I needed to think, and thinking wasn't an easy thing to do around Edward. Walking slowly downstairs to the kitchen, I opened the fridge, eyeing its contents listlessly. Not being in the mood to cook, I put a cinnamon roll in the toaster oven and poured myself a glass of milk. It was just what I needed; something sweet, warm and comforting.
I was finally ready to be honest with myself, and had to admit that at some point, the argument with Edward had stopped being about marijuana. It had morphed into a fight for independence; for the right to make my own choices, and have those choices respected, even if they weren't approved of. I had never in my life encountered an obstacle as unmoving as Edward when it came to what he thought was best for me. He was the most domineering individual I'd ever come across, and I chafed against the restrictions he was always trying to impose on me. I was ashamed to admit it brought out all the dormant teenage rebelliousness that I never knew was in me. It became a battle I just had to win.
Unfortunately, I picked the wrong thing over which to fight my battle for independence. Edward was right; pot really wasn't worth all the trouble it was causing. All the trouble I was causing. It was too high a price to pay for a few hours of being high.
The toaster oven dinged, and I pulled the warm roll out and on to a plate and carried it to the table. I resumed my musing, pulling apart the buttery pastry and following each bite with a drink of cold milk. I had lost the battle, but in the end gained a deeper understanding of Edward's devotion to me. I was a little awed at the lengths he would go to in order to keep me from making what he considered a big mistake; it made me feel truly loved and cared for. It made feel safe. A wave of love washed over me. This is what it was all about; the love shared. It was better than any drug on earth. I finished my snack, and washed my plate and glass.
It was time to return to my love.
I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and change for bed, and then headed for my bedroom.
He was standing when I entered the room, eyes fixed on mine as usual. I closed the door behind me, took a few steps toward him, faltered, and then stopped. His stillness was unnerving, as was the look of burning intensity in his eyes.
"Edward?" I said with a faint tremor to my voice.
Although he didn't move a muscle, something in him shifted. His closed his smoldering eyes as he inhaled through his nose; when he opened them again, they ignited. He tensed.
Something fluttered in my stomach. "Edward?" I repeated, my voice even more unsteady.
"Don't be afraid," he whispered, starting toward me with slow predatory grace. He didn't stop when he got to me, instead backing me against the wall without ever touching me. I hadn't even realized I'd moved until my back touched the door. He placed a hand on the wall on either side of my head and looked down at me.
My insides turned to liquid. I was grateful for the support of the door behind me, because I wasn't sure my knees would hold me up.
He said nothing, scorching golden eyes raking my face, and more unsettlingly, my throat. Dipping his head, he found my mouth with none of the hesitancy he had shown in the past. His lips grazed mine, hovering over them.
"Cinnamon…" he breathed against me.
"I brushed my teeth…" I whispered apologetically.
"No, that is not what I mean," he murmured, his mouth sliding away from mine and along my jaw line to nuzzle the tender spot below my ear. "It's you, all of you. It has permeated you and subtly but quite deliciously altered your scent." Slipping a hand around my waist, he pulled me hard against him, turned and walked me backward toward the bed. I sat down heavily when the backs of my legs hit the edge of the bed. My heart leapt and had to catch my breath. Was this it? Was he finally going to give me the human experience I wanted to share with him before becoming a vampire?
He sat on the bed next to me, and I shifted so I was facing him with my legs crossed. He reached for a lock of hair that had not made it into my ponytail, playing with it, observing me with an enigmatic half-smile.
"It needs brushing," I said stupidly, suddenly nervous.
He stood, went to the dresser and brought back my hairbrush. "Turn around," he said.
I hesitated, and then complied, reaching to remove the scrunchy holding back my hair. "No," he said, staying my hand. "Let me do that."
I felt the mattress sink as he sat back down behind me, and felt his gentle hands carefully working the scrunchy free. He combed his fingers lightly through the entire length of my hair, then started brushing it with slow, sure strokes. I have always enjoyed the gentle tugging sensation caused by a hairbrush running though my hair, and was gratified to find out the experience was infinitely more electric when someone I loved more than life itself was doing the brushing. I drifted into such a deeply relaxed state, that I didn't realize he had stopped until a firm pressure to my shoulders told me he wanted me to turn back around.
I did, finding him a lot closer than I had expected, his cool sweet breath fanning across my face, my crossed legs brushing his hip and thigh. I reached for the scrunchy to tie my hair back again, but he snatched it from me, tossing it aside.
"No," he rasped. "Leave it."
Though neither of us seemed to move, our lips were suddenly touching again. This time he was the one who deepened the kiss. He threaded his splayed fingers into my hair and held my head with both hands, kissing me so thoroughly that I was unable to form a coherent thought. I lifted my hands and tentatively placed them on his chest, not wanting to do anything that would make him bolt. He flinched, but continued kissing me. Emboldened, I let my hands drift around his sides to explore the sculpted planes of his back, his shoulders and his rock-hard arms. Finally, I slid my hands up between his arms and cupped his face, arching toward him, leaning into the kiss with a moan.
I didn't register the growl until I was flat on my back on the bed, arms pinned to either side of my head, with Edward straddling my hips. The rumbling growl faded, but Edward didn't move. He was leaning over me, fists like stones fused around my wrists, his eyes closed, a look of intense concentration on his face. He seemed to be struggling for control. Perversely, I was not afraid. I drew breath to speak, but never got a word out.
"Don't speak, Bella, please don't speak," he pleaded, eyes still squeezed shut. I lay there unmoving, barely breathing, until the tension leaked out of his body. He opened his eyes, released my wrists, and climbed off me, moving to the bottom of the bed.
I sat up and scooted back to lean against the headboard. "What just happened?" I asked carefully.
He avoided my eyes. "I'm sorry; I should not have let that happen."
"Let what happen?" I almost snapped, starting to get annoyed. "The kiss?" Edward was being Edward again, taking a perfectly glorious moment and twisting it into something to feel guilty about.
"It's your scent, Bella." He finally looked at me, his eyes bleak. "I didn't think it was possible for you to smell any more intoxicating, but you seemed to have managed."
"Does…does it make things more difficult for you?" I asked fearfully. I was not sure I liked where this conversation was heading.
"Infinitely. It also makes things vastly more dangerous for you."
I ignored that last. "But it will fade, right?"
"Yes," he said, thought the idea didn't seem to improve his mood.
"Oh. That's good, then. I will just have to avoid cinnamon like the plague."
He said nothing, looking off in the distance, lost in his thoughts. I felt a surge of panic. "Edward…whatever you are thinking, stop. I don't know what you are thinking, but I am pretty sure I won't like it." I took a stab in the dark, afraid he might be rethinking his decision never to leave me. "Remember, if you break a promise to me, I will feel justified in breaking a promise to you."
That snapped him back into reality. I shot me an icy glare. "Don't even think about it," he said sternly.
"Then you don't think about it either," I shot back. We glared at each other for a moment, and then he softened, smiling.
"Oh, Bella…What am I going to do with you?"
You could kiss me senseless again. "Nothing," I said, crawling beneath the covers. "You are going to come here, and lie down next to me."
"Ok, but no funny stuff," he warned me, stretching out on top of the comforter. "Keep your hands to yourself. My control is shot to pieces, I can't take anymore."
I immediately rolled toward him, snuggling up to his cold body, my head pillowed on his chest and my arm draped across his midriff. I heaved a contented sigh as he started playing with my hair. We lay there in silence for a moment, and then he started humming, the butterscotch smoothness of his voice and the light touch of his hand against my hair lulling me to sleep. I was about to drift off when I remembered something.
"Edward?" I mumbled.
He stopped humming. "Mmmm?"
"Have you ever been in this situation before? With someone you care about doing drugs, I mean? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," I added quickly.
"No," he replied. "I don't mind." He paused for a moment, and then continued quietly. "It happened when I was still human. It was my best friend. He fell in with the wrong crowd. They weren't bad people, just bored and reckless, constantly on the lookout for new sensations. They called themselves pleasure seekers. Today they would probably be called hedonists and adrenaline junkies. Anyway, it started with marijuana. He later graduated to opium, spending most of his time in a dream state in opium dens. One night as he was leaving, still under the influence, he wandered off in the wrong direction, ended up in an even worse neighborhood, and got robbed and beaten to death."
"Oh, Edward," I cried softly, lifting my head to look at him. "I'm so sorry."
"I did nothing to stop him," he continued. "Of course marijuana wasn't illegal then, and very little was known about the detrimental effect of drugs, but I didn't even try to talk to him, even when he became a different person. I figured it was his life, and he could handle it."
I ducked my head, flushing as he used my own words to caution me, and laid it back down on his chest.
A chuckle rumbled through him. "I can smell you blushing." His tone grew serious. "Anyway, that is why I've been so hard on you. I don't want you to go down that path. I can't let it happen again. You are mine, and I protect what is mine."
I shivered at the possessive tone in his voice. "You know, we've both been so busy trying to win that argument that we forgot something: none of this matters; I won't be human much longer."
His hand clenched into a fist in my hair, but he said nothing.
"I haven't decided whether I am going to allow that yet," he muttered.
I lifted my head again, looking at his face sharply. "It was put to a vote. You were outnumbered. Carlisle and Alice promised," I reminded him. "It's a done deal." When he said nothing, I tried to put my head back down, but he didn't let go of my hair, forcing me to keep looking at him.
"I would not underestimate my desire to keep you human if I were you, Bella," he said ominously, pinning me with his ancient eyes.
I stared at him wide-eyed until he released me, and then put my head back down on his chest. He reached across to the nightstand, turned off the light, and gathered me closer to him. He started humming again, but I resisted the lure of his velvet voice just a moment longer to give his words serious consideration.
I knew now what Edward was capable of when it came to keeping me from doing something he thought was wrong. I would not underestimate him again.
I was not unduly worried. After all, I wasn't the same person I was before I met Edward. I had found that there were things I was unmovable about too, and I now knew that I could and would fight dirty to get what I wanted. And what I wanted was Edward. Since I could not be with him if I aged and he didn't - regardless of what he said on the subject - my staying human was not an option.
My mortal life was standing between me and my goals; so I would not hesitate for a minute to risk my mortal life should Edward stand in my way. I would force his hand if that is what it took to get my way on the subject of becoming a vampire.
Satisfied with my decisions and filled with quiet determination, I gave myself over to Edward's quiet singing and gentle touch, and drifted off to sleep.
End note: Thanks again to everyone who commented, and for adds to the alerts and lists. You guys are the best.