Author's Note: I received a few comments that expressed concern that I wouldn't be able to tie up all the plotlines in a single chapter. That was intentional. Sequel anyone? This story is about Bella's transition into her new life and the struggle against Mikhail. Once those storylines are resolved, the story has to end. But Edward and Bella wouldn't be Edward and Bella if a new struggle didn't appear on the horizon.
Doesn't mean they can't have a happy ending. And I freaking love happy endings. ;)
Rated NC-17 for sexual content.
Written by Coquette
After the pieces of Mikhail's body were gathered together and burned, the Volturi let us go – at least for the time being. Aro told us he would contact Edward when the time came to cash in on his debt, reminding us that the Volturi could find us anywhere we went.
On that cheery note, we ran.
Hand in hand, Edward and I hurried back to the hotel, cleaned up, and left. We didn't speak, nor did we exchange any looks of relief when we passed through the city gates. There was no relief to be had. I felt as though we couldn't move fast enough.
In the car, I squeezed Edward's hand, grateful beyond words to still have him with me. I had braced myself to lose him to the Volturi tonight. "Aro's going to make you join them, isn't he?" I asked once we'd put several miles between us and the city. "That's what he was after. I knew it as soon as I saw that greedy look in his eyes."
"Aro can force me to join the Volturi," said Edward in a weary voice, "but he can't make me stay forever. He asked for favors, not a life of servitude. No, Aro's not going to do anything without thinking it through fully, so he can be certain I don't have any other way out. We have a little time. I'll think of something in the meantime. Try not to worry."
We fell into a troubled silence, listening to the raindrops hit the windshield. The more miles we left behind us, the angrier I became. The entire situation was infuriating. I was angry with Mikhail for his stupid games, angry with Aro for flipping that game around on us to his own advantage, angry with Edward for not letting me share in his debt. Most of all, I was angry with myself for being so weak. Sure, I had been the one that had killed Mikhail in the end, but that momentary lack of control had brought the Volturi down on us. In the end, Aro had proved to be the true Grandmaster – not Mikhail.
It was up to me to make this right. And I would.
"You know what?" I said, jaw hard with defiance. "You're right. I'm not going to worry. Not one little bit. I'm sick of feeling like this, Edward – out of control of my own life. I'm not going to put up with feeling helpless anymore. We've never had a chance to stop and be happy, and if we don't put our foot down at some point, we never will. If Aro wants a fight, he's going to get one. He's messed with the wrong vampire's wife."
Edward's face was grim, his voice listless. "You're frightened. You have no idea what you're saying."
I barely heard him, already laying out a plan in my head. "The first thing I have to do is get back to normal. I have to get my memories back and keep them in my head. I don't want to feel like a puzzle missing some of its pieces anymore. I do owe Mikhail one thing. If it weren't for his particular gift, I never would have figured out about the shield in my head at all. He helped me learn to control it. If I could just remember how to do it, I know I could do more than just turn it off and on."
Edward stirred a little from his solemn mood. "That would be a comfort. Don't strain so much. You can only work the shield when you're relaxed." He looked over at me then, concern mirrored in his eyes. "Are you absolutely sure you want to do this right now? You don't have to change anything, Bella. You're fine the way you are. You know how I feel about that."
"They're my memories, Edward. They're part of me, and I want them back." I sat back in my seat with a huff, shaking my head in frustration as I stared out of the window. "I wonder why they were trapped beneath the shield in the first place? Did I put them there somehow? Why would I do that to myself? It doesn't make any sense."
"It makes perfect sense," said Edward. "Before you changed into a vampire, you were so afraid of forgetting us – of losing who you were as a human and what we had as a couple. You wrote those journals in a frenzy. You didn't want to forget a single thing."
I thought about what he was saying, then nodded in agreement once I caught his meaning. "I think I get it. I wanted my human experiences kept safe, so my mind locked up my memories to safeguard them. Stupid mind. Well ... if I really did do this to myself, then it's up to me to put things right again. I'm not going to give up until I do."
"I believe you," said Edward. "But don't hurt yourself. I've seen more of that tonight to last me a lifetime."
It was exhausting work – not to mention dangerous.
Every time I let the shield fall away, the bloodlust returned. Edward held my hand tightly, ready to grab me if he had to. But since there were few humans around on the dark road, I had an easier time controlling myself than I had in Volterra. It would have been impossible to try anywhere near the scent of blood. Luckily, by the time we closed in on the Florence city lines, I was close to mastering control over my gift.
My memories returned again, and they hummed in my mind, radiating warmth like old friends. I sighed happily under the pleasant weight of them. Edward could hear my thoughts with the shield lifted, and he whispered words of comfort and encouragement to me, responding to my thoughts as if I were speaking them out loud. It was the strangest conversation I'd ever had.
Clenching my teeth, I mentally grabbed hold of the shield and manipulated it until it did what I wanted it to. I made sure my memories were free, and then I let the shield close over the rest. The bloodlust fell into blessed silence.
I opened my eyes, whole again, and smiled in triumph. "It's funny, though. I don't feel as different as I expected to. The lines got so blurred toward the end. With or without the memories, I just feel like ... me."
A small smile appeared on Edward's face. "Told you so."
I let him gloat. Edward had been right about who I was inside the entire time. I wasn't suddenly another person once the memories settled back into place. I was still Bella. I always had been. I had just gotten all turned around inside, like someone had spun me in circles until I lost my bearings.
Even the cold, clinic nature I had first awoken with as a vampire made some sense. Without any memory of what it was like to be a human, I had become a vampire with few human traits. Edward and his family had been the ones to reintroduce me to humanity. In a way, Edward had loved me back into my own head.
My own love for him suddenly choked me. Poor Edward – he had suffered since the moment he'd turned me, and he was still suffering. I wanted to comfort him. I wanted to touch him and let him know that his wife was here. I wanted him to know how deeply I cherished him. My eyes flickered to his face, fixated, hyperaware of his body close to mine. It had been too long.
"Edward? Pull the car over."
We somehow crossed those last few miles into Florence without crashing. Even with Edward's mind-reading abilities and enhanced senses, it took all of his skill to get us there without taking out any innocent bystanders.
Admittedly, that was my fault. Not that it stopped me.
I was straddled backwards in his lap, jammed into the space between his body and the steering wheel. My fingers pulled at his hair, lips hard against his. My wriggling hips accidentally shifted the car into neutral.
Edward swore and grasped at the gear shift knob. "Damn it, Bella. I can't see."
"I want you," I gasped, trying to tug his shirt out of his jeans. My elbow hit the steering wheel, and the horn blared out into the stormy night. "Why haven't you pulled over yet? Do you need me to draw you a picture? Sex, Edward."
I pulled him to my mouth again, eyes drifting shut as I sucked on his lower lip. The car lurched to the right, but I'm not sure he noticed. I moved my mouth along his jaw, leaving kisses in a searing trail up to his earlobe.
Edward's reply was strained. "Too close – oh, God, I love it when you do that – to the city. People. Police. Jail."
I darted my tongue inside his ear, and we hit a road sign a second later. It wasn't in English, so I didn't feel too bad about it.
Edward cursed again. "We've got to get off the road."
I turned my head to peer out of the rain-dappled window. "Hotel. There. Now."
We had to run in the downpour to get to the hotel lobby. I didn't mind. The rain fell fresh and cold on my cheeks. Though it might have made me wish for the dry warmth of Phoenix when I was human, the cold didn't bother me now. I couldn't stop smiling.
Edward stared at me, obviously puzzled by my mood. Despite our amorous encounter in the car, his eyes remained haunted, the set of his shoulders tense. "Are you ... laughing?" he asked. "We just barely escaped Volterra with our lives. What could possibly be funny after that?"
I met his gaze, eyes bright. "I'd rather be happy with you tonight than worry about tomorrow. Please, Edward. Let it go for now."
Edward sighed unhappily, and then he stopped jogging altogether. Since my hand was enclosed in his, I stopped, too. I stared up at him curiously, wondering why he had stopped us in a downpour, but my eyes lingered on his face for different reasons. He was so beautiful, standing there with raindrops dripping from his chin, his shirt made sheer beneath his jacket. I could hardly believe he was mine.
His face had become softer. Thoughtful, more open. I knew he was trying to do as I asked and let it all go for tonight. I didn't resist as he pulled me toward him and wrapped me up into a tight embrace.
"You're right," he whispered. "We made it out of there in one piece, and I have my girl in my arms. My beautiful Bella. I'm so thankful for every second I have with you. Nothing else matters tonight except for the fact that you're safe. Not even Aro can get to you now."
His words were comforting to him but troubling to me. A tightness formed in my chest, and I clung to him tighter to shake the feeling away. Yes, I was safe, but Edward wasn't. My confidence wavered as panic took hold of me again, and I pressed my face into Edward's chest to hide from it. What if I lost him?
Edward sensed the change in my mood. He pulled back and tilted my chin up to inspect my face. "Hey, what's wrong? You were fine a second ago. You were the one telling me to let it go, remember?"
I tried to smile, very glad at that moment that I was no longer capable of tears. "I think we're going to have to take turns, reminding each other of that. Deal?"
Edward looked apologetic. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I brought your mood down with mine own, didn't I? I don't mean to worry so, but you know I can't help it sometimes. Now let's get you inside. You're all wet." He nipped at my earlobe, drawing out a tiny giggle from me. "I'm afraid these clothes are going to have to come off."
Edward was at his sweetest as he guided me toward the main lobby – hands running up and down the sides of my waist, his lips leaving trails of lightning on my neck. I got a bit dizzy from it, and the lust combined with the lingering panic made my ears start to ring. I wanted to be in the damn room already. I needed him to crush me with his body until we were melded together. Inseparable.
Edward, on the other hand, was in an entirely different mood. He took his time as he spoke to the hotel concierge. He smiled at me lovingly, eyes locked with mine as he brought my hand to his lips.
He wanted romance.
I wanted to rip his clothes off.
I could already sense that this was going to be a problem.
If the concierge had any issues with our disheveled appearance, he didn't mention it. Edward paid in cash, and his generous tip ensured we wouldn't be disturbed.
Once we were safely out of sight, Edward carried me to the elevator — my arms around his neck, our chests pressed together. He kissed me slowly as we ascended to our floor, and his hands worried at the fabric of my clothes.
His ministrations felt good, just like they always did – but I needed more than achingly slow caresses. Edward was still handling me like I was human, made of paper-thin glass. I pulled him hard against me, trying to remind him that I wasn't as breakable as I once had been. He groaned and the kiss deepened, but his fingers still flittered over my skin, soft as down feathers.
The elevator doors opened, and we parted long enough to find our room. But as soon as the door closed behind us, my feet left the ground. Edward picked me up and pressed me into the wall with his body. I hugged him and breathed in his familiar scent. Not even the rain could wash away his smell, his taste. He was too perfect.
We kissed hungrily – but still, he held back. I put my hands on either side of his face and pulled away so that I could look at him. I saw it in his eyes – the wariness, the iron-clad restrain he'd perfected over the years. "Let go," I whispered, resting my forehead against his. "It's okay."
"I'm trying." His hand inched up my shirt and found the bare skin of my waist. I inhaled sharply as his questing fingers moved to trace my ribcage, just under my breasts. A hint of a smile tipped the corners of his mouth. "This helps." He lowered his mouth to my neck, barely touching the skin there with his velvet lips. "And this."
He took his time as he started on the buttons of my shirt, and he hadn't even gotten to the second one before I wanted to scream with frustration. I didn't need foreplay tonight. I was already wild with desperation. I needed him to hold me tighter, to throw me on the bed and drive into me. I was restless in his arms, unable to stay still.
He misinterpreted my tension, and his gentle touch became even gentler. His palm smoothed over my bottom. "Shhh, I would never hurt you."
"Hurt me?" I gasped. "If anyone needs to worry about holding back strength, it's me, not you."
He drew back, eyes suspicious. "Are you trying to tell me I'm not rough enough for you?"
That did it. I kicked my feet like a child that wanted to be lowered to the ground. When he set me down, I gripped his shoulders and pushed him backwards until he hit the opposite wall. I wasn't gentle about it.
His eyes turned dark with lust as he caught onto my mood. "Bella..." he breathed.
We fell on each other with renewed passion, and for the first time, neither of us held anything back. It had never been like that between us. Edward abandoned his fear of hurting me, and I had abandoned any inhibitions caused by my memory loss. We were both free. Husband and wife, joined as equals at last.
Our hands were everywhere, mouth bruising mouth, the sound of ripping fabric cutting the air. And still it wasn't enough. I needed him inside of me. I wanted to possess him and be possessed by him.
His jacket made a wet sound when it hit the floor, and his ripped shirt followed it a moment later. My fingers raked his bare back, and I reveled in the feel of his corded muscles. "That's more like it," I said.
Edward turned us around and pressed my back against the wall again. He pushed my partially-unbuttoned shirt and bra up, not having the patience to remove them fully. He bent his head to my breast, and when he took my nipple into his mouth, my body seized up in pleasure the way it did when an orgasm took me. I was denied any such release, however, and the sudden ascent left me dazed.
Edward chuckled as I reeled. He guided my arms upward and pulled my shirt and bra over my head. "Want me to slow down?" he teased. "Was that too much for you to handle?"
My eyes finally focused on his face, and I took his words as a challenge. I could feel his hardness against my stomach, the way his jeans strained tight against his erection. I put a hand between us and squeezed. Caught off guard, Edward leaned against me and muffled a curse into my shoulder. It was the sexiest sound I had ever heard. I wanted to hear him make it again and again.
I worked at his zipper, accidentally pulling off the top button of his jeans in my haste. I dropped to my knees in front of him, surprising us both. Edward said my name as if to discourage me, but broke off short because I had him in my hand again. His skin was powder soft there, a clear contrast to the pulsing hardness within. I measured the length of him with my eyes, then took him in my mouth.
It was something I had never done before. I was too shy as a human – too full of inhibitions and insecurities to even consider it. And if Edward had ever desired it, he was too much of a gentleman to ask. I didn't know what I was doing, but it didn't seem to matter. Edward went incoherent the moment my mouth closed over him.
I win, I thought smugly.
I was surprised to find that I liked pleasuring him that way. He tasted good, like clean skin and just a hint of something else. I had thought oral sex was all about your partner's satisfaction, but it was more than that. Seeing Edward so overcome, so completely at my mercy, was a huge turn-on.
I sucked him hard and found myself gasping and moaning at the same time he did. I couldn't fit much of him in my mouth, so I gripped the base of his shaft with my hand to make up for it. He seemed to like that, but then again, he seemed to like everything. I went with it.
He started to pant after a few minutes. His hands moved from my hair to my face to my shoulders as if he didn't know what to do with himself. "Too much. Bella, I can't..."
I didn't listen, of course. But I did pull my mouth away just before he came, still held in the tight grasp of my hand. I stared at his face as the orgasm took hold of him, marveling at the vulnerable angle of his neck and jaw line, the way his belly rose and fell with unneeded but urgent breaths. He was beyond beautiful.
His erection softened only a little, still wet in my hand as he dropped to his knees in front of me. I pulled and tugged at him gently, kissing his forehead and eyelids as he calmed. All of the tension leaked had out of him. Apparently, I wasn't the only one that had needed a release.
Giving him that moment of release so soon in our unspoken game proved to be a mistake. When his eyes opened, they burned into my own, fixed on me with unmistakable intent. I had awoken something inside of him, and he wasn't at my mercy anymore. I was at his.
His voice was quiet but commanding, smooth as satin sheets.
"Get on the bed."
My eyes widened. It wasn't a request. It was fact. If I didn't get up and move, he was going to do the moving for me. Obediently, I got to my feet, though my legs were jelly beneath me. I couldn't see him once I turned toward the bed, but I could feel him – his burning presence like a physical weight pressing against me. My knees hit the bed, and I crawled on top of the comforter.
I turned and met his gaze nervously. Hadn't I been the one who wanted to play it rough? I was suddenly humming with tension. Absolutely terrified. And very, very excited.
Edward was calm, unhurried, but there was no doubt in my mind that I was in trouble. He moved toward me slowly, each footstep making me tremble just a bit more.
He moved over me, leaning down close, his face mere inches from my own.
I didn't need a verb to catch his meaning. Gulping, I fumbled with the button on my jeans. I was clumsy again, but I managed to strip them off eventually, still trembling beneath the heat of his stare. I left my panties on, a small act of defiance on my part. After all, he still had his jeans on, though the fly was open. I looked up at him to see what he thought about my insubordination.
Lightning fast, he struck. I'm not even sure what happened to the panties, but they were suddenly in his hand, ripped beyond repair. Tossing them aside, he pinned both my wrists in one hand and pressed them into the mattress over my head. I wriggled and squirmed, but I didn't really try to get away. My head was in the game again as soon as he touched me. I loved feeling him strain against me, loved testing his strength.
He waited until I stopped fighting it, and then he put the fingers of his free hand into my mouth, his eyelids heavy as he watched me suck on them. When he was satisfied, his fingers slid from my mouth and moved between my legs. I tensed, waiting for the moment of penetration. It didn't come. Rather, Edward ran his wet fingers up and down my slit and watched intently to see how I would react.
I cried out and bucked, which seemed to please him immensely. He moved between my thighs, forcing them to open wider. His fingers never stilled. Once I caught onto his rhythm, I tried to angle my hips so that his fingers would slide inside of me. God, I wanted him inside of me. But he always pulled away before I could manage it.
Just when I thought I couldn't stand anymore, he released my wrists and slid his hands under me. He lowered his face between my legs, and I sighed as I felt the flat of his tongue against me. Moments of pure heaven followed. I opened my eyes so that I could see him down there, his damp hair like burnished copper against my skin, his tongue pink and soft against me. It was sexy as hell. While I was still trying to get used to the sight of him down there, Edward moved again.
He sat up on his knees, and suddenly my back wasn't touching the bed anymore. Edward gripped me by the hips, holding my lower body up off the bed with ease. My head was still on the mattress, my neck bent at a funny angle. That was the least of my problems.
Though we had shifted, Edward's tongue was still insistent upon me – probing, lapping, tasting all of me. I bit my lip and strained against the pleasure – needing more, needing less – but he gripped my hips tighter and wouldn't let me move. Then he shifted our position again.
I cried out both in relief and protest when he pulled his tongue away from me. Then I squealed as he flipped me over onto my hands and knees. I heard the sound of rustling fabric, felt his hands take hold of my hips. Then he pushed inside me from behind in one fluid movement.
My vision slid out of focus. He hadn't prepared me for penetration, hadn't stretched me first with his fingers or eased his length inside of me the way he had before. He didn't need to. I was more than ready. When he started to move, my elbows bent and collapsed. I rested my upper body on the bed and gave up the last shred of control to him.
He took it and owned me. Game over.
It was fast, dirty, and exactly what I needed. He pounded into me hard, skin slapping skin. It burned, stretched me wide, but he never once hurt me. Somehow aware of my limits, he took me to the place where pain met pleasure and left me screaming for more.
Soon I found myself bouncing backwards to meet his thrusts, shifting my pelvis until I could feel him hit a certain sweet spot inside of me. My eyes got wider every time he struck it. I thought for a moment that I was having an orgasm, but it only grew and grew, refusing to crest. I cried out Edward's name, begging, pleading with him, but he only drove into me harder. Eventually, even my knees went out from under me.
I screamed Edward's name when I finally came. Clutched at the sheets until they tore. Edward gasped as I bore down on his length, but he never stopped moving. The climax went on and on – until finally, I melted into the sheets, wrung completely dry.
"Beautiful," Edward whispered, caressing my bottom lovingly. He stilled his movements inside of me at last. He pulled out and let my lower body collapse to the bed along with the rest of me. I was a puddle before him – limp and useless and completely satiated. His hands were gentle as they flipped me over onto my back.
I whimpered quietly, realizing he was still hard. His body moved over me, narrow hips settling between my thighs until he was aligned perfectly with me. He kissed me slowly, like I was something precious to him, and gave me the time I needed to recover.
Edward's evil twin was gone, and sweet Edward had returned. This time, I welcomed him gratefully.
"Now then,"' he whispered, his breath stirring my hair. "If you're quite satisfied, let's take it slow this time. I want to make love to my wife."
Without urgency, he pressed inside of me again, letting me get used to every inch before he pushed further. My entrance stretched and protested, sore from our first bout. But Edward soon set a pace that made me forget about any pain. Slow, deep strokes that left me breathless. I was soon lost again.
After that first powerful climax, my body could only hum with pleasure. I was unable to descent from the heights I'd been brought, and I thought I was unable to go any higher than I already had.
I was wrong about that.
He took me past that threshold of pleasure patiently – nothing urgent or desperate about it this time. We were safe, hidden in our own little cocoon from the rest of the world. And as I spiraled up and down, he was always there to catch me. We made love for hours like that, until the last shreds of tension finally fell away from us both.
Then we rested.
"I think you're right," he told me later, as we cuddled and watched through the window as the sun peaked out from behind the rainclouds. "I think everything is going to work out somehow. Maybe I'm just kidding myself, but it's hard to be pessimistic when you're with me."
I pressed my face into the crook of his neck, breathing deeply of his scent. "Aro will be plotting."
"I think he already is," said Edward. "I don't know if you noticed, but Alice called my cell phone quite a few times while we were, uh ... busy. I'm pretty sure she saw something in our future."
That got my attention, and I sat up on one elbow to stare at him. "Why didn't you answer it? I would have understood, busy or not. Well, except for maybe that first time. I mean, what if it was something really important?"
Edward shrugged. "I don't care what she saw. I'm fed up, Bella – just as you were last night in the car. I'm tired of never being allowed to be happy with you. First James and Victoria, then Mikhail and the Volturi. Now I finally have you in my arms, and you're all in one piece. Favors or not, I'll be damned if I'm going to let that spider, Aro, mess with our happiness now."
The conviction in his voice made hope stir inside of me. "I love you, Edward," I whispered, reaching out to brush his hair from his eyes. "I loved you even when I didn't know you, even when I didn't know who I was. If Aro thinks I'm going to let you go quietly, he has another thing coming to him."
A real smile touched Edward's face, all the way up to his eyes. It was something I hadn't seen since I'd changed, and it was beautiful. He pulled me back down on the bed beside him, my face enclosed in his hands, and whispered something to me. My name, I think.
There was no more talking after that.
Author's Note: As I mentioned up above, there is obviously room in there for a sequel. I hope you enjoyed this story.
If you have a moment, I'd love to know what you thought. I don't like to ask for comments, so never feel pressured to give one. I write because I have to. It's just who I am.
Love you guys! :)