Winded

Written by: A. Lincoln

Author's Notes and Warnings: I'd just like to thank everyone who voted for this story in the contest and I'd like to congratulate the winners. For info on the next chapters from here on in, see the end of each posted chapter. Enjoy.


The woman mind was surprisingly easy to analyze. I failed to understand why human men had such problems. If they were more observant, there would be no more need for vile creatures like me.

Unfortunately, I was bound to this existence of sexual gratification, and the only way to lessen my hatred for this life was to try and accept it. Unfortunately, acceptance, to the human mind, was the hardest part of the healing process, and I could not help but agree. I had been trying to accept this fate for two and a half years, and I was still loathing it to this day.

As I sat in the main hall, I watched a cloud of mist form in front of the report table. My eyes drifted to my left, and I scanned Jasper's expression for any signs of confusion. As usual, he was trying hard to conceal his displeasure at his lack of knowledge to this new life, but I could see it clearly in his eyes. He caught me eyeing him and scowled. I chuckled.

"They're the morning incubi," I said, nodding my head in the direction of the shroud of mist, now materializing into a condensed vertical shape.

Jasper grunted and gritted his teeth. I was sure that the onslaught of sounds in his head – which was like a blistering headache to a mortal – was shattering his concentration. He opened his mouth to say something, and then it snapped shut as another wave of pain lapped at his mind. I understood his pain well; new incubi were not able to control the thoughts they could receive until they completed training, and even then it was quite difficult to turn down the volume until you were well accustomed to how women functioned.

His obvious pain caused me pain also, and I wished for a moment that we could pull back the hands of time to free him from the chains of fate. But despite our status in the mythical world, and our setting, we did not have such powers. Those were held for Gods and Goddesses who were more responsible than we were. Deities like Aro, who took advantage of their power but were free to reign for millennia over us.

I let out one humorless laugh and turned back to Jasper. The lines of his forehead had smoothed out, indicating that the worst had passed. I put one hand on his shoulder to call his attention.

"You can explain now," he said gruffly, glaring directly ahead of him at a portrait of Athena.

I glanced over to the mist and was slightly surprised to see that they were already in their human forms. They were getting better at masking.

"The morning incubi mask themselves as mist because it is the simplest form to take when wandering out in the morning hours," I said slowly, watching his reaction. His eyes lost focus of the portrait for a moment as he processed my words, and then he was rigid once more.

"Can't humans feel mist?"

A slight smile graced my lips. There was once a time when I was this inexperienced and where I was the one asking the same questions and demanding the same answers. "Yes, but in the morning they are quick to attribute it to morning dew."

He nodded once in earnest, and I took my hand from his shoulder. I noticed that he had much more questions he wanted to ask, and I motioned for him to continue with my hand.

"What incubus are you?" he asked.

I let my hand rest on his shoulder again and he eyed me curiously. I smiled and a quick hiss blew from his lips as I placed let my index finger rest parallel to his shoulder. The tip didn't touch his neck, but I saw the goose bumps form on his skin at the point of contact.

His body spun away from me instinctively, and a growl rumbled low in his throat. I smirked at his expression, confusion and anger mixed into one, and he let out a low warning. I ignored him as I placed my hand back to my side.

"I'm a night incubus."

"And what did you just attack me with?" he whispered harshly.

I couldn't take him seriously, but I understood his mood. Another part of being a new incubus was the uncontrollable emotion still embedded from being mortal. The majority of my fellow clan members were mortal before they were called from the brink of death. The new ones had to let their human mind slowly ebb away until it was nothing more than a machine used to collect thoughts and please women.

Jasper had so much to deal with.

"It was just a wisp of wind." I watched his expression and decided to explain. "That is the form we take at night. The reason it is so cold is because of the region I cover. It's always wet and cold there."

He narrowed his eyes at me as he mulled that over, and like before, when he understood, he let down his uptight façade.

"So why are there so many mist guys and only a few of you wind ones?" His lips curled up as though he caught something important.

How right he was.

I smiled sadly. Every time I explained this, it only confirmed the length of eternity. It did help ease the acceptance of this life, but it didn't make it any easier on an immediate emotional level. But he needed to understand that this job was his for eternity, and there was no escaping it.

"Most –," I searched for the right word, "- become midday incubi, or heat in terms of masking, because the loom weaves an equal amount of thoughts during that time. That means that you'll average at least one woman each day, and that's the quickest way to gain experience. As you eliminate more strands, you'll be promoted."

His chuckle at some joke I had missed caught me off guard. I raised my eyebrows as I watched him.

"Army," he muttered under his breath.

I ignored his hazy human memory and continued. "The second level is the afternoon-evening incubi, or clouds, who surprisingly have more requests than the morning. Lastly, we have the night incubi, the wind, who have the longest shift and the most requests."

A loud boom echoed in the chamber and the thoughts of new incubi arriving filled the room. Jasper returned to full glaring mood and stood up, and I followed him out to the separate chambers underground. We walked along a path lit with candles to the rooms, and I said nothing as he went into his room and shut the door loudly.

I continued down the path, and was watching the shadows flicker against the rock wall when I nearly slammed into a large figure. I stepped back and ducked when a fist suddenly came into my peripheral. I crouched and shot my leg out, twisting around quickly with a snap of my hand. I felt my foot connect with his, and he was on the ground laughing hysterically when I got up to dust my robes off.

"Damn, you're always ready," he breathed, accepting my hand and hoisting himself up.

"And you're always late," I said. He grinned and punched me in the shoulder, and then he was running towards the chamber.

Was he the only incubus unable to hear the loud booming of the clock as shifts changed? Emmett always seemed to be late to pick his first strand, but his lack of punctuality was in no correlation to his expertise. The only reason he was a midday incubus and not a night wanderer like the few of us was because he had a customer he was fond of.

And as forbidden as that was, he didn't care. Emmett was very easy to read only because he rarely ever kept anything to himself. His emotions were exposed for everyone to see, regardless of the potential repercussions he faced with many of them. That was probably why he was easy to get along with, although many of the incubi did not agree.

I made it to my room and stepped inside, taking a moment to revel at the quiet atmosphere. The purpose of these rooms was to provide a place free from the thoughts of others. The minds of us creatures were designed to detect the wavelengths of the human mind, and mine was special in a way that it could also detect the thoughts of other creatures as I pleased. I tuned those out naturally since it caused more havoc than necessary, but even a special 'gift' as Aro called it (he was oddly interested in me) was not able to tune out the thoughts I was designed to hear.

But this room was the equivalent to human sound-proofing walls, and for that I was grateful. The Gods understood the immense strain on our minds that each wavelength brought along with it, since wavelengths brought not only pleas, but the emotions laced within them. It was a burden to carry all the emotion, and our creators created the haven as a place to stay between shifts.

For me, however, this was more than just an escape. This was a room that allowed me to remember the fuzzy human memories I was able to retain. As I thought about it, the memories resurfaced, flooding my mind with images undefined and hazy. I let them float around in my mind, as it helped shape each clip, and then I watched the most important memories replay themselves.

"I want to try something," he said softly while he laced his hand within hers.

He heard her breath catch as he brought their intertwined hands up to his chest. He let their hands rest on his jacket, right where his heart was beating in time to hers, and used his free hand to pull her closer. He felt her body heat seep beneath his clothes and onto his skin, and the warming sensation was wonderful as he wrapped his hand around her waist.

She let out a shaky breath and willed her chest to stop heaving noticeably as he began to dip his head to hers. They were in the park, a fact she noticed absently, and snow glistened on the ground so beautifully that she felt bad for marring it with her footprints. But that absent thought was gone the second it tainted the perfection of the moment, and she was thrust back to absolute bliss.

His forehead was touching hers now; their breath danced between their lips as the wind whipped their jackets into separate frenzies. He stayed like that with her for a long moment, enjoying the way she shivered as his breath touched her lips, and watching in anticipation as her eyes lowered to stare at his lips. He smiled, knowing that she loved the way it was 'crooked', and her breath caught once more.

He didn't give her a chance to recover as his lips met hers. Both their eyes closed in the heat of the moment, and he applied pressure. He was as new to this as she was, and they were both seventeen and inexperienced in even the art of kissing. But he loved her with his life, and knew it would be enough to compensate for his lack of skill.

The snow swirled around them, matching their passion as their lips moved along to a song only they could hear, and –

The scene suddenly changed, and I leaned my head back against the stone cold wall and closed my eyes.

His fingers were quick over the keys, a testament to how skilled a player he was. Despite the speed, the tune that emerged was graceful in its slowness, a beautiful melody that matched his mood as he waited for her to arrive from work.

He had contemplated visiting her, but told himself that he was being too protective. She needed her space. But he quickly found that mulling at home was no better than aggravating her with his presence. Of course he knew that she never felt that way, but he was quick to jump to conclusions like those.

He stopped playing when he heard the crunch of tires rolling over dirt. He watched the door and listened closely until he could hear her boots sloshing in the rain. She knocked lightly, realized the door was open, and let herself in. He smiled at her when her eyes immediately roamed to the piano where he sat.

She was drenched from the downpour, and her lips were pursed as she closed the umbrella and threw it on the porch. She shut the door with force, and he grinned widely as she stalked towards him.

"Why didn't you come help me outside?" she grumbled. He heard the attempt at unbridled fury and chuckled softly at her martyred expression.

"You would not have let me carry your things or hold your umbrella."

"Hmph," she mumbled, but it turned into an odd gasp as he pulled her into his lap. She turned her head slowly to glare at him, but was easily caught off guard as he kissed her. Her clothes were soaked, and the moisture should have been uncomfortable to him, but all he could think about was how soft her lips were against his.

He groaned as she repositioned herself in his lap, and then their kiss deepened. She let her tongue slide over his bottom lip – like marble, she noted – and she felt the blush creep onto her cheeks as the action elicited another groan from him.

He pulled away reluctantly and smirked at the hazy stare she sent him.

"I wrote something for you," he said softly, as though his voice would ruin the atmosphere if he spoke too loud.

"Mhm," she hummed, barely acknowledging his words as she tried to capture his lips.

He chuckled once and dodged her assault, grabbing her waist at the same time and turning her back towards the piano. He caught her mysterious smile as she turned to stare at the piano keys, and he immediately understood the reason for the facial expression.

She twisted herself sinuously, nestling herself between his thighs, and he moaned painfully into the back of her sweater as he grabbed her hips to stop her. He could almost hear her smile of victory, but his body wanted to hear other sounds – preferably not his own.

His breath was ragged and choppy as he let go of her hips to place his hands over hers. She stopped wiggling and was perfectly still as he guided their hands over the keys. Her lullaby was sweet, and blood rushed through his veins as he thought of Bella playing the piano with him.

Bella heard his harsh breaths and tensed her hand muscles. He stopped moving their hands and she tried to twist around to see what was wrong when he let out a strangled groan. She squeaked when he grabbed her hips with more force. She gasped and shivered as he ground himself into her, the friction creating delicious heat between them.

"Stop tempting –

The memory became hazy and dissipated in my mind before I was overcome with the worst memory of my human life.

"Don't leave me, Edward! Stay alive. You promised. You…promised." Her words were impulsive, and, mixed with her anger and tears, barely understandable. But he could make out most of her speech, and every new word accompanied with a strangled sob tore at his already mangled heart.

The ambulance sirens were loud against his ears, and he cursed them for making it harder to hear Bella. Although he could feel her hands against his chest, twisting furiously as she let her agitation known, he wanted to hear her as much as he could.

His body felt odd; he knew this foreign feeling was a trademark of death forthcoming. It was as though a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders, but his body was not used to the freedom and was collapsing under its own lack of weight. It didn't quite make sense to him, but what did make sense, what did bring him back to the harshness of reality, hurt the most.

A particularly painful sob tore from Bella's throat as she placed her forehead against the metal rails of the stretcher. The ambulance turned a sharp corner, and the paramedic barked a harsh order at the driver. Their voices were strangely muted, and the only voice that had any sign of clarity was the one he couldn't live without.

"Why can't he speak?" Bella cried, pointing at his throat with wide, confused eyes. Her pupils drifted back and forth as she tried to take in everything at once. He wanted to sit up and tell her everything was all right, to free her from her pain, to kiss the tears away, to slap himself for being the cause of all this pain, but she was right – there was something wrong.

He couldn't speak, nor could he move. The odd sensation had already consumed his whole body, but he could see her beautiful, torn face. Was that how death would come? He would be rendered useless except for his sight and hearing? He would have to die hearing and seeing Bella suffer so?

He deserved to rot in hell for eternity.

I laughed humorlessly at my most vivid memory. How ironic it was that I wanted to rot in hell, and now that it had been granted, I wanted to live again. How selfish I was.

I had always found it a curse to relive the memories as an outsider – as if the story of my life was being retold in third person. Although I somehow had kept my human memories from being destroyed during training, I wasn't strong enough to keep the emotions that came along with them. I was left to conjure up emotions fitting each moment, but it never was satisfying. It was not real enough.

A low murmur or voices reached my ears, and my body became rigid as I listened closely. The incubi of the 49th Parallel were known as being very quiet and reserved. We rarely spoke since speaking disrupted the flow of wavelengths to the brain. The only ones who had mastered speaking while tuning in were the night wanderers like me, so it was never a surprise that I talked to novices like Jasper.

I caught the faint words of those who were trying to express their surprise. It would have been comical to listen to a normal conversation between afternoon incubi; they were at the stage before the night incubi, and were the longest to go without talking to preserve their validity within the Parallel. They usually sounded like three year old children trying to string a long sentence together.

But as I caught the important words, focusing on the verbs and adjectives, I realized that there was nothing remotely funny about this situation. I stood up and left the room, taking a deep breath as the wavelengths settled themselves calmly within my head. I let my mind open even further, willing it to let in the thoughts of the fellow incubi, and I was assaulted with shouts.

This is amazing!

My goodness, who could possibly being doing that?

The strand is disappearing too quickly. I can't get a hold of it.

It's like she's turning her thoughts off and on.

If James won't move, I'm going to backhand him into the wall. God, he only likes tracking girls. He doesn't do shit with them.

The last vile thought caused me to scowl and I shut out the incubi's wavelengths as I stepped into the chamber. I walked briskly towards the loom with my eyes on James. From the thoughts, I deduced that James was closest to what they were staring at. I felt a searing heat to my right, definitely a collection of midday incubi gathering to watch this phenomenon, but I tried to ignore them as I continued forward.

I pushed the owner of the earlier thought out of my way and moved beside James. He did not even notice. He was staring pointedly at the loom with a grin on his face. He had found a challenge. I scowled.

I let my eyes roam over the collection of fibers. Each one was a tangible presentation of a wavelength, and once picked, shaped itself into an object that was attached to the person. It was the equivalent to human GPS, and the object, varying from a novel to something of a darker nature, brought the incubus to the place of the wavelength owner.

Right now the strings were still, each sending a separate wavelength, just a hum in my mind since it wasn't my shift. I eyed it for a while, my eyes sprinting back and forth for anything odd, and my eyes widened when I saw it.

It dwindled between invisible and faint every few seconds, and I tried with growing impatience to catch a lasting glimpse of the wavelength. I could only pick it up when I could see the string, and it would change so quickly that I would only feel a slight throbbing in my head – a headache, maybe?

A wavelength had never given me any pain before, and I figured I was the only one this deeply affected. Everyone gathered simply watched it with fascination, and James continued to try to pick it at. It was odd the way his hand reached forward and was met with some sort of barrier. Whatever stopped his hand from its advance took on a strange quality; it looked like protective elastic covering of the string. James, aggravated but getting a strange a high from the challenge, tried to approach from a different angle.

My head continued to throb in time to the string and I decided to reach for it. Caught up in my own thoughts, I barely registered James' territorial hiss as my hand passed his. With a slight twitch, my hand grabbed onto the string, and I pulled it from the woven strings with ease.

Then my mind was silent.

My eyes widened as I tried to make sense of what was going on. When an incubus picks up a string, the wavelength becomes attached to him and it is the only voice he can hear.

Yet I heard nothing.

The string began to transform into the object that would guide me to her, but I paid no attention as I tried to figure this out. Was there something wrong with me? Was there something wrong with this girl? Had the loom become defective and I was now picking up wavelengths of a dead person?

No. That wasn't possible.

The only way a wavelength could transform into a string woven into the loom was if there was a living being whose thoughts required our expertise. No one had ever fathomed a wavelength whose thoughts we couldn't hear because there had been no need to. Our thoughts were open to everyone.

I growled at the feeling of blindness.

I couldn't register what was happening. I couldn't understand. This wasn't possible. In my years of being an incubus, I had never been thwarted before I even begun.

For a brief moment, my eyes were hazy with challenge. I understood James' pull towards the chase and his eagerness to savor each moment. I was pulled towards this girl because she had presented me the first challenge in this existence.

I felt the anger on my face as I walked out of the chamber. I felt the eyes of each and every incubus here to witness this impossibility on my back.I felt everything, yet heard nothing.

I took shelter in my room, awaiting the dark with trepidation. My hands still grasped the object, but I did not look at it lest I pull myself deeper into incomprehension. Instead I stared forlornly at the wall, thinking about all the possibilities in this situation.

A dark part of my mind wished it was the one person who would never call upon us. But what if it was? What if it was her, asking for someone in the emptiness of the night, calling for a companion because she had lost one?

I shook my head at the conceit. Bella would have moved on. I was too blessed to be hers, but I was sure that would have continued to live for me. She would have gone through the mourning, and Alice or her other friend Angela would have helped her discover the rest of the world without me. It was my last wish to her as a human. She promised she would try.

I put my face in my hands and exhaled deeply. The object clattered to the desk and my eyes opened quickly to see the source of the noise. One look at the little box lying on the desk confirmed my deepest desire and my worst fear.

It was her.

And she called for me.

"No wonder she has a headache! Stop feeding her that garbage," Alice said, hissing the last word as she reached for Jacob's hand. He scowled at her and pulled away from her advance with the cup still shaking in his trembling hand.

I put my own over his and shot a warning glance his way. He smiled at me, completely ignoring a furious Alice as the trembling in his hand died down.

"You like it, right Bella?" he whispered, staring at me with so much intensity that it was hard to form a coherent response.

To tell the truth, I didn't really like Jacob's attempt at making a milkshake to calm my aching head, but it wasn't half bad. Despite the stinging sensation it left in my throat, it did actually taste like chocolate. I smiled at him.

"It's good," I said before Alice had the chance to answer for me.

His large grin made me smile wider as I laughed at Alice's expression. I immediately set off to soothing her anger.

"I will go with you today, Alice," I mumbled.

Her face lit up as though I had turned on a thousand little light facets in her skin. She smirked in victory and nodded her head once in acknowledgment. Suddenly she got up and her small form danced over to my side. She patted my head softly, but I still cringed as another wave of pain struck me.

"It will go away. Stop stressing yourself. Now go home and get your purse, then hurry over to my house. We have things to do." She sang the last sentence as she danced off to the parking lot. I grumbled my goodbye, but it was lost in her peals of delighted laughter.

Jacob sent me a look filled with pity as he took another swig of his homemade drink. We sat together in the new diner by the police station. It was operated by Emily, who had been investing in a new shop for years. We were her most frequent customers, although Jacob always insisted on bringing food from home than buying her products. It made me feel bad, and whenever Jacob had to use the washroom (frequently – he was so huge) I would sneak and order something.

Today he had caught me, and I was forced to drink his chocolate milkshake. I tried to persuade him that nothing could stop this blistering headache as it raged on, but he insisted. I found it hard to keep a good argument with the constant banging inside my skull, so I was pretty quick to concede.

We sat at a table by the largest window, and the patter of rain calmed me. The rain was no surprise; Forks was known for its overcast weather. I let the sounds wrap around me like a comforting blanket, and the attack of my head slowly ebbed.

I laid my head on the table as he slurped on his drink. I heard him set the cup down loudly and I jumped at the proximity of the sound to my ear.

"You're thinking of him, aren't you?" he asked, and I turned my head to peer up at his expression. He was trying to conceal his jealousy, but it leaked and I saw it in the way his forehead creased and his eyes tightened.

I was a horrible person for doing this to him.

"No," I whispered, although his words were the key that opened that part of my mind.

The floodgate opened and a torrent of memories rushed in, devouring my headache and leaking into every crevice. I was overcome with thoughts of Edward: his face, his eyes, his voice, his body. . . .

I cast my eyes towards the floor and blinked hard twice to push the tears out of my sight. I hoped Jacob didn't catch them as they fell to the floor, and that hope helped keep me from making any noises that would give me away.

I kept my face facing the floor as I waited for the rush of memories to stop. I felt a whimper in my throat, pushing itself to escape, but I concentrated. After a few tense moments, the memories evaporated and the floodgate closed.

It took with it my headache, but that was the least of my worries. The careful resistance I had built up had crumbled down with Jacob's impulsive words, and now what was left was a gate without a lock. It no longer needed a key or a catalyst to set it free.

I was vulnerable again.

Another tear rolled down my cheek as I looked up at Jacob. I watched his eyes widen at my face, and then he was mumbling apologies so quickly I barely caught that he was just repeating the same word.

I put my hand up to stop him and the words cut off cold. He peered at me anxiously and I tried to smile. It must have come off like a twisted frown, and I felt bad for this deception.

"You're a bad actress, Bella," he said, laughing. I sent him a confused look, and he patted my head the same way Alice had. Was I a dog now or something?

"What?" I grumbled.

"If you're unhappy, don't hide it. Don't treat me like your other friends," he whispered softly although his face was hard.

I really was a horrible person for doing this to him.

I nodded sagely and he helped me up from my seat. He chuckled when I almost tripped over his feet, and then we were in my car heading back to the reservation.

The ride was quiet as we turned onto the dirt road and for that I was thankful. The silence helped solidify a padlock on the floodgate, and by the time we were in front of Billy's house, I was pretty sure it was locked tightly.

Jacob hugged me tightly and patted me on the back before he left. I watched as Billy rolled out of the house to greet his son, and returned his wave before I set my car in reverse and pulled out of the driveway.

The rain had stopped, but dark clouds continued to race over the sky. It was fascinating that there were always a large collection of clouds that drifted over Forks at the same time each day, but that could have just been me searching for something interesting every afternoon.

I hummed to Debussy as I drove back home. I noted that Charlie wasn't home yet, and it made my escape much easier. I had decided to live with Charlie for a year after graduation, and he was left to deal with my constant mourning. I wished that we could live as two separate entities, him unaffected by me and vice-versa, but some higher power enjoyed Charlie's pain.

I knew he would be happy to know that I was going to Seattle for a party, but I would have to deal with his speech on moving on. I had only just ensured the security of the floodgate, and I was afraid his speech would break it easily. I wasn't ready for that twice in one day.

I went into the house and grabbed my purse before I could let my eyes drift to the rocking chair that he used to sit in. Tears pricked at my eyes as I rushed back out of the house and into the car.

It was a quick drive to the Cullen home where Alice waited on the porch. She grinned as I stepped out and rushed to greet me.

"Is Rosalie coming?" I wondered aloud as she pulled me up the stairs. I felt her hand twitch slightly, and then her steps were less graceful as we drifted up the spiral staircase and into her oversized room.

"Of course not. I asked her earlier, but she complained that it was too hot to do anything."

I wasn't expecting that answer. "What?"

"Lately she's been ditching me because of the weather. Forks rarely has a day where you could complain about heat," she mumbled.

"Maybe she has a personal heat wave," I joked lightly, hoping to brighten her mood. It was never a good thing to let Alice do your makeup when she was angry.

Alice turned to me and smiled, and I felt better as she motioned for me to sit on the seat in her washroom. She said nothing as she worked diligently, first taking a towel and rubbing the dry tears off my dirty face. She did not ask about them, and I was happy that she worked in silence.

She did my makeup in record time and when she moved out of the way to let me see myself in the mirror, I was surprised. This must have been the first time in two and a half years I looked pretty. I wanted to hug her tightly, but I knew it would get to her head, so I mumbled thanks as she put sections of my hair in pins.

She hummed softly as she curled my hair to frame my face. Once she was done with that, she went to fixing herself up while I rummaged through her closet. She had bought me a personal wardrobe for my nineteenth birthday, but told me that it would be kept in her house because she couldn't bear to find out what I would do with them alone.

I found a dress that would please her, but it did no good for me. It was strapless and went down just to above the knee, and was the same blue as my favorite blouse at home. I knew why I chose it above every other, but I tried not to think about the reason for longer than necessary.

I put on a pair of faded jeans and a zip up sweater and went to show Alice the dress. She nodded appreciatively as she packed up her makeup kit. She was already done her makeup, and looked stunning in comparison to me as we packed our clothes into a small suitcase. We were going to a weekend party in which Alice was invited, and she extended the invitation to me. She had booked a hotel and we were going to drop off our things and stay there until eight.

We were out of the house quickly after that, her dragging me to the strikingly yellow Porsche in the garage. I did not want to look so ostentatious, but it was hard to argue with Alice.

It was dusk by the time we reached Seattle. She drove right to the hotel, and the valet took her car as we rounded the corner to the hotel. I was quiet as Alice confirmed our reservation, but that didn't last long once we were in the elevator.

She pressed four and nudged me when she saw my expression.

"Don't tell me you want to bail," she whined, glaring up at me.

I looked at her pixie face and frowned. "Not really, but I don't want to go now."

"What's the difference between that and bailing?" she asked icily as we stepped out of the elevator.

"I do want to come, but later. Please, Alice." I had to resort to begging.

She glanced up at me curiously, trying to find some hint of a lie in my face, and sighed when she only saw the truth. "Fine, but I'm going to hunt you down if you're not there by eleven."

"Thank you." I smiled and she shook her head sadly as we walked down the hall. Our room was at the end, almost hidden by the walls, and it was comforting to know it would be harder to find than others.

Our stuff was strewn across the bed by the time seven thirty made its presence known. Alice looked positively beautiful in her midnight black cocktail dress and heels, and I hugged her fiercely as she grabbed her purse and made her way to the door.

"Keep your phone nearby. I'll call you. Remember that the only person who will knock this door is coming in twenty minutes." She kissed my cheek and then shut the door, and I could hear her retreating footsteps.

The valet was the person who would be coming to inform me that the Porsche was safe. Alice had paid him heavily to drive her to the club, return, and pick me up when I was ready. It obviously was her plan to ensure that I stick to my end of the bargain.

I decided to put on the dress to see how it fit. Of course it was perfect, I noted as I smoothed it out. I walked over to the full length mirror and admired the person staring back for a few seconds. She still had curves, despite her horrid eating habits after the incident and her skin still looked like pale silk under the right light.

I would have been pleased at these results, but all I could do was stare into the mirror and wish he was here to compliment me. I pursed my lips as I tried to push away the thought of him.

A curt knock on the door alerted me of the present and I rushed quickly to open it. It was the valet, and I smiled up at him as he searched for words to express what he wanted to say. I would have been flattered by the look in his eye and the way his Adam's apple bobbed as he looked me over, but I felt oddly disgusted at myself.

He mumbled what his name was and where I could find him when I was ready. I thanked him and smiled once again, and his lips twitched upwards in response. Suddenly a strong draft whirled into the room, and I rubbed my arms to stop the unexpected goose bumps from spreading.

He glanced at me strangely, as though he couldn't feel it, and asked if I needed any extra blankets. I glanced back the bed and nodded in the negative, and he smiled and wobbled away. The cool air surrounded me as I closed the door, and I rushed to find the sweater I was wearing earlier.

I bent down when I saw it, but the sweater did no good even when it hugged my skin. I was still cold, and I could feel the goose bumps spread to my shoulders. This was odd.

I went over to the window to close it, but found it was already sealed tightly shut. Confused, I walked over to the central air conditioning to see if it was left on. It was off.

What was going on?

I shivered as I made my way over to the bed. I turned on the desk lamp and rubbed my sleeved arms with my hands. I leaned against the head post for support, and continued to rub my arms almost painfully. The friction did nothing. Instead, it seemed I was getting colder.

I let my hands rest at my sides and closed my eyes. An odd sensation swept at my arms, continuing to my shoulders and then extending over my collarbone. It made the blood in my veins move faster, and I felt a faint blush on my cheeks as the feeling crept up my neck.

I didn't understand why I was blushing, and why it felt like I was being assaulted by wind, but the feeling was comfortable. It calmed me and excited me, and I welcomed it as I let myself relax against the pillows I propped up for my back.

My hair, which had been perfectly still despite the wind, tickled my neck softly. Without warning, the strands that covered my ears were pushed back, and my left ear was exposed to this odd sensation. I shivered, not out of the difference in temperature, as my earlobe reacted to this new sensation. My neck bent to the other side of its own accord, and I was surprised that I was welcoming this without thinking of exactly what was going on.

The sensation spread further, caressing my ear until it moved to the sensitive skin behind it. I couldn't stop the appreciative hum that came from me as I felt it touch me there. I cut the hum off mid-way, disgusted and scared, and my mind tried to figure out why I was getting turned on by air. This was certainly a first.

"Bella," someone whispered.

My head whipped around instinctively to where the sound emerged from. It was as though the voice came from right at my ear, as if their lips had been placed right there. My eyes scanned the room hurriedly, searching for a culprit, a tangible body to these strange delusions, but all I could see was the stillness of the hotel room.

I could hear my loud breathing as my heart sped underneath my chest. I propped myself up fully and leaned forward to see the door. It was locked. There were no out of place footprints on the carpet.

"Don't be afraid," the voice murmured then, and the cold draft surprised me by drifting over my thighs.

I shivered involuntarily and hugged my knees with my hands. I figured that if I was hearing a beautiful voice with no body attached to it, I would at least try to have a conversation. After all, no one told me it was bad to embrace hallucinations.

"What's going on?" I whispered into the still air.

When no one responded after a few tense seconds, I felt stupid. I was talking to an imaginary voice, trying to have a conversation in a hotel on a Friday night – in a party dress. This was downright comical.

"You called for me," the voice finally said.

My eyes widened as I replayed the voice in my head. It sounded familiar. But no, that couldn't be right. It couldn't be him. It wasn't possible.

"What are you thinking?" the voice asked, aggravated.

Yes, it was him.

How could I? How could I have hallucinations of him? I didn't want to open the floodgate, and now it was beyond open. It didn't flood my mind with images. It devoured it.

A strangled sob escaped my lips before I could stop it, and I curled myself up further into despair. This was insane. Was I so far gone that my only comfort was hallucinating that Edward was here with me, in a form I couldn't touch, couldn't see?

I shook my head and the tears began to flow freely. I had betrayed him. I promised that I would try to move on. I considered this day the first step to finding to healing. But I couldn't even accept that he was gone. Acceptance was the hardest part, and I knew all hope was lost the moment I realized I couldn't do it. The voice that was here now confirmed that.

I looked up in hope that I could see who I was talking to, but the room was empty. The air was still and my goose bumps had lessened to little dots on my skin. I whimpered pathetically as I wished that the voice would return, but I knew it was of no use. If Edward had moved on, why couldn't I?

I gasped as the draft returned, wiping away the tears on my cheeks. The moment of surprise quickly passed and I leaned into the invisible touch. I heard his soft chuckle and smiled sadly.

"I want to see you," I whispered.

"I can only take human form when you are ready."

I sighed as the sensation cupped my face and left intriguing circles on my skin. It almost felt like human skin, but all that was left was the hand itself to confirm the feeling.

"Ready for?" I asked, puzzled.

I heard the zipper on the side of my dress sliding down. I narrowed my eyes in the darkness, but let it continue until it had reached the end. The sensation spread over my stomach, and I gasped when it slid over the rim of my panties.

"Oh," I breathed.

"Innocent as always," the voice whispered huskily in my ear.

I shivered as I was pushed back until I was lying on the bed. It was strange to be alone with someone there. It felt otherworldly. Then again, Edward didn't seem too human himself. Neither did this hallucination.

"Close your eyes," the voice commanded, and I did as asked.

I felt the air around me gather at my feet, and I wiggled my toes in anticipation. I kept my eyes shut as the draft slowly ran over my skin to gather with the rest of the air in the room, and I bit my bottom lip as a weight assembled at the foot of the bed.

My body tensed as the weight came closer. I felt his hands slide through mine and pull them from where they were hiding underneath my body. His thumbs caressed my palms, and I would have been quite content if we stayed like this for the night.

Edward had other plans.

The sensation that had been licking at my skin was more potent when there was a body to its name. I realized that the moment Edward's lips touched the skin behind my ear. I bit down harder on my lip as he drew a line from the top of that sensitive area to the bottom with his lips. I heard him inhale, and when he exhaled, the warm air on my skin brought a warm rush to my stomach.

With his hands still entwined in mine, he let his teeth graze over my earlobe. It was as though he had fired an electric pulse through me, and my body bucked upwards towards his. I felt his smile on my skin as he let his lips roam over my cheek.

I wanted so badly for him to kiss me, but I was afraid that it would make things worse when he was gone. I had trouble living for nearly three years without his touch, and I wouldn't bear living longer with it renewed.

But the other feeling was too much to ignore and when he pressed his lips softly to mine, as if he was testing himself, my reaction was much stronger than he expected.

I pressed my lips hard against his and he took it as confirmation. His ministrations were practiced and much more controlled than mine, and I cowered to the heat created must faster than he did. I groaned as his lips teased mine, and his tongue slipped into my mouth with a fervor that caught me off guard.

I had never kissed Edward with such intensity before, but I didn't have half a brain to make sense of what exactly was going on. I knew that he was causing my stomach to gather every exploding feeling in my body, and suddenly I itched for him to make it go away.

He groaned as I let my tongue tentatively run over his bottom lip. The sound empowered me and I ventured further, this time meeting his. He was clearly more experienced than I was, but I was fast becoming better at this.

But what I was not expecting was what he did next.

A growl escaped his lips as his left hand let go of mine, and he pushed my dress down. He took my strapless bra with the blue material, and I whimpered into his mouth as the cold air assaulted my now exposed skin. His free hand rubbed enticing circles around my breast, and I used my hand to guide him to where the itch burned under my skin.

He stopped kissing me briefly and told me to open my eyes. I did, and gasped when I met his heated stare. His green eyes were filled with a longing I didn't understand, but I couldn't tear myself away from his face.

It had been two and a half years since I'd seen such perfection.

He smiled crookedly at me before his long fingers teased my nipple. I gasped and my body bucked upwards once again, this time meeting his. The contact between my dress and his skin was shocking, and we both shivered at the heat produced between us.

He started to roll his fingers, and my free hand grabbed a fistful of the sheet because I couldn't get a firm hold on him. He watched the way my face contorted as wave after wave of pleasure lapped at my stomach.

I tried to concentrate on him. It had been too long since I had seen him, and my memory hungrily took in each curve and imperfection his skin. Not that he had looked glorious as the light of the moon cast over him.

I moaned as he kissed down my jaw and over my neck, leaving little marks as he ventured to where the other itch was located. My chest heaved with each roll of his skilled fingers, and I could feel his smile on my skin as my other hand clutched his painfully. His mouth reached just above the pert nipple waiting to be satisfied, and he sent me a crooked smile before it disappeared under his mouth.

I hissed in pleasure and wrapped my legs around his waist, pulling him down against me. I ground myself against him, feeling his erection touch the most sensitive part of me and screamed at the pent up emotions that wanted to be released. My stomach quivered as though it was on fire, and the scrap of my dress around it did nothing to lessen the acute pain.

"Please," I ground out in warning.

He responded by running his tongue over my nipple the same time he pinched the other one, and I whimpered as I ground myself against him once more. He groaned against my breast, and it heaved again.

The hand that was teasing me moved lower, and I huffed as the sensation left. He let it trail down over my crumpled dress and his eyes – a forest green now – watched my reaction as he tore the thing right down the seam.

I smiled as I thought of what Alice would say, and I grabbed his bronze curls and tugged him roughly back up to me. He complied and pressed his lips roughly against mine. His fingers slid down my exposed stomach, and it contracted under his skilled fingers. I gasped into his mouth when he hooked a finger into my panties and ripped those.

He cupped me with one hand and my eyes widened as the sensation that had been coiling in my stomach dipped further. He let go of my lips as my head thrashed mindlessly against the pillow. His fingers rubbed over the skin, slick with my arousal, and then one finger slipped inside.

My moan was muffled by his mouth. He moved his lips against mine as his finger pushed deeper. Just when I thought the fire couldn't get any hotter, he inserted a second finger and curled the first.

A torrent of sensation rushed to where he dominated, and I felt like he had popped something within me. Every nerve in my body seemed to explode in one everlasting second, and I was thrown into a pleasure so intense that my scream could not be muffled by even him.

The fire roared to life at that one moment, and Edward caught another of my screams of exultation in his mouth as his fingers slipped out and he positioned himself at my entrance. I was still in this strange high as the emotions continued to flow out of me, and I saw his sad smile before my eyes shut.

I felt him push inside of me, and I expected pain, but there was none. My walls stretched to fit him with ease and immediately my nerves began to fry with the overload of sensation. I sobbed desperately as he groaned, and then he pushed himself fully inside.

I pushed myself up and wrapped my arms around his muscled back, breathing into his hard shoulder as he began to move within me. I tried to keep in time to his strokes, but he was overpowering me in his haste.

His groans became louder, more pronounced, as he delved deeper. The air around us was thick with passion, and my hands were slick against his back as our bodies rubbed against one another. He thrust harder as I pleaded with him to bring me to that high again. He grunted in acknowledgment and he was more languid against me, his thrusts become longer and more fluid with each new second.

The sensation in my stomach began to whirl crazily again, and I felt the need to redeem myself. I could not see Edward's face, and could not tell if he was enjoying this as much as I was. If this hallucination was the last I would see of him, I would give him the same pleasure he had given me.

My fingers slipped off his back and I put them against his chest. He grunted in confusion, and I smiled as I pushed him back. We were still connected as he fell onto the lower half of the bed. I was now on top of him, staring into his dark, confused eyes. The new position immediately brought forth another wave of mindless pleasure, and I knew I needed to take control before I lost my own.

This hallucination felt incredibly real, and I wanted to please Edward the way he had pleased me when he was alive. If this was the only moment I got with him, I would try to make it the best. I owed him that much.

I began to move on top of him, our hips connecting as I came down on each thrust. After a confused moment, he understood, and began to thrust upwards in time to my strokes. He moaned my name as I bent my head to kiss a pert nipple.

"Bella, no," he groaned, growling when my teeth bit down slowly. His breathing was heavy and his face was strained with pain, and I wondered why he would want me to stop.

"Why?" I said as I pushed myself down farther. His eyes widened and he grabbed my hips, moving them to a rhythm that made his head thrash wildly against the blanket.

"I'm suppose to pleasure you," he hissed. I sent him an odd look before pushing against him harder than before, and he moaned loudly as pleasure overtook him.

He pulled me forward and kissed me roughly as my climax met with his. My eyes pricked with tears as I kissed him with as much passion as I could muster. The waves of pleasure continued to escape my body, and then it ebbed away into the comforting sensation from earlier.

We both sagged against each other, our heavy breathing mingling into the darkness of night. He rubbed my back as I let the tears leak onto his shoulder, and he groaned when he slipped out of me.

"Bella," he said, reprimanding. I scowled into the darkness.

"You're going to ruin the moment, aren't you?"

"You should have listened to me," he whispered sadly. "I didn't deserve that."

"Why?" I said quickly, turning to glare daggers at him. But my anger faded into confusion as I peered into his sorrowful eyes.

"Because I don't deserve you," he whispered.

Goose bumps began to form on my skin as he faded away. Confused and angry, I grabbed his hand to try to stop him, but that too became wind as he drifted.

"Don't leave me, Edward. Don't do this. You promised," I cried into the night as the cool air wrapped me in an embrace.

"I love you." The voice was at my ear, but the body was gone.

"Then don't leave." I looked around desperately for any way to trap him here, but I knew he could escape through crevices as he pleased.

He ignored my words. "Bella, you're special. No one in my clan could hear your wavelength. Your mind is protected; you shield yourself. And I think you shielded me after my death." I cringed, but he continued. "I retained my human memories because Aro wasn't able to get to them. You must have wished for me to remember you. Silly Bella, as if I would ever forget you regardless." He chuckled into the darkness, but the sound held no humor - only sadness.

"I don't understand," I mumbled, wiping the tears out of my eyes so I could see clearly in case he changed his mind.

"I know," he replied, "but I've given you clues. Just be careful, and call for me in the night when you are lonely."

I stood up frantically, grabbing at the air and hoping he would stop. I moved towards the window, blocking it with my body, but he was already gone.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sauntered back to the bed, and I nearly sat on a little box that laid there. I picked up the foreign object and caressed the soft velvet exterior with my fingers, and then I flipped the box open.

Inside was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen.

With its beauty came a realization that Edward needed my help. Whatever he was, wherever he was, he wished to be free and he knew that he could entrust me with this.

I slipped his mother's ring onto my finger. And then I steeled myself to answer his unspoken question.

"Yes."


Fini


Posted: Friday, August 29, 2008.
Revised: Thursday, October 29, 2008.
Edited: Coming soon.

About Next Chapter:

I had quite a bit of requests for another chapter, and I've had it sitting on my computer for a while. I just wanted the contest to be over. And alas, it is! If you wish to continue with this story, check back on Saturday night or Sunday! Until then, here is a line from the next chapter:

"Ma'am, if you'd stop talking for a moment, I'd explain why I have the inexplicable urge to…," he trailed off with a broken sigh, his teeth clenched as he tried to conceal the immense pain on his face.