The Fire Unleashed
Chapter 64 from Carlisle's point of view.
Carlisle couldn't seem to remember the series of events that had led him to this moment. His head followed Esme's in descent, and at the very second she hit the cushions, he took her lips in a passionate, breathless kiss.
Esme dragged her fingers longingly against his scalp, kneading the most tender spot on the back of his neck when he began to touch his lips to different parts of her body. He started safe, lingering in the space above her collarbone. He sampled the sweet skin of her shoulder, her neck, her ears – so smooth and tempting. He consumed all of her with every one of his senses – her lips like fruit, her hair like silk, her eyes like jewels.
With each part of her he tasted, his stomach burned ravenously, and his mind traveled to a dark paradise. Soon, God willing, they would be linked to each other, not only by lips, but by their bodies.
An unbridled eagerness spurred Carlisle to slide the sheets away from his wife's breasts. They were full and soft, whiter and more luminous than sugar. His jaw weakened at the sight. The thought that her exquisite body was created all for him – to tempt him, to hold him, to accept him – it was too much. She raised her body slightly towards him, breathed in deeply, and shuddered in earnest.
Oh, how he wanted to touch her. It was like staring at a beautiful painting in a museum but not being able to reach out and feel it. He was thrilled and afraid to let his fingertips meet her skin; what if she flinched away in fear? What if he dared to touch her intimately, and it felt so good that he wouldn't be able to stop even if she cowered away from him?
The question constantly taunted him in the back of his mind. When was she going to shy away from his touch? He was convinced it was coming, but never knowing when was too painful to bear.
His mouth began to water at the sight of her breasts. If he did not sate himself somehow soon, he was going to bite right into her sweet flesh. As if she'd read his thoughts, she made a soft moaning sound and twitched beneath him. His eyes latched onto hers, piercing her into stillness as he prepared to touch her.
Her eyes fluttered closed when he finally laid his fingers on her. She pushed against him and clutched the covers on either side of her. He could see that she was still holding back from him, hiding her emotions and suppressing her true reactions. Although it upset him slightly, he understood why she did it. All his life, Carlisle had suppressed and restrained himself in that very same way, for those very same reasons. But now that they were a married couple, these rigorous habits of suppression were unacceptable. They both had to learn to let go...
Still stunned by his own shyness, Carlisle slid his shaky fingers over the fascinating curves of Esme's plump breasts. He thumbed her nipples gently, and nearly gasped at how soft they were. She shivered on the bed, her eyes tightly shut, surrendering to her own private world of new, exotic pleasures.
Carlisle's breaths grew choppy and erratic as he explored the beauty of his wife's purely feminine features. His breath caught as his finger passed through the voluptuous valley between her breasts, discovering a spot so soft to the touch that it brought him to the brink of impossible tears. Unable to resist, he bowed to her bosom and began to suckle her like a thirsty infant.
He felt her nipple shrink to a delicate point between his eager lips, and he dared to open his mouth wider, to consume more of her, to consecrate her flesh with his hot venom. She made lovely little mewling noises as he ravished her with his tongue, noises he'd never heard from her before – noises he'd never heard any woman make before. Excitement built like a red-hot fire in his chest when he discovered he was capable of eliciting such sounds from his naturally timid wife.
She curled her fingers through his hair encouragingly, massaging his muscled neck with artistic enthusiasm. He carried on in blissful urgency, moistening each precious inch of her bare breasts, her delicate collarbone, her elegant shoulders...
Possessiveness glowed like a beautiful but distant sunset on the horizon of his self-control. Carlisle still very much feared the feeling, though he secretly longed to embrace it. His tongue continued to twist and dance across Esme's soft skin, while inside his mind and his heart were at war. Every time he watched the chain of his cross trail across Esme's breast, he wondered if it was acceptable for a husband to expose such aggressive feelings to his new wife. He wondered if God would berate him for feeling such intense pleasure because of what he was doing to her right now. Every flick of his tongue and every pinch of his fingers felt so, so sinful... Yet her reactions only made him want to do more.
And Esme showed him such beautiful, confusing, unspeakable reactions.
When he began to get carried away with his kisses, she yelped in surprise. Startled and concerned, Carlisle raised his head and studied her face. "Have I gone too far?" he asked her breathlessly.
She avoided his gaze as she shook her head, her hair falling all across the pillows in luscious curls and waves. All he wanted was for her eyes to meet his, so he could see the true reason for her sudden shift in emotion. He worried deeply that it was something he had done; a touch she may have misinterpreted or a move that may have hurt her.
He would never know unless she told him. It was quite clear she wasn't about to give him any hints.
Determined not to show her how discouraged he was, Carlisle leaned over Esme and kissed the sweet, delicate column of her throat. Her only reaction this time was a blink.
He pulled away, his whole body going numb as a little quiver of dread swept through him. Slow and steady, his conscience calmed him. Do not overwhelm her with too much at once.
As he laid himself down beside Esme, Carlisle closed his eyes and tried to savor the feeling of simply resting in a bed. He challenged himself to relax every part of his body, save for his hands which still firmly clutched the sheets to his hips. Perhaps if he remained still enough, Esme would eventually reach out and touch him. She was, after all, the most curious woman he knew. Surely her instinctive curiosity would grab her in time. Surely just laying beside his body was torture for her, when he was so close that she could feel his heat.
At some point, she would initiate contact between them. Her soft fingertips would slide down his stomach, and underneath the sheet...
All he had to do was wait.
Thinking it wouldn't hurt to peek at her, Carlisle opened his eyes halfway and glanced to his side. Though she did look like she was tempted to touch him, her eyes seemed to be suppressing a fire, and her fingers were curled into fists.
"Why is there fear in your eyes?" He frowned.
He watched a shadow fall over her face. "I'm not afraid of you," she struggled, wringing her small hands between the sheets. "It's just..."
Their eyes met at last, revealing the truth.
"Memories," he supplied quietly. She released a long breath, nodding timidly. She looked so helpless in that moment, the last thing he wanted was for her to feel as if he were forcing her into making love.
He had to assure her that this was not his intention. He may have been a starved man, but he was not desperate enough to manipulate her against her wishes.
Carlisle took a deep breath and sat up straight in the bed, keeping firm hold of the sheets in his lap. "If you feel like I am rushing you, Esme, you must tell me," he said emphatically.
Her eyes glistened with worry. "But I don't feel that way at all," she insisted. In a panic, she reached out for him, her palm thumping against his chest.
He stared at her hand first, then at her face, trying so hard to understand what her course of thought was. Her obvious longing, coupled with her fear and her frantic intensity... it was all frustratingly confusing to him.
"I feel so many things," she shook her head, her words rushed. "So many feelings I can't explain. They confuse me—but in a good way—I suppose...and..."
She stopped short, beseeching him to finish her thought with wide, desperate eyes.
"Everything is new to you," he said, nodding slowly in understanding. "I've told you, it is the same for me, Esme." He reached across to envelop her soft elbow in his hand. Carefully, he stroked her arm with his fingers, coaxing her with his gentleness.
As Esme watched his fingers swirl softly into her skin, she looked about to cry. "Your touch is...so different than—"
The second her voice dropped off, Carlisle's heart dropped with it.
His back stiffened and his fingers immediately stopped stroking her. His body, once warm and strong, now felt cold and weak. Though he hated to show it, the implication set by her words had hurt him. Carlisle did not want this night to be about Esme's history with another man. Selfishly, he'd hoped she would forget everything about her past marriage as soon as he took her to bed; but deep down, he was wise enough to know that it would never happen that way.
Carlisle moved away from the beautiful woman who was curled up between the pillows, seeking consolation in the fervent glow of his bedside candles. He swallowed the lump in his throat and warmed his lonely finger in the wet wax.
"Carlisle, I'm so sorry." Her voice was heartbroken and choked. He felt the tips of her fingers ghost over his back, desperate for him to turn around.
"No, you have nothing to be sorry for," he told her in a dark and quiet voice. "I want this night to be perfect for you, and if that means we do not go any further than this, I will gladly accept that as your wish."
He had never lied to Esme so brazenly before, and not felt at all guilty about doing so.
He wanted to love her. He wanted to claim her. His only wish was to fill her abundantly until she could hold nothing more of him. Oh, sweet Lord, he wanted to be utterly lost inside of her, so deep that he could never pull out. He wanted to feel himself shuddering within her, and her squeezing him mercilessly until he came like rapids into her womb.
It would be absolute torture to wait another night to experience such heavenly bliss, after he had already waited centuries. But he wondered if now was the time to hide his naked body, to dress Esme back up in her nightgown and place a chaste kiss on her forehead, tuck her into bed, and cage up his passions for the night.
When she slowly sat up, his heart began to plummet, and he wondered if she was preparing to leave their bed. He wondered, until she spoke.
"I never said I wanted to stop."
Her shy remark affected him like the ripples on a pond – soft and unassuming. A hopeful flicker of warmth came to life inside of him, chasing away the numbness in his limbs.
He lifted his fingers so slowly, so carefully – as if she were a tiny bird that might flutter away if he moved too fast. But Esme did not cower away from him. She did not even blink as his fingers feathered across her cheek.
The moment his fingers touched her, his heart all but collapsed inside his chest. It was so strange to think that this woman – this kind, gentle, beautiful woman – had been beaten and humiliated by a scoundrel who did not even deserve a name. Just the image of Esme being brutalized in another man's bed was enough to bring out the beast in Carlisle. Just one thought of the horror she had lived through made him want to claw and growl and tear something apart. While his sudden craving for violence shocked him, it did anything but curb his arousal.
Carlisle was more determined than ever to show Esme that she belonged to him, not to some dreaded memory that still haunted her in the night.
"I know what he put you through," Carlisle whispered roughly to his wife. "And Esme, I promise, I swear to you now, I would never—"
"I know," she broke in, her voice surprisingly sharp. "I know, Carlisle."
Her eyes glistened with sorrow, but the way they reflected the flame of the candle was mesmerizing. It was almost like a tiny orange spark had been lit deep inside of her.
Carlisle wanted to lose himself in her eyes.
He felt her hand curving around his, calming the surge of violent resentment that had so abruptly swept through him. He closed his eyes for a long moment and burrowed into himself, seeking out his true spirit. "I love you... so much, Esme," he said softly, his body begging for redemption.
"I love you just as much," she whispered back to him, sweet and helpless.
And he thought, in that moment, that he could be gentle with her, despite this sweltering fever that coursed through him. He would love her slowly, cautiously. He would hold her hand through it all. He would give her kisses like raindrops, and he would bury the bonfire in his belly.
Then she touched his shoulder, and he began to wonder if loving her gently was even possible.
Her hand traveled smoothly and curiously across his chest and his arms, and he wondered how he had just seconds ago thought of her as helpless.
He was the helpless one.
Carlisle moaned softly as Esme lifted his hand to her mouth and kissed his wrist all the way around. Her tongue tickled the crease between his thumb and his forefinger, and it sent a charge of lovely electricity through his arm. There was such reverence in the way she kissed him, such unfathomable affection in her eyes as she took in every inch of his skin. For the first time, he felt that he truly and deeply belonged in this body; so in tune, and so connected to his own muscles, his own bones, his mind, and his heart.
With her gentle, powerful, feminine hands, Esme pushed her husband down into the mattress.
On the inside, Carlisle reeled with excitement and relief. This was a surrender, but it was also an acceptance of a blessing – the glorious sensation of being whole, being loved.
Her hand pressed boldly into his breast, as if hoping her heat could bring his dead heart pulsing back to life. Their gazes locked, and he at once saw her intention sparkling like black fire in her gorgeous eyes.
Tentatively, he took her hand in his.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes." Her voice was firm but quiet, her breasts heaving with anticipation. "I want to touch you."
She wants to touch you!, his conscience parroted, overjoyed at the prospect. An unspeakably beautiful woman with two very talented hands and unimaginably soft fingers wants to touch you...
Carlisle gulped as he grasped Esme's hand more firmly, sliding it far down his chest until she touched the sheet that lay across his hips.
That damned sheet was the only thing hiding him, the only thing separating his rock solid desire from her achingly soft curves. He could feel the thin, downy fabric grasping him, clinging with the determination to keep him hidden as long as possible. But his desire only kept growing, strong and fast, like a tree in summer, hungering for freedom.
He shivered when he felt Esme's fingers flutter frantically against his hip, trying to keep that sheet in place. She was shy and she was afraid of what he kept hidden – he could tell by her face. But he could not tell why this pleased him beyond reason.
He caught her hand before she could move away, and he pressed her small, slender fingers into his stomach. Her wrist flinched in surprise, but with a bit of tender encouragement, her hand relaxed in his. He took advantage of her surrender, painting himself with her fingers, letting her discover every tiny crevice and muscle on his broad chest. He watched her face privately as he helped her touch him, flattered and thrilled by the enchanted expression on her face. Dreamy-eyed and short of breath, Esme looked at him as if he were made of solid gold, and it was unlike anything Carlisle had ever felt before.
She seemed to be admiring every part of his body in turn, inspecting his differences with shy curiosity. He could feel the heat rising from his skin, and the tension building in those uncharted depths behind his groin.
Arousal teased him with conflicting waves of discomfort and pleasure. Esme's concentration was unwavering, but Carlisle's patience was quite the opposite. Still, he advanced with unthreatening slowness, allowing Esme many chances to stop him in case she changed her mind.
He heard those flimsy blue window curtains whispering nervously on the other side of the room, as if they too were waiting for him to slip the cover away from his lap. Esme sighed, her fingers swirling absently above his bellybutton.
Eyes darkened, breathing ceased, and the candles crackled. Without any thought, Carlisle gripped the corner of the sheet in his right hand and began to drag the fabric slowly away from his body.
The silk encased him like a delicate glove, making his task even more difficult. With Esme scrutinizing every move he made, he could do nothing without a tremble in his fingers. In a few seconds, the sheet was off his body, and he swore he could feel his heartbeat restart.
Although he had already stood utterly naked before his wife just minutes ago, Carlisle felt a very different kind of vulnerability, laying down on the bed as Esme stared at him. As overflowing as she was with spirit and passion, Esme was very much a lady of Victorian upbringing. Her eyes blinked quickly and anxiously, trying not to look at once place for too long.
It made him blush inside to realize that she could see, very plainly, how sorely he needed her. That she might reach out and touch him at any unsuspecting moment, and she would feel how determined he was to make their bodies one. And unite them he would, with only one part of his body. This part of him that was so unabashedly and obviously male, kindled by a gaze that was so smolderingly female.
A divine blast of heat cascaded down his thighs, turning his muscles to putty. As if she could feel the sudden burst of heat coursing through him, Esme clutched the sheet against her bare breasts, covering herself from view. She held her hand over her mouth to hide whatever expression might betray her true feelings. Wide-eyed and stunned, she was the very image of Victorian modesty.
She was so much like him.
It was confusing, he thought, to have been brought up in a world where one's sexual instincts were considered evil. For a man who had been taught to suppress such desires his entire life, Carlisle found moments like this to be even more perplexing. The will to be chaste, encased within the drive to be passionate, wrapped within the fear of showing too much skin – each conflicting urge hid inside another like Russian nesting dolls. He was unable to tell for certain which feelings lay at the base of his heart, and which were only masking his truest needs.
All he knew was that he wanted Esme to see all of him. And even though he was a little frightened to show her everything, he knew it was the only way he would ever feel complete.
So he let her look.
He heard a soft whimper come from her, and she promptly pulled the sheet up to her lips. Was she worried? Afraid? Tempted? ...Thrilled?
Her reaction was unreadable, but he was determined to comfort whatever had caused it.
Reaching over to grasp her hand, he whispered, "Why must you hide yourself from me? You are too beautiful to hide."
Something in her eyes melted at his words, and the sheet in her hand melted right along with it. Esme trembled, her exquisitely bare torso glowing in the dim candlelight.
An unforeseen fear bubbled up inside of Carlisle. The sight of her body was so beautiful, but he was suddenly anxious that this might be the last time he would see it. "Please don't be afraid," he begged, his voice weak.
"I'm not afraid," she whispered back to him. Her voice was softer than his, but not without conviction. He was surprised to hear her sounding so sure, when her eyes told a different story.
Hesitant to continue at first, his hand connected with her hand, lacing his fingers between hers slowly. She breathed shakily as he pulled her hand closer, and her fingers began to wriggle nervously as she noticed his intended direction.
"Tell me to stop, and I will," he said, hoping with all his might that she wouldn't.
The tips of her fingers barely made contact with his skin, but it was like a stream of fire stretching through him from her slightest touch. Her name cracked in half as he tried to say it; he was speechless.
He tried to guide her, tried to show her the way to touch a man – but the second her fingers were on him, he barely remembered his own name. He suddenly thought it foolish that he was trying to teach her anything. Esme clearly already knew the way to touch a man – she knew more than he did.
He enjoyed it far too much, how thick and heavy he felt in her small hand. His eyes dared to watch her as she wrapped her hand around him, and the sight was sinfully beautiful. He could feel his lungs burning and his breaths breaking raggedly as his excitement mounted. His body was fast approaching that dangerous peak, and Esme's warm, innocent fingers were the instruments he needed to get there. Helplessly, he pressed his own hand firmly around hers, pushing her fingers deeper into his hardness.
The reaction that swept through him was urgent and hot – engorgement to the point of a blissful pain. His hand retreated at once, but hers was brave enough to stay behind.
The way she touched him was so...ambiguous. Her fingers were frustratingly shy, yet aggressively curious. Each movement of her fingers was unplanned and uncalculated, and that was precisely what made it all so thrilling. She was touching him as if he were a strange sculpture, as if she were testing his sturdiness, feeling for weak spots. Yet it did not feel like an inspection so much as an exploration. A sweet, careful, affectionate exploration of something entirely foreign and new.
All the while, he could tell that she was afraid to hold him too tightly, so it came as a wonderful shock when she finally allowed her fingers to squeeze ever so slightly around his growing girth. He clenched his jaw as the milky white warmth of his arousal blossomed on the tip of his manhood. Nothing had ever felt so revealing, so magnificently humiliating under the eyes of a woman.
Esme looked away at once as if she had just witnessed something unbearably indecent. And for some inexplicable reason, Carlisle was glowing because of it.
Filled with renewed strength, he gently grasped her quivering little hand and kissed every one of her fingers in thanks. Wasting no time, he opened his arms and hugged her body against his, ravishing her with caresses. Their limbs tangled seamlessly as they moved together – they were both paler than the moon, yet they each had subtle tints to their skin that set them apart. Only when their bodies were pressed against one another could these subtleties be seen. Esme's skin had a hue of human blush, and his, a twinge of gold. It was just the slightest difference in color, but it was as plain as day once they were close enough to see it. Carlisle thought the contrast was achingly lovely; they were a complimentary pair in every way.
Their movements were slow and patient, but also mysteriously exhausting. The quilts on the bed were so heavy they were like a third body, sharing the bed with them. Not too long after he'd taken Esme into his arms, Carlisle began to wonder how he could hold in the force of his desire for much longer. His neglected arousal took revenge on him, rising up firmly against Esme's soft hip beneath the covers. She gasped and curled her toes and fingers, squeezing her eyes shut in shyness.
He fell back into the pillows, happily weakened by her appealing reactions. Carlisle favored himself the defenseless one, more than eager to allow Esme the upper hand. Lord knows she knew just how to use it.
Her fingers traced filigree patterns into his skin, lovingly exploring his naked body with heightened confidence. Everything felt so right, so perfect, until she happened across that soft, weak little spot beneath his navel. Something sparked deep inside of him, like a flaming arrowhead pierced straight into his groin.
In an instant he was swelling furiously, eager and throbbing with need. He tried to warn her, but his voice was reduced to a raspy whimper. The broken sound of her name on his tongue only made it worse. In one final attempt to save himself, he groped for her hand where it rested by his hip. As he tried to push it out of the way, he accidentally swept her hand right into his lap. All it took was one brush of her velvet fingers, and his ache exploded.
His mind was lost completely as he began gushing like a fountain under Esme's helpless hand. It hadn't occurred to him right away, the effect such a mishap might have on his vulnerable wife. The consequences of his momentary loss of control were meaningless as he drowned contentedly in his pleasure. The bed beneath him seemed to mold lovingly to his body, the sheets slipping against his sides like cool waves grasping at the hot shore. It felt so wonderful to finally release the tension that had plagued him for years, here in this bed, with this unforgivably beautiful woman who loved him enough to touch him until he...
Oh, God almighty.
His eyes snapped open when he came to his senses, the pleasure swiftly escaping his body in time for him to see the look of intense shock on Esme's face. Shame gripped him only for a moment. Deep down, Carlisle realized he could no longer feel shame for this. If this was the way he must show his wife that he loved her, then this was not shameful.
It was then when he understood, panting and spent beneath Esme's shadow, that she had conquered him. She had already won. Because here he was, pinned to the mattress, his skin slick with his own venom – and the evidence of her victory was all over her fingers. Her eyes were distant but all-knowing. Somewhere in her heart, she knew. She knew that in this moment, she was the one with all the power.
"Are you...?" His voice was barely a whisper as he tried to bring her back. The second he said the words, he'd forgotten what he'd intended to say.
The need in her eyes was overwhelming. Without any cares to what had just happened, he pulled her small body against his and burrowed into the covers.
The very bottom sheet on the mattress became a kind of map as they moved with each other, learning the many ways their bodies could intertwine. Every space on the bed sheets was charted as new territory – every wrinkle was a valley, every pile of pillows was a daunting mountain range, every accidental sparkle of venom was a pushpin for where they had been and where they will go again. There was an art to navigating this bed – their bed – a thrilling confinement in limiting their love to just a few layers of silk and cotton.
She touched places on his body that no one had ever touched before – places that were impossible for his own hand to reach, and places he hadn't dared to touch unless he was washing himself in the bath. The very center of his back, the underside of his knees, the curves beneath his buttocks and his thighs. Their motions were graceful, erotic, abstract. It was a complicated dance they performed between the sheets – a dance quite unlike the one they'd shared in a dimly lit music room while the gramophone played an old waltz. This was a different kind of dance, a dance that could not be learned in one night, and one that Carlisle believed could never be perfected. But he believed it was worth the struggle to try and perfect it anyway.
He drowned himself in her, as thoroughly as he could without a physical connection. Her body curved into his in the most incredible ways, and she did it all effortlessly, as if she'd been doing it every night of her life. She stunned him with those little things – quick thrilling moments where she did something shocking or uncharacteristic. Every so often he would feel that forbidden, soft wet spot between her thighs, and he would do everything in his power to restrain from plunging into her without prelude.
Instead, he took her head in his hands and held her dearly, and kissed her in a slow, lingering manner. Her lips were so familiar to him now – full and soft, and so loving. With every kiss she gave him, he realized how much he still needed that reassurance – a confirming touch, a sighing voice that told him, "Yes, everything you see and feel and hear is yours...all yours..."
She mirrored his look of awe as she cupped his cheeks in her gentle hands. He nuzzled against her open palm, craving the love and care she offered him through her simplest touch. He held her tightly as she kissed his forehead, then his neck, then his shoulders. Everywhere, all across his chest, she laid her kisses down like precious gifts, moving in a southbound path down his body. Her generosity made him weep.
When her tongue tasted the corner of his hip, she brought the fever back into his flesh. As much as he wanted her tongue to venture elsewhere, he was still worried what might become of him if she were that bold.
For now, this was enough. More than enough. Carlisle had waited hundreds of long, agonizing years for a woman to love him so intensely. To touch his body like it was something so rare and precious. To cherish him with her eyes, lips, and hands. To whisper reverent words of want into his ears, and beg him for more.
More of what?, he wondered shyly in the back of his chastity-clouded mind. The word would sometimes slip from her tongue, and he doubted she even noticed she was saying it so often.
He gave her as much as he could – as much as she would let him. She had more control over him than she must have realized, despite the fact that his physical strength had surpassed hers. She clearly wanted him to be the center of attention in that moment, devoting herself to decorate his body with caresses and kisses. Her kisses were most thorough when she reached his neck, her lips sucking gently at his scars as if they were coated with sugar. At first her intensity made him uncomfortable, but he quickly learned to accept the love she offered him. Even so, it would always baffle him that she loved him for being a vampire; for making her into a vampire.
Then again, they wouldn't be together on this night if he had not bitten her.
The thought gave Carlisle a hard, masculine burst of power. Pressing his lips roughly against Esme's, he turned her body beneath his and rose to dominance above her, his fingers tight around her wrists, his breath deepened by lust. He trailed his hands down her arms and across her belly, eager to feel every inch of her as she trembled beneath his weight.
"Oh, Esme... You're so soft, so precious... Please trust me?" He pleaded with her as his thumbs swirled firmly into her hipbones. She threw a wrench in his heart when her hands quickly covered her lap from view. Her pale, shapely thighs pressed together – so beautiful and tight and clenching – and he ached to be between them.
"I won't touch you, Esme. Not until you ask me to," he vowed in a whisper.
She shivered a little, he supposed out of relief. Her fingers retreated slowly from between her thighs, revealing the lovely pink bud he longed to see in bloom. His fingers began to flutter involuntarily against her hip, yearning to feel her. Seeing was incredible, but it just wasn't enough.
When she finally looked up at him, her eyes were not hesitant as he'd expected they would be. They were positively piercing.
"Touch me, Carlisle."
He rejoiced silently as he picked up her hand and prepared to touch her, never once parting their gazes. Nervousness flickered in her eyes, but it was nothing a few carefully placed kisses couldn't settle. He would do anything to keep her from changing her mind now.
He had to touch her.
Laying his hand flush against her creamy skin, he tenderly tried to move her leg aside. His stomach sank when she forcefully pressed her legs back together.
"I won't hurt you," he defended softly, hoping his sincerity would win her over. It was a daunting task, trying to earn a woman's trust. Carlisle suddenly felt threatened and competitive, even though there were no other males in the room to challenge him for the prize. Esme was only his, but her constant little setbacks kept his feral instincts alive and thrumming.
The sad part was, she had no idea what she was doing to him.
She was so irresistible, her body still soft and rounded from carrying child, yet slender and petite from her youth. The candlelight spilled across her skin, making her belly shine like the smooth golden moon of autumn. Against the blue and white pillows, her skin was honey-colored with a soft glow, courtesy of the candle on her nightstand.
Her hand covered her face, embarrassed that she had instinctively resisted his advances. He knew she had no concept of how beautiful she looked to him, and that nearly enraged him.
"Try again?" he murmured, fighting to hide his frustration through gentle tones.
Relief raced through his chest when she nodded her consent. But he had learned from his mistake the first time around. Now, he gave her no warning before letting his fingers claim her.
He gasped at how soft she was – and he had only touched her thigh. His body screamed its readiness at that single touch, and he was thankful that Esme's eyes were closed when it happened.
A baking heat like the desert sun crept around his bare neck as he slid his finger over her flesh. He hadn't thought she would be this wet; it amazed him. She let out a terribly arousing sound – an almost musical moan from the back of her throat – and pride pushed him to greater lengths.
Confident that she was ready for him to take the next step, Carlisle allowed his curious fingers to venture further between Esme's thighs. He could see her more clearly now that she had relaxed, and the sight of her was almost as thrilling as the way she felt. She was bright pink in color – a rare, stirring shade of pink that was not found in nature. He thought she looked like a rose with all but two petals plucked off. The only difference was, he knew how to touch a rose. He knew nothing about how to touch a woman.
But that did not stop him from touching her.
At first he was scared to let his fingers penetrate her at all. Her flesh was moist and surprisingly pliant, much softer and smoother than the sculpting clay he was used to handling. He had absolutely nothing to compare her to, nothing to spark any familiarity in his mind. He was patient with himself, allowing himself a minute to become comfortable with the ways she responded to his touch. It was so different than touching himself. He had no clue where pleasure built in a woman's body. At first glance there was nothing visibly begging for his caress, nothing to rival the obviousness of a man's arousal. The female arousal was almost entirely hidden, much more mysterious and elusive. The only evidence she offered was her warmth and her wetness, both of which intensified greatly with his every stroke.
"Let me look into your eyes," he commanded softly, needing to see firsthand how his touch was affecting her. She obeyed him immediately, lifting her wilting eyelids for him as he pressed his fingers against her.
The sight of a gorgeous woman sprawled out beneath him on a bed of silk, writhing and wanton, was so surreal. Even so, it took a while before he was brave enough to slip his finger inside of her – and he did not find her entrance right away. Like everything else, Esme unwittingly made him work for what he sought.
Once he felt her inside, all he wanted to do was sob. She was slick and tender, like the inside of a fig fruit, but her scent was even sweeter. Heavens, if she felt this wonderful around his finger, he couldn't dare to imagine what she would feel like around his...
His thought tapered off as she suddenly gripped his finger like a velvet vice, arching lovingly toward his hand. Carlisle's breath caught in his throat as he felt his finger being pulled deeper into her. Merciful Lord, how deep was she?
He decided to test her depth by pushing two fingers gently further. She clenched her thighs and moved her head from side to side each time he prodded shyly inside of her. But he still found no end to the passage.
Tiny muscles in his belly he didn't even know that he had began to pulse with purpose as he explored her. He swallowed hard when he attempted to stretch his fingers within her, excitedly dreading the moment he would be inside her body, having to hold out long enough to pleasure her.
He savored every sound she made like a greedy child who sits in his secret corner with a box of candies. Each one was more enticing than the last.
He wanted more than this. He wanted her legs wrapped around him, wanted her heat and her breath and her kisses on his skin. He wanted to writhe and churn, to bury himself inside her with the full power of his newfound masculinity. For the first time, Carlisle felt completely awakened and alive, fired up with love and desperation. Against all reason and experience, he wanted to take complete possession of Esme, to brand her as his wife using every ounce of strength and passion he ever withheld. Breathless with want, he willingly embraced these sweet, violent, unfamiliar longings.
Terrified by his burgeoning desire, Carlisle slowly tugged his fingers out of her, stunned at how tightly she tried to hold them inside. The sight of his own two fingers, gleaming wet with Esme's arousal, gave him another fierce charge of need. Her scent was electrifying, like feminine fire on his fingertips. In an instinct he'd never been able to control, he self-consciously burrowed his hand in the sharp curve of his hip, twisting his wet fingers shyly against his skin.
His throat became uncomfortably tight, just like the muscles in his thighs, as he tried to close his eyes and rein himself in. His eyes fluttered open to see Esme's lovely face upon the blue pillow, filled with love and confusion as he reached out and touched her cheek.
Unable to resist, he bowed his head and thrust his tongue between her soft red lips. He ravaged her, mouth to mouth, performing all manner of obscene motions he yearned to mirror with his hips against hers. It was torture to break their kiss, but he had saved words for this very moment, words he needed to speak now before he was rendered incapable of speech.
"Fear nothing, my love," he murmured to his quivering wife. Her eyes were drunk with longing, but twinkling with doubt. He ran his hand across her stomach, admiring how large it looked as it covered her small body. "The union between a man and his wife is nothing like what you have felt before," he assured her in a voice so sure, he wondered where it came from. "It is not shameful, or painful," he whispered as his fingers ghosted reverently along the swell of her hips, "...it is sacred."
He wondered with a thrill if it was his choice of words that had done it. All at once he was being consumed by her flustered and flowering need, her arms slithering up his strong back, like vines embracing a sturdy tree. She still refused to meet his eyes.
"Esme... Do you want this?" He was nearly breathless as her eyes dipped below his waist, watching as he cupped his engorged desire with one trembling hand.
It wasn't enough. He needed Esme's touch.
Unwilling to wait for her answer, he boldly reached down and found her hand, swiftly arranging her fingers around his swelling erection. Her soft, shaky touch ignited an endless fount within him, and his need came coursing through, hard and fast.
"Yes," Esme sighed at last, the need evident in her voice. Carlisle was barely able to contain the hot silk that was building up inside of him. Helpless, he felt it slaver onto her hand, a beautiful betrayal to his control.
He guided her fingers up and down his length, working his skin like soft clay. "Tell me you want me... inside of you..." He could barely say the words, even in the privacy of this bedroom, with only Esme's ears listening. He could not understand why he was saying things like this in the first place, where they had come from, or how he had worked up the courage to utter them out loud.
Esme gasped at his forwardness, and her fingers suddenly gripped him with punishing strength. Carlisle nearly collapsed as he cried out, overcome with agony. Beneath him, Esme seemed lost in a dream of her own, panting like a cheetah and bucking her hips timidly upward, her lashes batting like hummingbirds' wings.
"I want you... Oh, I want you..."
She sounded like a whole different woman. If his eyes had been closed when she'd said it, he would never have believed it was Esme. Could it be that he had turned this kind, innocent young woman into a harlot?
His breath left his body in harsh waves, making what little space was left between their faces unbearably warm. "Feel me, Esme," he commanded, provoked by the sensual glow in her gaze. He pushed himself into her delicate hand, practicing for what was soon to come. "Feel what you have done to me."
She tore her eyes away from him, stricken by his perverse demands. Carlisle reeled with pride, savoring the way he could so easily affect her with his quiet voice and forward touch. Feeling ever more bold, he found her thumb and pushed it gently into the tip of his length. She gasped his name in utter shock as he soaked her finger with the evidence of his approaching release.
Dangerously aroused by the sound of his name as she touched him, Carlisle flung his hips against her hand, but she cruelly pulled away. He instead bruised the bed beneath him with the force of his aimless thrust.
His body shook with frustration and pent-up pleasure, infuriated by Esme's self-conscious teasing. He did not want to be buried in those sheets; he knew they were nothing compared to the warm silk inside his wife. With supreme effort, he managed to lift his heavy body over her, determined that this time he would claim her once and for all.
"I need you, Esme," he whimpered, grappling frantically at her hand in her lap until she surrendered.
Her fingers finally moved out of the way, revealing the burning pink center of her body. As her fair, slender little legs slowly parted, he had never felt more invited in his life. He caressed her thighs tenderly until her legs fell limply and helplessly to the sides, all integrity relinquished for his sake.
Feeling like the very embodiment of divinity, Carlisle settled his hips between Esme's open legs. He closed his eyes in bliss as his fire stroked hers. His mind was in a fog, and he had no idea what to do. Not one of the books in his extensive library had offered him any answers for how to proceed in this moment.
He retreated hesitantly at first, confused and enchanted by the feeling of Esme's warm, wet flesh. His heartstrings tugged him back in momentary doubt; she felt too small and fragile to be penetrated. He couldn't do it...
But oh, how he wanted to. He knew that hurting her was perhaps inevitable, but when she looked up at him, he thought she was begging him to give her exactly what he desired. Carlisle was utterly torn. With his hips poised desperately above Esme's open lap, he had never felt more like a virgin in his life.
These were all feelings he'd never felt before, and they were sabotaging him from all angles, too many attacking him at once. All he could do to settle his nerves was hold her close, tenderly embracing her with his arms around her back. Without warning, he tried once again to find his way inside of her.
She sounded off softly, mixing whimpers of pleasure and pain.
"Do not look away from me," he whispered, unaware of where the words came from. "Look into my eyes."
Staying still was nearly impossible when Esme's gaze locked onto his. A dark, dangerous instinct urged him to pound into her without waiting for her compliance, but his compassionate heart again came to his rescue. He may have been a virgin, but he'd read quite enough to know the natural ways of the sexes. Deep down Carlisle knew a man wanted to take a woman by siege, and this comforted him. He could not think of himself in the wrong for fancying force, but rather recognize that he was in the right for sacrificing his wants for Esme's.
And that was sex truly was. A sacrifice.
She would be the one who decided what he did, and when he did it. He was hers to command.
"Esme?" he queried breathlessly, shuddering with anticipation.
She bent back to accommodate him, her eyes hooded and glowing as she raised her fingers to touch his face. She slid her fingers across his jaw, as if he were something precious and breakable. And that was when he knew. She was giving him permission to enter her.
Carlisle aspired to be everything for Esme, right here, on this bed. He was her hero and her victim. Her guardian and her follower. Her doctor and her patient. Her teacher and her pupil. Her servant and her master...
He could be all of this and more, now he was sure. She was offering him the chance to show her just how perfectly they matched, just how dearly she would need him every night for the rest of their lives together. The promise of mind-altering pleasure was unbearable to postpone any longer.
When he pushed his hips down this time, he found her private passage. His body relaxed with relief – all but one integral part of him which instead stiffened with purpose. He cradled her back with his hands and lifted her from the bed, pulling her closer until he pressed inside of her.
He stopped cold after a mere inch or so, unable to continue when the sound of her painful gasp filled the room. Holding still for such a climactic, life-changing moment was the sweetest torture he had ever known. He felt as if he had dipped the tip of his sex into a pool of melted candle wax. It was his first taste of copulation, and it felt too delicious to be at all moral. The promise of more seemed too absurdly wonderful to be true.
Shaking with emotion, he cupped her cheek in his hand and whispered to her as he slowly pressed in further. "I have you... stay with me, Esme... shhh, I have you..." His words strung together senselessly; all but the sensation of her flesh consuming him inch by inch was swept away from his mind. He told her that he loved her, he murmured her name, over and over; anything he could think of that would encourage her to keep accepting him... He would not stop until he was fully hidden inside of her.
At last he knew the feel of a woman's body, and it was so different than what he'd imagined it would be. She was curved, not straight at all; he shifted and bent to fit her as much as she stretched and arched to fit him. In many ways, she resisted his force, but at the same time she was so yielding, so lush and welcoming. His most thrilling discovery was that she was deceptively strong – like a thick, glossy rope wrapped many, many times around him – hotter than fire, softer and wetter than the shores of Lake Cordial, and tighter than the fist of a guardian angel.
He wanted so terribly to look down, to see the beautiful, physical evidence that he was joining himself with Esme. But he didn't look. He couldn't. He knew it would finish him in an instant.
For an inexplicable moment, Carlisle had a vivid recollection of how lonely he had been before he had met Esme. It made no sense to him that such a memory would resurface at the peak of what would soon become the most pleasurable experience of his life. Yet of all times, he felt it now more than ever – a heart-dropping reminder of what it had felt like to be without companionship in the world.
He choked back a sob and settled somewhere halfway inside of her, unable to move, and thoroughly panicked at the thought that she might reject him at any moment and cry for him to pull away from her. He couldn't lose this when he had come this far.
Just when the feat seemed impossible, Esme saved him with one touch. Blindly, she pulled his hand away from her cheek and pointed his fingers toward the aching button of nerves perched just above their joined flesh. His entire body warmed with a sense of grand entitlement when he realized what she was asking of him. He could not afford to wait any longer. All it took was a gentle brush of his fingertips to initiate a swift and sudden miracle. The very instant his fingers touched her there, he slipped effortlessly deeper.
Excitement swirled through his belly at his discovery. His fingers trembled uncontrollably, elated to find this one magic spot on her body that caused unspeakable things to happen with just the slightest touch. Carlisle felt a hot surge of confidence, reacquainted with the sweet, rich taste of control.
"Take me deeper," he begged. He flushed at the sound of his own voice – and more so at his words – that he had dared to say them without an ounce of shame or reproach.
He had never felt a need as urgent or as primal as what he felt right now. It was nothing like his lust for blood – in the heat of the moment, his body claimed this was stronger. Utter completeness was literally inches within his reach. He had only to listen to the demands of his body, and to trust his wife to indulge every one of them.
Carlisle was fortunate to have such a faithful wife.
Esme beckoned him deeper with a slow, sensual arch of her hips, her full lips quivering in the wake of her fulfillment. Her legs slipped eagerly around his waist, and her delicate ankles all but stabbed the backs of his knees, knocking him forward.
He gasped at her violent grip, both from the outside and the inside. With her final nudge he felt himself bump the very deepest point within her. He savored his victory in secret at first, feeling like a hero who had reached the pinnacle of an impossible quest. She had demanded a great length to be filled, but he had filled it – every inch of it – and he was willing to fill even more.
"Finally..." The sigh that left his open lips was heavy and long – a warm, dark melody of unadulterated gratification. "Ohh...finally."
He hadn't meant to say the word out loud, but somehow he heard himself saying it, or rather sobbing it, as he luxuriated into her womb. Finally, he thought a thousand times again in the privacy of his heart. The more he repeated it to himself, the more feverish it made him feel.
Piping hot pleasure coursed through every muscle and bone in his body, making him collapse into his mate. She moved the tiniest bit and he was overwhelmed by the wondrous mélange of clenching, pulsing sensations caused by her movement. It was all he could do not to drill himself straight through her exquisite body. He was so swollen he was almost in tears.
He whispered frantic things to her, things he would probably wish he had kept to himself once he came to his senses. But right now he didn't give a damn.
"Can you feel me?"
Even in his current state, Carlisle couldn't believe he had asked Esme such a question. His tongue belonged to a different man, a man who had given himself up to his passion's whim.
To his unruly delight, Esme curved her hips against his, shuddered soundly, and whispered "yes."
He almost spilled right then.
"What do I feel like?" he demanded in a soft, hungry voice, no longer caring how imprudent his interrogation was. He had a desperate and sincere curiosity to quench...
Though his questions still made his face burn, he took comfort in knowing that Esme was the only one who had heard them. She was the only one who had to answer to him. These words and these whispers would never leave their bedroom.
She whispered erotic descriptions of what he felt like as he learned how to move inside of her, and when he asked her to look into his eyes, he could see the thousands of ways he had saved her, just as she had saved him.
His fingers kneaded the smooth flesh of her thighs as she cradled his hips, pulling him nearer with an impressive strength that threatened to shatter him. The tenderness that had carried them this far abruptly sloughed off, as easily as the silk sheets he could feel falling away from their bodies. Carlisle braced himself against the mattress and began to thrust shamelessly into the first woman he had ever made love to. Where he had once been timid he was now unreserved, rocking against her small frame with each forceful movement of his hips. Wisps of blond fell into his eyes and his breath grew harsh and panting. Esme only encouraged him. She welcomed his sudden fervor and all but shoved her body to his, her nails digging into his shoulders, her head tossed back as tortured whimpers spilled from her sweet lips.
He had imagined making love to Esme like this so many times, with such thoughtless and voracious passion. But he had never dared to assume she would welcome such ferocity from him. His unmeasured, forward thrusts were interrupted every so often by a swift circular motion, an instinctive swivel of his hips that somehow helped him to acquire an even greater depth. With every new discovery he made, he reeled with delight, thrilled to be learning the elusive art of intercourse so quickly.
He sucked in a long breath of air, summoning what tiny threads of restraint he could muster to hold out for just a little longer. He was making love to his wife, proud and powerful and confident in a way he had never been before. The knowledge, and indeed the sight, of what he was doing made him feel incredible. He felt he could have gone on forever this way, groaning and gasping, and thrusting into her with tender fury until he imploded from the obscene amount of pleasure racing through him.
The coarseness of it all, the rough and primal ways in which he possessed her made him feel as if he were committing the most egregious sins. Yet, in all his years, Carlisle had never felt closer to heaven.
He could just barely hear the faint cracking of antique wood from the bed posts as he thrust, as the release built up within him like lava inside a dormant volcano. His first touch had been gentle and shy, but now he felt bold enough to let his fingers treat her flesh as if she were one of the strings on his violin. He would make sweet music with her. He would fill the night with her song.
She inhaled his every exhale, savoring the agony of their fleeting connection, feverishly warm and excruciatingly soft as he slipped in and out of her. Her arms curled snugly around his neck, securing her body to his, effortlessly submitting herself to his rhythm. They were so open before one another, giving everything they had to the other, and so filled with completeness that the ache of solitude resurrected in their hearts. Together they watched their solitude as it was trampled in the wake of their humble victory. Wrapped in each other's arms, they finally found the cure to destroy it once and for all.
The spasms swelled to heavenly heights, and as if something had snapped inside of her, Esme thrashed in a gorgeous fit of hysteria, her eyes fluttering, body convulsing, and lips stretched in a blissful cry. In the midst of her chaotic climax, Carlisle found his wife's pleading lips and placed upon them the passionate compressions they sought from his own.
His eyes closed when he came to share her bliss, and all he could see was that velvet stretch of blackness before the ovation. As she pulsed relentlessly around him, a riot of kaleidoscopic colors exploded across the darkness behind his eyelids. They swelled and ebbed in delicate patterns of pink and turquoise and the ever-present gold. In one strong stroke, he sentenced the fire of his venom to burn endlessly within her womb. He filled her with the patience of a blooming flower – starving for sun, thirsty for water – and with the fury of molten lava.
He collapsed into her with ragged cries of ecstasy, utterly shameless. He wanted Esme to hear and see it all – every hitch in his breath, every shudder in his voice, every sob in his throat. His body shook with streams of hot release, filling her until she could hold no more, and he began to spill out onto the bed.
Carlisle kissed Esme several times, and her passionate response overwhelmed him – she was still so filled with fire. She could never burn out. He sputtered senseless words of worship in the wake of his climax, vulnerable whimpers and groans that were sweetened by the sound of her name. He thought he could hear her saying that she loved him, but those kinds of words meant so little to him now. After what she had just done for him, to him... any spoken words were irrelevant.
Her eyes told him everything he needed to know. How deeply she loved him, how intensely she appreciated the pleasure he had given her – and how very aware she was of the pleasure she had given him.
Just as daylight was not complete without sunlight, Carlisle knew he could never be complete without Esme.
He slipped reluctantly from her body, bruised pink from the forces of her love for him. It shocked him to see how drastically his flesh could change; how a vampire's body became almost human when making love.
He now felt a keen, bone-deep exhaustion all through his body – a sensation unlike anything he had ever felt in his immortal life. This, Carlisle thought, must be something like what sleeping had felt like. It was an escape from the world around him, a complete disregard and unconcern for anything outside this dim blue bedroom. His world, for this moment, did not extend beyond these four posts of his canopy bed.
It was such a strange feeling, being bundled beside the soft body of a woman in bed. The intimacy between them heightened with every breath they shared, becoming so strong it was almost unbearable. It was something like the awkward silence that follows an embarrassing moment, only this kind of awkward silence was beautiful and thrilling. Both of them were speechless, having nothing left of themselves to give.
Carlisle could think of only one way to prolong this beautiful, agonizingly intimate silence... but Esme had thought of another.
He thought she was going to kiss him on his neck, but instead she bit him. Gentle, then hard. He did not feel like a strong, indestructible man when her teeth sank into his skin, and he was surprised to find that he deeply enjoyed the feeling. It was only fair that Esme feel it too. They communicated more clearly through soft bites and tender kisses than they did through words.
Somehow they ended up tangled perfectly beneath the covers, trapped in each other's arms with their faces mere inches apart. He wanted to say so many things, but nothing could stand as the sum for what they had done on this night. The night was still young, and eternity still waited eagerly on the horizon. Carlisle had only to think of all the times they would perform this sacred act as a married couple, and his heart overflowed with joy and disbelief.
He sighed and laid his cheek against hers, relishing the forfeiture of personal space between them. "You're mine now, Esme. Only mine, forever," he said, again pleased and surprised to hear such forbidden boldness in his once timid voice.
With wholehearted conviction, she whispered back, "I am yours."
He had unlocked her, and she revealed to him the world he had been searching for since the beginning of his existence. She showed him meaning and truth, and he showed her hope and light.
He hid nothing from her in this world – even the parts he was not proud of, even the side of him she had only dared to imagine was real. He showed her every part of him, from the surface to the deepest, darkest crevices of his being. In return for these gifts, she showed him everything of herself, hiding nothing from him as he hid nothing from her. She was so dangerously willing, and he so dangerously accepting that by dawn there would be no crevice of their bodies left unseen, no corner of their hearts left undiscovered.
In a distant, dreamlike sense, it felt as if they were running together, hand in hand, rushing through autumn leaves and silver monsoons and deep, black nights without a moon to guide them. Carlisle wondered if the world had tilted in the wrong direction, allowing them to dip their toes into a new, unexplored kind of darkness. Neither of them had beating hearts, but something else was pounding. Something had offered them a strong, leaping pulse to share.
He knew that it was not lust. Lust no longer existed in this world. Lust had no place in this bed. To acknowledge such a shallow feeling would be laughable, condemning. The attraction, the irresistible pull they felt toward one another was something far more sacred than that. Here, it was as if they had never known anyone outside of each other; as if they had both been born here and never left. Their limbs slipped together in a frustrating tangle, losing all of their rights to be individual, independent, solitary.
Under these sheets, solitude was a sin.
It was hunger verses fullness, the giving and receiving of gifts, the feeling of being lost in a foreign island, words like "rejoice" and "understand" and "desperation" and "tranquility", the acceptance of chaos, and the utter rejection of self-reliance.
It was like the irrational guilt that one felt from pulling a fistful of grass out of the earth for no reason at all. Or like writing one's deepest secrets in blood on the wall of a public institution, and savoring the shame. It was like scavenging for the last drop of wine, though the goblet was clearly empty.
During some soft, silent part of the night, Carlisle recalled something he had once said to Esme.
"I am a man, and you are a woman. We need be nothing more than that."
And they truly did not need to be anything more. Just being was more than enough.
Every kiss was reverent, and every touch was pure. Their union was sacred and well-earned – the result of countless sleepless nights, and unanswered prayers, and hours spent fruitlessly daydreaming by the fireplace, and lonely journal pages, and shy conversations, and silent longings. In all his wanderings, Carlisle had never encountered anything more fascinating or more complicated than his love for Esme.
It was like a stained glass window, with thousands of tiny pieces and colors all painstakingly placed together to create something beautiful. Carlisle took pride in his work of art, knowing well that he could not have created something so perfect without Esme. She was the sun that shined through his stained glass window. She was the light that speared through the darkness in his soul.
There you have it. Behind Stained Glass has reached its conclusion!
It has been an absolute pleasure and an honor to write this story for you all. You were the most delightful and appreciative readers I could have asked for, and I dearly hope that many of you will consider following my other stories in the future. :)
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your reviews and support! I certainly could have never finished this story without all of you!