Chapter 13- Home
I couldn't breathe.
What a fool I had been! Mistaking her kindness for… for… I couldn't even let myself think it. It hurt too much.
I clamored down the stairs, gripping the handrail for dear life. I needed to get out of this house. Immediately. She didn't want me here anymore.
She did not want me.
All these weeks of getting to know her… falling in love with her, wasted.
This is what I deserved for hoping.
Had I really intended for us to spend the rest of our lives together?
I knew from the beginning that this could not end well. I shouldn't have entertained these ridiculous feelings for her. I should have just left when I had the chance.
That pain… the pain of leaving her back then, safely of course, for I never would have left knowing she was in danger, could not have been worse than this.
Because the moment I saw her… I knew. I knew she was special.
I stood in line, exactly where I belonged. I would be lying if I said that I dreaded this day. On the contrary, I'd rather be standing here than ever set foot in hell again.
Hell, the only way to describe the last three years of my life.
The rope around my wrists burned, the chains around my ankles dug into my raw skin. I felt dirty. Which was odd, since I hadn't really been clean in years. But, all my time there, I never felt dirty. Perhaps it was because everyone was dirty. Now standing here in front of this well kept crowd, I could feel the dirt under my nails, caked across my skin. The grease in my hair, the grime on my face being dried by the mid-day sun. Some of the other men's faces were streaked with tears as the struggled or screamed. Not mine, even if I had the desire to cry, I didn't deserve that type of release. No, I welcomed this.
I idly noticed that I was next in line. I didn't know the man who was walking up the wooden stairs, but I averted my eyes anyway. Despite everything, it was still painful to watch.
My eyes scanned the crowd when a flash of brown came into my vision. It was a girl. She was looking down at her feet as she walked, almost as if she feared tripping. She seemed to notice the crowd thickening, so she stopped and looked up. I had to blink a few times, afraid that my eyes were deceiving me. She was… the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Her skin was cream and roses; she carried herself with a poise that I didn't think was possible. She was staring at the gallows when suddenly I saw her perfect features twist, as if she was about to cry.
She should never cry. Not this angel. But, she had turned now and was walking away. It was for the best. I wouldn't want her to see what was about to happen to me.
They cut the man in front of me down, and it was my turn. I walked silently up the wooden steps. Splinters dug into my skin. I stared at nothing as the executioner placed the rope around my neck andmy name and my list of crimes were announced.
The crowd stood unmoving in front of me, all staring, waiting to see me die. But when my name was called, I saw one form in the motionless sea of bodies whirl around.
It was my angel girl. Her eyes locked with mine.
No. Please. Turn around. Don't watch. I couldn't bear for you to see this.
Then she screamed,
and I was saved.
Oh, my Bella. I don't think I'll ever understand what made you act the way you did that day.
I had been so angry with her! A young woman like her had NO business taking in someone she had never met. I knew, of course, that I would never harm her. But, she could have picked anyone. And that thought haunted me.
I reached the bottom of the stairs just in time to see Alice come out of the kitchen carrying a tray with some food on it.
"Edward, what are you doing?"
I wasn't thinking. I didn't have the time or the will to come up with a good lie to tell her.
"I'm sorry Alice, I just… I just need to get out of here."
I turned my back on her and reached for the door handle. I don't know what made me say it. Perhaps it was because I wanted one person to know the real reason I was leaving, but before I knew it I whispered, "She doesn't wanted me, she never did."
I darted out the door and slammed it shut behind me. I put my hands over my face and then ran them up and through my hair. When I opened my eyes I saw Jasper's carriage waiting. The footmen had already gathered my belongings. There had only been one suitcase after all.
I spoke with the driver briefly then climbed in and we were on our way. I wasn't sure where I was going. Certainly not back to London. I might visit my family in a few months. But, for now I just needed to get away, especially out of this town. Everything here would remind me of Bella… even the flowers…
I was frustrated. Beyond frustrated. I adored Bella, but the woman had no idea how to maintain her shed. It was so disorganized I wanted to scream. I spent the better part of an hour sifting through the debris. It was hot and dusty inside, and I had to keep reminding myself why I was doing this.
She had saved my life.
It still took my breath away when I thought about it.
She had mentioned before how it was nearly impossible to paint shutters in a dress. This was just first of many things I had planned for this house of hers.
It was the least I could do. I had thought of no other way to repay her, so instead of sitting around like a lump staring at the wallpaper, I made up my mind that it was time to actually start doing something.
I finally found the paint cans that I wanted. I grabbed a ladder and got to work.
I had been painting the shutters for a while when I heard soft footsteps and a very loud gasp. I turned around to see a mortified looking Bella, twisting and turning as she looked at the contents of her shed spread out over her garden.
It was then I realized that maybe tossing everything all over the lawn wasn't such a good idea.
I rushed to calm her down, "Don't worry; I'll put it all away when I'm finished."
She dropped her basket and turned to look up at me. She looked so unbelievably angry. That was the last thing that I wanted to make her. I started to say something else, but just then, she saw what I was doing and her face softened. The knot in my stomach went away as we talked about what I was doing. But, I found that I wasn't paying attention to the conversation at all.
I was mesmerized by her. Her hair shining in the sunlight, her eyes sparkling every time I smiled at her.
Could she be feeling the same things I was?
But, what truly held my attention, as I looked down at her I could see all the flowers of her garden, spread out behind her. The bright colors surrounded her and only made her look more beautiful.
How had I gotten so lucky?
I felt the hole in my chest grow larger with each clop of the horse's hooves.
I knew it was for the best. I knew it. Didn't I?
Oh God, what was I thinking?
No. You made choice, Cullen. Now you have to live with it.
She doesn't want you anyway.
But if you had just told her how you felt...
Would that have changed anything?
I shook my head. It doesn't matter now. She was better off without me.
But are you better without her?
All these thoughts hit my head at once. I could feel them throbbing, pulsating. I buried my head in my hands.
Suddenly, I heard some muffled shouting and the carriage came to an abrupt halt.
I was furious. Did he not understand! I was now suffering physical pain, and this driver was not helping at all.
I scrambled out of the carriage ready to scream at him. I needed to get out of here, I needed to forget…
That was when I saw Alice. She was waving and running towards the carriage. She was going to try and stop me. I opened my mouth to yell at her, when I heard her voice.
She sounded panicked. And she was calling my name. My Bella needed me. I didn't care what my plan was; I forgot it the moment my name left her lips. If she needed me, I would go to her, without thought or hesitation.
I searched for her. I finally met her eyes as she was stupidly trying to walk on her own. She limped down the stairs slowly.
I felt my feet almost fly as I ran towards her.
She hadn't made it very far before I reached her. I flung my arms around her and cradled her against my chest. I heard her sniffle, and then her body began to shake as she cried.
What was wrong? Tell me, my sweet. I'll help you, just tell me.
I couldn't get the words out. The overwhelming sense of relief of having her in my arms again, mixed with the tension her tears caused me, made me choke on my words.
"Don't go please, don't leave me. I don't want you to go," she sobbed.
I took her face in my hands, and I said the only thing that came to mind, "Bella…"
I didn't understand. What did she want?
I'd give her anything.
"Stay, Edward. Stay here with me? I can't imagine my life without you. I love you, Edward. Please… I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said; I just want you to be happy…" she stuttered.
My chest clenched painfully, how could this be? Could she really want the same thing that I wanted?
I wiped her tears away and pleaded for the truth, "You want me?"
"More than you could ever imagine," she said, and I knew she meant it.
I didn't know what to do… she was all I could ever have dreamed of. What if she changed her mind? What if she realized I wasn't good enough for her?
I leaned forward and pressed my forehead to hers. "I'm terrified," I whispered.
"I know, but be brave, and save me anyhow. That's what I did," she murmured, with infinite wisdom.
My own smile burst forth as I told her what I had wanted to say since the moment I realized that I loved her. "Bella, my love, nothing would make me happier than to stay right here, with you. I love you, my guardian angel."
Then I kissed her.
Not a timid, awkward kiss, like we shared the day we wed, oh no. I let all of my passion for her show as our lips moved together. My breathing increased and I felt my head start to spin. But I didn't care. I could very well drop dead, right here on the sidewalk, and I knew I would die a happy man.
Because she loved me, something that I had never thought possible.
Her tiny arms latched onto my waist as her petite frame began to shake. It seemed that she was as overwhelmed as I was.
I laughed quietly at the impossibility of this moment and reluctantly pulled my lips from hers.
There was something I needed to know.
"Why didn't you ask me to stay before," I asked her.
"I didn't want you to feel obligated… and I thought you would want to go home…" she confessed.
How absurd. Didn't she know? Couldn't she tell?
To my surprise I laughed again as I claimed her lips, "Oh Bella, you are my home."
She giggled and pressed herself against me, letting her soft cheek rest against mine "I know that now," she whispered.
For as intelligent as she was, she certainly could miss the most obvious things
You're one to talk, Cullen.
I rolled my eyes at myself, realizing how foolish we both had been.
I closed my rough hands around her silken ones, and I felt her holding on to something. I pressed my thumb inside to see what it was. When my skin came in contact with the smooth metal of my grandmother's ring, I knew what I had to do.
It was what I had intended to do with this ring all along.
"I guess there's only one thing left," I told her.
"What's that?" she asked.
I stepped away from her and slid the ring from between her fingers. After taking a breath to compose myself, I slid down onto one knee before her.
"Isabella, marry me? Let me make you happy, always?" I felt like a buffoon for smiling so much, but I just couldn't help it. I knew what her answer would be, and I simply couldn't control my happiness.
She tightened her grip on my fingers with one hand as the other leapt up to cover her mouth.
A giggled escaped her lips, but then a look of realization spread across her face.
"Hold that thought?" she asked sheepishly.
I felt my smile fade. Had I made a mistake? Did she need to think about this?
But, Bella being… Bella. She calmed my fears with two words, "Wait here."
She was trying to sound forceful, but it just sounded adorable. As if I had any intention of going anywhere else.
After the emotional high and low points of the last few weeks, she couldn't wish me away now.
She turned and spoke with Alice. I rose from my knee and watched as Alice retuned with a wooden box. Bella rifled through it until she found what she was looking for. She finally turned and limped back towards me. I wanted to go and help her, but I figured that she would scold me and claim that she was perfectly capable of walking by herself.
As she came closer, I could see a look of peace take over her excited face. When she finally reached me, it seemed she had forgotten all about what we were doing and threw her arms around my neck.
I was about to tease her for her lack of focus, but then she did something I did not expect.
She pressed her tender lips into my throat.
I felt an electric shock run through my body. We had never touched so intimately before.
And even though I had been the one meaning to tease her for lack of focus, I was now the one struggling to remember what exactly was going on.
She took my hand in hers and placed a small object in my palm.
I glanced down and saw a small golden circle. I thought I had an idea of what it was, but I quickly looked back up at Bella for conformation.
"It was my father's wedding ring. It's only right, if I have something precious of yours, that you have something precious of mine in return."
I felt a lump rise in my throat. She wanted to claim me with an all encompassing symbol of her love, just as I wanted to claim her with mine. I took a deep breath and handed her father's ring back to her. She slipped the ring on my finger as I slipped the diamond one on hers.
"Yes, Edward Cullen, I'll be your wife," she breathed
"And I'll be your husband, dear one."
And it was done. We had been married for months, but now we were truly, husband and wife.
It seemed only fitting that I should kiss her again, so I did.
I knew it was almost indecent to be sharing affection like this on our front lawn where everyone could see, but I couldn't quite bring myself to care.
We were met by Alice and Jasper on the porch, neither of whom could contain their smiles.
I helped Bella along as much as I could, without picking her up.
Then I heard her whisper, "I almost lost you."
Thinking about being without her, the pain that it had just caused me…
I laughed quietly and pressed my lips to her temple. "Bella, I promise you. I wouldn't have made it very far."
Jasper, Alice, Bella, and I all sat around the kitchen table and talked for a while. Alice and Bella chattered like little girls when Jasper finally revealed his intentions to court Alice.
I glanced sideways at him. He grinned sheepishly back.
Quite frankly, I could have punched him. After all the truly horrible things he had said about Bella, now he was going to be with Alice, a little French girl. Just like Bella.
Luckily, he felt differently about Bella now, I don't know how we could have remained close if he hadn't changed his mind.
As the evening wound down, Alice and Jasper excused themselves, and I started on a simple supper for Bella and me.
I was happy for them, I couldn't deny that. You could plainly see the attraction between them, the light shining in their eyes. But, I was still irritated with my cousin that he had been so cruel about Bella when he'd first come here.
I think part of the issue was that Jasper had no idea how deeply my feelings for Bella ran. I didn't know myself until very recently. He felt that this was just fleeting, that my feelings were more centered on the fact that she was young and beautiful rather than she was intelligent and kind.
Honestly, I owed Jasper a debt of gratitude. If he hadn't been there that night, I don't know what would have happened…
"She's nothing. Just forget her."
"Jasper, you've been trying to convince me since you arrived. Save your breath, you won't be able to."
He had been doing nothing but insulting the woman I was in love with all day.
I was convinced that if he would just meet her, if he would just see how wonderful she was, that he would change his mind about her. That was the only reason I refrained from beating him to a pulp in the middle of the street, cousin or not.
We had left town and were walking briskly back towards home. I hadn't seen Bella all day and with the events of last night still fresh in my mind, I was extremely anxious to see her. I knew we wouldn't be able to talk about anything serious with Jasper hanging around, but at least we would be together. At least she would know that I wasn't going anywhere.
"I really have no interest in meeting her, Edward."
I cut him off, "Well you had better get used to the idea, because that's just where we're headed."
He shoved his hands into his pockets, and he mercifully kept his mouth shut for the time being.
When we neared home, I idly noticed that the neighborhood seemed darker than usual. And for some odd reason, my nerves spiked. I became anxious, and I picked up the pace.
"Edward, this isn't a race. We don't need to run back to the French who…"
I stopped, turned and glared at him.
"…I mean girl. She'll be there. Won't she? Unless she has another gentleman that she's entertaining."
"Jasper, I swear to the good Lord if you don't stop speaking about her that way, we won't make it back to her at all."
We turned the corner onto Bella's and my street.
What I saw made my blood run cold.
There was the house, nothing different about it, except… it was dark.
Not a single flicker from a candle could be seen.
I didn't think, I just ran.
I flung open the front door in a panic, "Bella!"
Jasper wasn't far behind me, "Will you calm down! What's wrong?"
"Bella, she's not here,"
Jasper stared blankly at me, "So… Perhaps she just stepped out."
"No, Jasper… you don't understand," I said with a huff.
I flew up the stairs and checked all the rooms, nothing.
She wasn't here. Where would she be? Think Edward, think!
Alice. She would go to Alice's.
"Listen, I don't expect you to care or anything," I shouted down to Jasper as I descended the stairs, "but I need to go find her. I expect that she's gone to her friend Alice's…"
"Edward! You need to calm down. So she's at a friend's house. No reason to panic."
A small voice in the back of my mind told me he was right. That I should calm down. But, aside from that small voice, my entire body was screaming at me to go and find her. She knew that it was dangerous for her to be out with that attacker on the loose.
I started to take short, labored breaths and a pain was arising in my chest. I sunk to the floor and sat on the bottom stair, clutching my chest and trying to control my breathing.
"Hey, you're scaring me Edward. Should I send for a doctor?"
"There isn't anyone to send… please, can we just go and get her?"
"If she's at her friend's house, won't she be alright?"
"No, yes… I don't know. I'll just feel better knowing that she's home safe."
Jasper stared at me for a moment before he spoke, "You really care for this girl, don't you?"
I looked up at him and nodded.
He helped me up, and we quickly headed down the street. I kept telling myself over and over again that she was at Alice's. She was safe and sound and I even imagined that she would smile when she saw me.
Oh how I loved that smile.
Alice's home was not far from Bella's just a few blocks and a few turns. But, it seemed to take an eternity for us to get anywhere.
Jasper and I rounded a corner, and before I could take another step, Jasper latched his hand onto my shoulder. He spun me around and whispered, "Look."
There was a man standing over a woman.
It was Bella, I knew it was Bella. I didn't need to see her face to know.
A blind rage consumed me. I couldn't think. I just felt my muscles coil as I readied myself to attack.
I would kill him.
I took off running, Jasper close behind me. I grabbed the monster and threw him backwards. I'm not sure how far he flew, and I didn't care. I wasn't going to waste my time fighting him when Bella could be hurt.
I wouldn't let what happened to Victoria happen to her.
I looked down at her; she looked so frightened, yet strong as well, like she was ready to put up a fight. I almost didn't touch her, afraid of startling her. But seeing her on the dirty ground, I just had to get her out of here.
Her eyes were closed so she didn't see me; I only hoped I could calm her down quickly.
I hooked my arms under her and lifted her off the ground. As I held her close to me, all thoughts of violence melted away momentarily. I was entirely focused on her. I fully expected her to fight me, not realizing who I was.
But she didn't.
Her whole body relaxed and she buried her face into my neck and breathed in. She didn't need to see me to know. Just liked I knew it was her being attacked. She knew it was me holding her.
My Bella, finally safe.
Yes. She was safe.
And if it hadn't been for Jasper, I don't know what would have happened.
Bella's soft voice pulled me from my thoughts.
"So you're staying?"
How could she still be questioning this?
I smiled at her, "For as long as you want me."
"How long have you felt that way?"
"Bella, quite frankly, I do believe I have been in love with you since the moment I laid eyes on you."
I sighed and nodded, "I didn't recognize it at first. It took a few weeks for me to place the emotions I was feeling for you. I kept noticing all these little things about you. How you spoke, how you moved. I was enamored by you."
I remembered just watching her day after day. I had worried for awhile that I was becoming obsessed.
"But, above all, I was most affected by your unwavering kindness," The very same kindness that saved my miserable old life and gave me a glorious new one.
Then I remembered how I acted towards her at first, the cold tone of my voice, the rudeness. But, I had a hard time putting into words what I was going through those first few weeks.
I decided to try explaining it again, "I know I was difficult to be with, and I did mean to apologize for how I treated you when we first met. I was so very confused. But, mostly… I was worried."
"Of course, that Aro would find out…"
I stopped her right then, "Oh no, I was prepared to do everything in my power to make sure that Aro never found out. That's not what I was speaking of."
She needed to know that I never would have left her to face the gallows alone. Never.
"I don't understand, Edward. If it wasn't Aro you were worried about, then what was it? You couldn't have been worried about me. I mean, it's not like I'm exactly the type to instill fear… Am I?"
Despite myself, I chuckled. Bella Swan, striking fear into the hearts of men, made perfect sense.
"Bella, I wasn't afraid of you. I was afraid for you. You saved a man who was a complete stranger from the gallows. Surely you know how reckless that was."
"You don't need to tell me, I know." She rolled her eyes.
How could I make her understand? She seemed convinced that she had had the situation under control.
"No, Bella, you didn't know. You had very good friends telling you that your actions were irresponsible, thoughtless, and very likely dangerous. But still you refused to listen to their very prudent advice! I guess what I'm trying to say is, I knew I wouldn't harm you. But, I had no way of proving that to you, or anyone for that matter. I didn't want you to be frightened, but I felt like you should have been frightened of me for your own sake. You gave me your full and unreserved trust when your own sense of self-preservation should have been screaming at you not to trust me for a second! It made me physically ill to think what might have happened to you if you had picked any other man from that line, Bella! Trust me. No good could have come from that!"
"So you were angry with me because I was risking my life?"
I nodded. Finally! She understood!
"Edward Cullen, that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"
I had a sudden urge to beat my head against a wall.
"Why thank you, my sweet."
"You really don't understand at all, do you?"
Obviously I didn't. Here I was trying to explain myself to her and she just… wasn't picking up what I was trying to tell her.
Thankfully, she put me out of my misery.
"I was never afraid of you, but with good reason. I never would have picked one of those other men to save. When I saw you standing up there, it was different…you were different. Just as you said, I was afraid FOR you, not of you. I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that you would be okay."
I felt my love for her swell. So she had felt it to, that same connection. I had called her my angel, without even speaking to her or knowing the first thing about her. I could tell she was different right then and there. And apparently, she felt the same about me.
"Now I will admit you weren't exactly easy to live with at first…" I winced but, she continued quickly, "But I always knew you wished me no harm. I just…thought you were upset that…I had saved you…"
"How could you think that?" I blurted.
She shrugged, "You seemed so certain that you should die… you had accepted it so completely…and appeared to be furious with me for interfering with your fate."
I felt my face heat up, "I am sorry."
To an extent, she was right. I had wanted to be in that line that day. And when she brought me home, I had no way of knowing that we would actually develop true feelings for each other. I had believed that she was just prolonging the inevitable. That she was, unknowingly, prolonging the pain of my cold, miserable life.
She smiled. "I know, and it's in the past now."
She reached across the table and placed her soft fingers around my hand. I knew she had forgiven me, for everything.
That didn't mean that I deserved it.
But, we were here, and we were in love. Living in the past and dwelling on our regrets would do no good.
So I squeezed her hand back, "Yes, it is. We can move forward now."
She yawned quietly.
"You're tired," I observed.
"Not at all."
She was a terrible liar. I glared at her.
"Alright, alright," she conceded without a fight.
"Let the record show that I did not tell you what to do," I teased.
"Insufferable," she retorted.
"Come on, my cabbage, I think we both could use a good night's sleep."
I was rewarded with a laugh as I swept her up into my arms. Her arms wound around my neck and she rested her head on my shoulder.
I smiled like a fool the entire way up the stairs. Bella kept nuzzling my neck, and it was making it extremely difficult to focus on things…such as breathing and putting one foot in front of another.
I reached her bedroom, and I suddenly felt sad. I knew I would have to leave her soon. I walked slowly over to the bed, trying to savor every moment with her.
As I set her gently down on the bed, I dropped to my knees in front of her, the better to see her eyes. I watched as she slowly brought her hand up to brush my hair from my eyes. Then, almost involuntarily, her fingers came to rest on my cheek.
It was then that I realized.
I left London to search for my happiness.
And it wasn't to be found in me leaving behind my home to go on some grand adventure, like I believed; it wasn't the discovery of light and reason, as I had read about. And it wasn't the seductive union of lovers as I had been told.
It was this woman's fingers, pressed softly against my cheek.
This was the bliss I had been searching for.
"Edward," her timid voice breathed.
Too content to form words, I let the air out of my lungs in a questioning, "Hmm?"
"Will you stay with me tonight?"
I felt my body tense. She couldn't be ready for this yet, could she?
"Bella, are you sure?"
I stood up and took note that she was still in her day clothes, "Um, do you need…"
"Just a nightgown out of my vanity, second drawer down," she told me.
I nervously walked over to her vanity. I was not accustomed to choosing a lady's night dress for her. Slightly embarrassed, I opened the drawer and grabbed a gown without even looking at it.
I looked back at her and she was watching me, no analyzing me. I don't know what changed in that moment… I suppose I had been planning on sleeping fully clothed on the other end of the bed.
But, now, with her watching me… that was the last thing on my mind.
I knelt down in front of her. My eyes never left her face as I started undressing her slowly.
I wanted to give her every opportunity to stop me. She may not be ready for this. As I grew closer and closer to the end of the hooks holding her bodice together, I grew more and more confident. She was not going to stop me.
She was shaking. But, she couldn't be cold, it was the middle of August! I didn't know what make of it. Was she afraid of telling me 'no'? I slowed the movements of my hands and tried to communicate with her that she could stop me if she wanted.
But, the way she was looking at me, it was like nothing I had ever seen. It was a mix of longing and love. As if she had been waiting an eternity for this moment.
I let each piece of fabric fall to the floor and with each one I became more and more mesmerized.
Her body was slender and soft, with peach skin, just aching to be touched.
She held onto my hand for support so the last pieces of outerwear could be removed. Then after a long moment, she was settled back before me. I nudged her knees apart and placed my body between them.
Our chests pressed together as I reached for her nightgown. She raised her arms and I pulled it gently over her head and down her body, letting my fingers linger on her skin.
I saw her wriggle her hands inside her gown so she could unfasten her chemise. I had fully intended on keeping my eyes on her face, but as her hands moved under the fabric of her night dress, I couldn't look away.
After several, painfully tortuous moments, she pulled the fabric out and let it fall to the floor. I took a second to catch my breath; she was now bare-chested under that gown. Just one, thin, almost see through scrap of fabric separated us.
I stared stupidly at her, but she seemed to have other ideas.
Her hands slid under my jacket to my shoulders, pushing the jacket off.
She then moved to the buttons of my shirt. She kept her gaze on her hands, but I couldn't look away from her face. Her red lips were parted as she sucked in deep breaths. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes hooded.
God she was beautiful.
Her knees tightened around me. It was as if she had just noticed how close our bodies were. Her small hands ran down the length of my back and I saw a frown appear on her face. Her fingers traced around my scars.
I couldn't have this conversation now, I didn't want to ruin this evening. I knew that if I allowed her to continue roaming my back she would ask questions. So even though the feeling of her fingers on my skin felt like a dream, I had to stop her.
I caught her wrist and brought her hand to my lips. I tenderly kissed each of her fingertips. The same fingertips that made my skin tingle.
I was tired of sitting like this. So we smiled at each other and I spun her around so she was under the covers.
Mustering all my courage, I left her side and walked around the bed. My previous confidence faded as I noted that her eyes never left me. I felt my nerves tense and my breathing increase.
I started to wonder how I was ever going to undress in front of her. Then, as if sensing my discomfort, she averted her gaze to her lap. I quickly rid myself of my trousers and slid under the covers before she could look at me again.
Once I was comfortable, Bella turned to face me again. Her delicate hands pulled the pins from her hair. I watched carefully as piece by piece her hair fell down her back. She had such lovely hair.
I couldn't quite grasp the gravity of this moment. Our first night together. It was something that couldn't be explained in words. I was doing everything in my power to make sure that I would never forget this night and these moments. I wanted to grab a hold of her and never let her go.
My love scooted closer to me, and together, we lay our head down on the pillows.
Her hand came up and gently stroked my hair. It felt so soothing, so peaceful that I almost fell asleep right then. Now, what kind of a husband would I be if I hopped into bed and fell asleep the first night I spent with my wife?
I didn't want to find out.
I forced my eyes open, focusing entirely on her lips. I touched my lips to hers, and she sighed dreamily. I felt her inching her way closer to me.
I happily received her… but…
My body had started to react in ways that I knew I wasn't ready for. And I certainly wasn't going to push that issue on Bella tonight. She was still healing. Not to mention the fact that I was not truly a husband yet. Bella had provided me with everything since I arrived, food, clothing, and shelter just being the most basic of those provisions. Her trust, kindness, and love I valued above all of that. And while I admired and respected her actions, it still did not negate the fact that I was supposed to be taking care of her.
But Lord almighty was she making it difficult.
Without thinking, I rolled on top of her. I was entirely too eager to feel her body moving under mine.
I kissed her with more force by the second and before I knew it, I was easing my tongue deep into her mouth. She tasted divine. Like the sweetest honey.
I kissed her and kissed her and kissed her. Now that I could, I simply couldn't find it in me to stop.
Then, without warning, Bella shifted against me and caused the most delicious friction I had ever felt. It took every ounce of willpower that I had to not rip that extremely offensive nightgown from her body.
I twisted my head away from hers and gasped, "Bella?"
"Do you mind… Can we stop here for tonight?"
Heaven help me she looked devastated; downright crushed. I amended my comment quickly.
"Please, don't think I don't want you. My God, Bella, I want you so badly that I literally ache for you!" I couldn't keep my fingers from the softness of her lips and her skin, even as I was trying to explain to her why I thought we should stop. I was a moth drawn helplessly to her brilliance. And as I felt her shiver at my touch, I almost lost my resolve. But I was determined to be worthy of her before I claimed her completely as my wife. "It's just… I was treated as less than human for so long. And I feel like I just got my humanity back. You helped me find it again, my love. But now… I feel like I need to become a man again – the man you deserve – before I can truly be a husband to you."
She touched my cheek, "Edward, I understand why you feel the way you do. And I'm willing to wait for you until you feel you're ready. Just know that you don't have to prove anything to me. You are a man in my eyes. You are my husband."
How did she do that? How did she always know just what to say to ease my worries and apprehensions?
I had to kiss her again.
"Bella," I sighed as I leaned down towards her.
Unexpectedly, she placed her fingers over my lips. I scowled in the dark.
"There's just one thing, Edward. I'm willing to wait…but we're not talking years here, are we?"
I very nearly laughed. "Not a chance," I replied.
"Months?" she inquired.
The thought of waiting that long to lie with my wife… I almost groaned.
But then, the thought of lying with her much much sooner than that… well, there was no stopping my impish grin.
"I don't think I have a chance in hell of resisting you for that long."
I laughed louder than I had in weeks.
"Now, husband, would it be possible for you to hold me for the rest of the night?" she asked innocently, unaware of the problem with her statement.
"For the rest of the night…and for the rest of our lives, sweetheart."
I rolled from atop her, never letting go of her waist. I pulled her tight against my chest. She fit perfectly.
"Goodnight, my Bella," I whispered.
"G'night, Edward. Je t'aime," she mumbled, almost inaudibly.
I pressed my lips to her forehead and let them rest there for a moment, "Je t'aime aussi, ma chérie."
Well… there it is. What did you think?! This is your last chance to let me know. I'd love to hear from you.
Thank you all so much for reading this story. I have LOVED every single review and it's bene such a pleasure. Passing By is very near and dear to my heart and it means so much that so many of you seemed to have enjoyed it =)
It's so sad to admit, but I have no plans on returning to Passing By. I'll never say never, but I'm looking forward to taking some time off, supporting other authors, and working on my next project. Which officially has a title! The Legend of Volterra. For a summary, check out my profile =)
As all of you know… my lovely, lovely beta is Val. Well, Val is breaking out of her shell and writing her own story, which she plans on posting the first chapter, right here on FF, on November 17th. THAT'S TOMORROW! It's called On a Lonesome Road and it would tickle both of us pink if you would take a peak!
So if you have a second, place valeri29 on Author Alert and be sure to look out for her story on the 17th!
And let me tell you, I've been given some insider looks and... well… you are all in for one hell of a ride!
I personally want to thank Val again for all the work that she put into this story. She really is the best =)
It's been real, catch you all on the flip side,