Note: I'm reposting this for the time being, as it seems I will not be using this story idea for some time. I will, eventually, take it down when I get to work on the novel(s?) that this story inspired. Also I'm reposting because some people seem to like it. Incidentally, I am not one of them, having become thoroughly disenchanted with Twilight after reading the last three books in the series. So here is the original version of this story (in which Edward has fangs) which I like somewhat better than its successor.


It had been nearly two weeks now-- thirteen and a half days to be exact-- and I could see the strain was getting to him. The strain was getting to me, and I wasn't even the one suffering.

Entirely too much of our relationship is like that, I thought. Insane ecstasy for me-- torturous restraint for him.

But as much as I pitied him, I couldn't stop what we were doing. I couldn't. Not when he told me he loved doing it to me, not when-- afterwards-- he would look at me with possessive adoration and lick his lips. He was the only person I'd be willing to stop for-- and he wasn't stopping.

Thirteen days. Thirteen days of absolute heaven.

Thirteen days since he took me hiking down a secluded mountain trail to a little clearing where a waterfall rushed into clear stream. The day was, of all things, sunny-ish, with only a few gray-white clouds scudding over a pale blue sky. Everything smelled rain-washed and almost disgustingly green.

Then Edward stripped down to his boxers and splashed into the creek, and it wouldn't have mattered if we'd been between a paper mill and a garbage heap.

"Come on, Bella, join me," he said, grinning his crooked grin, "It'll be-- fun."

I was immediately against the idea-- convinced that the dazzling sight of Edward with his shirt off would make me slip on a mossy rock and dash my head open. I was a little surprised when he didn't insist, though. Maybe that was a line he didn't want to cross-- both of us scantily clad and completely alone.

Charlie would approve, but I didn't.

Even though he spent his nights watching me sleep, Edward didn't "take liberties." Unlike me, who occasionally slipped a hand under his shirt to feel the cold, taut muscles beneath.

Edward flashed in the sunlight, shimmering like a jewel with a thousand facets. I just sat and ogled, pretending to watch a pair of white butterflies flittering through their mating dance. I was pretty sure he wasn't fooled. I knew he couldn't hear what I was thinking, but he could probably hear my heartbeat, even over the water. I wondered if he remembered the half-joking promise he'd made when he told me he'd take me out today: that he would kiss me until I fainted. If he kissed me dressed as he was now, that wouldn't take long at all.

"You sure you won't come in?" he asked, suddenly beside me, dripping.

I shook my head so hard it made my hair come tumbling out of its little knot, then smiled up at him and lay back, hoping he'd join me. After a moment, he did. "You look really lovely like that," he said quietly, brushing one of the locks away from my face. He slipped one glittering arm under my head, and leaned in close, his beautiful face shining against the sunny sky. The water was cold and his skin colder still, but I snuggled in tight against his sculpted chest.

"This doesn't-- bother you?"

"No." Not in the way you mean. "Why would it bother me?"

"I don't even look human right now."

"You don't have to look human. You just have to look like you."

"Bella--" I heard the seriousness in his voice and was instantly afraid. Even though he'd promised me that he'd stay as long as I wanted him around, I didn't really believe him. Sooner or later, he'd figure out I was only an ordinary girl who-- by some miracle-- had thoughts he couldn't hear.

"Actually, Edward, why don't we go for a swim together?"

Hopefully, he would catch me when I landed on my face.

He looked surprised.

"Are you sure? I wasn't really expecting you to--"

But I was already stripping off my shirt and slacks and kicking off my shoes. As soon as I stepped into the water, though, I realized that the creek was freezing. And that Edward wasn't behind me.

"Edward?"

He was just standing there. Watching.

I blushed and looked away, painfully conscious of my dowdy blue underthings. Swimming hadn't been on my agenda this morning.

I didn't even see him jump. Just one second, I was scaring a school of tadpoles in the shallows and the next I was lying on my back in the grass, Edward's cool lips crushing mine. I struggled, shocked, but he didn't let go and the feeling of his mouth was nothing short of divine. As I relaxed, I moaned, and I felt him shudder in response. His hands had pinned me to the ground, but he let me go now: I could feel him trying to stop, but I didn't want him to stop. My lips parted, inviting his tongue deeper, and I curved against his contours. He was so solid. My hands went to his hips and pulled him against me. Something hard and cold pressed between my thighs, and I felt myself burning.

"Dammit, no!" His scream echoed through the woods, startling a flock of birds into flight. He was already on the other side of the clearing, beating his fist into a tree so hard that bark flew, and the towering pine shuddered as if he were taking an axe to it. He was panting, shaking.

"I'm sorry, Bella," he said as I approached. He still looked furious, but he let the tree alone.

"I'm sorry, too." I knew I wasn't supposed to push for more when he kissed me. It would be entirely too easy for him to accidentally kill me, and he would never forgive himself, never in all eternity. No matter how I tried, though, I forgot everything when we were close to each other.

He continued as if I hadn't spoken. "It was just-- I'd never seen you like that: the sun on your skin. Your nightgowns are all so conservative. All I could think of was how badly I wanted to make you happy, to make you think only of me--"

"I already only think of you."

He sighed as if I'd said something very sad, and straightened. "Let's go back, then."

"Let's not."

He glanced at me sharply.

"It's not even close to dark yet. And you haven't made me faint yet." I smiled at him playfully.

"Bella, that's not a good idea."

So he hadn't forgotten.

"You promised."

"And I regretted it the second the words were out of my mouth."

"Could you just-- sit with me a while? You do make me think only of you."

Reluctantly, he let me sit him down in the shade. He did look more human that way, apart from his impossibly good looks.

"I don't see how I could make you happy. You get more mature every day, and me-- I'll always be seventeen. Can you even imagine what it feels like to be over a hundred years old and still have all the urges, the impetuousity, the hormones of a boy?"

I stiffened.

"What?" he asked.

"If you're a boy, what does that make me?"

He smiled apologetically. "A dangerously tempting young woman, who I would sell my soul to make love to."

"Then why don't you?" I leaned closer to him. Just one little nip, and we could run away and live together forever in some secluded little hole. I tried to make it seem like I was teasing, but I wasn't.

He must have known, because he frowned and drew back. I linked my arms around his neck. It wouldn't keep him from getting away, but it might make him hesitate.

One of the straps of my bra slipped off my shoulder. He reached up cautiously to slide it back into place, and shifted, kissing the strap between his fingers, his sweet breath brushing my breast. Edward Cullen was kissing me, his lips just touching my chest. My skin tingled, my head swam. Dizzy, I lay back, making him follow me down.

"It's not fair," he snarled. His lips were cold as he kissed me again, higher, in the hollow of my shoulder. "It's not fair. You can make me do anything." Pleasure washed through me with each touch of his lips. He was kissing his way higher.

His lips were on my throat.

He's going to do it. He's going to make me like him.

But he turned, kissed lower. And suddenly, I knew what he was going to do.

When Edward said we wouldn't be able to make love, it never occurred to me to consider this as an alternative. I had only heard of the practice from some of the sicker guys in Phoenix-- the ones who talked about nothing but sex, and I always thought the practice was bizarre-- and a little gross, and definitely nothing to talk about with a boyfriend who grew up in the 1800s.

His tongue was cold, even through my underwear. I sat bolt upright, gasping, but his hands were on my hips, holding me against his mouth.

"Edward--" I managed, but nothing more.

I melted under the cold of his kiss. He was barely touching me, teasing, or maybe being merciful enough to give me only the pleasure I could bear. But even this was very nearly unbearable.

"Breathe, Bella," he murmured.

I sucked in air obediently, and my vision cleared. I hadn't noticed that I'd almost fainted.

My underwear was soaked through now, and still he brushed his lips against me. I was writhing, trying to get away from his torturous caresses, my hands fisting in his auburn hair.

I have to-- I have to--

I didn't know what I had to do, but his mouth was calling to me and my body was answering. I wanted to plead with him, but I couldn't make a sound.

Fabric tore, and I realized he had ripped away my underwear. He hadn't planned on being merciful at all. He was only waiting for his frozen lips to absorb some of my heat before pressing for everything.

Two hard lines pressed against my outer lips, spreading me open.

His fangs.

He was using his fangs to hold me helpless.

Then his burning eyes closed, and his tongue slid deep. In and up, up to the little sensitive bud of my womanhood.

From somewhere, I heard a scream and someone was shrieking a single word over and over. But I couldn't stop, not for anything or anyone. The pleasure was more like pain now.

He was tearing me to pieces, burning me to nothing, and all I wanted was more. Terrible ecstasy wracked me, and icy fire swept through me, making me buck hard against his perfect lips.

When the timeless moment of pleasure finally subsided into sweet pulsing, I heard the screaming again.

The voice was mine. The word was: "Edward! Edward! Edward!"

Darkness swallowed me, and my last thought was: he more than kept his promise.


That was thirteen days ago. My schoolwork was suffering because I simply could not concentrate. How could I when every hour passed in a blur of anxious anticipation? Sometimes I was in class, and sometimes Jessica was talking to me, and I was nodding and laughing at more or less the right times. But the only moments that were real were the ones with Edward. Edward sitting with me in the cafeteria, or walking me to class, or (I would be throbbing by this point) driving me home.

When the front door closed behind us, he was all mine. Sort of. He still had to be careful, more careful than ever now that I wanted him so badly.

We did it everywhere. Mostly on my bed, but also on my desk, my bathroom counter, the kitchen table, the stove, the couch, and once, a workbench in the garage. We agreed to leave Charlie's room alone, even though his bed was bigger than mine, because that would just be wrong.

I couldn't believe how sneaky I was being, and I felt insanely guilty for lying to Charlie. Even though neither Edward nor I ever said we were saints, I saw the relief in Charlie's eyes when he thought he was taking us unawares, and found us working on a homework problem together, or holding hands.

Yeah, sure, Dad. All we've been doing while you were away is holding hands. And laundry so you won't notice the weird stains on my underwear.

The weekend was hell for both of us. Charlie kept asking me if I felt alright. Edward really didn't have an excuse to be around me, but he hated being away for too long-- it resensitized him to my smell, which made him need to redouble his self-control. My vampire boyfriend still managed to visit me at night, but we didn't dare try anything, because I always screamed. I couldn't help it. I was sure, one of these days, the neighbors would call the police, but Edward always told me that everyone was old working except for old Mrs. Donnell next door, who was stone deaf.

He made up for the wait on Monday. The workbench day. He was slow and almost painfully deliberate, but that was fine with me.

I felt bad for him, felt bad for liking the sex as much as I did. I could tell how much he wanted more. He was undead, and ancient, but he was also seventeen. And any healthy seventeen-year-old boy would be desperate for sex, especially when it was being dangled in front of him day in and day out.

I wanted so badly for him to try-- just try-- making love with me. Even though I knew it was insane, a little voice kept nagging me: He tasted your blood and held himself back. If you were both careful . . . if he'd eaten recently . . . Just once. Just to try. But every time I even hinted, he refused, half-angry. He wouldn't even undress me, except for the necessary parts, since the sight of me mostly naked started all the trouble. Still, I knew it was just a matter of time before one of us did something stupid. Which probably meant I would die in some hideous, unressurrectable way.

I only hoped that, if it came to that, Billy Black wouldn't retaliate against the Cullens. He had already been by once more, presumably to watch a game with Charlie, but really, I knew, to warn me.

"Bella, have you thought about what I said?" he demanded, as soon as Charlie stepped out for a bathroom break.

"The answer is no, Billy. Edward and I are happy together, and that's all there is to it, ok?" I knew I was being short with him, but I was suffering from a weekend's worth of sexual restraint. Worse than that, I was also vicariously suffering from Edward's unfulfilled desire, and my own inability to make love to him without dying. I was mad at myself, mad at Edward for not changing me, and having some virtual stranger explain the impossibility of loving Edward was the last thing I wanted-- because I so deeply feared it was true.

"Bella, think about what he is. He's an immortal blood-drinker. Sooner or later, if his feelings for you are real, he'll want you to be like him. And the only way for him to do that, is to kill you."

"You think I don't know that?" I hissed. Anger welled up in me, and with the anger came tears. "I've already asked him to make me one of them. I've told him to! I know it's the only way for us to be together! He's the one who agrees with you." I tried, and failed, to keep the tears from spilling down my face.

Billy just sat in his wheelchair, staring at me. Apparently, that wasn't the answer he was expecting at all, and he looked incredulous.

"He's told you he doesn't want to make you one of the Cold Ones?"

"Yes."

"Then . . . are you sure his feelings are genuine? Many of them have peculiar hunting habits: they like the taste of trust, so they wait until their prey is fully under their spell before--"

"No!" I wanted to scream at him, but I had to keep my voice low. "Edward isn't like that! He loves me, can't you see that?"

"Whether he does or not isn't the point. Even with all the Cullens on your side-- which they may not always be-- other vampires won't abide a human in their midst. You'll only bring trouble for the Cullens, as well as for yourself."

I opened my mouth, but had to shut it again, so my only response was an undignified sniffle.

"I see. There's already been some trouble with other vampires, hasn't there?"

I looked away.

"Bella, if something happened to you, think about what it would do to Charlie. You're the last tie he has to Renee, without you, he'll never see her again. Even if you get everything you think you want, you'll become an enemy of humanity. And it will be my duty to destroy you. I don't want to hurt Charlie that way."

"Promise you won'tkill me, Billy, please. Edward would never understand."

"You know I can't promise that. If you cared about Edward at all, you'd stop keeping him in an unequal match. You'd stop promising him a life that cannot last."

I jumped to my feet. I had to make it to my bathroom before I started bawling in fury and despair, but Billy caught me by the wrist.

"At least let me help you. Here--" With his free hand he reached into his coat pocket and drew out a paper package tied with string. "Deathbinders. I was hoping you'd use them to keep Edward away, but it will work on any of them. If things change, and you need to keep them away from you, these will paralyze any vampire you use them on."

"Let go," I snarled, but it was hard to look menacing with my nose running.

He only squeezed tighter. I could tell he was getting angry too. "Take it. It's not like it will hurt your friends, only paralyze them long enough for you to get away."

"I don't want it!" I whisper-screamed, but I had to stop at that because Charlie was coming back and I needed to bolt upstairs and cry away my fury.

In the end, though, I took Billy's stupid package. He faked me out by handing it to me right in front of Charlie, claiming it was an artifact for the Native American history project I had coming up. The worst insult was that I had to smile and thank him and wave goodbye to his taillights instead of spitting in his face and locking myself in my room.

I wanted to burn the thing without opening it, but curiousity got the better of me. I had to know what a weapon that could paralyze a vampire looked like. But when I pulled open the cardboard, I thought for a second that Billy had given me the wrong box. Seven identical objects lay inside: long coils of shaggy brown fur wound into twine that ended on either side with carved stones.

One for each of the Cullens.

They had to be some kind of rope dart, but they looked more like long, weighted friendship bracelets, only sillier, because wound into the hair were bunches of pretty white flowers.

I sniffed one.

Garlic.

Of course.

In a way, I was relieved. Who did he think I was, Jet Li? Like I really had even a remote chance at throwing this glorified lasso and hitting anything that moved faster than a tree.

Unless it had some magic vampire-homing ability, all I would gain by trying to use it would be a La Push-style fish symbol indented backwards on my head.

There was a note underneath the deathbinders that read:

The best tactic is to get them talking, and surprise them.

Well, duh.

Any face-off between a vampire and a human was likely to end badly for the human, unless the human had a serious element of surprise. I resented the implication, though. Billy seemed to think I was good at getting vampires to talk.

Maybe I was.

Even James had regaled me with a lengthy monologue before starting in to me.

James.

The thought of him made me think that I might want to keep Billy's garlic bouquet after all.

Not that I really had much of a chance to destroy it. The rest of the night I spent with Charlie, and Monday, Edward was with me and I forgot. On Friday, though, as I was sitting in English class, I realized what I wanted to do with them.

I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before.

School ended and I stood at my locker putting my books away.

"So," a voice like silken electricity sounded from behind me, "Charlie's out fishing for the weekend."

"Mm-hmm," I said, trying to make it sound like I hadn't been thinking about that and only that for the past four days. The hardest part had been trying to convince Charlie that he didn't need to apologize for giving me three days of heaven.

"We have the house to ourselves until Sunday afternoon," the voice lowered until it was little more than a whisper.

I closed my locker and turned to face him, and found him inches away, leaning on the locker next to mine. He was smiling his heart-stopping, crooked smile.

"I-- um--" I said, with my usual artless floundering, "I was going to show you something."

His smile broadened, and he looped an arm around my shoulder, guiding me around the corner. "Good. I was going to show you something, too." His murmur was a cool satin purr that sent shivers through me.

All the way to my house, the palpable desire sat between us like a third person in the car. I barely spoke, muted by the thrilling prospect of what I was about to do. Even if it didn't work, there were a lot worse ways to die.

As he turned his car off, he asked, "So what did you want to show me?"

"It's up in my room."

'I bet it is,' his smile said.

He didn't lose that cocky little smirk until I actually opened the box for him.

"Deathbinders," he breathed, "I thought something smelled funny in here. Where did you get these?"

When I told him, he bristled.

"And what did he want?" Edward demanded.

"He just wants me safe, Edward."

"From me."

"From any vampire who wants to hurt me."

Edward scowled.

"The only reason I kept them is because I thought that if I'd had them when James came, I might not have needed that cast."

"You might not have almost died, you mean," he said, then added reluctantly, "He's probably right." He fingered a garlic blossom. For some creepy reason, the flowers didn't fade as long as they were part of a deathbinder. As an experiment, I had plucked one of the petals off and it dried and shriveled to dust between my fingers. "They look well-made," Edward said. "I thought the art of crafting them had been lost. They aren't really all that favored by vampire hunters, since they're too slow, too tricky to use, and non-lethal."

"He-- Billy said something else that I've thought a lot about."

"Hmm?"

I sat down on my bed, half-hugging the box. I couldn't look at him. I had carefully rehearsed what I wanted to say for most of the day, but now that the moment was here-- I just wasn't sure I had it in me to come out and admit I wanted to tie him down and ravish him.

"He said that if I really cared about you, I wouldn't keep you in an unequal match. And I think he's right, in a way. We can't go on with me being the only one who really-- um, benefits-- from us being together." How could I make him understand that I needed this? I ­needed to give to him, not just receive. But I was terrified that he'd say that it was too dangerous, and my fear made me angry, and the anger brought a quaver to my voice that made me all-too-easily dismissable. "And I think we should try-- just try--"

I couldn't say it.

Edward finished for me, quietly. "Try seeing other people?"

"What?"

I jerked my head up to stare at him. He was looking out the window, stunned hurt showing on his marble profile.

"So that's why you brought me here. To tell me Billy Black was right all along, and that you can keep me away if I try to force you." The corner of his mouth turned down and one of his hands curled into a white fist. "I thought I told you I'd never stop you if you wanted to leave. I thought that-- after everything, you'd at least trust me to do that."

"What?" I asked again, stupidly, "Edward, no." I came toward him. I had a terrible mental vision of him throwing himself through the window and tearing up the street and out of my life.

For the first time, I sort of wished he could read my mind.

"That's not what I meant at all." As I spoke, I looped one of the deathbinders around his wrist.

"Bella?" Confusion twisted his perfect features.

"It's to keep you here talking to me. Does it hurt?" I demanded.

I wouldn't entirely put it past Billy Black to tell me the deathbinders were harmless, just to get a vampire trapped in some kind of poison net.

"No. Just tingles a little. What are you--?"

"Can you still feel your hand? He said these paralyze you."

"They don't exactly paralyze. They bind. I can't break out of a circle made with the rope. Now why are you doing this?"

"Because I want-- to be with you." I felt myself blushing hard. I looked up into his puzzled, dark gold eyes. "Edward, why would you think I'd want to leave you? It's not . . . what you want, is it?" If he tried, he could use his free hand to take my head off and shake his way out of the trap, but he stayed trapped in my grasp.

I tugged him over to make him sit with me on the bed.

"You know it's not what I want. It's what I think is best," he said, but added, "Whenever I thought of this moment, I thought I wouldn't make you explain. That no matter when or where, if you wanted to leave, I would understand. But, please, Bella, just tell me what I did. It'll haunt me forever if you don't. Was I too forward with you? Did someone say something? Is it--" a muscle in his jaw worked, "someone else?"

"It's nothing like that! I-- I-- Just lie down, okay?"

"Lie down?" His blank expression broke suddenly into a strange, crooked grin that made me nervous even as it made my heart skip a beat. "I didn't think you were capable of a mercy like this." He lay back, raising his hands above his head. "You'll want to get my feet, too."

A mercy like this?

I hesitated. On the one hand, he was doing exactly what I wanted him to. But his motivation was a mystery to me. I decided to tie first and ask questions later, knotting the twine around the bars of the headboard then using two other binders to tie his feet to the footboard posts. I had no idea how strong these things were, but I knew they weren't designed for what I was doing.

"Six inches," he whispered.

"What?"

"When you tear me apart, the pieces should be no more than six inches in any direction."

I wanted to hit him. That was why he was letting me do this?

"I didn't think you'd understand that I wouldn't want to live without you. Thank you," he said.

Surely any 20th century male would have gotten the hint by now, but Edward was resolutely 1800s in some ways, and, for all his talk, manacles in the bedroom were utterly beyond his comprehension.

"Edward Cullen! I can't believe you!"

He inclined his head at me.

"You actually thought I was going to kill you?" I demanded.

He blinked. "You're a human. Humans kill vampires when they have the chance, and I've given you more than adequate chances. Just like you've given me more than adequate chances. It's the perfect time: no one will look for me for three days. And this way, you won't be able to change your mind."

"What? I--" Part of me wanted to strangle him. Part of me wanted to laugh. The second part won, since I knew strangulation wouldn't have the desired effect anyway.

He looked more confused than ever.

"Well, why else would you use deathbinders on me? It's not like I enjoy being tied down."

I shook my head at him. "You'll enjoy this," I promised, and opened the top button of my blouse.

Only then did understanding flash in his ochre eyes.

"Oh my god, Bella, don't." He tried to sit up, but the binders seemed to be working: he could barely wiggle. I felt both slightly guilty and amazingly empowered.

"You have no idea what will happen! What if these break? What if someone comes? What if the act itself tears you apart? Bella, please! I can't be the one who kills you!"

"But I can be the one who kills you?"

"Think about this! You're a virgin! There will be blood! I don't have that much control!"

"Losing control is kind of the point, Edward. Please. We can't go on the way we have been. We don't have any kind of relationship if all I can do is take."

"Bella, no. Just untie me. We can talk about this." He sounded like he was trying to talk me down from a ledge.

I sat down beside him on the bed. "Edward, do you really not want this? We don't-- have to, if--"

"Of course I want to."

"But . . . I mean, you don't want to right now."

"It's not that that I'm afraid of. I'm afraid I'll like it too much, that I won't be able to stop, no matter how much it hurts you."

I looked at him lying there. He was beautiful, perfectly beautiful, his hands above his head as if he were stretching, showing the fine muscles of his chest. I didn't care what happened to me -- but I couldn't make him. "Okay," I said, meek again. Dominatrix really wasn't in my nature, I had only been hoping. I leaned over him, my hair tumbling over his marble face, and kissed him.

I meant it sort of as an apology, so he wouldn't be mad, but something happened when our lips met. For the first time, I didn't have to be careful-- and neither did he. There was no end to this kiss, no beginning, either. Just the cold bow of his lips on mine. Every tremble of my mouth against his sent a jolting thrill through my whole body. I sighed against him and my lips parted as I rested my weight on him, pushing him down into the bed.

I felt his habitual resistance, felt him straining against the ties to push me off, but he couldn't escape. Something broke inside him and he shuddered. And oh so slowly, responded. His tongue moved into my mouth, as lightly as if he were lapping still water and trying not to make a ripple. I fought to remember to breathe. Edward Cullen was inside my mouth; his sweet smell everywhere, magnified tenfold by his taste. I felt all of him in that kiss: the careful tenderness, the dark power, and the deep, brooding thirst. His mouth sharpened suddenly as he bared his fangs. I pulled back a fraction of an inch, surprised, and I felt his whisper on my lips: "Bella . . ."

I sat up beside him.

He was lying with his eyes closed, lips still slightly parted. "You win," his musical murmur was so low I almost didn't hear it. But when he opened his golden eyes, his expression was possessive and a hint of triumph tinged his hypnotic stare. "Alright," he said, "but tie my neck down, and my waist, too. No chances."

My face broke into a grin. "Really?"

All day, as I had plotted and hoped, I had also feared that something would come between us at the last second-- or that he simply wouldn't want to.

I didn't look at him, but I could feel his eyes on me, watching my shaking fingers undo the buttons on my blouse. I thought I heard him swallow. I didn't hear him breathe. I stood up, jelly-legged, to take off my jeans, but nervousness only magnified my clumsiness, and I stumbled, almost hitting my head on the desk. Somehow I managed to unzip myself and wriggle free-- with a far cry from the grace I saw on runways and at the Cullens'. I kept waiting for Edward to burst out laughing as I fumbled with the clasp on my bra, missing the hooks in back. Twice.

"Bella," his voice was velvet and wine, "Are you scared?"

"A little."

"Don't be. You don't have to do any of this."

I risked a look at him. He was beautiful in his helplessness, bronze hair falling over bronze eyes. His face was full with some nameless emotion: wonder and fear and desire. There was strength for me in that gaze, and my hands steadied enough to work the hooks open and I let the bra fall free.

My whole face felt hot, from my neck to my hair, but I was also throbbingly, achingly eager. I looked at him again, hardly daring to hope for approval. His eyes had changed. Hunger-- maybe more than one kind of hunger-- burned there now, and the muscles in his arms and legs were knotted and straining, as if the thin bands of twine were all that kept him from lunging at me. He was giving in to some darker part of himself that I had never seen, canines sharp as daggers, breathing fast and hard.

He wants my scent.

I sat down beside him and leaned close. He seemed to drink in my smell, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply, then exhaling in ragged breaths. He was so, so perfect with his hair fanning across the pillows, the muscles in his arms still taut. Slowly, carefully, as if he weren't trapped, as if he might startle like a wild animal at any moment, I leaned over him, and touched his chest.

I couldn't believe I was actually doing this: sitting virtually naked with the one I loved more than life itself. I had fantasized this moment so often, but I had always assumed that the chance wouldn't come for years, not until I had talked Edward into making me his vampire bride. But the time was here, now, and I tried to make every glorious second last. I leaned in closer. I wanted his scent, too.

His breath caught when I slid my hands under his soft, V-necked shirt, and ran my fingers up his smooth, sculpted chest. He tensed when I brushed his nipples.

"Just rip it off, Bella. Cut it." The rich, deep timbre of his voice was so sultry that I entirely missed what he said. Usually, he kept me half-mesmerized with his unintentionally alluring tones, but now, when even a hint of deliberate seduction colored his words, I was completely lost. It felt like he had poured all of his cool, sweet self into my mind. He could have told me to untie him and I would have obeyed, smiling vacantly as a drugged puppy. There was no question of not doing what he said.

I got the scissors out of my desk, never trembling once, and bent over him. The sound of fabric cutting rang loud in my ears. Vaguely, I knew I had liked that shirt and that it was a terrible waste to cut apart a beautiful ribbed sweater that was probably worth more than any single item of clothing I owned. But it almost felt as if his hands were guiding mine, slicing away the garment with a quick precision entirely alien to me.

And then his chest was bare, and all my clumsiness returned. I ran my palms over him, smoothing the cold skin of this Renaissance masterpeice, half-afraid that my touch would somehow mar his perfect beauty. Edward lay back, relaxing into my hands.

"Bella," he murmured, his voice more normal, "Lower."

I flushed, knowing what he wanted. I picked at the button of his jeans, all the strength gone from my fingers. He raised himself slightly, bowing his back so that I could work his pants down-- if I ever got my fingers to cooperate. Some of my frustration must have showed, because he whispered, "It's okay, Bella. Take as long as you need. This is no strain for me."

I knew he was telling the truth. He could probably hold himself in that awkward position for weeks if he wanted to.

The button of his jeans came undone, and slowly, fitfully, I opened his zipper. I was blushing so hard all the blood must have left my hands, but somehow, I managed to push the thick, awkward fabric of his jeans down off his slim hips to gather below his knees. Edward Cullen lay stretched out on my bed, and an unexpected shaft of afternoon light slanted through the venetian blinds, slashing his pale body with starlight and diamonds. He could have been an airbrushed underwear model, except no underwear model would be shown so-- ready.

"The rest," he whispered. "Please."

My throat was dry. All I could do was nod and hook my fingers over the elastic band, sliding his last bit of fabric down out of the way.

He's bronze there too.

"This is me," he said softly.

All I could think to answer was, "Edward."

Edward, who was more beautiful than the sun, than moonlight on water, more perfect than any sculpted Greek god, was lying naked in front of me, every curve of him an invitation. My stomach was doing somersaults, but what frightened me more was the quivering in my core, the desperation between my thighs that I could hardly understand.

I hesitated, then stood up to peel away my own underwear. Edward's eyes fixed on every motion, naked craving in his gaze. The deathbinders creaked as he strained against them. He wasn't even trying to keep himself back anymore, trusting the bonds to be all the restraint he needed. I looked at him, brimming with grateful hope, and he met my eyes.

"Bella," he said, "Come." I had never heard his voice like that before: a predator's whisper, so scintillatingly sweet it compelled me to lean closer. For the first time, he turned the full force of his hypnotic splendor on me. Once I sorted out the meaning behind the husky, scintillating sounds he made, I half-fell onto the bed next to him, stretching my naked self above his. I was above him, but I was completely under his power.

Hurt me, Edward. Drain me dry. Only let me be completely yours right now.

I don't know if I said it aloud or not, but he moaned suddenly, and seemed to recollect himself.

"Bella," he said, his tone returning to half-beguiling normalcy, "You don't have to do this. I won't make you." It sounded more like he was convincing himself than me.

But even as his words released me, his scent and the feel of his skin left me no choice. I needed him everywhere. Inch by inch, I let myself lie down on top of him, first my nipples brushing his cold chest, then my ribs, my shuddering hips. This was the moment I had hungered for for so long: the full length of my warm, living body pressing down against his cold, dead one. But he was the one who shivered.

I wanted every second of this delicious agony to last. Someday, perhaps, he would make me his eternal bride, but now, today, I could offer him something I wouldn't be able to then: heat. Edward lay with his head back and eyes closed, his breath coming in deep, ragged gasps.

I don't know how long I lay like that, drowning in the cold depths of his perfection, holding everything in my arms and still wanting more.

"Bella, I--" His voice was different now, faltering and human. "I've never--"

I turned my head to smile up at him.

I knew him well enough to recognize his tone. In the rare instances when he encountered something new, he sounded more like a seventeen-year-old, and less like a deathless god.

"It's like falling," he whispered, "Into warmth . . . It's almost-- too much."

"We can stop." If this was all he was ready to give me, I would bear it for a while, even if my hips screamed at the mere thought of denial. "Or we can go slower."

He groaned. "No." The words was clipped. He sounded almost angry. "I'm sorry, Bella, but I can't go any slower. If we keep going, I won't be able to be easy on you. I'm sorry, but I know myself well enough to know that. If you want to stop, get off me now and run."

"I don't want to stop. Edward, I want this. Please."

He lay listening to me with his eyes still closed, as if he were drinking in my words. Finally, he looked at me, and his eyes were the color of old embers: deep, intense, and firey. "Then get the other deathbinders. No chances," he said.

I laid one across his neck, and another across his waist, just for good measure. Edward flexed against the new bonds, making sure he would not be able to push too suddenly or too hard in any direction.

Trembling like an aspen leaf, I sat down beside him. Finally satisfied, he turned to me and said: "Relax." If anything, his voice was even more compelling than before. The two syllables echoed in my mind, resonating inside me until the terrible quivering in my core became a blind, frantic ache. I closed my eyes, and let myself burn.

I meant to take my time: touching him, exploring and teasing and taking him in my mouth. But the need inside me made all my limbs shake with hunger and awe and before I knew what I was doing, I straddled him. For a long, excruciating instant, I kissed him with my other mouth. And then the truest part of him was inside me, searing me with an icy caress.

If hell was hot, heaven was cold.

Edward was trying to stop, trying to be considerate, and I was trying to stop too, dimly aware that my light-headedness meant I would pass out soon. But fighting it only sweetened each movement, every thrust showing us plainly how powerless we were to resist.

"Edward," I managed, "I'm going to faint!"

His expression did not change, but I knew he heard me, because the writhing of his hips steadied, and he began to hum. I recognized the tune as the one he wrote for me, only now lilting, bittersweet lullaby had a rhythm-- the deep, steady pulse of our lovemaking. He was singing to me with his whole body, and I found I could breathe in time to his melody, hovering on the knife-blade between consciousness and more pleasure than I could stand.

Life and death were touching in our flesh. He was killing me with every withdrawal, resurrecting me with every thrust. Edward was still singing, but there was a strange shiver in his voice now, and he broke off suddenly whispering, "Oh, god." His white body undulated faster under me, his brows knit tight as if he were in pain, lips hissing some vampiric curse or prayer. My breath came in hot gasps, my body clenched and spasmed around his searing ice, and then white heat arced through me and I was shrieking. Shreiking and pleading and dying and being born and clinging to him, clinging to him.

His eyes flew open-- black as ink-- and his head wrenched back, marble body arching violently against his bonds. His needle-sharp fangs shone in the dim light, and he cried out with a visceral, inhuman, snarling scream.

When I first laid eyes on Edward Cullen, I thought he was the most terrifyingly beautiful sight in the world. Now I knew I was wrong. The most terrifyingly beautiful sight in the world was Edward Cullen-- coming.

I don't know how long I lay there, my ears ringing with the sound of our duet: human and vampire crying out in ecstasy. Eventually, though, I noticed how still he lay, not even breathing. He didn't need to breathe, of course, and he had no pulse, so how could I tell if something was wrong?

"Edward?" I asked. "Are you alright?"

Silence.

"Edward, say something!"

My hands fumbled with the chord at his wrists as I untied him, noticing as I did that he had gripped the headboard railing so hard that the cold iron bore the imprint of his hands, squeezing between his fingers like putty.

"No," he replied, eyes still closed.

"No?"

"No, I'm not alright. And I'll never be alright again." His eyelids fluttered open and I noticed that they were several shades darker than they had been this afternoon. "I don't know if you've killed me or brought me back to life, and I don't care. As long as you're here, I don't care. Bella . . ." He touched my face carefully as if expecting me to dissolve. He was Edward the teenager now, with a teenager's uncertainties, and I leaned my head against his palm reassuringly. "Do you have any idea what you've given me? You can't know, can you? You can't know what it is to be so cold for so long. And you make things happen to me that never happened-- not even when I was human. With you I feel more alive than I did when I was alive."

He reached for me and drew me down-- gentle as a feather falling, inexorable as stone. "I never would have dared to ask for a moment like this one," he added.

Neither would I.

But what I said was, "I love you, Edward Cullen."

He made a sound from the back of his throat that sounded suspiciously like a sob. He was holding my head against him, though, so I couldn't look up to see. A peaceful exhaustion washed through me, and I knew that soon Edward's white embrace would be joined by the dark embrace of sleep. I smiled, and burrowed deeper into the cool arms holding me close, cradled against his silent chest.