Title: Existence and Essence

Author: Amethyst Jackson

Category: Drama, Romance

Rating: M

Summary: Bonne Foi from Bella's point of view. Bella knows the man she meets late one night on campus is not what he seems, but is that reason enough to turn away?

Disclaimer: A writer is like a goddess in her universe…but only one writer is making the money off Twilight, and that's Stephenie Meyer. These are her characters, and I'm just having fun with them.

A/N: I wrote this first chapter in BPoV for Elizabethan, who bought my services in the first Fandom Gives Back auction. I've given it a new title because a) "Bonne Foi BPoV" isn't much of a title, and b) I think Bella has her own story to tell (she turned out to be wordier than Edward). I will be continuing this in some form or another – either a full BPoV, or certain chapters – once Bonne Foi is complete. For now, enjoy the beginning.

Chapter One

It was late, the library was empty, and the words were blurring on the page in front of me, but I had to finish this reading. It didn't matter if I was tired.

I just had to keep telling myself that.

Of course, my resolve was all for naught. I fell asleep on top of Mansfield Park and didn't wake until the library staffer came by and woke me with the message that the library was closing.


I convinced her to check my books out, even though her hours were over, and began the long trudge back to the dorms with my pile of books. My major weighed a ton.

The campus was quiet this time of night, too quiet. Sometimes it felt peaceful to me, but tonight, it made me nervous. The clouds hung thick over the campus like a blanket, and no moonlight broke through…the shadows were heavy. Unbidden, newspaper headlines flashed through my head – Killer targets coeds, serial killer claims fourth victim

I'd brushed off my dad's worries, but I couldn't help a little tingle of fear, being out here alone. I searched my pocket for the pepper spray I usually carried and realized I'd left it in my bag in my room.

The sound of sudden footsteps behind me caught me off guard, and as I tried to pick up speed, my toe caught on the uneven sidewalk – damned cheap board of trustees never would fix anything around here – and, predictably, all my books flew from my arms as I struggled to regain my precarious balance.

And then, out of nowhere, he was there, gathering up my fallen books. My first impression of him was a shock of auburn hair, the strangest color I'd ever seen…not red, but not brown, either.

When he looked up, my breath caught. Maybe it was that his eyes were such a stark black that they frightened me, or maybe it was that he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Either way, I was lost when his full lips twisted into a smile.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you," he said in a smooth voice as he straightened and handed me back my books. He was taller than I expected, and his body was beautifully lean and muscular. I felt an awareness in my body that I'd only felt once or twice before, and never this strongly – I wanted him.

"That's all right," I said, blushing at my own thoughts. He was just a man, I chided myself.

Something made his eyes widen, and impossibly, they darkened. He looked…dangerous. He was dangerous; my instincts told me so, made my heart pound and the adrenaline flow freely. Could he be the serial killer?

"I'm just jumpy," I said, more for my benefit than his. "You know, with that serial killer running around still."

How would he react to the mention of the murderer stalking our campus? And just what did I expect, a complete confession?

"Right," he said, his face suddenly contorting into an expression of concern, though there was something off about it. "You really shouldn't be walking alone like this. It's dangerous."

I was being stupid. He was just a nice guy, and I shouldn't punish him for that.

"I don't have much choice," I shrugged. "I have to work to pay my tuition, so I have to do my homework late at night…"

"Let me walk with you," he offered with a gentle smile. There was something not quite right about that smile, but I couldn't put my finger on it. It wasn't exactly kind, but it didn't feel malicious, either. It was almost as if he just didn't know how to smile, and that triggered an inexplicable sadness in me.

"Okay," I agreed because I was curious about this man, and if he wanted to hurt me, he would probably find a way to do it with or without my help. Still, I hugged my books to my chest, hoping he didn't have any such plans. I wanted to be right in trusting him because he looked like someone that needed somebody to have a little faith in him. His eyes were cold and hard, but they were bleak around the edges, suggesting there was something more beneath the surface. I wanted to dive into that enigma, even if I would drown in it.

"May I ask your name?" he asked me, interrupting my steam of consciousness.

Of course, he was completely oblivious to my thoughts, and he startled me when he struck up a perfectly normal conversation. I don't know what I had expected – just because he was strange didn't mean he would voluntarily spill out his secrets to me.

"Bella Swan," I told him, even as the part of my brain that was always a cop's daughter berated me. If he was some creepy stalker-slash-serial-killer, my full name was probably enough to get him all the information he needed to break into my room and murder me in my sleep. The rather unhelpful part of my brain reminded me that he was already following me to my dorm, so he would know where I lived anyway. I ignored both and glanced at him. "May I ask yours?"

"Edward Masen," he replied with a quirk of his lips. All doubts and speculations aside, my body reacted powerfully to this creature. His smile really was charming, even if it looked as though he didn't do it often enough, and he had a voice that caressed each word like a brush of velvet on skin. I couldn't deny the possibility that my desire for him to be trustworthy might be fueled by my strong attraction to him.

His eyes lingered on me a bit too long, as though he were waiting for something that I wasn't offering. I was about to feel self-conscious – or more self-conscious, at least – when he spoke again. "Where are you headed?"

"Collins," I told him, then bit my lip in punishment for divulging yet more information to a perfect stranger. But he really was a perfect stranger, at least in the physical sense, and my name alone would already be enough for him to find out where I lived through the university directory.

"A freshman, then?" he asked, though the answer was obvious. Only freshmen lived in Collins. I wondered if he would be turned off that I was so young, and then wanted to kick myself for such a thought. I'd never indulged in this kind of girly thinking before. Anyway, it shouldn't matter if I was a freshman – he didn't look like he could be a day older than I was.

"Yes," I confirmed unnecessarily, because he'd framed it as a question. "What about you?"

"A sophomore," he said simply. I frowned.

"You don't look like a sophomore," I said without thinking. I wished I could take it back – I didn't want to offend him – but he really didn't look a day over twenty. At the same time, there was something in his eyes that seemed much older than twenty. I couldn't figure him out.

"You don't look like a freshman," he retorted with a crooked grin that revealed a dimple in his left cheek and the whitest set of teeth I'd ever seen. I had to tighten my fingers' grip on my books to resist reaching out and touching his full lower lip.

I needed to change the subject and get that grin off his face before I did something stupid. "What do you do?" I blurted out, and then wanted to smack myself. Obviously, he was a student.

"I mean, what do you study? I know I've never seen you before…" I murmured, voicing my thoughts aloud. I could guess that it was probably science or business because it was a small campus. If he studied the humanities, I would have at least seen him in passing in one of the two buildings those classes were held in. "I would remember."

I blushed at the thought. Yes, I would definitely remember seeing Edward. Even if I never saw him again after tonight, I was fairly certain I would remember his face for the rest of my life.

He was eyeing my flushed cheeks strangely, probably wondering what was wrong with me. "I haven't declared yet. I'm thinking about psychology, though. What about you?"

"English," I answered distractedly, wondering what his possible psychology major said about him. "I've always loved the way a book seems different every time you read it, because your mind processes it differently." I realized I was babbling, and stopped myself quickly, forcing myself to focus on the conversation instead of wondering if he was more of a Freud or a Rogers or an Adler. "I'm sorry, that was probably more than you wanted to know."

"Not at all," he said with a little shrug, and he looked like he really had been interested in what I was saying. I must have imagined it, though, because he quickly changed the subject. "Are you from around here, Bella?"

"Not really," I answered, almost on autopilot. I'd answered this question more times than I could count in freshman orientation. "I lived with my mom in Phoenix until she remarried when I was seventeen. I moved to Forks to live with my dad. You've probably never heard of Forks, though."

I wondered if I should tell him my dad was a cop. If he were a serial killer, that might dissuade him from doing whatever he might be planning. On the other hand, I had pretty much dismissed the possibility by now, and if by some miracle he was actually interested in me, I didn't want to scare him off with the cop talk.

"No, I'm afraid not," he told me, and I wasn't surprised. No one had heard of Forks except the people who lived there or competed against us in sports. "A small town?"

"Very," I laughed. Forks made Mayberry look metropolitan. "Most boring two years of my life." Well, that wasn't quite true. My life in Forks had been eventful, just not in a good way.

"Surely you must have had friends…boyfriends…"

"No, and no," I answered. Was he seriously fishing for information about my relationship status? I felt a weird rush of giddiness heat up my face before it was quickly crushed as I remembered why I'd had a negligible social life. It was hard to feel normal when the whole school knew your uterus was missing. But then, I had never been normal, had I? Even before the accident, I had been a pariah.

"I've never really fit in anywhere," I admitted to the beautiful boy walking beside me, because as much as I wanted him to like me, he deserved to know what he might be getting himself into.

"I can't imagine why. You look normal enough to me," he added casually. With his hands in his pockets and a little smile on his lips, he looked so at ease. I wished I could feel as comfortable in my own skin as he seemed to be.

"It's like my brain works differently than everyone else's or something. It turns people off," I told him, shrugging like that could offset my weirdness. I wasn't even going to get into the other reason why people gave me funny looks.

"Normal minds are boring, anyway. People are so predictable." I might have thought that was his way of telling me he didn't care that I was a freak, had it not been for the heavy tone of his voice. He sounded so jaded.

"I'm surprised you want to study psychology, then," I said, hoping to get more information out of him. What could have happened in this guy's life to make him sound like he'd already seen and done it all? How could someone so young be so cynical?

He shrugged his shoulders tensely, and I knew I wouldn't be getting any real answers anytime soon. "It's the abnormal minds that are interesting," he said.

"Well, you'll have fun with me, then," I sighed, a little disappointed with his lack of candor. "Just call me Exhibit A."

"I can think of much better things to do with you than study you," he said. It only took me a second to understand what he was implying, and my whole body grew instantly hotter at the images that flashed through my head. Just the thought of being tangled up naked with this man had me more turned on than any provocative film or erotic novel ever had.

I scrambled for something to say in response, something flirtatious and casual and cool, but I had nothing. We walked in silence, and I stared at the ground like the moron I was.

"Do you already have a lot of work?" he asked eventually, startling me. A glance to the side showed his long-fingered right hand gesturing to my books.

"A paper, as usual," I sighed, reminded again of how little work I'd actually accomplished tonight. This week would be horrible. "That's the one drawback of being an English major. I feel like I have to write a paper about everything I read."

"You sound stressed." His voice was sympathetic, almost crooning. I had the inexplicable urge to snuggle into his body and just melt away.

"I guess," I managed, trying not to drift closer to him as we reached the end of the sidewalk. "Like I said, I have to work, so…it makes everything harder."

"Would you like to come someplace with me?" he asked, smiling crookedly. My heart felt like it would leap from my chest. "Of course, if you don't feel comfortable, I would understand, but it's a place I like to go when I need to relax. I think you would enjoy it."

I glanced across the street to my dorm, where light shone from the lobby. As I saw it, I had two choices. One: I could refuse, retreat to the safety of my dorm room, go about my joyless life, and probably say goodbye forever to the most beautiful man I had ever laid eyes on. Two: I could ignore everything I'd ever been taught and go with this man, risking all the harm, both physical and emotional, that he could do to me.

In the end, there was no choice. Walking away from Edward and losing whatever opportunity I had with him terrified me more than any contemplation of the violence I might suffer. That was saying a lot, since my brain was screaming at me to run like hell from the risk of ending up with my throat ripped out like the girls in the newspapers. Still, that fear was only in my head; my gut told me different things. Every instinct told me that I was safe, that he was good even as he was dangerous, and that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't go with him now.

He smiled down at me. I took a deep breath. "Okay."

Edward's smile widened, showing me two rows of gleaming white teeth. "Wonderful. My car is just down the street."

I returned his smile, noting that this one reached his eyes just the slightest bit. The sight reassured me. It told me that despite his jaded demeanor, he could still feel. Maybe I could be the one to bring him out of his shell, as absurd as that would be. I had nothing special to offer, nothing he couldn't get from anyone else.

We resumed walking, and his hand came to rest on the small of my back. His hand was cold, cold enough to force a shiver. At the same time, warmth radiated across my back from the point where his fingers touched me. I couldn't make sense of it.

There had to be a rational explanation for why his hands were so cold when the air around us was warm, almost muggy. Some kind of medical condition, perhaps? Poor circulation?

What puzzled me more than his temperature, however, was how my body reacted to his touch. I'd never felt anything like it. I'd been on only one date in my life – an awful evening at the movies that ended with Mike Newton vomiting in the bathroom and me sitting in the theater alone – and Mike's arm around my shoulder had felt uncomfortable at best. Nothing like this.

Edward's slight touch made me crave more. I knew, wherever he was taking me, that there was a very good chance his intentions could be sexual in nature – and if that was the case, there was a good chance I would let him touch me, if not more. I might not be strong enough to resist, and I might not want to resist. Was this typical for him? I didn't really believe he was the so-called Campus Killer, but what if he was he was still an unsavory character? What if he made a habit of picking up gullible young freshmen and charming them with his I'm-a-gentleman-let-me-walk-you-home routine?

I had to know, but there was no way to ask without being completely rude and offensive. Normal girls would find some sneaky way to get answers in this situation, but could I pull off that sort of thing?

I would have to try. I had to know at the very least that even if I never saw Edward again after tonight, I would be a unique case for him, and not a notch in his bedpost.

"Um," I began, feeling like an idiot. I shifted my books from one arm to the other, stalling. "Won't your…won't your girlfriend mind this?"

Edward laughed; he saw right through me. "I don't have a girlfriend." He shot me a smirk that said he knew exactly what I was thinking. "You don't think I invite just anyone to my special place, do you?"

"Well, I don't really know you, do I?" I was blushing fiercely, embarrassed at my lack of social grace. Still, I wasn't quite comforted. He seemed sincere, but there was just something off about him. Something strange.

He turned his head to me and smiled, almost gently this time. "I'm not that kind of guy, Bella."

I believed him, so much that I felt guilty for doubting him. Was my worldview so skewed that I couldn't believe Edward was simply a nice guy who wanted to be friendly?

"Sorry," I mumbled. I felt ashamed. "I don't trust people easily."

He shrugged, nonchalant, apparently unoffended by my behavior. "It's good to be on your guard. The world is a dangerous place."

"You sound like you're speaking from experience," I said, studying his face. He sounded tired.

"I've seen some unpleasant things in my time," he said. His voice was flat and unemotional. Again, I craved to know what had made him that way.

We walked a little further, passing the university's sports complex before he came to a stop. "Here's my car."

I gaped at the vehicle to which he gestured. It was jet black, perfectly clean, gleaming under a streetlight. Sporty and sleek, I guessed that whatever model it was, it was incredibly expensive.

"Wow," I managed. "Your parents must be loaded."

He opened the passenger door for me. "They were. They died a long time ago."

"Oh," I said dumbly. I'd been suspecting the worst of him all night, and he'd lost his parents…. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean –"

He waved my apology away with the hand that wasn't holding the door. "No need. I've had a long time to get used to it."

I wanted to keep apologizing – not necessarily for my faux pas, but rather, for everything. I was sorry I'd suspected badly of him, sorry life had been unkind to him, and sorry he was alone.

Edward didn't speak as he began to drive, leading us out of the city limits. The silence drove me crazy. Was he angry, annoyed? Had I ruined our time together by bringing up unpleasant memories?

"So, I never asked where you were from," I said after taking a deep breath, twisting in the leather bucket seat to look at him. He was ridiculously…sexy driving this stylish car with the fingers of his left hand curled casually around the steering wheel. His right hand gripped the gear shaft, and his arm flexed fluidly with every gear shift.

"Chicago," he said simply, staring straight ahead. Chicago? I'd been expecting Seattle, somewhere in the area. It only made me more curious about him.

"Huh. Why did you decide to come to Washington, then? I mean, if you can afford this car, surely you could go anywhere you wanted…"

"I hate the city," he said. His voice was still so emotionless. "I mean, I like to be near a city, for its resources, but the noise is unbearable."

Edward was hiding something; I was pretty sure of it. His answers were logical, but didn't really tell me anything. As much as I wanted to come right out and ask him what his story was, I suspected his reticence was related to whatever had taken his parents' lives, and having been through a certain amount of trauma of my own, I didn't want to push.

"That makes sense," I settled for saying. "I'm not big on cities, either, but I hate Washington. It's too wet."

Edward let out a chuckle. The sound was throaty, masculine. "Yes, it is that."

"Where are we going that's so far outside the city?" I asked, watching the dark shape of trees fly by out the window.

"A place in the wilderness," he replied. "Just far enough from civilization.

It made me nervous, as much as I didn't want to be. Why the hell did we need to be far from civilization?

"You're not an ax-murderer, are you?" I blurted out, desperate to be reassured.

"No," he laughed, looking genuinely amused.

"Well, good," I sighed, fairly comforted. "I sort of like my head where it is."

Edward snorted, a small smile on his lips, but he didn't say anything else. It was frustrating; I wanted him to justify my irrational, instinctive trust in him, but he wasn't giving me anything.

I'd just have to be pushy about it, I supposed.

"Tell me more about you."

His eyes flickered away from the road to my face, and then back again. "What do you want to know?"

I swallowed my impatience. "I don't know…what are your interests? What do you do when you're not in class?"

He frowned for a moment, thinking. His lips formed the most delicious pout. How would it feel to kiss them?

"Well, I run," he finally began. "I read a lot, and listen to music. I watch a lot of films, too."

They were all incredibly solitary activities, which confirmed my suspicions that he was all alone. There was no talk of friends, of relatives, or of any kind of group activity. Imagining the lonely life he led made me incredibly sad for him. He must be desperate for companionship.

"What's your favorite book?" I asked. It was a safe topic for me, and one that I felt might tell me more about the inner workings of this man's mind.

"The Stranger," he answered easily.

"Camus? You like existentialism?"

"You don't?" he retorted, cocking one of his perfect eyebrows in an expression of crafted disbelief.

"No, I do," I said, trying to mask my surprise. "I think it's a great philosophy – living your life to be the best you can be and taking responsibility for your actions, whether others judge them as good or bad."

Existentialism was the philosophy by which I lived, but I couldn't reconcile my understanding of it with Edward. For me, existentialism was all about hope, about the human potential to be whatever one set out to be. Edward, however, seemed so passive, so disconnected…so like the narrator of L'Étranger, who cared for no one and nothing.

"That's not quite what I got out of it," Edward told me, and this time, I wasn't surprised.

"Oh? What did you think?"

"Meursault acts outside of society's expectations, but he's still bound by them. It's not until he accepts that it doesn't really matter that he's finally happy."

Oh, dear. He'd reached the exact wrong conclusion that left so many people thinking of existentialism as a bleak and depressing philosophy. Meursault had never been unhappy because he'd been trapped into conforming to society; his apathy was the source of his misery. He'd refused to make any decisions about his life, and that had ultimately doomed him.

"I think you sort of missed the point," I told Edward, hoping he wouldn't be offended – I felt compelled to show him a more positive way of thinking. "Meursault was miserable because he never took responsibility for his life. He just drifted through it, accepting whatever he thought fate threw at him. He was finally happy when he truly accepted that there was nothing more than this life – no God, no heaven, and no fate. He realized we have only one life and that it's the sum of our choices that make up the outcome, not what's handed to us."

He stared at me, not paying enough attention to the road, though the car never deviated from its course. Shit. He wasn't looking at me like he was offended, but rather, like I had two heads.

"What? Does that not make sense?" I asked nervously.

"No, it makes perfect sense," he eventually replied, sounding genuinely stunned. "I'm just surprised at your perceptiveness."

Now I was offended. "Did you think I was just some dumb girl?"

"No." He shot me that teasing smirk that inexplicably made me want to lick the dimple in his cheek. "It was hard to miss that pile of books in your arms. I'm just amazed – no one's ever made me feel like such an idiot before."

Crap, I had offended him. "Sorry, I tend to speak before I think sometimes."

"Don't apologize. It was refreshing," he assured me, and he seemed to mean it. "And we're here."

He pulled over at the side of the road, alongside a virtual wall of trees. The area was completely abandoned; the only light came from the car's headlights and the stars that were clearly visible this far from town. If anything happened to me out here, there would be no one to help….

"Is this it?" I asked, unable to overcome my unease. Edward struck me as a good person, but why would he take me out on a deserted road surrounded by trees? What did he intend to do here?

"No, it's just through the trees there," he said, nodding out the window. "You trust me, don't you?"

I nodded because, in spite of all rational thought, I did trust him. I had no choice but to trust him, as if my very soul demanded it.

He offered me another charming smile and climbed out of the car. I was slower, and he was standing there waiting for me when I made it out of the passenger's seat. He didn't bother to lock the car, but then, who would be around to steal it here?

I followed him through the trees, and as soon as the small clearing came into view, I knew I'd made the right decision. No monster could possibly appreciate a place as pure as this.

Under the soft starlight, the clearing was incredibly beautiful. Surrounded by moss-covered trees, the area was carpeted with springy grass, dotted with tiny, white wildflowers. It was understated and timeless. I was in awe.

"Wow. This really is lovely," I said as I examined my surroundings. Tipping my head back, I could see through the opening in the trees a million stars, unobstructed by city lights.

Looking ahead once more, I found Edward watching me with intensity. It should have made me nervous, but somehow…I felt certain that he wouldn't harm me.

"How often do you come here?" I asked him, eager for conversation to dissipate the tension.

"Every week or so, whenever I need to get away," he replied, venturing nearer.

No, a monster wouldn't seek comfort in a place like this. A monster wouldn't want it. "How did you find it?"

He shrugged. "I hike a lot on the weekends. I just stumbled upon it one day."

"Hmm." I lowered myself to the ground and lay back, staring up at the stars, seeing his face in my periphery. Edward was such an enigma. He volunteered so little information about himself, but I felt as though he had a whole universe lurking beneath the surface. I wanted to tunnel my way inside.

After a few self-conscious moments, I sensed him sinking down beside me, sitting upright, his arms around his knees. Again, I was struck with the notion that he was incredibly lonely.

"Do you have any siblings, Edward?"

"No. Do you?" He was always so blunt, and yet, his directness hid so much. What a paradox he was.

"No, my parents divorced when I was two, so there was no time for them," I told him. "And then my dad never remarried, and my mom didn't want any more children when she remarried. She was always more the child than the mother anyway. I always wished I had an older sibling, though…someone who could look after me for a change."

"Your father didn't look after you?" Though he didn't express any emotion of his own, I saw empathy in his eyes and read concern in the sharpness of his tone.

"He tried," I said, shaking my head, "But by the time I moved in with him, I could take care of myself. Besides, he couldn't cook at all."

He laughed, as I hoped he would. I had already grown to adore his laugh – deep, throaty, and hardened, but hiding a boyish joy that still lurked beneath the surface. "That's unfortunate," he said.

"It's almost easier now with only myself to worry about," I said, confessing to him what I'd never admitted to myself. It was effortless.

"Why did you stay in Washington, then, if you hate the wet?" he asked abruptly.

"Cheaper," I sighed. I'd wanted to return to Arizona, but by then, my mother had relocated to Florida. "And my friend Angela wanted to be roommates, so it seemed as good as any other option."

Edward didn't say anything in response. I closed my eyes, feeling the weight of his presence beside me. I wished I could know what he was thinking; I wished I was brave enough to ask him. A part of me didn't want to know, and another part of me decided it didn't matter. Lying beside him, I felt at ease in a way that I did with nobody else. What more did I need to know?

Out of nowhere, I felt something cold touch my lips. Instinctively, I recognized his touch. The cold should have made me uncomfortable, maybe even afraid, but it just…didn't.

I opened my eyes, finding his stark, black ones looking down at me. Was that lust in his eyes? I knew it was lust rocketing through my veins, pure want for this man, this exquisite creature that was touching me. My lips were on fire from the simple touch of his finger, and he was leaning in, lowering his head to mine –

Our lips touched. It was…well, it simply was. His kiss made the outside world, the ground beneath us, and the air around us completely irrelevant. He kissed me with such delicate care that I only craved him more. Acting on instinct, as I had all evening, I wound my arms around his neck and arched my body into his. There was no going back.

Edward released a breath through his nose as I practically threw myself onto him, and it smelled so sweet. I had to taste him. I'd never kissed anyone like this, not even close, but my body knew what to do. My mouth opened, my tongue searching out his smooth lips. His mouth opened under mine, and I tentatively touched my tongue to his. The inside of his mouth was cold, like his hands and his lips and his neck under my fingertips, but the strangeness wasn't a turn-off. I brushed his cold tongue with mine, tasting honey and spice and sheer perfection. Like an addict, I sought more, more, more.

Out of nowhere, he lifted me from the ground and into his lap. I moaned at his strength and the feeling that coursed through me as my legs straddled his and my sex settled against his erection. I'd never felt a man hard before, and hard for me, no less. The sense of empowerment was…heady.

Edward gave me no time for second thoughts – not that I would have entertained them anyway – as he overwhelmed my senses with kisses roaming my face and neck and his hands snaking under my shirt. I felt his hands pulling up at the hem, and I lifted my arms, allowing him to remove it while not allowing myself to think. If I thought about what was happening, I might ask him not to take off my bra like he was doing at this very moment, and then – oh, then his hands wouldn't be on me. Edward gazed hungrily at my body as he palmed my breasts. I watched his hands, long-fingered and so beautiful, as my nipples tightened painfully under his cold touch.

As he caressed me, Edward let out the most beautiful groan, a sound that told me irrefutably that I felt as good to him as he did to me. That sound and the heat that flowed from my breasts to my groin had me grinding against him, desperate for friction, desperate for release.

Never taking his eyes from my body, Edward lowered his head, taking my left nipple between his red lips. His tongue laved against me. I writhed and grasped his hair and panted his name, needing something, anything to soothe the unbearable ache.

He looked up at me, the tip of my breast still in his mouth, and the hint of a smirk played about his lips. A new wave of arousal flooded me, and I reached for his shirt.

"More," I begged, tugging. He brushed my hands away and lifted it himself. I gawked unabashedly as his torso was revealed to me, long and leanly muscled, his incredibly pale skin almost glistening in the meager starlight. My mouth crashed against his as I reached out to touch him, feeling his cool, hard chest and abdomen. He felt like a marble statue under my hands, and as much as I knew that was unnatural, my body responded with hunger. He felt powerful, indestructible even, and heaven help me if that wasn't a turn-on.

He held me against him, his large hands roaming over my back, my hips, my ass. His hips rocked lightly into mine. I think I might have gone insane with lust. Whatever the reason, I attacked him with my lips, tasting his neck with my tongue, biting into his skin to see just how hard it was. I didn't even leave a mark. His skin tasted sweet like his mouth, but less intense. I pressed my body tightly to his as I savored his skin, enjoying the way my body tingled and tightened in response to his coldness.

His arms circled around me and he grasped my bottom, almost grinding my body against his. "More, please, more," I gasped out without thinking.

He laid me back easily in the grass and pulled away, tugging off my tennis shoes and socks. I studied him as he worked, taking in the dusky color of his nipples, the ridges of his abdomen, the light trail of hair that practically made an arrow with the deep-cut V of his pelvis…God, he was gorgeous.

My shoes were tossed aside, and he leaned forward, reaching with nimble fingers to unbutton and unzip my jeans. He didn't even hesitate before taking them off me, his fingers trailing along my legs as he went.

Once they were gone, he leaned forward, lowering his head between my legs. Just the sight of him there caused a new rush of wetness. Was he supposed to look that sexy with his head between my legs, or was I a complete pervert?

I watched, breathless, as he pulled away my cotton panties and tossed them aside with the rest of my clothing. He moved back slowly, grazing my thighs with his careful fingers before he was right there. His tongue came out to lave against me, causing unbearable pleasure to coil in that spot, tight and paralyzing. I let out an embarrassingly pathetic whimper as he continued, circling his tongue around and around, then pressing it inside me before repeating the whole process. I was going to explode, if I didn't die first.

I felt two of Edward's fingers carefully test my opening, and he groaned against me like he was truly enjoying what he was doing. The vibrations fluttered against my most sensitive skin. I moaned back, and he sped up his mouth's movements while his fingers slid inside me.

His perfectly coordinated movements – the flick of his tongue in perfect tandem with the pump of his fingers – sent me into a tailspin.

"E-Edward – oh!" I cried out like the idiot he'd turned me into with his expert touch. I grasped at his silken hair, torn between pushing him closer and pulling him away. It felt too good. I wasn't sure I could handle it much longer…

His fingers curled inside me, hitting a spot that I didn't even know I had, making my hips jerk. I clutched at the grass with the hand that wasn't tugging on his hair for dear life.

His mouth sucked at my clit. I was crashing. His fingers hit that spot again. I was burning. He let out a growl, a primal, rumbling sound, and – oh, God – I was coming.

An unearthly cry tore from my throat as my body jerked and writhed without my permission. I didn't care. The tight little coil that had been forming had sprung loose, and it had opened a floodgate, releasing a torrent of heat and ecstasy.

Only when I felt I was about to finally wash ashore did Edward stop and pull away. I took a moment to catch my breath before I opened my eyes. He started down at me, observing me so intently that I blushed.

With a look of strange concentration on his face, he reached out and cupped his hand to my cheek. The gesture was surprisingly tender, and it awoke me very briefly to the reality of this moment. This…wasn't an act of love or even affection. This was very likely a one-night stand. Had I fallen for a ploy, given in to someone unworthy? I didn't think I had, not when he looked at me like he was now. Was that enough to make something more? Was I going to regret this?

Edward kissed me again, and I knew the answer: no, I would never regret this. I'd never felt so fantastic in my life, never felt so alive. If I never saw Edward again, at least I had this perfect memory.

His lips were like dry ice caressing mine. My hands clutched his shoulders as I kissed him back, trying to memorize his unique taste. Maybe someday, I'd figure out the various elements of his flavor.

I ran my hands down his back, feeling his perfect, unblemished skin until I felt the slope of his rear under my fingertips. Edward let out that ridiculously sexy growling sound again and thrust his hips forward, pressing his cock against me.

I gasped in surprise. Surprise because it was there, and surprise because it was cold, like everything else about him. Surprise, too, because that didn't bother me, either.

"Do you want this?" he asked, eyes blazing down at me. Clearly, he wanted this, and that steeled my resolve.

"Yes," I breathed, captivated by the look in his eyes as he pressed against my entrance. He was so hard. Of course, I knew he was supposed to be, but this was harder than human hard…this was unreal.

Edward eased in slowly, for a moment. It felt good, stretching me, but not painfully. His head dropped to my shoulder as if he didn't have the strength to hold it up any longer, and then, too suddenly, he was all the way inside me.


It hurt. It really hurt. There was the stinging pain of my broken maidenhead and the stretching, aching pain of my body trying to accommodate his size. His coldness turned out to be a blessing in disguise; it had a numbing effect, gradually lessening the pain.

Edward had frozen, and he stared down at me in horror. I realized he was looking at the tears I could now feel on my cheeks.

"Are you okay?" he whispered. He didn't say he was sorry, but I could see it on his face – as if he should be sorry. I was the one who hadn't told him I was a virgin.

"Yes. Don't stop." And I was okay. The pain had eased to a dull ache, fading into the background; it couldn't compete with feeling him inside of me. I'd never felt anything so intimate.

Edward's brow crinkled in concentration as he pulled back and pushed in again. I watched him as he repeated the motion; the look of pleasure on his face was staggering. I felt the coil return, tightening with every pass. And then, out of nowhere, the friction started to feel good. Really good.

I gasped his name as he thrust into me again, and he shivered against me before pushing into me faster and harder. There was no way I was going to regret this; sex – sex with Edward – was like nothing I'd ever even imagined to be possible. There was heat flooding my veins and that coil was so, so tight.

I felt his hands curl in the grass to either side of my head, and he was moaning and growling. God, he was beautiful. I wanted to lick his clenched jaw, run my hands over his flexing muscles. He was too much. I tried to focus on the sounds he made and the expression on his face, but before long, all I could comprehend was the sharp pleasure he inflicted.

"Edward!" I cried as I felt the sudden build-up that told me I was close. I just needed something, anything, to push me over that edge.

"More! Please, harder," I pleaded. His hips snapped sharply against mine as he took me hard, just on the verge of pain, and then the explosion came. My release rocketed through me, wiping every thought from my mind, leaving my body limp and my nerves twitching. I think I might have screamed, and I know my body writhed embarrassingly against his as I shook with the force of my orgasm.

Edward grunted out his climax seconds later, pushing all the way inside as his cold release spilled into me. I struggled to catch my breath as he pulled away and rolled into the grass beside me.

When I opened my eyes, his were closed. He wasn't even looking at me. This was the part I hadn't been thinking about all evening – the part where things got awkward. I scrambled to find my clothes and get dressed before his eyes opened. Edward seeing me naked in the heat of the moment was one thing, but now, when everything was probably…ending, I didn't want to make myself any more vulnerable than I already was.

No regrets, I reminded myself as I scrambled into my panties. Maybe it would be an uncomfortable ride back into town, but that wasn't enough to make me sorry. Being with Edward had been physically amazing, without a doubt, but it had also made me feel desired for the first time in my life. How could I regret that?

I realized, as I listened to Edward rustling around, putting on his own clothing, that the strange, lingering sadness I felt wasn't regret, per se – not regret for what had passed, at least. There was the regret, though, that we would never be more than this one night – not if his tense silence was any indication. I'd thought, for the little while we were together, that I'd begun to understand him, to really know him, and now, that was all over.

I didn't turn around until I'd finished dressing, hoping to delay the inevitable.

"Are you ready to leave?" he asked me, and I had to look at his face. It wasn't entirely cold, but the casual indifference I'd seen earlier this evening was back.

I nodded and bit my lip against all the things I wanted to say. If I could get through this last part with some dignity, I knew I could get on with my life with my head held high.

Edward put his hand on my lower back, just like he had the first time he led me to his car, and walked us through the trees once more. It felt a bit like walking out of a fairy tale and returning to harsh reality. There was his flashy car, waiting for us on the black asphalt. Already, the clearing seemed like a faraway place.

In the car, we were quiet. He drove far above the speed limit, but I didn't say anything about it; I wasn't exactly inclined to argue against getting home faster.

"I didn't realize you were a virgin," he finally said when we were nearly halfway back to town. I blushed, as much in response to his voice as to his question. "Did I hurt you?"

"No," I replied, glancing over to see his reaction. Nothing. "I mean, no more than was inevitable."

Edward simply nodded. I sighed and stared out the window at the passing landscape. Soon houses came into view, and then businesses. He parked in front of my dorm, and I hurried to get out of the car, flooded with relief. I had done something insane tonight, and I had come out unscathed. Now I was eager to put a night's sleep between myself and this craziness, find some perspective, and go on with life.

"Can I see you again?" Edward asked as my fingers grasped the door handle. I reeled. I'd just been getting comfortable with the idea that I'd had a one-night stand, and he had to ask me that? Did he mean it? He certainly hadn't given the impression that he'd wanted to see me again…but maybe he was out of his depth with this as I was? I doubted it, but it was possible. Why would he bother saying something like that now if he didn't mean it?

I turned my head to look at him, falling effortlessly into the trap of hoping. He looked sincere. I had to give in. "Yes. I – I'm in room 36. Come find me, if you want."

Edward smiled as I climbed out of the car. My heart fluttered. Maybe I had a chance at something more with Edward, after all. I stumbled my way through the dorm, lost in memories and wild hopes. If he would only give me a little time, I thought I could break through to the real person hiding behind the cynicism.

I crept into my room, feeling like a fugitive, and changed quickly into my pajamas before sliding into bed. I was too wired to sleep, but I didn't want to risk waking Angela by doing anything else. She was used to my late hours at the library, but I'd never been out this late before.

I lay for a long time reliving the past few hours, dissecting every moment as I stared at the ceiling. As I drifted off to sleep, I had come to only one conclusion: I liked Edward, and I wanted him to like me.