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After driving along in silence for a few minutes, Edward spoke. "Bella, you're very quiet. What are you thinking?" His beautiful face had a worried expression.
Caught unaware, I blurted out what was on my mind. "We spend almost every night together, why does this seem so illicit?"
"Well, your father thinks you are camping with my family," Edward replied smoothly.
"He usually has no idea where I really go on these short trips," I said, thinking of my runaway escape to Phoenix and the mad dash to Italy.
"Well, I am transporting you across state lines, and it isn't the first time, either."
"Yes, but it's usually Alice who does that," I reminded him.
He laughed and agreed with me. "Yes, technically Alice has been behind the wheel, so to speak, during most of those maneuvers. Perhaps this time seems different because you are not wearing a cast or fleeing from vampires. Or fleeing toward vampires."
I thought of Italy again and shuddered slightly.
"Just fleeing with a vampire," he stated unselfconsciously.
"That's the story of my life," I said laughingly.
He was being so light-hearted. Maybe that's what made it different. He had said this trip was just for fun, a quick weekend getaway, but I had a feeling it was going to be much more.
Chapter 1: Joy Cometh in the Morning
I had begun to get a kind of prickly feeling that danced on the surface of my skin on Wednesday night, when Edward told me that he, Jasper and Emmett were leaving on a hunting trip tonight, but he would be back on Friday and we would start our weekend getaway, his birthday gift from me.
I was sitting in my bedroom, on his lap in the rocking chair, my favorite spot. I was ready for bed, but fighting for just a few more minutes with him. It was late, Charlie was already asleep, and I kept trying to pump Edward for information about our mysterious trip.
He wouldn't tell me our destination; he wouldn't even let me pack a bag. Technically, since I had set this all in motion I couldn't complain.
"Alice is taking care of all that. She knows your sizes and she knows exactly what to pack. She's had fun shopping for a wardrobe for you this past week so don't spoil it by objecting now. You could use some new clothes, and I know you do not enjoy shopping nearly as much as Alice does," Edward stated with precision, lightly trailing kisses down my neck.
"You got that right," I admitted, my pulse quickening.
"She's helped me plan this trip and if it goes well, she and Jasper may take the same trip in the autumn. So in reality, you are doing her a favor," he asserted.
"I've already agreed to go, you don't have to go overboard," I said, to let him know I wasn't buying all of it.
"Alice will be watching over you while I am gone; you will be safe. Just try not to fall downstairs, and I will pick you up early Friday morning," he instructed me.
"Friday morning! Can't you come over Thursday night?" I wailed, clutching his shoulder even tighter. I hated trying to go to sleep without him beside me. I couldn't get comfortable and felt so alone.
I was actually afraid of having a nightmare. The trauma we had recently experienced with Victoria and the newborns from Seattle was still fresh in my mind, and although the threat was over, it was still haunting my dreams. I needed Edward to be there when I woke up, frightened and confused.
I also just plain felt anxious when Edward was away. I knew I should be more independent but the closer we got to the wedding the more nervous I was that something would spoil it and take him away from me. There had been so many obstacles in our way in the past I couldn't trust that we would have smooth sailing in our future. With my luck nothing ever seemed to go smoothly.
"I will if we get back soon enough, but I might not be able to make it by Thursday night. I will try, but if I don't, I want you to promise that you will eat properly while I am gone," he sounded as stern as he could while kissing small circles on my neck. How could I argue with him when he was doing that? How could I even think?
"Promise me," he commanded between kisses.
"Okay, I promise," I managed to gasp.
"Don't make me come back to find you weak and dizzy, do you hear me?" he demanded.
"I'm already weak and dizzy," I protested, "and it's your fault."
He threw his head back and laughed. "Bella, I'm going to tuck you in now, and I want you to get a good night's sleep. I will be back as quick as I can. Please be careful, for my sake…" Edward pleaded.
"You know, now that we're actually going to do this thing," I said, fingering my engagement ring and giving him a significant look, "I can't stand to be away from you for even an hour. And when you're gone overnight, I have a very hard time sleeping."
"Bella, you know I hate leaving you for even a moment, but we are going to do this right. And part of that means I need to hunt now. I am not taking any chances where you are concerned. Charlie is here, and Alice will be monitoring you the whole time I'm gone. You will let her know if you decide to go anyplace unusual or anyone comes over unexpectedly?"
I had a feeling when he said 'anyplace unusual' he meant La Push and when he was concerned about 'anyone' coming over, he meant Jacob. Those were the only reasons I could think of that Alice would need to be alerted by me since she couldn't see any activity the werewolves were involved with.
He had no need to worry. I had no plans to go to La Push or see Jacob, and I didn't think he would voluntarily come here to see me either, not after our last conversation. I had made it crystal clear that my future was with Edward and I think Jacob was so hurt he couldn't stand to see me anymore, at least not for a while. I hated to think of him alone and hurt, but that was the way it had to be. Maybe if I had never met Edward I could have had a happy life with Jake, but that was not meant to be.
I had temporarily stopped trying to call Jacob and he had not tried to call me. I didn't see that situation changing anytime soon. Certainly not while Edward was away hunting.
I desperately hoped Jake would find someone to imprint on, if only for my own selfish reasons. Of course I wanted him to be happy, but if he was in love with someone else that meant there wouldn't be any room in his heart for me, and I couldn't wait for that day to come.
He deserved to be happy and find someone who could love him fully, but that wasn't me. I loved Edward totally and completely and wasn't about to let anything get in the way of my spending eternity with him.
"I have no plans to go anywhere or see anyone while you're gone; I'll probably just spend a peacefully quiet day here with no distractions. Maybe I'll clean out my closet or sort my books into 'keep' or 'donate' stacks. And cook some meals for Charlie to eat while we're gone. If anything happens I will call Alice immediately. Feel better?"
"I feel fine; I just want to make sure you are safe. You will be fine. Believe me, I wouldn't leave you otherwise."
Rationally I knew all of that sounded good, but I still hated to spend the night without him.
As if he could feel my reluctance to let him go he said, "Do you want me to ask Alice to spend the night with you here?"
"No, please don't do that. I really wouldn't get any sleep. I love her, but she has way too much energy to contain in this small room while I'm trying to sleep. You're the only one I want to be with all night, every night."
I could tell he wasn't happy about leaving me, either. He looked like he was debating something with himself.
"You are making this so difficult for me, Bella. If I had a choice I would never leave your side, do you not know that? How about if I promise that after we are married I never leave you alone at night again?" The tip of his straight, aristocratic nose skimmed along my neck as he inhaled deeply.
"Can I have that written into the vows?" Of course I wouldn't be so concerned about sleeping through the night after we were married. Well, not for long, anyway.
"If you want," he said, chuckling. "At this point I will agree to just about anything."
"That's a dangerous statement. Now I think I might stay up all night just to think up some more special vows." It was an idle threat, but I enjoyed scaring him. It happened so rarely.
"After we are married I'm going to be stuck to you like glue. I am not going to leave you alone for a moment. You will get sick of me. You will be begging me for some time by yourself, but your pleas will fall on deaf ears. I hope you know what you are in for." He thought he was warning me but he was in actuality delighting me.
It sounded like my definition of paradise. I knew it was not right to wish for time to pass, but I couldn't wait for the wedding to be over. I felt like I was just treading water until that day when my real life would begin.
"Hey, all that goes double for me. If you think I'm demanding now just wait until I'm your wife. I won't let you out of my sight. I hope you know what you are in for." I had never said 'your wife' before and I was a little shocked by how easily the words came out of my mouth.
"I think I am getting the better end of the deal, and I don't think you are demanding at all. You are my angel."
I looked up at him expectantly and I was not disappointed. His fingers reached out and he touched my face, sliding his hand down to my neck. He leaned down and softly brushed his lips against mine.
I tried to go slowly but I couldn't help snaking my arms around his neck, running my hand up to his hair and wrapping my fingers in the tendrils there. I tugged him closer to me. I felt his lips smile against mine and I took that as a sign. I opened my mouth and ran my tongue across his bottom lip. He stilled, but he didn't push me away or disappear. He moved his lips across my cheek and then trailed kisses down my neck. He lingered there and I enjoyed every minute of it.
While this wasn't exactly what I had in mind, I wasn't going to complain. I would take my victories where I could find them. I had made him stay much longer than he had planned on staying, he had assured me he wanted to be with me around the clock, and he was being very affectionate. We had come so far. This was bliss. Unfortunately I couldn't help but let some reality creep into this idyllic moment and I let out an involuntary sigh.
"Is something wrong, Bella?" He sounded cautious.
"Not really, just my normal insecurities, popping up to ruin an especially nice moment."
"What do you have to be insecure about, my sweetest love?"
It was the same thing I always worried about; but I didn't want him to know just how stupid I could be.
When I didn't answer he said, "Please tell me, Bella, I'm imagining the worst right now."
I had forgotten about that tendency of his. I bit my lip and said slowly, "I'm afraid when I'm no longer human I'm going to be a disappointment to you."
"Bella, that is absurd. I will love you even more, if that's possible, and I will do everything in my power to make you happy. When all the barriers between us are removed and we are man and wife," he kissed my palm, and his tone became even more intense, "I will have you, body and soul. I wish you knew what that means to me. I want to respect you, honor you, and worship you; every inch of you. I just hope I don't disappoint you."
I don't know if it was the power of his words, his icy breath in my ear or the heat I felt as his lips trailed kisses down my neck to my shoulder, but I was having trouble retaining consciousness. I trembled and leaned against him weakly, my arms clutching around his waist.
"Bella, are you all right?"
"Yes, Edward," I whispered. "Sometimes the way you make me feel is almost more than I can handle. You don't have to worry about ever disappointing me. I guess I have even more to look forward to than I thought."
He started kissing my shoulder and making his way up my neck again.
I was so relaxed now I was unable to stifle a yawn and he saw his opportunity.
He removed his lips from my neck and softly said, "Someone is sleepier than they are letting on."
Before I could reply he carried me to the bed and I reluctantly disentangled myself from his strong, majestic frame. I crawled under the covers. "Just stay with me until I fall asleep, please Edward?" I said his name as sweetly as I could.
"How can I say 'no' when you ask so nicely?" He smoothed the covers up around me and slid in next to me, turning me on my side and putting his arm around my waist. I pressed my back against his chest and tried to turn my head towards him. He wasn't having any of it. "I love you, Bella." He pressed his lips against my cheek. "Time to go to sleep."
"I love you, Edward."
"Sleep little Bella, drift off to dreamland." I heard him add under his breath, "While you still can."
Thinking that this was not a good time to start that discussion I decided to ignore the comment and just enjoy the feel of his body next to mine. He started humming my lullaby and before I knew it, I was asleep.
When I awoke on Thursday morning by myself I felt the ache in my heart begin. Whenever Edward was away on a hunting trip I was always worried, even though he had reassured me over and over that he was not in danger. I stretched in bed and held my left hand up so I could look at my engagement ring. It sparkled in even the dimmest morning light.
The ring I had at first been so reluctant to accept was now my most cherished possession because Edward had given it to me and because it meant so much to him. With the wedding only weeks away I had accepted it and although it still didn't seem as necessary to me as it did to Edward, I wanted to make him happy.
And I could see Edward's point of view. Perhaps it was silly of me to worry about idle gossip concerning a teenage marriage when I was willing to spend eternity with a vampire, even become one myself, without giving a thought to what people might say. No wonder he never knew what was going on in my head. I guess I wasn't what he would call logical.
I sat up and looked around my room in the soft morning light. A dense cloud cover filled the portion of sky I could see through my bedroom window. I looked at the rocking chair where I so frequently woke up to see Edward watching me and my eyes fell upon an envelope propped up against the back of the rocker.
I sprang out of bed and snatched it up, throwing myself in the rocker before I could fall. A square, cream-colored envelope held one word in Edward's elegant script: Bella.
The envelope was lightly sealed and I carefully slid my index finger under the flap, thinking this was no time to get a paper cut. Of course there was never a good time for me to get a paper cut. With trembling hands I unfolded a single sheet of paper and read the words Edward left for me.
My Dearest Bella,
I am so looking forward to taking you where we can be alone and quiet together. I want to look into your eyes and read what's written on your soul. To me you are like a source of pure air, a clear stream reflecting a deep pink sunset.
You are as delicate as a freesia blossom and a word of love from you is more precious than the most rare Tahitian pearl. The sound of your sweet voice, the echo of your footstep, a hint of your fragrance is all that it takes to propel me into ecstasy. This feeling is so intense I can almost taste it-- almost taste you.
I try every day to be worthy of your love and I offer you an eternity of strength and faithfulness. I will never give up on you, no matter how hard it is for us to be together. When I am alone with my thoughts I know that your love was meant for me, no matter what stands between us. I love you more because I have to fight for you.
While I am gone please hear my voice on your pillow, whispering to you, telling you how very much I love you. Feel my arms around you, holding you close to me. Your face is never out of my mind. Your last kiss clings to my lips like fire doused with honey. When next I see you I will do anything you ask of me, with delight,
I remain, your loving Edward
I watched a teardrop fall on the bottom of the page, near his exquisite signature. I hadn't even realized I was crying. His words touched me so deeply my response was involuntary. I felt pure joy at reading his heartfelt words. How could I have contemplated leaving this man for even a moment? No one would ever love me this much; it simply wasn't possible.
Even though he wasn't here I felt his arms around me, holding me securely. His love enveloped me in his cool embrace. I read the letter again, savoring every word. His ability to make me happy when he was miles away was astounding but not surprising. He could do anything.
This letter would tide me over until he returned. Maybe I should request he write me a note before every hunting trip. I still wished he were here with me, but I could read his letter and feel him with me, secure in his love.
Even though we still had obstacles to overcome, we were so close to fulfilling our dream. Our dream of being together for eternity. In just a few weeks I would be married and then we would be taking the steps necessary for my being with him forever. This was what I wanted, but the closer I came to realizing my dream, the less I wanted to think about certain parts of it.
It was so hard to focus on the wedding details with Alice, and even harder to think about what was going to happen after the wedding. Well, some things that were going to happen made me very happy to think about, but nervous, too. Edward and I were both so inexperienced, and his particular status made things even more difficult for us. Actually, my being human was what made things more difficult.
As problematic as trying might be, I was starting to think perhaps we should try a few things before the wedding night. How could I explain this to Edward? If we tried to go from zero to sixty on said wedding night, we might encounter more problems than if we eased our way into it by trying small steps first. Would he believe that? Was it true? It sounded reasonable to me, but knowing Edward, he could probably come up with a dozen reasons why it wouldn't work.
The tension between us for the past few days was unbearable for Jasper and I knew the others were aware of it too. Alice told me Emmett had been teasing Edward mercilessly and Edward had been doing his best to ignore it, but she feared for Emmett's life on this hunting trip. Jasper had gone with them to act as referee and she was also worried about the state he would be in when he got back.
That reminded me of how we had spent yesterday. Edward had been confused about my reactions and curious about my thought processes. He couldn't figure me out even when I told him what I was thinking.
I had spent all day at the Cullen home with Edward and Alice, going over a myriad of things connected to the wedding. Alice had agreed that I needed a break and offered an evening of international films to distract me. We ended up only watching one foreign film with her because it made me cry so much and Edward wasn't happy about that.
Emmett and Rosalie were having a date night out in Port Angeles and Carlisle and Esme were off having some private time. Jasper said the tension created between me, Edward and Alice was too much for him to deal with until after the wedding so he retired to his study upstairs.
I had no idea how much was involved with planning a wedding, and although Alice and Edward were doing the heavy lifting, she still waived color charts and all manner of catalogs under my nose for my approval.
After a day of toiling over plans with Alice I had usually lost my appetite but she said most brides lost a little weight right before the wedding so I shouldn't be too concerned. Edward was another story. He was constantly monitoring my food intake like I was a project for the science fair and he was determined to win first place.
The three of us settled down on the sofa, Edward on one side of me and Alice on the other. I had a bowl of popcorn in my lap that Edward had thoughtfully made for me. So far, so good. I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of reading subtitles all night, but I had seen some good foreign films, so I wasn't totally dreading it. Edward tucked a blanket around me and put his arm around my shoulder. I sighed, content for once.
"I chose this because it's very colorful and the music is wonderful. I'm sure you will enjoy it. Also, it's not a film we could watch if Rosalie was here. You'll see what I mean as it goes along," Alice said cryptically as the movie started.
Thanks to not done baking for being a super beta.
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. Twilight and all its characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer and no copyright infringement is intended in this work. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity and are used to advance the fictional narrative. All other new characters and all incidental dialogue are drawn from the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. This disclaimer is meant for the entire work.