Title: I Carry Your Heart with Me
Author: Amethyst Jackson
Category: Drama, Romance
Summary: AU, pre-Twilight. Bella volunteers to give Renee some alone time with her new boyfriend and spend the summer in Forks. She doesn't count on meeting Edward, the sexy and soulful musician.
Disclaimer: I don't own any part of the Twilight saga, especially not Edward. I mean, if I did own Edward, I probably wouldn't share him with the rest of you. ;-D
A/N: This was written for the Summer Smutdown fest held by BritishBitches. Head to their profile to see all the stories.
Why had I volunteered to spend my summer in Washington? Oh, right, because my mom and her new boyfriend needed some privacy – re: I didn't want to walk in on them doing the deed. Yick.
I wondered if the safety of my delicate retinas was worth the two months of searing boredom that was Forks. I would have to find something to pass the time.
I loved Charlie, but as much as we were similar, we were also completely different. Charlie and I were both quiet, loners. He needed little more in life than a cold beer and a fishing pole. Unfortunately, for all that I loved to be left alone with a good book, I didn't so much share in any of Charlie's hobbies. ESPN bored me to tears, and I lacked a love of the outdoors. That was probably why I'd always preferred staying with Renee. She drove me insane, sure, but she did keep me busy and entertained.
As we pulled up to the old house in the police cruiser, I noticed an old truck parked in the driveway.
"Whose is that?" I asked, wondering if Charlie was expecting anyone. Man, I hoped he wasn't throwing me some welcome-home-surprise-party sort of thing. That didn't seem like Charlie's style, though…more like something Renee would do.
"I – uh – I borrowed it off Billy Black. His son, Jacob, fixed her up, but neither one of them has any use for it, so I thought maybe you could use it while you're here."
"Thanks," I said, touched by his thoughtfulness. It would be nice to be able to get around without Charlie's assistance.
Rather than sit around in the house all day while Charlie watched baseball, I went to the sparse "downtown" area. I explored a little before I visited the grocery store, but there wasn't much to see. I thought I might have hit the jackpot when I saw the stacks of flyers in the town diner, but most of them ended up being for things like PTA meetings and the Boy Scouts. I did, however, find one gem advertising a performance in some bar in Port Angeles this Saturday. Some local named Edward Cullen. I resolved to go, just for something to do. He might turn out to be awful, but maybe I could find a good bookstore in Port Angeles while I was there. Books could fill a decent amount of time. That would be good.
I hit the grocery store and bought enough to cook with for a good two weeks. An initial survey of the kitchen at Charlie's wasn't promising.
The rest of the week passed much in the same boring fashion. While Charlie worked, I cleaned the house from top to bottom, watching hours of pointless television, and prepared dinners. I was so, so bored.
I was a little too excited when Saturday came, so much so that I decided to spend the entire day in Port Angeles, half of which I spent in a used bookstore, scouring all the titles. I bought enough reading material to last the month, at least.
I spent a few hours in the Starbucks reading and people-watching in the afternoon. I grabbed a sandwich for dinner and sat in a park eating – some of it went to the pigeons. Finally, it was nearly time for the show. I stood in a rather short line outside the bar before I paid my entrance fee and got my hand marked with a big X to signal my lack of legal drinking age. Not that I would have wanted to drink anyway. I found an out-of-the-way corner to watch from. I had a decent view of the stage.
Twenty minutes after this Edward Cullen was scheduled to start, he stepped on stage, and I was knocked breathless. He was…gorgeous. Truly beautiful. Even from here, I could tell his eyes would be gorgeous up close…his face was a perfect construction – strong, masculine jaw offset by soft, plump lips; a long, slightly crooked nose; heavy brows that gave him a brooding look…his hair was an unruly mop of bronze and copper, standing up as though he'd been nervously running a hand through it all night, as he did now.
And his body, too, was perfect, by my estimation. Tall and lean, his black t-shirt hugged his chest and lifted as he raised the strap of his guitar over his head, revealing a shiver of skin above his low-hanging jeans, a sliver of skin stretched over perfect hips, the most excellent specimen of the male pelvis I had ever seen. And then his large, long-fingered, elegant hands wrapped around the guitar. His forearms flexed as he began to play.
And my heart stopped at the sound of his voice. It was deep and husky, caressing the melody like a lover. I couldn't even process the words he sang, only the amazing tone of his voice as his fingers strummed the guitar.
I watched him perform, riveted. He played with such emotion, infusing every note with meaning. As a musician, he was versatile, playing several songs on the guitar before moving to a piano to the side of the stage. He moved through an up-tempo song, playing with all his body, before slowing down for a heart-wrenching number, and then sliding into a piece so sensual that I was clenching my legs together on the stool where I sat.
He finished his show with two more songs on guitar. I was fascinated by the movement of his lips as he sang, the way they shaped around the words and lightly brushed the mike from time to time. God, his voice…the deep timbre raised goose bumps on my skin.
He finished to a round of applause from the audience and flashed a beautiful smile, showing off dimples that were somehow sexy rather than cute and teeth white enough to put Ben Affleck to shame.
He slipped backstage, and the crowd dispersed, mostly heading to the bar, some beginning to dance to the music coming from overhead.
I loitered for some reason, even though there was nothing left for me here. What was I thinking, that he would miraculously appear again? His show was over. He had no reason to stay, either, except maybe to hook up with one of the pack of blonde vultures that had been flaunting their cleavage by the stage.
"Penny for your thoughts," a voice said from behind me.
I jumped and turned around to see a young blonde boy, probably my age. He was holding a beer, even though he was clearly to young to drink, and he had the same black X on his right hand that I did.
"I'm Mike Newton," he went on, not waiting for the thoughts he'd asked for. "Did you come to watch Edward?"
"You know him?" I asked, latching onto that statement and conveniently forgetting to give him my name.
"Yeah, we go to school together. Or we did. He just graduated."
"Really?" I was genuinely surprised. Edward had handled himself onstage like someone much older, someone mature beyond his years. I couldn't imagine him being just a couple years older than me.
"Yeah, good old Forks High," Mike rambled on. "His dad is a surgeon at the hospital. Everyone thought Edward would be off to med school, too, since he was so smart, but he's not going to college at all. Trying to make it as a musician instead." Mike shook his head as if that was the craziest thing he'd ever heard.
"I think he could make it." Hell, I'd give anything for a recording of that voice to listen to all the time…
"Hmm, well, he's – oh, hey, there he is," Mike said, sounding less than pleased. I looked over my shoulder and saw him coming right toward us. My heart pounded erratically in my chest.
"Hey, Mike." His voice was mesmerizing. He looked to me with a friendly smile. "Who's your friend?"
I waited dumbly for Mike to introduce me until I realized he had no idea who I was. "Bella Swan," I said, sticking out my hand stupidly.
He took it with a raised eyebrow. "Chief Swan's long lost daughter? I heard you were coming for the summer. I'm Edward Cullen."
I blushed. Damned small-town gossip. "Uh, yeah. Charlie's my dad."
"Something chase you out of Phoenix? It is Phoenix, right?" he asked, smirking a little. I resisted the need to swoon.
"Yes, Phoenix, but what makes you say that?" I asked him. I was vaguely aware of Mike fidgeting impatiently in my periphery, but all my attention was on Edward.
"Well, you haven't been up in years, according to the grapevine. I figured nothing had changed to suddenly make Forks a vacation hotspot."
"Touché," I had to agree. "Yeah…my mom started dated this guy, and it's getting pretty serious."
Edward's face turned thoughtful. "You don't like him?"
"Oh, no," I hasted to correct him. "No, he's fine. I just don't need to walk in on my mom making out, you know?"
Edward laughed. "So what brings you to Port Angeles tonight?"
I blushed again. "I saw your fliers, actually, and I needed something to do anyway, so I thought I'd check you out." I turned redder as I realized what I'd said. "Your music, I mean. Check out your music."
He chuckled again. God, this Apollo-come-to-life was standing here talking to me, and I was making an ass out of myself. With a witness, too.
"Well, what did you think, Bella?" he asked, smiling slightly and boring his intense eyes into mine. I could see now they were forest green.
"About what?" I asked dazedly. What had we been talking about?
"About the music. You know, that you were checking out," he teased.
"Oh, right. It was great. I mean, you were great – the way you play," I was gushing, and I didn't care. "I've never seen someone with so much intensity before."
It was hard to tell in the dim lighting, but I was pretty sure he was blushing now. "Thanks, Bella. No one has ever said anything remotely like that to me before."
"I find that hard to believe," I scoffed. "You're amazing."
"Not many people seem to think so," he shrugged. "Can I buy you something to drink? I mean, it'll have to be a coke, since everyone here knows I'm still seventeen."
"You're only seventeen?" I gaped. He really did not act or look his age, at all.
"Eighteen this month, but yeah. What about you?"
"Seventeen in September," I replied. He smiled again.
"So how about that Coke?" he suggested again.
"Yeah, sure." Anything to keep talking to this god among mortals.
"Wait here," he instructed. Only when he was out of my sight did I realize Mike had left to chat up another girl. At least he wasn't too disappointed by my indifference to him.
Edward returned with two glasses and handed one to me.
"Thanks," I said, taking a careful sip through the straw. The last thing I needed now was Coke all down my front.
"So what do you typically like to listen to, Bella?"
I had always gotten funny looks when I answered this question, due to my less than conventional taste, but I didn't think I had to worry about that with a musical genius. I was more worried he would think I was a tasteless idiot. "Anything but rap, really, although I don't care for much pop music. I listen to a lot of classical…I tend to prefer artists who have a strong creative perspective."
He smiled broadly. "It's like you're inside my head. Who's your favorite composer?"
"Hard to say…I suppose I like the Romantics. More expressive. Maybe Fauré?"
"Mmm, good choice. I like to take it a step further myself. Have you listened to many Modernists? Very innovative."
We talked and talked for hours about music, then books and movies, all our influences, until the bartender announced last call and Edward offered to walk me to my car.
"It's a pretty tame town, but there are a lot of inebriated men here tonight."
"Okay, thanks." I let him lead me outside into the cool night air, happy for any excuse to extend out time together.
"Thanks for coming tonight, by the way," he told me. "Not a lot of people want to take a chance on someone they've never heard of."
"Well, they should," I said. On Edward, at least, because he was absolutely amazing. "Oh, this is mine."
Edward looked at the rusty truck and raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"Well, it's borrowed," I admitted, "for the summer."
"Nice," he chuckled as I unlocked my door. Once open, he gave me his hand to help me in, which was nice, because I could see myself falling flat on my face in front of him, and that would be…utterly mortifying.
Once I was safely seated, he hesitated. I didn't have time to prepare myself before he swooped in and pressed his lips gently to mine. He was slow to pull away, giving me all the more time to feel the electric shocks pulsing through me at the touch of his mouth. I'd only been kissed once before – someone had dared the resident glue-eater to kiss me at the seventh grade dance; I'd never imagined he would have the stones to actually do it – but I instinctively knew that this was how it was supposed to feel.
He pulled back. I wanted to hold him to me, but I couldn't make my arms move.
"I hope we'll see each other again soon," he said softly, drinking me in with his too-intense eyes.
I swallowed and forced a nod. "Me too."
I was still daydreaming about Edward over lunch on Monday when the phone rang.
"Bella?" I knew the voice instantly, of course. I couldn't get it out of my head.
"How did you get my number?" I asked without thinking.
"Well, your father is listed in the phonebook…I'm sorry, I should have asked if it was okay if I called…"
"No, no, it's okay. I was just surprised to hear from you."
"You think I kiss a lot of girls I never plan on speaking to ever again?" He was teasing. Turnabout was fair play.
"My mother did warn me about musicians," I joked. "You're probably up to all kinds of sordid activities behind closed doors. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll and all that."
He laughed. "Yeah, in bed by midnight and spending my Sunday mowing the lawn. I'm a real rebel without a cause."
"Mowing the lawn?"
Edward chuckled. "Yeah, my father's had me doing it for years. Something about responsibility and a work ethic."
"And how is that working out for you?"
"I became a musician, remember?"
I laughed. "So, um…not that I mind, but why were you calling?"
"Well…" he began with a deep breath, "I wanted to ask you out on a date, but my dilemma is that I would very much like to see you right now. Would you like to…hang out…or something?"
He wanted to see me. And he was fumbling around about it like he was nervous. This was surreal.
"I'd really like that," I told him.
"Great." It sounded like he was smiling. "Would you like to come to my house?"
"Okay, sure." It probably wasn't wise to go to the home of someone I hardly knew, but I couldn't not trust Edward. Besides, if he had less than noble intentions, I wasn't sure I would be arguing with him. "Where do you live?"
"Why don't I come and pick you up? Our house is in the middle of nowhere; it's hard to find."
"Okay," I agreed again.
"I'll be there in a few minutes then."
"Wait, don't you need to know where I live?"
Edward chuckled. "Phonebook, remember?"
After I hung up with Edward, I raced upstairs to change out of the ratty sweats I'd put on this morning. I scoured my sparse vacation wardrobe, wishing suddenly that I was more of a girl. I'd never given a whole lot of thought to my appearance; there was never anyone to impress.
Edward turned up approximately six minutes after he called. In that time, I had settled on denim shorts and a halfway decent violet top. I had also left a note for Charlie saying I was out with a "new friend." He didn't need to know the gender of said friend.
"Hi," he greeted me with a grin.
"Hi." My voice was irritatingly breathy.
"You ready to go?"
"Oh, right." I had forgotten what we were doing again. "Yeah, let's go." I locked the door behind me and followed him to a silver Volvo parked in the driveway.
He opened the passenger door for me. I'd never seen a man do that before, except in old movies. "Hop in."
The drive to his house took longer than it had taken for him to get to mine. I could only surmise that he had been speeding. Was he that eager to see me?
His house was in the middle of nowhere. I pretended to survey the scenic surroundings, but out of the corner of my eye, I surveyed him. He was dressed casually – sandals on his feet, frayed jeans, a blue plaid shirt hanging open over a white t-shirt, and sunglasses to guard against today's rare burst of sunshine.
It was like someone had pulled everything I wanted – and everything I never knew I wanted – in a man and combined it to make Edward. I'd never seen anyone look so good with so little effort. Hell, Brad Pitt would never work again if Hollywood discovered this creature.
"Here we are." The drive suddenly emerged from the trees to reveal a magnificent house, the kind of place that would put Martha Stewart to shame. Of course, the perfect man would live in a perfect house.
Edward smiled fondly. "My mother spends hours and hours poring over books on architecture and design. My father let her do whatever she wanted with the house; he didn't realize he had unleashed a monster."
"Are you the only child?" I wondered out loud. It was a huge house for only three people.
"No, I have a brother and a sister. Emmett is two years older – he's having so much fun at college that he didn't come home for the summer. Alice is two years younger – yeah, we're perfectly spaced. I don't know if she'll be around at all. She spends all her time with her boyfriend, Jasper, who just got home from his first year at college."
Edward was leading me up the front steps by this point. He held open the door and gestured me in. Walking into the living room was like walking into a Better Homes and Gardens spread. Everything was perfectly chosen and perfectly placed, coordinating in harmony without exactly matching. My eyes fell on a beautiful grand piano by the window.
"No wonder you play so well, with this to practice on," I commented with a wave in the piano's direction. Edward grinned.
"Yeah, I started taking lessons as soon as I was old enough to stay upright on the bench, it feels like. I was the only one it worked on. Emmett and Alice couldn't sit still that long."
I smiled and drifted over to run my fingers over the keys. "I always wish I had learned. …Will you play me something?"
"Sure. What are you in the mood for?" He sat at the bench and tugged me down beside him.
He thought for a moment and began a soft, classical piece that would flow in gentle waves and suddenly swell with longing. It was as though he pulled the notes straight from my heart; it was so perfectly in tune with my feelings in that moment.
"How was that?" he asked after the last note died away.
"Perfect. Exactly the right thing to play. Why did you choose it?"
He smiled wistfully. "It suited my mood."
My heart leapt and stuck in my throat.
"Would you like to go up to my room?" he asked cautiously. "It's okay if you don't feel comfortable with that. It's just that my CD collection is up there, and –"
"It's okay, Edward," I interrupted, touched by his sudden shyness. "I'm thoroughly convinced by now that you're a delinquent musician who has never properly taken advantage of a girl in his life."
He gave a surprised laugh. "Come on, then. Let me show you my den of no sin."
He took my hand and led me up two flights of stairs, up to the third floor. His room was at the very end of the hallway.
The interior was unexpected. It was decorated in shades of gold and black. Gold carpet, curtains, and bedspread were offset by the black sofa, wrought-iron bed frame, and shelves. Shelves which were completely filled with CDs. Next to the shelves sat an elaborate sound-system. His guitar case sat propped against a black dresser.
I turned my eyes back to the shelves. "Man, when you said 'CD collection' I was picturing your average, everyday CD tower."
He laughed and rubbed his neck sheepishly. "Yeah…music is my obsession."
"So I see. That's all right, my book collection is nearly as bad." I browsed the cases, seeing a few familiar names.
"Anything you'd like to listen to?"
"Surprise me," I suggested.
"Hmm." He had a contemplative, almost determined look on his face as he selected a CD as though it were a life-or-death decision. It was…cute. I was beginning to understand how he saw the world – in shades of sound, melodies and harmonies. Any selection of music, for him, would have to be carefully chosen to be in perfect accord with his surroundings and his moods.
"I like this," I commented as the music came on. He sprawled out on one end of his couch, his long legs spread.
"I thought you might."
I curled up on the other end of the couch, keeping a safe distance, lest I suddenly start tearing his clothes off. It was a real danger.
"So tell me more about you, Bella," he said suddenly. "All I know is that you live in Phoenix with your mother and have good taste in music."
I shrugged. "Not much to tell, really. I'm not exactly a social butterfly. It's mostly just school and home…but taking care of my mom is like a full-time job sometimes."
"Really?" he snorted. "How so?"
"She's a kid at heart," I explained. "Always onto the next thing, wants to do everything but can't commit to anything. She can't cook to save her life."
Edward looked thoughtfully at me. "So who takes care of you?"
"I do," I answered uncomfortably.
"Hmm. You're not like anyone I've ever met, Bella." That seemed to perplex him so much that I had to laugh.
He continued that intense, probing stare as he began to lean forward, breaching the space between us on the couch. As though tugged by some magnetic pull, I leaned in, too. His large, warm hand, calloused from guitar strings, came up to cup my cheek. I swallowed, a little frightened by how much I wanted him to kiss me again.
"Bella…I've never wanted someone so much in my life," he whispered, a breath away. I smelled coffee and chocolate. His face was so much more mesmerizing up close.
"Neither have I," I whispered back in a daze. Had I really been alive before this moment? Was this really happening to me, Bella Swan?
He shifted just slightly and our lips touched. Electric. He stole the breath from my lungs, but it didn't matter; Edward Cullen was officially replacing oxygen as my life force. His tongue brushed my bottom lip, and I decided he could replace food and water, too.
Edward groaned softly. It was such an erotic sound that my body responded without my consent. My hands wound through his thick, soft hair, and my breasts arched into his solid chest. His lips moved sensually against mine, and suddenly I was falling back with his arms tight around me. His hips landed between my legs, and I gasped at the impact on my charged sex.
He let out a gasp of his own, and he abruptly pulled away.
"I'm sorry, Bella. I didn't mean to get so carried away," he apologized, carefully holding his weight off me.
"Don't be sorry," I said breathlessly. "I'm not."
My summer suddenly went from self-imposed exile to paradise on earth. Every moment Edward had free, I spent with him. I'd been stricken initially by his beauty and his talent, but he was so much more. He had no idea how gifted he really was…not just modest, but even self-deprecating at times. He was a devoted brother, adored his mother, and worried about disappointing his father. He was also incredibly intelligent with a sharp, witty sense of humor.
For some odd reason, he wanted me, and I, of course, was completely besotted.
I spent time with his family, too – mostly his sister, but I was also invited to family dinners and game nights. His parents welcomed me graciously. They were a picture-perfect family, the kind I'd always wished I had growing up.
Alice was excited to have a female friend around. I heard all about her boyfriend, Jasper, whom she was head over heels in love with. She was dying to graduate and join him at the University of Washington, even though her parents had in mind more prestigious universities for her. She wanted to become an architect – a trait clearly inherited from her mother – and was already sketching designs and drawing up blueprints.
Edward was developing quite a following for his music – and for him, personally – and through word-of-mouth, he ended up playing somewhere every week. I went to every gig, beaming with pride from the sidelines, my heart swelling because I knew him and how much he deserved every round of applause.
Generally, I would travel with Edward to each performance, unless Alice was coming. Then I would ride up with her and back with Edward – the better for making out in the back of his car before he took me home.
It seemed like with every day that passed, the heat between us grew, mirroring the sticky humidity of Washington summers. I had never been interested in sex – no one ever incited that kind of interest in me, and I wasn't about to jump into anything for curiosity's sake. With Edward, though, I was both interested and curious. Very curious. Curious to see his lean-muscled body uninterrupted by clothing, curious to feel his skin against mine, curious to hear him moan in pleasure. My nerves crackled with the desire like the heat waves settling over the asphalt. I was so aware of my own body these days – because all of it responded to him. My chest tightened and wetness seeped between my legs. It was all new and scary and…fantastic.
Edward, for his part, was mostly a gentleman – with the occasional welcome slip – and he did his utmost to keep me entertained in all kinds of creative ways – swimming in a cool, clear creek; playing like two children in the town's only park; driving out to the beach to make s'mores over a blue-green fire…I had never had so much fun or felt so carefree in all my life.
I never wanted it to end. And though I knew it had to, I avoided the thought, preferring to soak up as much of Edward as I could before I had to say goodbye.
My favorite moments were sitting with him while he composed. Sometimes, he would get completely lost in the music, and I had the pleasure of watching him freely, his face unguarded. And then there were the times he would get stuck and adorably frustrated and flustered. Those times were especially nice, when he would set aside the guitar and pounce on me instead.
June bled into July, and July melted into August. A slow panic built in my chest with each day that took me closer to September, to Phoenix, to a life I wasn't sure I belonged in anymore. Being with Edward had changed me irreversibly…I was lighter, braver…happier. How could I go back to a school where I was isolated and friendless, to picking up Renee's dry-cleaning and sitting home alone while she was out with Phil? When had my old life become so empty?
No, that wasn't right. Life in Phoenix had been full enough for the old Bella, but Edward had expanded all the boundaries, stretched the limits of what was possible for me. There was no way to shrink them back. The new Bella didn't quite fit into the place the old Bella had left.
Edward reacted to my looming departure with an odd sort of urgent cheeriness. He was as much in denial as I was. In his kisses, though, I felt the desperation. And his music grew increasingly more morose.
In the last days, I spent every moment with Edward from morning until my curfew. It wasn't enough. And I knew there was one thing I had to do before I left.
"Edward?" My mouth was dry already.
"Hmm?" We were stretched out on his couch, with me tucked between his legs and held securely against his chest, nearly wrapped in him. It sounded like he was dozing off.
"Do you think…would it be possible…for us to spend a night alone together before I…go back?"
He hesitated before answering. I didn't dare turn to see his face. "My parents and Alice are going to visit friends over Labor Day weekend. I was going to stay here anyway, to be with you. You could stay over. If that's what you want."
"Is it…not what you want?" I asked fearfully. Could I stand that kind of rejection? From him?
"No, Bella, I want it…badly. But only if you're completely certain. It would kill me…if you were to have any regrets."
"No," I craned my head to see his face, which was torn between worry and tentative desire. My heart thumped excitedly. "The only thing I would regret is missing out on a single moment with you."
"Bella," he sighed longingly. "I'm going to miss you."
I burrowed deeper into his arms and tried to control my tears.
August 31st. My flight to Phoenix left at 1:15 on September 2nd. This was the end, and I had to make the most of it.
Charlie didn't know the Cullens would be out of town, so I got away with claiming Alice wanted a sleepover before I went home. If he knew the real story, he would probably have Edward arrested, with or without a warrant.
I was a mess of tingling nerves when I pulled up to the Cullen house. Edward waited for me on the porch. He had dressed a little nicer for tonight - nice in comparison to his usual wardrobe. His dark jeans were completely hole-free, and he wore a white button-down with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The sandals he loved so much were still on his feet, though. He couldn't stand having his feet confined when the weather was warm. I had followed the same instinct, putting on the only skirt I'd brought with me and my only set of matching underwear.
"Hi," I managed as he took my overnight bag from me. He smiled and pulled me into him, holding me tightly until I was calm again. His musky scent soothed me to the bone.
"I, um…I made dinner. Have you eaten?" he asked.
I shook my head. "Couldn't sit still long enough."
He chuckled and led me inside, to the kitchen. "Dinner" as it turned out was actually breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, and fluffy pancakes.
"It's the only thing I can cook," he said bashfully. He was adorable.
We had a picnic on the living room floor where he'd set out pillows and blankets and candles for ambience. He didn't need to do anything of the sort, but it was like Edward to make an effort, and I loved that about him.
Edward cleaned the dishes rapidly after we finished eating. He forbade me to help, but I sat and watched. I didn't want to be away from him for a moment tonight.
When he was done, he was nervous again. "Do you want to go upstairs now?"
"Yes," I nodded. I wanted to shed all the pretenses and just be with him. Nothing else mattered anymore.
Edward took my hand and guided me up to his room. I was very aware of his body next to mine, of the rhythm of his breathing, of the pulse in his hand. I wanted to crawl inside him and live there the rest of my life with the solid beat of his heart.
He pushed open his bedroom door for me. He had lit this room with candles, too.
"Where did you find all of them?" I wondered. No man had that many candles of his own.
He laughed sheepishly. "Mom went through an aromatherapy phase. It didn't last very long because it gave Dad headaches."
I chuckled at the thought. "They do smell nice."
Edward smiled shyly. "I chose the ones whose scent reminded me of you."
I turned in to him with a sigh, finding his strong arms waiting for me. "You know this has been the best summer of my life, right? The best time period. I've never been this happy before. And it's because of you."
I felt his face against my hair and he breathed deeply. "Oh, Bella. You don't even know the half of it."
I turned my face upward and found the hard edge of his jaw with my lips. He sighed and lowered his head to mine, brushing my mouth with the lightest of kisses. But that wasn't enough for me. My arms wound around his neck and pulled our bodies closer, and I pressed my lips more firmly into his.
The heat flared up between us. My hands clutched at his shirt as our tongues tangled. His warm hands teased the skin at my waist. My body went up in flames.
"You sure you want this?" he asked, even as his teeth tugged on my earlobe.
"I want you," I gasped. "Please."
"I'm yours," he murmured against my neck, "Completely."
I pulled away just enough to reach the buttons of his shirt. My fingers shook, but not with fear, as his eyes carefully watched my every move.
I opened his shirt to expose his smooth chest. My hands trailed from his pecs to his well-defined abs, down to the V that disappeared into his jeans. He sucked in a breath. I hesitated.
"Have you…ever done this before?" I had to ask. It wouldn't change my mind either way, but I needed to know.
He shook his head. "No, I haven't."
It was a relief. "Me either."
"Are you nervous?" he asked.
I smiled. "Only in the good way. You?"
"Definitely in the good way."
My hands returned to his chest and his went to the hem of my shirt. He tugged it over my head. I felt incredibly exposed in my one nice bra, a lacy blue thing my mother had produced one day, with panties to match.
"Very pretty," he smiled as he shrugged out of his open shirt. Then his arms were back around me, and he kissed my shoulder. "Very, very pretty." His lips trailed down to brush over the swells of my breasts, and I felt his hand on my back, just over the clasp of my bra.
"May I?" he asked, looking up at me through his eyelashes. I nodded shakily.
Edward popped the clasp, and I allowed the scrap of lace and satin to slide from my arms and flutter to the ground. Edward froze, eyeing me longingly. My breath caught in my chest.
"I knew you'd be more beautiful than I'd imagined," he sighed.
My heart fluttered. "You imagined?"
His hands were warm on my stomach, sliding upward. "I couldn't help myself," he told me with a small smile. Then his palms enveloped my breasts. I gasped at the feel of his skin sliding over my nipples.
"So soft," he marveled. His head dipped again, and he replaced his left hand with his mouth. He sucked softly, and electric shocks spread warmth through my body. My fingers clutched in his hair. His tongue teased me until I could hardly bear it before he switched his mouth and hand. The warmth doubled as he worked on my other breast.
I had never realized just how sensitive my breasts were until this moment…but as fantastic as it was, I wanted more. I wanted to feel all of Edward against all of me. I wanted to explore his body. I wanted to memorize him to remember forever.
"Edward," I urged, tugging lightly on his hair. He looked up in question, and I tugged again.
He pulled back with a smirk. "Am I doing it wrong?"
"No…but it's my turn," I insisted.
Edward laughed. "Well, in that case…"
I reached down for the button on his jeans and popped it free. The sound was oddly loud in the quiet room, mingling with Edward's heavy breathing. The zipper was even louder. Already loose, the jeans fell down around his ankles. He kicked them off, along with his sandals, while my eyes fastened on his very visible erection, pushing against his black cotton boxers.
"I think…I mean…can we go to the bed now?"
"Of course." He looked relieved. Had he thought I would want to stop?
Edward sat gingerly on the bed, and I toed off my shoes and slinked out of my skirt before I joined him. He urged me to the center of the bed, where he held his body over me. My hands roamed his back as I kissed his broad shoulders, his long neck, his smooth chest, his navel…
"Bella," he groaned. It was getting too hard to reach. I gently pushed him.
He fell to the bed, spread out like a feast for my enjoyment – and my mouth did water just a little.
"What?" he asked, confused by my stare.
I smirked. "I was just thinking you look good enough to eat."
He laughed freely. "So do you."
"But it's still my turn," I said, picking up where I left off with my lips at his navel. His breath came in heavy pants as I kissed down to his hips. The indentations there begged for my attention. I licked carefully, and his hips bucked. That was interesting. I scraped my teeth over the spot, and he groaned deeply. I smiled to myself. Here I was with beautiful, wonderful, perfect Edward, and he received pleasure from what I did. It was fantastic, and I wanted to give him more.
My fingers trailed down the line of hair from his navel, stopping at the edge of his boxers. I heard him…whimper? Slowly, I peeled off the boxers, careful of the prominent bulge. When they cleared his feet, I allowed myself to stare. I had seen illustrations of the male anatomy, but never the real thing.
I was surprised by how much I liked the sight. There was something beautiful about the flow of his body, from broad shoulders to slim hips to the deep-set V of his pelvis which led to his long shaft.
I couldn't be sure, but I thought he was probably…big. I wasn't sure it would even fit, but it had to, right? Girls were meant to have those things inside them. It would be fine, I told myself.
"Bella? You okay?" How long had I been staring? He looked worried.
"Fine, fine," I answered. "This is just…new."
He nodded in understanding. "Maybe it's time for me to have another turn."
"Okay," I agreed readily. I could handle that. He sat up halfway and pulled my body to his. It felt…good. Right. Perfect. In a surprisingly tender move, he pushed my hair behind my ear and kissed me gently. I sighed into his mouth, and the kiss turned slow and languid like summer heat. His fingers trailed down my spine. I pressed closer, even rubbing my chest against his. That made us both moan. His fingers moved in circles at my hip. My skin there tingled to life. I shifted closer again, this time brushing against his hardness with my thigh. He mumbled something against my lips, but all I caught was my name.
Suddenly, he flipped me onto my back and knelt between my legs. I gulped. Now that was a sight to behold. His hands clutched in the sides of my panties, and he inched them down, dragging the fabric against my heated skin. I squirmed until they were off and on the floor.
He looked me over and took a deep breath. "Do you trust me, Bella?"
The answer was easy. "Yes. Of course."
"Will you close your eyes for me?" I wanted to know why, but asking questions seemed to contradict the whole "trust" thing, so I complied wordlessly.
"Thank you," he breathed. I felt him shift on the bed. His hands were on my thighs. Then I felt his breath drift over where his hands had just been. I swallowed. What was he up to? And then I felt something hot and wet against my sex.
"Holy - ! Ohh!" My eyes flew open. There he was, head between my legs, his own eyes closed in concentration, inflicting the most amazing and mind-boggling sensations with his tongue. He licked careful circles around my sensitive bundle of nerves, then suckled gently. His tongue would dart down to play at my entrance, and then he would repeat the whole process over again.
I was coming undone.
How on earth did he know to do this? Why on earth did I care?
Edward Cullen wasn't just food, water, and oxygen. He was God.
The heat built under his mouth, growing and tingling and sizzling and –
"Oh, God!" It exploded, radiating outward to my fingers and toes. My body felt like it was floating on a current of pure bliss.
Edward resurfaced, looking incredibly proud of himself. It was…sweet, really, that he was so happy to have made me happy. My heart swelled a little more for him.
"Come here." I wanted him closer.
He moved to hover over me once again, and I pulled his face down to mine. I realized as soon as I kissed him that he had me all over his mouth, which was certainly weird, but I could still taste him, and I loved that taste.
"Now," I gasped as we pulled apart. "I don't want to wait anymore."
He nodded, suddenly serious, and reached into his nightstand drawer. His hand came back with a condom. I watched anxiously as he tore open the wrapper and rolled it on. This was it. No going back. And I didn't want to.
"Tell me to stop, and I will," he promised, settling against my hips.
"Don't stop." I was ready, and I wanted him.
I felt him at my entrance and held my breath.
"Try to relax," he murmured, leaning down to kiss me. I drew comfort from his lips as he began to push inward. No, he didn't fit. I was stretching painfully to accommodate him. His arms were shaking with effort.
"Stay with me, Bella," he murmured. I couldn't speak, so I nodded.
He gave a hard push, and something inside me broke. Suddenly he was all the way inside, and it hurt like hell.
"The worst is over," he promised. "Are you okay?" I didn't realize I was crying until he wiped my tears away.
"I'll be fine," I told him. As much as it hurt, I didn't want to stop. I felt so connected to him right now. Like I was a part of him, and he a part of me. I wouldn't give up this feeling for anything.
I saw his throat flex as he swallowed, bracing himself, and then he began to pull out ever so slowly. His teeth gritted and his face contorted in pleasure and agony. Much what I was feeling at the moment.
A moan ripped from his lips as he thrust in again. Better this time. I think it helped that the sight of his face and the sounds of his pleasure turned me on beyond belief.
He pulled out again, and I felt it. The first spark. I clutched Edward's shoulders, and he froze.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes," I breathed, meaning it now. "Don't stop."
Edward moved in and out of me at a slow, careful pace. With each pass, more of the pain turned into warmth, melting away into smooth friction. I began to lose myself in it. All I heard were Edward's heavy pants, all I saw was his face, and all I felt was him.
"Christ, Bella," he moaned, dropping his head to my shoulder as his hips continued to rock into mine. I moaned back.
"Is it good now?" he asked in my ear. I held him tighter.
"Yes. So good."
He groaned and moved a little faster. My eyes widened at the doubling of the sensations. So this was what it was all about. Edward, inside me, making me feel this way…it was magic.
"I won't last much longer," he mumbled, kissing my neck. "You feel too good."
"Don't hold back," I urged him. I knew it wasn't likely that I would peak again, and I wanted him to have the best experience possible. I wanted him to remember me like I would remember him.
He shifted slightly, changing his angle, which allowed him to move faster. And I was floored by how fantastic that felt. Oh, it was true – Edward really was God.
"Bella…" he said my name over and over, looking down into my eyes. His intense focus made my stomach clench in excitement. I felt the heat building again, impossibly, and knew beyond a doubt that I was going to come again.
"Edward, I'm close," I moaned, digging my fingers into his hips. He grunted and angled upward, hitting a spot inside me that made my toes curl.
"Bella!" This time Edward's voice was a guttural cry. I watched him come undone before me, and just like that, it was happening again…oh, was it happening. My body clenched around his and flew into a frenzy, helpless against the pleasure ripping through me. It felt like a long time before I came back down.
Somewhere in the chaos, Edward had fallen limp against me. His hair tickled my face. I stroked it back and saw that my hand was shaking. We were both sweaty and exhausted, and it was the best feeling in the world.
"Damn, Bella," he sighed, nuzzling into my shoulder. "I never imagined it could be like that."
"Me either." I clutched him tightly to me.
After a few moments of calm silence, wrapped up in Edward's body, I felt my eyelids growing heavy. When I yawned, he pulled away from me. I protested, but he just tucked the comforter around me before slipping out of the bed.
"I'll be right back," he promised. He darted away to the bathroom, presumably to dispose of the condom, and moments later returned. I watched him go around the room and extinguish the candles one by one, and I enjoyed the sight of his naked body in motion. He had a swimmer's build, I decided. I would love to see him skinny-dipping.
When the room was lit only by moonlight, he came back to bed and curled his body around mine. I felt safe, protected, cherished. Sleep came quickly, and I dreamed only of him.
I woke to sunlight on my face. That was practically a miracle for Forks in September –
September. September 1st. I left Forks tomorrow.
As panic swelled in my chest, an arm tightened around my waist, and I remembered why I hated to leave.
He mumbled in his sleep as I turned to look at him. The morning sunlight was beautiful on his face, making his skin shine, and a cascade of hues was visible in his unruly hair. His eyelashes fell against his skin like delicate little fingers caressing him. His lips were twisted upward in a sleepy smile.
I was in love with him.
For the first time in my life, I was in love…and I had to leave him. My eyes burned with unshed tears and I wriggled down into his arms, hoping it would all go away if he only held me tight enough.
He pressed his nose into my hair as he woke and gave a happy sigh. I clung to him like a life-raft.
"Morning, Bella," he murmured, kissing my forehead.
"Morning," I managed, but he heard the tears in my voice and pulled back slightly in alarm.
"Bella? What's the matter? Did I – did I hurt you last night? Do you want me to take you home…?"
"No, no," I answered to all of it, shaking my head forcefully. "It was perfect, all of it. I just…I don't want it to end," I confessed.
His face was abruptly anguished. "Neither do I."
"Can we just stay here awhile? In our own little world?"
He smiled softly. "I wouldn't dare let you leave."
The morning went too fast. We stayed in bed a long time, talking and kissing and making love again. It didn't matter that I was sore. Being with him was worth it. In the shower, we washed each other, and I admired the way the soapy water ran from his shoulders to his feet, gleaming over his skin. Another memory to keep.
After we dressed, it was awkward, avoiding the inevitable. The afternoon was seeping away, slipping like water in our hands.
My heart was breaking.
"I made something for you," he said, producing a blank jewel case. The CD inside had "Songs for Bella" written in permanent marker across it in his lovely handwriting – elegant, but still masculine somehow. He'd listed the tracks on the back. I glanced at the contents.
"This is you?" I gasped, recognizing the first few titles. "You recorded this for me?"
He shrugged, awkward and shy. "It's not great sound quality, but…I guess I wanted you to take a piece of me with you."
The tears were back. I hugged him tightly. "I'll never forget this summer," I swore, more to myself than him. "I'll never forget you."
"Hey, easy there," he said, laughing uneasily. "This isn't over. It's not like we're living in the Dark Ages. I mean, we have each other's number. There's even this newfangled thing called the internet we could try."
I laughed and smiled with him, but my heart was unhappy. Talking on the phone wasn't the same as being with him. Oh, it would be enough for me, if it had to be…but he would want someone he could take to dinner, someone to come to his shows, someone he could touch…
The thought of Edward touching anyone else made my stomach twist.
"Did I ever tell you what I thought the first time I saw you?" he asked.
"No." He was trying to distract me, bless him, and it was working.
"I was just walking onstage when I saw you, hidden in the corner. You were so unlike every other woman in that bar…perched up on that stool like it was a pedestal. You looked somehow both innocent and wise beyond your years. And your eyes were…so attentive, so expressive, like you would never miss a thing. I kept you in the corner of my eye the entire time I played. And when I came out from backstage, I saw that ridiculous Mike Newton talking to you. I was so jealous, and so convinced he was unworthy of you. I had to intervene. And then…then I heard your voice for the first time, and I knew I'd found the most beautiful sound in the world."
"Oh, Edward…" How could he say such crazy, perfect things to me? How could he possibly mean them?
"When you walked on that stage and opened your mouth," I told him, "my world turned upside-down."
The sun was falling in the slant of late afternoon outside. I sighed.
"You have to go," he said somberly. I nodded. There was Charlie, and packing, and…oh, God, I didn't want to go.
"I'll walk you out," he whispered, picking up my overnight bag. Going down the stairs was surreal, like walking through a dream. I felt lost.
A flash-forward later, and we were at my truck. It was like the first night all over again as he helped me inside. This time he held my face in both hands and planted a long, lingering kiss on my lips. It shifted from sweet to passionate to desperate, finally to wistful as he pulled away, resignation lurking in his eyes.
I couldn't say goodbye; neither could he. We only knew "see you tomorrow" anyway. He watched as I drove away, until I was out of sight. I knew because I was watching him, too, unable to look away from the rearview mirror.
The tears started as the trees closed around me and they didn't stop, not even long enough for me to give some explanation to Charlie as I rushed up the stairs. I ran to my room and curled into a ball on my bed, trying to hold myself together when it felt as though I were falling apart.
Somewhere around eight, I found a kind of numbness, which quickly led to guilt. I was ignoring Charlie on my last night with him. But the thought of trying to explain myself to him kept me in my room. I needed to pack, to focus. But then I opened the bag I'd taken to Edward's and found the CD, and the world revolved around him again.
I put it into the player without a thought, plugging in headphones so I would only hear Edward. His voice washed over me, the poison and the cure. I distracted myself with the track list again. He'd chosen all my favorites…my eyes caught on the last track. "I carry your heart with me," it said.
No…it couldn't be.
I flipped impatiently to the last track, oddly desperate. His voice flowed out in an urgent, quiet melody, supported with the delicate trills of a piano.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
My heart fluttered around in my chest like a caged bird. He had set my favorite ee cummings poem to music, and how true it was. My heart would stay with him, no matter where I went – Phoenix, China, Antarctica…nowhere was far enough for my heart to come along.
I listened to the song again and again.
…for beautiful you are my world, my true…
He loved me, I realized. He loved me, and I had to leave him.
I cried again. My weeping died away as I concocted fantasies…fantasies of staying here in Forks, of being with Edward, of going to school with Alice, of watching Edward play…
And my tired mind began to think of ways to make the fantasies true.
What if Edward and I ran away together and eloped? What if I just ran away and lived with the Cullens? …What if I stayed with Charlie, moved in with him? Renee and Phil were serious…she didn't need me like she used to. School hadn't started, in Forks or in Phoenix. I could enroll without missing anything. I would know a few people at the school. And Edward. Edward, Edward, Edward.
I was flying down the stairs.
Charlie had been dozing in front of the TV, but his head shot up at my thundering approach.
"Bells? What's going on?"
"Dad…can I stay? I mean, stay and live with you?"
He gaped at me, like a fish. "But you hate Forks, Bella."
I swallowed. "Things change. I'm happy here, Dad. I want to stay."
I could see the tentative happiness in his eyes. "If that's what you want, and if your mother agrees, then I'd love to have you, Bells."
I felt the first happiness since I'd left Edward earlier. I hugged Charlie fiercely, much to his surprise, and ran for the phone. Calling Renee was the next step. It was late in Phoenix, but she would probably be up, and I couldn't wait until morning.
Renee argued with me for three hours over my choice. I made the mistake of telling her about Edward. She thought I was throwing everything away and moving across the country for a crush. It was nearly impossible to explain to her that it was more than that – that I was truly happy now, that I had more friends here than I'd ever made in Phoenix.
"Mom, please," I finally begged. "There's nothing left for me in Phoenix. You're living your own life; can't you please let me have mine?"
She sighed deeply. "You're as stubborn as your father, Isabella. If…you really think you'll be happy, then I guess I have to let you go."
"Thank you," I breathed. My head swam with relief.
When I got off the phone with Renee, it was nearly three in the morning. Charlie had shuffled off to bed hours ago, knowing firsthand how long Renee could drag out an argument.
I wanted to go straight to Edward and tell him the good news, but I refrained. His family was supposed to come back last night, and while he might not mind me waking him in the middle of the night, his parents probably would mind.
Exhausted but still keyed up, I curled up in bed with the headphones on again and listened to Edward until his voice lulled me to sleep.
The digital clock read 10:21. It was odd for me to sleep that late, really. Oh, right, but I'd been up with Renee until three arguing about –
I leapt out of bed and scrambled for clothing and toiletries. I had to go to him, to tell him. But not looking like I was, after all the crying and fighting and late hours. First, a shower.
Still, I rushed through the morning routine, unable to calm myself down. Nothing would be right until I told Edward.
Dressed and ready to go, I whisked past Charlie in the living room.
"Hey, Bells! Where are you going?" he demanded, ambling out of his easy chair to follow after me.
"I…need to tell Alice the good news," I fibbed.
He gave me the skeptical-cop look. "You can't do that over the phone?"
"But it'll be better to surprise her in person," I said. "Please, Dad? You don't really mind, do you?"
He rolled his eyes and waved me out the door. "Fine, go, go. But don't take too long. We've got to get you enrolled at the school."
"Thanks, Dad!" I yelled over my shoulder. I was already out the door, running for my truck. Once on my way, I pushed the accelerator, disobeying speed limits to get to him faster. I had to slow down to navigate the winding road to his house, but eventually, I came out of the trees and saw the place I'd come to think of as home.
I got nervous as I went up to the door and contemplated going home and calling instead. Maybe Edward didn't really feel that way about me. Maybe he wouldn't be comfortable with me staying.
No, I reminded myself, he wrote that song, he sang it like he meant it. I had to have faith that he did mean it.
I knocked shakily at the door. Esme Cullen answered.
"Oh, Bella! I thought you were to be off by now – I was so disappointed not to be able to see you again."
"There's been a change of plans," I said, unable to hide my giddiness.
She beamed. "I suppose you're here for Edward, then. He's been moping in his room since we got home, playing the most melancholy music. Something tells me you're just the thing to cheer him up."
"Thanks, Esme," I grinned, wasting no time in heading up the stairs.
I realized as I approached that his door was cracked open. I could hear him strumming at his guitar from down the hall. The music was melancholy. I peeked inside; Edward was on his couch, his back to the door. I watched him play for a few seconds before he abruptly set aside the guitar in frustration and buried his face in his hands.
I walked in lightly, my steps muffled by the thick carpet. His head was still in his hands when I reached him. I placed my hand lightly on his shoulder.
He sighed heavily. "There's nothing you can do, Mom."
I gulped. "Is there anything I can do, then?"
His head whipped up and his eyes widened at the sight of me.
"Bella. What are you doing here?" He jumped up and caught me in his arms, and I wasn't nervous anymore. "I thought you'd be at the airport by now…what…?"
I couldn't hide my excitement. "I've decided to become a full-time resident of Forks. I mean, with my dad here, there's no reason I shouldn't stay…and, you know, who wouldn't want a world-class Forks education?"
He laughed and spun me around in a circle, almost knocking over his guitar in the process. "Really? You're really staying?"
"I couldn't go. If you're carrying my heart with you, I think I need to stay close to it."
He smiled. "You liked the song?"
"I loved it," I told him honestly. "It's so beautiful."
"You carry my heart, too, you know," he said tenderly, his eyes showing his vulnerability.
I kissed him softly. "I think I got the better end of the deal."