"Bella, it's been too long, I have to feed." Edward shoved me away but I felt no pain. I looked into his eyes and saw the blackness of hunger taking over them. Where was I? The forest, it was snowing, but I felt no cold as I stood barefoot, up to my ankles in the frozen white powder. I looked down at my feet, but they were invisible; buried beneath the snow. It was strange; the sensation that I was standing on something, but not able to see what it was. I tried to wiggle my toes beneath the snow, but they were numb, everything was numb, I felt nothing. I couldn't move, not a single muscle. I saw a hand slowly reach out to me. I felt warmth as the hand caressed my skin and pulled my face upward. I felt myself smile as I saw him again; my beautiful Edward, with skin as pale as the snow surrounding us, and eyes a deep… my smile turned to horror when I saw his eyes. He watched the change in my expression and I felt the absence of his hand as my head fell; returning my gaze to the ground, but the snow was no longer white. Liquid, as red as his eyes, was spilling out onto the white snow, staining it. I watched, motionless, as blood pooled around my ankles; slowly melting the snow and revealing my feet. I became curious now, as I began to recognize the stone underneath my feet; a small square of white stone, now covered in red, with the engraved letters emerging, still white. A name was etched into the marble, but I couldn't see it clearly.
"Bella." Suddenly I could move again as I jerked my head up to follow the sound of his whisper. But I saw nothing, no one. "Bella." I spun around and caught a glimpse of pale skin before he disappeared. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I could hear him breathing next to me….. "Bella." My eyes snapped open and I saw him running away from me.
"EDWARD!" I screamed his name and took a step off of the white stone to follow after him. But there was nothing to stand on now. The snow and ice buckled beneath me and I could suddenly feel the stabbing pain of frozen water surrounding me. I thrashed about wildly, but there was nothing to hold onto; nothing to save me.
I saw him then, walking slowly back to me, an agonized expression on his beautiful face. I cried out for him as I sunk deeper into the water, but he didn't hear me as he passed by. He stopped a few feet away and knelt down, placing something on the ground, "I'm sorry Isabella, I'm sorry I couldn't stop," then he gracefully stood, and began to walk slowly away. As the water crept up my face I saw the single flower he had placed on the snow, and I released my last breath as I saw the name on the stone, my name.
The water covered my eyes and moments later I was completely submerged. I kept my eyes open, but could see nothing, there was only darkness. "Bella." How could I still hear him? Was he here with me, unseen in this blackness? "Bella!" He was getting louder, but I could see nothing, everywhere I looked, there was nothing. Suddenly something grabbed my arm and I opened my mouth to scream, but I heard no sound released. "BELLA!"
I was suddenly aware of hands on my arms, gripping me, shaking me awake. I opened my eyes and saw Edward leaning over me, a pained look on his face. "Edward?" I whispered to him in the darkness of our room, not entirely sure of what had just happened. He looked over me cautiously then gave a relieved sigh and relaxed his hands on my arms. I felt the blood rush through my arms again and grimaced at the thought of the bruises I would certainly have in a few hours. My grimace slowly gave way to a blush as I realized the position that Edward and I were in. He was on top of me, straddling my hips with his long legs, his hands resting, gently now, on both my arms; effectively pinning me to the bed.
"Bella, are you alright?" He whispered above me, never once moving his eyes from mine. I took a deep breath and released it slowly, needing the air, and also knowing that he would enjoy my scent, my bouquet, as he called it. His reaction was obvious.
I instantly felt the intense heat of my blush spread over my entire body, and I saw Edward react to the increased warmth covering every inch of me. He had stopped breathing already, but I still heard the small, short gasp before he quickly bent down closer to me. He rested his head at the base of my neck and hugged the length of my torso with his arms. It was a strange sensation; every inch that our skin met, even underneath the clothes that we each wore, there was ice and fire, meeting, merging. Edward was covering me, yet I barely felt an ounce of his weight; even in this new, exciting position, he was still mindful of my fragile body. I tried my best to concentrate on the simple task of breathing, but my mind kept returning to the feeling of electricity flowing from the place that our centers nearly touched. Even with two layers of clothing separating our bare skin, my body was still reacting with him so close. I wondered briefly how Edward was able to control his body; especially when something as small as my breath exhaled in his direction could earn a reaction from him.
I shivered when Edward slipped his fingers underneath my t-shirt and began tracing small, invisible circles on the skin of my hip. I willed myself to remain calm as he slid his head across the length of my collarbone, resting it directly above my heart. "Can you…feel that?" he said quietly. I took a moment to register his words; I was feeling a million things, each of them wonderful and amazing in this moment.
"I feel lots of things." I whispered back to him and felt the smile spread across his face.
"I was referring to the sensation between our skin." He stopped his circling fingers and spread his hand wide, resting it flat against the bare skin of my waist. "Everywhere I touch you, I feel this…something flowing between us. I'm unable to describe it with words, it's like an intensity; a heat, but with no increased temperature…well, besides yours of course." I closed my eyes and tried to form a coherent sentence.
"I can feel it, like some sort of electricity wherever you touch me." I took a deep breath and slowly released it, "It's stronger in some places…" I froze as I felt Edward react again to my exhaled air flowing over him. I had stopped breathing and I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Edward's hands slowly crept up the length of me, returning their grip on my arms.
"Bella…" His voice was barely audible, and I could feel him starting to shake; vibrating my body. "Bella, I want…I want to…NO!" Instantly he was gone; my body still surging with my need for him. I heard the splintering of wood, and in the dim light of the dying fire, I saw the bed canopy collapse on top of me. I closed my eyes and prepared for the impact of the wooden framed canopy, but instead, I let out a small yelp as I felt something launch me off the side of the bed, and then strong arms catch me before I hit the ground. I heard a door close and I opened my eyes when I felt myself being set down.
We were in the bathroom. I was sitting on the countertop, my legs dangling over, and Edward was standing in front of me. It was too dark; I could barely see anything. I stretched out my arms toward his figure, but I couldn't reach him. Edward came forward and caught me as I started to slide off the edge of the counter reaching for him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and rested my head on his shoulder. I began to feel the familiar, intense sensation as he moved closer still; standing between my legs as they hung off the edge of the counter and draped along the sides of his own. "Edward?" I whispered into the skin of his shoulder as I absently played with his hair at the base of his neck.
Edward mirrored my position; gently resting his head on my exposed shoulder, with his arms encircling my body and reaching upward to wrap in my long hair. I felt, more than heard his response as he quietly hummed, "mmhmm?" I could tell he was in control; he no longer shook and he was breathing again.
"Did you just break the bed?" I asked him matter-of-factly. I felt his smile against my skin and heard him laugh quietly as he said, "Well the bed is still intact, but I'm afraid I've destroyed the canopy. I hope you weren't very attached to it." I gave him a small, light kiss on the side of his neck.
"So will I be sleeping in the bathroom for the rest of our vacation then?"
Edward couldn't help but laugh as he pulled away from me to kiss my forehead, "I'll buy you a new one tomorrow…one without a canopy I think." And with that he scooped me up; my legs gripping his waist and my arms around his neck. I pulled my face back and looked at his eyes as he carried me out of the bathroom, out of the bedroom and down one of the long halls.
I was preparing myself for a long night on the couch when I noticed we had already passed the hallway going to the living room. "Are you lost?"
"Bella, I know that you don't think I would make you sleep on a couch." Edward smiled at me and gave me a small kiss. I turned my head around to see that we were approaching a door at the end of the hallway. He supported my weight with one hand and opened the heavy wooden door. I couldn't help the small gasp that escaped my lips.
"I always thought this was a closet." I gaped at the length of the hallway stretching before us. "How big is this place?"
"Well we almost never use this part of the house anymore, but, years ago, we used to entertain quite a few guests here, so we needed the extra room back then."
"All those doors are more bedrooms?" I asked with disbelief as Edward closed the door behind us and began walking down the long aisle. There must have been twenty doors in this hallway, each of them with the most ornate, decorative designs carved into the wood.
"Yes Bella, all bedrooms." Edward laughed at my surprise, "But you probably wouldn't like many of them; their decorations are a bit more…primitive…than you are accustomed to."
"What do you mean primitive? Do you have loincloths and fig leaves in the closets or what?" At this, Edward sighed and took us several steps back. He stopped in front of a large door and I examined the carvings; they were stunning renditions of ferocious beasts that appeared to be jumping out toward us. Edward opened the door slowly and stepped inside, keeping his foot against the door and letting in some light from the hall. In the limited light, it took me a moment to realize what they were, but Edward knew the moment I did. I shrank back into him and he held me tightly. "Edward, are all the rooms like this?" I whispered, unable to take my eyes off of the dozens of stuffed animal heads snarling down at me from every direction. I had never seen so many teeth before, they were all a brilliant white, and the light seemed to drip off their razor sharp edges. Edward pulled us back into the hallway and quietly closed the door behind us. He returned his hand under my leg, with his other resting on my back and I leaned back to look at his face.
"I told you Bella; primitive. But don't worry, I have a much nicer room in mind for you tonight. It's still not as modern as our original choice, but I have a feeling you'll approve." I leaned into him again and returned my head to his shoulder as he walked us down the hall; pausing at one of the last doors. I thought about closing my eyes; I was exhausted and I just wanted a bed, but I wouldn't be able to sleep with severed heads staring down at me. Edward shifted me to his left hand and reached forward to open the door. Before I could think to close my eyes, I turned my head to see inside the room. My mouth hung open as Edward slowly released his hold on me and let me slide down the length of him, resting me on my own feet.
"Wow…" was all I could think to say. Edward laughed quietly as he shut the door and watched me move to the center of the massive room. Even without much light, I could see the outline of the bed, and I wondered silently if it was actually two beds pushed together. "I've never seen a bed this big." I walked to the edge of the colossal mass of pillows and blankets and ran my hand along the smooth fabric.
"You probably can't see well enough in here," Edward began crossing the room and I spoke up in protest.
"No, I don't want the lights on, it looks better like this." The shadows were giving the whole room a surreal look, and my exhaustion was only adding to the effect.
"I was thinking of natural light actually." Edward reached the far edge of the room and threw open the immense drapes; letting in a flood of moonlight. I staggered back when I could see the length of the windows, and with the added light I could make out the ceiling above us…it must have been twenty feet high, maybe more. And as my eyes followed the expanse of the ceiling, I saw what was hanging in the center of the room. I could feel Edward watching my reaction to the grandiose of the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It had to be at least five feet wide with two smaller, connecting chandeliers hanging on either side, and different shaped crystals dripping off every surface. "Bella, close your mouth, it's just a decoration." Edward startled me when he whispered in my ear; I hadn't heard his approach. I closed my mouth, but I couldn't stop staring, it was breathtaking.
"Edward, is that thing, is it…real?"
"Did you think it was plastic, Bella?" Edward chuckled at my question, and I realized that was his answer.
"That thing is worth more than my life isn't it?" There wasn't even a moment's pause before Edward answered severely.
"Absolutely not." He turned me around to face him, forcing my eyes away from the monstrosity on the ceiling. He stared into my eyes and gave me a moment to focus before caressing the side of my face with the back of his cool hand. "Isabella Swan, your life has no monetary value, you're worth more than money, you're worth more than the world, more than life itself." I was stunned by the ferocity and sincerity of his words. I could only swallow and continue breathing erratically. Edward moved closer and put a cold hand on my arm and another on the small of my back while he placed a soft kiss on my forehead. As he pulled away slowly I saw the smile playing at the edge of his lips, "Of course I couldn't really tell you a price even if I wanted to." I looked at him curiously, waiting for an explanation. "Let's just say, history has given up that particular decoration as lost in time."
"Is it famous?" I asked quietly.
"Bella, that chandelier belongs in a museum all by itself. You wouldn't believe me if I told you who it belonged to."
"I think you should tell me." I was intensely curious now about the origins of this incredible artifact.
"Well you know what I think?" He leaned in close and whispered into my ear; his cool breath spilling over my face, "I think it's time for you to go back to sleep." I drew in an unsteady breath and realized that he was supporting most of my weight; apparently my legs were not working. He released his hold on me slowly as I steadied myself and started moving toward the bed.
I sighed as I approached the side, "Is it really necessary for me to have such high beds?" Edward laughed quietly and lifted me effortlessly onto the mattress; it was the softest thing I'd ever laid on. "I know you like these beds for some reason, but it would be nice if I could actually get in it by myself."
"Only the first bed was my choice, Bella. It's only a coincidence that this one is also so high." Edward pulled the heavy blankets over me and in less than a second he was stretched out next to me. "Of course we could use the other room I showed you, I'm not sure if you saw that bed, but it's just a pile of animal pelts and furs. I'm sure you'd be able to climb into that one with ease." I scowled at him in the silvery moonlight pouring in from the wall of windows.
"I am not sleeping in the mutilated animals room." I barely heard Edward's laughter as I yawned and let my eyes drift close. I turned to my side and snuggled up against the length of his cold body. He put his arms around me and pulled me even closer; burying his face in my hair and breathing deeply.
"It's unforgivably rude of me to keep you from your sleep, but I'm too curious Bella." I pulled my head away to look up at him questioningly. "When I woke you up, you were having another nightmare." I groaned internally at the mention of my dream. I didn't know why I was having so many dreams where Edward was involved in something horrible happening to me. "I don't suppose you remember what was happening?" Edward wasn't very good at masking his curiosity; I could hear the intense interest, even in his whisper. The details were already slipping away though as I tried to remember. And even if I could remember; I hated seeing the look on his face when he would realize that he was the bad guy again in my dream.
"I don't really remember it, there was snow, and blood, and then I was drowning." I hoped he would be satisfied with the basics.
"Hmm, I'm beginning to think you have an unnatural fear of falling in icy water." Edward pulled me closer to him again and arranged the blankets tightly around me. I yawned and cuddled up next to him, breathing in his sweet aroma; the smell of him always helped me sleep. Edward took one of my hands and gave it a light kiss, but he didn't release it, he just held me. I curled my fingers around his and began to drift asleep in his arms. This was it, the most perfect moment; sleep overtaking me while I lay in the arms of my protector. "Sleep Bella, dream happy dreams; and don't worry, I'll be here to save you from your nightmares." I smiled slightly as Edward whispered into my ear and softly kissed my lips. Sleep came quickly when I began to hear the melody of my lullaby as he softly sang in my ear…