A/N: Thanks for the steady trickle of comments that finally motivated me to finish this story. This is the last of it.

Thanks to my beta Lola84, to Edward'sChipper for recommending the story on Darkest Temptations, and to Ecullenitis for recommending the story on Darkward's Dungeon.

And thanks for reading.

Edward's POV:

I'm not even in my own recurring dream.

Bella is sitting on the couch in black lingerie, cocooned in my white feather duvet. I can't see the television, but I know that she is watching Pride and Prejudice. Her eyes fixed on the screen, she takes a handful of popcorn from a bowl next to her. She does not seem to notice that Jacob's bloodless corpse is holding the bowl. He is decomposing next to her under the blanket, and his arm is limp around her shoulders.

Bella becomes agitated and the screen appears in my mind's eye. It's near the end of the story, and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are walking together in hills saturated with sunshine. Elizabeth says her line: "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once . . ."

Mr. Darcy stops walking, and the soundtrack cuts out in the middle of a swell of strings. I no longer hear the wind rustling the grass or the song of the birds. Mr. Darcy only stands there, motionless, staring without focus or emotion.

Elizabeth repeats his cue. ". . . one word from you will silence me on this subject forever."

But Mr. Darcy does not move or speak, as though he is caught between one moment and the next, as though the world around him is a film and he is only a photograph.

Elizabeth is furious now, and she is trying to shake his solid statue form. "Forever!" she is shouting. "Forever!" She has transformed into Bella; she has been Bella all along. "It's your line!" she yells into Mr. Darcy's frozen distant expression. "You say you love me, always! This isn't how it's supposed to end! Edward, say something!"

I think I wake up in what you'd call a cold sweat, although it's hard to know because my sweat is always cold. I turn over in the vast sea of blankets, rolling into the empty place in the bed next to me. It's no colder than the place where I had been lying.

Before, sometimes when I couldn't sleep I used to listen to the other people in the house, lulled by the organic rhythms of their lungs and hearts. I still listen for Carlisle out of habit before I remember that he is gone, and mine is the only breath left here. In the fall, I could listen to the movements of the neighbors through their open windows, but now the ground is frozen and the windows are closed. Outside, I smell the arrival of snow.

Bella loves snow. I smile, thinking of her waking tomorrow in a freshly white world, but the silence of the house expands within me. There isn't the same comfort in the hum of the fridge or the ticking of the clock. Maybe I should get a dog, I think.

I'm hungry, I realize. When did I eat last? Not remembering, I pad downstairs in my underwear and survey the entire contents of the fridge: a jar of Dijon mustard, a pitcher of orange juice, and a quart of pig's blood. The pig's blood is for convenience; I still hunt when I feel like it, but sometimes it's just not worth the effort. And part of me enjoys the curious looks I get when I show up, twice weekly, to collect it from the butcher's shop.

I'm tired of pig's blood and I'm sick of orange juice. I consider mixing them together for variety, but in the end I pour a glass of each and drink them standing at the counter.

I can't go back to bed. I pick up a book at random, but it's The Old Man and the Sea, which is probably the only book that's as depressing as my life. Usually, when I'm in this kind of mood I play the piano, but tonight I can't focus and even if I could I'm not sure I'd want to express what I feel.

There's the TV in the living room, and a half-finished Music History paper on Mahler on the computer upstairs, but I end up sitting in Carlisle's study doing nothing. Well, not exactly nothing; I'm totally engaged in staring at the wall and missing everybody.

It's not always like this. There are people in the Music program that I consider good friends, and anyway for most of my life I've liked to spend a lot of time on my own. Often a few hours pass—sometimes even a few days go by—without any of it catching up with me. And every time I realize that this—school, the piano, the big, empty house—is all there will be in my life, it gets a little easier to accept.

But there are moments from that day that I can't stop reliving—my long hesitation over Jacob's blood, the sight of Bella's mangled hand—and others, like the moment of Esme's death, that I can no longer picture even when I try.

The day after it all happened, Bella wouldn't let me in when I came to see her. The sight of her empty expression made an ordinary conversation feel impossible. "I came to . . ." To tell you that I love you? To beg you to forgive me for everything I didn't do? ". . . to fix your door, I guess."

"Carlisle's already taken care of everything," she said tonelessly, opening the door just wide enough to let me see its repaired frame. "Anyway, I think I'll probably move out of here as soon as I can." She was leaning on the door, about to close it.

"Look, Bella, I—"

"There's nothing you can say." She looked bitter and drawn, with a tiredness that I had never seen in her eyes before. I wanted to smooth the expression off her face, but I knew better than to touch her. "I've been an idiot, and I let you fuck with my head until now, but I'm not forgetting what I saw last night. After I move, I'd appreciate it—" Her voice broke and she turned away as though she was ashamed to be crying. "I'd appreciate it if you would not try to find out where I live."

"But Bella, I love—"

"I know how you feel about me now, and it's an insult to us both to pretend that it's love." I felt the anger behind her words as physically as a punch in the gut.

She forced herself to look me in the eye. "But if you have any feeling for me at all, I hope you will tell me the truth about this: do you think you can stay away?"

Stay away? I figured out what she meant by the slight tremor in her hand. She was afraid of me—afraid I would stalk her, or break into her house, or worse. Was she right? It would be hell not knowing if she was safe, not being able to see her or smell her, let alone touch her, imagining her in some unknown place with a stranger's hands all over her . . . the monster would be nearly uncontrollable. I could barely control it now.

But it would be far harder to watch paranoia break her spirit, knowing I was the cause. "If that's what you want, then I promise," I said, and I meant it.

She nodded, and her visible relief hurt even more than her anger. "Goodbye, Edward."

Inside, the monster raged and railed like a creature in a cage, but I let her close the door. I stood in the hallway long enough to hear the final click of the lock.

I didn't break the lock and force her to admit her love. I didn't pound on the door until she opened it so I could convince her of mine. All the usual romantic comedy scenarios flashed through my mind—a public serenade, a room full of flowers, a heartfelt declaration of my feelings—but Bella wasn't superficial and none of those would mean anything to her if she didn't trust me. And I had promised to leave her alone.

I don't know if it was courage or cowardice, but I left without trying to change her mind.

I ran from there and didn't stop until I reached a forest, where I lost myself in hunting, killing, and drinking. I remember little from that time—only that my world shrank to the efficient deadly certainty of a predator stalking its prey, and that I relished the screams of the dying animals as an expression of my own pain.

I awoke days later in my bed with my hair full of twigs and my body covered in dirt and animal blood. I must have done some healing in the wilderness, because after a very long, hot shower, I emerged as a nearly functional human being. After that, I went to school and returned home every day like clockwork. Time passed, and I kept going—empty, mechanical, but still moving.

It wasn't the same for Carlisle. He was drunk every day when I came home from school, and still asleep every morning when I left. He was violently angry on some nights, and on others he was in tears. In a way, I think the routine of making him dinner and helping him into bed every night was part of what held me together in the first couple of weeks.

And then I came home one night and, not hearing his presence, I went straight to the study. On the desk where I had found him sleeping the last night and the night before, there was instead a pile of papers. They were mostly official documents—banking records, the deed to the house, with everything transferred to me—but there was also an envelope with my name on it.

My son,

I have made so many mistakes. I have become what I was never meant to be, and orchestrated events that were never meant to happen. At the most crucial moments of my life, I have been weak when I should have been strong, and those I love most have been the ones who have most suffered. Like a thoughtless child, I have in my foolishness destroyed what was dearest to me.

Is it possible to outrun one's self and one's sins? I know only that I can no longer tolerate being the man that I am, or the memories that I have. My hope is that, if I go far enough and fast enough, I might arrive at a clean slate, or an opportunity to do some sort of good that could ease my guilt in at least a small measure. I think—I hope—that you will understand that I see no other way to go on at all.

I will be in touch when I can, and will return to you if ever I can manage it. With the exception of a few things I needed for my travels, I have seen to it that everything I have is now yours.

Know this: few of my decisions have been wise ones, but I have never regretted taking you into our family. You have brought nothing but love to my life, and all the pain I have caused and suffered has been the result of my poor judgement, not yours. We all struggle with ourselves, but do not doubt that you are a good man. I know that Esme would agree with me—the real Esme, who I choose to remember only as she truly was, not as I remade her.

Forgive me for not leaving you in person; this was the only way I could find the strength to do it. I'm afraid it's just another way in which I've failed to be the father you deserve.


I heard from him recently, and he seems to have found a place in Kenya, where he is providing medical care in a camp for Ugandan refugees. He sounded tired speaking over the noisy phone line, but it's good to think of him working again, making his life mean something.

If I had anything to give, I might follow in his footsteps. But I'm not a doctor, and a musician is only any good if there's somebody to listen to him. At least if I haven't done any good, I haven't done any evil either—it's been hard, sometimes unspeakably so, but I've kept my promise to Bella.

Yeah, congratulations to me for not stalking my ex-girlfriend. I should get an award.

I have seen her, but only once. It wasn't on purpose; my friends dragged me to a Halloween party at some seedy club downtown. It was "fetish night," which apparently meant that the whole of Seattle was invited to show up half-dressed in latex and fuck total strangers. How scandalous. I don't really know why I went except that I figured, fuck it, I'm in college, isn't this what people my age are supposed to want to do? It takes a lot to get me drunk, but that night I really managed it.

I was sitting at a booth with this obnoxiously wasted girl draped over me, which was awkward enough except that she was wearing nothing but underwear and cat ears, which kept poking me in the face as she tried to nuzzle my neck. I thought about moving, but I was sluggish with alcohol and her body was warm. I could smell the chemicals that had been used to dye her bright red pigtails, probably earlier that day. She had her hand on my jeans, uncomfortably close to my cock. "You know, I'm a very kinky girl," she whispered in a voice I'm sure she thought was positively dripping with seduction. The monster had begun to think I should show her how very much she had to learn when I noticed the door opening at the far corner of the room.

Bella walked in. The floor-length black dress she was wearing made her by far the most fully clothed woman in the place, but it captured every perfect curve. When I saw that she was wearing my collar, my heart leaped and my cock swelled simultaneously before I understood what it meant.

The collar was attached to a leash, and the leash was in a hand I didn't recognize. It was some guy with a couple of muscles who thought he was all that in a pair of leather pants. He spiked his blond hair, and I could smell his cologne over all the other unpleasant party odours—floral essence of paint thinner with a hint of octogenarian. What a fuckwad.

And he was walking my Bella wearing my collar like they fucking belonged to him, smiling like he owned the whole fucking place. I wanted to crush every part of his body that had touched her, and then I'd pop his eyes for looking.

The drunk bitch next to me had taken out my cock and was stroking it. Whatever. It felt okay. Maybe I'd kill him from the inside—shove my arm down his throat and see if I could break his spine before he choked to death. Or maybe I'd tie him to something and watch him bleed out from a hundred tiny bites. This douchebag wasn't even worth drinking.

But Bella . . . the skin of her neck was white and paper-thin next to the slender straps of that dress and the leather collar rubbing against her throat. I grabbed the fake redhead by her cat ears and shoved her head into my lap. She gagged on my length and then moaned in pleasure. Both felt equally good. Bella's dress had these long slits that ran almost to the top of her thighs. Her legs were bare underneath, flickers of skin showing coyly as she walked. It would be nothing to pull on the front of that dress enough to tear all the way up those slits and expose her completely, every pore available to my all-possessing eyes. I'd throw her to the ground and drink from the spot on her thigh that almost showed each time she took a long stride. I could keep her down with one hand holding both delicate wrists, my other hand free to search every sweet curve of her body . . .

She saw me and her eyes widened like she was a deer who'd noticed just as I was about to pounce. I met her gaze before I could hide the naked want that I'm sure was showing in my face. She grew impossibly more pale, and it was only when her sight flicked toward my lap that I remembered the lush with her lips wrapped around my cock. What the fuck was she doing there? It should be you, I thought, my whole body singing with want for Bella, and I opened my mouth to say—what? This girl is nothing; I don't even know her name? She doesn't matter; nothing can ever matter without you?

She turned and whispered something to the fuckwad she came in with, her full lips almost touching the diamond in his pierced ear. He nodded, and they were leaving together. I tried to memorize every detail of her body as she turned away from me—enough to last for months of fantasy if it took that long before I saw her again.

I can't go after her, I promised . . . I grabbed the redhead by the pigtails and fucked her face until she started to struggle. I pushed her away roughly, but not as roughly as I wanted to. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I think I said it over and over as I straightened her cat ears, caressed her shoulders awkwardly, and staggered through the mass of warm bodies and out into the glow of a sickly yellow streetlight. The cold, crisp air woke me from my stupor and gave my thoughts a degree of clarity that I really could have done without.

At home that night, my need for Bella grew past the point that my body could contain it. To keep myself in the house—to keep myself from breaking my promise to her—I played her lullaby in a continuous loop, for hours without stopping.

It was easier to play up to the point that I had played it for her the afternoon I introduced her to Esme. But after that, every chord came with the knowledge that she would never hear it—and that I'd never even told her I'd written it for her.

But it was still some comfort, playing my love into the same Seattle night where, somewhere, Bella was. And with each repetition, the music expanded, as I found in it the seeds of other movements that spoke my despair, my fantasies, and the violence of my longing. Those movements were, for the following weeks, my distraction and my solace in the treacherous hours between classes and sleep. The lullaby became the centre of a sonata made to hold all the passion that overflowed when I was alone.

I played the finished work a couple of weeks ago at the semester-end student honours concert. I was nervous as hell, but I forced myself onstage and played all forty-five soul-bearing minutes of the Sonata for Bella. The crowd gave me a standing ovation, and I thought by the tears in their eyes that maybe some of them had understood me. But I scanned the crowd for the only audience that mattered, and I knew she was not there. I didn't even realize I'd hoped for it until I felt despair advance and swallow me again.

I'm such a fucking girl sometimes.

Swivelling in Carlisle's giant office chair, I see that the snow is falling pretty hard for Seattle. The ground is as flat and white as an empty page, and the snow absorbs the sounds of the night, eliminating echoes. The stillness frames the rhythmic crunch of footsteps . . .

Footsteps that scuff in the icy driveway, then sound on the hollow steps of the front door. Has Carlisle returned? Has one of my crazy friends shown up to kidnap me for some middle of the night adventure?

I won't admit it to myself, but I'm certain that it's Bella. The same way I've been certain every time I've answered the door for the past three months, surprising postal workers, pizza boys, and girl scouts with a deranged look of crushed desperation I've now perfected.

When I open the door this time, she is there.

Her hand is on the doorbell. A miracle—Bella is here, in the flesh and blood. Beautiful, my whole body whispers, and I feel a flutter of joy that I can't suppress, not even by reminding myself that she isn't mine anymore. I wonder briefly if she is real, but I know that I can't touch her in case she is. If she's an illusion, it's a good one, solid, and smelling of sugar and snow. There are snowflakes in her hair and her skin is red with the cold.

Say something, you idiot. "Bella." She doesn't have a jacket, so I ask her to come inside. I move awkwardly out of the way and close the door behind her. She starts to drip in the warmth of the foyer, and I want to wipe the water off her forehead.

I want to take her in my arms and kiss her until she promises to never leave this house—so badly that I almost do—but I doubt that's what she came for. Instead, I ask her if she would like a blanket.

She doesn't acknowledge my words. "I'm sorry to bother you like this," she says. "I don't know why I came; I just have to know."

She's pulled the sleeves of her hooded sweater down to cover her hands, but I can see that she's clutching a wet lump of orange paper. She holds it out in my direction. "I have to know why you would do this."

I take the paper from her. I try to be delicate, but I can't uncrumple it without tearing. I recognize it, though—it's the program from the honours concert. Edward Cullen, Second Year. Sonata for Bella. "Why I would write music for you?"

"Why you would put my name in the title of something like this. People are talking about it, Edward. My roommate's going on and on about how this guy at Cornish is going to be the next fucking Debussy, and then I find out that it's you and you use my name . . . I thought I was over you by now, but then you have to go and put my name at the top of your fucking masterpiece, and it just doesn't make sense when I know I don't mean a single thing to you!"

"You mean everything." I almost whisper it; I can hardly breathe, I'm so close to hope. She said, "I thought I was over you" . . . does that mean she isn't? "I named it for you because I wrote it for you. It was the only way to express . . . how I feel."

"Are you ever going to stop lying to me? I don't even see what you're getting out of it now, when I know you don't mean what you say. I should never have come." She sounds frightened, as though she knows she's on the edge of something. She seems about to turn away—no, not yet, you just came in—and then, instead, she asks in a resigned voice, "Can I hear it?"

I realize that I have been leaning towards her, fighting myself not to restrain her from departure. "Of course you can. It's yours."

I guide her to the living room, ever so careful not to touch her. I sit down at the piano, feeling as taut as the highest string. What she doesn't understand? What if I fuck it up? If I don't, could it convince her . . . to change her mind?

I shut out the questions swarming in my head and I play, and it sounds better than it ever has before. It's the essence of a soft caress, a whisper trickling toward the heady throb of passion, then breaking apart into heartache's tumultuous roar. It crescendos to a pinnacle of joy, and it says what I most want to say: even considering the pain that comes with it, loving you is the greatest gift of my life.

I can't bear to listen for Bella's movements or her changes in breath as I am playing, so when I play the final notes and turn to look at her, I do not know what to expect. I swivel on the piano bench so I'm facing her on the couch a few feet away.

She looks stunned. In my mind, I trace the small gap between her lips. The orange glow of a streetlight makes a halo in her damp hair. The leather creaks slightly as she moves.

"It's the lullaby, isn't it?" she breathes.


"You wrote it for me."


"But you don't . . . you were going to let Esme kill me, she said you wanted to kill me yourself, and then I saw you with that girl . . ." I want to kiss the bewildered crease from her forehead.

I want to give her some kind of explanation that will undo it all—something to say other than yes, you're right, I failed you. "Esme didn't know what she was talking about—she thought that every vampire was as crazy as she was, but I have never, ever wanted to do anything except protect you." You have to believe that, at least. "And, God, I wanted to save you, of course I did, but crazy or not she was my mom, and I just—no matter how much I love you, I just couldn't end her life for anything. And I know what it looked like, but I have to believe that if Carlisle hadn't come—"

"It's okay," she says gently. "When I saw you drooling over Jacob's blood, and I was in so much pain, I thought you were just like her, only better at hiding it, and you were going to let her murder me because you really didn't care. But it was the opposite, wasn't it? You didn't care too little about me, you cared too much about her."

I'm glad I'm physically incapable of shedding the knot of tears that's formed in my throat. "That's very charitable of you," I croak dryly.

She doesn't answer, and as we sit there the night becomes big and quiet. I fidget with the piano keys, and flick a speck of dust off middle C. She glances around the room, and I can see she's noticing that everything is put away; even the novel I'd picked up earlier is resting precisely against the edge of the coffee table. It looks like nobody lives in the house.

Finally, she speaks. "That girl you're with now, what's her name?"

"What? You mean Cat Ears?"

She raises an eyebrow at me. "She wears them all the time?"

"I don't know," I admit, trying not to meet her eyes. "I only saw her the once."

"Oh," she says, and I smile because she is smiling.

I want to cling to the hope that's blossoming in me, but I know that will only make it harder in the end, so I ask what I have to ask. "You have someone now, though, right? The guy you were with that night."

"Oh, no, not anymore. It didn't work out with Jayne."

"His name is Jane? No wonder he was such a fuckwad."

She giggles. "With a y, dumbass."

"You were wearing my—I mean, you had a collar."

Now it's her turn to look embarrassed. "I guess I wanted to feel the way I had with you before . . . everything happened." Her blush is so delicious that I can't help mentally reliving a few of those moments—a drop of blood touching her collarbone, her hand raking the wall in passion, the trust in her eyes at the second of release . . . "You know. It wasn't the same though—it was a just game to him, but it was real to me."

That means they had sex. It's over now, I say to myself, firmly stamping out the rage before it can distort my judgement. Think about that later—this is too important. "So you're not with anyone now?"

"No," she says, and it seems like she's waiting for me to say something. I feel like the whole of my future is hanging on the words I choose next, and none of them are good enough. My world is empty without you. You were meant for me. I will always love you. Can't I think of one good line that isn't from a fucking pop song?

The light in her eyes starts to fade and I realize that she's interpreted my silence as rejection, so I blurt out the next thing that comes into my head: "I don't know if I can do this anymore—not having you in my life."

Her smile is as bright and clear as water in a desert. "Me neither," she says.

"Is that . . . a yes?" I don't know if I'm asking because I don't believe it, or if it's just because I want to hear her say it again.

"I don't know, what's the question?" She gives an almost perfect impression of absolute innocence—except for the coy smirk she can't quite hide. She looks like she needs a spanking, the monster suggests helpfully.

"Will you take me back?"

She puts a finger in her mouth in pretend deliberation, and I want to be that finger. "Yes," she says.

The most beautiful sentence that's ever been spoken in the history of the English language, and it's one fucking word long.

She shivers involuntarily. "Your clothes are still wet—you must be freezing." I'd forgotten how easily people get cold.

"Oh, no, I'm fine," she says, but I can see she's lying. "I am kind of hungry, though."

"At least let me get you a dry sweater. I don't have a lot of food, but see if there's anything you like in the kitchen."

We stand up at the same time, and it narrows the space between us enough that my desire to touch her becomes almost too much to endure. I can hear by the beat of her heart that she feels it too. You can't just jump her like an animal, I remind myself, although the monster thinks that's exactly what I should do. "I'll be right back," I say to break the spell.

When I return with my Cornish sweatshirt, she is standing at the kitchen counter with a half glass of orange juice and a package of vanilla oreos. "Since when do you eat oreos?" she asks.

"They're the ones I bought for you." You opened them three months and twenty-two days ago.

"Oh. Well." She pushes the cookies aside, smiling. "This is really good orange juice."

"I, uh, brought your sweater." Her hand brushes mine when she takes it from me, and I can't remember the last time I was touched before this. I'm suddenly, embarrassingly hard.

When she takes of her own hoodie, her wet shirt clings to it, exposing the slight inward curve of her stomach, and the shadows play across her perfect light skin.

That will be mine again. I want to mark her there—to bite into the sensitive flesh right above her hip, or just press my hands into that skin until it bruises. Now. Take her right there on the counter. You can smell that she wants it. I fight myself to stay perfectly still—I just convinced her I wasn't a monster, and I'm not about to ruin it all now.

She turns her back to put on my sweatshirt. It's one I wore yesterday, and I let slip a low growl of approval as I smell her scent mingling with mine. She hears it and freezes, her heart racing.

"Shit, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you." Already, I'm fucking this up.

"I'm not frightened." As she turns, I notice her arousal in the air, and I know that she's telling the truth this time. "Actually," she says, "I think it's warm enough in here." That one's a lie, but I let it slide because she takes off the sweater and her wet white t-shirt is clinging to the outline of her bra. Should I peel it off slowly, or just tear it from her body?

I take a step toward her and then stop myself.

"It's okay to come closer, you know."

"I'm afraid of what I might do." Jesus, when did I learn to be so damn honest?

"I already told you, I'm not afraid." There's a glint in her eyes that I recognize, and I start to panic.

"If I—If I touch you, it's not going to be any different from how it was before. The monster will take over, and I won't be in control and I'll hurt you. And it will remind you of—of what happened—"

"No, it won't. You're nothing like her. I want you to touch me." She comes to me, and places her hand deliberately on my chest. "I trust you."

It's so small and warm, I press it into my body with my own hand, trapping it against me. My heart is thrashing under the heat of her fingers. "What if I hurt you? What if I'm cruel?"

"What if that's what I want?" She takes a deep breath, and then she whispers, "Sir." The word strikes me so powerfully I'm afraid I'll break her hand.

You knew she was yours, says the monster. The little control I have left is slipping fast, so while I still can I slide my hand around the back of her neck and meet her lips in a long, soft kiss, as gentle as I can manage.

And then I bite her lip, drawing blood. I suck it hard to keep up the flow, swabbing at the coppery sweetness with my tongue. It's heaven, and from the way her nails are raking against the back of my neck, I know she's there with me. She's moaning into my mouth, and I swear that I can taste the vibrations.

Later, there will be time to tie her to my bed and open every secret of her body. Then, I will spend hours touching and reclaiming all the parts of her that I have already memorized. Later, she will relearn the stinging kiss of leather from my hand, and I will caress her curves with the drip of candle wax. She will beg me for pleasure then. Later, I will buy her a collar that no other hand has ever touched, and she will kneel before me to receive it.

But now—now, our bodies are so nearly touching that I can feel her human heat through the space between us, and I have wanted that warmth for so long. I sink to my knees, pulling her down with me, and pin her beneath me against the kitchen floor. I press the whole length of my body against her, savouring the feel of her hot and yielding form, trapped between me and the unforgiving tiles.

She moans, pressing her core against me, and I can't stand that I'm not already inside her. I use my teeth, sparing her skin, to tear her jeans apart so I can slide in, where she is wet and warm, blossoming with want. She shudders as I enter her, and I let her wrap her slender arms around me. The sweet slide of her fingers down my back keeps me from dissolving, anchors me as I wrap myself in her body's gentle surrender.

There is a red handprint on her arm where I have been holding her down, and her shoulder blades are bruising against the floor as I pound into her small frame. Her breathing signifies a quick orgasm, so I bite her in the soft place beneath her jaw—where the mark will show.

Bella's blood tastes the same as it always has, of dark chocolate and Christmas spice. It throbs with a nighttime rhythm, and it dazzles my tongue like sunlight. It tastes as clear as courage, and it flows like a strong will freely given. It's as sweet as freedom, and satisfying as home.

Bella's POV:

I wake up into a white world. I'm wrapped in a fluffy white duvet, and Edward's white curtains are open so I can see the pristine, snow-covered branches of the tree outside his window, standing against the snowy sky. Even Edward's arm is pale, trapping me and the duvet in a vice-like hug from which there could be no escape. Fortunately, I'm perfectly happy where I am.

With Edward. I'm still disoriented. After the night with Esme, I'd relived in my mind every minute of my relationship with him, reinterpreting everything with the new knowledge that his love for me was a lie. Before, I would never have really believed that any person, let alone Edward, could be capable of that level of manipulation, but over the course of that night I learned from Esme that monsters are real. She seemed so sure that Edward was like her, and there was so much evidence that I had to believe it.

It feels so good to be wrong. It's also confusing; now I'm mentally rewriting the story of our relationship again, sorting through all the romantic gestures and beautiful moments that I'd had to convince myself were fake, knowing again that they all were genuine.

Not that Edward's perfect. He can be irrational, jealous, controlling, and sometimes a little frightening, and I'll never forget how hard it was for him to resist drinking Jacob's blood that night. But he's also passionate, generous, and devoted—and I believe, now, that he loves me as much as I love him. Will that be enough to keep us together despite everything that's happened, and whatever lies ahead?

Edward, waking, smiles at me and brushes a feather from my cheek. I meet his glowing eyes, and think it might.

Please do review! And if you like, put me on author alert - I'll probably post some shorter stories in the future (ones I can finish all at once so I won't leave you hanging).

Bye for now.