"The Indies First Time Writer Challenge" One-Shot Contest – Theme: First Time Experiences

Title: You Saved Me
Pen name: imwishing
Primary Players: Emmett & Rosalie
Rating: M
Word Count: 14,750
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight… I do not.

September, 1935

I heard the bear long before I saw it. I wasn't alarmed at first; it was just a rustling in the distance, far off the trail I was hiking in the Appalachians. But as the sounds came closer I started to become concerned. I picked up my pace, the boots on my feet thudding along on the dusty, uneven terrain, hoping to make it back to the campsite where my family was waiting before whatever was tramping around in the woods picked up my scent on a wayward breeze.

The sounds grew closer quickly, no longer just a faint rustling. I was still a good mile from camp. A snapping branch, the crunch of leaves – dried in Indian summer heat – being crushed by heavy movement, and then an odd snuffling that brought my first real tingling of fear. I skidded to a stop on the trail and cocked my head, straining to listen. The noises continued, becoming bolder, and my fear grew exponentially. I forced myself to look out into the trees to my right where the sounds were coming from – now just off the trail – and watched, rooted to my spot by terror, as the bushes and brambles jerked and swayed, disturbed by something large and oblivious.

I knew it was a bear even before she stepped out onto the trail. Everything else in the forest moved swiftly and silently, either on the lookout for predators or stalking its prey. The only creature with the audacity to move so raucously was the bear, for it had no threats and ate mostly insects and berries.

I had a thousand passing thoughts as I waited for the bear to emerge from the thicket just five yards from the spot I was standing. My head screamed at me to run the other way, but try as I might, I could not force my feet to move. She could follow me, pick up my scent on the trail, I thought, trying desperately to justify my fear-induced paralysis. I thought about how, just maybe, I could fight the bear off. Perhaps she was small. I was big; it could turn out to be an even match. I thought about my gun, sitting uselessly back at the campsite, unloaded, and cursed my foolishness. This was supposed to be just a hike, a peaceful break from my family.

And then it was them who consumed my thoughts. My mother and father, always so supportive and loving, pushing me to become the man they knew I could be. My brother and sister, precocious and preposterous, who drove me crazy on a daily basis, but God, I loved them anyway. I may never see them again. The pain of it nearly overshadow my fear.

Finally she cleared the bushes, pushing through with her enormous head and broad shoulders, shuffling out onto the trail in front of me on all four paws. I had never seen a bear in the wilderness and I was shocked by the size of her. She wasn't small, not by any sense of the word, and my fantasy about fighting her off suddenly seemed entirely absurd. She sniffed the air and then the dirt in an aggressive manner, her sloppy breath blowing up a cloud of dust from the trail. It was obvious the second she caught scent of me, her massive body tensed all at once and her head jerked in my direction. She took a step back, assessing me swiftly with her beady black eyes, and then she let out a throaty grunt, a clear and severe warning.

I wanted to run. Christ, I wanted so badly to spin on my heels and sprint down the trail as fast as my legs would carry me, but I didn't. I couldn't. She would chase me – of that I was sure. She was anxious already, distressed and angry about something. I took a slow, calculated step backward, dragging my foot through the dirt as I went, praying she would see I meant her no harm.

She grunted again, this time louder, and I froze. Ever so slowly she pushed off the ground with her front paws – surely much larger than my own head – and rose up onto her hind feet, displaying her full height of well over six feet. Her right arm pawed at the air in front of her, razor sharp claws gleaming in the sunlight that somehow managed to filter down through the canopy of hemlocks and firs. Her fur was black as tar, with a small white V on her wide chest. Her face – which might have been cute were she caged – boasted those little black eyes, rounded ears and a long snout that was dripping with white, foamy drool. I thought absentmindedly of how disgusted my little sister would have been by the sight of this gigantic beast and her undignified slobbering.

The crack of a breaking twig, this time behind me, yanked me back to reality. I kept my eyes trained warily on the bear, just as she watched me, all the while listening to the new sounds behind me. As the rustling grew, so did my confusion. What kind of animal would be stupid enough to come within fifty feet of me and my new furry friend?

My question was answered soon enough. The bear emitted an odd moaning and I chanced a quick glance behind me. To my complete dismay, a cub, with the same oily black fur and long snout emerged from the trees just a few feet behind me. It made a loud mewing sound when it saw its mother. The bear leaned just slightly to look around me at her baby and then growled mightily, the sound ringing in my ears and vibrating my core for several seconds after it was quiet again. She pawed the air again, this time her left paw following the right. My heart slammed into my ribs as panic set it. I was standing, unarmed, between a mama bear and her cub. I was utterly fucked.

She lunged at me with another violent growl, erasing the fifteen feet between us in a matter of seconds. She batted at my head with her huge paw, clearly not using her full strength, like I was a mere toy for her to experiment with, but the force of the impact made me stagger. That angered her further. She swatted again, this time whacking me so hard I saw stars and fell hard on my ass, biting into my tongue as I went down. Instinctually, I curled myself into a ball and went completely still, remembering some tidbit I'd heard from one of my father's hunting buddies about playing dead if ever confronted by a bear.

She walked around me on all fours, a slow, taunting circle, puffing out bursts of moist air as she leaned over to sniff at me. I stayed in the fetal position, praying both for my life and that I wouldn't shit myself on the off chance I made it out of the woods alive. My eyes were squeezed tightly shut, amplifying all of my other senses – the tremble of my body as I hugged my knees to my chest, every huff and grunt the bear made as she circled me, the stench of her huge, furry body, and the metallic taste of blood in my mouth.

She stilled unexpectedly, and I chanced a quick peek. It was a mistake. My eyes opened just in time to see her claws coming down, swiping fiercely at my head and neck. She did it again, and then again, until the vicious blows were coming so quickly I lost count. The sensation was bizarre – not painful the way I would have imagined, but intensely graphic all the same. I could feel my skin ripping away from muscle and bone. I could smell the rusty odor of blood as it oozed from my wounds. And the sound of my tearing flesh –nails on glass – made me cringe away irrationally.

I tried to fight back, blocking as best I could with my hands and forearms, weakly grasping at handfuls of her greasy fur, but it was a futile effort. She had hundreds of pounds on me, teeth like spikes, and claws nearly as long as fingers. Not to mention a fierce maternal instinct that would not allow her to leave me alive. It may have been the grim realization of inevitable defeat, or possibly the massive amount of warm blood that was pouring from my damaged body, but very quickly I felt myself grow weaker, until I gave up all together and let her pelt and shred and ravage my body unchallenged.

I was fading fast, in and out of reality I went, my mind trying in vain to protect what was left of my lucidity from the trauma of the attack.

All at once the bear's movements halted completely. I tried to open my eyes to see what had distracted her, but they were swollen shut or blinded by blood – or maybe I was simply too weak – so I listened instead. All was eerily quiet. Has she given up? And then I heard a hiss, followed by a sharp, strangled growl that sent icicles sliding up what was left of my back. I tried to move, to roll off the trail, to hide my mangled body from further attack, but my limbs were alarmingly useless and I wondered, horrified, how severe the damage was.

I lay immobile on the trail – blind and bloodied, silent and still, waiting... waiting for the bear to finish the job, waiting for rescue, waiting to bleed out so the whole ordeal would be over. The wait seemed endless, but in the small part of my mind that was still coherent, I knew it was really only a few minutes. The only sounds in the forest were my ragged, irregular breathing and the faint rustling of leaves overhead as the breeze blew through the trees. Using every shred of strength still in me, I tried again to move. This time I was successful in shifting my weight, turning my head infinitesimally and I said a silent prayer of thanks. I strained to force my puffy eyelids open and was immediately assaulted by the bright sunlight I saw through tiny slits. My vision was blurry but I wasn't blind.

I wasn't blind, but surely I was hallucinating.

A few feet from me lay the bear, a heap of fur and claws, no longer growling or moving or even breathing. Over the bear knelt a girl, her face buried in its thick neck, her long blonde hair fanned out over ebony fur.

What the hell is she doing? I thought, trying to clear my head and find my voice at the same time. My eyes slid around the trail and nearby bushes, anywhere I could look without moving, searching for more people, but no one was nearby. Certainly this girl hadn't fought the bear by herself. She must have a weapon, a gun or club, a bow and arrow for Christ's sake, I told myself. I closed my eyes again, the strain of holding them open for so long exhausting much of my remaining energy.

A few minutes passed by in silence and I contemplated dozing right there on the hard ground. I was so tired, completely wasted, weak with fatigue and blood loss, but the fear that I'd never wake up was all too real. The searing pain began to creep in then, raising bile in my throat. I swallowed hard, one of the few bodily functions I could still manage, but vertigo overtook me. I was losing the battle… I was dying.

Suddenly there was movement again and I pried my eyes open once more, taking in the sight of the girl before me. She was standing now, my first full glimpse of the angel who'd saved me, flaxen hair falling in long ringlets past her shoulders, golden eyes peering down at me, so full of uncertainty and concern. She was wearing a white dress, which perplexed me, even in my near death state. There were tiny pink flowers all over it, with little cap sleeves and a neckline I'd once heard my sister refer to as a 'sweetheart.' Who wears a dress out in the middle of the forest? My eyes closed again.

Strong arms – surely not hers, they were cold and hard as steel – grasped and lifted me, holding securely under my shoulders and knees and then... I was flying. Wind rushed passed me, ruffling my hair and whistling in my ears, cooling my skin.

My eyes fluttered open, this time on their own, to the blur of emerald trees whipping past. I wasn't flying, but I was in the arms of the beautiful girl and she was running implausibly fast. My head lolled as she made a sharp turn, pushing my nose briefly into the granite skin at her collar bone. She smelled so good, like rose petals. My head moved a second time and her scent was lost, mingling into the other smells soaring past us: fresh tree sap, cool air and my own blood. I looked up at her again and her loveliness was nearly breathtaking. Her skin was lily white and smooth like marble. And her eyes – I'd never seen anything like them, bright amber, holding secrets I couldn't begin to unlock. She was a mystery. She'd saved me, singlehandedly, from a gigantic bear and then lifted me in her arms like the ragdoll I'd suddenly become and sprinted off into the woods as if my extra bulk was nothing of consequence. Could any of this possibly be true?

And then cold hard reality set in. This wasn't real, but there was a logical explanation… I was already dead. This beautiful angel was carrying me to heaven.

She glanced down while I stared up at her, still running more swiftly and more gracefully than a black tailed deer, somehow managing to not strike a tree or even slow down. She looked terrified, her eyes wild with anxiety. "Please don't die," she murmured in a silky voice.

Please don't die? But I was dead. I opened my mouth to tell her as much, but the words wouldn't come; only an indecorous gargling escaped my throat. I sucked in a breath of air to try again, but my angel spoke instead.

"Don't try to talk," she said, her voice dripping over me like honey. She wasn't even winded, I realized with shock. "Just a little bit further… try to hold on. Carlisle will help you, he can save you."

Three Days Later

The searing burn was beginning to fade from my body. For three days I'd writhed in agony as blazing pain overtook me, so much worse than the injuries inflicted by the bear. Worse than anything I'd ever imagined possible. I was mostly incoherent, but occasionally snippets of dialogue or a random physical detail would register in my mind and I would cling to it desperately, hoping for distraction from the inconceivable hurt coursing through every cell in my body.

My angel stayed with me in the unfamiliar little room, as did the blonde man called Carlisle. My angel sat in a chair near my bed, occasionally laying her cold hand on my cheek or adjusting the starchy sheet that was draped haphazardly over my body, but mostly she kept her distance. Carlisle checked on me often, making unobtrusive, quick medical assessments, and then stepping back toward the far wall.

Others visited the room as well, a woman with hair the color of caramel and a sweet voice, and another young man with angular features and fiery hair. They never stayed long; I wasn't sure if that was because they were granting me privacy or because my anguished screams made them uncomfortable. There was little conversation in the small room, though perhaps I'd just been too consumed by the pain to really take full notice of my surroundings.

As the burning dissipated, other things became more apparent: my slowing heart beat, my already heightened senses, the odd lack of discomfort from my bear-induced injuries. I clenched my eyes shut and tightened my fists on the sheets of the bed, preparing for whatever was to come next.

And then the burn stopped completely and my chest tightened. The labored thumping of my heart – had I ever been able to hear my own heart before? – slowed even more and then, with a last strenuous pump, stopped entirely. I gasped for air, shocked that after everything that happened – the bear, my angel, the flaming pain – now my heart was giving out?

"I know what you're thinking," her sweet voice declared from the chair at my bedside.

My eyes snapped open and immediately drank her in – blonde curls, golden eyes, clear, milky skin, that familiar rosy perfume – yes, it was still her. I continued to stare, afraid to speak, like my voice would disturb the vision and make her disappear like a desert mirage.

"I know what you're thinking," she repeated, leaning toward me slightly. "You think you're dead."

I nodded, just barely, still dazzled by both her beauty and the sharpness of my eyesight.

"You aren't."

"Where am I?" Finally I found my voice; it was clear and baritone, foreign to my own ears.

"You are at my house – our house," she said, gesturing to Carlisle at the doorway, implying some sort of relationship between the two of them. My silent heart fell a little.

I flipped the sheet off and sat up on the bed, feeling every fiber of the linens under my sensitive skin. My torso was bare but someone had dressed me in soft cotton pants at some point during the ordeal. Obviously my own clothing had been shredded by the bear. I gave my body a quick once over, fantastically strong eyes scanning my pale, unblemished skin. There'd been blood, of that I was sure, a shit-ton of blood, and yet there I sat, unharmed, not a scratch or even a scar to be seen. "What the fuck?" I uttered, mystified.

"You're going to be fine," my angel said, glancing at Carlisle for guidance.

He stepped forward, extending a hand. "I'm Carlisle Cullen."

I grasped his hand with my own, my large palm dwarfing his. "Emmett McCarty."

"Emmett…" Carlisle mused with a smile. "We've been wondering what to call you." His face grew somber again. "How much of the attack do you remember, Emmett?"

"All of it, I think… I remember the bear – I unintentionally got myself between her and her cub – and I remember her coming at me, tearing at me with her claws. I remember the blood," I said, glancing down again in wonder at my unscathed body. I looked up at the girl with the gorgeous blonde hair – Carlisle's wife? "And I remember you, saving me. How did you do it?"

Her eyes jumped from me to Carlisle, she hesitated. "I think perhaps you should spend some time with Carlisle," she finally said, rising up from her chair. "He can explain better than I can." I watched with a sad tugging in my chest as my angel walk out of the room.

Carlisle took her seat. "How are you feeling?"

I considered his question carefully and then answered honestly. "I feel amazing. Confused, certainly, but my body feels fine." Unconsciously, I stroked my neck. "My throat is dry, scratchy, even. I'm… thirsty."

Carlisle chuckled kindly. "We'll take care of that soon."

And then he explained everything. What he had done to save my life, the changes my body had endured during the last three days to recreate me as a vampire, my immortality, my untested strength and speed, my strict diet of blood, his rules for survival and the commitment I would have to make were I to stay with him and his family. I listened carefully, thoughtfully, as he described what my new life could be.

I sat alone on the bed after Carlisle had left me to digest my new world. I was shocked on so many levels, it was almost too much to absorb. I would survive on blood and blood alone, I was virtually indestructible… I would live forever. Ever seeing my family and friends again was out of the question. Carlisle had explained what it meant to be a newborn – I could not be trusted with humans and even when I could, months, maybe years down the road, I could never tell them of my new life. I'd become nothing but a danger to them.

I was left with two choices: I could either commit to the vegetarian diet of the Cullen family and stay with them, or stray and explore the world... alone. The choice was simple. Carlisle was a Cullen, my angel was a Cullen… how could they possibly be anything but good? I would stay with them.

My angel came back into the room a short while later. I was sitting on the bed, the burn in my throat increasing with each passing minute, still coming to terms with my new existence. She eyed me from the door way, silently asking for permission to enter, as if I would ever turn her away. I smiled and waved toward the chair she'd occupied earlier.

She walked gracefully across the room, statuesque, her hips swaying slightly with each step, gently swinging the pleats of her dress – red today, with a tiny ruffle of delicate lace along the neckline. She sat, her blonde curls falling forward to frame her face, and offered me a timid smile. "You're looking better."

"Thanks to you," I said sincerely. "What's your name?"

She crossed her legs, smoothing her skirt over her knees. "Rosalie."

Of course… my angel would have a unique and beautiful name. "Rosalie," I repeated, instantly like the way it felt on my tongue. "Thank you for saving me, Rosalie."

She shrugged – a slight lift of her shoulders. "I had to."

"Why?"

"I couldn't stand to watch you die." She paused, a torn expression tightening her features. "But I'm sorry. I'm so sorry to have inflicted this life upon you without ever asking your permission."

"It's okay." I was being truthful; I really was okay with my transformation. "I'm already certain this life will be better than death."

Rosalie looked skeptical, her eyebrows arched regally. "That's Carlisle's philosophy too."

"Carlisle… he seems like a good man."

She nodded. "Oh, he is. He… saved me a few years ago. I've stayed with him and his wife Esme ever since."

I felt a wave of relief wash over me. "Esme must be the other woman, the one with the light brown hair?"

"Yes. She's wonderful. Edward lives with us too. He was Carlisle's first transformation, nearly twenty years ago. I'm sure you'll meet them both soon –" she dropped her eyes to her lap bashfully "– if, that is, you decide to stay with us."

My answer was immediate and delivered with a genuine grin. "Oh, I'm staying."

She smiled back, her eyes alight. "I'm glad," she murmured demurely.

"How did this all happen, Rosalie? What were you doing in the woods? How did you find me? How did you kill the bear?"

"I'm not even sure where to start…"

"Start at the beginning. What were you doing in the woods?"

"I was in the woods because I was hunting." She must have seen the momentary question mark in my eyes because she clarified. "Not hunting for sport, hunting for… sustenance. I'd been thirsty, probably a little like how you're feeling now, I was looking for a deer, possibly a wolf. I smelled your blood – it was powerful – before I ever heard or saw you. The scent of human blood is entirely different from the blood of animals – in time you'll learn to distinguish the two. I followed the scent of your blood out of curiosity more than anything else and as I got closer I began to hear the sounds of your attack."

I nodded, still a little cynical even after all I'd learned over the course of the day. "And you killed the bear?"

"Yes. That was the easy part… I'm very strong, probably just as strong as you." That sounded like a challenge and I rolled my eyes. There was not a chance in hell Rosalie had anything on my brawn – especially now.

"So, killing the bear was easy. What was the hard part?"

Her golden eyes grew darker and her voice was soft. "The hard part was getting you here without killing you myself." She glanced around the room, looking anywhere but at me. I waited patiently; she clearly wasn't done. "There was a lot of blood," she finally continued, her tone impossibly grave. "Someday you'll see. Human blood is very different from animal blood, much more appealing. It took everything I had to bring you safely to Carlisle."

"How did you do it?"

"I drained the bear, filling myself to the point of discomfort. I tried not to look at you. I held my breath while I ran. It's easier when you can't smell the blood. I found Carlisle right away and he changed you immediately. I was almost too late."

I found myself gazing at her again, reveling at her honesty, her strength and her beauty. "You're amazing, Rosalie. I thought you were an angel, swooping in to save me, carrying me all this way, sacrificing yourself. How will I ever repay you?"

She smiled again, sad yet hopeful. "You have forever to find a way."

We stared at each other for a long time, not talking or touching, not even moving. I hardly knew her, but already I adored her. I knew then I would spend my eternity trying to make her happy.

Finally the burn in my throat became too much to tolerate. "So, this hunting thing… do you think you might be able to show me a thing or two?"

August, 1936

Rosalie ran ahead of me, dashing through the dense, moss-covered forest at an otherworldly speed. I watched her as I followed closely behind, leaping fluidly over fallen logs and meandering streams, never able to tear my eyes from her graceful sprint.

We'd moved shortly after my transformation, taking up residence in a tiny town called Hoquiam, located on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. It was stunning, completely different from everything I'd known in Tennessee. Laying eyes on the frothy gray waters of the Pacific Ocean for the first time – my new family standing stoically beside me – was a wonderful moment.

I was a Cullen now, not by birth, but certainly by mindful choice, and I was, if not happy, completely content. I loved the Cullens, each and every one of them. Intelligent Carlisle, the patriarch of our unconventional family, guided us by example and taught us to respect the sanctity of life. Esme, perpetually sweet and Carlisle's soul mate, she was a willing maternal figure to me and my new siblings. Edward, with his unruly hair and passion for the piano, always moody and self-sacrificing to a fault, he could sneak into my head whenever he wanted, although I think more often than not he tried to refrain. And Rosalie, my angel, sweet and stubborn, entitled and clandestine, she was my tutor in all things vampire, my confidant, and the love of my life.

Rosalie was everything to me, my inspiration and my best friend. I watched her constantly, made up excuses to be in the same room as her, and dragged her out on hunting trips even after she'd just been because I couldn't stand to be away from her. Not a moment passed during the day or night that I wasn't thinking about her silky hair, her marble smooth skin or the curve of her rear under those modest little dresses she always wore. I wanted every part of her.

She knew everything about me. We'd spent the endless nights of my newborn year sitting in the parlor, Rosalie stretched out across the settee, me on the floor next to the fireplace, pouring every faint detail of my human life out for her. She listened thoughtfully; at times I thought she might even be fascinated, nodding and asking questions about my schooling, the McCarty family, my hobbies, even my former favorite foods.

Rosalie did not love me though, at least not in the way I loved her. She was so cautious when we talked, always listening carefully as I babbled away, but never sharing anything about herself. I only knew a few miniscule details about her vampire life before me and nothing of the human life she'd once led. I didn't even know what catalyst had brought her to Carlisle for rescue. I craved more information about her, but I'd learned quickly not to ask because as soon as I did she would inevitably close up. She kept her distance physically too. We hadn't touched since that day in the Appalachians when she'd carried me to the safety of Carlisle's home. She sat on the opposite side of the room from me, always ran ahead of me in the woods, and had shied away completely the few times I'd reached out toward her. More than once I'd gotten the distinct impression that she was scared of me – intimidated at the very least. Seeing her flinch those times had nearly shattered my dead heart and I hadn't attempted even the most platonic physical contact in months.

No, Rosalie had nothing more than simple sibling affection for me and the intense longing I felt for her day after day was slowly doing me in.

I watched her now as she pounced on a deer, wrapping her arms around its silky neck, giving an abrupt twist to end its suffering before she fed. Rosalie was especially beautiful in these moments of fervent hunting, powerfully exposed, working off instinct alone. It was during these times, the two of us alone in the woods, that I loved her most. We'd run for miles and then hunt together, sometimes sharing a particularly large kill, and then when we'd both had our fill we'd walk home, me talking, Rosalie listening.

She drained the deer quickly and effectively, and then looked up at me with a little smile, swiping a tiny drop of blood away from her chin. "Are you ready to head back?"

I'd already killed an elk and was satiated, but I wasn't ready to go home. I wanted to spend the whole day in the forest watching Rosalie run and hunt and smile.

I sighed unhappily. "Yeah, let's go."

We began our walk, Rosalie a safe five feet from me with not a speck of blood or dirt on her yellow sun dress. Even after so many hunts with her I was still awed by how she came away from the woods looking so perfectly pristine. But then, everything about Rosalie was perfect, at least in my biased eyes. I was certain she could do no wrong.

"You're awfully quiet today, Em." I smiled despite the foul mood that ate at me; I loved when she called me that. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No," I said, the word sounding a little more contemptuous than I'd meant it to.

"Sometimes talking helps," she replied. Though I knew she meant to be helpful, the sheer irony of her making such a statement riled me.

I halted among the ferns, somewhere between frustration and anger, and she skidded to a stunned stop next to me. "Is that so, Rose?" I spat.

Her eyes went wide and confused. "Well, yes."

"Maybe I don't feel like talking today."

"All right, but usually you don't have any problem talking to me."

I took a small step toward her; she immediately took a step back, maintaining the space between us. My heart twisted; her tiny movement was too symbolic. She always kept me at a distance. "I wish you didn't have a problem talking to me."

"I don't. We're together all the time, Emmett. Don't be ridiculous."

I shook my head, taking another step forward which she quickly matched. I knew I was pushing her and it was unfair, but I couldn't help myself. "You're right. We are together all the time, and yet I barely know you. You know everything about me Rose, everything… the good, the bad, all of it. Why don't you ever talk to me?"

Her face fell. "Because I can't," she said softly, and I knew that if she were human she'd be tearful.

"But why? Don't you trust me?"

"It isn't about trust. I just don't like to relive the past. Not all of us had happy lives before, Emmett. I don't like to remember." Her answer was acceptable, more forthcoming than anything else she'd ever offered, but the fact she'd sidestepped my question about trust did not escape me. She didn't trust me.

I stepped forward again and she stepped back, unknowingly backing herself up against the thick trunk of an evergreen. Her eyes went wide with surprise and then, to my dismay, fear. I froze, knowing instantly that I'd taken things too far. I'd meant only to challenge her, not scare her, but there she was, my angel, pressed up against a tree wearing a look of pure terror.

"Rosalie," I whispered, "why are you afraid of me?"

Suddenly she was indignant. "I'm not afraid of you," she snapped, straightening her shoulders. To my surprise she took a step toward me. "I'm not afraid of you at all. I'm just trying to spare you."

Now we were getting somewhere. "Spare me what?" I asked, my eyes trained carefully on her as she took another step forward.

She sighed deeply, sorrowfully. "You don't want a girl like me, Emmett."

I had no idea what she was talking about; I was too focused on her forward motion to think straight. It certainly would have been an opportune time to reply Yes, I do want you or I love you so much it hurts, but I was struck completely speechless.

She took another determined step and we were close, closer than we'd been since she'd carried my broken body to this new life. I inhaled, taking in her familiar rose petal scent, the one I'd come to associate with comfort and happiness. She reached up tentatively to touch my chest. No longer was her touch cold and hard, now it was soft, her diamond skin a perfect complement to my own. Her hands dropped lower, shaking slightly as they traveled over the flannel of my shirt to my stomach. She was nervous, I realized, and then I couldn't help but wonder, was she touching me because she wanted to or because she felt some unguided sense of obligation?

I took her wrists gently in mine, halting her movements. "Rosalie," I said, my voice uncharacteristically wobbly. "I'm sorry. You don't have to prove anything to me."

"But I want to." She pulled her hands from mine and caressed my face. Then she reached up on her toes and kissed me cautiously. Her soft lips barely brushed against mine, but it was earth shattering, everything I'd wanted since the moment I'd laid eyes on her. She pulled away with a triumphant smile, and then she uttered the words I'd longed to hear since I learned her name. "I want you, Em."

She gripped both of my arms with her hands and spun us around, pushing me backward until I felt the coarse bark of that same tree against my own back. I was reeling, shocked to learn that I wasn't alone in my feelings. Had she wanted me all along? I wanted so badly to take her face in my hands and kiss her again, but it seemed important to let her lead. She pressed the length of her body against mine, her soft curves fitting snuggly against me. Our lips met again, and this time her hesitancy was gone. She worked her mouth over mine, her tongue slipping out to run along my bottom lip and then explore further, and I groaned against her, too excited and too overwhelmed to even attempt decorum.

I grabbed her waist, pulling her impossibly closer as her hands found the top button of my shirt. She fumbled momentarily with it, her usually lithe fingers surprisingly awkward, and then she gave up all together and tore the shirt from my body in one swift motion. I couldn't help the muffled chuckle that escaped me as I kissed my way down her neck. Rosalie giggled too, a rare occurrence that warmed me from the inside out.

Our lips found each other again as I unfastened the tiny pearl buttons that ran down the front of her pretty dress, somehow knowing she would be displeased if I ruined her clothing. I pulled away as I slipped the dress off of her shoulders and unclasped her white satin bra, needing to see everything I'd fantasized about for so long. Smooth, white skin and gorgeous tear-drop breasts met my eyes; I sucked in a breath I didn't need. I bent to kiss her chest and a little moan escaped her, making my head spin with desire. "You're so beautiful," I whispered against her skin.

She grimaced mysteriously then, but I did not have time to dwell on it because she quickly grasped my face in her hands and pulled me level with her, kissing me harder this time, biting at my bottom lip as she unfastened my pants and pushed them to the ground. I nearly shuddered as she ran a hand over the length of me. I'd been various degrees of hard since watching her kill the deer, but now I was like iron. She gripped me roughly, giving a few experimental pumps; I groaned and moved her hand away. It had been too long; it wouldn't take much for me to find release and when I did, I wanted to be inside her.

I ran my fingers over her chest, taking time to fully appreciate every curve of her breasts, and then her stomach and hips before dropping lower. I pushed her modest underwear aside and – finally – explored where she was wet and warm. She whimpered softly as I touched her and I almost came undone with the passion behind her sounds.

She spun us again so that the tree was behind her; just the way we'd been when this had all began. Now though, she didn't appear to be fearful – thank God. She had a fiery, passionate look in her eyes; she looked empowered. I watched, awed, as she pushed her underwear down and kicked them aside with her toe. "I want you," she repeated, low and husky.

I lifted her by the hips, the tree supporting her back, and her arms immediately wound around my neck while her legs wrapped around my middle. I kissed her again, gently this time, wanting to be sweet and attentive, but she would have none of it. She pushed her tongue forcefully into my mouth, grasping at my hair to pull me closer and deepen the kiss. She pulled away panting, her sweet breath cool against my cheek. "Please."

I pushed into her then, because who was I to deny her? "Fuck," I groaned into her hair, completely overtaken by her tightness and heat. I paused, content for a moment just to be so intimately joined with her, but she moved insistently against me and it was too much. I began to move too, and God help me, I could not force myself to be slow or gentle. "Goddamn, Rose, you feel so good," I heard myself say.

I continued to thrust into her with more force than I thought possible, vaguely grateful that my angel was an unbreakable vampire. She pushed back against me, creating friction that was so fantastic that it wasn't long before I was dangerously close to finishing. I immediately forced the urges away, consumed with bringing Rosalie the pleasure she deserved.

"Harder, Em, please," she whispered.

The sound of her silky voice against my ear, asking so politely for me to pound into her harder was such a delicious contrast that I wanted to finish right then, but instead I gritted my teeth and obliged, using the tree for leverage and driving forward with everything I had.

Instantly her muscles tensed, and then she gasped and tightened her hold, her fingernails digging into my shoulders. Her warm body contracted around me as she let out moans that nearly drove me wild. When the moans faded into satisfied gasps I couldn't hold back anymore. I let go with a final thrust, feeling the powerful sensations of release rip through every fiber of my body.

I buried my face in her hair and breathed her in, absorbing her warmth and softness. I wanted so badly to tell her I loved her as we stood there in the misty forest wrapped around each other, but it felt contrived, like something any idiot would say after mind-blowing sex. I settled instead for a compliment. "Jesus Christ, Rose. That was amazing."

She nodded and kissed me hard. "I know. Now let me down so I can get dressed."

February, 1937

I went upstairs to my room shortly after night fall. I didn't have the energy to keep up my carefully constructed charade with my family, the one where Rosalie and I were merely friends who spent the evenings talking and never, ever touched. Nor was I in the mood to sit with Rosalie, talking the night away. I was feeling much too bitter. I flopped down on my bed and closed my eyes, shifting once to get comfortable and wishing for the first time since my transformation that I could sleep. Other than me, only Carlisle and Esme had a bed. Edward and Rose saw no need for one, but I did. I'd bought one the day after Rosalie and I had sex in the woods the first time. Stupidly, I'd thought I would have many opportunities to use it.

If I would have known the precedent that day in the forest would set, I would have done things very differently. Though it seemed kind of ridiculous, I was depressed during the days that followed our romp in the woods. I was thrilled about finally having Rosalie, that much I knew for sure, and the sex had been incredible, but there were so many aspects of the act that bothered me. I should have worshiped her, but instead I ravaged her. I had taken her up against the rough bark of an evergreen tree and I hadn't been very gentle about it. Our first time should have been in a bed with candle light and rose petals surrounding us, I should have laid kisses over every inch of her body, I should have told her how much I loved her, how as far as I was concerned she'd hung the moon and how I never, ever wanted to spend another second away from her. I should have inquired about the offhanded comments she'd made – I'm just trying to spare you, you don't want a girl like me she'd said, but selfishly, I'd disregarded her words.

The sex did not fix anything. Don't misunderstand; we continued to have sex, lots of it, but that was the only thing that changed in our dysfunctional relationship. Rosalie kept her wall up, refusing to talk to me about anything personal, maintaining our detached and sometimes rough sexual acts, always in control. I let her get away with it because I was weak for her and I hated when she was upset with me. We continued with our hunting trips, killing animals and drinking our fill of blood and then we would fuck all over the forest. Rarely would we kiss – apparently that was too intimate – but we did nearly everything else. I would take Rose up against a tree or a rock outcropping, sometimes bent over a boulder, or she would ride me on the mossy forest floor. Occasionally we would wade into the river, just because we could, and do things that probably scared the salmon away.

Only Edward was aware of what went on between Rosalie and me when we'd sprint off into the forest together, and that was because he was constantly assaulted with the images of our trysts through my mind's eye. Somehow I doubted that Rosalie thought about us as often as I did, so clearly it was because of me that Edward would get up and leave the room whenever Rose and I returned from our time in the woods. Poor guy. He was discreet though, and for that I was thankful. I could not stand the thought of Carlisle and Esme knowing about how Rosalie and I used sex as a consolation prize because she refused to open up to me and engage in a genuine relationship.

I could not lay all the blame on Rose, though, because I did nothing to change what was going on between us. I could have been more persistent in questioning her. I could have told her about my feelings for her, about how much I adored her. I could have put a stop to the sex. I could have threatened her, told her that I would leave or find someone who was emotionally available. But I did none of those things because I loved Rosalie so much that I was willing to take whatever she would offer me, no matter how empty or undignified.

I heard the soft click of my opening door, but ignored it. I knew it was Rosalie. Although she rarely came into my room, I knew that anyone else would have knocked, plus, I could smell rose petals. I rolled to my side, facing away from the door. It was immature, but I didn't have the energy to face her. The door closed again and disappointment washed over me – she'd left without even trying.

I was surprised when I felt the mattress shift as she sat down on the bed. Apparently she hadn't left after all. My disappointment vanished immediately, replaced by a sense of hopefulness that I could never seem to shake when Rose and I were alone together. Rosalie was in my dark room, sitting on my bed, something that had never happened before. We were very careful at home, always aware of what our family could hear, even through thick walls and closed doors. When Rose and I spent time together at the house it was in a common area and we were always several feel apart. Had Carlisle or Esme seen her follow me upstairs?

"Emmett?" she said softly, placing a hand on my back.

Maybe tonight she'll come around, I thought before quickly pushing the notion out of my head. Why should tonight be any different?

"What is it, Rose?"

"I just wanted to check on you. You seem troubled."

Surely she knew by now how I felt about her. She had to see it in my eyes when I looked at her. Felt it when I touched her. Did she push me away because she didn't have the same feelings or because she was scared? Does it matter? She's unavailable either way.

I rolled again, this time toward her. "I'm fine," I lied, and then my hand moved on its own volition toward her. Miraculously, she didn't pull away. I watched with a keen interest as my fingers wove their way into her hair, running smoothly through the silky curls that always reminded me of corn husks. Her eyes fluttered closed and I swear, if my heart hadn't died eighteen months before it would have been pounding in my chest like a jackhammer. My fingers moved again, reaching up toward the crown of her head and then drifting through her hair once more. This was new, something we'd never done, and it was intensely intimate, more so than any sexual encounter we'd ever had. I was thrilled, but shocked at the same time that she was letting me get away with sweet, gentle touches, on a bed, for once on my terms.

I continued to run my fingers through her hair, totally in awe that this beautiful angel was finally letting me adore her the way I wanted to. "Rosalie," I murmured reverently.

Her eyes snapped open, like she was suddenly aware of her surroundings and what was happening. She recovered quickly and rose to her knees, straddling my waist, sliding against me deliberately as she did. She bent her head and kissed me hard, blonde curls falling around us like a curtain. I pushed her hair back and took her face in my hands, trying to go slow, needing her to know how much she meant to me. She pulled away and took my hands from her cheeks, lacing our fingers together. She planted our joined hands on the pillow on either side of my head and gave another purposeful grind of her hips.

I realized right away that once again she was taking the power. My face fell as I tried with everything in me to figure out why she couldn't relinquish control when we were together. I pried my hands from hers and sat up, nudging her from my lap.

"What's wrong?" she asked, obviously taken aback – I had never once turned her down.

"I can't do this," I said, surprising even myself with the conviction in my voice.

"But… why?"

"I don't feel right about it anymore, Rosalie. I can't keep being with you like this when you won't let me be a part of the rest of your life. I want more."

Her frown was set deep across her lovely face, she looked torn. "I – I don't think… I can't give you more."

I sighed, my broad shoulders falling weakly. My worst suspicions confirmed.

"Emmett –"

"No, I need to say something to you." I got up from the bed and knelt in front of her on the floor, grasping her hands in my own. "I know this has been just about sex for you, but it isn't for me, not at all. I love you, Rosalie, so much it hurts. I've loved you since the day I laid eyes on you. I can see that you don't have the same feelings, but I was willing to take whatever you would offer and that wasn't right. Now I have to fix it. You're everything to me, that's why I've let this go on so long, but I'm done now. I'll leave it you want me to, if that would make things easier for you." Please don't ask me to leave, I thought desperately. Tell me you love me too; say that you'll never leave my side and we can be together forever.

She stared at me for what felt like an eternity, her amber eyes wide and fearful. I held tightly onto her hands, but I didn't speak, I didn't beg like I wanted to. I'd said my piece and now it was up to her.

And then, like a flash, she was up off the bed and out of my room, heading down the elegantly curved staircase. I followed her; unsure of what she was going to do, but afraid all the same. She ran down the stairs with me trailing behind like a sad puppy. Through the parlor we ran, where Esme was curled up in a wingback chair with a book and Edward was playing the piano, passed by the foyer and then through the kitchen, where Carlisle had numerous medical journals spread out across the table, to the back door. She yanked the door open, nearly ripping it from its hinges, and tore through the backyard and into the darkness of the woods.

I stopped at the tree line, defeated; she clearly did not want me to follow. I turned around and went back into the house, crushed, trying to swallow the dry sob that wanted so badly to escape. It was better to let her go, to let her have some time. She would be back, of that I was confident, and then she would ask me to leave her forever.

My family was waiting for me in the kitchen, all frowning, all concerned. Carlisle and Esme looked both confused and alarmed, I couldn't blame them. The façade that Rosalie and I had spent so much time building had been strong and convincing – sometimes even to me. Edward, however, gave me a look of knowing pity. I wondered sadly how long he had been waiting for this moment to occur.

I breezed silently by the three of them and trudged back upstairs to my room. Edward could fill Carlisle and Esme in.

Three Days Later

Rosalie still hadn't returned and I was beginning to wonder if she ever would. I was miserable, inconsolable; I had chased my angel – my reason for living – away because I'd selfishly wanted more. I should have been happy the way things were but no, I'd pushed her and now I was alone and despondent. I had no idea where she'd gone, and I took little comfort in Carlisle's reassurances that she'd be fine. I combed the woods for her daily, from sunrise to sunset. Nights were spent alone in my room, where I wallowed in self-pity and cursed myself for being so stupid. Admittedly, I was a mess and I was making my family miserable too. I missed my best friend more than I thought possible.

Edward had finally succeeded in convincing me to leave Hoquiam with the promise of bears in the Goat Rock Wilderness near Mr. Rainier. "Bears who have been hibernating," he'd said with one eyebrow cocked. "Bears who will be irritable and aggravated."

I'd gone, grudgingly, and killed my bear quickly, avoiding much fight because I didn't have the vigor or will to provoke. Then I sat down on a jagged rock to wait for Edward to finish off the mountain lion he'd been stalking for half the morning.

It wasn't long before I heard him approaching from behind. I turned to see him leaping sinuously over the craggy boulders that covered the frozen ground, much like the lions he so favored. He sat down on a rock that neighbored mine and gave me a critical look. "Rough couple of days, huh?"

I glared at him. "That's an understatement. I've fucked things up pretty royally."

Edward cringed slightly, probably at my harsh language. "You really love her," he mused to himself, almost as if he couldn't believe it were possible. "She'll be back, Emmett. You know that, right?"

I shrugged gloomily as a gust of icy wind ripped passed us. "How can you be sure?"

"Because I've known her for awhile now, this is just how she is."

I didn't really like Edward telling me how Rose could be, but I supposed he would know better than anybody. "And how's that exactly?"

"She's temperamental and stubborn, but passionate too. She needs some time… she'll come to her senses."

I gazed up at the steely gray sky, noticing a lone hawk circling high above. "I don't know… she won't let me in, Edward. It's like she's afraid to feel anything."

"Maybe she is. Rosalie has been through a lot. The time just before she became a vampire wasn't a happy time for her."

Edward clearly knew much more than he was letting on and that made me furious. "You know why she's like this, why she won't open up to me, don't you?" I asked too loudly. "Why the hell would she tell you what she went through and not me?"

"She didn't tell me," Edward said with a roll of his eyes. He tapped his forehead suggestively. "I try to stay out of her head – and yours, for that matter – but sometimes it's unavoidable. Plus, I was around when Carlisle first brought her home. She was terrified of the two of us; Esme was the only person that Rosalie would talk to for a long time. Trust me, Emmett, give her time. She's not incapable of love."

I wanted to ask him if Rose ever thought about me the way I thought about her, but it felt disloyal on both accounts. I couldn't betray Edward by asking him to spill his sister's secrets and I couldn't betray Rosalie by discussing her most private thoughts with Edward. I would have to sort this out on my own – if Rose ever came back.

I took solace in Edward's words as we made the long trek home. She's not incapable of love, he'd said. That notion comforted me. I'd felt all along that Rosalie could love me, but for whatever reason she wouldn't allow herself to. Now I knew more; there was some deep rooted fear stemming from a key event in Rosalie's life that caused her to keep people at a distance. Rosalie could love me. Edward, my insightful, sensitive, mind-reading brother saw it too, and that gave me hope.

Night had fallen by the time we returned to Hoquiam. I went straight to my room and collapsed onto the bed. My body wasn't tired, it never was now, but my mind was exhausted. I'd been an emotional wreck since Rosalie left me – probably even before that – and I longed for some peace. I lay on my side with a pillow bunched up under my head as if I was really going to sleep and closed my eyes, trying to clear my busy mind. I stayed that way for a long while, breathing deeply, until I heard my bedroom door creak open. I remained motionless; not daring to open my eyes, though I prayed with everything I had that it was Rosalie, back from wherever she'd gone, interrupting my meditative moment.

The door closed with a soft swish of air and on instinct I inhaled. Pine, moss, moist soil… rose petals – my angel was back.

My body was frozen in trepidation and my mind was torn, carefully considering both of the two scenarios that could play out. Rosalie was either back to tell me to disappear, to leave her in peace and never come near her again, or she'd returned to make things between us right. God, how I hoped it was the latter.

I remained still, my eyes shut tight. Soft footsteps made their way to the bed and then, tentatively, she sat down. Gentle fingers glided once through my dark hair and then she fell back onto the same pillow my head rested on, scooting backward so her back was pressed up against my chest, her long legs curved along the length of mine. It was so different from any other physical contact we'd ever had, innocent and intimate. Despite my apprehension, I felt my body relax infinitesimally against hers.

"I'm so sorry, Em," she whispered sincerely. I could hear the pain that rang clear in her voice; I knew she was being truthful.

A wave of relief surged over me and my arms went around her on their own, pulling her closer, molding our bodies against each other. I buried my face in her silken hair, breathing her in. "God, Rose, I missed you so fucking much. Promise you'll never run from me again."

She shook her head and her hair tickled my nose. "I won't."

She was quiet for a long while. I listened to her slow, even breathing, wanting to remain in our peaceful moment as long as it lasted. Finally I had to ask. "Where have you been all this time?"

"In the woods," she answered, her voice quiet and smooth. "I went to the Olympics, explored the mountains for awhile. I needed to step away, to gain some perspective. I did a great deal of thinking out there… it turns out that's what I needed. I figured a lot of things out, realized how terrible I've been to you. I know I've messed everything up so badly, but I don't know how to make things right."

"You can talk to me, when you're ready. I'll be there, eager to listen. You can explain everything to me. We can start over."

"I want to tell you everything, I really do, but I'm so scared."

"You shouldn't be," I whispered. "I know you went through something dreadful, something that terrified you and changed you, but nothing you tell me will alter the way I feel about you. I love you, Rosalie, so much. I always will."

She twisted in my embrace so we were facing each other and wrapped her arms tightly around my neck. "I love you too, Em. You know that, right?"

I smiled. "I do now." I kissed her sweetly then, the way I'd always wanted to, and she kissed me back with equal tenderness, making my granite skin tingle and my breathing pick up. It was incredible and, God help me, I was instantly hard.

After a few minutes she pulled back and I followed her, placing one last gentle kiss on her mouth. She giggled, but grew serious quickly. "Just for the record, I've loved you all along, Emmett. The very first time I saw you, when that bear was tearing you to shreds; somehow I knew you were everything I wanted, everything I needed. That is why I saved you, because I adored you from that very first moment and I couldn't stand the thought of you dying. Isn't that crazy?"

"No, not at all. I don't care why you saved me. I'm just glad you did."

"You saved me too." Her voice was quiet now, trembling, and I wondered if she'd be crying if she could. "I remember that first day after your transformation, you told me you thought I was an angel swooping down to save you. You've been my angel. You've saved me, Emmett. You made me remember what it's like to feel, to be joyful. You showed me how to smile again. Without even trying, you taught me how to trust a man completely."

Her body shuddered against mine. I pulled her closer and rubbed her back, hoping to grant her a small bit of comfort. "I want to tell you what happened to me," she murmured. "How I came to this life."

"You can tell me, Rose."

She took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut, as if preparing for great pain. "Before I became a vampire I was engaged to a man, a man I didn't know well, but who was wealthy and well connected – those things were very important to me at the time. All I'd ever wanted was a lovely home and beautiful children. This man, Royce, was going to give me exactly what I wanted. I was thrilled.

"One night – it was April, just before we were to be married – I encountered Royce and four of his friends on a deserted street. It was clear that they'd been drinking, but I wasn't immediately fearful. Royce was going to be my husband, there was no way he would ever hurt me."

"But he did," I whispered. I had a faint idea where this was going and part of me wanted to stop her. Suddenly I didn't want her to have to relive that time of her life.

"He did," she continued. "He hit me, several times and then he forced himself on me, right there on the filthy ground of the alleyway, in front of all of his drunk, cheering friends."

She shuddered again, more violently this time and I pulled her closer, all the while trying to regulate the blind fury that was building within me. I hated this Royce, a man I'd never laid eyes on, more than I thought possible. Already I knew I was going to kill him. First though, I needed to comfort the angel in my arms while she relived the worst night of her life.

"I was mortified when he finished, and scared out of my mind. I tried to wriggle free, but there were too many of them to run from. Royce gave his friends permission to do what he'd done… he encouraged them while they took turns raping me and beating me until they'd had their fill."

"God, I'm so sorry," I said. "I can't even begin to imagine what that must have been like for you. Where is he now, Rose?" I want to kill him – slowly and painfully.

"He's dead," she said in a flat voice, surprising the hell out of me. "I killed each of his friends and then I went after him. I thought it would help me to feel better, but it didn't."

"If you hadn't done it, I would have. They deserved it… to do what they did, to violate you so brutally… he was supposed to be your husband for Christ sake." I shook my head in abhorrence. As much as I'd wanted to seek revenge myself, I was enormously proud of Rose for going after Royce and his evil friends herself. Right or wrong, she was so incredibly strong.

She shrugged. "It's horrifying, Emmett, I know it is, and I wouldn't blame you if you were disgusted by me. I'm disgusted… I'm just so messed up."

"Rosalie," I said, gravely serious, "don't ever say that to me again. You are perfect. What they did to you is repulsive, but it doesn't change who you are. It doesn't change the way I see you."

She hugged me tighter and exhaled a big breath. I kissed her forehead, and then her cheeks and her eyelids and the tip of her nose.

"Thank you for listening. You have no idea what it feels like to finally get that off my chest. I've wanted to tell you for so long, but I was terrified that you'd distance yourself from me. I couldn't stand the thought of losing you."

"I'm not going anywhere," I murmured against her cheek. "What happened after, Rose? How did you come to be a Cullen?"

"By the time Royce and his friends had all finished, I was near death. I think perhaps they thought I was dead, because they left me there on the cold, hard ground, beaten and bloodied. That's where Carlisle found me."

"And he saved you."

"He did, and I despised him because of it for a long time. I would have rather been dead. I hated what Royce had done to me, I hated what I'd become. I hated that I'd never get married or have a family or grow old. Carlisle meant well, I know he did, but he didn't give me a choice." She sighed unhappily. "I made my peace with him after I found you. How could I not? I didn't give you a choice, and yet you forgave me.

"Things were very hard for me those first two years after my change. It was completely irrational, I knew they'd never hurt me, but I was scared to death of Carlisle and Edward. I couldn't stand to be alone in a room with them for a very long time. Esme understood part of what I was going through, she'd been through some difficult times with her first husband. With her help, I started to heal a bit.

"Don't get me wrong; I was still miserable and I still hated myself. I took it out on Edward, mostly. You see, when Carlisle changed me, he had hoped that I would be to Edward what Esme was to him. I was never romantically interested in Edward – I was in no position to attempt any sort of relationship. Plus, I've never seen him as anything but a brother. But, Edward made it painfully clear that he wasn't interested in me either and that crushed me. I immediately thought it was because I was damaged, because he was sickened by me. I wanted him to want me, if only so that I could feel better about myself, but he clearly didn't. I know now that my past had nothing to do with his feelings toward me. I was a sister to him, nothing more, but it took me a long time to realize that. I haven't been very good to him.

"I didn't start to feel like myself again until you came into my life, Emmett. Spending time with you was so therapeutic. I loved hearing your stories, I loved listening to you talk all night, watching your face light up as you told me about your time as a human and your challenges as a vampire. You were so endearing and sweet; I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to know you. As time went on, I could see that you had feelings for me, but you never pushed me. You respected me, and I grew to trust you."

But I hadn't respected her – not completely. "That day in the woods, Rose, our first time… I'm sorry. If I would have known what you went through… I would have done things so differently."

She brushed her lips across my cheek. "I know, but I wouldn't have let you. I wanted you, so badly, but I wasn't ready for intimacy yet. I needed it to be unemotional… just sex." She closed her eyes and shook her head remorsefully. "God, I was so unfair to you."

"But I knew something wasn't right and I let it go on anyway, for much too long. Here I was fucking you all over the Goddamn forest, tossing you around, never gentle, hardly considerate… after everything you'd been through. I'm so sorry." And I was sorry, completely ashamed in fact, about how I'd so unabashedly used her body for my own vacant pleasure. Was I really any different than those monsters who'd attacked her in a dark alley?

She gazed affectionately up at me through her long lashes and shook her head. "Don't apologize, Em. Before you, Royce and his horrible friends were my only experience with sex. I didn't know it could be enjoyable, that there could be emotion tied to it. I learned that over time, with you, though I tried not to acknowledge it. There was no way you could have known. None of this was your fault." She nuzzled my neck, laying a soft kiss on my skin. "Will you ever forgive me for pushing you away the like I did? For using you? For ignoring your feelings… ignoring my own feelings?"

I pulled back so I could see her topaz eyes sparkle in the dim light of my room. I ran my hand through her curls and then caressed her cheek, still amazed that she was in my arms, letting me hold her and touch her lovingly. "You're already forgiven," I whispered.

She hugged me tight, nestling herself up against my chest as close as possible. "Where will we go from here?" she asked softly.

"We're going to start over and we're going to do things right this time. We'll be completely honest and open. We'll say 'I love you' every day, and we won't ever take each other for granted." I grinned and ran my thumb over her bottom lip. "And, of course, we'll continue to have incredible sex, but now it will be meaningful."

She laughed and then kissed me. "And no more hiding. If we're going to do this, I want it to be out in the open. I want to be able to hold your hand and kiss your cheek even if our family is in the room."

I nodded in agreement. "No more hiding."

"I love you, Emmett," she said with a chaste kiss.

"I love you too, Rose, more than I can say."

*****

We spent the remainder of the night in my room whispering and making promises I knew we'd always keep. We cuddled and kissed, my fingers drifted through Rosalie's hair and hers tickled patterns up and down my back. It was all so normal, and yet unbelievable at the same time; it was exactly the way I'd always wanted things to be between Rose and me, and it was hard to believe that we'd finally made it.

When the sun began to rise, casting the cold sky in muted pinks and oranges, we made our way down the stairs to face our family. Carlisle, Esme and Edward were sitting together in the parlor talking in hushed voices when Rosalie and I entered the room, hand in hand. Three carefully composed faces looked up as Rose cleared her throat. "Good morning," she said serenely, though I could see the corner of her mouth twitching just slightly as she tried to hide a smile.

Esme, always supportive and caring, was the first to respond. "It's nice to have you back, Rosalie." Her eyes darted almost imperceptibly to where my hand was linked with Rose's. "You both look happy this morning."

"Thank you, Esme, I'm glad to be back." Rose turned to grin at me. "And yes, we are quite happy."

"I'm glad to see that you two have worked everything out," Carlisle commented from his plaid wingback chair.

"Yes, thank God," Edward said looking both smug and satisfied. He ran a hand through his wild hair. "What a relief." He sent an indiscreet wink in my direction and I rolled my eyes accordingly.

"So, am I safe in assuming that we should treat the two of you as a couple now?" Carlisle asked.

"Yes," I said, giving Rosalie's hand a squeeze.

"Well, congratulations are in order then," he said with a smile.

Esme jumped up and hugged Rosalie first, and then me. Carlisle and Edward followed suit, both embracing Rosalie and then shaking my hand enthusiastically.

The five of us talked the morning away in the sunny parlor. Carlisle and Esme shared their story with us and it was a comfort to learn that they'd faced some of the same obstacles as Rose and me in the early days of their relationship. Knowing that Carlisle had screwed things up, read Esme's signals wrong and hesitated to initiate a relationship because of her past, made me feel better about the mistakes Rosalie and I had made. I was happier than I'd been since my transformation and for the first time I felt complete. With Rosalie at my side, her hand tucked snuggly in mine, I felt as if I could move mountains.

When the sun was high in the sky, I recruited Edward for a trip into town to run a quick errand. He obliged, happy, I think, to finally be free off my mental anguish. When I picked out the few supplies I needed at The General Store, Edward smirked and shook his head shrewdly. We walked home instead of running, talking amiably. I managed to convince Edward to take Esme and Carlisle on an extended hunting trip as soon as the sun set – my real objective for the outing. Rosalie and I were going to have the house to ourselves for the night.

Once Edward left with Carlisle and Esme in tow, I spent a long time carefully arranging things in my bedroom. I was getting a second chance to do things properly and I wasn't about to screw it up. I was going to give Rosalie a new first time, the experience she deserved. When everything was finally perfect I walked down the hallway to her room and knocked on the door. She opened it wearing a bright smile and a lavender dress with a flowing skirt that reached her knees. On her feet were fancy black heels with straps that crossed the tops of her feet like a T. A delicate strand of pearls lay at her elegant neck.

"You're so beautiful," I murmured taking her hand. My thoughts shifted for a moment to the only other time I'd said that to her, that day in the woods after I'd removed her yellow sundress. She hadn't seemed pleased with my praise then, so I'd refrained from saying it again, though I thought it daily. I hoped tonight she would accept my compliments more readily.

"Thank you," she replied shyly.

I leaned down to kiss her cheek and then gave her hand a gentle tug. We walked down the hall to my bedroom. I nudged the door open with my foot and then turned to watch her reaction.

She gasped, bringing a hand to her rest over her silent heart as she took in what I'd done. The room was aglow in soft, flickering light, thanks to the candles I'd placed on every available horizontal surface, and the scent of roses hung heavy in the air. I'd sprinkled red rose petals all over the crisp white sheet that covered my mattress. It looked spectacular, I had to admit, and I wanted so badly for Rosalie to like it.

"Oh, Emmett," she breathed. "This is amazing. It's just perfect." She turned and wrapped her arms around my waist, resting her head against my chest. "Is this why you sent everyone away?"

"Yes. I want you, Rose, but I want to do things right this time. I want us to remember tonight as our first time."

She nodded her head against my chest. "In a way it is," she said softly.

I retrieved her hands from behind my back and took them in my own, leading us to the bed. "Sit down," I said.

She did, and I knelt in front of her on the hardwood floor. I kissed each of her hands and then placed them in her lap. Then I went to work, grasping her left foot in my hand and carefully unclasping the buckle of her patent-leather shoe. I slid it from her foot and tossed it over my shoulder, smiling as the heel hit the floor with a loud click. I repeated the same action with her right shoe and then kissed my way up her leg, all the way to her pretty knees. I glanced up at her face to see how my actions were being received; Rose had her eyes closed with a faint smile playing at her lips… so far so good.

I left the floor and knelt on the bed behind her, sweeping all of her hair over one shoulder so I could access the zipper that ran down the back of her dress. I pulled it down unnecessarily slowly, running my hands along her spine as I did, eliciting a tiny shiver – just the reaction I'd been hoping for. I trailed my hands down her slender back again, this time over bare skin that was as white as snow. Gently, I pushed her dress down over her shoulders, laying gentle kisses along the back of her neck where her rose petal fragrance was most powerful. "You smell so good, Rose," I murmured against her skin, inhaling once more. She was intoxicating.

She turned on the bed then, rising up slightly on her knees to mirror my position. Her dress hung loosely at her waist, revealing just her shoulders and flat stomach, her silky bra hiding her gorgeous breasts for the time being. She ran her fingers through my hair, grazing my scalp with her nails, and I couldn't believe how good it felt. Her hands went to the collar of my shirt, dipping under just slightly to touch the skin of my neck. "Now it's your turn," she said, fingering the top button. She opened it effortlessly and smiled like she had a secret. "I won't tear your clothes this time."

I leaned down and kissed her earlobe, letting my tongue dart out quickly to taste. "Tear them if you want to… that's sexier than hell."

She laughed; a brilliant sound that reverberated through the room, and gave my shirt a yank, ripping it from my body with no difficulty. Instantaneously, I was hard as stone. She discarded my shirt on the floor and then her hands grasped the waistband of my trousers.

"No," I whispered, brushing her hands away. "I'm not done with you yet."

I took her by the waist and in once swift movement had her lying on the bed among the rose petals, her long, golden hair fanned out across the pillows. I shimmied her dress the rest of the way down her body and tossed it onto the floor near my shirt and then greedily took her in. I went back to her knees, where I'd left off earlier, and resumed my kisses, trailing slowly up her left thigh to her hip where I focused my undivided attention for a few moments. I kissed my way across her taut stomach, swirling my tongue around her belly button on my way to her right hip before moving on, up her ribcage to her bra. I removed it promptly; impatient to get to what lay underneath. Then I gave her chest generous, thorough attention, kissing each breast in turn, giving a little nibble here and there which made her squirm and giggle.

"You're teasing me, Em," she whimpered, caressing my back with a new urgency.

"I know," I whispered, licking my way up to her collarbone. "And you like it."

She reached for me, rubbing my length through my pants with just enough pressure. "I'm ready now," she insisted.

"No way. We have all night and I'm nowhere near done with you." I sucked hard on the spot just below her ear. She let out a soft moan and I smiled, pleased with myself.

I moved lower again, intentionally sliding my body against hers. I could smell her arousal mingling with the scent of melting beeswax candles, and the very prominent aroma of roses. I grew impossibly harder.

I slid her satin underwear slowly down her thighs and over her knees; she assisted by impatiently kicking them off to the floor toward the accumulating pile of clothing. I paused for a moment to take her in, my beautiful angel, who graced me every day with her presence and friendship, who believed in me and loved me. She was everything to me, my whole life, and I wondered how I'd ever managed without her.

I lifted her legs, planting her feet flat on the bed, and moved to spread her knees. She resisted immediately and my eyes flew to her anxious face, worried that I'd unknowingly done something wrong.

"What are you doing?" she asked with urgency, sitting up slightly against the fluffy pillows.

"I want to taste you," I said as though it were obvious.

"But you've never done that before."

I took her hand and entwined our fingers. "I'll go slowly, and I'll stop if you don't like it. Trust me, Rose," I pleaded.

She gave me a fleeting skeptical look, but then closed her eyes and lay back onto the pillow. "I do trust you," she murmured.

I gently parted her knees and touched her softly with the tip of my finger, barely grazing along her slick skin. A quiet sigh escaped her. I took it as positive reinforcement and replaced my finger with my mouth, licking experimentally a few times while she writhed beneath me. I paused and glanced up at her again. "Are you okay?" I asked, my voice low and husky.

"Yes… I think so."

"Should I quit?"

"No," she said. "Not yet."

I chuckled softly and then continued, applying increasing pressure with my tongue as I explored her most intimate places. I ran my hands along the smooth skin of her thighs, spreading her open as she quietly moaned my name. I slid a finger into her then; desperate to feel as much of her as possible, moving in and out slowly as her moans become louder. She's so close, I thought, when suddenly her hands came to my head and pulled me up and away.

She sat up again; her chest was rising and falling in time with her heavy breaths. "You have to stop," she panted. "I'm too close."

"That's good. I want you to feel good, Rosalie," I said, letting my finger slide into her once more.

"No," she said as I added another finger; she shuddered. "Not without you, Em." She sat up all the way and pulled me toward her by the waistband of my pants. "Take these off," she ordered, helping me with the buttons.

My pants hit the floor quickly, we were both too worked up for further patience, and Rosalie grasped me in the palm of her warm hand. She worked my expertly for a few moments, until it became too much and the need to be inside her consumed me almost completely.

"Lay back," I said, brushing a stray curl from her face. She did, without a moment of hesitation, though never once had she allowed me to take her so traditionally.

I nestled between her open legs and kissed her long and soft on the mouth, letting my tongue slip smoothly between her lips. She kissed me back, just as lovingly, her tongue merging leisurely with mine. Her hands found my own and pulled them up to rest against the pillow on either side of us. I laced my fingers through hers and gave a gentle squeeze, pulling away for a moment to look into her wide eyes. She gazed back at me and her lips turned into a dazzling smile, the one I knew was reserved only for me.

"I love you, Emmett," she said softly.

"I love you too, Rose."

And then I slowly pushed into her, becoming enveloped completely in her wet heat. I groaned without abandon; it was just too good, everything I'd needed and wanted since laying eyes on her. I pulled out and thrust forward again, overwhelmed by the fact that I was finally having intimate, significant sex with Rosalie, who I loved more than I could express, in a bed – in a house, for Christ sake – and it was better than I ever could have imagined. All those times in the forest could never have compared to this because now it was genuine, sincere and heartfelt. Making love to Rose was surreal.

She brought her legs up and wrapped them around my waist, changing our angle, and she let out a tiny whimper. I drove into her again, more forcefully because I knew that was how she liked it best, and she gasped, tightening her hold on my hands. She was close, and God, so was I.

I trailed kisses over her cheek, along her jaw, to her neck, all the while thrusting rhythmically with as much control as I could muster. She whimpered again, louder, and I realized with alarm that if she continued to make such sounds I wouldn't be able to hold out for long. I kissed her throat again and then ran my tongue up to her ear. "Just feel it, Rose," I whispered against her. "Just let go."

And with one last gasp, she did. Her eyes clenched tightly as her entire body trembled. Her heat contracted around me, squeezing me hard in time to my thrusts. Her hands gripped mine with more strength than I thought her capable of, and her heels dug into my back, urging me deeper. "Oh, God," she cried, and then, "Oh, Emmett," over and over.

That was all it took for my own release to come, rolling through me with more force than anything I'd ever felt before. I pumped into her one last time and then collapsed on top of her as the final waves of pleasure overtook me.

We stayed that way for a long while, our unnecessary breaths matching each other in time, her hands tickling patterns across my back while my fingers combed lazily through her hair. Eventually I rolled off of her, but immediately wrapped her in my arms, unable to let her go.

"Thank you so much, Emmett," she whispered after nestling her naked body against mine.

"Thank you, Rosalie," I said, brushing a few stray rose petals from her back. "That was –"

"It was incredible," she finished. She pressed a soft kiss to my mouth. "And I love you dearly, more than anything."

"I love you too, my angel."

******

Author's Note –

Several weeks ago I read a story called 'I Like Bears' by Alice Laughed. It's an adorable little drabble about Emmett and the reason behind his preference for bears (you should read it; it's so sweet… it can be found in My Favorites) and it made me start to wonder about what the early years of Emmett's and Rosalie's relationship might have been like. Surely they had some pretty serious challenges to overcome, especially considering Rosalie's history with men.

Though I've never been a particularly big fan of either Emmett or Rosalie, I decided to explore their challenges in my first attempt at fanfic. Throughout the process of writing this, I grew to truly love them. Isn't it funny how when you discover why people behave the way they do, they become so much more endearing?

I have big thank you's for… the people at The Indi Twific Awards for motivating me to stretch my writing muscles in the world of fanfic… the people at Twilight Lexicon for their very comprehensive timeline and character bios… and to Alice Laughed and "I Like Bears" for the initial inspiration for this story.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would greatly appreciate feedback in the form of reviews or PMs.