I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. William Butler Yeats
I rocked slowly in the chair at Bella's bedside, the action seeming more human somehow. The old, brass doorknob turned and Bella peeked her head around the corner, biting her lip before flashing me a nervous smile.
She turned her head, hair swishing behind her, a fresh assault on my already precarious senses. "Night, Dad!" she called down the dark, narrow stairs to her father still watching the Mariners' game.
"Bedtime already, Bells?" Charlie asked, focusing on the way the center fielder bobbled the ball, earning an error and letting the Detroit Tigers score a run.
"Um, yeah, Dad. I'm just a bit tired today. You know, getting the cast off and everything. I think I'm going to call it a night."
The smile was evident in her voice as she leaned against the frame of the door, raising her newly healed leg, pressing the sole of her foot against the wooden casework. I was far too enamored with the fact that the length of her legs was exposed to me. The slight rise in summer temperature caused her to pack away the grey sweatpants she usually wore in favor of a pair of pale orange shorts. I hadn't felt my heart beat in decades but I was almost convinced it was racing now. She afforded me another flirtatious glance as she awaited her father's reply.
"You OK, Bella?" he called, muting the television. He had picked up on the upbeat inflection in her voice, briefly wondering if she would sneak out.
Her heart began to beat a little faster, adrenaline coursing rapidly through her veins. I swallowed back the rush of venom that filled my mouth, pooling beneath my tongue. Even from across the room I could hear the current of blood in her veins and see the sudden rigidity of her body as she froze still. "Fine, Dad, a little punchy maybe, I'm really tired."
It was good enough; he bought the falsehood, the television returning to its former volume. She just got the cast off today. She wouldn't sneak out, she's smarter than that. "All right, honey. Night." His mind relaxed instantly, realizing Seattle ended the inning with only one run batted in.
She almost limped into the room, the absence of the burdensome cast equally as unsettling as it was when it was first placed upon her broken leg.
"You're a horrible liar. Truly," I admitted, a chuckle escaping me.
"Well, he bought it, didn't he?" she asked, one hand on her hip in a terribly cute pose that she meant to be daunting.
I laughed again, rising from the rocking chair. "Barely," I admitted, opening my arms to her.
She smirked and stepped into my arms. "Well, you see, I have this vampire boyfriend, and he'll keep an ear out for my nosey father."
I quickly scooped her up in my arms paying careful attention to the leg that was even more fragile than normal and leaned in close, pressing my lips to the hollow below her ear. "That's only because your vampire boyfriend is incredibly selfish and wants to keep his girlfriend's nosey father out of her bedroom so he can stay." Her skin was smooth and I couldn't help but let my fingertips slowly wander down the back of her calf.
A smile lit her face, her cheeks coloring. I could smell, sense, feel the warmth in her cheek pressed against mine as the capillaries rapidly expanded and burst. "You will? I thought you'd be hunting tonight." The hope and joy in her voice was unmistakable. I knew I should be devastated, but a thrill secretly swept through me.
I shook my head as she looped her arms around my neck, and I carried her to the bed. She threaded her fingers through my hair and leaned her head against my shoulder. "I'd much prefer to stay with you—if that's all right," I replied, taking a moment to enjoy the intimacy of the gesture. I pressed my lips to her hair, her scent intoxicating me.
"You will never hear me object." I could hear the smile in her voice. It was terrifying. She ought to be afraid. She ought to reject me. I ought to have obeyed my instinct and stayed away from this glorious creature. She was so human, and I was evil incarnate.
I gently laid her down on the bed, her hair fanning out on the pillow before she slid her bare feet under the covers. She bit back a smile, reddening her lips, and her hands slowly slipped from around my neck, the warmth of her touch already evaporating from my skin.
My eyes never left hers as I curled my fingers around the sheet and quilt near the foot of the bed. I took my time drawing the covers over her body, my littlest finger carefully grazing her skin leaving goose bumps in its wake. I savored the sensation, the contact with her flesh. Ankle, shin, knee, thigh, hipbone. I folded the covers at her waist and sighed, feeling the familiar stirrings of both man and beast within this one wicked body. I wondered which one would betray me first.
"Turn off the light." Her voice was rasping and her chest was rising and falling with shallow breaths. I drew my hand back quickly, breaking eye contact, and crossed the small room to the switch on the wall by the door.
"All settled?" My voice matched hers. Low. Husky. I stood with my finger on the switch, my back to her waiting for her answer.
The light was extinguished, obscuring the room in shadows—the shadows I used to hide in, coveting what wasn't mine to behold. The green glow of the alarm clock at her bedside illuminated her face, wide eyes seeking mine in the darkness. I eased onto the bed next to her, wrapping the quilt around her shoulders to insulate Bella from my unnatural cold.
"Edward?" she asked hesitantly, voice wavering. Her heart rate increased marginally, but I didn't notice a rush of blood or adrenaline that usually accompanied her true bouts of fear or apprehension. She turned to face me, her palms pressed together underneath her cheek.
"Yes?" Her face was so sincere, so angelic. It was occasions such as this that I contemplated which of us had more power over the other. She was too inexperienced, she didn't know how to wield the power she had—and I had the feeling that if she ever knew how she could dazzle me with a hushed whisper or a coy glance I'd be done for.
She paused, her pulse quickening slightly. "Never mind."
I laughed softly. "Oh, my Bella." I reached out, my thumb softly caressing her bottom lip. It was moments like this when I felt as though my sanity was truly and seriously in jeopardy. Why was I barred from the only mind I truly wanted to know? Did she even understand how crazy she made me? "You can't back out of a conversation like that. That's thoroughly unfair. You wanted to ask me something. Ask it. Ask me anything."
"I feel silly," she sighed, bringing her hand up to cover her eyes. "I'm glad it's dark."
I smiled. "Trust me," I said, inhaling, smelling the rush of blood to her cheeks. I could close my eyes and imagine the beautiful pink glow, the capillaries bursting. I forced myself to swallow back the threatening venom. My throat burned. "I already know you're blushing, Bella," I whispered.
"That only makes it worse," she groaned, burying her face into my chest. Oh, if she only knew. But she could have no idea. No idea about how my body reacted to every single move she made, every flush of her cheeks, every sigh.
"Please, Bella, you're killing me. Tell me. I could make you—even in the dark." She could have no clue how deeply I longed to know her mind like I knew others'; to peer inside that enigma that was forbidden to me. Would I ever grow accustomed to the inability?
"Promise not to laugh?"
I pulled her close, smoothing her hair down and wrapped my arms around her. She was so beautifully human, my silly Bella. "Of course not, but go on, please."
She scoffed, settling comfortably against me—as comfortable as it could be to cuddle with my inhuman form. It was moments like these that I couldn't deny that someone like that vile Mike Newton might be better for her. Mike Newton wouldn't accidentally snap her neck when trying to lean in and kiss her. Mike Newton didn't want to drain her body of life's nectar.
"Well," she began, pursing her lips together, rolling her eyes to look up at the ceiling, buying time. "I wondered—I mean, not that it's a big deal or anything, but why do you leave your shoes on when you spend the night here with me?"
It took every ounce of willpower not to laugh. I could tell she'd put a fair amount of thought into the matter; it had clearly been weighing on her mind. These were the things I longed to know! I couldn't resist smiling; surely she couldn't see that in the dark.
"Are you laughing?" she demanded, lifting her head from my chest.
The urge had not dissipated. "No," I lied, roughing up her hair and gently easing it back down to rest.
"You're smiling—I can hear it."
I had to laugh at that. So perceptive, my angel. "I never promised not to smile. That wasn't part of our bargain."
"Forget it," she huffed, making a great effort to reposition herself and fought with the quilt in the process.
"Shh," I whispered, reaching out to cup her face in my hand. "I'll answer your question, silly girl." My thumb trailed over her lips, the warmth of the supple skin and the scent of her breath just mere inches away, too much to resist, I leaned in to kiss her.
Her mouth fused to mine, drawing my top lip between hers as she pressed her chest to me, her fingers weaving into my hair, pulling herself ever closer. I was a monster for refusing to push her away. I was greedy and I loved the sweet torture of her erratically beating heart against me, for trailing my lips and fingertips over her carotid artery, and absorbing the warmth of her body. God, she was an addiction.
I could feel the tremor of her body at the lack of oxygen and drew back, letting her take a rasping breath as I tried to get my own panting back under control. She rested her head on my shoulder, her breath fanning across my face, her fingers sinking in to the fabric of my shirt. I gave myself pause for a moment to turn away and refocus my attention away from the more carnal and primitive desires raging inside me.
I thought instead about the question she'd proposed. There were two plausible explanations: one brief, one that was slightly more complex involving sentiment I could barely acknowledge. I decided to go with the short justification first.
"Your father checks in on you quite frequently, I can't imagine his shock and surprise if he were to find a pair of men's shoes on his daughter's bedroom floor. Were that the case, I would definitely be banned from the house. Besides, if I took my shoes off, that might foil my fast getaway."
I hoped she would buy this simplistic reasoning; after all, it wasn't a lie. I worried about burdening her with the full truth.
"Edward, honestly. You'd hear Charlie coming from a mile away, and do you really need shoes? I mean, you are pretty indestructible. It would be a pity if you were brought down by a rock or pinecone under my bedroom window."
I could see she wasn't buying it and the smirk was evident in the tone of her voice. I shouldn't have been surprised; she never did what I thought she would.
"You'll have to do better, those are lame excuses. What aren't you telling me?"
It seemed as though I was always weighing how much I should tell her. I could easily get swept up in her unswerving love and her desire to know the truth—no matter how ugly. The dichotomy of my own situation terrified me. I wondered what would eventually push her over the edge and truly scare her away, to make her justly realize what I was. A part of me wanted that, almost prayed for it. I wanted to strike ungodly fear into her, to scare her away and keep her safe. And another part of me was so thankful for her, for her love and acceptance. She had brought me a level of happiness I thought was impossible to achieve, just a dream, a farce. I was wrong. She wanted me here and now—in her bed of all places.
And now we had arrived at the real truth; the reality was that it seemed like an amazingly intimate gesture to me—I could barely understand why she wanted me here in the first place, but to remove articles of clothing, to seek out that level of body to body contact was beyond my comprehension. Perhaps it was just a simple gesture, something to which I would have never given a moment's thought with my family, but now… She was asking something of me that seemed oddly personal.
True, we had touched hands and lips, I had let my mouth wander over her skin in places I had hardly dared imagine tasting, and I had rested my head over her heart, but feet were personal, private, and usually covered. Though I had no particular aversion to them like some people –Rosalie—did, it still seemed like a more delicate gesture or connection.
Then there was the fact that I was not human. My skin would have no illusion of warmth. It would feel as cold, as lifeless, and as hard as granite; akin to cuddling with ice cubes. I couldn't imagine her seeking out that kind of contact in the dead of night. Humans wanted warmth and comfort—things I couldn't provide. Could I bear the rejection when it truly came down to it? I longed to touch her in these kinds of strange, new intimate ways. It was a connection so personal, one I hardly had the courage to imagine happening to me.
Yet here I was, and she was lifting her head to stare down at me, awaiting an answer. "I— "
I tried not to imagine us wrapped in the sheets, and nothing else, her toes skimming over my ankle as she smiled suggestively down at me, golden eyes smoldering. I squinted my eyes shut, forcing the thought from my mind. No, I wouldn't delude myself that way. Bella deserved better than that. Despite what Alice said I wouldn't change her. It didn't matter what I wanted; Bella's safety, her life, was my happiness.
I stared down at my feet in the dark, looking at the mahogany, Italian leather shoes my sister had bought me last year for my birthday. She didn't hide her embarrassment that I was wearing last year's style.
"Do you have a foot thing? I mean, not like a fetish or anything, but I know some people think feet are ugly or private or whatever. I promise mine aren't gross. I just thought maybe you were waiting for an invitation to take your shoes off. I wouldn't mind if you did, you know, to be more comfortable. You could put your shoes under the bed."
I had to chuckle to myself now. She's blushed when she said the word 'fetish'; I found that so endearing. She didn't worry that I was a vampire, but wondered that I found her feet 'gross'. My silly Bella had evidently given this a lot thought.
"No, I have no aversion to feet per se, I just—" I sighed and twirled a lock of her hair around my index finger, relishing in the sensation of the satiny strand against my skin. "It just seemed personal and I didn't know if you would want that."
In the glow of the green light on her alarm clock I could see her brow furrow. "Why wouldn't I?"
I laughed again. It was so easy to be relaxed, and some better, more cheerful version of myself when I was with her. "Well they are feet, and aren't girls a bit sensitive to things like that? Besides, you may brush against them in the night and shriek. I can promise, they'll be cold."
She wanted this for some unknown reason and I didn't think I could tell her 'no'. I didn't have a valid reason to refuse her. "If it pleases you, I'll do it."
Bella sighed and rolled her eyes again. "Yes, Edward, it pleases me."
She rolled over slightly, allowing me room to sit up on the edge of the bed. The springs creaked slightly, but no more than the normal sounds the bed made if her body shifted in the bed. I zeroed in on Charlie's mind, pausing to ensure that he was still engrossed in the baseball game. It was the seventh inning stretch and he was already wondering if he would make it to the end of the game.
I slowly bent over to untie the laces of my shoes while Bella's fingers traced the words 'I love you' in her familiar font against the fabric of of the back of my shirt. "I love you too," I whispered as I slipped my foot out of one shoe and began to loosen the other. Socks were going to stay on; I'd made up my mind on that already. Feet free, I pushed the shoes as far under the bed as I could reach. Roughly near the middle they bumped into something with a soft 'thunk'.
"A box of my Phoenix clothes," she breathed, her voice holding a kind of longing. Upon our return from Phoenix, after Bella's stint in the hospital and subsequent recuperation, she'd brought back some of her favorite pieces of clothing that she wore at home in Arizona, hoping to wear them in Forks. I couldn't bear to disappoint her.
Mindful of her position on the bed, I eased back into my place next to her, inviting her back into my cold embrace. She sidled up next to me once again and rested her head on my chest, her narrow fingers playing idly with the buttons on my shirt. Her feet were restless, kicking sharply at the covers, making an attempt to pull the blanket out from beneath my legs and feet.
"Whatever are you doing?" I questioned, raising my feet, to give her the slack she wanted.
"Nothing," she cooed, her voice sweet as she sighed and fought to pull the covers over my feet too.
I began to protest. "Bella—"
"Shh," she hissed softly, draping one leg over mine and holding me tighter.
I exhaled a breath I didn't need and gently rubbed her shoulder in slow, soothing circles. I was about to hum the opening notes of Bella's lullaby when her feet began to fidget again.
Evidently this was it, the peculiar rejection I had worried about. She had realized the full extent of my inhuman nature and was uncomfortable and revolted. My dreams of a deeper intimacy, and one that did not necessarily revolve around anything sexual was fading before my eyes.
I made to pull away, to withdraw my feet from the covers and spare her the awkwardness of asking me to move away. "Bella, I'm sor—"
The leg wrapped around mine tightened its hold. I couldn't tear away from her now without hurting her. "This isn't quite right," she declared.
I wanted to apologize again but the sensation of her foot slipping in the opening at the leg of my jeans left me open-mouthed and nearly stammering. The sensation of her toes running up my Achilles tendon almost gave me chills. I tried to sit up, tried to force my mouth to form the words 'Bella, what are you doing?' but nothing happened, my body wouldn't respond.
She hooked her toe around the top of my sock and slowly stripped it off, the ball of her foot sliding down over my ankle before she achieved her goal. She made quick work of the other argyle sock and sighed with contentment.
"That's better," she breathed, a smile stretching across her face as she settled down finally and caressed my foot with hers. "This OK?"
The sensation of the warmth of her skin seeping into mine was astounding; perhaps I shouldn't have been as shocked as I was. After all, she had touched my forearm in the meadow that first day, but the electrical stimulus was still as strong, still jarring even now. My body hummed at the sensation of her touch; I felt alive. Her skin was smooth and soft and just the mere thought of her touch was arresting. I couldn't move now if I wanted to, she had burrowed into my chest and her foot continued to stroke my foot with her own, the sheets barely rustling at the gentle movement. This kind of contact is what I'd longed for.
I could sense the increase of melatonin that was quickly taking her conscious self away from me for the evening. I gently threaded my fingers through her hair and pressed a kiss to her temple. I couldn't help but let my lips linger at the contact. "Goodnight, my angel, I love you."
I began to hum her lullaby as she mumbled her sweet reply. I may not sleep but tonight I would dream.