"Outside, Emmett, or you're going to have to buy Esme a new table with your recent winnings," I growled.
Emmett was out the back door quickly, but not so quickly that I didn't see his challenging grin. He thought this was a joke.
"Edward, just take a moment and…" but I ignored my mother. This had nothing to do with her. I rushed past what remained of the family gathering, and chased after Emmett, out the doors, down the steps, over the river. It didn't take long for me to catch up with him and tackle him to the ground.
Emmett was laughing, but I snarled as I pinned him to the down by his throat.
"What the hell were you thinking?" I demanded.
"Bella was the one that thought making Rose jealous would be funny."
I saw Emmett's plan to roll on top of me and I braced myself. But his heft was too much and he managed to turn onto his side and partially pin me to the ground. I spotted a steep drop-off just behind Emmett, and taking my brother by surprise, I used his weight and pushed off, and we went careening down the incline, deeper into the forest. Emmett grabbed at the trees that flashed by us in at attempt to stop, but he only succeeded in pulling them up by their roots or snapping them in two. I saw he was distracted; so I spun into our trajectory in order to jump to my feet, still clutching Emmett by the neck.
"What the --"
Before he could say anything else, I threw him up against the rock wall we'd been swiftly approaching. Gray granite crumbled to the forest floor.
"There's a difference, Emmett. Ingrid Bergman is dead. You don't even care for her." I stood tall, my eyes never leaving his, only three feet between us. He'd have to fight me if he wanted to get past.
"It wasn't any different to Rose," Emmett grumbled, keeping his eyes on me while he wiped the dust from his clothing.
"Then hide your DVDs better. You were asking to get caught."
"And so were you, Edward. I didn't know you never told her about them."
"Told Bella what, Emmett? Nothing happened with those women."
"And you're supposed to be so smart. I think Rose made it pretty clear that it doesn't matter if anything actually happened." And I knew Emmett was right. Somehow I should have found the time to at least mention their names. Maggie and Achiri simply hadn't meant anything compared to what Bella meant to me. But right or not, this wasn't the only bone I had to pick with my brother.
"That's not the only reason we're here, Emmett. The air marshal story, the bet you had with Jasper… I won't put up with it."
"Put up with what?" he laughed.
I took a step closer, daring Emmett to try to get away again. "Put up with you, talking to my mate about sex."
"Jesus! Really? Get a hold of yourself. You know Bella's like a little sister to me. And she's human, for god's sake. Its not my thing."
"And stop goading me about what you saw the night before the wedding," I continued. "I swear to god, if you ever even think about…"
"Edward, enough, okay? When you called the house that day, you were upset. I mentioned what I saw to distract you. Please, it's not like you've never seen Rose in a… compromising position." I hadn't realized I'd been moving, but suddenly I was within inches of Emmett's face, his back against the granite wall.
"The different is that you and Rosalie put yourselves on display, I never snuck up to a window to get an eyeful."
"And believe me, I definitely hadn't thought that you two, had uh, come so far," Emmett practically laughed, pushing me backwards, his hands on my chest. I gave a warning growl, but he continued. "I underestimated you that night. Who knew it just took the right human and then you'd be off and running." Emmett worked to suppress a smile, and pushed past me, but I grabbed his wrist with just enough pressure that he'd feel some pain.
"Goddammit, Emmett. My relationship with Bella is just that. Mine! So, keep out of it. Stop trying to rile us up. Stop trying to push the envelope. Things are hard enough already. This isn't easy. She's human… there's so much we have to figure out for the first time."
Emmett's mind took off with that statement. Of course, he'd be focused on figuring sex out for the first time. His thoughts bore a striking resemblance to what he'd walked in on the night before the wedding.
"Emmett McCarty Cullen," I growled.
"Stop sounding like my mother, Edward," he said, pulling his arm free.
"Then stop thinking like a child."
Emmett growled and stalked over to the river, where he splashed water on his face to wipe away the dirt. "You've got to know I'm happy for you two."
"I do. You've also got to understand how I feel. Don't you remember in the beginning, just after you were turned, when you were jealous of me, even though it was ridiculous."
"It didn't seem so ridiculous. I couldn't believe that you didn't find Rose attractive. That you hadn't tried something."
"And what if I'd started talking to her about sex? What if I went out of my way to catch Rosalie topless? How would that have gone over?"
Emmett went completely still and didn't verbally reply. But I saw what he would have tried in his mind. It made our little wrestling match look tame. I couldn't help but snicker. "Perhaps it would have gone like that," I answered his silent thoughts, "but I think I still would have bested you."
"Like hell," Emmett growled, but when he turned, he was smiling. "Point taken. I would have wanted to rip you limb from limb."
But then Emmett and I both turned towards the house as the scent of wildflowers and rain moved quickly in our direction.
"Got that out of your system, boys?" Alice chirped.
I was surprised to see my sister. "Alice, I thought you'd be with Bella."
"No, uh, there's someone else that she needed to talk to. I came to bring you guys back. You both have some explaining to do to your mates."
"Alice is right. They always want to talk about stuff like this," Emmett agreed.
"Yes, Bella and I should talk." Talking wasn't the only thing I wanted to do. I hoped I hadn't put an end to that possibility.
"Nope," Alice silently thought. "But you've got some explaining to do."
I sighed as the three of us made our way back to the house. "Yeah, I've got to go find Rose and make her feel better about that movie," Emmett grumbled. "You guys know where she is?"
"No, but she's planning on coming back to the house soon," Alice offered.
"Why don't you just tell her it's got nothing to do with Ingrid Bergman?" I asked. "Are you really that embarrassed about having a thing for sappy love stories, that you'd make Rose jealous instead?"
"What?" Alice asked, giggling. "I thought it was the Nazis."
"Them too," I offered.
"If I told her, then I'd be giving up the jealous make-up sex. Ingrid Bergman's about all I've got. I've been with Rose since I was turned."
"But there were humans, before, right?" Alice asked.
"Humans don't count," he scoffed.
"They do to me," I replied, thinking of Mike, Tyler, Eric and Jacob Black. No matter the dog was only part human.
"Well, that's obvious," Emmett laughed. "Listen, Edward, sorry. I'll be more careful. It's just hard to think of you guys like, together. I mean, she's a human. It just doesn't follow."
Alice slapped Emmett on the back of the head. "Get used to it, big brother."
Emmett spun around and threw Alice over his shoulder. "Or what, Alice?" he laughed, as Alice kicked and tried to struggle free.
"Or else I'll tell Rose where all the other DVDs are hidden."
Suddenly Alice's feet were firmly back on the ground, and we'd arrived back at the house.
I stood outside of the bedroom door, my hand on the knob. I could hear Bella's heart inside, I could smell her scent, and it steadied my nerves. I could tell that Jasper had been here recently, and I suppressed the urge to leave and go after him. It would be counterproductive, to say the least. What I needed right now, more than anything, was on the other side of the door.
But I wasn't even sure how to go about opening the door to the room. I knew I should knock, but I was afraid that if given the chance, Bella would tell me to leave. Visions of our second night on Isle Esme filtered through my head and I stifled a groan, unwilling to replay that scenario and wait in the hall for hours. For a second, I struggled with the idea that our marriage shouldn't be as hard as it was. Bella and I were made for one another. But I knew from eighty years of listening in to the thoughts of others that human relationships took work.
On the other side of the door, Bella stopped breathing and her heart stuttered in her chest.
"Can I come in?"
"It's your room, Edward," she snapped.
On the surface, Bella's voice was hard as nails. But there was something else underneath her swagger, the flicker of hope and longing. She wanted me near, even as she'd carefully chosen her words to sting.
When I opened the door, Bella was sitting with her knees pulled to her chest, her arms wrapped around her legs, her eyes peeking over her knees. They were bloodshot and puffy. And although I wasn't convinced that I'd done anything wrong, exactly, I was nevertheless filled with regret.
I still hadn't crossed the threshold. "Can I come in?"
Bella shrugged and closed her eyes. I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and entered the room. I thought better of sitting on the bed, and chose the couch instead. "We should talk, I think."
"Is Emmett okay?" she asked without opening her eyes.
"Emmett," I snorted. "Emmett can take care of himself. This isn't about Emmett."
"No, it isn't." Bella opened her eyes and they glowed with displeasure, her jaw was clenched and her little hands balled into tight fists. This was not how I imagined it would be when I finally got her into the bedroom.
"Jasper was here?" His scent was especially strong from where I was sitting.
"This isn't about Jasper," Bella countered, before turning to look out the window.
"Fair enough. Bella, what do you want me to say?"
"It wouldn't mean as much to me if you just repeated what I thought you should be saying." She was still looking out the window, and I resisted the urge to turn her head in my direction to make her look at me.
"That's not what I meant."
"You've been around quite some time, Edward. And apparently you've known many women. I'd like to think you could come up with something on your own, without my prompting."
I wouldn't take the bait. I was here to end an argument, not to prolong one. "Of course I've known women. But I've never had a relationship until ours, Bella. I can't help that I've existed as long as I have. No more than you could resist the way half of the male population of Forks High School thought of you."
"I didn't live with half of Forks High School."
"Nor did I."
"It still doesn't make us even. You've had this enormous life, and we've talked and talked, but in two years I've never heard the name Maggie. How many other Maggies are there? Is there, like, one on each continent? We've covered North and South America and Europe with Tanya, Achiri and Maggie. Who are the other four?"
"Bella, please stop this! You know I've never cared for anyone except you. And what kind of person would I be if I laid bare other women's hearts?"
"I'm not talking hearts. I'm talking living situations and necklaces, Edward."
"I am talking about hearts, Bella. Maggie wanted a piece of my heart that I couldn't give. I gave her the necklace instead."
"Why was she living with you, though?"
"Alice made quite a deal of my graduation from Oxford. She invited everyone we knew: our family was there, the Denali clan, Carlisle's friend Alistair, and Siobhan sent Maggie as their coven's representative. It was unique gathering of vampires, because it was large and peaceful, something you don't see very often. Alice invited everyone to stay over at our flat for the summer. It turned into a meeting of minds, of sorts. But in the end, it was just the six of us: Alice, Jasper, Tanya, Katrina, Maggie and I."
"And Maggie liked you?"
I didn't respond. I could have said yes, but it would have been one third of the truth and we were supposed to be clearing the air.
"And Tanya," she added, understanding my silence.
"Tanya would have killed Katrina if she tried anything," I added.
"Mm hmm, I see. You had a harem." Bella jumped to her feet, and stomped over to the window.
I couldn't help grinning at the absurdity of the idea. Certainly, Bella was angry, but you could only take it to a point. I'd been a virgin for over one hundred years. It was about as far from the keeper of a harem as one could get. I tried not to smile as I gazed across the room at Bella. She seemed to sense my eyes on her, and glanced over her shoulder at me. Bella's eyes locked with mine, and the space between us sizzled to life.
I saw the glimmer of a smile on her lips, even as she struggled to keep her facial features in check. "A harem?" I half-laughed.
"They lived with you," she replied, finally turning around, and stepping tentatively back towards the bed.
"For a summer. It was two months out of one hundred and five years."
"Achiri?" she asked, sitting cautiously on the edge of the mattress.
"Never lived with me. Not part of the harem," I chuckled.
"No. You're the one that brought up the harem," I teased.
Bella's hand closed around a pair of balled up socks that she'd unpacked earlier. She quickly (for a human) picked them up and lobbed them at me. Of course, even with the best aim, there wasn't a chance that she could hit me. But she was entirely off the mark, and the socks fell about a foot to the right of me on the couch. I knew well enough not to laugh at her attempt.
Bella and I both gazed at the socks. If they were human, they would have blushed scarlet under our combined scrutiny. I finally looked back at Bella. She was trying not to grin.
"I was just surprised," she explained.
"I hadn't thought to say anything because there's never been anyone but you."
"I know," she said, scooting backwards on the bed, holding my gaze. After weeks on the beach, the golden comforter enhanced Bella's tanned skin and auburn highlights. She was beautiful.
"And I love you. I've never loved anyone but you."
"I know," she repeated, keeping her eyes locked with mine. Quicker than she could track, I crossed the room and turned on the stereo, and then settled tentatively on the edge of the bed. The gentle strains of Barber's Adagio for Strings filled the room.
"And I want you, Bella. So much. I've never wanted anyone but you."
Bella gulped. "I know." And in one remarkably fluid motion she was on her knees next to me, on the bed.
"Don't hate me," I asked, my hand on her cheek. She leaned into me, her warmth heating my skin, blazing a path down my arm, threatening to devour the rest of my body.
"I can't." Bella toyed with the top button on my light cotton shirt.
"I promise that I'll tell you everything, Bella. I'll just need some time."
"Not now," Bella pleaded as she inched closer, the warmth of her body bleeding through her lightweight sundress.
"Only because you asked so nicely," I teased, my lips finally against Bella's, as I gently pushed her head back onto the pillows, holding myself above her, so my body just barely brushed against hers, my lips whispered over hers, so soft and warm. I pinned her hips between my legs in an attempt to pin down my flame, press too hard and she'd be gone.
"Your family?" she whispered, our lips still grazing against one another's.
"Stop worrying, Bella. They saw me coming upstairs. They know that we just fought."
"Past tense? Have we made up yet?" Bella asked, grinning.
"Not quite. Let me show you how vampires make up."
I pressed my lips against hers, letting the warmth of her fevered lips bleed into mine. I kissed her slowly, carefully, savoring the feel of hot satin against cold steel, the feathery lightness of her touch, as I allowed only the slightest touch of my body against hers. Her nipples, her hip, her inner thigh, one spot at a time, so that it was like random sparks igniting, then going cold. Her neck, behind her knee, the hollow of her throat; random caresses so that she didn't know what would come next.
I felt my own breath coming harder, watching the way her body reacted to my touch. The way tiny beads of sweat broke out on her skin. The way her breath felt like fire as it swept across my face. The way she trembled in my arms: the rhythmic trembling of her heart and lungs, and the unsteadier trembling of her nerves. How I envied her trembling and wished for a release for the intense energy that built inside of me every time Bella and I came together. That energy had almost no outlet in the cautious realm of our physical relationship.
Instead, I fed off of the beautiful torment, and felt Bella's own frustration building as she clenched her arms around my waist and tried to pull me closer. It built until my own body actually quivered, until my eyes burned, until I was forced to bury my hands in the mattress to make sure I didn't crush Bella. I forced myself to stay still, to stay gentle, to make sure that Bella was fulfilled and satisfied.
She was. She was glowing, breathing deeply, her chest rising and falling, the peaks of her nipples pressing against the thin fabric of her dress. Despite my cool temperature, she was perspiring, her face flushed and her eyes bright. She pulled at my shirt, fumbled with my fly, but I pulled away, sitting back on my heels to marvel at the sight of her.
"Always so eager," I murmured, as my fingers toyed with the straps of her dress.
"You're being a tease," she breathed, pulling herself to sitting, bringing her lips to my neck. And then something else, smooth, hard and warm ran across my collarbone. I froze. My mouth began to tingle, my mind reeled, my body was instantly electrified. "No teeth," I murmured, remembering the venom that had coursed into my mouth the last time Bella used her teeth.
"Something to look forward to, then," she cooed, licking the spot where her teeth had been, almost as if she knew how it was done. "Think about where you want me to --"
But I didn't let her finish. The image of Bella marking me was immediately burned in my brain, and I was completely overcome. Before I consciously knew what I was doing, Bella's back was pressed against the headboard, her dress was torn down the middle, then torn off her shoulders, and the shredded cotton fell around us. She was as delicate and dangerous as a flame in my hands. Her skin was glorious: pink, perspiring, and warm. My lips were at her ear, licking, sucking, teasing.
"When you're vampire?" I choked, my arms encircling her.
Bella didn't answer, only shook her head and shivered in my arms as my fingers skimmed the seam of her panties.
"You've thought about what you'll do? What we'll do?" Dangerous fantasies raced through my mind as the last remaining garment was torn and pulled out of the way.
"Have you?" she asked. I didn't answer. I couldn't. I didn't know how to explain the way I longed for her to remain human, and the way I couldn't wait until she was turned. How the idea of her strong and permanent, dangerous in a different way, was more than exciting.
"I have." Her answer was barely a breath. "A lot."
My hand ghosted its way from Bella's inner thigh, over her flat stomach, between her breasts so quickly that it was like a pale glittering flash in the dappled sunlight falling through the window. Until I held Bella's face in both my hands, stared deep into the chocolate pools of her eyes, and I planted my body before her so that I knew I was all she could see.
She gasped and bit her bottom lip.
"Tell me what you fantasize about." My request gave no room for disagreement. Bella's chest heaved, damp with sweat, her heart pounded. My teeth still tingled. I had to have her tell me her vampire fantasy.
Bella's eyes ducked toward the bed between us, but then they flashed and she looked back at me, staring me down, confident. "I'd pin you down, underneath me. I'll be stronger than --"
"Do it," I interrupted.
"Take off your clothes first."
"Of course." And I worked quickly, but somehow Bella was there when the last piece of clothing hit the floor, her hand held firmly against my chest, scorching. This time I was the one to shudder with her touch. I let her push my back to the bed, as she climbed on top of me, her hand never leaving my bare skin.
"I'll hold your wrists with one hand, and keep your legs between my thighs so you won't be able to move. I felt Bella's thighs pressing against mine as she glanced back and forth between my hands. I quickly brought them together in front of her. And in one seamless movement, she grabbed my wrists and pushed. I let my hands collapse above my head, and Bella was on top of me, her body pressed against mine. Glorious, triumphant. I couldn't wait. Her breasts brushed against my chest with each breath, her eyes were barely a centimeter from mine, and her hair was like a silken curtain hiding us from the world. Rays of light made their way through the strands of her hair, and rainbows danced in the space between us.
"My love," I whispered, seeing her simultaneously human and vampire. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open.
"Edward, I…I --"
"And then what?" I prompted.
Bella moved against me, a trace of a touch that still managed to overwhelm my senses so that I couldn't help but take a sharp intake of air. Bella's eyes glowed and the hint of a satisfied smile played at her lips. I pulled her bottom lip between mine, ran my tongue along it. "An then?"
And then Bella angled and pulled back slightly, the absence of her touch left me momentarily wanting, until I was inside her, encased in soft fire, and Bella lay against me again, her lips parted, her eyelids fluttering.
"When you're all the way inside… then you'll feel my hips like I feel yours now… so hard. The impact when I come down on you… you'll feel it, we'll hear it… I'll finally pinch you… your nipples… and…" Bella paused to catch her breath, moving her hips, still holding my hands over my head, her impossibly soft skin sliding against mine, her heart racing, and her face turning a beautiful shade of rose, as she closed her eyes. "And I'll pinch your gorgeous… ass," she whispered, ending in soft giggles.
Bella sat up, smiling and let go of my arms. I immediately moved my hands to her hips, and the light from the window streamed around her body, all orange and gold. I took a moment to savor the sight of her, so feminine and so sure, before pulling her down so that I could kiss her again. "I'll hold you to that."
"That wasn't all," Bella replied, as her breath came harder and she arched her hips and moved at a slightly faster pace. I worked to stay focused, to hold on, not to let my mind go.
Bella could sense that I was on the edge. She held my gaze, her hands held my face so that I was encased in flames as she whispered, "And then, I'll lean over and whisper in your ear." My eyes fluttered closed.
I felt Bella's lips barely touching my ear, her little tongue tracing it's curves.
"I'll ask where." It was a spoken in a breath so quiet, that it was almost a thought.
The picture my mind conjured of Bella asking where she should mark me took me out of my mind, and I was borne away, lost to sensation, consumed by heat and hints of a touch, and the sweetest, gentlest, sexiest voice whispering between deep sighs and sultry moans… "Think about it. Back here?" Something hot and warm flicked behind my ear. "Or here, or here…" her mouth never tired of finding tantalizing possibilities, until I had to reach behind me and grab the iron of the headboard, my hips meeting Bella's once, twice, three times, and her teeth were at my collarbone, and the world exploded, consumed in fire, gold and orange, soft pink, and chocolate brown.
I awoke wrapped in a soft, warm comforter, and pressed against something hard and cold. Edward. I felt the smile on my face, and then strong arms tightened around my waist.
"Love," he whispered, his delicious breath bringing goose bumps to life on the back of my neck.
"Edward," I hummed out loud this time. I rolled over so we were face-to-face, nose-to-nose, and then opened my eyes to see two beautiful amber orbs glowing in front of me, full of love. But that's all I saw. The room was dark. "What time is it?"
"Just after two. You fell asleep just before sunset, but I didn't want to wake you. You looked exhausted," he smirked.
My mind quickly replayed all of the things that had tired me out before dark. "We never made it to the couch," I whined playfully. We hadn't even made it off the bed.
"We have a week. Good thing I'm a patient man." Edward laughed quietly. His kiss was quick and soft, but my breath caught in my throat anyway. Maybe it was the way his very hard, very unclothed body was pressed against me.
"Have we made up, now?" I asked.
"You've finally accepted the harem?" he chuckled.
"Edward!" I playfully smacked his shoulder. Oh! It smarted. Sometimes I forgot.
Edward seemed to be able to read the pain on my face, and he rubbed gentle circles over my palm. His cool touch made it immediately feel so much better.
"Perhaps you should get back to sleep. You and Alice have a big day tomorrow."
"Shopping, right." I shifted in the bed, and disappointment managed to work it's way through my happy and satisfied haze.
"Alice just wants to spend some time with you."
"I want to see her too, it's just…"
"Give her this day, Bella. It will mean the world to her."
"But if she sees the future, couldn't she just go ahead and order whatever will fit, whatever I'll like?"
"It's not the shopping, Bella, it's spending time with you, doing something she loves. Torturing you is just an added bonus. We'll get the rest of the week ironed out, to minimize the torture," he promised, gently stroking my shoulders.
"I know," I admitted, snuggling into Edward's embrace.
"Isn't that what you were trying to tell me earlier? Back when we were talking to Alice, right after we came home."
"You knew." Edward's voice was filled with awe, I think. And I had known. I wasn't sure how. "And what will you be doing while I'm gone?" I asked, turning to face my husband again. I felt the length of him pressed against my belly and squirmed.
"I have my own list to work my way through before we leave for school. Christening this bed wasn't the only thing I had planned for our stay. Today I'm going to try to find our home in Juneau."
"We're really going, then." It was still hard to believe we'd have our own house. That we were married. That we could do whatever we wanted inside that house. I pressed myself purposefully against my husband.
"If it's what you want," Edward murmured, pushing my hair behind my ear.
"Well, I'd do about anything, as long as I could do it with you." Edward's eyes flickered in the dark, and although he was so cold where his skin touched mine, the heat from his eyes was scalding. I shivered.
"In that case, as long as you're awake, I have something else in mind for the immediate future." I felt Edward's icy fingertips running down my spine, over my bottom, across the back of my thigh. He gently grabbed the back of my knee and hitched my leg up so that I was pressed against his naked body, then rolled me over on top of him, his eyes flashing mischievously.
"The last time I tried that, you were wearing entirely too much clothing," he rasped, pressing my naked body against his.
"I tried to undress you, but you wouldn't listen to reason," I joked, letting my hand wander.
"Was waiting so bad?"
"It was torture," I replied, my hand finally finding what it had been looking for. Edward very purposefully grabbed handfuls of comforter and bit his bottom lip. I loved that he'd taken on my habit. It was endearing and somewhat human.
"It was," he agreed, his voice clipped. "And it was perfect all at the same time."
"Only you would call something that was so frustrating wonderful."
A shadow momentarily flickered across Edward's face, and even in my sleepy haze, I understood immediately: his delight and pleasure as he tortured himself not to kill me.
"Will you miss this after I'm turned?"
Edward looked away, and his face immediately changed into that impassive mask.
"No, Edward, don't leave. Come back and tell me. I can take it. I'm stronger than I seem."
With those words, Edward smiled and his dim eyes flickered back to life. But he still didn't look at me.
"Do you remember what I told you about time? I can't ever leave this time behind; I'll always remember it, perfectly. I'll hold it forever and cherish it." Edward finally turned to me and smiled. He looked happy and determined, I think. His arms were quickly around me, drawing my body back down to his. His eyes blazed. "I'll always have this, Bella. You. Human. You've given me the most wonderful gift. But I can't lie. I want you forever."
"You want me forever." I knew that. But it wasn't exactly what I'd asked.
"Yes," he agreed before kissing me. But I pulled away.
"But do you want me as a vampire? To be like you."
"When you're ready."
"Say it. Put the words together and say it for me," I asked, my voice barely a whisper.
"I want it."
I felt the smile on my face, the hint of tears in my eyes. I blinked rapidly, feeling pretty sure that tears wouldn't help anything at the moment.
"For what?" he asked.
"For finally admitting it to me, out loud."
"And then we'll be together, forever," he murmured as he rolled his body on top of mine.
"Forever," I agreed.
After we had re-enacted and, um, enhanced certain old memories we'd shared in the bed before the wedding, I'd lied awake in Edward's arms. We agreed to talk more about my transformation. To plan for it, so that it was something we were both as comfortable with as we could be.
And then, after that, I asked Edward to start telling me everything, like he'd promised. I wanted to know him completely, and to be ready the next time I bumped into one of the vampires that had a thing for him back in the day. I hadn't been prepared for Tanya at the wedding, and I certainly hadn't been prepared for Emmett's prank. So, Edward started by telling me about the first time he met Tanya in 1919. We talked until just before dawn.
As a result, I was still groggy when Edward and I made it downstairs by ten thirty. Esme had another gigantic breakfast spread set for me. It seemed that Edward wasn't the only Cullen that had taken to cooking. Esme and Alice smiled brightly in our direction from their seats at the breakfast bar.
"My goodness, Edward, she looks like she hasn't slept in a week! I gave you extra time this morning for sleep!" Alice cried in mock-horror. I couldn't be sure, but I think I saw Esme give Alice a little kick to the shin. I wouldn't have noticed at all, except Alice jumped in her seat.
"Thanks for the food, Esme. But it's too much. And I can cook for myself. I've been doing it for years."
"I'll try to reign myself in, dear, but it's so much fun experimenting. And we only get you for a week before you're off again."
Esme's smile was warm as she looked between Edward and I, and then at the feast on the counter. So I decided to just go with it, and I piled my plate high with food. "I might end up napping in the car after all of this," I commented to Alice.
"Do humans sleep after everything?" she giggled.
"Only when overly attentive vampires over-do things," I replied. Everyone went silent for a second, before Edward, Esme and Alice all laughed out loud. I'd only been referring to Esme's cooking, and I felt my face getting hotter by the second.
But then I looked between the three vampires in front of me, and for the first time, I noticed a subtle difference in their reactions. While Alice and Esme's faces betrayed a little strain around the eyes and they held themselves very carefully, Edward's eyes sparkled with delight, and he leaned in to kiss my temple. It had never been as obvious to me before how much he'd changed. I cuddled into his arms, feeling safer and more secure than ever, and sad that I'd have to let him go for the day.
But then, his very human reaction to my blushing skin reminded me of my own list for while we were back in Forks.
"Um, Esme, I was wondering if you had the caretaker Kaure's address?"
"Kaure?" she asked, taken by surprise.
"Well, I just wanted to send a thank you note. She kept everything so nice for us. And she kept me company while Edward was gone."
I made sure to keep my mind focused on a very plain thank you letter. Alice couldn't read my thoughts, but she could see the future. I would just write a note. I had to count on Kaure to do the rest. Esme jumped to her feet, a bright smile on her face. "Of course, dear. How sweet. I'll write it down for you and leave it with Edward."
Alice eyed me curiously. "Alright, Bella, are you ready? If we don't start getting you ready for school soon, you won't have a thing to wear come winter time."
"I wouldn't mind," Edward whispered in my ear. "I've already ordered the rug."
Alice smirked at Edward and Esme tactfully excused herself from the table.
"You would mind, Bella. You think winters here are cold. Wait until Juneau."
A/N: Happy Mother's Day! Both of my betas are moms, so I gave them the day off. Hopefully, this chapter isn't swimming with typos. But if it is, it's all a testament to the wonderful skills of Jess Brown and Lindz. Enjoy your day, muchachas!
I received many, many suggestions for Edward's list. Don't loose hope that they don't make it off the bed in this chapter. They have a whole week in front of them. But a little vampire role-play sealed with a bite made things very special for Edward. I couldn't pass it up. And if you get a chance, feel free to do a read-through while listening to Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, op. 11.
As always, thanks for reading, and for your reviews, and for your inspiring ideas, and for telling your friends, and for just all around rocking! xxx, M