Yes, it's me again, lovelies. Here with a little taste of what our favorite couple got up to after The List ended. Can you believe it's been 7 months since the story ended? I sure can't. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement in the End Note, down below!
A 'THE LIST' / 'EDWARD'S LIST' OUTTAKE
WRITTEN FOR THE FANDOM GIVES BACK / ALEX'S LEMONADE STAND CHARITY EVENT
SPONSORED BY TEAM THE LIST:
I smiled as I looked down at the yellowed pages, years ago preserved within now well-thumbed lamination. Bella's Book remained one of my most prized possessions, so filled was it with love and devotion and commitment.
The book was filled with lists – some of which we had written individually, some together – of things we wanted to accomplish in our shared life, and these were some of the most care-worn pages. Over the last fifty years, we reveled in slowly checking items off these lists, so that now Bella's Book had become a book of memories, a way of remembering all of our adventures together: places we had traveled, books we had read and discussed, movies we had watched, goals we had accomplished.
Love we had made.
All these years later, we continued to add items to our lists and surprise one another with playing out those fantasies. Our fantasies got incrementally more daring and creative once Bella was no longer confined to the isolated wilds of Alaska. Always unique, Bella needed only a few years before she was able to control her bloodlust enough to be in the presence of humans. Then her ideas of how and where we might share our physical love slowly but surely got more risqué. I loved her playfully passionate nature. She continued to own my heart and soul like no one or nothing else ever could.
"Hey, whatcha doing?" Bella's voice pulled me out of my reminiscing as she walked into our bedroom. She was as lovely as the day she awakened from the change but appeared even more beautiful in my eyes for her way she knew me and took care of me all these years. I'd never imagined just how wonderful having a partner to share life with would be.
I folded the book closed in my lap and smiled up at her. "Just thinking." I pulled my feet up on the wide window seat bench so she could sit down next to me.
She sat and leaned herself against my legs and rested her chin on my knees. "You ready to go?"
"I've liked living here," she said quietly. "Toronto's been good to us."
"It certainly has." I pushed the book off my lap as I swung my legs to the floor and pulled Bella into my arms. We'd been in Toronto for nearly a decade, both of us working on doctoral degrees at the University. The rest of the family lived in the city as well, although we hadn't lived in the same house with them in recent years.
Bella tilted her face up and her soft lips found mine. Her kiss was tender and compassionate. I was leaving behind a job offer to teach music at the university that I regretted not being able to accept. I loved that she understood the extent of my disappointment. Her kiss spoke of reassurance and support.
I threaded my hand into her thick hair and pulled her closer. A low moan rumbled in her throat and I pressed my body more forcefully into hers. Supporting her head, I slowly laid her back on the bench and lowered myself onto her.
I felt her smile against my lips but I couldn't let her go. I nipped at her lips, her jaw, her neck, her ear. Her smile grew, and finally I couldn't resist looking at her.
"What?" I smiled down at her.
"The others will be waiting for us." Her tone was not at all convincing that she really wanted me to stop.
"They'll figure it out."
I laughed at her expression. I'd learn to read her vampiric equivalent for blushing – her mouth would drop open and her eyes would dilate.
She smacked at my bicep and I grabbed her wrist and held her down, then lowered my head to lave at the slender column of her throat.
She hummed in response and weakly whispered, "We really should probably go."
"Sshh," I hushed against the shell of her ear, "I'll be quick."
That elicited the sound I'd hoped for: the glorious ring of Bella's laughter. "Oh, great."
I pulled back and frowned down at her with a raised eyebrow. "Was that sarcasm I just heard, Mrs. Cullen?"
"Is this a challenge I'm hearing?" I pressed my hips into the cradle of her thighs and she licked her lips. "Quick can be…good."
She forced a nonchalant expression that I knew was a complete act, even without hearing what I was sure were her excited thoughts. She struggled against my hold for a moment and then finally relaxed, looked up at me, and whispered, "Show me."
Just then, my cell phone started vibrating in my pocket. We both knew it was Alice without looking. I pulled it out, silenced it, and tossed it down on the carpet.
"Better be a little quicker, Mr. Cullen, because you know we're gonna have company within the next fifteen minutes if we don't answer that phone." The ringing of Bella's cell phone in the pocket of her coat she'd hung on the bedroom doorknob confirmed her point.
I sat up on my knees and pulled my shirt over my head. The rest of our clothes were packed in the truck waiting out at the curb – we didn't have time to replace shredded clothing.
Bella ran her nails from my pecs down to my stomach and I shivered under her sensual touch.
I reached down and pulled at the hem of her sweater, then slid it over her head. I leaned forward and, rather than removing her bra altogether, tugged the cups of her blue satin bra down, exposing her peaked flesh. The bra served to push her breasts up and in, creating an irresistible exaggerated cleavage that I couldn't help plunging my tongue into. Bella's hands flew to the back of my head and fisted in my hair just the way I liked.
I rocked myself into her hips over and over as I licked and sucked and pulled at her increasingly sensitive nipples. I'd come to learn just how much pleasure she could receive from stimulation to her breasts – it was a particularly fun way to torment her when circumstances prevented a more full expression of our lust.
"Please," she whimpered. I smiled down at her as I stood up, freeing her to pull her jeans down, which she did as I continued to pinch and twist at her nipples. Every mewl and moan reverberated directly to my cock, which sprung free at her as her hands worked at my jeans next.
I loved when she was so free and direct with what she wanted.
Bella's phone started ringing again and we both smiled as I returned to the bench, to the tantalizing space between her shapely legs. Holding my weight with one arm, I grasped my hard length and rubbed my engorged tip against the bundle of nerves at the top of her sex. All these years later, the sights and sounds and smells of our lovemaking continued to enflame me, continued to set me ablaze with lust and need.
"Unless," she panted, "you want an audience for this," she whimpered as I pressed my length against her even harder, "oh Edward…please!"
Bella's phone started ringing again and I smiled down at her before plunging in to the hilt.
"Oh God!" Bella screamed as she wrapped her leg around my hips and squeezed me tightly against her.
"Damn, that's so good, Bella."
Limited time and heightened need drove our pace, and I thrust into her again and again as we both whimpered at the exquisite goodness of her body clutching and sucking at mine. She grasped at me and tugged at my hair and clawed at my back. Her wet heat gripped my cock until I thought I would lose my fucking mind.
Bella's hips met mine thrust for thrust and we were wrapped around one another so tightly it was hard to tell where one of us began and the other ended. I tilted my hips and she screamed and I smiled as I went deeper within her.
"You are mine, Bella. Mine. Your body…fuck…you were so made for me."
Out of nowhere her muscles quickened and exploded, rhythmically milking at me as warm moisture flooded around my body as it still moved hard within her.
"Oh, Edward," she whimpered hoarsely as I clutched at her tighter and, with one final drive forward, stilled and erupted into her, my orgasm sending stream after stream of release into her still spasming core.
Bella's phone started ringing again and, through our panting, we both started chuckling.
"Mmm," I murmured as her shaking body tantalized my length, still sheathed deep within her. I moved my hips experimentally a few times and we both moaned softly.
"Okay," she smiled up at me. "You made your point. Quick can be good."
She rolled her eyes but was grinning now. "Does your ego really need stroking?"
I thrust into her a little more firmly. "I suppose not, but something else—"
She started laughing. "I set you up for the cliché and you so went for it. Now, get up you big oaf." She pushed at my chest and I leaned down to kiss her. "I really don't want to be naked when everyone gets here."
I kissed her one last time, absolutely cherishing how comfortable and natural we were with one another in our intimacy. She'd done that for us, for me. Her list had slowly guided us through the progression of our physical relationship and, through that, had greatly intensified our emotional connection as well. "I love you, Bella."
"Me too, Edward. Now, scoot."
I rose with a grin on my face and pulled her up with me. We were cleaned up and dressed again just as the banging on the front door started.
Really, Edward? Could you two get your horndog butts down here now?
"Alice is a little annoyed," I chuckled.
Um, hello? I heard that!
"Come on, love," I said as I took her hand and mine and brought it to my mouth for a soft kiss. "Time to go break in a new house."
The melancholy over leaving Toronto was somewhat diminished by everyone's excitement to be returning to the vicinity of the Olympic Peninsula. We had been back for a few visits here and there, mostly in the early years after Bella's change when it wasn't yet so obvious that she wasn't aging. But in general, it had been a long time since we'd spent any time there. We couldn't go back to Forks yet – fifty years wasn't quite enough time to ensure no one would remain who might remember our teenage selves. But living north of Vancouver would put us closer than we'd been in years and make it possible to sneak into Forks now and again.
After years of busy schedules and demanding course loads, Bella and I planned to take some time "off." I was going to spend some time composing, and she was going to try to do some writing. We were both looking forward to the more relaxed pace.
Halfway through the trip to our new home, Bella insisted on taking a turn at driving, despite the fact that I wouldn't, of course, tire. I finally relented, knowing how important it was to her to be my equal in all things. This, of course, was completely ridiculous, as she would always be more than me.
The free time and the lulling motion of the truck relaxed my mind and once again set it afloat to think and reminisce. One particular memory took hold.
Our fifth wedding anniversary.
Bella had just recently been able to be around humans again – or so I thought.
It turned out she was doing something else during all those times I thought one of the other of my family members was taking her on extended hunting expeditions or experimental trips to be around people.
BPOV – two weeks before their 5th anniversary
"I'm so nervous, Jasper."
He chuckled. "Uh, yeah, got that."
I smirked at him. Of course he did.
"It's going to be great, Bella, you'll see."
"But what if he's mad? What if it upsets him? What if—"
"Not possible, darlin'. He's going to flip – in a good way – when he learns what you've been up to."
I sighed. "These are really good," I said as I shuffled through the photographs we'd gotten retouched and enlarged.
"Yeah. They really are. Come on, let's drop them off at the framing store so we can get the rest of this stuff done."
Jasper had been keeping me on track from the beginning of this project. A project I was at once so excited about I thought I might explode, and so nervous about that I could barely sit still.
It all started one day a few months after my change when Edward and I decided to write out everything we could about a favorite childhood memory. Edward's memories were less full than mine, but he managed to recall his mother standing in the kitchen of their house making him cookies. He could remember that they were his favorite kind, and she was making them just for him. But he couldn't for the life of him remember what kind of cookies they were. As we shared what we wrote with one another, I learned what little he remembered about his human life.
And I was stunned to learn, in the course of that conversation, that Edward still owned his childhood home in Chicago.
He had never returned. He wouldn't really say why, though I suspected he found it difficult to face such a big reminder of the life he never had the chance to lead. But even back then Carlisle had a contact who could manufacture documents when necessary, and they made it so that the house passed into the possession of a distant Masen relative who was, of course, Edward. Carlisle advised Edward to retain the house as an asset – while Carlisle was well off, I'd learned that the Cullens' crazy wealth hadn't accrued until after Alice joined the family.
I hadn't given much thought again to Edward's house until I began wracking my brain for his Christmas gift for our fourth Christmas. Edward was a consummate gift giver – he always bought me the most unique and perfect gifts, gifts that showed just how well he knew me. I, on the other hand, always struggled with what to give, although he always assured me that what I got him was perfect. For our fourth and most recent Christmas as a married couple, I'd toyed with the idea of somehow doing something with or at his house, but I just couldn't figure out anything that seemed good.
And then this past Valentine's Day, an idea came to me, and I knew what I had to do. And when I wanted to do it.
I'd come into our bedroom the afternoon of Valentine's Day to find a large wrapped box with a big pink velvet bow lying on our bed. It was the third time I'd found such a thing and I knew what it was, just not when it was from.
See, one set of Edward's fantasies was for him to take me on dates with both of us dressed as if it was a different era in the past. The first time Edward had given me an exquisite, and original, blue sequined flapper dress from the 1920s. That night, he explained that he wanted to add me into his memories of the long century he'd spent alone. So we'd both dressed up just as we might have had we known each other long ago, and he'd gone all out in making every aspect of that date, and those that followed, just as if they really were taking place some time in the past.
The second time I'd received a 50s outfit, complete with poodle skirt and saddle shoes, and he'd taken us to a drive-in movie theater that was having a classic movie marathon. We saw 'Singin' in the Rain,' though it was hard to pay attention to the screen with Edward decked out in a stunningly sexy James Dean get-up. The drive-in hadn't been very busy, so we played with a little something off my list when we climbed into the back seat of the classic Studebaker he'd rented and I'd straddled his lap, poodle skirt flowing around us, until we were both completely spent.
This past Valentine's was the third and most recent time he'd given me one of these vintage outfits. I'd held my breath as I opened the box, completely expecting it – as I did both of the other times – to be the dress that had topped his fantasy list. It was one of the few parts of his list I'd seen in those spare seconds before he managed to get me to agree not to read it, and I remembered it well:
….number one involved him wearing a suit and me wearing a gown he'd apparently already found and purchased from 1917. He wanted to take me on a date as he might have in his own time. And then he wanted to bring me home and very carefully take that gown right back off….
Instead, what I'd found in the Valentine's box had been a seventies minidress and knee-high white leather boots. We'd boogied to 70s dance tunes in our private cabin until the touches and body rubbing and grinding had driven us to the bedroom. He'd commanded me to keep the boots on while he took me again and again.
As I'd hung up my minidress the morning after our disco night, I'd fingered each of the vintage outfits hanging in my closet: the blue sequins of the twenties-era dress, the satin of the pink poodle skirt from the fifties, and the big floral print of the seventies minidress. As I looked at the three dresses, I'd remembered Edward's words about wanting to add me into his memories about the past.
And I'd remembered his number one list entry.
And I'd remembered his house.
And I'd known. I'd known just what I wanted to do for Edward.
I wanted to both make that first fantasy come true, and I wanted to give him his childhood back. I wanted to make it okay for him to think back on his human life. I wanted to take some of the pain away so that he didn't feel that he had to avoid his place of birth. I remembered how it had felt that day that I'd shielded Edward from the sun during our weekend in Victoria and, once again, I wanted to save him from something – but this time what I wanted to help save him from were the demons in his own mind.
That realization was the beginning of what had sent me head long into a months-long project, with Alice and Jasper most involved as co-conspirators, to renovate Edward's house so that I could take him there to celebrate our fifth anniversary.
The only problem was that, to keep it a secret, I had to lie to Edward about where I was when I was actually in Chicago. Sometimes the cover story was a girls-only hunting trip. Sometimes Emmett would demand some "man time," allowing me to escape while the guys were all away. I didn't need to go too often, as I'd hired contractors to do what I wanted done. But I needed to check in every once in a while and make sure things were going just right.
The first time I'd gone to his house was in March, and Alice and Jasper had come with me for three reasons: moral support, curiosity, and to ensure that I was as in control of my bloodlust as I thought I was. I'd discovered, while out hunting with the girls one afternoon that January, I could resist the scent of human blood. Quite by accident we'd come upon a hunting party of three males, and the girls had nearly panicked until they realized I was able to restrain myself. I hadn't told Edward because I wanted to surprise him – my control would free us from the isolated existence we'd been living in Alaska. Neither of us minded, nor did the rest of the Cullens, really, but my control would give us options.
And my control was a big reason why I was able to pull off this project.
As we'd turned onto his street that first trip, I was enthralled with Edward's house from the very first glance.
The Masen house was a dark red brick detached Victorian townhouse that sat back a little from the street in the close-in Lincoln Park neighborhood. It had a massive ornately carved wooden front door with a huge stained-glass fan above and windows of all different shapes and placements on the front façade. On the right front corner, a conical tower was topped with a decorative weather vain.
Carlisle had given us the keys and I inserted them in the lock and pushed the door open with great reverence.
No one had lived in this house since Edward's family died. And the weight of nearly a century of silence and stillness descended on us as we stood in the dingy and dust-filled foyer.
I don't know what I'd expected. But I was in awe of everything I saw.
After five minutes of walking around the first floor, I realized I'd been holding my breath, not wanting to disturb the ancient air with my exhalations.
The rooms were empty of furniture, though all the ornate Victorian architectural details – the chandeliers, the marble mantles, the electric wall sconces, the hand-carved moldings – remained in place and undamaged.
I turned in the middle of the empty parlor and realized I was shaking.
"Upstairs?" Alice whispered, feeling my reverence for this place that was so unlike what any of the rest of them had.
I nodded and we made our way up the wide staircase and stopped to admire the huge stained-glass window at the landing.
On this floor were a series of chambers – bedrooms, presumably – and a room with a large claw-footed bathtub, but no other modern plumbing fixtures.
I felt like I should be able to feel which of these rooms had been Edward's, but of course I couldn't. I tried picturing him in the space, but it was so hard for me to imagine Edward – green-eyed and flush-skinned – as a child playing with toys on his floor or laying in his sleep-rumpled bed.
"Let's go up," I whispered, in search of the room Carlisle had described to me.
Apparently, in the early years of the century, they'd hired a caretaker who lived in a carriage house at the rear of the property. Once more modern security systems were available, they'd done away with the caretaker. At that time, to deter nosy neighbors or burglars from exploring the house further, they'd had all the remaining furniture and other items moved into a storage space on the third floor.
I could barely wait to see what was in there.
The chambers on the third floor were mostly small and windowless. There were two exceptions: first, the round room in the top of the tower had two stained-glass windows that threw a multi-colored kaleidoscope onto the walls. And, second, the room at the rear was dark, but large, and filled with drop-clothed furniture.
Even though we could see, Jasper pulled from his backpack the lantern he'd brought. He knew I didn't want to miss a detail.
And, oh God, what we'd found.
Pristine Victorian antiques – a large dining table and chairs, a pair of beautiful carved settees only in need of reupholstering, a huge mahogany sleigh bed with matching chests of drawers, a stenciled rocking chair, a smaller 4-poster bed with the frame for a canopy – could this have been Edward's?!? – and so many other small tables, chairs, and other pieces.
I was drawn like a moth to a flame to two wardrobes that must've taken four men a piece to carry up here. I opened them hoping for treasure, but found both of them empty. Someone had removed the clothing long ago.
As the three of us moved around the room, we came up with a game plan. I didn't want to change anything that didn't absolutely have to be changed.
We were going to clean, freshen up some paint, bring the electrical up to code and modernize the plumbing in the single bath. And then we were going to return the furniture to the main part of the house.
And for months I was a nervous wreck about it all.
This past weekend, Jasper and I had made the last trip to Chicago before the big reveal. Our fifth anniversary was in just two weeks and I needed one final trip to ensure that everything was done.
And, perhaps most excitingly, to look into a few discoveries the workmen had made as they removed the furniture from the storage room.
In the back corner, behind the wardrobes, were three crates and a huge roll-top desk apparently filled with papers.
As the history buff, Jasper had begged to be the one to come along to see what treasures might await, and I'd readily agreed. Our joint interest in photography had given us something in common and we'd become fast friends now that Jasper could stand to be around me. A weekend-long photography workshop had been our cover.
After we'd arrived at the house, I stood, mouth agape, admiring the way it had all come together. But within seconds my brain drove me upwards to solve the mysteries of the crates and the desk.
"Oh my God," I exclaimed as I ran my hand across the nailed-on lid of the first crate. They were huge – easily three feet tall by four feet wide. "Help me," I murmured as I grabbed the closest corner to pry the top off.
Between the two of us, we made quick work of the lids and set them aside.
I think Jasper was as in awe as I was.
Books. Dozens of them. A cut-glass chess set. Several paintings – three landscapes and two portraits, but I didn't know of whom. A beautiful mantle clock and dozens of figurines that must've been part of a collection and were probably priceless. A silver tea service was in need of polishing but was otherwise beautiful, and sat nestled amongst a variety of dainty rose-covered pieces of porcelain.
I couldn't stifle the sob that ripped through me as I lifted the straw packing material from the top of the third crate and saw a large wooden train. It was five cars long, with an engine at the front and a caboose at the end, and each car was painted a different, if faded, color.
"Jasper, do you think—"
He squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me. He was equally at a loss for words.
The third crate was the true treasure chest.
Jasper lifted the train out gently and set it on the floor.
Each and every item that followed ratcheted up the emotional intensity ricocheting between me and Jasper.
A folded and yellowed muslin cloth revealed a family Bible complete with handwritten genealogical entries in the front cover. I could only imagine Edward's reaction.
Three pieces of hand-embroidered fabric were folded together, and I could only wonder if Edward's mother was responsible for the fine craftsmanship.
A two-inch thick folio of sheet music caused me to grip onto the side of the crate, and made me wonder what had happened to the piano I assumed his family had owned.
A rusting round tin revealed a dozen small metal figures that I realized were supposed to be soldiers. There was no way those weren't Edward's.
"He is going to completely freak out," Jasper whispered in awe as he fingered one of the toy soldiers. He looked at me. "In a good way, of course, only in a good way."
I wasn't so sure. If I was this amped up, I could only imagine what Edward would feel.
A rectangular box on its side in the crate looked vaguely familiar and I realized it made me think of the dress boxes Edward gave me for our dress-up dates. I pulled it out and lifted the lid. And gasped.
On top was an off-white Victorian gown, heavily beaded and laced, that I could only imagine as a wedding gown. Below that was a second gown, dark green velvet in color. And in the bottom of the box were pieces of loose lace and a long sheaf of it that must have been a veil. There also two pairs of gloves – they were so small – and a beautiful if not well preserved pair of silk high heels. This has to have been Elizabeth's trousseau…holy crow.
I already had my gown—an authentic 1915 muted red silk scoop neck with an empire waist and lace arms—picked out for our anniversary dress-up date, but…just…wow.
Beneath the wedding trousseau was an intricately carved wooden box that I recognized as a jewelry box immediately. I lifted it out, completely mesmerized. I don't know what the box once held, but there were a lot of empty spaces inside. In light of the other treasures here, I felt silly being disappointed that Elizabeth's jewelry had at some point been pilfered, especially as I wore her very own wedding ring on my left hand, but I felt angry on Edward's behalf. Still, there were a few bracelets and necklaces that were still likely valuable given their age and condition, even if they were probably costume.
One personal treasure after another came out of that crate. But the best one of all was the thick album of photographs at the very bottom.
The album left me utterly speechless. I imagined Edward would react to it just as I had reacted to the photos of Charlie that Jasper and Alice had given me for my "first birthday," only I was sure that Edward's reaction would be mine times a hundred.
His parents' wedding photos, a very formal portrait of his father with his hand tucked in his suit coat, a full-length portrait of his mother in a long gown with a train that was fanned out behind her. And pictures of Edward. Edward with his parents standing on the front steps of the house. A formal portrait of the three of them. It was the baby picture that did me in, that took me to my knees in a tearless sob. He was such a beautiful child, of course he was. But to see it….
It was those photographs that Jasper and I stood admiring, that we'd had enlarged and retouched and were dropping off at the framing store. I also had extras made to take back to Alaska. Edward didn't have to display them wherever we lived if he didn't want to, but I wanted him to have them close regardless.
Luckily, Edward thought our photography workshop wouldn't be over until tomorrow, so when we couldn't convince the framer to finish the job today, we still had a second day to pick up our items before we had to catch a flight back to Alaska – on a private plane (I was pretty controlled, but there was no sense pushing it in a tightly confined space for so many hours).
As the days until our anniversary ticked down, I was nearly overwrought with nerves. Of course Edward noticed. And of course he was worried.
But I'd managed to convince him that I was simply nervous about a surprise I was trying to pull off for our anniversary – I just couldn't avoid telling him that much. And he bought it completely.
It was, after all, the truth.
"Love, please talk to me," Edward said on the morning of August 12, the day before our anniversary. "I'm worried about you."
"I'm sorry," I said as I rained kisses on his face. I absolutely couldn't wait until I didn't have to lie to him anymore — I hated it beyond words, even though I knew it was for a good reason. "Worry no more. Get dressed, Edward. We're taking a trip."
He quirked an eyebrow at me.
"As in, you and me are getting in the car and going somewhere, trip."
"I'm about to give you my first anniversary present, Edward. Are you ready?"
He smiled broadly. "Always."
I took a deep breath. "I can be around people. I can handle it. Especially if I hunt beforehand."
He sucked in a breath and grasped my face in his hands. "Oh, Bella. I'm so proud of you. How long?"
"Please don't get mad."
He pressed a warm kiss to my lips and lingered, then pulled back and whispered, "Never."
"I only didn't tell you because it relates to another surprise." I took another deep breath. "Since January, or so."
"Eight months! What…why…?"
"I promise, if you get ready for our trip, you'll understand everything."
His expression went from a little hurt, to confused, to exasperated, to intrigued.
"Please? You don't need to bring anything but whatever you wear today. Everything else is taken care of."
"Hmm, this sounds intriguing," he said, his face now full of what I could only describe as awe — I was after all the only one who could surprise him. "I rather think I like mysterious Bella."
I chewed my lip — something I still hadn't unlearned five years later — and within the hour we were on our way to the airport. We took a private plane with a destination of Milwaukee, so that Edward wouldn't be able to guess where we were going based on hearing the pilot's thoughts and flight conversations.
Once on the ground, we got a rental car and Edward was all crooked grins and grabby hands as he tried to get the surprise out of me.
Once in the car, I shoved him away playfully from where he was nibbling on my neck, trying to seduce it out of me, and held up a thick piece of black cloth.
"What's this?" he asked with a smirk.
"Your blindfold. Put it on, please."
"Mmm…kinky. I like it." He waggled his eyebrows at me as he obligingly lifted it to his face and slid it on.
I chuckled and smiled at his good-natured playfulness and double checked the blindfold's position to make sure he couldn't peek. I'd already checked the thickness of the cloth to make sure he couldn't see through it.
The drive to Chicago wasn't long, only about an hour going as fast as I was. And that was a good thing. With each passing mile my stomach tightened with anxiety, lessened somewhat by Edward playing feelsy with his blind hands. I kept smacking them away with a laugh, though it did little to deter him from trying again.
I hoped his good mood would hold.
Finally, I pulled into the small driveway behind the house.
"We're here," I whispered. "You gotta do what I say, okay?"
"Bella," Edward said, "whatever it is, I'm going to love it."
Though he couldn't see me, I smiled at him because he knew me so well. I reached over and squeezed his hand, then got out and came around to open his door.
It was minutes before the last light of day would fade away, and the house was silhouetted against the dark blue of the summertime sky. Lights fully illuminated the house, inside and out, as per the directions I'd left the workmen. I wanted Edward to be able to see everything.
I opened his door and he stepped out into my waiting arms. "I love you so much, Edward."
"Hey," he said, reaching for his blindfold.
"No, baby, you gotta leave it on."
He dropped his hands to my shoulders, and then felt his way up to my face, where he cupped my cheeks gently. "What's the matter, love?"
I took a deep breath, willing the anxiety from my voice. "Nothing's wrong, Edward. I promise. Come." I grasped one of his hands in mine and pulled him along. "It's a straight sidewalk. Just come with me."
He followed until we paused at the tall gate that separated the rear yard from the street front. I opened the gate and we walked through, and it snapped shut behind us. The sidewalk curved to the front porch. I paused momentarily, still unsure whether I should remove the blindfold before we went in or after, but then decided to take him in first.
"There are three steps up."
He smiled in the direction of my voice and confidently stepped up.
And then we were at the front door.
Here goes nothing.
I fumbled with the keys momentarily and then the door was open. "A small step over the threshold," I murmured.
He stepped in, and the set of his shoulders went rigid. He inhaled deeply.
I did the same, wondering what he was reacting to. I smelled paint and cleaning products and stain and the newness of the Oriental rug I'd purchased for the parlor.
His jaw clenched. "Bella…."
I closed the door gently and quickly stepped in front of him. I gently grasped his face in my hands. "I want you, Edward, every part of you. I always have. And I want you to have everything. And so," I reached up and pulled the blindfold from his face and over his thick hair, "happy anniversary."
His eyes burned with emotion. He had yet to look from my face. "Where are we?" he whispered, his voice strained.
"It's okay, Edward, I promise. I'm right here with you."
"It smells…Bella," his voice broke, "it smells familiar."
I blinked at him.
Of course. I hadn't even considered that, but every house, every building, has its own smell. I could close my eyes right now and recall the smell of Renee's house – a mixture of paints and incense. And, even after I moved in, Charlie's house always had the baseline smell of a place where a man lived alone.
I managed a small smile and stroked his cheekbones with my thumbs. "Yeah, baby, I guess it would."
Edward slowly dragged his eyes away from my face, though he continued to stand stone still in the safe embrace of my hands and arms. His eyes slid around the foyer, up the steps, and into the adjoining parlor before settling back on my face again.
He swallowed thickly.
"Would you like to look around?"
He nodded, and I leaned in and kissed him softly, then dropped my hands and stepped back.
He walked through the first floor, just soaking in everything. Occasionally, he'd stop and stare at something, and then he'd move on again. I hung back and gave him space to absorb what was happening, where he was. I don't know how many minutes passed, but I finally realized I hadn't taken a breath. But I couldn't. I didn't want to make even the smallest noise to distract him from his observations.
I saw him point as if he was having a conversation with himself, and finally he murmured, "That was over there."
I followed his musings, and realized he was pointing to the sideboard in the dining room.
Oh my God! He's remembering!
This was one thing I wasn't sure about. I wasn't sure how much he would remember. But clearly the physical presence of the house was resurrecting long-buried memories.
Finally, he looked up at me. His eyes were bright and shiny. "This is my house."
"You…," he spread his arms, indicating the space around him, "you did…all this?"
"Yeah. Do you want to…?"
He walked towards me where I stood in the archway between the parlor and the foyer. He was walking uncertainly, almost as if he was walking through a dream, and I thought he was going to pass me by completely when he stopped, took a half step back, and grabbed my hand. He tilted his head to the side slightly, just enough to say, Come with me.
I resisted the now burning need I felt to throw out my shield. I was dying to hear his reactions, but I wanted to give him the privacy to react without concern for my feelings.
On the landing of the staircase, Edward paused and looked around for a moment. "I fell down those steps once," he said, pointing to the last five steps that connected the landing with the second floor. "I was…," he paused for a long time. "I don't remember how old I was."
He walked faster up the rest of the steps and headed directly, with purpose, to the rear bedroom. "This was mine."
I squeezed his hand and smiled. It was the room I'd guessed.
He dropped my hand as he walked further into the room. "The bed was over there." He turned. "And the dresser was here."
"You can change any—"
"No. I'm just saying…."
"Oh my God." He walked over to the corner, where an old wooden chest sat open. "This was my toy box." He sucked in a breath and knelt down. "This was my train. I can't believe I remember this. How is this still here?" he murmured to himself.
Once again I stood back, marveling at his discoveries, seeing them through his eyes. As I watched him, my eyes burned with tears that couldn't come.
We went through the entire house that way.
All of his comments were observational. He had yet to say anything that told me if this, if he, was okay.
After viewing the third floor, which was largely unfurnished except for the sitting room I'd created in the round room in the tower, we came back to the second-floor hallway.
I stood there, awkwardly, watching him think for innumerable minutes.
The first smell sucked me back in time, nearly a hundred years. It was disorienting and disconcerting.
I smelled the kitchen fireplace, the faint hint of roses my mother had once displayed religiously in every downstairs room, the lingering hint of my father's pipe, the lemon oil cleaner with which the maid had waxed all the ornate foyer woodwork….
Singly, the smells were meaningless. Together, they could only mean one thing: I was in the Masen house.
My family's house.
As I began to walk through the first floor, I felt as if I was walking through a haze. Every once in a while things would get clear, and a memory from my human life would surface. In that moment I could compare the way things looked now with the way they looked then. I could remember enough to know when a piece of furniture was out of place or to notice that the updated electric lights shone much brighter now than they ever did then.
By the time I found myself standing in my childhood bedroom – my human bedroom – the haze had mostly dissipated and I felt like I was walking through the past and the present at the same time. In the midst of that disorientation, in the midst of the oddity of seeing my memories after so long without them, it was hard to focus on Bella, though I could tell she was there. In my mind I was exclaiming every moment of the epiphany of remembering myself, my home, and embracing the fact that returning didn't entail the sadness and regret I thought it would.
But when we'd finally made it through the house and stood face to face in the hallway outside my old room, I finally stepped out of the haze of memories and reactions enough to actually see the uncertainty and anticipation on Bella's beautiful face.
And I realized she didn't know. She didn't know what this meant to me.
I hadn't told her. Yet.
Without even thinking about it, I was on her. My chest and hips pinned her to the wall in between the bedroom doors and my hands grasped her face and tilted it up.
"Thank you, thank you," I whispered as my lips found hers and I tried to communicate the intensity of what I felt through my kiss, my touch.
"Thank you," I exclaimed in an emotion-choked voice as I ran open-mouthed kisses across her jaw and down her neck.
Her hands found my hair and alternated between soft soothing strokes and the tight fisting she knew drove me absolutely crazy.
"I need you," I rasped with my lips against the smooth skin accessible in the v-neck of her blouse. "God, Bella, thank you." I began working my fingers down the buttons.
"Off, Edward, just off."
I groaned as I wrenched the fabric apart and buttons went skittering across the hard woods as she sighed deeply.
I kissed and licked and nuzzled against her cleavage and was more gentle with the enticing pink lace that supported her chest than I'd been with her top. I stripped the delicate fabric away and caught the warm, plump skin in my hands as her breasts spilled free. "Thank you," I sighed as I captured one dark pink peak in my mouth before moving on to torment the other.
"Oh Edward," she breathed as her hands kept up the same tantalizing stroking and pulling in my hair.
"No one has ever taken ca—"
I couldn't finish the thought. Because standing here, in this place of all places, I realized, I remembered, that it simply wasn't true. Someone had taken care of me once like Bella does now. Once, I had been my mother's top priority, her biggest joy, her first thought.
And I realized I'd constructed this whole story of my life: a story in which I was so alone, so isolated, so without the solace of caring.
And it pained me to realize, as I did in that moment, that I'd had more caring than I'd acknowledged: to be sure, I'd had a century of Carlisle's and Esme's affection. And, really, I couldn't have asked for better foster parents. And, beyond that, I'd had seventeen years of Elizabeth Masen's devoted mothering. After all, this was the woman who with her dying breaths made arrangements for my survival with Carlisle. Her first and last thoughts were always of me. And somehow, I'd forgotten. I'd forgotten that I actually once had been the center of somebody else's world.
And the realization brought me to my knees, right there in the hallway outside my boyhood room, with my furrowed brow resting against Bella's bare stomach and my hands gripping her hips.
"What is it, Edward? Talk to me," she soothed as she hugged my head to her in a sheltering embrace.
"I…I just…you've made me remember…you've made me remember that I've had good in my life."
"How could you not, Edward?" She leaned down and kissed the top of my head. "How could you not have had good in your life when you yourself are so good?"
I gripped her hips tighter and pressed a lingering kiss over her belly button. "You, Bella," I rasped, "you are the good. And I need you so much, baby." I tilted my head back and looked up at her.
"Then take what you need," she whispered.
And all at once the need was ferocious.
I needed her touch. And it was electrifying.
I needed her warmth. And it was all-consuming.
I needed her understanding. And God damn I miraculously had it.
I needed to be in her.
I rose, lifted her up, and carried her to the thick blue circular rug covering my bedroom floor.
"Take what you need, Edward," she said again as she undid the buttons on her jeans and shimmied them down her legs. "Take anything you need."
Christ if she only knew what she was offering. How much I need. How I want to devour her until she is inside me for all time.
Soon I matched her nakedness. I was on my knees with one of hers over my shoulder, and my mouth was buried against the soft, swollen folds of her center. I moaned "thank yous" against her until the vibration of my voice and the force of my probing tongue made her fall apart around me.
And her taste wound the coil inside me tighter, just as it always did.
Then she was under me. She lifted her body slightly until her tongue could lap at my face and I groaned. She knew what it did to me when she tasted herself on me and I could do no other than slide myself home, deep inside her.
And I was home. In every sense of the word.
She arched her head back and I pressed kisses to every inch of skin I could reach. I shuddered as her thighs squeezed my hips and her legs wrapped around me, lifting her pelvis just enough to allow me to go deeper. And it was…simply….
"Oh, God, Bella….You are…Christ…you are so much…."
"Take as much as you…as you need," she panted. "I want you….to have…everything….mmmm." Her words trailed off into a moan as I lifted myself up with my hands on either side of her head so that I could thrust into her harder.
More. How I always want more. I can never get enough.
I ground my teeth together, the tingling in my jaws reflecting the primal need to bite that coiled there when I gave myself over to such abandon.
One of Bella's hands came up and stroked my clenched jaw and she cupped her hand behind my head and pulled me down to her. "Don't…hold back, Edward."
And then my need was right there. She turned her head to the side, still holding the back of my head in her hand, and pulled me down to the soft column of her neck. I thrust harder, moved faster, and then the muscles in my groin exploded and I unlocked the beast inside of me – the one that needed to control, to possess, to dominate – and sunk my teeth into the tender spot behind Bella's right ear. The strained groan I was making turned into a feral growl as the feeling of my teeth in her skin unleashed Bella's orgasm, and her tight sheath clenched around me over and over and over again as I continued to move in her, playing the end of my release out while I tried to elongate hers.
I covered the bite mark with soothing licks and worshipful kisses, then pulled my body back just slightly until I slid out of her and could lay my head down on my chest.
"Happy Anniversary," she whispered as she went back to running her hands through my hair. Now she alternated between long, soft strokes and running her fingernails against my scalp.
I squeezed her in response, not quite feeling in control of my voice yet.
I thought in this room of all rooms I might just find the ability to sleep once again, so complete in my own skin did I feel in that moment. And while, of course, I couldn't, it didn't stop us from laying there, wrapped tight around each other, silently sharing the stillness of the Chicago night, just as if we were lovers who actually could fall asleep from the exertion of our completely satisfying and soul-restoring lovemaking.
As the sun illuminated the blue walls of the room, I whispered words of thanks and love and devotion into the shell of Bella's ear and the curve of her neck as I worshipped her slowly with my body.
When we were done and resting on the floor once again, Bella asked, "So, this is okay? You're okay?"
I looked up at her. "I'm more than okay, Bella. This is…I never expected to come back here." I looked down as I traced patterns on her flat stomach with my fingers. "I was afraid to come back here. I thought…," I glanced back up at her, "I thought I would feel the loss of my humanity too greatly here."
She opened her mouth to speak, a panicked look in her eyes. I reached up and kissed her concern away.
"My fears were unfounded," I said quietly. "Coming here, seeing this house look so much like it did when I was alive, and having you here with me…I remember things I haven't remembered for so long, things I thought were lost. You did so much more than restore this house for me, Bella. You gave me my memories back. My human memories. And while having them is a little sad, it made me remember my mother's love, and my father's pride, and that...."
"What?" she asked softly as she ran her fingers over my forehead, smoothing away the frown lines I could feel there as I struggled through my speech.
"Bella, I'm not that different from what I was then."
Her eyes searched mine for a moment while she considered what I'd said. And then her face broke into a beatific smile. She leaned up and kissed me. "Of course you're not. You're still Edward. I'm so glad you see it now just as all of us always have."
Finally, we pulled ourselves from the floor and collected our clothes and cleaned up. We walked through the house in the full light of day and the sunshine playing in the rooms brought back some additional memories. Each new revelation had me offering a new round of gratitude to Bella. She had really done a first-class job restoring the house.
Back on the first floor, Bella pulled me into my father's study and led me to the roll-top desk where he'd always stored his papers and accounts. There had once been a flat-top desk in the room as well, but that had apparently been lost to time.
"I left this for you to go through," she said. "The papers looked a little fragile, and I didn't want to chance damaging anything before you'd had a chance to look at everything."
As I rolled up the antique top I felt like an archaeologist, unearthing treasures that hadn't been seen since antiquity. Bella and I pulled up chairs and she sat with me as I went through all the drawers and files and nooks in the old desk. Most were mundane house and business accounts, though I still looked at them with awe as they smelled of my father and his tobacco. I smiled at the small framed photograph of my mother in the corner of the desk, proof of my father's feelings for her.
One drawer was locked and I regretted doing it but I had to break it to open it, the key long lost. Inside was a metal document box that I carefully lifted out, and I grimaced as I found it necessary once again to break the locked box to get to its contents.
I sucked in a breath as I realized what I was looking at: birth certificates for myself and my parents. My baptismal record. My parents' marriage certificate and a copy of their wedding invitation.
Bella rubbed my back in reassurance as the significance of the documents settled on us. One of the hardest things for me to adjust to when I was early in this life had been the anonymity of it. Days and weeks could pass without anyone knowing you even existed. It wasn't until Carlisle and I finally settled in one place for the first time that I felt like more than a ghost. I couldn't imagine how Carlisle had spent so long alone as he had done.
Bella smiled at me, some surprise in her eyes and voice at my laughter. "What?"
"I was just thinking…it's stupid, but these records just made me think of The Velveteen Rabbit. Did you ever read that book?"
She nodded. "I always loved that book."
"It was published not long after I was changed though I didn't read it for the first time until much later. And then I never read it again, because it made me sad."
"Because the rabbit only became real with the boy's love. And I felt like I didn't have that kind of love. And being a vampire can make you so invisible."
"And the papers help you feel…real?"
That was my initial thought, the initial reaction I had to the documentary evidence of my life.
But I shook my head. "No, Bella, you make me feel real. You gave me back this house. You gave me these papers. Without you, I'd have never come back here. Never found any of this."
"You are real, Edward. You are my entire reality. And you always will be."
She allowed me the whole day to rediscover the house. It was too sunny to go outside, though I was eager to see what if anything I'd remember of the neighborhood. As we spent the day together, she finally told me the full story of how she'd pulled this off. And I was simply amazed at her, as I always was.
When the late afternoon finally brought clouds across the summer sky, Bella seemed to sigh in relief.
"What is it, love?" I hugged her from behind as she peaked at the front parlor windows.
She turned in my arms and smiled up at me. "We have plans this evening, Edward."
I quirked my eyebrows at her. "More surprises?"
She nodded with a big grin.
"You realize you'll never be able to complain about surprises from me again, right?"
Her grin dropped and I laughed out loud, throwing my head back with the force of my good humor. I looked back down at her smirk and kissed her forehead.
"Yeah, alright. I guess I walked into that one, huh?"
"I'd say so," I said through a continued chuckle. "Okay, then. Why don't we go get showered?" I waggled my eyebrows suggestively and she laughed.
She ran up to the bathroom first while I grabbed our bags from the car. She was already in the shower and I joined her just as she was finishing up.
She stepped out of the shower while I was washing my hair and called from somewhere in the bathroom, "I'm laying clothes out for you in your bedroom. We need to be ready to leave in an hour."
I poked my head out. "Clothes?"
She glanced at me then quickly away, but it was long enough for me to know she once would've blushed. I loved that I could still read her.
"Play along," she said in a sing-song voice as she wrapped herself in a towel and padded out of the room.
What else could she possibly have up her sleeve?
It didn't take me long to find out.
Laying on the bed in my old room was a three piece suit, dress shirt, tie, straw hat, and an elegant walking stick. None of the pieces were modern.
I laughed out loud when I realized what she intended, and my grin widened when I heard her laugh in response in the next room, where she was dressing in secret.
And that made me realize what I was going to see when she stepped out of that door: Bella was going to be dressed as if it was…I glanced down at my own outfit…as if it was the 1910s. It was the very first item on my list, and one of the few entries on it that she'd seen.
God I love her!
I quickly threw on the clothes, smiling at the way the different cut of the clothes felt as I pulled them on. I flipped the hat up off the bed and plopped it on my head, where it fell at a rakish angle I rather liked.
Then I walked out in the hallway to wait.
When I heard her hand on the door, I pushed away from the wall and stood, eager to see my Bella dressed as if movies were still black and white and silent, the rage militaire of World War I still gripped the country, and roadsters and touring cars still dominated the roads.
Her appearance was more than I expected, and I sucked in a breath in wonder as I took her in.
Her gown was youthful and elegant at the same time. The muted red silk accented her curves beautifully and, together with the sheer chiffon bodice and lower skirt and white lace sleeves, perfectly set off the pale creaminess of her skin and dark loveliness of her hair, which was pulled up on the sides and held back with a series of pearl pins.
I went right up to her. "Bella, you are an absolute vision." I grabbed her hand and brought it to my mouth, where I lingered over her delicate knuckles with my lips.
"Thank you, Mr. Masen," she replied.
I couldn't stifle the soft growl that thrummed in my chest. She knew what it did to me when she addressed me formally. I couldn't help but remember our role playing back in our biology classroom, and her dominating me on my black leather couch, and so many other moments when she had submitted to me.
But it also affected me because I knew that she was also using that means of address because it was how we would have addressed one another in my time.
"You're welcome, Miss Cullen." Role playing or not, she was keeping my name. "Well, m'lady, you lead, and I will always follow."
She smiled and looked down, and I marveled at the conundrum of her obvious shyness in a moment when she was once again surprising me by besting me at my own game.
We made our way downstairs and she peered out a front window and then led me to the front door. She smiled as I took in what awaited us: a horse-drawn carriage sat at the curb. One large brown horse, decked out in dark blue decorative halters and reins, pulled a covered shiny white carriage. The driver stood waiting, in a costume of his own, near the door to the carriage.
I don't think the smile on my face ever faded: not as I watched Bella step up into the carriage, not as we rode through the streets of my hometown together, not as we waved to small children in passing cars. It was magical, and I couldn't imagine how nervous I would've been to truly be 17 and courting a woman as special as Bella.
Within forty-five minutes we pulled into Lincoln Park, the huge lakefront park in which I had spent so many family outings during my human life. Bella had the whole evening planned out: we strolled through the zoo, laughed as the animals reacted to us (Bella nearly choked on her laughter when I growled back at a lion), made up stories about why we were dressed the way we were (for a while we were living history interpreters, for a while we were celebrating a theme wedding—the story changed from telling to telling). I bought Bella a stuffed lion to remind her of my prowess against the caged beast and she laughed as she hugged it to her.
Next Bella directed the carriage to drive us to the other end of the park, where the Lincoln Park Conservatory sat surrounded by acres of formal gardens. Again, we strolled through, laughed, talked, and just enjoyed each other's company – just as we would have in another time.
Bella was dazzling. Beautiful. A vision. Wholly captivating.
And once again she'd given me something that I'd never had. While the park, zoo, and conservatory had all been in operation during my life, I'd never had the opportunity to take a woman on a date, to these places or any other.
The late evening air was refreshing as we rode back to the house. She leaned her head against my shoulder and was so still and soft I could've imagined she fell asleep on me, lulled by the gentle rocking motion of the carriage.
When we returned home, I helped her step down and we thanked our driver profusely. He had struck just the right mixture of tour guiding, entertaining conversation, and professional quiet to give us privacy.
Her hand threaded around my arm, we walked up the front path, and I stopped to admire the house I once knew so well from the outside. It had held up remarkably over the years.
Once inside, she led me to the sofa in the parlor, and bade me to wait on her. A few minutes later, she returned with several wrapped gifts.
"Bella, love, what more could there possibly be?" I asked, astounded at the degree of planning and coordination and thought that had gone into every aspect of this trip.
She smiled and set the gifts on the floor in front of me.
I picked the first one up as she sat down. I gasped as the lifted tissue paper revealed what I realized was our family Bible. I saw my mother's handwriting listing the genealogy of my family and ran my fingers across it.
I knew just what needed to be done.
Before Bella could even ask, I had run to my father's study and returned. Pen in hand, I flipped the Bible open.
And here's what I wrote as the very last genealogical entry:
Edward Anthony Masen Cullen m. Isabella Marie Swan, August 13, 2006
"Now it's perfect," she murmured, and I couldn't have agreed more. "Here open this one, next."
The box was large and heavy. I made quick work of the bow and shiny paper and lifted the heavy cardboard lid. There were several large flat objects inside, wrapped in a heavy plain paper. And I couldn't have been more flabbergasted as the beautifully framed portraits of my parents and myself emerged from the wrappings.
"There's a photo album upstairs. It's what we made these enlargements from. And I also made enlargements to take home with us."
I nodded, overwhelmed. The photos lent clarity to my memories. For the first time in a century, the details of my parents' appearance were crystal clear.
"Look at you, Edward," Bella smiled. "Look how cute you were."
She smacked my arm and her playfulness and delight helped lighten the mood.
"Bella, I love…everything. Our time here, every detail that you planned…it's all been perfect. I can't thank you enough."
"You're more than welcome, Edward. I'm so happy that you're happy."
I leaned into her, the portraits flat on my lap. "Happy Anniversary, love."
"Happy Anniversary to you, too."
The kiss was long and lingering and full of love and acceptance and completion.
I carefully set the portraits down. "Now, you're not the only one with a little bit of something up your sleeve," I said through a smile as I rose. "I'll be right back."
Moments later, I reappeared with my own gift in tow. I handed the small box to her. What I had in no way compared to what she had done for me, but I could do nothing but celebrate the success with which she'd pulled off this massive surprise.
"This is ironically fitting," I murmured as she ripped the silver paper away.
"Oh my God, Edward. This is amazing." Bella lifted the ruby and diamond garland-style bracelet out.
"Here, let me help you," I offered. It looked incredible on her wrist. "It was my mother's, Bella. My father gave it to her on their tenth anniversary." I smiled up at her. "I couldn't wait that long."
She smiled as she fingered the precious stones. "I'm honored to have it, Edward."
"And I'm honored to have you wear it, love. And my mother would have been, too. I remember enough now to know that's true, thanks to you."
She kissed me sweetly as she slid the remains of the gift wrap to the floor. Her touch, her taste, set me on fire, and I crushed her against me as I deepened the kiss. She smiled as we kissed when I lifted into my arms bridal style, and made my way across the parlor to the foyer, and from there up the steps.
That night, I worshipped Bella, I adored her, and I made that clear with every touch of my body against hers. And it was everything.
"Hey, where are you?" Bella asked as we crossed over the Vancouver city limits.
"Right here, love. Of course I'm right here." I reached across the seat and grabbed her hand.
"What were you thinking about?" I took in her face as oncoming headlights illuminated it for me.
She smiled. "I love Chicago."
"When do you think we'll be able to live there again?"
"Hmm." After leaving Alaska, our family had split apart for some much-needed alone time. It happened every once in a while. Once it was clear Bella could tolerate the scent of human blood, everyone had been eager to move on from Alaska, but we hadn't been able to agree on one destination. So we took a year to travel on our own before rejoining our family in none other than Chicago. Bella and I lived alone in my, our, house, and she'd finally had her first opportunity to go to university: she finished her first undergraduate degree at Northwestern and loved every minute of it. We'd stayed in Chicago for eight years before our inability to age made any further residence too dangerous. "Well, it's been thirty-six years since we last lived there. Maybe after Vancouver, now that I think of it."
Bella beamed at the thought of being able to return there. "I miss that house."
I smiled broadly. "Our house – that's what I was just thinking of…our fifth anniversary when you'd surprised me with it."
"That was a good one."
"The best," I agreed as I lifted her hand to my mouth and pressed kisses to each of her knuckles.
Minutes passed in companionable silence until we finally pulled into a mile-long driveway that led back to a huge modern home, all grey limestone and expansive windows. It was the biggest house in which the Cullen clan had ever lived, and we were all excited about its amenities: in-ground swimming pool, media room with theater seating, game room complete with pinball and other arcade games, and four separate bedroom suites for each of the couples in the family. The house sat on two hundred acres of prime forested hunting land. It was everything we could have ever wanted.
But, really, I didn't need any of that. As the truck rolled to a stop behind the rest of my family's caravan, I looked to my left. There, I found all I'd ever need: my wife, my partner, my brave little lamb, my beautiful Bella.
Together, we were on to the next adventure in what I hoped would be a very long forever.
I hope you enjoyed hearing a little about what our little Listers were up to during their married life. Please let me know! I'd love hearing from everyone again!
SO, I have some big news to share: I sold my original novel, Forever Freed, to The Wild Rose Press. This is the novel that many of you voted for over at textnovel(dot)com in the fall. I don't have a release date yet, but it won't be until the end of this year at the earliest. I will post information about the book on my profile, and you can also follow me on Facebook (Laura Kamoie) or visit my current website: www(dot)laurakamoie(dot)com. I will be publishing using a pseudonym to separate my nonfiction publications in history from my fiction writings -- and at the moment the leading contender is Laura Kaye. Feel free to give me your two cents on that, as well.