DISCLAIMER: The characters do not belong to me…they are all the creation of the wonderful Stephenie Meyer. All of the spoken text is quoted directly from Eclipse--except for near the very end. This is Edward's version …
My beautiful Bella…I smiled to myself as I watched her behind the wheel. Only she could manage to make me forget the unbelievably slow pace of her truck—slightly. She was very quiet as she drove toward my home. I smiled again thinking of how I had very nearly thought "our" home. This heavenly creature had worn me down over time, getting me to agree to the one thing I had believed would truly make me a monster to her. Her gentle persuasion and heart-felt arguments had slowly brought me around to her view of our forever together. But I wasn't ready to let her know that, at least not until she agreed to my "condition".
My thoughts wandered over to all of the stupid, reckless, and foolish things I had done since meeting her—like attempting to force us to live without each other. I shook my head to clear those thoughts from my mind. Just as Bella had promised not to worry tonight, I would hold myself to that same promise.
The way she nibbled at her lower lip gave away that she was nervous. She was probably still feeling guilty over getting me to stay with her. She loved my family nearly as much as I did, and I was sure a small part of her felt she was asking me to choose between them. She didn't understand that there was never a choice. I smiled to myself as I thought of ways to ease her mind and focus her attention on something other than her guilt.
When she finally pulled into the driveway, I jumped out and ran to her side. I used one arm to pull her from the truck and the other to grab her bag from the back. Looking into those beautiful, trusting, brown eyes of hers, I couldn't wait any longer to kiss her. Carefully, I scooped her into my arms without breaking the kiss. I knew she would enjoy this immensely. By the time I got her into the house, she was dizzy and her face was entirely flushed.
I chuckled as I pulled away and broke our kiss. I smiled at her, very pleased that I was able to make her forget all her worries in that moment. "Welcome home," I told her, happy to try my earlier thought out loud.
"That sounds nice," she breathed, her heart still racing beneath her pale flesh.
I set her down, but she refused to let go. She wrapped her arms around me and pressed herself against me. "I have something for you," I said, trying to sound casual.
"Your hand-me-down, remember? You said that was allowable." I was going through an entire range of emotions. I wasn't sure I could convince her that this gift was a hand-me-down. I wasn't sure how I would handle it if she refused me. I had begged Alice to not tell me the outcome so that I could be surprised by Bella's reaction, but now I wasn't so sure.
As soon as Bella gave her consent, I rushed her up the stairs. My excitement was really rather ridiculous for a vampire, but I couldn't help it. Bella always made me feel very human.
I set her down at the door and ran to my closet. I was back before she had even moved. I chuckled as I watched her very slowly make her way to the bed. She was going to prolong this as much as she could.
She settled into the middle of the bed and wrapped her arms around her knees. "Okay," she grumbled. "Let me have it."
I had to laugh at that. Only Bella would treat receiving a gift like a trip to the firing squad. As I sat next to her, I heard an irregular beat to her heart. "A hand-me-down," I said to her, trying to ease her stress. I pulled her wrist to me and gently clipped the charm to her bracelet. I released her arm and awaited her reaction. I realized then that I was actually holding my breath. How did she manage to have this kind of effect on me?
The seconds ticked my slowly as I waited for some sort of reaction from her.
I couldn't take the suspense any longer and tried to draw her thoughts from her. "It was my mother's," I shrugged, trying to not sound concerned. "I inherited quite a few baubles like this. I've given some to Esme and Alice both. So, clearly, this is not a big deal in any way."
She smiled at me oddly and I wondered for a second if she knew the truth.
I hurried on with my explanation, hoping to distract that curious mind of hers. "But I thought it was a good representation. It's hard and cold." I laughed, hoping to ease both of our anxieties. "And it throws rainbows in the sunlight."
She finally spoke, and her voice was so soft that a human would have missed it. "You forgot the most important similarity. It's beautiful."
"My heart is just as silent. And it, too, is yours."
She twisted her wrist, staring intently at her gift. "Thank you. For both," she said.
I relaxed, happy that she had accepted my gift. "No, thank you. It's a relief to have you accept a gift so easily. Good practice for you, too." I grinned at her and flashed my teeth. All I had to do now was make sure Alice never divulged our little secret about Bella's charm, at least for a while. I hoped that by the time Bella discovered the truth about her gift she would love it so much that she wouldn't care how extravagant it really was.
Bella crawled up against me and I wrapped an arm around her. She was hiding her face from me and I could tell she was getting ready to ask me something.
She sighed and then finally asked her question. "Can we discuss something? I'd appreciate it if you could begin by being open-minded."
I wasn't sure where she was going with this and I didn't want to make a promise I could not keep. "I'll give it my best effort."
"I'm not breaking any rules here," she promised. "This is strictly about you and me. So…I was impressed by how well we were able to compromise the other night. I was thinking I would like to apply the same principle to a different situation." She had my complete attention by this point, and I was entertained by her formality.
"What would you like to negotiate?" While I waited for her to go on, I noticed the way her heart was rapidly beating. "Listen to your heart fly. It's fluttering like a hummingbird's wings. Are you all right?"
"I'm great," she squeaked.
"Please go on then." I tried to compose myself and keep from laughing; it would only increase her anxiety.
"Well, I guess, first, I wanted to talk to you about that whole ridiculous marriage condition thing." Her tone was somewhere between nervousness and disgust.
"It's only ridiculous to you," I amended. "What about it?"
"I was wondering…" she said before pausing. I hated it when she stopped mid-sentence. "is that open to negotiation?"
I stiffened slightly; I knew she seemed to be afraid of marriage and that she had said it was because of Renee, but I was starting to wonder if she just didn't want to marry me. "I've already made the largest concession by far and away—I've agreed to take your life away against my better judgment. And that ought to entitle me to a few compromises on your part."
"No," she replied forcefully, shaking her head. "That part's a done deal. We're not discussing my…renovations right now. I want to hammer out some other details."
I didn't like the sound of this at all, but I wanted to at least hear her out. "Which details do you mean exactly?"
She hesitated again. She never would understand just how insane her pauses and edits drove me. After more agonizing silence, she spoke. "Let's clarify your prerequisites first."
"You know what I want."
"Matrimony," she spit out.
"Yes!" I knew I had her now. I smiled widely and added a few words. "To start with."
"There's more?" she gasped with a shocked look on her face.
I tried very hard not to laugh, knowing it would only make her more stubborn. "Well. If you're my wife, then what's mine is yours…like tuition money. So there would be no problem with Dartmouth."
"Anything else? While you're being absurd?" she mocked.
"I wouldn't mind some time."
Her face flushed with anger. "No. No time. That's a deal breaker right there."
I exaggerated a sigh for her. "Just a year or two?"
She shook her head and I could see the stubbornness creeping out across her delicate face. Her chin jutted out so slightly that I would have missed it if I were human. "Move along to the next one," she instructed.
"That's it. Unless you'd like to talk cars…" I grinned, knowing this would really set off her temper. Blushing Bella was beautiful, but Angry Bella was almost irresistible. I took her hand and began playing with her fingers, pretending I hadn't noticed her reaction. "I didn't realize there was anything else you wanted besides being transformed into a monster yourself. I'm extremely curious." I was trying to sound soothing, but I was wary of her motives with this line of questioning. I waited for her to say something more, but instead, she started to blush. I softly brushed her cheek and commented on it. "You're blushing? Please, Bella, the suspense is painful."
She bit her lower lip instead of answering. I tried to be patient with her, but these long pauses were killing me.
"Well, I'm a little worried…about after," she said, finally looking up at me.
I tried my best to keep my voice soft, even as I tensed at her words. "What has you worried?" Was this the part where she would finally come to her senses and react like a normal human? Part of me wanted that for her, for her to decide she was better off with a human, but the selfish side of me raged at the thought of anyone else being this close to her.
"All of you just seem so convinced that the only thing I'm going to be interested in, afterward, is slaughtering everyone in town." She stopped when she saw me wince, but then forged ahead. "And I'm afraid I'll be so preoccupied with the mayhem that I won't be me anymore…and that I won't…I won't want you the same way I do now."
"Bella, that part doesn't last forever."
"Edward," she squeaked. "There's something I want to do before I'm not human anymore."
I waited, but when she didn't speak, I tried to encourage her. "Whatever you want."
"Do you promise?" she mumbled.
I was more than a little confused at this point, but I didn't think any harm could come from me agreeing. "Yes. Tell me what you want, and you can have it."
Her brown eyes bore into me as she replied with a single word. "You."
I smiled, thinking how silly she was to be so nervous over nothing. "I'm yours."
She knelt on the bed, wrapping her arms around my neck, and kissed me. I could feel the furrow in my brow as I thought about what she might want. I knew it wouldn't be anything expensive, even though I offered her the world on a daily basis. What could she possibly want?
When I felt her unbuttoning my shirt, I realized what this was all about. I attempted to get control of my anger and irritation before speaking to her. I was angry with myself for having to tell her "no" once again, and a little irritated with her desire to be obtuse when she knew perfectly well why I refused her.
I pulled away and did my best not to speak harshly to her. "Be reasonable, Bella."
"You promised—whatever I wanted," she said. Her tone and her refusal to look at me confirmed that she knew she had tricked that promise out of me.
"We're not having this discussion," I replied, buttoning my shirt back up.
"I say we are," she growled. At another time, discussing another topic, her growl might have been funny. Right now, it was only irritating. And as if that wasn't enough, she was trying to unbutton her own shirt.
I grabbed her wrists and held them at her sides, hoping I wasn't holding her too hard. "I say we're not." We stared angrily at each other for a while.
"You wanted to know," she said, stubbornly jutting her chin out.
"I thought it would be something faintly realistic."
Her eyes flashed angrily at me. "So you can ask for any stupid, ridiculous thing you want—like getting married—but I'm not allowed to even discuss what I—"
I gently took both of her wrists in one hand and placed my other hand over her mouth. I gave her the sternest look I could, hoping she wouldn't argue any further. "No."
She took a shaky breath before relaxing in my grip. Her cheeks reddened with her blush and her eyes became moist. She dropped her head and stared at the bedspread.
I sighed, moving my hand from her mouth to under her chin, pulling her face up to meet mine. "What now?"
"Nothing," she mumbled, barely more than a whisper.
I looked closely at her face and into her eyes. I could feel her trying to pull her face away, but I couldn't tell what she was feeling. I was aggravated and ready to ask her again when it dawned on me what the problem might be. "Did I hurt your feelings?"
"No," she said. Her too quick reply gave away that she was lying.
I couldn't believe I had been such an idiot. I'd been too harsh with her and I'd hurt her feelings. All I'd wanted from tonight was for us to enjoy each other without interruption.
I scooped her up and cradled her between my shoulder and my hand. I wanted to take back the hurt, but I already knew it was impossible. All I could hope for was that she would forgive me, just as she had for everything else.
"You know why I have to say no. You know that I want you, too," I said softly, hoping to reassure her.
"Do you?" she whispered, refusing to look at me. The doubt in her voice saddened me, making me wish for the millionth time that I could be human for her. She deserved to be loved the way she wanted and needed.
"Of course I do, you silly, beautiful, oversensitive girl." I laughed ruefully. "Doesn't everyone? I feel like there's a line behind me, jockeying for position, waiting for me to make a big enough mistake…You're too desirable for your own good."
"Who's being silly now?" she mocked.
"Do I have to send a petition around to get you to believe? Shall I tell you whose names would be on the top of the list? You know a few of them, but some might surprise you."
She shook her head and grimaced against me. "You're just trying to distract me. Let's get back to the subject."
I sighed, not knowing what else to do. This conversation could only end up with her hurting more. Sometimes, she was just a little too stubborn. If she could only understand that the one thing keeping me from her was her safety.
"Tell me if I have anything wrong," she said, attempting a casual tone. "Your demands are marriage, paying my tuition, more time, and you wouldn't mind if my vehicle went a little faster." She raised her eyebrows at me. "Did I get everything? That's a hefty list."
I was trying not to laugh at her—she made it all sound so unappealing. Not to mention the range of emotions she could make me feel with a single conversation. "Only the first is a demand," I said. "The others are merely requests."
"And my lone, solitary little demand is—"
"Demand?" I said louder than I had intended.
"Yes, demand," she said, suddenly more sure of herself.
I narrowed my eyes and glared at her; it had no effect on her at all. So very stubborn sometimes…
"Getting married is a stretch for me," she continued. "I'm not giving in unless I get something in return."
I leaned down to whisper in her ear, hoping my voice would calm her. "No. It's not possible now. Later, when you're less breakable. Be patient, Bella."
"But that's the problem," she said. She was as unaffected by my calm voice as she had been by my glare earlier. "It won't be the same when I'm less breakable. I won't be the same! I don't' know who I'll be then."
"You'll still be Bella," I said gently.
"If I'm so far gone that I'd want to kill Charlie—that I'd drink Jacob's blood or Angela's if I got the chance—how can that be true?"
I wanted to ease her fears, but I wasn't sure of exactly what to say. I stretched out, pulling her closer to me, trying to soothe her with my closeness. "It will pass. And I doubt you'll want to drink the dog's blood." I pretended to shudder to try to break the tension. "Even as a newborn, you'll have better taste than that."
"But that will always be what I want most, won't it?" she challenged. "Blood, blood, and more blood!"
"The fact that you are still alive is proof that that is not true."
"Over eighty years later," she replied. "What I meant was physically, though. Intellectually, I know I'll be able to be myself…after a while. But just purely physically—I will always be thirsty, more than anything else." She had left me speechless for a change. She noticed and continued on. "So I will be different. Because right now, physically, there's nothing I want more than you. More than food or water or oxygen. Intellectually, I have my priorities in a slightly more sensible order. But physically…"
As her words sunk in, that other desire, the almost undeniable urge of the man in me roared to life. To have her say to me how very much she wanted to be with me was unbearable. As if I wasn't already struggling enough, she pressed her warm lips to my cold palm.
My voice came out shaky and breathless and I wondered once again how she could affect me so much. "Bella, I could kill you."
"I don't think you could," she replied immediately.
After all she had seen over the last two years, how could she say that to me? I reached behind me and ripped off one of the roses from the headboard. I made sure she could see it clearly, and then closed my hand around it, crumpling it in my palm. I opened my hand to show her the damage, then closed it again, grinding the metal into small pieces. I showed those to her too.
She glared at me, her temper flaring again. "That's not what I meant. I already know how strong you are. You didn't have to break the furniture."
"What did you mean then?" I barked, my own temper rising. I tossed away the pieces of the rose, staring her down, waiting for an explanation.
"Obviously not that you aren't physically able to hurt me, if you wanted to…More that, you don't want to hurt me…so much so that I don't think that you ever could."
I started shaking my head, not sure if I was more frustrated with her or myself. "It might not work like that, Bella."
"Might!" she scoffed. "You have no more idea what you're talking about than I do."
Finally, she was starting to make some sense. "Exactly. Do you imagine I would ever take that kind of risk with you?"
She stared at me as if she was hoping I would suddenly change my mind. "Please." One small whispered word, but it struck at my very core—it was so hopeless sounding. "It's all I want. Please," she begged.
I didn't know what to say or what to do. I couldn't risk her life, but that didn't mean I didn't want what she was talking about. I was torn, once again, between right and wrong, safety and desire. If I could only be human for her…
"Please," she whispered again as her heart rate increased. "You don't have to make me any guarantees. If it doesn't work out right, well, then that's that. Just let us try…only try. And I'll give you what you want. I'll marry you. I'll let you pay for Dartmouth, and I won't complain about the bribe to get me in. You can even buy me a fast car if that makes you happy! Just…please."
That last "please", so desperate with love and desire, very nearly broke all the will that I had left. I couldn't speak for a moment. I didn't want to deny her, but I also didn't want to take the chance of physically hurting her. It didn't help my resistance at all that we were lying this way, so close and intimate. I could feel her against me. It was absolutely maddening how her body molded against mine to fit every groove and hug every curve. Every sign I came across said we were meant to be, but how could that be right? How could it ever be right to take her life? But the world would be a much harsher place without her—I'd already seen that first hand.
I whispered quickly into her ear. "This is unbearable. So many things I've wanted to give you—and this is what you decide to demand. Do you have any idea how painful it is, trying to refuse you when you plead with me this way?"
She barely had enough breath to get the words out. "Then don't refuse."
I remained motionless, taking a moment to consider how to proceed. I couldn't give in, but I didn't know what words to use to keep from hurting her.
"Please," she begged again.
"Bella…" I shook my head, trying to separate reason from wanting. I turned to look at her face, hoping to find some answer there.
Before I knew it, her lips had found mine. I seized her face, still undecided about what I would do. I thought about releasing her, but that human male part of me took over instead. I kissed her, trying to prove to her just how torn I was and just how much I wished I could give her what she was asking for. I let her open my shirt and run her soft, warm hands across my cold chest.
I devoured her mouth until she broke away, gasping for air. I moved to her throat, refusing to take my lips away from her beautiful, warm, enticing skin. I didn't know how much longer I could take this torture! Everything about her called out to the man in me, but I didn't know if I could trust him with her safety, her life. I pulled her closer, reveling in the way her body felt so perfect against mine, just wanting this moment to last a few more seconds.
She moved beneath me, reminding me why I had to be the one in charge when it came to this area of our relationship—she had no regard for her own safety. I grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands above her head, laying her on a pillow. I didn't want her to see the longing on my face so I hid against the side of her face, whispering into her ear. "Bella. Would you please stop trying to take your clothes off?"
"Do you want to do that part?" she asked.
I calmed myself and slowed my kisses across her cheek and jaw. She wanted an answer I couldn't give her right now, but I thought of a way that might also buy me some more time. "Not tonight."
I quickly stopped her before she argue any further; she was too dangerous with her "please" and her desire-filled brown eyes. "I'm not saying no. I'm just saying not tonight."
After her breathing slowed, she tried once more to change my mind. "Give me one good reason why tonight is not as good as any other night."
"I wasn't born yesterday." I chuckled against her ear at my own joke. "Out of the two of us, which do you think is more unwilling to give the other what they want? You just promised to marry me before you do any changing, but if I give in tonight, what guarantee do I have that you won't go running off to Carlisle in the morning? I am—clearly—much less reluctant to give you what you want. Therefore…you first."
She huffed at me. "I have to marry you first?"
"That's the deal—take it or leave it. Compromise, remember?" I decided she might need some help with her decision, so I captured her lips in a kiss, making it as deep and passionate as I dared. I licked her bottom lip with my tongue until she opened her mouth and allowed me to touch her own with mine. I could taste her toothpaste and underneath that, the natural flavor of her, my Bella.
"I think that's a really bad idea," she gasped as I kissed along her neck and jaw.
I hid my smile, knowing that she was close to caving. "I'm not surprised that you feel that way. You have a one-track mind."
"How did this happen?" she groaned. "I thought I was holding my own tonight—for once—and now, all of a sudden—"
I took advantage of her pause. "You're engaged."
"Ew! Please don't say that out loud."
"Are you going back on your word?" I asked, pulling away to watch her face. I was fairly sure that I had her right where I wanted her. She was trying to glare at me, but I could tell her heart wasn't in it, so I pressed her just a little. "Are you?"
"Ugh!" she groaned. "No. I'm not. Are you happy now?"
I couldn't contain my smile for a moment. "Exceptionally."
Her reply was to let out another loud groan.
"Aren't you happy at all?" I swooped in and attacked her lips with mine before she could answer. I wanted to give her something to think about before she answered me.
"A little bit," she answered, trying to breathe. "But not about getting married."
I kissed her again, hoping to erase the last of her reluctance. "Do you get the feeling that everything is backward?" I chuckled into her ear. "Traditionally, shouldn't you be arguing my side, and I yours?"
"There isn't much that's traditional about you and me," she observed.
"True." I grinned wickedly at her and then attacked her lips with my own until her heart was out of control and her entire body was flushed. I knew I was pressing both of our luck tonight, but Alice had assured me everything would be fine.
"Look, Edward," Bella said when she could speak again. She seemed as though she'd had more to say before I'd interrupted with a kiss to her palm. She blinked a few times before finally starting to speak again. "I said I would marry you, and I will. I promise. I swear. If you want, I'll sign a contract in my own blood."
I stopped moving, tense from her choice of words. "Not funny."
"What I'm saying is this—I'm not going to trick you or anything. You know me better than that. So there's really no reason to wait. We're completely alone—how often does that happen?—and you've provided this very large and comfortable bed…"
"Don't you trust me?" she pleaded.
"Of course I do," I said. It was her human hormones and my vampire strength that I didn't trust.
She turned my face toward her and her brown eyes seemed to be searching for something; I wasn't sure what she was hoping to see. "Then what's the problem? It's not like you didn't know you were going to win in the end. You always win."
"Just hedging my bets," I assured her.
"There's something else," she said, staring at my face.
How could she guess? It was always times like this that made me wonder if she couldn't read my mind. I waited to see what she would say next, not wanting to give anything away in case I was wrong.
"Are you planning to go back on your word?" she asked.
"No. I swear to you, we will try. After you marry me."
She shook her head and laughed very sadly. "You make me feel like a villain in a melodrama—twirling my mustache while I try to steal some poor girl's virtue."
My surprise over her words had me staring at her before I even realized I'd moved. That was the second time tonight she had nearly guessed my thoughts. She couldn't possibly know for sure, I told myself. I relaxed and kissed her collarbone, hoping to distract her from this topic all together.
"That's it, isn't it?" she squeaked. "You're trying to protect your virtue!" She covered her mouth in a failed attempt to stifle her giggles.
"No, silly girl," I muttered, still kissing her shoulder. "I'm trying to protect yours. And you're making it shockingly difficult." She had guessed it after all—Bella was always very observant.
She attempted to argue with me and we ended up talking about souls and heaven once again. I tried to explain to her that the only thing we had in common, the only thing making us somewhat even, was the fact that both of our virtues were still in tact. She accused me of having an ulterior motive. I played along, letting her lead the conversation. I listened to her negative thoughts about marriage, becoming concerned that she really would change her mind.
"It doesn't have to be a big production," I assured her. "I don't need any fanfare. You won't have to tell anyone or make any changes. We'll go to Vegas—you can wear old jeans and we'll go to the chapel with the drive-through window. I just want it to be official—that you belong to me and no one else." I was finding it increasingly difficult to contain my enthusiasm. Marrying Bella meant everything to me. I'd never even dared to hope for anyone as wonderful or perfect as her, and now that I had her, I wanted it to really be forever.
"It couldn't be more official than it already is," she grumbled.
"We'll see about that," I teased. "I suppose you don't want your ring now?"
She had a little trouble swallowing and speaking for a minute. "You suppose correctly."
I had to laugh at her expression—she seemed mortified. Of all the things for my Bella to fear! "That's fine. I'll get it on your finger soon enough," I assured her.
She glared at me, trying to seem ferocious but barely managing outrage. "You talk like you already have one."
I held back my grin as best I could. "I do. Ready to force upon you at the first sign of weakness."
"You're unbelievable," she accused.
"Do you want to see it?" I asked, trying to contain my hope and excitement.
"No!" she nearly shouted. I had expected the answer, not the hurt that followed it. She must have noticed because in the next breath, she didn't sound as disgusted with the idea. "Unless you really want to show it to me."
"That's all right," I shrugged. I didn't want her to do it unless she wanted to; I would wait. "It can wait," I said out loud.
"Show me the damn ring, Edward."
"No," I replied, knowing she didn't really want to see it.
She looked intently at me for a time before speaking again. "Please?" She touched my face and smiled. "Please can I see it?"
I couldn't believe she was doing this to me again—using that word in that tone, knowing how hard it would be for me to refuse her. "You are the most dangerous creature I've ever met." I got up and knelt next to my bedside table. I pulled the box out from my drawer and worked to fix my face. I didn't want to unnerve her with my enthusiasm. I scooted next to her, putting one arm around her shoulders. I put the box down on her knee. "Go ahead and look, then," I said, trying to sound indifferent. I didn't notice at the time that I was holding my breath, waiting for her to move, to look at it.
"You didn't spend a lot of money, did you?" she asked, brushing her fingers over the box. "Lie to me, if you did."
Leave it to Bella to question the cost before accepting something. "I didn't spend anything. It's just another hand-me-down. This is the ring my father gave to my mother," I told her.
"Oh," was all she said, but I thought I heard something close to intrigue in her tone. I waited patiently for her to open the box.
I quickly found that I was running low on patience. "I suppose it's a little outdated. Old-fashioned, just like me. I can get you something more modern. Something from Tiffany's?"
"I like old-fashioned things," she mumbled as she finally opened the box. I watched her closely, trying to decipher her every emotion. She stroked the gems in the ring almost reverently. "It's so pretty," she whispered.
"Do you like it?"
"It's beautiful. What's not to like?"
I was amused by her attempt to sound unimpressed, especially since those brown eyes of hers were full of wonder. "See if it fits," I suggested.
Her hand quickly rolled into a tight fist—I couldn't say that I was completely surprised.
"I'm not going to solder it to your finger. Just try it on so I can see if it needs to be sized. Then you can take it right off," I said.
"Fine," she grumbled.
I snatched the ring from the box—I would not pass up the chance to place this ring on her finger, however briefly. This moment had been a constant fantasy in my mind since I'd first asked her to marry me. "A perfect fit. That's nice—saves me a trip to the jeweler's." I was barely holding in my joy at this point—she was wearing my mother's ring and she had agreed to marry me.
"You like that, don't you?" Bella asked, twiddling her finger to make the ring sparkle in the light.
I shrugged, trying my hardest to remain indifferent. "Sure. It looks very nice on you."
She eyed me suspiciously. I tried very hard to hide my feelings as I looked at her face and the ring on her finger. I didn't want to scare her with the intensity of my love and my need to make her my wife. Looking into her beautiful brown eyes, I felt my pretenses vanish and the rapture of my emotions filled my face. Thankfully, she didn't look scared, just curious.
I leaned into her, praying to God that she didn't ask me her earlier question again. If she asked at this moment, I wouldn't be able to help myself. I kissed her then, wanting to pour my joy into her lips and mouth. I pressed tighter against her, needing to feel her and prove she was really here with me.
I paused to let her breathe and discovered I was having just as much trouble with that as she was. I brushed my nose against her earlobe and whispered to her. "Yes, I like it. You have no idea."
She laughed at me and told me she believed me.
"Do you mind if I do something?" I asked.
"Anything you want," she replied.
Oh, but if she only knew what I wanted to do, how very much I wanted to show her. I pushed those thoughts away, knowing that now was not the right time. I released her and slid off the bed, ignoring her complaints. I pulled her off the bed and stood her in front of me.
I put my hands on her shoulders, wanting her full attention. "Now, I want to do this right. Please, please, keep in mind that you've already agreed to this, and don't ruin it for me."
She gasped loudly as I got down on one knee.
"Be nice," I warned. I looked up into her face, into those deep, beautiful brown eyes of hers. "Isabella Swan? I promise to love you forever—every single day of forever. Will you marry me?"
Those brown eyes showed delight, humor, and amusement before changing into something I couldn't name. What was she thinking? Had I pushed too much by doing this? Why couldn't I just get a glimpse into that mind of hers instead of having to wait and be tortured with her silence?
Finally, she answered me with a simple "yes".
"Thank you," I said. I was relieved that she had let me do this without too much of a fuss. I kissed each of her fingertips and the ring. (end of quotes from Chapter 20)
We settled onto the bed again, with Bella resting against my chest and between my legs. She turned her hand left and right, catching the light against her ring and throwing rainbows onto the ceiling. I knew she would want to take it off before long, but that would be okay—I was content with her promise. I would simply take back the ring until she asked for it again.
She looked up at me and smiled, and I had to kiss her lips. "I love you, Bella."
She smiled once more before resting her head on my chest again. "I love you too, Edward." She let out a deep sigh as she relaxed in my arms. "So Vegas, huh?"
I chuckled at her attempt to be casual. "If that's what you would like. Anything to make you happy, Bella."
"You know that Alice will see this and be furious with you?" she asked. It was easy to tell Bella was actually worried about Alice's feelings, and it made me happy to know how much she loved my family.
"Leave her to me," I said.
"Do you think your mother would have approved of me?" Bella whispered.
Her questions were always catching me by surprise, this one more so than any others she'd come up with lately. I tightened my hold on her and kissed the top of her head. "She would have loved you."
"How can you be so sure?" she asked, tucking her head closer to her chest.
"Everyone loves you, Bella. Haven't you noticed?" I replied, stroking her hair.
She lifted her head and smiled at me. If my heart beat, it would have stopped instantly at the sight of her face. She was practically glowing with happiness. "No. I've been too busy basking in your love to notice much of anything."
I chuckled and grinned at her in the way she liked. "You might be missing out by not paying more attention to the world around you."
"That might be true if not for the fact that you are my world," she replied as she nestled against me again.
My hands moved from her hair to her back, rubbing it softly. "Have I told you lately that the way you view me is ludicrous?"
She wrapped her arm around my waist and hugged me to her. "Not since yesterday. And as I said yesterday, you've got that backwards."
"Hardly," I mumbled more to myself than her. "You should sleep now."
"Can we stay like this for a while longer?" she whispered.
"Is this actually comfortable for you?"
"Very," she sighed.
I wrapped my arms around her and softly sang her lullaby, noting every small change in her breathing and heart rate. It wasn't long before she fell into a deep sleep. As looked down at the sleeping beauty before me, I smiled, feeling happier than I had ever been in my entire existence. My angel was going to marry me.
I stroked the ring on her finger as I tried to picture her in a wedding dress…pure white and flowing, something that would enhance her natural beauty. Alice would know just what to get.
I closed my eyes, letting myself relax to the sound of Bella's breathing and her heartbeat. She truly was mine forever now. I still had my reservations about changing her, but as long as she was my wife, we would deal with them together. And with any luck, I could get her to wait just a little longer for that change. Compromise was quickly becoming my favorite concept.