Beyond the Pale Contest

Title: Proxy

Pen Name: MarchHare5

Characters: Bella, Carlisle, Edward

Disclaimer: S Meyer owns Twilight. I own this plot.

Image that Inspired You: Number Twelve (the woman with two men)

To see other entries in the Beyond the Pale Contest, please visit the C2 page:
www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net/community/Beyond_the_Pale_Contest_Entries/83159/

Warning: This story contains graphic sexual content and mature themes.

Many thanks to my wonderful beta Zors and to luvrofink and Belindella for their help, support, and encouragement. If you're not reading their stories, you freakin' should be. Thanks also to my non-Twilight friend X for her support and help in keeping this little story as genuine as possible. I only wish you could read her stories…

Cross-posted to TWCS Library.

Summary: Bella and Carlisle are out celebrating their first wedding anniversary when they encounter a handsome, young man and invite him home with them. But things are not as they seem.


Proxy

From the way my husband gazed at me from across the table, anyone could see how much he adored me. After a whirlwind courtship, during which he had swept me off my feet, it was now our first anniversary, and we were sharing an intimate gourmet dinner at an exclusive restaurant. Perhaps not intimate enough, as throughout the evening I had felt the stares in our direction from both fellow diners and staff alike, but who could blame them? Though fifteen years my senior, my husband was incredibly attractive, with blond hair and grey eyes that belonged in the movies and the body of a man twenty years younger. And if his words of praise were to be believed, tonight I was a vision, my wrap dress—chosen as usual for me tonight by my husband—accentuating my curves and my hair styled in an elegant up-do, revealing the pale, slim column of my neck. His anniversary gift to me, a delicate platinum necklace with three brown topaz briolettes surrounded by diamond florettes, drew the eye down to my cleavage.

We had enjoyed an exquisite meal of French cuisine, and were now taking a moment to enjoy the last of our wine before ordering dessert, the menu card lying between us with promises of decadence. As we sipped our wine, our eyes drifted about the dimly lit room, surveying the other occupants. There were a few men and women still standing at the bar, in addition to the couples at their tables, all elegantly dressed.

A brush of my fingers against my husband's forearm brought his attention back to me.

"How…" I began tentatively, then after a short pause I continued. "How would you feel if I were to choose tonight?" I asked quietly, my expression innocently hopeful.

He stared back at me for a moment before his face melted into a radiant smile. He grasped my outstretched hand in his and lifted it to his lips, placing tender kisses on each finger. "Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to give you what you desire, my love, tonight of all nights," he told me, his thumb rubbing gentle, soothing circles on the back of my hand. "Do you see something you like?" he urged.

I smiled back at him and indicated my choice, as he agreed with a doting smile and a nod. Moments later, our waitress arrived, and he ordered for us both. We waited patiently, enjoying the quiet, intimate touch of our hands, until a server returned with our dessert, a rich, chocolate mousse. My husband scooted his chair closer to mine, and once again ignoring the envious looks from the other diners, he delighted in feeding me the creamy indulgence, his eyes darkening with arousal as he watched my lips curl seductively around the spoon. My own excitement was heightened as I noticed the growing bulge in his pants.

As we were waiting for the waitress to return with my husband's credit card, he excused himself from our table and made his way over to the bar. My eyes followed him as he approached one of the men still standing there, tall and handsome, with a mess of copper and bronze locks. They shared a few quiet words, and the man glanced briefly over at me before returning his attention to my husband. Caught watching, I looked away, my fingers playing in the condensation gathered on the stem of my water glass. A moment or two later, through my lowered eyes I glimpsed the man nodding, sparing me another look, before accepting my husband's business card.

My husband returned to our table and placed his credit card back in his wallet, before offering me his hand to help me to my feet. He carefully draped my wrap over my shoulders, his gentle hands lingering as he placed a tender kiss just behind my ear.

"So beautiful," he whispered, his hot breath ghosting across my skin, and I shivered, my breath catching in my throat, before taking his proffered arm as he escorted me from the restaurant.

The drive home was uneventful, though punctuated by tender caresses of his hand against my cheek, or his fingers intertwining with my own as he pulled my hand to his lips.

We had barely stepped inside our house when there was a knock at our front door. My husband, who had been heading for the bar to fix himself a nightcap, detoured back to the foyer. When he returned, he was accompanied by the man I had seen him speaking with at the restaurant.

"Isabella, darling, I'd like to introduce you to Edward Masen," he said as he held his arm out in welcome to our visitor.

The man stepped forward eagerly and grasped my offered hand, raising it and brushing my knuckles with his soft lips. A jolt of electricity traveled through my body at his touch, and I was rendered momentarily breathless. His eyes, piercing green, raked over my form in open admiration as he straightened, and as he smiled at me, I think my heart skipped a beat.

"My pleasure," he said. My God, the man's voice was like liquid velvet, and I could feel warmth spreading throughout me, pooling at the apex of my thighs. I shifted slightly, suddenly uncomfortable, and the corner of his mouth lifted in a smirk.

"Scotch?" I heard my husband ask, and I was granted a reprieve as the man's attention was diverted from me momentarily.

"Yes, please, with just a splash of water," he answered.

"Coming right up. Darling?"

"Nothing for me, thank you," I said, detecting a tremor in my voice. I had had enough wine with dinner, and with this gorgeous man here with us, I felt the need to keep my wits about me.

"So, Mr. Masen—" I began, forcing myself to sound more confident.

"Edward, please," he interrupted with another dazzling smile.

"Edward," I acknowledged with a nod and a blush. "What is it that you do?"

He thanked my husband for the drink before answering. "I'm an architect actually. About six months ago I left the firm I had been working for and ventured out on my own. I'm happy to say that my business is really starting to pick up, and my client base is growing."

"That's wonderful to hear," my husband said pleasantly. "What type of buildings do you design?"

"Well, for the most part I've been designing luxury homes and the occasional residential addition," he replied, looking down at his drink and chuckling quietly before pursing his lips. God, those lips… "I'm hoping that eventually I'll make enough of a name for myself that I can design something a bit more… shall we say, stimulating." His eyes twinkled as he looked up at me, and I felt the heat rushing to my cheeks again, as well as to other places.

"What about yourselves?" he inquired after a moment.

I had to clear my throat before responding. "I used to work as an editor for children's books," I told him, "but I haven't worked since we married a year ago." I turned to my husband, smiling warmly, and he stepped closer to me, his arm slipping around me to rest his hand possessively on the small of my back. "Carlisle, however, is a well-known cardiologist. In fact, I'm sure there are many who would agree with me that he is the best in the state."

It was my husband's turn to look away and quietly chuckle, and I was surprised to see a slight pink tinge his cheeks. His modesty was endearing. "I wouldn't go that far, love," he said with a smile.

"No need to be so modest, Carlisle," I said, looking at him indulgently. "I've heard your chief of staff say that very thing more than once."

"Enough about me," he laughed, shaking his head, clearly embarrassed by my praise. "Edward, as you're an architect, would you mind indulging me for a few minutes?" Edward raised his eyebrows in response, waiting for him to continue. "I've been considering making some alterations upstairs, moving a wall perhaps, or…"

Edward smirked. "And you'd like me to have a look and give you my opinion?"

"Yes," Carlisle exhaled with a smile. "If it's not too much trouble?"

I felt a frown drift across my features for a moment before I was able to replace it with a look of pleased interest.

My husband took Edward's drink from his hand and set both of their glasses on the bar before leading us out to the hall and the staircase to the second floor. Once again Carlisle's hand brushed against my lower back as he gently guided me up the stairs ahead of our guest. I could feel his eyes on me from behind, watching my ass sway and the muscles flex in my calves as I moved in front of him.

Carlisle opened the double doors to our large master bedroom and ushered first me, then Edward, inside, closing the doors behind us. My eyes focused on Edward, watching his face as he took in the opulence of the room, the rich golds and deep reds of the fabrics, the creaminess of the soft leather chairs, the dim lights casting a warm glow on the ceiling and the dark-stained wood of the headboard.

"Beautiful," Edward breathed from his position near the door, looking across at me where I stood at the foot of the bed. "I wouldn't change a thing." I blushed, looking away, and I could feel my heart pick up its pace.

"No," my husband agreed in a low voice. "On second thought, you are quite right." He moved toward me, motioning to Edward as he did so toward a chair facing the bed. "Please, have a seat."

Edward took the offered chair, crossing his legs and leaning back comfortably, and watched as Carlisle approached me. My husband stepped behind me, turning me so I was facing our guest, and nuzzled at his favorite place behind my ear as he trailed his hands up my arms, squeezing gently as he reached my shoulders. "I love you so much, Isabella," he breathed. "I don't know what I'd do without you. You're my life."

Stifling a whimper, I closed my eyes and leaned back against him, my heart, my body yearning for him. He placed tender kisses along my neck while his hands glided down to my waist to untie the knot of my wrap dress. Ever so slowly he parted the fabric, following the edges back up to my shoulders, brushing against my slender collarbones as he gently eased the lace sleeves down my arms. Soon I was standing before both men wearing nothing but my necklace, my bra and panties, and my strappy high heels.

I opened my eyes and looked over at our guest. Edward's gaze, dark-eyed and intense, was riveted on me, and his chest rose and fell with his heavy breathing. The knuckles of both hands were white as he gripped the arms of his chair. He followed the path of my husband's hands as they raised once again, this time to my hair, to remove the pins keeping my waves in place atop my head. With the pins gone, Carlisle shook out my mahogany tresses, coaxing them to cascade seductively around my face and shoulders. He buried his nose in my hair, inhaling deeply of my scent, before turning his attention to the man in the chair.

"Is she not the most beautiful creature you've ever seen?" he asked, his fingers once again ghosting down my arms, leaving little trails of fire in their wake.

Edward's eyes missed nothing, noticing how I shifted my weight on my feet, discreetly seeking friction for the ache that was growing between my thighs. "Oh, by far," he answered huskily, and when his tongue peeked out between his lips, I suddenly felt light-headed, as all the blood in my body rushed to my groin.

Carlisle moved as if he were going to kneel and abruptly Edward halted him. "No," he said. "The shoes stay on—if you please," he added politely. My husband acknowledged him with a nod and a smile, and I could see his own eyes darkening again in arousal.

"And the necklace?" Carlisle asked, his fingertips dancing over my collarbone once more, an eyebrow raised in question.

"That stays too," Edward intoned, his voice deep with desire.

Carlisle's eyes met mine, anticipation evident in his expression, before he took my hand and led me to the side of the bed, where he helped me lie down comfortably, arranging me just so, one knee bent, my legs slightly parted. His hand trembled, just enough that only I would notice, and he brushed the thumb of his free hand along my bottom lip, pulling it from my teeth. I looked up at him, hoping, but he merely smiled at me and stepped away, turning back to Edward.

He invited the man to stand, and our guest followed my husband's example as he began to remove first his suit jacket and tie, then his white dress shirt. I watched, spellbound, as the two most beautiful men I had ever seen stripped before me, down to their boxers. They were both magnificent to behold; I knew Carlisle took excellent care of his body, and was very fit, but it was obvious that Edward did the same. Both men were graced with six-pack abs, though neither was muscle-bound, something that I had never found appealing. Edward was a few inches taller than my husband as well, and his younger body was more firm and supple. And whereas Carlisle's chest was bare, Edward's bore a light dusting of copper, gold, and bronze, thinning down to a line below his navel that disappeared enticingly beneath the elastic of his boxers. Along with the V of his hips, it formed an arrow pointing to an impressive bulge that I was growing impatient to see for myself.

It was then that Edward hesitated and looked again to my husband for direction, but Carlisle ignored him for the moment, instead turning back toward me. He knelt with one knee on the bed, leaning over me, while Edward watched from down by my feet. Carlisle cupped my face in both hands, stroking my cheeks with his thumbs, and then kissed me chastely on the lips. I brought my hands up around his neck, sliding my fingers into his hair, and attempted to deepen the kiss, but he pulled away, removing my hands from behind his head and squeezing them gently in his own. He touched his forehead to mine, his eyes closing as he whispered to me.

"I love you, Isabella. Happy anniversary, my darling."

"And I love you, too, Carlisle," I choked out. "So very much." I had sworn to myself I would not cry when this moment arrived, and it took every ounce of resolve I possessed to maintain my composure.

His lips brushed against my forehead briefly, and I knew that he misunderstood the glistening in my eyes as he stepped away from me. He reached over and grasped Edward's wrist and urged him forward onto the bed, joining his hand with mine. Carlisle took a moment to retrieve a foil packet from the drawer of the nightstand, leaving it on top of the table for when it was needed, then retreated to the chair closest to the bed, where he would be able to see everything clearly, every stroke, every caress.

Edward stared over at Carlisle, perhaps a bit uncertain for a moment, but with gentle pressure from my fingers on his, his attention reverted back to me, and the cloud of concern in his eyes dissipated under the heat of his gaze. He knelt between my legs and began to trail his hands along the sensitive skin of my inner thighs. He lifted one leg, bringing my ankle to his lips, planting a gentle kiss there just above the strap of my shoe. Straightening my leg before him, he trailed open-mouthed kisses along my calf to the back of my knee, his tongue peeking out to taste my skin. He did the same with the other leg, kissing and licking. Leaning over me, he then made his way up slowly along my thighs, but as he neared the place where they joined, he diverted his attention to my hands and arms. Each finger, my palms, wrists, arms, elbows, and shoulders were lavished with his soft kisses and gentle scrapes of his teeth.

When he was through covering my arms in his sensual kisses, he pulled both of my hands over my head and held them there as he moved on to my neck, throat, and collarbones. He carefully worked his way around the strands of platinum links that still adorned my chest, making his way down to my breasts. I could feel his hardness digging into my thigh through the thin fabric of his boxers as he nibbled and teased along the edge of my bra, nuzzling and licking the tender flesh. I thought I would go mad if he didn't stop teasing me when he finally released my hands to reach behind me to unhook my bra.

As he pulled the thin straps down my arms and discarded the lacy garment over the edge of the bed, I took a quick peek over at Carlisle. I could barely see his dark eyes under his heavy lids as he watched us with rapt attention, his chest heaving. One hand gripped tightly on the arm of his chair, while the other was rubbing his stiff cock through his underwear.

I gasped as Edward's mouth returned to my chest, but he moved now along the underside of my breasts, nipping and licking. I writhed underneath him, trying to force his lips where I wanted them—I would have urged him closer with my hands, but they were once again trapped in his firm grip above my head.

"Stop… teasing me," I gasped with a moan, and I felt his lips turn upward in a smile against my skin, his breath escaping in a chuckle. I groaned in protest, but he began to draw circles around my aching nipple with his tongue, edging ever nearer to where I wanted him.

"Pleeeeease," I begged, arching into him, and I cried out when his mouth suddenly closed over my hardened peak and scraped it with his teeth, before sucking hard and flicking it rapidly with the tip of his tongue. The sensation sent a bolt of lightning to my core, and I shuddered underneath him. God, he'd just made me come and he hadn't even touched me down there yet.

Fully aware of my body's reaction to him, he spared a smug look for me before he continued to feast on my skin, his lips and tongue laving my other nipple now while one hand continued to pinch and roll the first. Finally, he gradually began to make his way south, both hands now stroking the curves of my waist and hips. He lingered for a moment over my navel, stopping just long enough to dip and swirl his tongue, before continuing to my burning center. The tip of his nose traced along the edge of my panties, his hot breath ghosting over my lace covered mound, until he slowly, teasingly, pulled the delicate fabric over my hips and down my legs. He quickly shed his boxers as well, and a hint of movement to my right told me that my husband had done the same.

My eyes were drawn to Edward's gorgeous cock as it sprang free of his underwear. It was long and thick, and the sight of its engorged head glistening with pre-cum elicited a similar reaction in myself, though I was ashamed to admit to myself just how desperately I ached to feel it inside me. Kneeling between my knees, Edward stopped to take in the sight of me spread before him, bare except for my necklace and heels. His eyes raked over my body, and I felt my flesh burn with the heat of his gaze. His hands grazed down my thighs, and he eased them apart, exposing my sex to him further. He paused one moment more before bowing down between my legs, and when his eyes captured my own, he flattened out his tongue and gave me one, long, slow lick from my entrance to my clit.

Three lustful moans echoed throughout the room, and Edward cocked an eyebrow as he smirked at my reaction, licking his lips to savor my taste. He inhaled a deep breath then, and his eyes closed briefly as he drew my scent in and held it for a moment, before exhaling and blowing his hot breath over my needy clit, making me shudder and gasp. I heard, and felt, him chuckle quietly again, before I felt his fingers slipping between my folds, gently holding them open. I whimpered at his touch and flushed with embarrassment at the way my body responded to him, my juices flowing slick and wet over his hand between my thighs.

Edward murmured something so quietly I couldn't distinguish the words, and then he attacked my slit with his mouth, devouring, licking, nipping. His tongue delved inside my entrance, once, twice, three times, before traveling back up to my clit, where he sucked and flicked at my nub, then scraped it with his teeth. I bucked my hips at his face, and one of his hands went to my hip to hold me steady as he continued his assault. One of my own hands—my left, as I made a conscious effort not to block Carlisle's view—found its way into Edward's tousled hair, anchoring me before I could levitate off the bed.

His mouth alternated between my entrance and my clit with no discernible pattern, driving me ever closer to the brink. But when he thrust two fingers inside my pussy, instantly finding my sweet spot and hitting it relentlessly, at the same time that he latched onto my clit with his teeth, I exploded with a wail. My limbs spasmed with the power of my climax, my eyes clenched tightly shut against the white spots shooting across my vision.

But they snapped open a moment later in shock as, my body still pulsing from my powerful orgasm, Edward impaled me on his cock with one deep thrust.

Edward was the latest in a long parade of men that Carlisle had brought to my bed, starting a year ago on our wedding night. Throughout our brief but intense courtship, I had waited with growing anticipation and impatience to feel his hands on me, to know the weight of his body hovering over mine, the heat of his cock inside me—anything more than the tender, loving kisses that he lavished on me. Imagine my surprise, then, when he finally took me to his bed, only for him to bring in at the last minute a substitute to perform his duties for him. Caught off guard and swept up in the moment, I had thought at first that, odd as it may seem for our wedding night, he had arranged for a threesome, and I had not wished to start off our marriage with a fight when he was so obviously aroused and enjoying things. But he never joined us, me and the man he'd invited in, in the bed, opting to sit and watch, and come by his own hand.

Once it was over, my husband had held me in his arms until we'd both fallen asleep, but even then, his touch on my body remained as innocent as a child's.

I was mortified. I'd asked him if he were gay, and he insisted that he wasn't, that he was only attracted to women, and his all-consuming attraction to me had so shaken him to his core that he had to have me. But I couldn't understand why, if that were so, he wouldn't touch me. He explained that his greatest pleasure came from watching me in the throes of passion, that it wasn't something he could participate in, that he could only be happy by seeing me pleasured by someone else.

I didn't understand it. I didn't want to. I loved him, oh, how I loved him, and determined to have him, over the course of the next several weeks I attempted to seduce him countless times, never succeeding. I felt betrayed, deceived, humiliated, used, and for two months we slept together, yet apart, no matter how I begged him to make love to me, no matter how he pleaded with me to allow him to give me pleasure—in the form of another man.

We had been married for nine weeks or so when we hosted a dinner party in honor of one of Carlisle's colleagues, who was in town to present an important lecture at the university. The evening was a success, and everyone went home satisfied—or so I had thought. Carlisle seemed almost giddy as he led me to our bed, and as I rejoiced at my success in undressing him and getting him to lie down with me, I thought that I had finally helped him to get past his reluctance to be intimate with me.

But then I'd felt another man's hands on me, the heat of another man's body at my back. I thought that perhaps Carlisle had needed the presence of someone else, another man to please me in order to find the strength to do it himself as well. But as he slipped out of my grasp and left our bed to sit and watch once more, I knew it was no use. We watched each other as we both came, he by his hand from the sight of my being pleasured by another man's cock. And the look on his face as he climaxed was euphoric, angelic even.

It was the next morning that I agreed to allow him to provide me with surrogate lovers, though no more than once a week, and I don't think I'd ever seen him so happy, except perhaps when I'd told him I'd marry him. It was then that our weekly ritual began: his preparing for me a luxurious bath, relaxing me with soothing aromas and soft music, pampering me with lush towels as he dried me—which was the most intimate he ever was with me. He would choose my outfit for the evening, delighting in showing off my beauty with designer dresses and expensive finery, regardless of how little I cared about such things, all the while telling me how beautiful and sexy and desirable I was. Then he would take me out to dinner, the symphony, the opera, sometimes a gallery opening or a charity ball, where he would look for my newest lover amongst the gentlemen we'd encounter. He didn't always find someone to match his exacting specifications, and occasionally he would have to call upon a previous liaison to perform his duties, but he always ensured me a man who would respect me, who would treat me the way Carlisle felt I deserved—and of course, a man who would be discreet.

And each time another man took me as the man I loved sat by and watched, another part of me died inside.

Edward's hips slammed against mine as he continued to thrust into me, stretching me around his thick shaft. One of his hands tangled in my hair, my own hands clinging to the straining muscles of his back as the heels of my shoes dug into his ass. His green eyes burned into my own, not looking away even for a second as he pounded into me, his gaze penetrating me even more deeply than his cock. His other hand moved down to my hip, gripping it tightly before pulling my leg up and wrapping his arm underneath my thigh. We both gasped at the new sensation, but he wasn't done yet. He hitched my leg up higher so that my foot rested on his shoulder, then he brought his own knee up underneath me.

"Fuuuuuuuck," he ground out, this new angle allowing him to go even deeper than before. "So fucking good," he repeated, each word punctuated by a deep, sharp thrust. I knew I couldn't last much longer, that familiar coil tightening inside as he pumped in and out, spiraling higher and higher. In desperation, my hands moved to the back of his head, threading into his hair, and I pulled his face down to mine. My lips found his, and our tongues met in the middle, sliding and twisting together. I could taste myself on him, and I moaned wantonly into his mouth. Impossibly, he increased his tempo, his pelvic bone hammering against my clit at a fevered pace, and I gasped as I felt my release suddenly explode within me with a force I'd never before experienced. My fingers dug painfully into Edward's scalp as my pussy convulsed around his cock, triggering his own climax. I vaguely registered a voice shouting my name in ecstasy as Edward cried out incoherently, pulsing deep inside me. His body shuddered and his head collapsed to my shoulder, our sweat mingling and our breaths panting in harmony as we slowly came down from our high.

Edward gently lowered my leg from his shoulder and unbent his knee, but otherwise stayed connected with me still. The arm that had been wrapped around my thigh coasted up my ribs to cup my breast, and his lips found that little spot just behind my ear that made me melt. He kissed it tenderly before tugging gently on my earlobe, then raised his head to gaze down at me. He searched my eyes for a moment before taking my bottom lip between his, nibbling gently, sweetly, and I sighed into his mouth.

A throat roughly clearing itself broke through our little bubble, and Edward jerked his head away from mine, a brief cloud passing by his face. He gingerly pulled out of me, both of us gasping at the sensation as he slid out of my heated flesh. He rose somewhat unsteadily from the bed, removing his condom and depositing it in the trash can Carlisle held out for him. I lay still and watched dispassionately as Edward hurriedly gathered his discarded clothes and dressed, while Carlisle lazily pulled back on his boxers and retrieved his silk robe from the back of the chair he'd been sitting in and pulled it over his arms, casually knotting it closed.

Edward hastily buttoned his white dress shirt and haphazardly tucked it into his pants. Grabbing his jacket and tie, he turned to me where I lay on the bed, still naked and exposed. He looked torn, frowning, his mouth opening and closing a couple of times as if he were about to speak, and I nodded at him, but at a raised eyebrow from Carlisle and a polite gesture urging him to the door, he looked away and left the room without a word.

I remained still for a moment more as I listened to their footsteps heading for the stairs. But only for a moment. I quickly got up and went about my business, as Carlisle would soon be returning upstairs after seeing our guest to the door.

And yet, I had hoped it wouldn't come to this.

A few minutes later the door creaked slightly on its hinges as my husband came back into our bedroom, his voice preceding him.

"That was the most amazing… I asked him if he'd be willing to do this again, but strangely, he insisted that he'd never come b—Darling, why are you dressed?" he asked, bemused, suddenly noticing that I had pulled my dress back on.

I said nothing as I sat at my dresser and brushed my hair, quickly pulling it into a ponytail. The style didn't exactly go with the dress, but that was hardly my biggest concern at the moment.

"Isabella?" Carlisle asked again, his voice only hinting at the concern I could see in his face. "What's going on?"

I stood silently and walked over to my closet, going to the back and pulling out a rolling suitcase, already packed and ready to go. It was then that I stopped and really looked at Carlisle. I could hear my heart pounding, and I willed myself to keep my calm during the next few moments.

"Isabella," Carlisle's voice was now barely more than a whisper. "What…"

"I'm sorry, Carlisle," I said. "I just…" I swallowed thickly. "I can't do this anymore."

"What do you mean? What are you saying?" His voice was shaking.

"You tell me you love me. You tell me you want nothing more than to give me my greatest desire." I paused, fighting for control of my voice. "But don't you see? All I wanted was you, Carlisle, and that's the one thing you can't give me."

"I…"

"No," I interrupted him. "Don't. I understand that you… that you can't help it. But I can't live like this. I had hoped that tonight… I thought maybe if I chose…" My breath was starting to come in irregular gasps, and I had to stop for a moment to regain my composure.

"Isabella, I…" This time he stopped himself at my look of utter resignation. His shoulders slumped, his face crumpling in despair.

"I'm so sorry," I said, and I took a few tentative steps toward him, my hands going to the clasp of my necklace. I unhooked it and lifted it carefully from my neck. Grasping one of Carlisle's hands, I pooled the sparkling gems on their delicate strands of platinum into his palm and closed his fingers over them. He stared, unseeing, at our hands, still clasped together.

"I will always love you, Carlisle," I whispered sadly. I brought my fingertips to my lips and kissed them, before gently cupping his cheek. His eyes sought out mine; I thought for a moment that he would try to plead with me one last time, but he said nothing, only turning his lips into my palm and kissing it before I pulled away.

I turned, snatched up the handle of my suitcase, and left him standing there in the middle of what was once our bedroom.

My brain hardly acknowledged the ride in the back of my waiting taxi, buildings and cars blending shapelessly with the bright streetlights of the city. I couldn't say how long it was before the cab pulled up in front of a luxury high-rise and I was riding the elevator up to the twenty-seventh floor. A few steps down the corridor brought me to an unassuming door, and I knocked quietly.

The door opened, the light from the apartment casting a halo of bronze over his head, and strong, welcoming arms pulled me inside. And it was that instant connection, that touch, the tender look in his green eyes, the warmth of his embrace that finally broke my outer wall of calm and I began to sob into his chest.

"Oh, Bella, shhhh," he comforted me, pressing kisses into my hair. "Shhhh. Don't cry, sweetheart. I'll take care of you. Forever and always."

A/N: Please review. I'm thinking of adding a couple of companion pieces to this once the contest is over, so add this to your alerts if you're interested in reading them.