that I won." I smiled at him in reference of the challenge he had posed to me earlier and his obvious crushing defeat. To my surprise, he laughed.
"Oh please, you think that constitutes winning?" he inquired with a sardonic smile.
"I had you shaking," I contested. At this he laughed as well and I felt myself become frustrated.
"Dearest Bella, if this was a contest of physical reactions, I think we both know I could more than make you shake," he said with a confident grin. I opened my moth to respond and found I had no voice to reply with and so shut it immediately after.
"Either way, I am going hunting today because as I'm sure you've noticed, I need it. So I didn't know if you wanted to come with me or if your hunting trip yesterday was enough for you," he said nonchalantly. It occurred to me that Edward had barely left my side since the previous afternoon when I had gotten home. I didn't know if it was because he genuinely wanted to be with me so much of if he was just afraid that things would change if he went away for too long. I couldn't say I blamed him. This was the first time since I had changed that I was acting friendly toward him in the least bit. I couldn't imagine what it would feel like to finally have that back.
But as far as Edward told me, I had done just as he had, waited just as he was, when he had come back for me. I had known this limbo. I didn't remember it now, but as far as Edward was concerned, he didn't mind waiting for me. It was only fair, he told me. He couldn't expect more of me than I was able to give, and I had been so patient with him when our roles had been reversed. And so I could understand why he didn't want these moments to end. Who knew when he would have more of them?
But of course I did. I knew what I was doing. I had seen the difference in his demeanor this past day, watched how easily he smiled, how free he seemed. It both lightened and killed me knowing how much my affections swayed his mood. When I wasn't with him, I could understand why Rose had said he was just miserable. I could also understand why he said he didn't want to burden me with his happiness. He was literally overjoyed every moment we spent together today and as soon as the idea of being without me had entered his mind, the hunt I assumed, he seemed less enthusiastic.
And on top of Edward's very obvious change I disposition was my own selfish motives. I liked spending time with him. I had been reclusive at first because I wasn't sure how to handle myself or what to do with my new body and old relationships. But now…it was that wholeness, that sunny, ridiculous feeling that made me feel like nothing was missing and I could finally just be. I didn't know that kind of strange contentment existed and now that I had found it, in Edward—who else?—I didn't think I was quite ready to give it up.
So I told Edward that I would love to come hunting with him. And without any further ado we set off, just leaving the house and running off into the woods together, following a similar path as I had the day before. I was aware of Edward's constant presence, as unobtrusive as it was. He wasn't ever right next to me, but I knew he was always there with me somewhere, behind me, in front of me, somewhere off to the side.
And I realized that his literal proximity mirrored our figurative relationship as it stood at the moment. We weren't always together, excluding the past day, but I had always known that if I needed him he wasn't far. He never drifted from my thoughts for very long either. He was always there, in some way or another, even if it wasn't right with me. I liked that about him. He respected my boundaries before I had ever found out what they were. And while it had unnerved me at first that he knew me so well, better than even I did for a long while, I liked that he understood my motivations without my having to explain things. It made my insecurities about being different, about being someone no one knew and couldn't connect to dampen.
We hunted in silence. I was happy to take down a deer, my thirst being as sated as was possible for one so young as me. And so I was content to just watch Edward hunt. He was standing perfectly still, his face blank. He was listening, letting the smells of the world fill him. I inhaled deeply as well, trying to catch an idea of what he was looking for. I smelled the same pine as near the house, but a deeper, richer smell from the mountains nearby, the hard granite and limestone, the tiny, sweet ground cover flowers and then, distantly, something rich and hot and tempting. I saw his face flicker with a smile, something between a triumphant grin and snarl. He had found his prey and in the next second he was gone. I remained still and closed my eyes to listen. I could hear him running, hear his feet finding the ground over and over again and then in the distance, heard him hit the ground with whatever he was chasing. From the sound it made I thought it was a mountain lion, but I couldn't be sure. Moments passed where there was something akin to silence. There was never real silence with the acuity of my hearing, but beyond the wind, and the rustle of tree boughs, and the distant screech of some bird, there were no sounds. I enjoyed that utter nothingness.
Minutes went by and eventually I heard Edward's slow approach. He was walking instead of running. When I found him with my eyes, his had returned to their normally glorious topaz. He grinned at me, any evidence of his most recent meal gone from his face or hands. He had even managed to get the bits of ground cover from his clothes and hair before returning. In other words, he was unbelievably gorgeous.
We found the other a few feet away and looked at each other for a long time in that same almost silence, neither moving. It wasn't intense, or filled with that charge that lingered between us sometimes. It was easy, companionable quiet, no need for words.
We walked back home, hand in hand, still silent.
There were more days, countless days in fact, in which time passed in a way that I was unfamiliar with. It wasn't that strange fast pace, neither did it drag on. It seemed like since that first day with Edward, since we had become inseparable as I noticed we suddenly were, life seemed to progress in this strangely normal and wonderful way.
The only strange thing was the frequency with which I was still remembering things. I remembered something new every few days, sometimes it was innocent, something from my childhood, my father, something from when I lived with Jacob. But other times it was things that were harder to ignore.
Things like when I had tried to break it off with Edward and felt so sick as I tried to convince him I was no good for him, or when Emily found out about Edward and I and I had to beg her not to tell anyone for fear of Edward's life. It killed me every time I felt something like fear or pain in regards to him, in any way, a memory or anything else. But these memories were strangely coupled with memories that weren't so bad, like the first time he told me he loved me, or when he fought with me, and told me he wasn't going to let me go.
I asked Carlisle about my many memories and he seemed as perplexed as I was about them. He didn't understand why I had so very many of them and neither did I for that matter. It didn't make sense. At first we weren't exactly concerned because I had memories just like they did, but as time went by, I was steadily accumulating recollections that surpassed the number even Carlisle had of his human life. He was the oldest, had the most time under his belt as a vampire and he could remember a dozen things from his human life, at best. A dozen had come and passed in numbers and I was nearing thirty distinct memories by the time I brought it up to Carlisle. He was puzzled but didn't seem worried.
We had discussions about the paradox of our being over the weeks that came, Carlisle and I. How strange it was that we had so few memories of our human lives, but we remembered speech, grammar, the names for things. It didn't make sense that we were able to retain those things but events were not stuck in our minds the same way. Carlisle postulated that perhaps it was because those things were housed in different parts of the brain they were affected differently by the change, and as far as any of us knew, that was possible. It was the only theory we really had as to the mystery of the missing memories we had.
I tried my best to just go with the motions every time another one hit me, let it sweep over me and watch as whatever scene unfolded before me, let myself experience whatever emotions were attached to it and then when it was over I always found myself gasping, trying to find my equilibrium again. But I always did. I always managed to find my way back to the present reality and store that memory into my mind to have and use when necessary. Since the first few, the devastating ones that had ripped me to pieces inside, I hadn't been fazed by them with the same intensity. Nothing had knocked me to the ground in a long while, until of course, I got a particular memory that surprised me more than any other.
The boys were all playing around outside, playing a ridiculous game of catch where they tried to see if they could throw the ball far and fast enough that neither of the others would be able to retrieve it before it hit the ground. Of course Edward, with his miraculous speed, always came back with a triumphant grin and ball in hand.
I felt the familiar sensation of a recovered memory sweeping me. I let it take me over as I had learned to do without fighting so as to make it easier. The more I fought, I had fond, the more likely I was to fall over. So I just let it ride over me, taking every inch of my concentration and focus with it, giving me something to see, to feel, to know about myself.
And for a moment I was confused as to my own memory. It didn't seem to make sense. There wasn't so much to see as there was to feel, so much going on in my own body, utter fireworks. And then I realized what I was remembering.
Edward and I making love.
The memory ended thankfully a moment after I had realized what was going on, but when I was propelled out of it I literally got to my feet and stumbled forward without thinking. I stopped after a few steps and stood there, my mouth agape, my breath coming in ragged gasps. My body was still in that euphoric, inexplicably pleasurable sensation and it was like being paralyzed. I couldn't move. I heard voices, Alice and Rose asking me what was wrong but I hadn't the strength to answer them. I didn't know what to do.
"Bella?" I heard Edward's angelic voice from somewhere and I panicked. My body was already so on edge if I saw him now I was sure I would go over completely. I could feel every single inch of my skin tingling, still not having come down from the high I had been on just seconds before, in my memory at least.
"I'm okay," I assured everyone, my voice sounding like it was passing through water to my still ringing ears. I didn't know what was happening to me at that moment, but I felt like I was on fire, and not the painful fire of the change, but a delicious, twisting, horrible, wonderful fire. It was all I could do to keep from meeting Edward's eyes. I breathed in slow and deep, trying to clear my head, but mostly clear my body of this feeling that wouldn't subside. It was like I was trapped in that moment, that singular pleasure. It was making me insane.
"Another memory?" Edward asked as I heard Emmett yell to Jasper and then chuck the ball for him into the woods. He had stopped playing his game to make sure I was alright. I didn't want to ignore him but if I looked at him, he would know, and more so, if I looked at him, I was going to lose all control over myself.
I nodded wordlessly to his question, realizing I was sure to look completely insane, refusing to look at him, only at my feet. I could practically feel the look he was giving me, partly confused and the other part worried. He didn't know what to do with me when I was like this, distant and unresponsive, but I couldn't very well tell him the truth of it. It was absolutely mortifying to not only have seen that, but to have felt it in such perfect detail, to suddenly understand all the want and need I felt for him in such perfect clarity. I had been with him, my body knew his on a level I could never have understood until now. There was the love of course—that was present in any memory I had of him at all, no matter the actions taking place—but this physical need, this corporeal magnetism he exuded suddenly made so much more sense.
"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked. Just then I decided I might have the strength to look at him, which I found a moment later was an utter mistake. Looking at his perfection, the beauty that was Edward Cullen, I couldn't breathe. That same swell of feeling that had enveloped me the moment before—fire, need, want, inexcusable desire and that same love that I didn't understand and didn't know if it was real but felt anyway when memories like those passed through me. And for a moment Edward and I only stared at each other, me completely frozen by the ideas and feelings threading through every cell I possessed and Edward looking puzzled but still just standing there, not making a single move in one direction or the other.
And then the moment was broken when Jasper emerged from the woods. I noticed his shape coming from betwixt the trees of the darkened forest and he stopped immediately and dropped the ball without thinking.
Edward's face perked for a moment and then he looked utterly shocked. He didn't look back at me for a long moment, probably listening to Jasper's thoughts, which were obviously tuned to my feelings. It was like he was reading my mind third hand. I couldn't stand it. I felt simultaneously angry and completely horrified and embarrassed. I didn't know what to do or say, and so I simply turned and walked away, leaving the silent conversation going on behind me, leaving Edward's curious and stunned face, and going into the house, the only haven I could think of. Edward wouldn't confront me about my feelings there, not when Carlisle and Esme were sitting near me, not when his mother and father were there to hear the conversation.
But the moment passed and even though I was seated in the living room, near Esme and Carlisle, who were reading books together on the couch, saying nothing but sharing space in such an intimate way I was tempted to look away and not disturb such a display, Edward came in and gave me a look, one that meant he wanted to talk to me, desperately.
"I…" he started. I looked at him. "I understand," was all he said. And then of course I remembered that he had told me that he had received memories of a similar nature. He had to see us together, just as I had just seen us together.
"Could we not have this conversation in front of Carlisle and Esme?" he asked. I swore internally. They had been my safety net, my back up plan in case the conversation—or my startling range of emotions—got out of hand. But he had asked and I could hardly say no. He didn't know I was using them as a backup and it was truly only fair to be honest with him. Leaving him in the dark about my memories or depriving him of the truth of my emotions when he had been so honest about his own was unfair. I wasn't about to leave him only to the second hand interpretations of Jasper's empathy abilities. So I nodded in begrudging acquiescence and got up, following Edward's careful footfalls to a room upstairs.
He led me into the large ball room, the one with his beloved piano and the rows upon rows of books. His feet stopped on that marble floor and he turned to look at me.
"You don't have to be embarrassed, Bella. I remember what that was like, suddenly being hit with that kind of memory and knowing…knowing we made love and not remembering anything else…well, I can understand that kind of confusion," he said, wringing his hands. I had never known him to do such a thing, act so very anxious. It wasn't like him. But I also knew that it wasn't just confusion felt. He would have learned that quite quickly from the stream of thoughts Jasper was having.
"And I just wanted to tell you that I…I know what those feelings were. They were reactionary, remnants of the feelings from your memory; I didn't take them as anything else. I didn't want you to think I was going to…take them the wrong way, okay?" he asked. He was trying to tell her that she didn't have to be worried that he was assuming something was there that wasn't in reality.
How wrong he was. Of course the first of it, the initial wave of emotion was brought on by the memory, and for that reason I knew I wasn't going to be able to look at Edward without literally jumping on him. But the second time, the time Jasper had felt, no less potent or overwhelming than the first, had not been because of a memory. It was because for the first time, I had felt that same desire I must have known so long ago. It drove me crazy just thinking about it, remembering what that felt like—the absolutely overpowering need to have him touch me, just once. It would have shattered me. I knew it, and I couldn't think of a way to tell him, to make him understand. Obviously I wasn't afraid he was going to turn me away, that was never my fear, it was only that…I didn't know what to do here. I wasn't sure how to be close to him. He had accepted the space I put between us, understood what was acceptable and what was not. I didn't mind his light affections but I could see it when he refrained from doing something he wanted to do because he didn't want to overstep his bounds. What could I possibly say to him that made him understand that some of those lines had been pushed back?
But it must have shown on my face, that I was thinking so intently about it because Edward's expression changed to one of blatant curiosity. He turned his head in that obnoxiously adorable way he did when he wanted something and I couldn't help the stupid grin that spread across my face.
"I…" my voice failed me. I looked at him and prayed he would only comprehend my wavering single syllable for all it was meant to represent. And for a moment it seemed it was lost on him and then a slow, easy smile graced his face and he looked at me with those golden eyes smoldering.
"I understand," he told me. And then he took the two short steps between us, put his ivory hands on either side of my face, and kissed me.
And I had been right, I was shattered. His lips moved against mine and I was utterly destroyed with each and every miniscule movement. I felt my body react on its own and grab at him, pulling him as close as possible, crushing him to me, my arms around him securely as one of his own slid up around my back and into my hair, giving me the most intense full body shiver I had ever experienced. I felt my own emotions crash in on me with every moment we remained in contact, his perfect lips on mine, dragging away my sanity with their incredible kisses.
When I finally pulled away from him, reluctant as I could possible manage to be but unable to keep from throwing out the rest of my boundary lines if I didn't, both Edward and I were panting, breath ragged and erratic. I inhaled deeply for a moment and was lost in the heady scent Edward exuded. I didnt know how he had managed to know exactly what I meant when I had spoken a single word, or how easy and perfect it had seemed for to just be kissing me instead of across the room, or right beside me maintaining his distance.
"Well that was―" I began before Edward's lips found mine again, beyond reluctant, absolutely refusing to let go of mine. He pulled me close again and actually began pushing at me gently, his steps echoing mine on the marble floor until my back was against the wall. I had thought we were close before, but with something behind me now Edward's body was literally flush against mine, every line of his form matched to mine, not a single space between us. When his lips found my neck I almost cried out, but remembered myself for a moment, miraculously, and knew that everyone in the house and outside it would hear and I didn't feel like explaining myself. So I managed to keep mostly silent, my fingers twisting knots in his shirt. Eventually I just couldn't take it and grabbed his face in my hands, so like what he had done only a bit more roughly with my lack of control, and held it for a moment.
"You need to stop doing that," I warned him. He growled in an amused and triumphant way and found my lips one more time, this kiss gentle and teasing, a shadow of what his earlier kisses had been. This one was meant to be different, not to remind me of the others but to communicate something completely separate. He was telling me, again, for the thousandth time, that he loved me. I was closer to loving him back in the single moment than I had ever been before, but I couldn't lie to him, until I felt that chest swelling, leg shaking, heart melting emotion I had felt in memories, I wasn't going to say it, or make him think I meant it through my actions.
"I have been wanting to do that for so long now," he told me. I smiled. He leaned into me again and pulled me close, yanking me from against the wall so I was only leaning against him. I laid my head on his shoulder, noticing, not for the first time certainly, how perfectly I fit there.
"I'm sorry," I replied. He shook his head lightly.
"Never, ever apologize for something that led to a kiss like that one," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice. He wasn't willing to ruin the moment by bringing up anything intense or deep. He wanted this to be light, to be easy. And to give him credit, it was. There was nothing to think about for that long moment other than that I was wrapped in his arms and he had just kissed me, a sensation that even replayed in my mind was enough to make me feel like I was going to fall to my knees if he wasn't holding me upright.
"I still don't understand how you managed to figure me out when I didn't even bother to explain myself properly," I said quietly. Edward withdrew from the embrace he had created and looked me in the eye, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.
"You forget that I have known you for a while now, Bella. Your expressions haven't changed much. That one you just had, even without the explanation, clearly shouted 'kiss me'. And of course, how could I say not o the most beautiful woman in the world?" he asked in reply.
"I wouldn't expect you to," I teased. I felt him laugh, that same chuckle from somewhere in his midsection. It made me smile to feel it, to know I had made him laugh or smile.
"I feel like I should reiterate something to you, Bella. I know you need your time and your space, but I wanted to tell you again, that I love you no matter what, no matter how long it takes or what we have to get through before you decide you love me again, if you ever do. If I ever believed in anything it's that you and I are meant for each other. There is no other explanation for the way we are than that. Fate didn't put us together in such a way in such a place, didn't bond us together so incredibly and irrevocably if we weren't. And for that I am willing to wait for you. And if the day ever comes when you want me to let you go I will hate it, but I will do it for you. Because I love you that much. Nothing else matter to me but you, Bella. Nothing. You are the most remarkable woman I have ever known and I love every last thing about you, even when I know you don't return the sentiment. That kiss…that meant me to me than I could ever possibly explain. There are no words for what you give to me ever day, or what I feel right now. It is more than any man has the right to expect from life. I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable, or heap something onto you that you don't need, just to make you understand. You always seem so perplexed that I love you so, or that I have no trouble understanding why you need time. I understand all of that more than you think, I told you I went through it all myself.
"But, Bella, I need you to promise me one thing, if you please. The moment it happens, the moment you decide that you love me, please tell me. The one thing I didn't understand for the longest time was how hard it was for you to wait for me, how much effort it took for you to see me every day and not being able to just have me the way you wanted to, the way you used to. I do it because love you, but it's the most difficult thing I think anyone could ever experience. So do you think you could promise me that?" he asked. For a moment I neither spoke nor breathed. And then I leaned up and touched my lips to his, answering his question and promising him without words. I didn't think that if and when the moment did come I would be able to refrain from telling him about it, from rejoicing with him, from letting him know so he could be happy again. Because as he had just explained, he wasn't going to be truly happy until that moment. And how could I blame him, it wasn't as though I had been some girl to him. I had been the love of his human life, the woman he died for and a woman he changed and lived as a vampire for. How could I expect him to just shake that off and be okay just being friends?
The answer of course was that I couldn't. I knew he wouldn't be able to do it, and for that matter, neither could I. I was unable to think of him as just a friend, because he never had been, even for a moment. Since the first time I had seen him he had been something so perfect and meaningful I hadn't been able to express it accurately. Watching him enter that room, bare-chested and then suddenly being pulled into that feverish, loving embrace had made my whole body freeze in a sort of subconscious knowledge of who he had been to me. My body had known, always known, even if my mind didn't.
And that feeling of knowing had only been confirmed when he kissed me with such ardor, my body had responded without my even knowing. I had grabbed him, needing him so much more than my mind was willing to admit, but I had gotten what I needed in that moment, his closeness, the sensation of his body against mine. And he had seemed just as desperate for my closeness as I had been for his. I had been right to stop him from that slow, horribly wonderful torture when he was kissing my neck. We would have ended up making love right there on the ballroom floor. And while at the moment I was sure it wouldn't have been a horrible thing I didn't think I was ready for what that would mean between Edward and I. I wasn't going to ruin something that so far had been perfect by giving in to something I wasn't sure I could possibly handle at the moment. And that kiss…those several kisses, were more than enough to sustain me for the moment. Not for very long, as I discovered, now that I knew what he could do to me. It was less than a minute later, after my single kiss that he smiled at me in the playful, triumphant, unbelievable way and he kissed me again, something I had no choice but to give in to. It went on for far longer than I should have let it, because by the time I managed to pull away I could feel my hands twitching with the desire to touch him.
He growled at me again when I pushed him away, but we both knew it wasn't out of anger.
"You are a tease, Isabella," he accused.
"Proud of it," I retorted and then darted out of the room with the dexterity afforded to me in my vampire form. He drove me crazy, it was only fair if every so often I could return the favor. I heard him sigh in his exasperated way, but even then I knew the smile he would have on his face. He truly was the most beautiful creature I had ever known, in this life or any other. I understood what it was that had made me love him in the first place as humans. He had never treated me as anything other than his equal, anything other than a woman that he respected and cared for. It was that exact thing that drew me to him in the first place and it was that once again that was making it so hard to resist him now. But I managed it, under some sort of miracle, and we walked down the stairs, having cleared something up and found Esme and Carlisle watching the stair case in amused inquisitiveness.
"Do we want to know what kind of conversation you couldn't have in front of us?" Carlisle inquired, mirth coating his voice. Edward shook with a silent laugh.
"Bella and I just needed to clear some things up, nothing to worry about," he assured them. I heard his voice and watched his lips form the words, perfectly spoken as they were. And when Esme turned her questioning eyes on me I only smiled and nodded, not trusting my mouth to speak the words I wanted it to. I could hardly tell them what had just occurred. 'Well, Esme, your son and I just had a discussion about love, and more poignantly, we had a discussion about your son waiting for me because of his love, and then he kissed me so thoroughly, that another single second would have broken my resolve and I would have stripped him down right there'.
Somehow I doubted that would go over very well. So she just accepted my smile and we walked back outside, where all this madness had started and were greeted by a few strange looks and Jasper's calmer face. Edward disappeared from my side to continue the game he had been participating in before I had gotten another memory back, but not before placing a less than covert kiss on my already tingling lips. I sat with Rose and Alice who stared at me for a moment with incredulity in their eyes and then both laughed.
"You know, we told you to spend some time with him, thinking he would perk up. I didn't think you would be going at it," Alice said with an impish smirk. I opened my mouth in protest and she cackled.
"Alice! We are not going at it we just kissed," I explained. Rosalie scoffed and Alice rolled her eyes.
"Bella, I can tell you with absolutely certainty that Jasper never looks at me like he did just a few minutes ago if all he wants to do is kiss," she told me. "So if you two didn't actually do anything, one of you must have been thinking about it."
"It wasn't on purpose!" I exclaimed. They exchanged looks and then glanced my way. "I remembered, uh, something. And it was of an…explicit nature…I of course didn't mean to but then Edward was there and he was so close and I just…I mean…" I didn't finish my sentence, only left my last words dangling in the air, begging to be understood instead of needing to be explained. Alice's eyes lit up like fireworks.
"Bella, tell me you did not have a memory of you and Edward…together," she said quietly. I grimaced. She burst out into hysterical laughter and Rosalie joined her less than a second later and they literally fell all over each other trying to keep from hitting the ground. I didn't know what was so funny, after all, I had just about jumped Edward before, being outside after feeling that way. Of course they thought it was hilarious.
"Forgive us, Bella, but the idea of you reliving that kind of experience and then having to run away to keep from grabbing Edward by the shirtfront is incredibly amusing," Alice explained, her body still doubled over in laughter.
"Not to mention the look on Edward's face. He looked so shocked and then incredibly embarrassed, I didn't understand at first, but now I get it. Can you imagine poor Jasper walking into that mine field? He leaves and comes back to Bella's post together memory bliss and confusion and desire…and then Edward getting a read on that…absolutely priceless, Bella. Really, I don't know how you manage to be so continually amusing," Rosalie said with laughter in her voice.
"Its not as though it's on purpose," I reminded her. She went on to tell me that because it was accidental was precisely the reason it was so hilarious. I glared. They only laughed more.
Eventually the boys got bored with their game and each came to claim their match, Emmett snatching Rosalie right off the steps into a swinging hug, to which she succumbed utterly, laughing like a child. Alice and Jasper were less affectionate than Emmett and Rosalie, although their type of intimacy was similar to Esme and Carlisle's—it was understated, but not missing. You could see in every move they made they cared for each other, it just wasn't so obtrusive. But Edward and I were somewhere in the middle of that. We weren't so forward with each other as to be touching or kissing all the time, so like Emmett and Rosalie but there was this unspoken agreement between us that somehow translated into the comfort we both got from physical contact.
As Alice and Rosalie moved from their positions near me, Edward replaced them, putting his hand over mine with a sly smile. He brought my hand up to his mouth and kissed the back of it before sighing and leaning over to me and kissing me in earnest, something chaste and not at all reminiscent of the kisses we had shared not long ago. Those had been filled with the pent up tension and passion that had been stored up, every day that we spent together but didn't let our feelings, whatever they might have been, manifest. I could only wonder what of those kisses had been lingering from the game we had played.
But in the end I couldn't deny that his passion wasn't the only driving force there, after all, it had been my initial reactions that had set this whole debacle in motion. It wasn't exactly a disaster, as Edward had said, anything that led to kisses like those could never be defined that way. But it was causing me so much embarrassment I wasn't sure how to handle it. Edward, for his part, took it in stride. It isn't as though he didn't hear what was being said by the girls over on the steps while he was standing less than twenty feet away from us. He knew what I had just admitted to Rose and Alice, and I was sure Emmett and Japer did too, as though Jasper wasn't already aware. But he didn't seem fazed by the idea of anyone knowing, he only seemed to be concerned about my embarrassment.
"Bella, what are you acting so shy for?" he asked quietly. "It isn't as though my family…our family, has never seen us kiss before," he explained.
"Oh I know, but it's new for me," I replied. He smiled knowingly. And then without warning he snuck his lips onto mine again and kissed me, more fully and with more force than the moment before. I was left gasping when he pulled away.
"Edward…" I said. He just smirked, obviously very pleased with himself. I rolled my eyes.
"And you call me the tease," I said sardonically.
"I never said I wasn't," he answered. I growled at him and he only laughed more at me.
"You're cute when you're frustrated," he told me that same smoldering fire in his eyes.
"Funny, you aren't cute when I am frustrated," I retorted. He smiled again, triumphant.
"I could always frustrate you more, see if that changes your perspective," he suggested.
"I think I'll pass, I don't feel like making any more of a spectacle of myself than I already have today," I said rolling my eyes. He raised his eyebrows. Without warning he was so close to me, his lips pressed to the hollow below my right ear, his perfect lips against my skin. My breathing stopped. Not that it was necessary exactly, but it made me feel better to breathe. Now I couldn't manage a single intake of air. His lips found the thin skin of my neck and I felt him smiling against my skin as I gasped suddenly when he kissed me there and nipped playfully.
"You're evil," I told him.
"Only returning the favor," he replied. So he hadn't forgotten about my stunt.
"That wasn't very nice of you, you know," he reminded me. "You knew I would never cross that line, taking advantage of my chivalry…tsk tsk…" he trailed off, kissing down my neck and then back up, finding the corner of my jaw. I opened my mouth, tried to speak and found that mind had ceased to function correctly.
"Should I stop so you can form some sort of argument?" he asked, breathing next to my ear, making my body erupt in a delightful set of shivers. I swallowed hard. Now that our positions had been reversed I felt utterly remorseful about the torture I had subjected Edward to. I couldn't imagine what it had been like for him, having me so close and not touching me. At least I knew I could turn and meet his lips or touch him all I wanted, at that point, Edward was just too chivalrous to cross any lines, even to relieve what must have been an almost physically painful need.
"You're not…being fair," I managed to whisper.
"Whoever said I had to be fair?" he asked, his lips finding the corner of my mouth. I wet my lips, trying to make them work, make myself speak. I just couldn't.
"Give up?" he asked, his breath wafting over my face, practically into my moth so I had to taste him. I shook harder.
"Absolutely not," I replied in a whisper. I felt him shrug, he was so close, before he leaned in and kissed me for real. It was literally all I could do to keep from pulling him as close to me as I had in the ballroom. It was utter conflagration. It was only the polite cough from Alice that made us separate. I felt my body shake as I looked up at her, trying to seem innocent. She smiled at me, this utter knowing smile and Edward laughed to himself. Obviously she had thought something. She and Jasper made their way past us into the house, Emmett and Rosalie gone for the moment. I turned to him with a raised eyebrow.
"She didn't believe you, that we didn't…'go at it' to use her wording," he explained. I growled at her from outside and heard her tinkling laughter from inside the house.
"Please, as if those few minutes would have been enough time," I said casually. It was enough to see the look on Edward's face to have spoken so, the expression on his features so utterly shocked. He cracked up, hysterical laughter filling the air and I watched him laugh with a small smile of my own. He was beautiful when he smiled.
"You are the most ridiculous woman," he told me. I shrugged. Edward laughed again, quieter this time. He took a long moment and just looked at me and I stared back. His hands found mine and he brought them to his lips. That little gesture left me utterly breathless, as any of his other kisses had. There were times when the passion behind his kisses made my whole body go insane, but it was the times when the needs of his body were put aside and it was his heart that made his decisions. This was one of those times, and small as the gesture was, I could see it. I smiled at him and returned the action, kissing his palms. It was another time when he understood that not all things that needed to be understood could be spoken. He seemed like he grasped the concept I was trying t convey—that I cared for him, deeply. It wasn't a lie. It wasn't love, something I wanted so desperately to be able to give him, but it as something. He looked down at me with appreciation in his eyes. Beautiful Edward, he was wonderful in every way, he knew what I was trying to say without my having to say it.
"When you're ready, Bella," he said softly.
"You're my best thing, you know that right?"
He looked down for a moment at our entwined hands, squeezing them lightly in his and breathing out a slow sigh.
"Bella, I don't think there is a more accurate way to describe what you mean to me than those very words," he replied, still looking down. I lifted our entangled hands and lifted his chin just the barest amount. He smiled softly.
Before any more words were spoken between us Alice called for him to come in so she could ask us a question. And of course we obliged, entering the house and going along with the day to day things of our family.
But even still I couldn't help but glance down at our hands and think about the promises therein
I didn't know exactly what was going to happen between us, but I knew that right there and then, his fingers intertwined with mine, the promise of tomorrow with him, and every day after that as well, I was so, unbelievably happy. I looked at him, the sparkling eyes, the glimmering skin, the quiet, contented smile and I knew.
I could do this forever.