A/N: This is it, guys. The conclusion of Izzy and Boyscout's story. I'll leave all my babbling until the end. Enjoy!
Loved Me Back to Life ~ Celine Dion
On Fire ~ Switchfoot
Diamonds ~ Rihanna
You stood by my side
Night after night, night after night.
You loved me back to life, life
From the coma.
The wait is over.
You loved me back to life, life
From the coma.
We're lovers again tonight.
~ Celine Dion
I stepped onto the deck, still surprised the sun-heated wooden planks no longer burned my bare feet. The kiss of the sun created an amazing sensation on my permanently cool, impermeable skin. Now I understood Edward's previous fascination with my human warmth.
Rose lay on the beach in a red and white bikini, soaking up the sun. Along the shoreline, Emmett and Edward chased one another in the waves, one oafish and lumbering, the other lithe and graceful. I grinned.
Rose opened her eyes and gestured toward the guys as I settled beside her in the sand. "Those two . . . like children."
"I think it's cute. Of course, mine is the graceful one . . ."
Rose snorted. "Don't forget 'self-sacrificing fool' when you describe Edward."
"All's well that ends well, right?"
"I suppose." Rose curled to a sitting position and side-eyed me before looking out at the water, beyond where our mates still frolicked. "You know . . . I never did thank you."
"Bringing my self-righteous brother back from the dead." She smirked when Edward turned her way and flipped her the bird. "Really, though. You were willing to give your life for his even if you didn't make it. That's . . . huge."
I wrapped my arms around my legs and rested my chin on my knees, waiting for Edward to dive under the water before speaking. "It was the easiest decision I ever made, Rose. It's just a bonus that I get to spend forever trying to be good enough for him."
Rose laid a hand on my arm. "Hey, don't do that. I used to think Em was too good for me, but over time I realized vampirism somehow perfected the art of choosing partners. He dampens my bitchiness, and I tame his goofy, Romper Room side."
Emmett stood abruptly at the edge of the surf with both arms up above his head, red board shorts sagging around and dripping water down his muscular legs. "Romper Room, baby!"
A pale streak shot out of the water, taking Emmett down, and the two brothers wrestled in knee-deep water, sending globs of wet sand into the air.
"You're not the only one dealing with a grown child." I nudged her arm, and the two of us shared a laugh.
"I want to say something I should have said a long time ago." Rose turned my way, her amber eyes serious.
"Welcome to the family. You're the best thing that's ever happened to Edward. Pulled that stick out of his ass," she muttered.
"Thank you." We hugged. "Not singing 'Kumbaya' with you, though."
A misshapen shadow loomed over us, blocking out the sun. Too late, we realized the guys had sneaked up on us, all wet and sandy.
"Em, don't even—"
Emmett scooped Rose into his arms, pressing a large hand over her mouth. "La, la, la . . . can't hear you! If I don't hear the threat, then it doesn't count!" He took off running and tossed Rose in the water.
Edward poised above me with an impish grin on his face. Instead of picking me up, he knelt in the sand and pushed me back until he could stretch out over me. His lips claimed mine, and I lost myself to his kiss, ignoring the droplets of water running over me. I also ignored the mash of wet sand between our bodies. His talented tongue had a way of making the world disappear.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, injecting the skyline with golds, pinks, and purples, Emmett built a bonfire on the beach. The fire roared and crackled, licks of flame reaching up for the darkening sky. Leaning my arms on the railing, I watched from the deck outside the master suite and was reminded of other bonfires back in La Push. With Jacob and Sam . . . and Paul.
Edward placed his hands on my bare shoulders, pressing a soft kiss to the side of my neck. "Are you all right?"
He slid his arms around my waist and pressed his chest against my back. "I know you, Izzy. You've been deep in thought all afternoon." Soft lips grazed my ear, causing a familiar tightening in my abdomen.
"It just feels like it's time to tie up the loose ends of my life." I turned and slid my arms around his neck, looking into his loving eyes, always so understanding. "Think I need some time alone."
Edward kissed me, his arms tightening around my waist, then smiled crookedly. "I thought you might. May I make a suggestion?"
"Go up there." Edward pointed to the cliff top on the opposite side of Isle Esme. "It's a great place to think or write, and it's got a killer view."
"I like it." I smiled.
"Before you go . . ." Edward held a finger up. He disappeared inside and was back in seconds. He handed me a pile of leather-bound journals, a fountain pen, and my cell phone.
"You are sooo old school, boyscout."
Edward smirked. "Soon, you will be, too." He pulled me close and kissed me tenderly. The boy still treated me like a precious, fragile gift. "I love you."
"Love you, too."
I knew it would only take a few seconds to reach the peak of the cliffs. I could run, leap, or somersault my way over, blowing by everything between here and there. Funny, I'd spent my human life blowing things off, never stopping to enjoy them. Much of my joy had been stolen by the sucktacular and pathetic grown-ups around me, but my shit attitude had completed the circuit, guaranteeing utter destruction. So I chose to do this the human way and walk slowly, enjoying everything.
Isle Esme was a truly beautiful haven. Sand like finespun sugar, lush foliage, and bunches of plumeria with their glorious colors and heady scent. I paused to touch the delicate blooms in the dying light and run my fingers through the cooling sand. The hike up the side of the cliff was nothing for me. Sharp rocks tickled my bare feet instead of cutting them or causing me to break an ankle.
On the top of the cliff, I found the perfect outcropping, a sloped seat carved out of rock. The graceful contours allowed me to recline as if being held in the palm of the island's hand, a great spot for gazing out over the water where it met the skyline.
What to do first?
I decided to call Paul. My relationship with him was indescribable and life-altering—and completely inappropriate. I pulled out my cell and dialed with perfectly steady fingers, but only because I was a vampire.
"Yo!" Paul's sexy baritone blared through the speaker. In the background, a lot of whooping and hollering was going on.
"Izzy." He fell silent, but the commotion around him continued. "Sam, I'll be back!"
The fracas faded away, and I heard birds chirping, a joyful sound that had been conspicuously absent since I became a vampire. I realized in that moment what had been bothering me about Isle Esme—there were no birds or other wildlife one would normally expect to come across, at least when we were in residence.
"Hey, baby! What's up?"
"What in the world is going on over there?"
"Cliff diving with . . . a couple new guys."
"Yeah. Some more guys started phasing . . ." His words drifted, leaving out the obvious: new blood to replace the pack members who were killed by James and his army of newborns.
My organs may have been petrified for all eternity, but I discovered guilt still tightened my chest and caused my throat to constrict uncomfortably—a throwback to humanity, or did all vampires experience it that way?
"How's your boy?"
"He's good." Perfect. Indescribably perfect in every way. "How are you?"
"Aw, you know me—I always come up swinging." He laughed.
I closed my eyes, enjoying the caress of the cool air currents rushing in off the water, and fisted one hand. "Paul, I need to thank you."
"Naw . . ."
"Yes. You're an amazing man and one of the best friends I've ever had—ever will have. There aren't words to express . . ." I swallowed around the lump filling my throat, my voice lowering to a whisper. "If not for you, Edward wouldn't be here with me. You supported, pushed, indulged me. I couldn't have made it without you. And I'm sorry that I put you through so much."
"I'd do it all again."
"I know," I said softly, sadly.
"You called to say goodbye, didn't you?"
"Is it Edward? He doesn't want you associating with me after all we've been through?" Paul's voice was tight.
"Of course not! Edward doesn't even know. And he's so grateful." My lids fluttered open again. The sun had dipped almost completely below the horizon, just a curved edge visible, radiating golden rays in long arcs across deepening purple. Pulverized stone sifted from between my fingers; I'd clawed into the rock.
"Why then?" Paul choked on the words, and I knew him well enough to know he was close to tears.
"It's time. I'll never forget you or what you've done for me. Find your special someone, Paul. You deserve every happiness."
"If you ever need me, call. I—I love you, baby. I always will." He hung up without waiting for a response.
"I love you, too," I whispered into the night air. Just not the same way I love Edward.
I opened one of the journals and turned to a blank page, smoothing it with my hand, then grabbed the fancy fountain pen Edward had given me.
Dear Sister Mags,
This letter has been a while in coming, but I wasn't ready to write it until now. Somehow, I know you'll understand this, just like you always understood me.
I followed your advice. I listened to my instincts and chased the shadows, never letting go even when the darkness threatened to swallow me. I walked into the mouth of a lion—not without fear, but with a deep sense of faith and courage. If you hadn't encouraged me in your quiet, non-intrusive way, I might still be wallowing at the abbey, half alive.
It turns out I wasn't chasing empty suspicions and fears. Dr. Cullen did have a secret. I'm still working on forgiving him. I do understand what he was trying to accomplish, that he never meant to hurt me or Edward, but you know what they say about the road to Hell . . .
I've moved to Brazil with Edward. We're learning how to be "us" again. Each day brings new discoveries and insecurities and incredible joy. I'll never take him for granted again. Can't promise never to make things difficult for him because that's just who I am, but he loves me completely, scars and all.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for befriending me, taking care of me, gently prodding me out of my shell, praying with me, and reminding me that the Big Guy Upstairs hasn't written me off. For the rest of eternity, I will remember and hold you dear.
Some ties had to be cut, such as with Paul. It was only fair to release him so he might find love. I knew he'd never let himself go as long as I was part of his life. Ricky and Jack were another story. Oh, eventually I'd have to let them go, being I'd never age, but there was no need to rush. They were the only pieces of my old life I'd decided to keep.
The sun had set, and the panorama before me was deep purple, painted with an array of stars. To my left, Emmett's bonfire glowed in the distance. Every so often, his booming voice or Rose's sultry tones or Edward's soft ones carried across the island.
Something inside me longed for Edward, for his touch, but I wasn't finished quite yet. It was time to put the old Izzy to rest. I'd written plenty in my journal since I awakened into my new life. Edward had warned me that human memories would fade over time, so I wrote it all down—good, bad, horrific. Every experience had an impact on who I'd become, on who I'd continue to evolve into.
The one thing I hadn't thought deeply about was my reunion with Edward. Vampires have a unique ability to recall every moment in the finest detail, but they can also compartmentalize and suppress. Edward and I had moved on together, repairing our brokenness and learning how to give and take, but I hadn't completely let go of the old, mistrustful Izzy. It's not that I'd been lying to Edward, just to myself, tucking away the memories and the hurt and the hope.
In the days after Edward bade me open my eyes into my vampire existence, I'd acclimated to my surroundings and learned to hunt. Edward was by my side for all of it, teaching me patiently even when I lost my temper. Without realizing my new strength, I'd destroyed most of our bedroom, including the wall surrounding the windows, and had managed to hurt Edward more than once. Thank God vampires heal quickly. I was also belligerent toward Carlisle, and the grace with which he accepted it only incited my anger all the more.
After much discussion, we decided to move to Isle Esme. Emmett and Rose joined us as backup and to help with feeding needs. I had mixed feelings about returning to Brazil; our previous trip was both wonderful and the start of the most painful time in my life.
Edward and I arrived on the island well fed. Rose and Emmett chose to spend a few days in Rio so we could have time alone.
That first evening, we sat on the moonlit beach, facing one another, finally able to let in the pain of the past and deal with it. The last human memory I had of Edward from before my coma was through James' cell phone, watching his henchman tear Edward's arm off, hearing Edward plead with me to stop using my power.
I gasped and reached out to touch Edward's sweet face as the ugly memories rushed over me.
He trapped my hand alongside his cheek and leaned into my touch. "What is it?"
"Just . . . remembering the last time I saw you . . . before the coma. Edward, there were things I wanted to say and never had the chance to."
He shook his head and turned his face to kiss my palm. "That's all over now."
I shook my head. "I forgave you. Just before that final time with James, I was thinking about you, us, how you've always gone out of your way for me. You would have done anything for me and never meant to hurt me with your secrets. I understood that you were afraid I wasn't ready for the truth. What you did wasn't out of selfishness—it was out of love." I closed my eyes. "It hurt so much to lie dying on that beach, knowing I'd never get the chance to tell you."
Edward pulled me to him, cradling me on his lap. "I knew," he whispered against my hair. "It was in your eyes."
Dry sobs hacked out of me, and bitterness over my inability to cry raged through me for the first time. Edward almost died because of my failure to come to terms with my own issues and get past a profound lack of self-worth. It was through loving and being loved by him that I was able to begin making the transformation into the girl in the mirror.
"God . . . I hope you can forgive me someday—that I can forgive myself." I wrapped trembling arms around my torso.
He tightened his hold, rocking us slowly. "Shh . . . you're already forgiven. You weren't in this alone, Izzy. I messed up, too. I didn't trust you to understand and accept me as your mate. I was so afraid you'd run from me that my actions assured it."
I snuggled into his embrace, the tension melting from my body. "I was such a bitch."
Edward chuckled and stroked his fingers through my hair. "When I saw you in our room that night, I thought you were a hallucination. It was the change in hair color and lack of makeup."
I curled a strand of chestnut hair around my index finger. "I love that you called it 'our' room. Do you . . . like the changes? You've never said." A frisson of the old insecurity flared inside me.
Edward kissed the top of my head and hugged me tighter. "Yes, I like the changes, but I love you and prefer it when you're happy with the way you look."
"You know just what to say to a girl."
We stayed wrapped around each other in the sand until the stars faded and the first rays of the sun lit the horizon, sharing our feelings, kissing, and caressing. We made peace with the past and agreed to move forward. When Edward took my hand and led me back to the house, it was meant to be on equal footing.
I'd forgiven him and myself, but part of me had refused to let go. A shady corner of my soul still feared belonging so completely to another being.
I stood at the highest point of the cliff and turned slowly until Christ the Redeemer was in view. From this distance, I could barely make out the statue of the Christ with his arms spread wide. My mind, much faster and more efficient than its human counterpart, filled in the details.
Please, God, give me the strength to become his. After everything we've been through, I can't disappoint Edward.
No obvious answer came. The statue remained, bathed in a wash of white-gold light, a beacon to the faithful and the faithless alike. The sight of Him had affected me before I spent time at the abbey, and it affected me now. How could anyone behold such a sight and remain unchanged?
I heard Edward coming long before he arrived. He moved with a measured pace—not as slow as a human and not at vampire speed. I finished my prayers and waited for him.
Though it was dark, my enhanced vision allowed me perfect sight. Edward wore a pair of navy board shorts and a snug gray T-shirt. Moonlight iridesced off his pale skin, lending an ethereal glow. I wondered if I'd ever lose my fascination with our skin. I kept thinking of them as the beautiful, fast, strong, immortal ones, but I was part of that exclusive club now.
I held my arm out and watched the moonbeams refract, little glints of shimmer dancing over my skin.
Edward paused in front of me with is head tilted. "Admiring your sparkle again?" His smile was indulgent but not mocking. He slid his fingers between mine, and a pleasant tingle raced up my arm. "I hope I'm not intruding. Are you okay?"
I looked into his eyes, so concerned, and I couldn't bear to tell him that there was a piece of me I was still holding back. "Fine," I lied.
My fingers skimmed the edge of the gauzy curtain, sweeping it aside. I grinned, not because of the warm sunlight spilling in through the sliding glass door but because the delicate material remained intact.
I've never been a subtle girl; hard edges were always par for the course. Learning to navigate this world as a vampire has been . . . challenging. Everything is so fragile, so breakable. That would include my new food source. I'd destroyed many a serviceable meal in my zest for sustenance.
Tugging the slider open, I tilted my head back and enjoyed the strong breeze coming in off the water. Two weeks had gone by since my solitary trip to the cliffs. I hoped Paul was moving on with his life, and Sister Mags should have received my letter.
A shiver rolled up my spine in response to Edward's velvet but hard-edged tone, and I turned slowly. Edward lounged in the middle of the bed with a sheet draped carelessly over his naked lower half, regarding me with darkened eyes.
"Yes, Mr. Cullen?" I sauntered to the side of the bed and fell into a submissive pose. "Have I been bad, Sir?"
"Not yet, but the day is young. You may look at me." Edward locked eyes with mine. "Come here."
"Requesting permission to get something, Mr. Cullen—a gift for you."
I rose to my feet and hurried to the dresser. I'd been saving a special something for the next time Edward went into Dom mode. I grabbed the box and returned to the bed. Before he lifted the lid, I placed my hands over his. "This will even the playing field a bit."
He stared back with a quizzical expression for a moment before sliding the lid off. Inside lay woven bindings. Edward lifted one of the braided strands with one finger. "I don't understand."
"Those are woven from wolf fur—Quileute fur."
Edward dropped the binding back into the box, one side of his upper lip twitching with distaste, and glanced up at me with a slight hardness in his eyes. "Explain."
I took the box from him and laid it aside. "I didn't mean to upset you. These were a gift from the guys, so you could . . . tie me up. You're still getting your strength back, and I'm trying to acclimate to mine . . ." Edward watched me so intensely, I faltered. He nodded curtly without speaking, so I went on. "You haven't been able to truly tie me up, but with these, you could. Apparently, wolf hair is the only thing strong enough to hold a vampire."
Edward cupped my cheek with one large hand—a hand that was now the same temperature as my own. "You did this for me?"
"Yeah. I imagine things are strange for you. You're gaining strength all the time, but I can pummel your ass in a wrestling match . . . and run faster than you." I grinned.
Edward flipped us, pinning me to the bed, and ran his nose up the side of my neck. A huge part of me missed the previous coolness of his touch. I still found myself anticipating it, craving it, but cold was not a sensation I felt any longer.
He leaned over and slid a binding from the box, looping it around my wrist a few times before slipping it through the slats of the headboard and wrapping it around my other wrist.
"Eyes closed." His command was soft.
My lids drifted closed, and the hunger roared to life inside me. Ever since Edward turned me, an insatiable hunger for him, body and soul, had taken over—an all-consuming need to be his, be all over him, have him inside me. There was just the faintest glimmer of resistance inside, that old alarm warning me not to give him complete power over me.
Edward's hands started at my feet, working their way up. "I want you bare," he whispered into my navel as he slid my shorts off and removed my bikini top. Then he dragged his tongue over the curve of my waist and up the side of my ribs. It was a favored place of his, though the ladder of scars from my cutting days had been healed by the change. Edward ghosted his fingers over that section even as his sensuous lips closed over one nipple, his tongue swirling over the hardened bud. He'd always given me the gift of pleasure as he eased my pain.
With a soft moan, I squirmed and tugged at my restraints, well aware that although I couldn't break the ties, the slats of the headboard would snap like twigs under the force of my strength.
Edward's tongue traced a path between my breasts, dipping into the hollow of my throat before continuing along the side of my neck. He nipped at my earlobe. "Is this what you really want, or are you doing it for my benefit?"
"Sometimes I really want it this way."
"But?" He slid his tongue along the shell of my ear.
The headboard groaned as my arms tensed, the desire to reach for him overriding my submission. I bit my lip and struggled to keep my eyes closed. "Since I turned, my hunger for you is . . . out of control. Sometimes I just want to throw you down and have my way with you. And sometimes I fear not being dominated by you because then there are no rules."
Edward emitted a strangled sound, and his fingers fumbled over the ties binding my wrists. "Open your eyes."
When I did, his gaze roamed over my face with heated intensity. The ties fell away, and my fingers slid into his tousled hair under their own power.
Edward brushed his lips over mine, the burnished gold of his eyes darkening. "I play Dom for you. It has its place, but you need to be free. Have your way with me, Izzy. Cement the final bond between us."
He knows. All this time, Edward knew I was holding back a part of me.
He rolled us until I was sitting astride him. He extended an arm to cup the back of my neck in one large hand with his other folded around his head—I would say casually, but my enhanced vision easily picked up on the tension in the deceptively relaxed position.
I rested my palms on Edward's chest, allowing the fall of my hair to create a cocoon of intimacy. "You have nothing to be insecure about."
"No insecurity. Not anymore." Edward's fingers traced along my spine, and he gazed at me with pure adoration. "You're the love of my existence, and I want to give you everything."
"You have. You believed in me and fought for me, protected me. It's because of you I grew to love and accept myself." I pressed my lips to his, my empty chest filling with love and pride and desire. Maybe my heart no longer pumped blood through my veins or quickened its beat at Edward's touch, but it was no less full, his caresses still sending jolts of addictive pleasure throughout my body. I pulled back and slid my tongue across my lower lip, catching a viper bite in the process. I became the girl in the mirror in just about every way, but I kept the metal rings. They were my personal reminder of where I came from, who I used to be, and who I was now.
Edward's sudden grip on my hips tore me from my musings. "You're in control. Are you going to tease me all day?"
I blinked and refocused on his impish expression. "My plans don't include teasing, boyscout." Using one foot as leverage, I rolled us, bringing Edward back on top and wrapped my legs around his hips. "I want you like this."
"Are you certain? Me on top, you helpless below me?" There was a heated glint in his eye; I caught it as he lowered his lips to my neck.
I swallowed, my hands moving along his lean, muscled arms, learning every curve and sinew all over again. "It reminds me . . . of our first time. You wouldn't let me have my way, refused to fuck even though it was all I thought I was capable of." I cupped his beautiful face in my hands and pressed kisses along his jaw. "You threatened to take me back if I didn't do it your way, and as damaged as I was, I couldn't bear to let you go."
"Izzy . . . I wanted you the moment you pricked your finger with the knife in class that day and challenged me." Edward tilted my chin up until our eyes met and held. "Never in my existence have I felt a pull like that. When I heard you with other guys, I wanted to tear you from their arms and spirit you away, claim you as mine."
A smoldering kernel of guilt flared to life inside me. "I'm so sorry about that."
"Don't go there. It's long over, and you couldn't have known what we were."
I traced a finger over his soft lips, ripe from a recent hunt. "Edward, I want you to love me, eyes open. I want to watch you watch me as we go over the edge together."
Edward's irises darkened. He fit himself into the cradle of my thighs—the missing piece of the puzzle that is Izzy Black—and sank into me slowly, keeping his eyes on mine. He rotated his hips in a languid, hypnotic way.
The frenetic coupling of our first few months, up to and including last night, was gone. The background noise of the Cullens, the animals in the woods, the wolves on patrol—it was all absent here.
The tick of a clock, the scree of gulls, the clang of a boat's bell, and the lap of water licking at the sand provided the soundtrack for our lovemaking along with glorious sighs, moans, and whispered words of devotion from the two of us.
Edward's gaze held my own, never wavering. The gentle give and take, ebb and flow continued to build on the mate connection between us, creating an hours-long knife-edge of ecstasy.
"Be mine, Izzy. I've always belonged to you. Belong to me fully."
I spoke the truth in that moment, our truth, stronger than any vow of love. "Yes."
Eventually, I ceased to exist.
When the circuit closed, I held on tight and opened my mind wide, finally giving him all of me.
A/N: I wanted to write a fitting end for these two. Izzy held tight to a piece of herself right until the end, but she did finally let go. I know a lot of you hated her for that, but it's who she is and makes Edward winning her over mean all the more. I'm open to writing outtakes, so if there's something missing from the story (or future) you want to see, let me know!
Thanks to all of you for sticking with me even when it took for-freakin-ever between updates and for the awesome reviews and PMs. You guys make writing worthwhile.
Mega thanks to Keye and Sandy for prereading, hand-holding, and especially for their friendship. The same applies to my awesome betas, Katmom and SassySue (chayasara), without which I would sound like a blathering idiot.
If you haven't checked out my Dystopian, A Measure of Grace, come take a look! A bit of a departure from my usual, this one is all human. I'm converting an original story I post every two weeks on the Daily Picspirations website into a Twi-fic, so it's guaranteed to updated bi-weekly—no long waits!
I will be finishing all my other stories. Though the wait times may be long, no stone will be left unturned.
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