Disclaimer:I made all of this up. I do not claim to know anything at all about any of this. I made up the whole Xtabalz'n culture, the name of which I also invented out of nothing, intending no offence to anyone. I have no knowledge of anthropology, pre-Columbian cultures, South American islands, prehistoric religions, hieroglyphs, survival skills, predators, florae, fauna, fungi, WWII, the IRS, or the function of a consulate. This is ALL FAKE. Furthermore, all publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story is told in alternating points of view. This chapter contains content intended for mature audiences.

This plot, such as it is, belongs to ME.


Edward held me in the car all the way to the hotel and looked into my eyes at every opportunity. He was waiting for it. He was begging for it. It was my turn. I had to say it. I had to tell him I loved him too.

I did my best to avoid the tension and the truth as I trailed my fingertips over the withering specimen of fungus bagged on the seat beside us. That mushy bit of fiber was the essence of so many dreams.

To the Xtabalz'n it was the key to survival and also a mythic bloodthirsty beast below the ground.

To the scientific minds inside the car, it was ostensibly the source of the quakes, a legendary El Dorado, and possibly the cure for cancer.

It had been responsible for virgin sacrifices, political coups, violent piracy, and international espionage for centuries.

But somehow, at the moment, I didn't give a damn about it. At the moment, I wanted to forget mythic treasure and ancient quests.

At the moment, the most important thing about the specimen in the bag was that it had caused me to cross paths with Edward Cullen.

When the car stopped, Edward's arms reluctantly released me, and he stepped out the door with his chin against his chest.

My knees buckled, and I sank into the leather seat.


Could he really love me?

It was truly unfair to doubt him. He was impossibly smart, incomparably handsome, decidedly earnest, and delightfully enthusiastic in all of his interests.

Could he really love me like I loved him?

I reveled in the feel of my swelling heart and the flush of love until sheer exhaustion prompted me to acknowledge the valet patiently holding the door open for me.

I would just go inside the hotel, find my room, take a long bath, and think.

A quiet part of my brain recognized the fact that Esme held my elbow, guiding me to the front desk. I felt a tug deep in my gut as I moved further from Edward, foot by foot. Once I had a key, she told me she would wait with her husband for some equipment, and Carlisle and Esme veered left of the lobby to the hotel bar. I heard my name and blindly followed the bellman waiting with an expectant smile. I dimly registered gliding doors, some dinging, and a lush carpeted hallway. Like an automaton, I stepped inside.

Then I saw Edward on the wrong side of the elevator doors. They slid closed, trapping me inside with strangers while the only person on earth that I wanted to be next to was lost behind a door with that forlorn look on his face.

He still wanted me. We stopped on the third floor. I still wanted him. We stopped on the fifth floor. The reasons for us to be together were strong and just. We stopped on the sixth floor. The reasons for us not to be together were feeble and outdated. We stopped on the ninth floor.

My fists were balled tighter than the lid of a pickle jar by the time the elevator car finally emptied of everyone but me and my bellhop.

Eleventh floor. I stepped out just in time to see Edward reach a hand out to the knob. He glanced at me. Did he smile? The bellman led me to my room, and Edward dropped his chin and turned, and just as I was about to say his name, disappeared inside his room.

Fuck the long bath and the thinking; I needed to start living the best days of my life with the man who'd just closed his door.

I pushed past the confused bellman and knocked at the room Edward had entered.

Several moments later, just as I was about to knock again it opened.

There he was, shirtless and scraped and bruised and beautiful.

"I love you too!" I blurted out. Like I was fifteen again, clueless, scared, inexperienced. And then I realized that aside from fifteen, I was all of those things with Edward. It was exhilarating.

We stared at one another dumbly for at least a full minute before that brilliant crooked devilish smile bloomed over his features. He grabbed my fingers and pulled me against his chest and closed the door with a decided click.

"Happy birthday?" I said lamely.

Edward laughed and kissed my mouth with decided fervor. "Thank you."

"That dinner should be interesting," I mumbled nervously. My hands shook. I realized that I was out of place in Edward's sunlit room. His parents might kill me.

Edward ran his hands down my back and pressed my body into his, and I felt better. I felt right. He understood me and my fears without them being stated, and he eased them without a word. "Don't be so paranoid, Bella," he murmured into my neck, causing an eruption of goose bumps across my flesh. "They love you."

I snorted.

He nuzzled my ear. "They loved you even before I did."

"Oh god, Edward. They're going to kill me."

"Shhh." His nimble fingers glided down my arms and around my hips while his lips traveled around my chin and up to my eyelids.

I felt myself begin to melt. I felt my fears dissolve. When he held me, I believed that nothing about us could be wrong. "You realize this means you can't be in my class, right?"

He moaned low against my temple and inhaled deeply, "But you're such a good teacher." I felt his hot tongue lick up my cheekbone.

"Oh shit! I'm gonna get some kind of reputation as a cougar or something."

Edward laughed. "Shut up, Bella." He kicked his discarded shoes out of the way and led me to the bed. "That reminds me, though. You never did tell me about kitty."

"Oh yeah." I smiled up at him and kissed him. "I found her. When I was on the island before. She was only days old. Abandoned by her mother-"

Edward nipped at my ear. "Poor thing."

"Ungh… Abandonment is fairly common amongst big cats who aren't good hunters or who are first time mothers. They know they can't keep the cub alive."

He pushed me back against the obscene mountain of feather pillows. "But still."

"Yeah." He pressed against me. "Still, she was… unhnhnh… fucking adorable. She was just screaming non-stop in her scratchy little voice-" Edward dragged a slow wet tongue over my jugular. "I followed the sound for about… ahhhhh… a quarter of a mile til I found her."

"You're an amazing woman, Dr. Swan." Edward shifted so he could begin torturing the other side of my neck.

"I like big cats?" It came out as a question because his fingertips were just teasing the hem of my shirt, randomly brushing against my stomach with a feather light touch. "So- uhh- I was determined to find the crying baby. And- annh- Oh Edward! I found her."

"I never doubted you." He gnawed gently on my collar bone, drifting his dangerous fingertips along my ribs.

"She had been clawing all over a felled tree with her shaky legs and blind eyes," I spat out all in a breathless rush. "And her tail was caught in a V of limbs."

Edward palmed my crotch. "V of limbs?"

"Fuck, Edward." I tried to capture his lips in a kiss, but he pulled away. Smug fucking clit-tease.

"What happened to kitty, Bella?"

"I grabbed her scruff, and she immediately shut up."

"Mmm. Magic fingers."

"Yes," I agreed, reveling in the feel of Edward kneading my thigh. "I tugged her free and ran back to camp with her." He dotted my shoulder with tiny, less distracting kisses, so I tried to rush the rest of the story. "I immediately took all the powdered milk from our supplies and started feeding her. The prof in charge of the expedition had a fit and threatened to send me home when he found out I had radioed for eight gallons of goat's milk."

"You're a heroine to big cats everywhere," Edward mumbled into my hair. He was back at my neck again, having completed a slow circle.

"So I kept her and raised her, feeding every two hours and then every four hours as she grew. Ahh, ow!"


"She slept in my bag with me, and I played with her to strengthen her little limbs. By the time my three months on the island were up, she was strong enough to hurt me without meaning to."

"Just like me," he nipped.

"And just like you, she was hale and playful. I could hardly face leaving her."

Edward stopped molesting my throat with his tongue for a moment. "What happened to her when you had to leave?'

"One of the grad students who stayed on agreed to feed her. She could handle meat by then, so I paid for steaks and hamburger to be dropped in with the weekly supplies."

Satisfied with this answer, his hands dove up my shirt. "You think of everything," he said against my ear. The tickle of his hot breath sent a bolt of electricity through my body.

I shoved my hands into his thick hair, almost moaning at the new texture now that it was clean. "When he left, though- she was on her own. I didn't think I would ever see her again."

"We can go back." He settled on top of me and kissed me soundly. "Every summer. We'll visit kitty." His eyes lit up with a faraway daydream and I took over the task of licking and biting his face. "Mom wants to tear down the old outpost and build a house. We can honeymoon there."

Edward babbled on excitedly. I hardly knew if he even realized what he had just implied. I shut him up with kisses and he refocused admirably. Soon we were undressing one another, touching, exploring, crushing, brushing, and adoring.

Sweating and spent from his first ride on top, Edward huffed into my hair, "Did you feel that?"

"Mmmm," I replied. "I think it was an earthquake."

Thanks for taking this ride with me. I'm gonna concentrate on SANCTUARY for a while now-- check out lots more chapters of it over at Twilighted under my other name: Jfly-- and I have a story to write for Wolvesnvamps who won me in the Author Auction. I haven't asked her yet if that story will be made public or not. I guess stay tuned.