Fun With Your Clothes On One-Shot Contest

Title: Small Steps

Your pen name: Bubbsquared

Characters: Edward and Bella

Disclaimer: Not ours, as always.

To see other entries in the Fun With Your Clothes On Contest, please visit the C2 page:



"Bella," I mumbled against her lips. The steady thump of her heart, already soaring as it was, increased. I listened to the beloved beat, ignoring the more deviant urges it brought forth in me.

"Mmph," was her reply. Her fingers tangled tighter in my hair; trying, I knew, to keep my mouth firmly glued to hers. We both knew her actions were ineffectual, in the end. Still, I enjoyed her actions. They made me feel loved...desired.

"Bella, love," I tried again, this time gently encircling her fragile wrists with my fingers. "Charlie is waiting." Chuckling at her frustrated growl, I placed one last lingering kiss and effortlessly loosed her hold from around my neck.

I smiled gently at the pout on her face, tracing soft circles on the insides of her wrists. Her pulse beat steadily against the delicate cover of skin, tempting and calling to my baser side, though I ignored it. "I'll be back soon," I promised needlessly. I would always be coming back to her.

Nodding sullenly—her desire to be nearer always tore at my weaker instincts—she sighed and removed her hands from my grasp before easing herself out of the car. I waited as she made her way to the front door, my eyes scanning the landscape for any perceived threat. Through vague flashes of Charlie's mind, I watched as he listened to my car idle in the drive. His anxiety spoke the loudest, eyes darting from the clock above the television to the front door as he anticipated his daughter's footsteps on the wooden porch.

Guilt momentarily flashed through me at this. She had so little time left with Charlie, and both I and my family had been encroaching on it so much as of late.

Bella had been spending more and more time at my house, subjected to the wedding-planning-whim of one Alice Cullen. Even as such, I already missed her warmth as she disappeared into her house, Charlie's mind both brightening and calming at the sight of her.

The more time I spent with my fiancée, the more I ached for her in her absence.

Her lovely form disappearing into the kitchen momentarily, Charlie's mind settled into the recent mood of both love and loss—how right he was on the latter—as I pulled away from the Swan residence. I breathed deeply, swallowing Bella's scent that remained in the car, ignoring the sting in my throat. The ever-present burn whose only remaining meaning was that Bella was made for me. I consciously licked my lips, still savoring the taste of her kiss.

Her kiss...

The feel and taste of Bella's lips on mine had become something I couldn't go without for any given length of time. All at once, it was more than I ever deserved and not nearly enough. Each day, it grew increasingly difficult to pull out of her embrace, more difficult to not give in to her pleas. More difficult to not turn the car around and steal her right back from Charlie...

Trying to appease my mind, I told myself that soon I wouldn't need to be separated from her; that soon, she would be in my bed every night.

The day Bella had finally started wearing my ring was one that replayed constantly in my mind. It wasn't simply because of that small symbolthe never-ending circle that proclaimed to all who saw that Bella had chosen me for a sense of forever they might actually comprehend... No, it was the day that marked a shift in my supposed sense of 'control' entirely.

All of the decisions Bella had made up to that day were for the sake of others' happinessfor the sake of my ownwhen all I'd really wanted was to make her happy in the end. So I'd been prepared to give her what she'd been asking for all along; to take what I shouldn't have before I had the right to do so.

The knowledge garnered from that one afternoon in the meadow was frightening and exhilarating all at once. I understood, now, what it was like to make the decision to give myself to her completely, as rash and impromptu as it was.

"I love you. I want you. Right now."

Right then, I'd caught a glimpse of what it would be like to grant my desiresomething I'd long kept a tight grasp onpermission to rule my actions. In those fleeting moments, I could imagine clearly where those actions would take us. I'd never allowed my thoughts such free reign in that direction before, and a rush of excitement had flown through me, flashing fire through my cold veins.

I wanted to feel that again. Above all, I wanted to allow myself to feel her in that way again.


Instantly, I berated myself for the thought. Bella and I had decided to wait. And even then, I couldn't be sure of my control...

You stopped yourself then.

With a chuckle, I reminded myself that it was Bella who had brought a stop to that situation. Only her resistance, her surprisingly fierce reassurance that she wanted to stay true to our current path had been able to break me from my new determination. She brought us back from that precarious edge that afternoon.

But you could have kept going.

That thought gave me pause. After all, how easy would it have been to overcome Bella's frail human strength? To use my 'dazzling' capabilities to overcome her (our) better judgment?

The answer was obvious.

Bella, long susceptible to my maneuvering, would have given in. I could sense her warring emotions that day: the way her fingers clutched me tighter as she tried to push me away with words, the way her heart flew when I teased the fragrant skin of her neck with persuasive lips. But it wouldn't have been fair to use my advantages to gain my own wants.

But you don't have to go 'all the way' to reclaim that feeling. That rush.

My mind quieted at that consideration as I curved along the familiar gravel drive. Similar reasonings had been presenting themselves with growing frequency. First teasing at the edge of thought, and then taking a prominent role whenever I was with Bella, kissing Bella...and recently, in every moment we were apart as well.

Knowing you have the power to restrain yourself, what's keeping you from pushing things just a little bit further? Or at least being a little freer with your affections?

The more I contemplated that single afternoon, the more clouded my convictions became. Why couldn't we push the envelope just a bit? I was fairly certain I had the restraint to stop well before Bella's...virtue could come into any real danger.

We could even just leave it at kissing a little longer, when I'd normally pull away...holding her a little more closely, when my mind screamed at me to put distance between us...tasting a little more of her skin, when I knew that one taste was enough to send my body into overdrive...

You coming inside any time soon?

Emmett's thought drew me abruptly from my musings. I hadn't realized I'd simply been sitting in the silence of my car until then.

Or, you know, you could stay out there and daydream about Bella some more. Didn't you just spend all weekend with her?

I could hear the joking smile in his thoughts and rolled my eyes. I didn't bother pointing out that a majority of that time had been appropriated by our planning-crazed sister. In a moment, I was nudging closed the door of the Volvo and entering the house. Unsurprisingly, Emmett was there to greet me in the foyer, arms folded and knowing smirk in place.

Well, I don't think I need to ask if you got a goodnight kiss... He gave a purposeful sniff.

Rolling my eyes again, I shoved past him but with a smirk of my own tugging at my lips. I liked that I came home saturated in her scent. That I carried evidence proving I could act like a normal teenage boy who couldn't stay away from his girlfriend.

"Where is everyone?" I asked, ignoring more of his teasing thoughts.

"Hospital, upstairs, around..." Emmett answered casually.

I caught the somewhat confused tenor of a recent memory: he'd just acknowledged aloud the sound of me turning off the highway as he sat in the living room with Alice and Jasper. Alice had gone silent, the telltale blankness overtaking her features. I cocked my head at the amused expression on Jasper's face as she shook her head, grabbing his hand quickly. 'We're going out for a hunt,' she'd said nonchalantly, disappearing out the back door with Jasper in tow as my car came to a stop in front of the house.

I quirked an eyebrow in question at their sudden departure, to which Emmett simply shrugged.

"Beats me. Going back to Bella's in a bit?" Why do I even ask? He chuckled, already heading to the stairs with thoughts of finding Rosalie.

I shook my head in amusement, finding it unnecessary to answer my brother as he darted up the steps. "Esme?" I questioned aloud.

Welcome home, Edward, she greeted me warmly from upstairs before her thoughts returned to flowers and decorations for the wedding. Do you like it?

She examined a drawn design she and Alice had been collaborating on for a dance floor in the back yard, given cover by garlands upon garlands of flowers. I pictured Bella and I dancing beneath the dripping strands and smiled to myself.

"It's beautiful, Esme. Thank you," I returned softly as I passed the second floor, heading to the third. I could sense her happiness at my approval, and she busied herself with more sketches as I entered my bedroom. I stood for a moment just inside my closed door, sighing at its emptiness and wondering what I was to do while Bella spent some time with Charlie.

Crossing the room, I looked out over the river, flowing black and silent with no flashes of reflected moonlight due to the thick blanket of clouds overhead. Its blank surface encouraged its mirror in my thoughts.

Ten minutes of...nothing passed as I stared at the water. Surely I wasn't this listless before, I chided myself. But, I realized, that was what my life boiled down to: time with Bella and our loved ones, and then, minutes of...nothing. Time without her had no real meaning. It simply consisted of seconds I counted until I was with her once more.

I allowed my thoughts to return to my earlier considerations. Having outright acknowledged my desire to do more with Bella, I was fairly certain I'd be unable to quell it once I saw her again. I was finding fewer and fewer reasons to do so in any case.

Small steps, I coached myself.

Without making the conscious decision to do so, I was flying back through the house and out the front door.

Bella could have her time with Charlie; I would just wait patiently in her room. I didn't care. I seemed to feel the distance from my house to hers more pointedly tonight, and I didn't like it. I pushed myself to close that distance faster, muscles bunching and releasing in the relief of a workout, the satisfaction more palpable because of the destination.

I was running back to my Bella. My fiancée.

I would always be going back to her.


Not noticing in my haste that the house was dark and silent, I slipped in through Bella's window easily, silently. I was surprised to find her form on the bed.

She'd been facing the window, perhaps anticipating my arrival. Her eyes brightened at my sudden appearance, her widening grin matching my own.

My slow intake of breath matched my slow steps to her bed; I needed her scent to fill my lungs again. The sweetness of her freshly-showered skin and fruity shampoo mingled with her blood to create a heady mix. I savored it, holding it in my lungs as I lay down beside her.

She inched away from me, trying to grant me more room on her small bed. I smiled and wrapped my arms around her shoulders instead, pulling her close. Her answering giggle melted into a sigh as she twined her arms around my waist, molding herself to my frame. My whole body instantly went lax as her warmth filtered through her covers and into my own skin.

Tilting her head back, she caught my gaze with her own. "Hi," she said softly.

The grins seemed permanently etched into our features. I briefly wondered if it was ridiculous to feel this much relief and happiness after being parted for barely an hour. Probably, but I didn't care. I nudged her nose with my own, slowly releasing my breath in a, "Hello," as I brushed kisses over her lips and cheeks. A shiver ran through her body as I heard the slight increase in her heart rate.

"How was Charlie? I wasn't expecting you to already be in bed. Actually, I was prepared to wait," I confessed, skimming my nose along her jaw. "But I'm glad I didn't have to."

She sighed. "Um..." I couldn't find it in me to feel bad for distracting her. "He's...he's good. He just seemed content to have me here. He'd already eaten dinner, so I caught him up on some general things with the, um, wedding, and sat with him while he watched TV. He was nodding off before long."

She pulled back a bit, her eyes traveling over my face. "I missed you." She laughed lightly then. "Is that silly? You were only gone for maybe an hour."

My chest lightened at her admission, seeing and feeling the warmth of her blush. "Definitely not silly." I kissed her firmly, reassuringly. At her soft whimper, I groaned quietly and spoke with my lips still connected to hers, "I missed you, too."

Further words were swallowed by kisses, slowly building from whispers of lips to the insistent molding of her mouth to mine. When her lungs begged for air, I allowed my kisses to wander—smooth cheek, to gentle curve of jaw line, to slender neck. All the while, I noted the quickened tempo of her heartbeat, her shallow breaths, and above all, the clean, sweet taste of my Bella.

Does her skin taste the same everywhere?

The unbidden thought pulled a low growl from my chest and my tongue slipped out to lave the skin at the hollow of her throat. The combined sensation and sound made Bella gasp.

Pulling back, I watched as the surprise in her eyes was quickly replaced with a familiar, intense heat. This would be the point where I would normally pull back, allow us both time to calm ourselves.

Still riding the high of being so close to her, I reached a conclusion. I'd made the decision earlier to not stop quite yet, and I wanted to make that intention clear—I could already see resignation beginning to reclaim that heat in her eyes.

Gently, always with extreme care to keep her happy and whole, I nudged her shoulder so she lay on her back. The heat, tinged with hopefulness, returned swiftly to her bottomless eyes as I leaned over her, head bowing toward her once again. Her heart fluttered and a smile spread across her beautiful mouth.

My parted lips covered the pulse throbbing at her neck. The inconsequential burn in my throat intensified, but was easily overlooked for the flame growing in my abdomen, my chest, my veins. Bella—her warmth, her closeness, her very being—brought fire to my ever-cold body. Tonight, I would choose not to extinguish it so quickly.

Taking care to keep my teeth away from her skin, I sucked lightly, pushing my tongue against her neck. So sweet...

I was rewarded with Bella's sharp intake of breath and hands quickly maneuvering under my arms to smooth around my back. Realizing she was trying to pull me closer, I shifted so I lay over her, supporting my weight with hands beside her shoulders and my knees near her thighs, pinning her underneath the thick comforter. The halt of Bella's breathing caused me to lift my head from her neck.

"No," she whispered in protest. Her tone and expression communicated her disappointment.

Perhaps she thought now was the moment I'd pull away. Her discouraged expression, the way her teeth instantly claimed her bottom lip between them and her eyes cast down, tore at me. How had that look alone not encouraged me to keep going before?

Determinedly, I sought to reassure her. My lips were returned to her neck, briefly repeating the same light sucking before retracing the path to jaw, cheek, and finally her succulent lips. Her muscles relaxed with each brush against her skin.

Knowing she would only be able to discern my breaths against her skin and not the words formed within, I whispered into her mouth between light kisses. "You are so beautiful, Bella, and I love you so much. I fear you'll never comprehend the ways in which I want you. I wish you to understand: I want you in every possible way there is for one being to desire another."

Emphasizing declarations unknown to her, one hand traveled to smooth along her swathed side. Her warmth teased me through the covers and I pressed my mouth to hers fully. The fire had grown stronger at my verbal acknowledgement. It spread lower, bringing a hardness that was more relatably human than the rest of my marble-like structure.

"Bella," I breathed her name in between firm kisses. Her panting breaths and thudding heart created a distracting soundtrack. "I want..." I swallowed thickly, unable to articulate my desire. Instead, I pushed up and onto my knees.

"Edward?" Her confusion did nothing to mar the lust in her hooded eyes, and I almost forgot the reason I'd pulled away.

Taking her hands in mine, I kissed each lightly before lifting and placing them gently above her head. What a picture she made, reclined the way she was—hair spread in damp tangles against her comforter, arms bent at the elbows just slightly. Desire personified, she was perfection. The confusion left entirely as I ran my hands down her extended arms, feeling the goose bumps raise on her skin as a shiver passed through her. I didn't think it was from my cold skin, either.

My eyes stayed trained on hers, knowing the flicker of want in her gaze was being reflected perfectly in my own. When I reached the edge of the blanket just underneath her arms, I paused only a moment before grasping it in my fingers, pulling slowly until I left it bunched at her waist.

"Is this okay?" I asked, unsure whether the traces of summer heat coming in through the open window would be enough to keep her warm.

Bella nodded wordlessly, her expression slightly curious and wholly eager.

Finally, I allowed my gaze to shift downward, traveling over her tank top-clad torso to the tiny fraction of bare skin just above the drawstring of her striped pajama bottoms. I placed my hands at her waist, thumbs caressing that sliver of skin. Another tremor rolled through her.

Fearing the heat at my fingertips, the scent of her around me, and sight of her beneath me would combine to undermine my self-control, I closed my eyes, needing to deprive myself of at least one sense. As it was, I wondered at my steady hands, sure I was trembling all over with my restraint.

After a few calming breaths, I opened my eyes again, following the swipes of my thumbs against her exposed skin. Bella shifted her hips, and a wave of a stronger scent hit me, one that taunted my human instincts and the growing problem between my own legs. I kept a careful distance from her, unsure how she'd react if I were to press myself against her. Unsure of how I'd react. How I'd stop myself from doing it over and over...

Gritting my teeth against the wanton growl building in my chest, I smoothed my hands upward over her covered sides until they encased her already heaving ribcage. Two stiff points straining the thin cotton drew my eyes, and I focused on them for a moment too long. I could see the skin just above the neck of her top had flushed red, though it garnered only half a second of my attention. My immediate focus was on the evidence of what my touch had done to her.

Another shift of her hips and my eyes darted to her face. There was no shyness in her features, only bright, heavily-lidded eyes and a plump lower lip caught between teeth. This would become my favorite Bella expression, I was sure.

I glanced back down to where my thumbs spanned toward each other a few inches below the swell of her breasts. I wondered how they would feel, if they were as soft as the rest of her... Of their own volition, my hands shifted upward again. Just before I could allow myself to sample their fullness, I retracted my thumbs, smoothing my hands along the sides instead.

"I could have you right now—I know you'd let me," I whispered too low for her to hear once again. "And I want to take you, so badly... But is that what's best for you? For us?"

I already knew the answer to my too-quiet question.

This was the first time I'd touched her with such purpose, and my touch was starting to lose its steadiness. I was beginning to worry over my withering ability to temper my strength. With that sobering acknowledgement, I realized I would need to stop. And soon.

With a quiet groan and a flurry of movement, I pulled the blanket back over Bella's trembling form and lay myself beside her again, keeping my hips far from her. Before she could express her disappointment, my mouth was on hers, trying to say with my lips, I want you. Too badly. Just give me time.

"Edward," she murmured around my mouth, the flickering passion and simultaneous pout discernible in her voice.

"Small steps," I repeated my earlier affirmation quietly to her. I peppered kisses across her cheeks, her eyelids, an apology and a promise in the lessening intensity of each one. Disappointment didn't claim her expression as it usually did when I forced a stop to our interactions, a timid hopefulness taking its place.

Bella nodded minutely, understanding. She always understood, somehow. I began to hum her lullaby, a small offering of thanks to this glorious creature who had stolen my heart.

"Small steps," she echoed as her breathing slowed.

Stretching on my side, I caressed her cheek lightly before curling my arm around her waist. The tension left our bodies, leaving her soft and pliant in my arms. For now, I would ignore the simmering flame and watch my angel dream.


I slipped into the still darkness of Bella's empty room, filling my lungs with her scent once more after the run here. Charlie's snores reverberated through the quiet house, as well as the sound of the shower shutting off in the bathroom next door. I lay back on her bed to wait, arms folded behind my head. I smiled, reflecting on the past couple of weeks.

Two weeks.

Two weeks of small steps, of gaining control over the monster within and becoming closer to Bella. It was a test each time to see how long I could taste her skin before wanting my hands on more of her. To experiment with how long I could sample the heat of her skin before beginning to shake with my restrained strength.

There was hidden significance, now, to the innocent caresses given in the presence of others. Each touch brought memories of nights prior, of my hands finally traveling under thin cotton to raise goose bumps across her torso and back. But not yet where they wanted to mold to her skin most, to feel those peaks pebbling under my palms...

She'd spent the afternoon and evening with Charlie after another stretch of wedding planning madness. I loved her all the more for dealing with my overenthusiastic sister when I knew she'd be all too happy with eloping to Vegas instead. I'd dropped her off with little complaint, knowing she needed the respite and that I'd see her at the end of the day anyway.

My eyes shot to the door as I heard the padding of her footsteps in the hall. I could feel my body humming in anticipation as the knob turned. Her expectant eyes found me on her bed, brightening in happiness and not surprise, as usual.

She gasped when, in a flash, I was sitting upright at the edge of her bed. I hadn't been able to help it. While her beauty was something that always gave me pause, tonight she was...stunning.

In place of the expected cotton tank top and pajama bottoms was something entirely new.

A deep blue, silk camisole clung to her torso, matching shorts hugging her hips. My eyes couldn't take in the inches of bare skin quickly enough.

It wasn't until Bella shifted on her feet uncomfortably that I realized I'd just been staring at her silently. Her eyes darted around the room and she chewed at her lip nervously. Even in the darkness, my eyes caught the flushing of her skin.

"So beautiful," I managed to whisper. She heard my declaration and smiled shyly, finally moving into the room and shutting the door behind her.

She gasped again when I appeared in front of her. Impatient to touch her again, I wrapped her in my arms, burying my face in her neck.

"So beautiful," I repeated, breathing deeply. Her scent was always so much more potent after a shower, so fresh and appallingly luscious.

"I'm glad you like it," Bella said softly, shaking lightly. "Alice said you would."

"Alice?" I pulled back to look at her. Immediately, I understood Alice's temporary absence this afternoon and her inexplicable concentration on Jasper and Emmett's chess game when she'd returned just before I'd left.

"Yes, she left it here sometime today."

Unable to be cross with the effervescent Alice, I let my eyes sweep down the back of the girl in my arms, to where the fabric pulled a little tight. Curves only usually hinted at were plain as day, and my thoughts scattered.

Extricating herself from my arms, she took my hand and led me to her bed. Crawling under the covers, she left her arms free, holding them out to me. I wordlessly climbed in beside her. Instead of falling into her embrace, I tugged on the covers, pulling them off her completely.

"Please...I want to see you some more," I explained. She grinned and nodded, the thrill in her countenance warring with the shyness at being so exposed.

We usually started more gradually, light kisses turning more insistent. Then I'd allow the flame to spark, to show itself in my hands and lips on her skin. Tonight was different. The fire was already burning its way through my veins, down through my lower abdomen.

I moved to straddle her legs, sitting lower so I could memorize the new wealth of skin exposed to me. My hands begged to inspect the creamy skin of her thighs, and I was powerless to deny them. My fingers were already wrapping around them, traveling up and down slowly, locking the smoothness of the muscled flesh into my mind.

After a few passes, my palms continued upward over the fabric covering her hips, some part of my brain cataloguing the differing silken textures of the material and Bella's skin. I leaned onto my elbows when I reached the hem of her camisole. My hands dipped underneath, still traveling up as the material gathered at my wrists.

Seeing so much of Bella's skin only made me ache to see more, and I couldn't contain the low growl at the sight of her smooth stomach.

"Here. I need to taste the skin here," I found myself murmuring too low for her to hear. Without another thought, my lips descended to press next to her navel, my tongue slipping out to swirl against her abdomen.

My ears caught the sound of Bella's gasp over the pounding of her heart. A shift of her hips sent up the delicious scent of her arousal, and I was hard.

Curious hands measured the expansion and contraction of her ribcage, felt the thudding vibrations of her heart. Another squirm encouraged me so I let my lips travel over her stomach, tasting more of her skin. It was all I could do to keep my hips pressed into the mattress and a respectable distance away from any part of my fiancée.

My hands stopped just beneath her breasts, thumbs feeling the hint of the rise of delectable flesh. I looked up to find Bella's eyes, a look akin to wonder accompanying the undisguised lust that lit her features. I wanted so badly to shred the flimsy silk from her body, to let my eyes feast on all of her before my hands did the same.

No, I told myself, you can't. I was already taking so much before I had the right as her husband. That she was giving me this should be enough, and I resolved to make it so. I could be patient for some things yet. Though, there were others I could experience in the mean time...

"Bella," I said against her skin, "I'd like to touch you."

"Please," was all she said, the single word sounding strained.

Removing my hands from beneath the fabric, I tugged her top back so it covered her once more. I inched forward over her legs and returned my hands to where they were before, just beneath her chest. I looked to her again and she gave a small nod, the excitement plain on her face.

Gently, I pushed my hands upward with a small, relieved groan. My mind was a whirl of emotions and thought as I curled my fingers around her flesh, feeling the weight in my hands.

I could feel Bella's eyes on my hands, as mine were. Pleasure shot straight to my groin at the sight and feeling of her softness cupped in my strong grasp. It was something I wasn't quite prepared for, and I gritted my teeth, focused on keeping my hold gentle as I massaged her.

Emboldened by my steady control, I finally swept my palms over each hardened peak. I quivered at the feeling of them scraping against my skin, not anticipating the thrill that rushed through me as they hardened further underneath my light touch. Bella whimpered and her hips jerked involuntarily, bringing her thighs in contact with my hardness.

I shuddered at the unexpected pressure and froze, unsure if she had noticed. Her eyes were glued to mine, hazed over with lust. Nothing changed in her expression, but when I felt her lift her thigh slightly, grazing my erection again, I knew she had.

I groaned at the realization that she enjoyed my reaction to her, and could find no power within myself to stop the maddeningly sensual pushes of her thigh against me.

More. I needed to do more for my Bella.

"Bella," my voice was hoarse. "I'd like to touch you… More of you."

Her chest ceased moving beneath my kneading hands before she let out in a gust of air, "Oh, god. Please."

In a moment I was beside her. I pulled the covers over one side of her, still allowing my hands access but hopefully keeping in some of her body heat.

Immediately, I was mesmerized by the sight of my hand traveling back down her torso, knowing its intended destination. Keeping my cold fingers above her shorts, my palm came to rest above her sex, cupping her.

Too much. I froze, body stiffening as my senses were overwhelmed. There was simply too much to take in: the wonder of seeing myself touching her so sensually, Bella's whimper and racing heart... the scent of her arousal. It overshadowed the scent of her blood in my mind, the fact it would linger on my hand now almost more than I could take.

Bella's hand on my chest reanimated me, drawing my attention to her face. Her look was almost wild and my chest rumbled lowly beneath her palm in response.

"Bella." Her name repeated under my breath before I crushed my lips to hers. At the same moment, I began to slide my fingers over the warm heat I held in my palm. Bella gasped for air around my mouth, pushing her hips into my hand.

A brush of fire against my erection stilled my movements. A glance downward revealed that it was Bella's hand, grazing against my jeans. My mind went blank.

"Please, Edward." Bella was still shifting against my hand, breathing warm gusts of scented air over my face. "I…I want to touch you, too. Please let me make you feel good, too."

I gulped audibly at her stated desire, quickly examining the state of my control. My muscles didn't tremble with my contained strength, only with my need for her. The light stinging at the back of my throat was inconsequential at worst; so many other sensations were overriding my bloodlust.

I felt awful for admitting I wasn't strong enough to refuse my overwhelming need to feel her touch, but I found myself nodding anyway.

I was torn between whose hands to watch as she let the back of hers graze over my zipper. I shuddered with the unexpected pleasure of such a light touch, and resumed the movement of my fingers. I reveled in the scorching heat of her arousal, feeling a certain wetness seep through the fabric. Dipping into the crevice there, I moved up to find her bundle of nerves, circling it tightly with my middle finger.

Bella cried out, hips lifting from the bed as her hand pressed deliciously against me. Overwhelming pride that I could make feel this way collided with my staggering lust. I covered her mouth with mine to help contain her passion and, admittedly, my own.

"Oh, my god, Bella…" I panted when I pulled away, still answering the swirl of her hips with circles of my fingers. "I never…never imagined…" Complete sentences were beyond me at this point, replaced instead with soft groans that accompanied her whimpers.


Time froze.

With one growled word and a more-than-apologetic kiss, I'd yanked the comforter to cover Bella completely, disappearing over the side of her bed away from the door. "Charlie," I hissed in explanation.

The door knob turned and Charlie poked his head in. I could hear Bella struggling to even out her breath as her heart continued to fly.

His appearance had taken me completely by surprise, and I was a little in shock at that fact. So lost was I to the sensations Bella elicited with just a single touch, in watching her reactions to me, I hadn't noticed the silenced snoring or approaching footsteps. I cursed my stupidity as her father's quiet breaths invaded the silence of Bella's room.

Charlie never checks in on her anymore. Why now?

I tuned in to the muddled thoughts of her father, catching glimpses of him doing this very thing in a dream he'd just had, only he'd found her bed empty. I could feel the quieted anxiety when he found her form lumped beneath the covers, seemingly asleep. A strong sense of nostalgia emanated from him, the picture in his head one of a tiny child curled under her grandmother's quilt.

Fascinated, I concentrated on the hazy emotions and blurry pictures that were all I'd ever been able to catch of his thoughts.

He thought, then, of seeing her in her room for the first time when she'd moved from Phoenix, the overwhelming sense of happiness the strongest sentiment of that memory. As he pulled her door closed again, sadness tarnished his mind as a picture of my family's house came up.

He would have to let her go again, soon.

I heard him moving down the hall toward the stairs instead of returning to his room, thoughts of hot coffee and weariness present in his mind. I crawled back into Bella's bed. Her wide eyes were already trained on mine. "What was that all about?"

I hesitated, smoothing her hair behind her ear, knowing this would likely make her sad. "He had a dream that you were already gone." I paused. "He's going to miss you."

She nodded slowly, wordlessly wrapping her arms around me. I let her believe that she'd hidden the moisture in her eyes by burying her face in my neck.

Rubbing her back soothingly, I began to hum her lullaby, knowing our moment of passion had passed. I didn't mind. After the leaps we'd taken tonight in terms of our physical relationship, there would be plenty of time for more small steps and boundary-pushing. But now, I would hold my angel while she remembered the sacrifices she'd be making for me, for our life together.



"There's fettuccini in the refrigerator if you get hungry, and I made iced tea earlier, if you want any," Esme said, pulling my attention away from the rare sunlight shining its last rays of the day through the windows and onto the spot where Edward and I sat curled together on the couch.

The light picked up the array of colors woven through his coppery hair, shining red and brown and hints of gold like autumn on the East coast. Fascinated, I watched the colors mingle with the shimmer of his preternaturally stone-like skin. Though I'd observed his otherworldly beauty under sunlight before, it never failed to leave me in a state of awe.

"Oh! Um, thank you, Esme. For everything… you really didn't have to cook human food," I said, finally turning to look at my almost-mother-in-law. I would eat later, but right now I was absorbed with the angel sitting next to me. Esme smiled at me, coming over to brush a kiss across both of our cheeks before she headed out the door.

The male contingency of the Cullen clan (minus Edward, who was staying with me on this heaven-sent free weekend) were heading out for a weekend of hunting—and roughhousing, if Emmett had his way. The girls, on the other hand, were off on a road trip for wedding supplies.

A road trip that I was, thankfully, not required to participate in.

Alice had gone overboard on the wedding details, as I knew she would. My pleas of small and intimate fell on ears that I knew were capable of hearing everything—vampires missed nothing. She just chose not to listen. Currently, said tiny little gremlin was whirling around the room in a white streak, adding more swatches of fabric and magazines to her oversized shoulder bag.

I sighed, rolling my eyes before going back to watching Edward. His brow was furrowed, a cross look on his face as he watched Alice dance across the living room of the Cullen's house. "Is she keeping you out again?" I asked quietly in his ear. Alice could still hear me, but I ignored that detail.

An infinitesimal nod of his head was the only response I received.

Okay then, I thought to myself. He'd tell me when she left.

Reveling in the easy closeness we'd gained this summer, I tucked my woolen sock-clad feet under Edward's leg and rested my cheek against his chest. His arm automatically curled tighter around me, fingers dancing across the small patch of skin exposed between my tee shirt and the waistband of my jeans. I sighed at the low pulse of electricity that flowed from his skin to mine.

Cool lips against my hair brought my attention back in time to see Alice breeze her way out the door, emitting a high-pitched goodbye. I had become accustomed to her excitable speed, and her sudden absence left Edward and I in blissful silence.

"Thank God," I breathed after I was sure they were miles away. "If I have to hear about napkins or flowers one more time..."

I rested my chin on his chest and peeked up at him. He was still watching the front doorway Alice had just sped through, a perplexed expression on his face.

"What is it?"

"Nothing, I suppose," he sighed. He shook his head once and glanced down to meet my eyes. "She was keeping me out—maybe she was thinking about your dress again."

I shrugged. "Maybe."

"What do you want to do this weekend? Alice was thinking about more wedding planning when they returned on Sunday, but I can steal you away and save you." He smiled, lightly running a cool fingertip across my arm.

I groaned. "What more does she need to plan? She's already gone overboard enough as it is."

"Vegas is still an offer," he said, smiling down at me.

For the millionth time since I'd met him, I wondered how I had gotten so lucky. This perfect creature, truly the most breathtaking thing I had ever seen, wanted me. Plain, shy, fumbling Bella Swan.

Well, maybe I can call Ripley's and add another 'believe it or not' to their list.

Getting back to his offer, I laughed lightly. "No, we'll do it her way. Besides, I really can't wait to see you in a tux again."

"Okay then," he said.

As simple as that we lapsed into an easy silence, both more than likely lost to our own thoughts. Did his travel down the same path as mine?

The past month had been interesting, to say the least. Dates and making out in the car in front of Charlie's house, stolen private moments which ended in toe-curling kisses, and 'practice sessions' that left me both fulfilled yet eager for more.

It was the closest we'd come to a normal relationship the entire time we'd been together.

Emboldened by how far we'd come, I had plans for this weekend—a stepping up of the schedule, the crossing of more lines, dipping our toes into deeper waters, so to speak. Would he go for it? He still held part of himself back, but I hoped so.

"Can we just stay around here this weekend?" After all, there was a bed here—that was one of the main factors in my plans.

"Hmm?" His eyes flashed to mine, the darkened color an indicator that he more than likely had been thinking of similar things.

I took a deep breath to quiet the funny flutters in my belly—an automatic response to this freer, more physical side of him. "Can we stick around here this weekend? I'd love to do nothing but read and hang out with you."

"That sounds perfect," he agreed, his voice light and velvety.

So went the rest of our night. We lay curled up on the couch, me with a book and Edward reading over my shoulder occasionally. I ignored his ribbing at my choice of Austen, yet again, but he seemed content enough just to rest his chin on my shoulder, pressing occasional kisses on my cheek or neck and playing with strands of my hair.

As the light outside faded into the inky blackness of night, I closed my book and stretched my prone limbs. Instead of the noise of cars driving by on pavement and the buzz of porch lamps that were a constant at my house, the quiet from the forest surrounding the Cullen's place left me dreamily content. A yawn escaped unbidden, and I glanced at the antique clock on the mantle.

"I didn't realize it was so late." Midnight had come and gone, giving way to single-digit hours.

"Are you tired?" he asked.

"A lit—"

Before the second word had even escaped my lips, he'd swung me up into his arms and was halfway to the stairs.

"—tle." I finished.

He laughed, the sound washing over me and eliciting my own.

"Alice put your bag in the bathroom," he said conversationally, never once looking down at his feet as he ascended the stairs.

I couldn't wait to be able to do that...

Quicker than I could blink, we were at the door to said bathroom, across the hall from his room. He placed me gently on my feet, hand hovering behind me in case I should have a sudden—not entirely unexpected—case of the clutzies.

"I'm not gonna fall," I laughed, not even pretending to be affronted. Edward would do as he always had; I expected it to last even after I was a vampire. It was his way with me and old habits were hard to break.

"Just making sure," he said. After a soft tap on my behind, he retreated to his room. The playful touch surprised me, but made me smile wide.

The shower was warm and soothing, the rainfall showerhead a luxury compared to the detachable nozzle at my house. Alice had long ago lined up bottles of all my preferred toiletries in the shower stall. I picked the strawberry-scented shampoo up and finally began to wash my hair. A shave and some scented body wash later, I was clean and smooth. I stood under the hot water until my skin began to redden, and then stood there a little longer. A good shower couldn't be rushed.

When my hands and feet began to prune, I reluctantly turned off the water. The geriatric look was not a good one for me. I stood in the third floor bathroom, working the knots out of my hair and gearing myself up for my plans.

I was, of course, nervous. Though Edward had been more open to our…explorations, I wasn't quite sure how he would react to my advances tonight. Squaring my shoulders, I took a deep breath and called out to him in a voice barely above a whisper. I knew he would hear it.


Smiling to myself, I counted the seconds in my head. One…two…

"Did you need something, Bella?" His low, rich voice sounded on the other side of the door and I sighed.

"I, um… do you have a shirt or something I can sleep in? I forgot to pack pajamas."

"I'm sure Alice has something—"

"No! I mean, her things are too small. Can't I just have one of your button-downs? I like to be comfortable when I sleep."

"Sure," he said, sounding perplexed. My behavior was out of the norm, I had to admit. I wondered if he wished I had brought my little sleep set that Alice had gotten me—he'd reacted excessively well to it the first time...

I looked at my complexion in the mirror to see pink cheeks—both from the warm water of my shower and private blush—and shining brown eyes. Eventually there was a knock on the door. I steeled myself, wrapping my hand firmly over the top of my towel and cracking the door open.

Edward stood there, eyes moving up from my toes to the tip of my head with a cream-colored shirt folded in his hand. "Thanks," I whispered, taking the shirt from him. He seemed to be far away in his thoughts and it took him a couple of seconds to answer.

His amber eyes finally met mine. "There's a pair of shorts, also. I'm sorry; my pajama pants are too long for you…"

"This is perfect," I assured him, hoping my heartbeat didn't betray how nervous I really was. "I'll be right out."

When I 'd closed the door firmly behind me, I tossed the clothes on the counter and grabbed my underwear. I wished I owned something nicer than the white cotton, but anything more than the bikini cut bottoms that I held in my hands would probably give me a panic attack. Or send Edward racing after his family for help.

Yeah, that wouldn't really help me with my plans…

Baby steps—that was what we needed. Maybe someday, when this wasn't so new to us, I would have the courage to break out the lace and satin.

I slid into the grey boxers, giggling a little when I had to roll the waistband up a few times to make them fit. With his shirt on, a few buttons left undone at the bottom, I flicked off the bathroom light and walked into the hall.

Edward waited for me just against the wall opposite the bathroom, and I wondered whether he had been there the whole time, or if he had moved there when he heard the door open. He probably just wanted to make sure I didn't fall and break another leg between the bathroom and his bedroom.

Silly, overprotective vampire.

My mind conjured an image of us, fifty years down the road. Would he still be as protective as he was now when I was just as unbreakable as him?


I watched a blank expression flash across his face briefly, before he swallowed thickly. His whole body seemed a little tense. "Are you tired?"

"A little," I said, walking toward him on shaky legs. Maybe it was a good thing that he was there. Nerves hit my system like a freight train, causing me to falter in my next step. He noticed, of course.

Chuckling, he said, "Let's get you into bed."

Once I was situated into my usual cocoon of blankets, he lay down beside me and propped himself up on his elbow. The low light from his bedside lamp and his position cast his face into shadows, making his jaw seem more defined and the slope of his nose even more perfect than usual.

So beautiful. And all mine.

Leaning down, he pressed his glass-smooth lips to mine, capturing my top lip between his. I tried to maneuver my way closer to him but got caught in a tangle of blankets and legs.

"Damn it," I swore under my breath. "I can't wait until all of this," I swept my hand down the blankets, "is unnecessary."

A sharp intake of breath brought my eyes up to meet his.

"What?" I asked, even though I already had a clue.

"I wish you weren't so blasé about this," he said. "I know it seems like I fixate on this—really, I do. But, Bella... I wish you weren't so eager to throw your life away."

"I'm not," I said. I held up a finger at his confused look. "Wait, hear me out. It's true, I am eager to you. But, more than that, I'm eager to really and truly start our lives together. There is a dichotomy between us, you have to admit that. I'm weak, you're strong. I constantly hurt myself, you could lose an arm and not flinch. It feels out of balance. And, in my eyes, I'm not throwing anything away. I'm gaining you, which is a helluva lot more than I could ask for."

I pressed a kiss against the side of his mouth, lingering on the spot for just a beat longer than necessary before brushing my lips over his. He sighed against my lips with his cool breath and responded in turn, reaching up to brush my hair back over my shoulder. As I tried to reach for his shoulders, he pulled me half onto him. My leg draped over his upper thigh and I snuggled in closer to him, reveling in the difference of the muted chill of his skin through his pajama pants in comparison to my overheated flesh.

His jaw tensed and he broke his lips from mine. "So, renovations aside, you just"

It was ridiculous how I had to assure him. Clearly, it should be the other way around.

"Duh," I said, rolling my eyes. "That's the whole point. What was it that you said to me about not seeing myself clearly? Pot, meet kettle."

"I love you," he laughed, hugging me tighter to him.

My body molded to his in interesting ways, and my stomach jumped again at the feel of the hard lines of his chest and legs. I dropped a kiss onto his bare chest, inhaling a lungful of his yummy, sweet scent.

Feather light and slow, his hand moved from my hair and down my back, across my hip to rest on my thigh. He drew tantalizing patterns with just the tips of his fingers, both teasing and tormenting me with soft, languid touches. My heartbeat thumped loudly in my ears and increased its pace. His mouth moved back to mine, suddenly insistent. Our kisses lasted longer before he would break away and place his smooth, cold lips over my throat, my collarbone, and the spot behind my ear that I particularly loved him to give attention.

I sensed a conflicted desperation beneath his care and reserve by the way he clutched me tighter to him and how his fingers moved lightly in wide arcs to the inside of my thigh and back. I rose on my knees and settled astride his lap.

"Is this okay?" I asked, leaning down to run my tongue under his jaw. My mind fogged as I breathed in his honeyed fragrance.

"Mmm...Yes," he mumbled, his hands already busy arranging me more comfortably over him.

I smiled against his cold skin, delighted when his hands moved from my legs to my backside, pulling me closer.

This Edward, while still careful, was so different from what I was used to. His hands lingered longer, his lips a bit more needy when they met my own. I couldn't wait to experience all of him, to see him let go and give in to a hundred plus years worth of built up tension. It was sobering to realize that he had suffered for much longer than I had. I felt a small bubble of shame for pushing him the way I did. As if sensing my miniscule hesitation, his wandering hands brushed those thoughts aside as he parted my shirt and exposed my stomach to his eyes with a boyish curiosity and reverence.

Suddenly self-conscious, I looked down to meet his amber eyes, but they weren't on my face.

He stared at my now bared flesh, eyes hungry and low-lidded as he reached a hand to brush over my navel and down to my hip. I bit my lip, waiting for him to say something.

"I don't—" he started, and then cut himself off. His eyes flashed up to mine, and I felt suddenly small by the emotion I saw swimming in them. "In all of my time spent wandering this earth, alone and distant, I never dreamed I would have something like you in my life."

I leaned down, hovering over him and dragged my hands through his unruly hair, before clasping them behind his head as I brought my lips to his. I'd never been as good with words as he was; I doubted I ever would be, but I tried to pour everything I felt for him into that kiss, to show him that I felt the same way, too. It was slow and deep, brimming with affection and love.

Something in the atmosphere shifted, tightening and crackling like the air had been sucked out of the room. I shifted my hips forward, brushing across the part of him that had grown steadily firmer as we kissed and touched.

His hands shot out to my waist, stilling me.

I tried not to feel hurt. We had come so far in only a few short weeks, after all, but my eyes immediately closed and I suppressed the urge to groan at being stopped again. A girl's ego could only take so much...

"Not so fast, Bella," he said in a thick voice, rolling me off until my back rested flat on the mattress beside him. "Let me work up to that, please?"

Thrilled that it wasn't a definite no, I turned my gaze back to him, noting the doubt and uncertainty in his face. Another flicker of remorse hit me. He had been so much more open lately, who was I to get my knickers in a twist over his needing time to acclimate?

Besides, I told myself, the buildup might be fun...

"Sorry," I acknowledged aloud. "It's just we've come so far that I didn't realize—"

"Don't apologize, love. I just… can we go at my pace?"

"Of course," I agreed, reaching up to brush a lock of errant curls off of his forehead. "Whatever you need."

He smirked at that, some private joke probably flitting through his mind and I smiled in return. His face looked so boyish, so uncertain as he glanced down at my partially exposed form. I rushed to assure him.

"It's just me and you, Edward. Try not to over think this."

Sighing, he turned on his side to pull me into his arms. He tipped my head back with a gentle tug of my hair and slanted his lips over mine. Hesitant, not wanting to startle him, I flattened my hands on his chest and curled my fingers where his heart should beat.

It was strange how his cold skin could make mine burn further, feverish with need. I wished that our electricity could flow from my fingers to that long-still muscle, jumpstarting it. It was a silly wish, and I wondered if a human Edward would be any different from the one I had fallen in love with. Would green eyes be as lovely as ochre ones? Would his voice be so soft, so melodic? Would he hold me with so much care and love?

No, I decided, I was happy with the Edward I had now. I really couldn't wish for anything better, because there wasn't anything better than him. Instead I settled for showing him through soft touches and eager lips how I accepted him not for who he couldn't be, but for who he was.

Down my arm and over my hip, his hands slipped to the back of my leg. Pausing there with held breath, he tempted the skin beneath my shorts with his thumb, running slow circles at the spot where my bottom met my leg. My own breath hitched. I wanted those hands, those strong, sure fingers in other spots, so I took a move from his playbook and hitched my leg over his hip, curling it around his lower back snugly.

He moaned against my mouth, pushing himself against my warmth by bringing his hands to rest over my cotton-clad derrière. With a firm grip on my rear, he gracefully shifted until I rested beneath him, one leg fixed around his back and the other sandwiched between us. He broke away from our kiss, lips leaving moist, cool trails down my neck to where the buttons began on his pilfered shirt that swathed me.

"I wish I could explain how arduous this is for me," he whispered against the exposed swell of my breast. Slowly, his lips brushed the skin, sending a jolt of sensation to my belly and beyond. "How much I struggle between what's right, and what I want."

"I know," I whispered, winding my hands into his soft hair. "I can't quite comprehend your struggle, but I know the conflict. Trust me, I know. I'm grateful every day that you're so strong-willed and that you love me enough to try."

"I do," he said simply.

I brought his mouth back to mine. He held his weight off me with elbows braced at the sides of my head, thumbs brushing the apples of my cheeks. Affectionately, he licked my top lip, then my bottom one. I wanted so badly to dart my tongue out and kiss him for real, but that would have to wait for now. I let him go at his own pace, just as he needed to.

I lost myself in his smell, his touch, and the taste of him that lingered on my lips. He ran the bridge of his nose down my jaw and to my throat and my breathing picked up. His hips carefully leaned down on mine.

I rolled my hips experimentally, stoked when he not only allowed it, but answered with a slight shift of his own.

Goose bumps rose on my skin. His own breathing increasing with unneeded oxygen as his cool fingers swept across my too-hot stomach. My eyes squeezed shut and I titled my head back in anticipation. The seconds stretched as he ventured lower and lower until he reached the waistband of my—his, technically—shorts.

I briefly wondered if his cold touch would soothe the burning of the change I was set to embark on in just a few short weeks.

I hoped it would.

He hooked a finger under the fabric and moved back until he was on his knees in between my parted legs. I lifted my lower half off of the mattress, biting my lip as he slid the boxers past my hips and tossed them aside. The picture I presented was one I hoped he liked as he took in my white cotton and the partially unbuttoned shirt. Somehow, he had managed to unbutton all but two buttons that held the shirt together across my chest.

Sneaky vampire...

I watched him swallow in the ambient light from the lamp, eyes trained on the myriad of emotions that crossed his face. Doubt, love, lust... They flickered briefly, the last one remaining as he crawled his way back to his earlier spot between my thighs.

"You're beautiful," he whispered when he resumed his position. This time, he initiated and rocked his lower body against mine. I moaned out my approval, responding to the fraction of his weight that pressed into me.

Apparently that was all the encouragement he needed. He began a needy dance of push and pull, hips rubbing against me and away in a steady, maddening pace. Slow at first, then faster until I was a mess of whispered wants and pleading eyes. Using my quiet, indicative sounds, he alternated between gentle movements and longer, firmer snaps of his hips. Our heavy gazes locked, and we watched the sway of lust and emotion play across. It all felt so good: his hands grasping my hips, the way he slid against me and touched that spot that sang for more.

Sensations began to build in the pit of my stomach, traveling lower until the ache between my legs was a persistent, throbbing satisfaction.

"Edward," I keened, "I—I want..."

"Tell me, sweet girl. I'll give you the world if you just ask."

"You." And that was it—the very thing I pined for. My lips went to his neck, teeth grazing the hard stone skin.

In a quick, blinding move he flipped us, situating me upright and above him. I fumbled for a moment to catch my bearings. His hand slid up my stomach until it reached the buttons of my shirt. Before I could blink they were undone and he parted the fabric slightly, leaving my breasts covered. I waited for him to slide it off, to leave me vulnerable and visible, but he didn't. Somehow, I understood.

He wanted his first glimpse of me—all of me—to be on our wedding night. Deep down, I wanted that, too.

That still didn't stop his curious hands from moving under the fabric. With light, uncertain movements, his wintry palms cupped my responsive flesh. Something about the arctic-like chill of his skin sent my heart racing, and I continued to roll my hips over him, back and forth. Timid undulations of my lower half brought him to and away from me, the hard edges beneath his pajama pants brushing the hot spot hidden by my unassuming white cotton. The throb built again and I automatically threw my neck back and increased my pace.

His breath caught in a hiss and he kept me held away from him by wandering, gentle hands traversing the length of my torso, holding onto my hips for moderation, tightening his fingertips at the tops of my thighs. Entirely aware of a painful, yet pleasurable and somehow perfect need that was forming, I moved faster still.

"Oh, Bella," he groaned, clenching my hips with an almost bruising pressure and shifting me off of him. "I—it's too…"

I landed with my head near the bottom of the bed, my shirt finally shifting open and the wind momentarily knocked out of me. I didn't care, savoring the rush of endorphins that stole through my body. His stone-cold forehead pressed against my stomach and marble-smooth lips whispered cool drafts against the damp cotton of my underwear. When he inhaled and pressed his lips at the spot, something inside of me flared, constricted and then burst. Shocking waves of pleasure tore through my entire being and I gasped with a long moan. My thighs clamped around his head, and I called out his name in a guttural tone, feeling like a puddle of boneless content.

His shoulders shuddered beneath my legs as his tongue moved down to lick beaded moisture from my sticky-hot thighs. He called his love for me as his body jerked once then stilled completely. Some small part of my mind wished he would have let himself go while I was still on top of him, that I was able to witness his face as our movements brought him to that point... but the part that knew him so well was aware that his controlling nature wouldn't have allowed it.

The sound of my ragged breathing filled the room as I uncurled my fingers of my left hand from the death grip on his comforter and went to smooth his hair. I closed my top with the right—he may have caught a flash, but I wasn't going to leave them bare to the wind. I scratched his scalp, still too shattered to speak.

For minutes we lay silent, still and sated. He peppered sweet kisses down my legs to my ticklish toes as he rose to his knees and he smiled that smile I loved best. In a flash he was gone, startling me. He was back in seconds with a warm washcloth in hand to clean up the mess we'd made...together.

The girl I was two months ago would have been embarrassed at the events of tonight, at how wanton and eager I'd been. The girl I was now, however, was only happy that her fiancé had allowed himself to feel and act upon how much she wanted him. I waited for him to join my side again, already snuggling into the covers and relishing the weightless feel of my body.

Only when he had me safely cocooned in the usual burrito of blankets did his velvet voice break the silence.

"Thank you for loving me enough to try."

Thank you to BittenBee for the beta. We love you.

Hope you enjoyed!