The motorcycle was in the garage. A thrill of fear raced through me. I didn't know she had it with her…and I didn't believe that Alice would allow her to ride it.
I bolted from the car and ran up to the door. Alice, hearing the car, ran to get the door for Emmett, Carlisle, Jasper and I.
She's sound asleep. Don't worry, she wasn't hurt.
I raised an eyebrow at her. Her voice implied that Bella had been doing something that I disapproved of. I could just imagine what that was.
A grimace flickered over Alice's face as she backtracked, knowing that she'd revealed a bit too much.
She went down to…La Push.
She wasn't expecting my reaction. I visibly relaxed.
What's wrong with you? Edward, wake up! I said, she went to La Push to visit Jacob!
"I know," I muttered. "I've changed my views on things a bit."
"Okay? Well, tell me when you're done with her upstairs."
A growl rumbled deep inside me when I heard the edge to her voice – as if she'd been expecting me to go upstairs and kill my love in her sleep.
Carlisle appeared on my side and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. "Settle down, son. It's been a few days; you should see to Bella right now."
"Don't do anything stupid," Alice added.
"Alice," reproached Carlisle.
Control your temper, Emmett thought, even his thoughts carrying a smirk with them.
I couldn't pay attention to them. Rosalie was sitting on the couch, just staring into nothingness.
I hope you'll forgive me for telling her my story, Edward. I thought that she should know all sides of every choice she has at this time before she chooses immortality.
Rosalie's story. I could recall every detail of it. I shuddered and could only hope that Rosalie had spared Bella the details of her transition into her present life.
I shook my head and raced up the stairs, eager to look upon the love of my life's face again.
Opening the door silently, my eyes flashed once around my room. A stab of panic hit right in my dead heart when I saw that the bed was empty; a second later, I sighed in relief. Bella was lying right across my black leather couch, the gold comforter from the bed draped around her.
I tiptoed to her side, forgetting everything that had happened in the past two minutes and just concentrated on her presence. It was good that her blood no longer appealed to me in the same way – instead of having to resist the wine while enjoying the bouquet, the wine was simply gone. I rested my head on her neck and just listened to her heart for a full minute.
I pulled myself away when my face started to warm. I gazed at Bella's face, her human features, her long eyelashes resting on her cheeks, her temptingly rosy lips. I bent my head to hers, and I kissed her forehead gently.
I swept her up and carried her carefully to the bed, being sure not to move suddenly. I placed her on the center of the bed – which was as wide as half of the wall it was resting against. I dragged the comforter with me, and covered her shoulders tenderly. I lay next to her, and took a lock of her hair between my fingers, and started playing with it. I could see perfectly in the dark, of course; but I recalled that humans' night sight wasn't quite as strong as ours. To keep from perhaps suddenly startling her if she was to wake up in the night, I reluctantly pulled myself away from her and rolled over until the distance between us was about a foot and a half.
It was just past one when Bella stirred. I could tell that she was awake by the way her heartbeat quickened, and her breathing sped up, too. She rolled over onto her side, apparently trying to fall asleep again, but then rolled back, and opened her eyes.
I forgot my train of thought as soon as those dark, chocolate-brown eyes stared into mine. Her eyes were slightly unfocused – an obvious effect from her human eyes.
"Sorry," I whispered, trying not to startle her. "I didn't mean to wake you."
She seemed to recall something, and her body tensed for a moment, and suddenly relaxed.
Her hands reached out to me. My hands met hers, and I stroked her fingers. She pulled herself close to me, and I hugged her close to my chest. I could feel her lips tracing up my throat, my chin, and to my lips.
I lay there, with Bella in my arms, our lips moving with each other's.
Pulling away about an inch from her, I laughed softly. "I was braced for the wrath that was going to put grizzlies to shame, and this is what I get?" I teased. "I should infuriate you more often."
"Give me a minute to work up to it," she replied, a smile in her face, too, as she pulled my face back to hers.
My fingers locked in her hair, pulling her face to mine, wishing that I could lock my lips permanently with hers. "I'll wait as long as you want," I murmured, still kissing her.
Her breathing was ragged. "Maybe in the morning," she sighed, and pressed her body closer to mine.
"Whatever you prefer," I murmured.
My lips moved under her jaw, where they stayed glued to her skin. "Welcome home," she whispered. "I'm glad you came back."
I moved my hand to her chest, to rest on her heart. "That's a very good thing."
"Mmm…." Her arms pulled our faces back together.
I moved my hand gently to curve about her elbow, and trailing it gently, delicately, slowly, over her. They moved over her chest, her torso, her hip, and, every so slowly, to trace down her leg. I stopped at her shin; trying not to move too quickly, I wrapped my hand around her leg and pulled it over my own hip.
Her breathing stopped, but her heart pounded very quickly. My body was already warm with her heat. My lips, which were still on hers, now moved down to the base of her throat. The only thing moving under my hard lips was her blood, rushing through her.
I stroked her hair tenderly. "Not to bring on the ire prematurely…but…do you mind telling me what it is about this bed that you object to?" I asked quietly, my lips moving against her skin. Downstairs, Emmett had turned on the TV, and was watching it with Jasper and Carlisle. Esme and Alice were talking about when they should go hunting, and Rosalie had tuned in to her iPod. They were all trying to subtly give us some privacy.
I rolled over to pull Bella on top of me. A small part of me called out that I was crossing one of the lines I'd drawn for our relationship, but I ignored that. I grabbed Bella's face, and pulled it gently down, and then lifted her head up so that I could kiss her throat.
"The bed?" I reminded her again. "I think it's…nice."
She was literally gasping for air now. "It's unnecessary," she managed to respond.
I angled her head back down until I could lock my lips to hers again. Her warm mouth shaped itself around my cold stone lips. Without stopping our kiss, I rolled over and pressed my body to hers – while making sure that she couldn't feel my weight. Her pulse grew in speed and volume, but she didn't seem to care. Her sweet scent distracted me a little.
"That's debatable," I murmured, my lips still on hers. "This would be difficult on a couch."
We remained in that position for a few moments until I parted my lips once more and traced her perfect, soft human lips with my tongue. Her breath came faster.
"Did you change your mind?" she asked me. Her voice was breathless, though she sounded like she was enjoying that.
I pulled back, sighing. Would she ever get over the fact that of all the vampires in existence, I was the most unwilling to grant her immortality? Even if I was going to stop her heart, I would wait until we were together, until my mother's ring was on her finger…
I rolled back until we were in our previous positions, lying side by side on the bed.
"Don't be ridiculous, Bella," I muttered, unhappy with this turn of events. I wished that she could just leave that subject and concentrate on being together. "I was just trying to illustrate the benefits of the bed you don't seem to like. Don't get carried away," I added.
"Too late – and I like the bed," she replied, contradiction in her voice.
My lips, which had moved back to her forehead, curved upward. "Good. I do, too."
She frowned. "But I still think it's unnecessary," she argued. "If we're not going to get carried away…what's the point?"
I sighed again. "For the hundredth time, Bella, it's too dangerous."
"I like danger," she pointed out.
"I know." How could I forget the time when she ran to meet James? My thoughts turned down a path of hate at the mention of that name, and I felt like I would be bearing a grudge against any being I was to meet in my future with that name. Or the time when she jumped off that cliff with Jacob – even today, her motorcycle was in the garage…I shuddered slightly.
"I'll tell you what's dangerous," she murmured after a slight pause. "I'm going to spontaneously combust one of these days, and you'll have no one to blame but yourself."
I smiled an involuntary smile again, as I pushed her away, humoring her comment.
"What are you doing?" she demanded, holding on to me.
"Protecting you from combustion. If this is too much for you to handle – "
"I can handle it."
I relaxed my arms again, and she crawled back to bury her face in my chest.
"I'm sorry you gave me the wrong impression – I didn't mean to make you unhappy. That wasn't very nice," I murmured into her hair.
"Actually, it was very, very nice," she contradicted.
I breathed in her sweetness. "Aren't you tired?" I asked gently. "I should let you sleep."
"No, I'm not." She was quick to disagree. "I don't mind if you want to give me the wrong impression again."
I chuckled quietly. "That's probably a bad idea…you're not the only one who gets carried away."
"Yes, I am," she muttered.
"You have no idea, Bella," I whispered. "It doesn't help that you are so…eager…to under mine my self-control, either."
"I'm not going to apologize for that," she mumbled against my shirt.
"Can I apologize?" I asked, my voice smoother than I thought.
"For what?" She sounded perplexed.
"You were angry with me, remember?"
"I'm sorry – I was wrong," I admitted. "It's much easier to have the proper perspective when I have you safely here." My arms pulled her closer to me, and her arms wrapped once more around my neck.
"I go a little berserk when I try to leave you. I don't think I'll go so far again," I continued. "It's not worth it."
"Didn't you find any mountain lions?" Her beautiful depthless chocolate eyes lifted to mine. She wore a smile on her face that took my breath away for a moment.
I recovered quickly. "Yes, I did, actually….Still not worth the anxiety. I'm sorry I had Alice hold you hostage, though – that was a bad idea."
She was quick to agree this time. "Yes," she whispered.
"I won't do it again," I promised.
"Okay, but…slumber parties do have their advantages," she pointed out to me. Her lips pressed against my collarbone, and my breath was shallower, faster. "You can hold me hostage anytime you want."
I sighed in pleasure. "I may take you up on that."
"So is it my turn now?" She lifted her lips briefly from my skin.
"What do you have to apologize for?"
"Aren't you mad at me?"
"No." How could I be mad at her? Sweet…trusting…warm…I loved her. I would never be mad at her.
"Didn't you see Alice when you got home?"
Alice's thoughts reached me – she had picked up her name, no doubt. Yep, she thought.
"Yes – why?"
I know, I know. Fine. Shutting up.
"Are you going to take her Porsche back?"
Oh no, are you, Edward??? Her voice was a mental shout.
I stifled my groan of exasperation. "Of course not – it was a gift."
"Don't you want to know what I did?"
I shrugged. "I'm always interested in everything you do, but you don't have to tell me…unless you want to." Her choice. Always her choice. Always.
"But I went to La Push." Her voice was weak.
"I know," I murmured, sticking to my peace plan.
"And I ditched school."
"So did I."
She squinted towards me in the darkness, trying to decipher my emotions. Her face traced absently over my features. "Where did all this tolerance come from?" she asked, curiosity alight in her voice.
I sighed again. "I decided that you were right – my problem before was more about my prejudice against werewolves than anything else," I admitted, whispering in her ear. "I'm going to try to be more reasonable and trust your judgment. If you say it's safe, then I'll believe you." On this subject, at least.
"Wow," she murmured.
"And, most importantly…I'm not willing to let this drive a wedge between us," I finished.
She pressed her head to my chest and closed her eyes, sighing happily.
"So," I asked, more casually. "Did you make plans to back to La Push again soon?"
She stiffened. Apparently she didn't believe me when I said I was truly over this with werewolves.
"Just so I can make my own plans," I persuaded her quickly. "I don't want you to feel like you have to hurry back because I'm…sitting around…waiting for you."
"No," she whispered in a strangely foreign voice. "I don't have plans to go back."
This surprised me – caught me off guard. "Oh. You don't have to do that for me."
"I don't think I'm welcome anymore."
When she said things like this, things that left me dangling in mid-conversation, it was truly painful not to know what was going on through her head.
"Did you run over someone's cat?" I attempted feebly to lighten the mood. I was curious beyond words.
"No. I thought Jacob would have realized…I didn't think it would surprise him." She sounded as if she were on the verge of tears.
I ran my fingers through her hair gently, and waited.
"He wasn't expecting that it was so soon," she explained, her voice choking up.
"Ah," I murmured. I understood the problem now.
She wasn't done. "He said he'd rather see me…dead." Her voice cracked on the last word, and she ducked her head down, pain in her voice.
For a moment, all I could see was red. How dared that mutt do this to my precious love? I wanted to race down to La Push at this very minute, at top speed, to rip that mongrel's head off his body, or perhaps force him to become crippled for life.
I forced myself back to reality. I pulled her body tighter to mine, as tight as I could without hurting her fragile form. "I'm so sorry," I whispered.
"I thought you'd be glad." Confusion was in her voice.
I buried my face in her beautiful, soft brown hair. "Glad over something that's hurt you?" I questioned. "I don't think so, Bella."
She breathed a last, painful sigh, and molded herself to mine again. I, however, tensed up now.
"What's wrong?" she asked, instantly alert.
"It's…nothing." I didn't want to pain her more by saying how much I wanted to end that dog's life.
"You can tell me." Her irresistible voice was utterly persuasive.
"It might make you angry," I warned.
She looked up at me. "I still want to know."
I gave a heavy sigh. "I could quite literally kill him for saying that to you," I confessed, another growl rumbling quietly in me. "I want to."
She laughed a little. "I guess it's a good thing you've got so much self-control," she murmured.
I sighed yet again. "I could slip."
Strangely enough, she seemed to brighten a little at the prospect. "If you're going to have a lapse in control," she whispered, pushing herself tighter against me, "I can think of a better place for it." She reached up to kiss me again.
I placed my hands on her face and gently restrained it. "Must I always be the responsible one?" I mused.
She grinned and relaxed against my grip. "No – let me be in charge of the responsibility for a few minutes. Or hours," she added.
As appealing as that idea seemed, I didn't trust her judgment that much yet. "Goodnight, Bella."
"Wait, there was something else I wanted to ask you about."
What else could she want to know? "What's that?"
"I was talking to Rosalie last night…" she began.
Ah. I remembered. Bella probably wanted to talk to me about her…mortality again. "Yes," I answered, knowing what she meant. "She was thinking about that when I got in. She gave you quite a lot to consider, didn't she?"
Even though there was no way that this was going to happen, a tiny part of me still hoped that Bella would concede to remaining mortal.
"She told me a little bit…" she paused. "About the time your family lived in Denali."
This was unexpected. I hadn't thought that she would be curious about this. Again, the fact that I couldn't read her thoughts scraped against my mind like a claw. "Yes?"
Bella's skin warmed; she seemed to be blushing. "She mentioned something about a bunch of female vampires – and you," she murmured, her eyes dropping to my chest again, to avoid looking at me.
For a moment, all I felt was a tremor of shock. How could she suspect that I could still love one of them…after I'd met her? A flash of some strange emotion that was edging toward guilt accompanied the shock, too. A combination of embarrassment and guilt. I remembered the last time I'd seen one of the sisters, Tanya, last winter when I'd run away from Forks for a while, the last girl I'd kissed before Bella – though that didn't really count; it wasn't meant to be anything more than just a casual, friendly gesture…
Bella's voice cut into the silence following her previous words. "Don't worry, she told me you didn't show any preference," she tried to calm me. "But I was just wondering, you know…if any of them had. Shown a preference for you, I mean."
Tanya. This time it wasn't Alice's annoying voice, it was my own.
Bella was beginning to turn fidgety now. She tried to sound calm, though her voice was shaking a little. "Which one? Or was there more than one?"
I kept my mouth shut.
"Alice will tell me," she murmured, trying to push away from my arms, which were now wrapped around her again.
I pulled her tight to my chest, so that she couldn't budge my arms, even a little bit.
"It's late." I desperately wished that something would come around and end this topic of conversation. Something. Anything. It was just so…awkward, to be discussing girls that may have had a misguided infatuation with me. So awkward, because I was having this conversation with Bella, who I loved, and the fact that she was doubting that she was the only girl I had ever loved hurt.
"Besides," I continued. "I think Alice stepped out."
Her heartbeat quickened again. "It's bad – it's really bad, isn't it?" Her voice was full of panic and worry and…yes, it was there. The slightest bit of jealousy.
It was quite amusing to me, actually.
I exhaled loudly. "Calm down, Bella," I pleaded, kissing the tip of her nose and brushing my lips against it, back and forth, back and forth. "You're being absurd."
"Am I?" she demanded. "Then why won't you tell me?"
"Because there's nothing to tell." Ouch – that lie struck a heavy blow to my conscience. "You're blowing this wildly out of proportion."
She wasn't giving up. "Which one?" she
asked, ever so stubborn.
"Tanya expressed a little interest," I reluctantly admitted, stressing the word little. "I let her know, in a very courteous, gentlemanly fashion, that I did not return that interest. End of story." What a joke. Courteous, gentlemanly fashion? Right.
She sounded slightly mollified, but still somehow tense. "Tell me something," she requested. "What does Tanya look like?"
I wasn't going to go into detail. "Just like the rest of us. White skin, gold eyes…."
"And, of course, extraordinarily beautiful," she muttered, a trace of envy in her voice.
I shrugged – to me, Bella was infinitely more beautiful. Tanya looked just like the rest of us. "I suppose, to human eyes…you know what, though?"
"What?" Her voice was still edgy.
I leaned my head down toward hers; my lips brushed gently along her ear. "I prefer brunettes," I whispered. Her warm, brown hair – the natural brown that was nonexistent anywhere else in Forks, with the warmth that called out to me – brushed against my skin. I shuddered slightly in pleasure as the scent of her hair filled my senses.
"She's a blonde, that figures," Bella murmured, unaware of my preoccupation.
I had to remind myself to have a little talk with Rosalie about unnecessary details. "Strawberry blonde," I agreed. "Not at all my type."
Bella remained quiet while I loosened my grip on her and pressed my lips against her throat. I drew a line with my mouth up her neck, to her cheek, across her face, and back down again. Her pulse accelerated once more. I circled around several times before she spoke again.
"I guess that's okay, then," she murmured.
At that I had to laugh. "Hmm…you're quite adorable when you're jealous," I whispered, my lips still on her neck. "It's surprisingly enjoyable."
She did not look like she enjoyed it the way I did.
I lifted my lips from her skin and pulled her tightly to me once more. She shivered slightly as my cold skin surrounded her again. At moments like these, all I wished for – all I ever wanted was to be a warm, soft human – who could be with her the way I couldn't.
"It's late," I whispered, tucking her head under my chin. She sighed delicately with pleasure. "Sleep, my Bella. Dream happy dreams. You are the only one who has ever touched my heart…it will always be yours. Sleep, my only love…."
She twisted closer into me, and I involuntarily held her tighter, closer than I should have. She closed her eyes, and her expression was one of happiness. She was asleep in a matter of seconds. All through the night, I held her close. I didn't leave.