CHAPTER SEVEN

I stalked further into the forest to hunt. Tracking down a mountain lion, I ripped into it hungrily, draining it quickly. I savoured this primal act, as hunting remained the only time I was free from all of my inhibitions and facades. Bella's blood was still in my system and as I had now gotten over the initial shock of what had happened the euphoric state was beginning to set in. Bella's blood made me feel high and reckless, as if anything were possible and I knew I needed to curb this feeling before my heightened emotional state muddled me up any further. I drained another lion before leaning over a small stream and splashing the water over my face. I attempted to wash the scent of Bella's arousal off me, but it remained ingrained in my clothes.

Finally sated and feeling relatively sane, I sat up on a large rock overlooking a large portion of the forest. The sun was beginning to rise and I pinched the bridge of my nose out of habit in an effort to settle myself. I didn't have time to ponder and contemplate everything down to the minutest detail. Instead, I needed to focus and keep moving forward. I need to maintain a sense of moderation at all times and stay up on the tightrope that on one side threatened to have me fall into a sea of bloody recklessness and on the other side lay frigid depression. The next few weeks would capture watershed moments, not only in my life, but in Bella's as well and I was damned if I was going to ruin it for her. I made a promise and I intended to keep it. With this resolution in my heart, the tightrope ahead of me seemed to steady and I decided it was time to go home and get changed.

I leapt up to my own bedroom window, and shed my clothes on to the floor, before heading into my bathroom to shower. As the warm water washed over me, the previous night's memories began to surface. Bella's taste, her body writhing up and responding to my actions, her kneading at her own breasts and pleading at me for more. The auditory memory of Bella moaning my name as she came proved too much and I relieved the pressure in several swift strokes, hoping that I was quiet enough that my family members didn't hear me, but at the same time not really caring. Upon release I immediately felt a wave of guilt, but I ignored it. This was a necessary means for staying in control. I couldn't help, but scoff sceptically at my justification, but it was true.

I moved into my bedroom and pulled out some new clothes from my dresser draw. As I put on a clean pair of jeans and pulled a fresh grey shirt over my head, I heard Emmett's thoughts approaching my room. I sat on my bed to put on my shoes, as Emmett entered.

"Sounds good." I nodded at Emmett, who had come in to suggest that he, Jasper and I go on a brotherly hunting trip / buck's night the night before the wedding. I knew the trip was actually Carlisle's idea and that he intended for it to tick off several wedding prerequisites, including; dulling my thirst, getting some last minute brotherly advice from Emmett and Jasper and keeping me occupied and away from Bella for the last night, as was traditional.

"There is no surprising you is there?"

"No," I grinned at him, as I stood up to leave again. "And try and keep those double entendres you've been working on throwing at Bella to a minimum."

Emmett gave one of his infectiously happy roars, as he headed toward the door.

"They're pretty good aren't they?"

I rolled my eyes and Emmett laughed before his attention was diverted.

What can I smell?

Emmett paused momentarily as he tried to place the scent. He caught sight of my discarded clothing on the floor and his eyebrows raised as he made the connection. A smart alec comment was sparking at the tip of his tongue, but to his credit he kept his mouth shut and tried not to shout out his opinions via his thoughts. With a grin and what seemed to be feelings of pride and genuine happiness toward me, he gave me a tongue in cheek salute and left.

I got in my Volvo and decided to stop at the diner and pick up Bella a cup of takeaway tea on the way, as she had recently become quite found of their particular blend of English Breakfast despite the fact that she considered buying tea extremely decadent when she simply could just brew a pot up at home. 'I just can't get the same blend', she uttered in frustration following her third attempt at replicating the concoction.

I entered the diner and ordered the tea, pausing briefly to ponder whether it was appropriate to bring tea as a peace offering following drinking your fiancée's blood via cunnilingus and then jumping out the window? I pinched the bridge of my nose for the hundredth time this morning, shaking my head at the absurdity of the situation. As I waited for the tea to brew I became aware of a tense conversation happening between two of the diner's patrons in a corner booth. Jessica Stanley and Mike Newton were obviously about to press the off button once again on their on again/off again relationship. It seemed Mike's ongoing obsession with Bella was proving too much for Jessica to bear. Not that she was particularly interested in Mike, he was just there to fill the gap between now and college. Jessica just craved the attention that Bella drew without trying.

"Here you go, Edward," the barista, a kind, elderly woman, held out the piping hot tea to me. "All the best to you and Bella for your wedding."

"Thank you very much," I nodded with a smile, taking the tea and wrapping a napkin around it in an effort to keep as little of the heat from being transferred via my icy hands. Hearing my name Jessica and Mike's heads had snapped up in my direction.

"Edward?" Jessica called out almost involuntarily. Inwardly I sighed, before turning around and greeting them both civilly.

"Jessica. Mike. How are you both?"

"Great," Jessica lied in an effort to save face. Whilst Mike just glared at her and looked up at me with pure resentment.

I can't believe Cullen's boning Bella. Man, if I had her…

I tried to block Mike's thoughts out of my mind by turning to answer Jessica's question.

"So Edward, are you ready for your big day?"

"I can't wait," I genuinely smiled, whilst Jessica looked at me curiously.

Maybe he did knock Bella up? They're weird. I'm not getting married until I'm at least 30.

Irritated I got ready to bid my farewells, as Mike's unsavoury thoughts flooded my head again. Despite the fact that I didn't consider him to be the slightest hint of a threat to Bella and my relationship, his infatuation still inspired waves of furious jealousy within me. I shot him a look that said 'Think about my fiancée like that again and I'll snap your neck. And yes, I get to touch her in ways you will only ever be able to imagine'. Mike's response was to go very quiet, as the blood drained away from his face and for the first time he genuinely began to wonder whether there was something truly monstrous about me. Before leaving, I composed myself, placed my mask back on and assured them both that I was looking forward to seeing them at the wedding.

On the drive to Bella's house I shook my head free of Mike's ludicrous fantasies, whilst realising that I was just a little bit proud of myself and that I did have more of a strut in my step this morning. My confidence was growing and this filled me with increasing urges, which I had to keep at bay. I clawed at my hair in momentary frustration. I was hurtling towards breaking point. This morning all I could trust myself to do was make sure Bella was ok, give her the tea and schedule a time later in the day where we could talk properly.

Charlie had already left for work by the time I swung Bella's window open in one jubilant and fluid movement. I could hear Bella in the shower, as the comforting scent of strawberry shampoo wafted through the steam in the nearby bathroom. Bella had already stripped her bed and changed the sheets and the scent of vanilla air freshener hung in the air. The water stopped and I heard Bella's feet padding around the bathroom floor, as she dressed and groomed herself. What I would have given to be able to read her thoughts at this very moment. My feelings of euphoria once again gave way, but this time it wasn't to guilt, instead I realised that I was nervous. I placed Bella's tea down on the bedside table and waited edgily by the window. Having never been good at predicting Bella's reactions I tried not to guess and focused upon presenting the most gentlemanly demeanour I could possibly summon.

"Edward?" Bella called from the doorway and I spun around to be greeted by two shining, chocolate covered eyes. She was dressed in jeans and a blue tee, her pale face looked fresh and naturally beautiful, draped in her magnificent mane of shiny hair.

"You look surprised to see me?" I asked quizzically, as she blushed.

"Honestly? I thought you would be wallowing in a guilt ridden puddle for at least the next 48 hours." Bella gazed up at me, a small smile playing on her lips. "Who are you and what have you done with Edward Cullen?"

I smiled at Bella despite myself. With my confidence growing, I leant into her and kissed her with more intensity than I had ever allowed myself before. Bella's body naturally responded and I reluctantly pulled away, removing myself to the far side of the room.

"I think a compulsory radius of several feet in distance is going to be necessary if I am going to make it to the wedding in one piece, love."

"Spontaneous combustion?" Bella arched her eyebrow at me provocatively.

"Something like that," I conceded wryly. "Was Charlie ok?"

"He actually checked the closet to see if you were in there," Bella laughed. "I think he's beginning to subscribe to the 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy."

I gave Bella a small smile, wanting to move past this superficial conversation and into the deeper matters at hand, but I kept to my original plan.

"I realise that you have a day filled with Alice, but I was hoping you could pencil in an hour or so this afternoon to spend in the meadow with your fiancé."

Bella smiled radiantly at me.

"I suppose I could fit you in somewhere between Alice's tenth make up trial and taste testing wedding cakes," she teased and stepped toward me. I quickly darted to the window.

"Are you ok?" Bella asked, her smile fading slightly.

"Silly Bella," I grinned at her honestly. "I've never been better. We will talk properly this afternoon. I'll collect you from Alice at 3pm."

Bella nodded understandingly at me.

"Now drink your tea, Miss Swan, before it gets cold." With one last cheeky grin I leapt out the window and got in the car. Sitting in the driver's seat I grabbed a fist full of my hair again and pulled at it with renewed frustration. My mind was overrun by an inward dual where it was simultaneously attempting to fuel and quell my carnal desires. I honestly didn't know how I was going to successfully fulfil all of my promises to Bella, but I knew I had to. Selfishly, I wanted to achieve them even more than she did and deep down I knew that would be enough to get us both safely across the line.

A deep growl rose up from my chest, as I pulled out on to the road and drove off to my next destination.