Author's Note: This is a re-post of a story. I had taken it down briefly for personal reasons.

I've written this as a standalone piece; however, it is a alternate "what-if" scenario based upon a flashback in my story The Blessing Ring.

….

I'd kissed the bride.

Once.

But, she wasn't mine then, and she isn't mine now. She is about to become about as far away from being mine as she can get.

...

I'm running the keys to my car around in the palm of my hand.

They need to stay right where they are. They need to mind their business and stay out of the ignition. They could do something I never managed to do; they could start something.

Was it really only six days ago?

It felt both like forever and the blink of an eye, a tiny timewarp manifested when Emmett told me about her, about her wedding.

Later today, she would forever change her life and mine with two single words: I do.

Less than a week ago, I'd found out when I'd arrived at Dad's house. I'd driven all night to get there, my roommate Jasper balled up and snoring in the passenger seat next to me, for the final Christmas break of my college career. I was on a precipice. I was going to move on from the dead end, long distance relationship that I no longer had any idea why I maintained. I would be using the last bit of my inheritance for the start of construction on the house I was building on Dad's land. Most importantly, I was going to see if there was any possibility Bella would give me a chance.

And it was entirely my fault it had come to this.

Yet, that sounds like I think she would want me, too. I don't know that. Because of the choices I've made, I don't really know anything.

Because I'm a fool, I'd thought I wasn't good enough for her in high school. Too fast. Too drunk. Too rough. Too…me. She seemed so innocent, like a porcelain doll. I'd wanted to protect her from everything. Even from me.

Only one time, one brief moment back when we worked together at the diner after school, I'd stumbled and given in to myself, to how I felt about her.

Back then, it had always taken her a while each shift to get up the nerve to say more than the cutest "hi" ever to me, but by the end of every shift, when I'd walk her to her truck, we could talk about anything. She was the only person I was ever completely myself around. But, I still held back, because she was so much better a person than me…and she proved it every single day by never making me feel like she thought that way.

It was the last day we'd see one another before her seventeenth birthday. I had an idea.

I stopped mopping and motioned for her to come to me. It had to be her choice to come to me. I wanted to rush up on her, but I was afraid she'd run like a startled bunny. She stepped closer, slowly, until I could reach out and touch her if I wanted.

God, how I wanted.

"I don't work again until Tuesday," I heard myself speak.

She looked confused, maybe even scared, and I felt badly since I knew I was probably making her that way.

"Shh." I tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and spoke as softly as I could to her. "Come here. I won't see you in time to give you a birthday kiss."

She didn't say anything. She didn't even move. Was she saying it was okay? That I could I kiss her? God, I wanted to kiss her so much. I'd pictured it so many times – never in the backroom with a mop between us – but here was an opportunity. I wanted to take her out, to take care of her, to laugh with her like we'd begun to do, but it just felt so right.

"Bella?" I willed her to let me know what I was doing was okay. I chanted in my head "Do something, some small sign to say you want to kiss me, too."

She blinked several times and moved her lips fractionally toward mine. Close enough.

I ran my hands along the smooth skin of her cheeks until they reached her hair, where I allowed them to twist gently into the silky waves. She was so much shorter than me. I bent over and used my thumb to lightly encourage her to angle up to me. I didn't know if she'd ever done anything like this before. I doubted it. I really hoped she hadn't. I wanted to be slow with her.

I wanted to, but like I was tumbling down a mountain, I couldn't stop my lips from falling onto hers.

Right. This felt so right.

A kiss. Our first kiss. It would be enough to touch my lips to hers and back away.

I could brush my lips across hers and back away.

God, she was so soft.

So, a few brushes over her lips were allowed – I could pass over her lips a few more times and back away.

I'd already kissed her longer than I'd intended, and I tried to gather up the fragments of my will so I could break our connection. But then, I heard a small sound, a moan. The pieces of will I'd been trying to stitch together scattered like glitter in the wind and I pressed us together. I tasted her upper lip and then drew her lower into my mouth, a full taste of her. Her shoulders relaxed and she sighed.

I was lost.

I wanted to be slow, a portion of my brain told me this was something to save for another night, but that obviously wasn't the part of my brain that controlled motor movement. My tongue sneaked into her mouth and I felt the smooth edges of her parted teeth open more before I made contact with her tongue. I began to slightly curse myself for my greed. Then, Bella did what she always did, and amazed me: I felt her tongue curl around my own and draw me deeper into her mouth. Christ. I no longer cared if this was her first kiss or not, it was the best physical experience of my life and I was determined I was going to do everything I could to help her feel that way, too. Our tongues ran together several times until I felt her small frame begin to shake in my arms. This sensation finally registered in the rational part of me and I feared that I had allowed myself to go too far. As much as I wanted to keep doing this, never stop doing this, I needed to save more for another time. I wanted her to know that this was something special to me.

We had time.

"Happy Birthday, Bella."

I'd been wrong about the time, or at least I'd never utilized it. I'd thought I wasn't good enough, so I kept her at arm's length and tried to change myself. Which I did. I managed to become even worse. I'd left for college involved with a girlfriend I cared about only a fraction as much as Bella but a plan to reinvent myself…or, more accurately, to let me become who I think I'd always been trying to be. I'd distracted myself from my issues, from my feelings her, into a frenzy.

I'd kept busy at school; too busy to think about her. The accelerated program I was on shaved off more than a year from the standard college path. On top of that, and even though they had nothing to do with my degree, I'd audited enough English Lit courses to have a second major. Somehow, I felt if I read like Bella always had, I'd keep some sort of connection with her. Jasper never asked why I had the sudden interest. He just saw the ever-growing pile of books and came to our place one day with a huge volume of the collected works of Jane Austen. "She likes this," he'd said and tossed it beside me.

Jasper, Dad…Hell, nearly everyone, told me that college changes a person, that priorities change. Feelings change. Well, they had indeed.

I want her even more.

When a groggy Jasper and I first walked back into the house six nights ago, we found my brother, Emmett, trimming the tree. Usually, this was an activity that Emmett and his longtime girlfriend, Rose, did together.

"Hey, Emmett. Where's Rose?"

Emmett's face dropped and he suddenly got very interested in tightening loose bulbs.

"Oh, man, are you two okay?" I still wasn't a fan of Rose, but she'd grown on me and I knew Emmett would be broken without her.

"What?" Emmett looked up quickly. "Oh, yeah, she's… not here." His eyes shot over to me and he looked back at the lights quickly.

Jasper came down off the steps. Jasper was an intuitive fucker, but even I could tell Emmett was hiding something. "Emmett?" Jasper said.

"Fine!" Emmett shoved his hands in his pockets. "She's at a wedding shower."

Then he'd said the three little words I'd never wanted to hear.

"Bella's wedding shower."

Now, almost a week later, I'm sitting slumped on Dad's sofa with my elbows on my thighs, fiddling with my keys.

She is out there in town, right now, getting ready. Fixing her sweet hair. Touching up the makeup she doesn't really need. Damn the guy if he makes her feel like she isn't perfect. Sliding on some amazing, matching bra and panties - or one of those bustier things, or something else I couldn't even fucking let myself imagine – to give herself to him, the bastard who thought he was good enough to marry her. Well, I had to hand it to him, at least he was persistent enough to get her to say yes.

I'd left and never given her any reason to think there was anything to hold out for. I'd never told her how I felt.

He'd been there when I was gone.

But now…I'm here.

The keys become slippery in my hand and I realize I've squeezed them too hard. I'm bleeding.

"Edward?" Jasper says as he sits down across from me. His tone is more condemnation than question. He knows what I'm thinking.

"You can't do it, man," he says.

"Actually, I'm pretty sure I can," I say and move to apply pressure to my hand.

"Well, you shouldn't."

I huff at him. He means well. I find that I don't care.

I discover that I am walking toward the door before I've even formed a plan to do so, my body reacting before my mind. I'm going to her. I'm going to tell her. What happens after that, I don't know. Possibly a big bunch of zero. Of the few things that I do know, one is that the prospect of an empty life wondering what might have happened if I don't ever say something is unbearable.

I keep my pace despite Jasper's trailing litany of reasons I should keep doing the nothing I've been doing.

"She didn't wait for you." I gave her no reason.

"What if it's only you?" I can't think about that. It's probably true. My steps falter at the idea. She may feel nothing for me. She may resent me.

"She never did anything to tell you there was anything there." Why should she? I never did anything either. She was so shy. If anyone should've been expected to have made a move, it was me. I'll not fault her for being herself.

Jasper grabs my shoulder and spins me around as I fling the door open. "Edward, don't do this. I'm the one who has seen how you've lived. Barely lived. You've suffered. Rejection will…probably break you."

I shoot him what I hope is a pointed look and shrug his hand off my shoulder as I throw myself through the door. I stop short. My Volvo is boxed in, surrounded by the garage walls and both Rose's and Emmett's vehicles. Everyone else met here and went to her wedding together.

And now I can't go.

This is it; my chances are all used. I feel my knees go out from under me. They hit the concrete floor hard enough that I will, no doubt, bruise. But I don't feel it. For now, I'm nothing but a wave of loss, and ocean of regret.

My fingers rake through my forever disheveled hair, threatening to uproot it.

Jasper returns his hand to my shoulder, this time in kindred support rather than resistance. "Come back inside Edward." I don't move, except to vaguely register that I've begun to shudder…sobs held at bay. Thin lines of muscle tense across my back; I feel my ribs compress.

He squeezes, encouraging me. "Think of it as a sign. Come on, man." It's almost a whisper.

A part of me knows he's probably right. The crack I've been staring at in the floor begins to blur around the edges. Am I…are these tears? I can't remember crying since we buried my mother.

"She'll hate you for ruining her wedding day. This isn't a movie. You can't dramatically bust in at the end and interrupt the vows."

Still on the floor, I turn to face him and whatever he sees in my face - be it sorrow or fury at this point I do not know - causes him to step back. My voice is a rasp. "And what usually happens in those movies?"

Jasper blinks, apparently considering this for a moment, then squeezes his eyes shut, as if he wants to hold himself apart from what he's about to do. "Your dad kept the Camaro, right?"

Within ten minutes, I've waded through the foot of snow to the outbuilding that holds my mother's old car, untarped it, and jump started it off the booster. The damn thing ran. I hadn't driven it since high school: a '69 Camaro, so dark green it's nearly black and the damn thing ran. And that, I think of Jasper's earlier comment, my friend, is a sign.

It's slow going between the car, the unplowed snow, and the frozen rain below that. When I finally reach the street outside the church I can already hear music playing inside.

It's started.

Only now do I realize that I had truly pictured finding her in a dressing room by herself. I'd imagined finding her before she could put on her wedding dress, taking her in my arms and turning her to me so she could read me like she always had. She would know as soon as she saw me why I was there and how much I needed her. But, she had to be dressed - for someone else – by now. Her father probably had her on his arm.

And I, as moot as ever, am still idling in the street.

I begin to shift the car into gear, but something stops me. I feel her. I look back at one of the huge windows in the front of the church and she is standing there, on her father's arm as I'd thought, but looking out the window. Looking at me.

A moment later, she's gone. I plow the car into the lot and slide to a stop over the curb, blocking the doors. I'm out of the car, the black boots I haven't bothered to lace sliding around in the slush. The church steps are slick but I don't think my feet even touch them. The door is swollen from moisture and I pull back on it with a grunt. When it opens, I'm assaulted with light and flowers and warmth. It hits my skin and I realize for the first time how cold I am; my hair is damp.

The doors to the sanctuary are closed. It appears, for now, that no one has realized I'm here.

The long, final cord of an old song dies away.

Soundlessly, I pad to those inner doors. Through the glass I see her. Her dress covers nearly all of her; it's high-backed and long-sleeved with an enormous poof of a skirt. The dress surprises me; it doesn't look anything like what I think she'd want. She isn't wearing a veil and I want to see her face – if she looks happy, I think I can make myself walk away. I think I'm lying to myself again.

But she's facing away and looking down and I all I can see is the wide-ass grin on the lucky fucker's face and I want to break his goddamn teeth out.

She's holding onto her flowers with both hands. I wonder why since, presumably, her father already placed her hand in the hand of the guy in the tux.

"Bella." I barely hear myself whisper and see my hand press against the glass.

I can hear the pastor saying something, but I'm not listening to the words. It doesn't seem like she is either; she's fidgeting with the long sleeve of her dress. She looks to the side and it's like looking at a statue. She's blank, devoid of all emotion. I'm practically vibrating.

I know there is a predestinated moment in these events where displeased folk are passive-aggressively bid to sign off on the couple through silence. I know it's not due yet, but I can wait no longer. I close my hands in a fist around the handle of each door and swing them both to the side and find myself stopping only when I'm several feet up the aisle.

If I'd meant to be stealthy, I'd failed gloriously.

She's looking at me.

Hell, I'm sure everyone else is, too, but I don't see them. If this is the last time I'm going to see her, I'm not even going to look away long enough to blink.

"Bella," I say and slowly take another pew-length step closer.

Her face creases in confusion, but at least it's an emotion. I feel certain I see her shrink away from him fractionally.

"Bella, I'm sorry." I say. I have so many things I want say and I know now, in the middle of all this and with half the town staring at me, I really need to explain myself. Instead, I see my right hand outstretch in front of me, palm up. She's still staring at me, no longer confused, and something sparks in her eyes – it might be anger, but I dare to hope it might be something different. "Bella." I stretch my hand impossibly farther toward her, beckoning, and my voice breaks. "Please, Bella."

Oh, God, Bella, please come to me. I don't have enough words to make up for not telling you sooner. Please tell me this makes a difference.

Please tell me I'm not too late.

Tell me I wasn't alone in this.

I feel someone touch my arms and whoever it is, is unwanted, because Bella is still up by the altar.

"Son, let's go."

I shake my father off and take two more steps closer to her. This can't be it.

Please, please come with me. I've thought of you every day. I will think of you every day of forever.

"Bella, please. Please. You have to know." I don't even know where my arms are and I think I may have moved even closer to her. "Please."

My father is pulling on me harder and glare at him, because I'm mad that he's trying force me to do the right thing now. I'm mad that he's made me look away from her, stolen these last few moments, and I can't foresee a time when I'll be able to look at her again. Jasper was right. She doesn't care, does she?

The tenor of the tugs on my arms changes and I feel her, suddenly, touch my face. My veins hum as soon as her little fingers make contact under my chin. She tilts my face toward hers, a sad smile painting her features. She's come to escort me out. I've ruined her wedding and she is trying to make the best of it in her gentle way. God, how did I even pretend to think I might be worthy of her?

She has my hand and I can see her turn to the congregation, motioning in a way that says "Stay seated, please. This will only take a moment."

Too soon, we're at my car. Though I know I should be looking at her, talking to her as much as possible, I can't do anything but watch the ground pass under me and savor the feeling of her hand in mine. She makes a noise that sounds something almost like a giggle, probably at my stellar parking job. She walks me to my door and, even though all I've ever wanted to do was take care of her, she helps my numb frame into the driver's seat. When I don't move, she leans across me - her hair spilling down my front, her scent surrounding me – and snaps my seat belt.

On autopilot, I turn the ignition as I watch her walk around the front of the car, balancing herself with one hand on the hood, no doubt coating her dress in muddy sludge as she leans against the metal. Her hand follows along the quarter panel until she reaches the front steps. She stops there, perhaps contemplating telling me goodbye or telling me off. My mind clouds over at the prospect, no adequate words to convince her yet forming in the fog.

Suddenly, she's opened the door, in, down, and trying to heave it closed while wrestling the voluminous toile bunched up around her. All before I can make any sense of it. All before I can react.

I know I'm gaping at her. She looks at me, rolls her eyes and smacks the dash board as if it's a horse's flank. Giddy-up.

Wordlessly, I drive and drive until we are out in the country. The woods are on every side and the road is remote enough we are almost in danger of never being found if the car gets stuck. We've been silent, her for reasons I do not know and me because I am afraid to open my mouth and say something that will break this spell. There is no way this is happening, it's got to be something other than what it seems, and if she explains, it will all go away.

I round a bend in the road and she grabs my arm. Though we aren't sliding, she keeps pulling, almost frantic.

I find the side of the road and she, for lack of a better term, launches herself at me.

It's all white lace and satin and somewhere in the midst of it all is Bella. She straddles me. Her little hands are on my face, in my hair, at one point I think she might even be tracing along my jawline. She's so close, studying me so intently. I wonder dimly how it is that her eyes aren't crossed. Still shocked by her movement, I'm frozen with my hands splayed out - one on the driver door and one flat palmed on the back of the seat she was just in a second earlier. She pulls back a few inches and a look of hesitation passes over her face. She notices my stupid hands and she pulls back more, practically folding into herself on my lap, until she snaps forward after she bumps the horn.

And I guess that was the starting bell.

My arms swing around her back and draw her against me. One hand twists in her hair and angles her down, the other arm reaches completely around her waist with my fingers curled to the front of her other side. Her eyes are wide, her mouth is open and I look between the two for all of not even a measurable amount of time before I can hear myself make some kind of inhuman panting growl and crush our lips together.

You were going away.

I keep kissing and angling and she is matching me, her hands back in my hair, her tongue licking at the edges of my mouth.

And I dive in.

You were going away.

Our tongues tangle and slide, rough tops and smooth beneath, teeth and lips and swallowed breaths. Every strand of her hair is like a miracle in my hand. Every gasp is an answered prayer.

"Bella," I try to say against our lips, but it gets lost as much as I am.

We kiss again, more, still.

I can't believe I've been denying myself this.

"Bella." I break and pull back enough that she begins to run her lips along the rough stubble on my jaw. "Bella." She kisses near my eyes, probably where I've got the beginnings of wrinkles.

"Bella," I sigh, and place my hands on either side of her face, my fingers stretched back into her hair, my thumbs padding along her cheeks. Our foreheads are pressed together and it sounds like the final lap of a marathon. "Do you know how I feel about you?" She nods her head against mine, still breathing heavily.

"Do you, really? Do you really have any fucking idea?" I force myself to pull away to look into her eyes. She looks back, nods her head slowly, but her expression is unfathomable. She puts her hands on the outside of mine and turns her face to kiss the underside of my hand. It's exactly where I've cut myself with the keys, as if she knows everything about me, knows instinctively what to do.

Her lips run down my hand to the inside of my wrist. She's watching me. The spark I thought I saw in her eyes earlier is a blaze as her descent down my arm changes from soft pressed kisses to nips to full bites along my collarbone. When she pulls away I realize that I've been hearing the sound of my fly buttons being opened as her warm hand slides under the waist band of my boxer briefs.

I feel my head hit against the seat back and she continues put her mouth and hands on me in ways I'd never even contemplated begging her to do.

I want to feel her.

No, I need to feel her.

She continues to trail kisses along my throat and run her fingertips across my belly and follow the path of hair there until she nearly touches where it leads. I fumble around to the back of her dress and can't help but groan when I feel what has to be about 3000 covered buttons running the length of her spine. She pulls back at the sound and looks at me like I'm a rabbit trying to scam kids' breakfast cereal. She reaches behind her neck and pulls down on a camouflaged zipper.

Hallelujah.

The zipper gives way easily when I take over and together we peel her out of the long sleeves until the whole dress is like a giant, scratchy meringue around her waist. But, I'm ignoring the meringue and, damn me, I'm not even sure if she is embarrassed by the way I'm ogling her, because I've just concluded that this is the bra she was planning on revealing in a honeymoon suite somewhere.

I trace my finger along the strap, half on her skin and half on the fabric. It's grayish and I'm no expert, but it can't exactly be new. When I reach the mid-point of the cup, I slip my index finger inside and run it along her nipple.

Then, for the first time in our cramped quarters between the seat and steering wheel, we do not touch skin to skin. Bella has her hands folded in her lap, the picture of patience, and I maneuver out of my t-shirt. We watch each other, gaze never breaking. I grab the waistband of my shirt and raise it up and over my head, our eyes still fixed as the fabric passes between us. The shirt drops into the back seat and I put my hands under the yards of white skirt to find the edges of my open jeans. I pause there and look at her, making sure this is okay. Our gaze holds but I notice one corner of her mouth pick up in a smile.

It's not as easy as one might think to slide out of jeans with a person on your lap and half a fabric department wadded up between you, but I damn well did it.

I can't help but smile at my accomplishment and wrap my hands around her waist. She smiles down at me and leans in to kiss me again. One of her warm hands is on my face again but the other is fumbling around beside me. There's a metal scrape as the seat tilts back. My eyes widen and she takes my right hand from her waist, lifts the edges of her skirt, and places my hand on her hidden thigh.

Between kisses, our breaths are pants. My hand finds her panties. All I can think is that I want to touch her, to sink into her, to feel her, to never let her go. But I wait and, instead of pushing them to the side, I make myself pull at the top and she shimmies her way out of them.

They're pink. Fucking pink cotton and they don't even match the damn bra I've been dumb enough to leave on her all this time. I look at her questioningly, like why would she choose to wear these on her wedding day of all days.

She shrugs as if to sayit didn't really matter …

…then scoots forward until we're touching there. Her heat is directly on my balls and my now painfully hard erection is pressed flush against her abdomen. Even though I can't see anything through the dress, the mental image about kills me. My eyes must roll back in my head at the sensation because the next thing I know I'm half sitting up and we're practically chewing each other's faces off as we roll back and forth, her slick lower lips tracing the length of my cock as we slide together.

All of my thoughts flow together, overlapping. She rocks and we slide and I grip and pulse and it's all too fucking much. I'm not even in her and I think it's the happiest my dick has ever been – the happiest I have ever been - and my hands figure out they need to been taking off that damn bra – and I wonder if maybe I've missed out on her orgasm because it's so wet and slippery clear down to the leather seat – and how the Hell am I going to live with myself knowing that I've treated her like this?

Suddenly, her breasts are in my hands, soft and dense at the same time. They're like cream puffs or a stress balls or my god why am I even trying to describe them when I could just be feeling them?

Her hands leave my face, one braces against my chest, her nails run tiny circuits in the small amount of hair there. We keep running our hips together. My breaths are shallow and, over the pounding in my ears, I think it sounds as if hers are too. Her other hand draws a line up her torso to a breast, then wraps her fingers underneath, lifting it…offering it to me.

I draw her nipple into mouth and run my tongue across its surface as she arches up against me. My hips buck against her and I feel her moan actually fucking echo down my throat, bouncing off my Adam's apple, swirling around in my lungs.

"Bella…Baby," I swallow thickly and run my lips across the swell of her right breast and she moans again, pushing herself into my mouth. My cock is practically crying. "Baby, have you… done this before?"

She stills. Shit.

Her chest is still heaving, her pupils dilated. She's looking at me as if I have two heads… which I do. One of which is sorta running things right now. If it weren't, I'd have her strapped back in that seat and at least take her to the nearest decent hotel. As it is, that head doesn't a have a mind to go anywhere but one place. Not that my other head would mind going there, too, but I can admit I have a definite preference right now and the logistics of making anything different happen here in the Camaro are far-fetched at best.

The woman is in her mid-twenties. Of course she's done this before. I want to kick myself – Hell, I want to drag myself out in the snow and punch myself in the face – because I've been wrong about a great deal of shit in my life, but I am pretty sure that this could've been something that only we'd done together if I'd not been such a dumbass.

I want to apologize, I don't know if it's for being tactless enough to ask or for everything else. I open my mouth but Bella silences me with a single finger. She leans forward, I think it's simply to kiss me, but instead everything lines up, her finger replaced with a soft kiss, and she sinks down on me.

Heat.

Pressure.

Slick.

I grunt and push forward, sliding one hand back around her waist and gripping as tightly as I dare. Inside – inside her – I can feel the creases and planes along my length. We pull apart, slowly, and everything moves in opposition; her flesh tight and gripped against my ridge so much it pulls to the edge of sting.

Above me, she arches and I stretch to meet her with a kiss as deep and intricate as ever. I pull a hand away from her waist and let my fingers disappear into the white mess and run them along her thighs, feeling her muscles tense and slide with mine. She has a hand on my shoulder as a brace and the other anchors me by my hair. Underneath, I spread my hand flat against her belly and sneak my thumb between us. Every grind runs her clit up over the print of my thumb. She grips my shoulders tightly, her eyes squeezed shut.

I cup her face with my free hand. "Look at me, Bella."

She opens her eyes and if I ever questioned it before, I know in this moment that all ever want is to be with her. I pull back slowly, and she stills her own movements, giving over to me, trusting me when I doubt I've earned it. I move up into her as slowly as I can, pushing, rubbing.

I try to do everything for her; try to show her she is everything.

Another move, another moan escapes her. I pull back and regret any time I'm not deeply inside. My hips go forward and grind against her again and again. Her thighs begin to quake over mine and she writhes on top of me as she begins to come apart. Her eyes plead with mine and I realize that she must feel too far away, not close enough even now; she needs to be held. As much as I want to see her come undone, I pull her to a hug, our faces huddle into our necks.

"Bella…mine…Bella."

She shakes and holds onto me with more force than I can believe has anything to do with an orgasm.

"I can't… almost… ungh…god, Bella."

Her sweet lips kiss my temple between gasps. Small shudders keep playing along my length. I had hoped I could do this for her again, but it's too much.

Rhythm doesn't even make sense to me anymore as the flames gather at the base of my cock. I stay pressed against her, feeling myself swell, as she finishes. Her final tremor coaxes my own release and I spill into her, hearing myself repeat her name in every breath.

And she's here.

In my arms.

It's not a movie. If I had to do the suffering, I'd do again to end up with her.

I'd do it twice just to be sure.

Words had never been enough between us and they could not be enough now, but they came unbidden anyway. We remain snaked together, entwined like vine and branches.

"Bella, please don't go away. Don't let me leave."

Prisms of light color the air around us as melted snow slips down the windows.

"You know how I feel about you, don't you?" My head is still against her throat and I bring her hand to my lips, kissing her wrist again, then again.

"I need you …I love you…I have...always." I kiss the tips of her fingers. She keeps silent, her breaths irregular in my ear.

"You know don't you?" I pull back, desperate to see her face. I'm choking around my words, swallowing hope and fear that all this might not mean the same thing to her. "Does this mean…that you… you love me…want to be with me?"

She's staring at me, face flush, hair as crazed as mine on my worst day.

Her voice is like the first note of a new song. "I do."