Chapter 26

The First Kiss

Through my closed eyelids the orange of the backdrop melted into tranquil languid darkness. As if on cue Bella stirred. She released a long regretful sigh.

"You have to go," I grumbled into the softness of her hair.

"I thought you couldn't read my mind." She joked playfully.

I smiled. "It's getting clearer."

The air was smoggy with discontent and I knew that Bella's pace wouldn't fair through this forest when darkness was enclosing on our backs. Taking her shoulders to guide her face to be level with mine, I asked, "Can I show you something?" I knew we would have to be quick and the solution was obvious. My excitement at showing her another trait of my kind was hardly arbitrary, but pleasing in a chance to show her a skill that I actually enjoyed.

"Show me what?" she answered.

"I'll show you how I travel in the forest." Her eyes narrowed skeptically, "don't worry, you'll be very safe, and we'll get to your truck much faster." I grinned at the oxymoron in my sentence; we would be saving an eternity if we ditched the hunk of steel she seemed to like so much.

Her expression became guarded just before she asked, "will you turn into a bat?"

I snorted, "Like I haven't heard that one before!" She smiled her breath-taking smile just before her defense was reinforced as pink touched her cheeks.

"Right, I'm sure you get that all the time." She said feigning acridity.

"Come on, little coward, climb on my back."

She hesitated, narrowing her eyes as she processed my request. I smiled at her, trying to reinforce my "non-threatening" side. She didn't seem convinced, slowly-as not to frighten her again-I reached out my hand and gently snagged her waist, pulling her up and carefully positioning her onto my back. Her heart reacted, pounding hard and persistently though her chest. I feared for her ribs.

Her legs wrapped tight around my waist and the softness of her arms touched my face as she draped them over my shoulders and locked them under my chin. I tried not to feel every inch of her body she so forcefully wrapped around me. It was staggeringly erogenous, I tried to detach myself from my body, but I found that I couldn't -wouldn't comply. Her breath touched my ear as her scent engulfed us. Her pulse was loud but I couldn't decide if she were nervous or just embarrassed about this new position.

"I'm a bit heavier than your average backpack," she stuttered breathlessly.

"Hah!" I laughed. Her weight was non-existent; the pressure of her torso to the feeble strength in her legs enfolded around my waist was barely discernible. Her weight was the least of my concerns, it was a comical speculation. Her body so dangerously close was more relevant for her solicitude then me being held down by her minuscule mass.

If Alice had a vision of this event, right now, her clearest approximation ever, I wouldn't have believed it. Hell! If I could go back in time and tell my prior self from this morning, that Bella was this close to me, I would've laughed in my face. I could never have thought that her scent could be so precedent, second to the feel of her body. I couldn't get enough; my imagination kept spinning out of control wanting to feel just how much closer she could get…

I gently entangled her hand from her hold around my throat and pressed her palm to my face. Breathing in her scent at the base of her wrist I mumbled, "Easier all the time."

It elated me to be able to move this way, without evasion or delusion, in front of her I didn't have to hide anymore, I could be myself. I ran, touching the earth as little as viable, running through the forest faster than possible. The wind barely had a chance to offer any resistance to match my speed.

If there was a chance at being with her without thinking of her blood first, I never felt more confident than at this moment. Her hold tightened as her heart stuttered when I careened across the twisting forest floor, dodging passed a tree by a fraction of an inch.

I knew what the diabolical side of me wanted, but for once I knew what the human in me wanted was something much rarer than her blood. I would have to let myself touch her, be much closer to her, feel more than I can possibly begin to imagine. I knew my selfishness was substantial, how could I ask her to be so entirely careless and irresponsible as to allow her greatest adversary a simply antiquated gesture such as a kiss? But now I knew I was in far too deep as to allow her the release of this decision. I've never wanted anything more. Nothing could ever be compared to this desire.

The trails end appeared and I stopped a short distance from the road, the truck was obscured by fingers of branches. The sun still held in the sky casting tiny glittering sparkles to jump from my skin. "Exhilarating, isn't it?" I said coming down from my high. The run threw all of my choices up in the air, rearranging my priorities and managing to convince me to do the one thing I have longed for and the one thing that is as impossible as my existence.

I paused twisting my neck to see the tell-tale hint of Bella's hair and waited for her to climb down. She didn't move, "Bella?" I asked nervously.

"I think I need to lie down." She whispered in a shaky exhale.

Her tone worried me, I hadn't considered the ramifications of my run, it was plausible that she might have experienced motion-sickness. "Oh, sorry," I said. I waited, she still didn't budge. I furrowed my eyebrows craning my neck to see her face.

"I think I need help," she said, chagrin disgruntling her raspy tone.

I chuckled trying in vain to lighten the mood, to bring the embarrassment out of her tone. Tentatively I took her hands and pried them from the strangle-hold she had around my neck. Careful to use the most minimal strength, I took her arms and lowered her to the ground, capturing her waist to twist her to my front, catching a moment to squeeze her to me as gently as possible. I put my hand on the back of her head, securing her to me, before gently lowering her to the ground.

Her face was muted in pallid pale which overpowered her self-conscious expression. She looked up from where she lay on the ground; the ferns offered her an emerald backdrop. Her eyelids were lidded and perspiration touched her ashen cheeks, she looked as she had when they were blood typing in biology, perhaps she was going to faint?

"How do you feel?" I asked anxiously, feeling like an imbecile as I uselessly stood over her.

"Dizzy," she answered, "I think." she touched her head. My heart broke a little bit.

"Put your head between your knees." I said uneasily. She timidly followed my request. I waited apprehensively, until her breathing slowed and her heart returned to its regular rhythm. I sighed with relief and gently sat beside her, careful not to disturb the ferns under her weight. She looked up, her eyes were fully open but her colour was yet to return.

"I guess that wasn't the best idea," I mumbled regretfully.

"No," she smiled her fake smile, "it was very interesting." She added weakly.

"Hah!" She was trying to pacify me! "You're as white as a ghost—no, you're as white as me!"

"I think I should have closed my eyes." She concluded her eyes downcast.

I smiled, trying to catch her eyes. I bent my chin tilting my head until her gaze found mine. "Remember that next time."

"Next time!" she moaned closing her eyes dramatically.

I chuckled at her again.

She touched her cheek, twisting the tiniest fraction to bring herself another milometer closer to me. "Show off," she muttered, her eyes still closed.

I chuckled again, and the tiniest smile touched her face.

I inched closer to her until our legs brushed. I leaned my head down to hers until the warmth of her breath touched my lips. My mouth watered. "Open your eyes, Bella." I whispered.

Her eyelids fluttered open instantaneously, her dark eyes widening at our new proximately and then lidding just as fast. Her mouth opened involuntarily, the fission in-between her lips parted unbearably slowly to offer me the tiniest glimpse of her teeth.

I licked my lips, "I was thinking," I hesitated, "while I was running…" I took a quick breath, trying to organize my spinning thoughts and phrase them into something coherent or at least comprehensible. The thought - the possibility, the wish - the longing to kiss her had been haunting me every time I've seen her and never had I thought it were possible to achieve such a desire. But here with her I feel invincible, more than in the physical sense, but when I am with her I feel like there is nothing I can't do, nothing I can't achieve as long as she is here, right next to me. I'd been thinking about this a lot, longer than just during the run, but right now at this moment I could summon the courage to actually do it.

"About not hitting the trees, I hope," she retorted a smile in her tone.

"Silly Bella," I laughed while narrowing my eyes playfully at her. "Running is second nature to me, it's not something I have to think about."

"Show off," she quipped again.

I smiled and watched in fascination as she mimicked my action in contagious reciprocation.

How much I wanted her.

"No," I continued, trying uselessly to clear my head and rearrange my thoughts. "I was thinking there was something I wanted to try."

As gently as possible I reached out and cupped her face in my hands. Smoothing away a trapped lock of hair away from her cheek with my thumb. She closed her eyes heavily before taking a deep breath. When she opened her eyes again, the darkness seemed to have warped into much softer melting chocolate, the invitation was undeniable and it took everything I had not to kiss her right then.

I loved her more than I thought was physically and emotionally possible and now I intended to show her just how much I loved her in the most human way I knew.

I leaned forward until her lips were but a fraction of an inch from mine. I searched her eyes looking for the fear I anticipated, instead they were laced with lust and were the lightest I've ever seen.

Closing my eyes, I tilted my head forward and as gently as possible, I touched my lips against hers.

Electricity whipped out and ensnared us in desire. Heat stained her lips and she moved, opening her mouth the slightest amount, inviting me in. Her breath mixed in with mine, I could taste her scent. For one impossible inadequate moment my brain froze and I allowed this madness to continue. Her hands snaked up from my chest to the back of my head. Her fingers knotted roughly in my hair and she opened her mouth wide, breathing me in while crushing herself closer to me.

Every instinct in my body demanded for more, I didn't know pleasure existed before this moment. But as impossible as it was I fought against my every carnal and physical desire and froze beneath Bella's soft persistent lips. Gently but with rapid fortitude I pushed Bella's face back.

Her cheeks flamed under my fingertips and her heart pounded hard and through inadvertent levels of inconsistent beats. Her eyelids fluttered opened and her dark eyes returned my gaze in a woozy expression of wistfulness.

"Oops," she breathed in an exhale, delivering a balmy bath of slick venom to mandate my mouth in longing.

"That's an understatement." I muttered while cutting off my breathing.

I tried not to taste her scent still held on the back of my tongue, to open my mouth and taste the residue she left on my lips. I could bring her closer and experience it all over again…

Was I so idiotic to assume that kissing her again would satisfy my want? Just a mere taste of her breath? It would only cause the temptation to grow to diabolical levels of never-ending need. It would tempt me to want to taste so much more than her lips.

"Should I…?" her fingers disentangled from my hair and she brought them up to touch the back of my knuckles still locked around her cheeks. I stiffened under her touch just as the venom in my throat burnt to intolerable levels of unadulterated desire.

"No, it's tolerable," I said plainly, holding her still so she couldn't move under my locked grip. "Wait for a moment, please."

The venom in my throat died and the unexplainable electricity that flared in between us as soon as our lips touched smothered and faded.

Her eyes were guarded and reticence touched her expression. I wonder beyond all imaginative explanation what she could possibly be thinking, how she could still be here, willingly beside me? Did she feel the danger in that kiss? Or was the passion, the want, the indescribable ecstasy more prominent? Was the rapture worth the fear? The danger? Was the threat worth the kiss?

The kiss was beyond all my wildest expectations and above all horrifying outcomes. Bella had obviously enjoyed the kiss - maybe a little bit too much - that alone washed away all my guilt and doubt. She was still here and the fire in my throat slowly faded. Was I so selfish as to allow that simple fact convince me?

"There," I said once all the venom in my throat vanquished.

"Tolerable?" she asked her eyes still guarded.

I laughed, finally releasing all the magnitudes of joy I felt, to see that Bella still impossibly wanted me. That I could overcome the biggest test on all my desires and that there was still a possibility for more… "I'm stronger than I thought. It's nice to know." I offered her confused expression.

Her eyes drifted down and heat touched her cheeks. "I wish I could say the same. I'm sorry."

I smiled. "You are only human, after all."

"Thanks so much," she said faking annoyance.

I smiled and stood up, reaching out to her. Her dark eyes flickered and hesitated, a secret held in there depths just before she took my hand and engulfed each one of my senses in warmth. Her foot slipped and she braced most of her weight in our entwined contact, her face flushed immediately, she staggered then quickly caught her balance.

"Are you still faint from the run? Or was it my kissing expertise?" I teased, guiding her waist until she regained her balance.

"I can't be sure, I'm still woozy." She smiled half-heartedly. "I think it's some of both, though." Her eyes flickered self-consciously up to mine, I felt my smile grow. So she admits to it then, she actually enjoyed the kiss… but I'd bet I enjoyed it far more then she had.

"Maybe you should let me drive," I announced asking only as a formality to establish conventional courtesy. There was no way I was letting her drive.

"Are you insane?" she objected, she released my hand claiming my warmth and causing icy cold to settle over my skin. Her fingers curled determinedly into her jean pockets.

"I can drive better than you on your best day," I reasoned, smiling I continued, "You have much slower reflexes."

"I'm sure that's true, but I don't think my nerves, or my truck, could take it." She returned my smile with a thin-lipped grin.

Annoyance crept. "Some trust, please, Bella."

I already knew what her answer would be. I would have been shocked if she surrendered so quickly. I had to remind myself that Bella was no martyr.

She falsely deliberated than shook her head. "Nope. Not a chance." she raised her eyebrows, challenging me.

I raised my eyebrows in return and narrowed my eyes.

She angled her body away from mine and when she took her first step she nearly teetered to the ground. I snagged her waist in a tight embrace and tried to smother my smile as her annoyed glare pointedly beseeched mine.

"Bella," I warned with raised eyebrows, "I've already expended a great deal of personal effort at this point to keep you alive. I'm not about to let you behind the wheel of a vehicle when you can't even walk straight." Her eyes faltered, submission taking place. I smiled in satisfaction. "Besides, friends don't let friends drive drunk."

"Drunk?" she objected.

Her lips were very near mine I could feel her breath on the point of my chin. "You're intoxicated by my very presence." I argued.

"I can't argue with that." She surrendered to my pleasure. Actually she could have had a very valid objection by pointing out my very hypocritical sentence. For her presence intoxicated me. She held up her key and dropped it. I caught it effortlessly never releasing her from my eyes. She smirked, "Take it easy—my truck is a senior citizen."

"Very sensible," I approved reluctantly.

"And are you not affected at all?" she asked, sounding desperately somber. "By my presence?" her eyes flickered downwards than up again to watch my face.

My heart broke at her inflection. Was I really not that transparent? Didn't she see the way she affected me?! I thought it was quite obvious. I paused just before I slipped her key into my pocket than reached with both hands to snag her fingertips in mine. Tenderly I dropped my mouth to the base of her jaw; she twisted her neck the smallest amount to grant me better access. I smiled against her silken cheek and brushed my lips along her jaw line up to her ear then back down to touch her chin. She trembled against my touch and brought her bottom lip into her mouth. Gently with my lips still against her heated skin I spoke. "Regardless, I have better reflexes."

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