A/N: Characters are the property of S. Meyer and Twilight. The plot and content of this story belongs to me. Read. Review. Enjoy. But don't plagiarize.
I woke up to her touch. Her fingers grazing along my arm, bristling its fine hairs. Her thumb followed the stream of veins flowing to the crease of my elbow, her other digits tracing my outer muscles. The trail from her contact seared my skin with tingles and heat.
With every pass, every perfect imperfection of her fingers were amplified. The jagged nail on her ring finger. The callous on her thumb from continuously writing notes and letters. The tiny scab from a paper cut on her pinky. Her breath matched the strokes of her fingers and I found the slow methodical combination hypnotizing.
It was obvious she was awake. I briefly wondered just how long she had been up. Her caress was so soft and gentle. The tenderness and emotion that flowed from her fingers filled me. And in the back of my mind a spark ignited making me realize that no one has ever touched me like this before. Such a simple gesture that spoke volumes.
Her hair was nestled under my neck, its strawberry scent faintly infused with her natural oils. It curled and twisted over and under my chin and collarbone. A strand would twitch under my breath and tickle me. It was just one more part of her that I was connected too.
I continued to lie still, captured by her affections, mesmerized by the rise and fall of her chest and the pulsing beat of her heart. It was such a perfect moment that I instinctively wanted to freeze time. Protect this silent sanctuary we were both nestled in. But I couldn't stop time from progressing and I knew things had to be said.
In the morning light that filtered through her purple curtains I fortified my resolve, coming to grips with the chaos of last nights events. Images of the evening flashed through my thoughts, sorting themselves like pieces of a puzzle. The pinning. The carnations flush against her cheeks. Holding her hand. The kiss. Her desperation. The anger in her slap. The pain in her words. Her disappearing act. The knowledge I had discovered. The overwhelming relief when she was in my sights again.
I really had no idea what I was going to say to her. What she was going to say to me. The pendulum swings both ways. It was definitely progress that I was cuddled next to her and that she was willingly running her hand over my skin. It intensified my conviction that I would not leave her side until she knew my feelings and understood what was going through my mind.
I just prayed that when I did finally open my mouth, that she wouldn't break this connection. She wouldn't shut down and pull away. Her fingers linking herself to my skin was a life-line for me. Giving me strength. Allowing me to hope that we could get through this inevitable hurdle. That I could ease her mind and not hurt her more.
The basic fact was that I was in love with her. I was more convinced now then I had been before. Her laughter embraced me in a way I'd never known. Her smile made my lips curl in a mirror image and her tears cracked my heart. When I looked in her eyes, I saw the stars and my body buzzed with electricity when I was near her and ached when she was gone.
Up until a few days ago, I would never have believed in soul-mates, even though my parents constantly shoved the concept down my throat with "It was love at first sight" and "I saw her across a crowded room." I had this crazy notion that when I found the girl of my dreams, there would be a mythical bolt of lightening signaling that I'd found my other half.
With Bella there was no bolt or zap. It was a slow, compulsive desire, building over days. Where tiny moments would give me glimpses of how perfect my imperfect life was with her by my side. Touching her didn't reveal an immediate spark, but a slow burn, an amplifying vibration containing such sweet intensity that it took my breath away every time.
"How long have you been awake?" her soft voice carried through the room, bringing me out of my thoughts. I sighed heavily waiting for her to retreat. Her fingers faltered for only a moment and then resumed their ministrations and my heart fluttered. She wasn't pulling away.
"A while," I answered, my voice hoarse from sleep. "I didn't want to disturb you."
"You're not disturbing me." It wasn't a question but there was enough of an inflection in her voice to make me believe it needed a response.
"I didn't want you to stop."
"You hand on my arm. Your fingers. I didn't want you to stop."
"Mmm," she exhaled lightly, her fingers again faltering for a moment. But then after a deep breath, her other hand slid into my palm with a squeeze. Without hesitation I slipped my other arm under her head and cradled her further into my chest.
"I wouldn't have stopped," she continued, while giving my hand another squeeze.
"I know that now."
"I need to know something."
"Why did you stay with me?"
Her question for some reason caught me off guard. Of all the thoughts running through me, why I stayed wasn't one of them. And a crazy wave of irrational insecurity spiked over me. Was I not supposed to stay? Was she not happy I was here? I mentally yelled at myself to calm the fuck down and take in the facts. The most prominent being that she was in my arms, holding my hand. Taking a deep breath and regaining my emotional composure I answered her question the best way I knew how. With another question.
"You didn't want me to stay?"
"No. It's just… Why you would want to stay?"
"I didn't want to leave you alone."
"Oh." Her chest deflated along with her body. It was a physical signal that sent a shock to my brain, telling me that that wasn't the answer she wanted to hear. And given another second of silence her thoughts would travel further down the wrong road. I could feel it in her skin. I had to fix it.
"Wait. No. Shit. I'm not saying this right." I tugged her gently motioning her to turn towards me. I needed her to see my face if she was ever going to trust my words. She complied and shifted around. Her lips were cracked and her face was pale and she was scrutinizing me with her big brown eyes. I slowly and intentionally brought our still joined hand up to my mouth, placing a gentle kiss on each of her knuckles before continuing.
"When I couldn't find you last night I kind of went a little crazy. I was panicked because I didn't know where you were and I was worried. Not just because I couldn't find you. But because you weren't… with me. And when I finally found you, I didn't want to leave… I didn't like seeing you so hurt and upset."
"So… you stayed because I was upset?" she asked, still not fully understanding.
"Yes. But it's more than that. I stayed because I really care about you." A glint. An ember caught in her eyes, before being extinguished by her furrowed brow.
"I hit you Edward. Why would you care about me?"
"Because I do. And I can't stop. It's too late. Bella. Last night was half heaven and half hell. Kissing you…was… heaven."
"And the rest was hell," she completed the sentence for me.
"Yeah. But more of a disastrous hell. Not the fiery one." I cocked by lips trying to lift the suffocating atmosphere that had unexpectedly encased us.
"No. It was more of the fiery kind," she uttered and that ugly face of anxiety reared its ugly head again in my mind. What did she mean? What was wrong. The kiss? The slap? Holding my hand? What the fuck happened to my self-confidence.
Her head tilted down bringing her forehead to my chin. I steadied my brain, again, forcing it to stop over-reacting and over analyzing. Now was not the time to give in to my emotional side. I had to be strong. I also had to stop jumping to conclusions.
I brought my lips to her hairline and placed a tender kiss on her salty skin. Because I needed too. Because she needed me too. My hand still clutched in hers, I smoothed my thumb over her ridged finger joints. I let a few moments of silence pass before questioning her.
"Why was it fiery?" I asked, continuing with her train of thought. She paused again and I knew she was composing her answer.
"I drank too much. I propositioned you. I yelled at you. I hit you," she rambled, her breath soaking into my shirt. My heart swelled that she mentioned the after kiss action even though I knew she was leaving out an important factor, but now was not the time to push her.
"That's not entirely your fault, Bella." She started to shake her head but I continued. "I actually deserved it."
"Stop. And. Listen. Last night you believed I didn't want you. You called yourself "sloppy seconds." I paused, noting her muscles flinch at the words I said. I tried not to wallow in guilt at haunting her with her own phrase. It was more important the she understood.
"You were wrong. You're not seconds. You can never be seconds. You are the beginning of my firsts." Her head shaking ceased and I continued.
"Last year, I would have screwed any girl at any time. But you are not just any girl. And I'm not that guy from last year. You hit me because you thought I didn't want you. But you are wrong. I do want you. I want to be with you. I want to hold you. And hug you. But more importantly, I don't want to be a memory substitute. I want to start new memories with you. I want there to be a thousand new memories. Memories with the two of us"
Her head turned back up revealing her glistening eyes and her tear stained cheeks. I knew the blush on her cheeks was not from crying alone. And as I cracked a smile, she pulled her lip into her teeth. It was a beautiful sight. I scooted my head and kissed her button nose even though it was her lips I was craving.
She released my hand and snaked it over my ribs to my back. I reciprocated pulling her into my chest and running my hand up the curve of her spine to the spot between her shoulder blades. The memory of last night flooded me and again I tightly pulled her heart to mine. Her nose grazed the spot just above my collar-bone and I was amazed at the tremor that coursed through me when it's cold tip settled against my skin.
"I want you to hug me. Like now. But Edward, I can't even think straight. I don't want to be with you just because you make me feel safe. I don't want you here because you think I need to be protected. I can't just jump into something."
"Bella. I don't want to jump into anything. I've done enough screwing around, remember? I just want the chance. I'll be grateful for whatever you can give. I just don't want to be the guy down the hall anymore."
One by one her muscles surrendered, as my words imprinted into her. First her legs, then her hips. Her flat stomach even relaxed and filled the void between mine. The tension evaporated from her shoulders and her arm draped around me became heavy and unburdened. The only movement was the twitch of her cold toes against my ankles, the steady movement of her lungs and her hand that was tracing tracks up and down my back.
Her body was quiet and her mind seemed at peace and again I realized that I had never held or been held in such complete serenity. I was becoming drunk on it. My own body mirroring hers if only to drink in more of her. Because now it wasn't just our bodies that were joined. It was something higher. Something unexplainable.
I traced smooth lines in her back with my fingers and she purred into my neck. The moisture from her breath dampening my skin. I burrowed my lips into her hair and kissed the spot just above her temple and she mewled again. The sound was making my ears burn and my body come alive. I shifted a bit, trying to twist away while still remaining as close as possible. The irony of the situation wasn't lost on me.
Bella giggled at my movement, which didn't help as her body twitched against me from the laughter. Not knowing how much more I could take, I maneuvered her to my side, her head cradled on my shoulder.
"What are you laughing at," I teased, needing a distraction.
She brought her arm across my chest and started to play with wrinkles that were permanently embedded into my shirt.
"You were telling the truth," she said. I looked at her to find her eyes intently watching her fingers. I couldn't perceive a single emotion from her face at this angle. And I had no idea what she was talking about. This was another occasion for the "Idiots Guide To Girls" manual. I knew I couldn't guess, because God forbid, I guess wrong. So I was left with no other choice but to ask her what she was talking about.
"What did I tell the truth about?"
"Earlier, when you said you wanted me last night. You weren't lying. You really do find me attractive." When she finished, she propped her torso up on the arm under her and looked at me. It was a piercing look. One that words could never fully describe.
Under her gaze I was fucking dumbfounded. I knew what she was alluding to. It was pretty obvious a moment before when we had been pressed together. But how do you respond to a statement like that. I had no clue. So I followed typical guy protocol and sputtered out the only words I could think of.
"Yeah. Shit. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
"I'm not uncomfortable."
"No… I kind of like it."
"You like it?" I gasped, not expecting that.
"Yes. I like it." Her eyes lashes blink several times before continuing. They actually blinked 16 times, but who was counting.
"I'm not ready. I don't know if and when I will ever be ready…you know… to be with another person. But it's nice to know that I'm still… desirable."
If I could, I would have pulled her under me and showed her just how "desirable" I thought she was. But considering the circumstances I just smiled. No, I beamed. I'm surprised I didn't pulled a facial muscle from the skin stretching extraneously across my face. I was even tempted to spout out the words "I told you so" but my brain filter threw those words out the fucking window.
"I told you. You. Are. Beautiful."
"Words are important. But sometimes actions speak louder than words." Her smile was brilliant, looking over at me. So brilliant that I was at a loss for nouns, adjectives, and verbs. But I didn't need words. Because she leaned into me and pressed her chapped, pale lips against mine and I forgot about everything except the heat of her mouth against mine.
No tongue or savory juices this time. I didn't pull her to me or grab at her skin with my hands. It didn't need too. It was an exquisite kiss in its own right. And the affect it had on my body was the same as last night. Searing heat. Paralyzing tingles. Breathless desire.
It didn't stop when her lips parted mine and for that fact alone I was grateful for the certain physical distance that our position allowed me. My brain knew that being with Bella, like that, was not a definite or even a possibility in the future. But I'll be damned if my body knew that fact.
It didn't matter though. I wouldn't want Bella any other way until she was completely ready to give herself to me, whether that be in weeks, months or even…yeah… or even years.
She snuggled back into my shoulder, her hand across my chest. I captured it with mine, holding it tight. She yawned. The cutest squeak emanated from her throat. I rubbed her back, telling her to go back to sleep, that I would be right here when she woke up.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"You're welcome, beautiful."
A/N: Again lots of love and hugs to TZ and a huge apology to my readers. I am so sorry for taking to long with this update. Writing doesn't always fit neatly into my real life, but please know that I will never give up this story. It's way to important to me and a lot of others out there.