Disclaimer: S. Meyer owns all recognizable characters, plots, etc. Only original content, characters, etc. belongs to author. No copyright infringement intended. Any errors contained herein, are expressly the fault of the author and not her beta.

My eternal devotion and love to both Vanessarae and RedVelvetHeaven for all of their hard work and support. Thanks also go out to Yogacat and Profitina for prereading.

Thanks to all of you for reading and reviewing. I've not replied yet, but never fear I (hopefully) will soon. (Kidding, I really will reply asap!)

Without further ado…the finale. Enjoy.

La Casa Stregata

Chapter 3 – The Room

She's not sure where to start, it's been long enough that Jessica could be anywhere at this point, but she figures she might as well start in the direction in which Jessica had been heading when she last saw her. With single-minded determination, she strikes off, paying no attention at all to the spooky decorations transforming the hall or the people littering it as she wanders from room to room with no luck. She's gone through probably five rooms – each gorier than the last – when she spots Jessica down at the end of the hallway, disappearing through an open door on the left. She never makes it to the room.

Crossing an intersecting hallway, only feet away from the room that she saw Jessica enter, she sees him again, and veers off-course. She hurries after him, following down a maze of narrow corridors and wide hallways with no regard for her surroundings or the risks of what she's doing, just an overwhelming, inexplicable sense of urgency that drives her on. She needs to catch him, and each time she thinks she's lost him, panic overwhelms her, causing her heart to hammer in her chest and her breath to come in rasping pants.

Rounding a corner, she turns right down yet another hallway as he disappears into a room at the end of it. She rushes, reaching the door just before it swings closed, and pushes her way inside. Confronted by more than a dozen people surrounding her in a circle, her eyes nearly bug out of her head from fright, and she bites back a shriek. It takes her a good thirty seconds to comprehend that the 'people' are actually her own image reflecting back at her from dozens of large funhouse mirrors.

Cautiously walking further into the space, she realizes that she's in a maze and, for the first time since her confrontation with Tyler, fear rises up into her throat, but she won't be deterred, not when she's so close. Shoving it down, she boldly ventures further into the maze, thinking this must have been how Alice felt when she stepped through the looking glass. She only walks a short distance before she comes to a junction and has a choice to make. Should she go right, left, straight, or simply turn around now and save herself the trouble?

Catching a movement out of the corner of her left eye – the fluttering of a black cape – the decision is made for her. Needing no further thought, she turns to the left and rushes blindly forward. Right…right…left…right…left…or right? She's made so many turns, she's no longer sure which way is up, and she's been wandering around the maze for so long, covered so much ground, that she simply can't fathom how it's possible for her to still be inside the Masen house. Still pondering the dynamics of it, she comes to a dead end.

This can't be right, how could she have lost him? She spins in a circle, her cape-like coat and dress flaring out around her and twisting about her legs when she stops, she tries to figure out which way she just came from, but she can't find the path. Turning slowly, deliberately this time, she tries to locate the break in the mirror panels that will lead her out of the dead end, but no matter how many three-hundred-and-sixty degree rotations she completes, she remains trapped. Panic is setting in – this can't be right, isn't possible – but she attempts to maintain some semblance of calm as she works her way methodically around the perimeter of her prison, pushing – palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss, flitters through her mind– against herself, testing the walls as she tries to find the path she was just on.

Her rising panic swells and breaks, crashing over her, and it's as if all the air has been sucked out of both the room and her lungs as she's tumbled about by it. Frantic and mindless now, ignoring the throbbing in her wrist, she pounds against the glass with no thought to the harm she could do to herself should it break. She's too dizzied and overwhelmed by the way the mirrors reflect and re-reflect the fear and desperation in her eyes, doubling and trebling it endlessly as the image bounces from mirror to mirror to mirror inside of mirror inside of mirror over and over and over…

She feels as if she is pressing down and in upon herself, and she realizes that there's no way out – she's trapped and all alone and surrounding herself. Gasping and sputtering as she tries in vain to draw much-needed oxygen into her lungs, black spots, pricks of dark obscuring the light, swim in her vision. Oh, God…someone…anyone…please help! she cries out or thinks, she's not sure which, as she slams her fists one last time against a mirrored panel with all the force she can muster – he thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts – and it gives, opening like a door to reveal a narrow hallway. It's dark except for the staggered warm glow coming from the wall-sconce enclosed candles, and the darkness spills into her mirror-ball prison, lapping at her feet, as she heaves great gasping breaths of oxygen.

Gaining her composure, or as much of it as she can after finding herself in such a situation, she glances at the mirrored room behind her once before peering at the dim path before her. The circles of light seem to be beckoning and guiding her forward, so she makes her decision – not that there was really much of choice to be had; it isn't as if she could go back. Still, it's with hesitance that she steps across the threshold, and warily follows the flickering candlelight down the hallway.


She's only taken a few steps when she both hears and feels the slam of the door behind her. Spinning around, one hand clutching her chest, she finds that the door to the mirror room is not only closed, but seems to have vanished entirely. Her heart rate picks up, thundering in her ears, as she continues the only way still open to her: toward the door of the unknown room.

Pausing before she crosses into the wood-paneled room, she takes a deep breath, steeling herself, and then steps inside – and into the final frontier, she thinks to herself with the giddiness that only comes from fear and facing it. She only walks a few feet inside in case she needs to run; she seems to have forgotten that there is nowhere to run. The softly haunting sound of a lone violin fills the space, lulling her into a false sense of comfort, as her eyes quickly scan the candlelit room. Finding nothing menacing in the richly-appointed, if just slightly old fashioned room, she relaxes a bit more.

Just about to start searching for another door, she hears a voice – all velvet and honey and warm, dulcet tones – that she knows better than her own. However, she can't explain how she knows it, or how she knows certain things about him such as his favorite color on her is blue, but brown in general, and she knows she should probably be scared, but she's inexplicably calm. The only trace of her lingering agitation is the fine sheen of sweat causing her skin to glisten in the flickering light, her tear-dampened cheeks, and the strands of hair sticking to them.

"I happen to like that shade of crimson on you, too. It brings out the blush on your cheek nicely." He's suddenly in front of her, when she's certain that less than a moment ago he was across the room, lurking in the shadows. With a graceful movement, he lifts his hand, caressing her cheek with the backs of his knuckles, and despite the coldness of his silky skin, she feels heat bloom in her cheeks. "There it is. Lovely," he whispers, his voice as much a caress as the gesture is, and her eyes drift closed of their own accord.

He glides behind her, his arms reaching around her to unclasp her coat at her throat before his agile fingers brush her hair over one shoulder, and then lift the heavy drape of the velvet from off her shoulders and pull it away from her body. It's only when he disappears from behind her (she assumes to dispose of her coat) that she realizes she's managed to lose both her tiny velvet wristlet and her hat somewhere between the bottom of the stairs man and now. An alarm rings in her mind, reminding her that she has no clue where she is in the house or how to get back to the party, and that without her clutch containing her cell phone, she is in a precarious situation, but it's so quiet that the stranger's return to her drowns it out entirely.

She stares at him dazedly, his beauty so ethereal she's almost certain that he's a drunken delusion, and more than a minute passes before she's aware that the music has stopped. Wanting to know if he is, in fact, real, she opens her mouth to speak, but he presses one cool finger to her lips and silences her with a, "Shhh!" He then takes her by the elbow, and she allows him to guide her toward the corner of the room, to a piano that she hadn't noticed.

He sits and pulls her to him, arranging her on the bench beside him. When she's situated to his liking, his confident hands settle over the keys and he begins to play. Für Elise, she notes a few measures into the piece, and almost as soon as the name of the song appears in her mind, his playing cuts off with discordant, frustrated notes.

"No, that's not right," he mutters, she's almost certain to himself. "Not right at all." He begins to play again, this time, "Moonlight" Sonata. Bella, having a love for all things classic – books, cars, furniture, you name it – knows her classical music, but this piece especially. She's always loved the haunting beauty of the sensual melody. Normally, she gets lost in the almost dark seduction of the notes, wanting to know a romance like the one she imagines it to be about, but at this moment, she's less aware of the beauty and seduction, and more focused on the haunted and dark qualities of the music.

"That's it," he says. "Much better."

He plays the composition flawlessly, bringing it to a gentle conclusion. No more than a heartbeat of silence is heard before the violin music is back, and he's taking her hand and beseeching her to dance. He asks with such earnestness that even though she doesn't dance (and wouldn't know how to dance to the music playing if she did), it never even occurs to her to not comply. She unthinkingly gives him her hand, and is lead to the center of the room. Once in his arms – cold and hard – he leads her in a slow, sensual waltz to the sweet strains of the playing violin.

The song isn't one she recognizes, but it's beautiful. She's completely dazzled, lost in his eyes and his arms and the music, and she finds herself thinking it's not such a bad place to be – in his arms, his cheek pressed to hers, his breath gentle against her ear while music so lovely it would make Eros weep plays softly in the background. Still, a small voice in the back of her mind (that's not as easily charmed as she seems to be)is telling her to run, that there's something sinister in the air, but the moment is too magical to let something as ridiculous as imagined fear niggle away at the back of her mind, and she chooses to ignore it.

When the dance finishes, she sighs deeply, not ready to leave his arms, and she's happy to find she doesn't have to. Keeping his arm about her, he leads her to a low table against a wall. Atop it sits a cut crystal decanter and a single glass that he fills with a sweet, dark red wine from the decanter – "The elixir of the gods," he claims – and he entreats her to drink. She once again complies, happy to make him happy, and makes quick work of the wine. When it's empty, he places her glass back on the sideboard before taking her hand and leading her to a sumptuous-looking fainting couch upholstered in scarlet silk just a shade or two lighter than her gown. It's eerily familiar, and she thinks she's on the cusp of remembering why, but his voice dispels the fragile memory before it has a chance to solidify.

"Come, il mio amore, sit with me," he requests, guiding her down to sit without waiting for her to concede, and she lets him. She is too wrapped up in the growing sense that she's done all of this before, the intensity of the déjà vu constricts her chest, and her strangely absent panic is back and growing. "Let's talk awhile, my Isabella."

"Talk about what, Edward?" she asks absently, surprising both of them by suddenly knowing his name.

"You remembered," he states in amazement, before stating the obvious, "I'm surprised – happily, because it should make everything so much easier – but surprised nonetheless. How much do you remember?"

"I-I don't know. I don't know how I knew that…I just – did." Confusion plays across her face, followed by fear that her lack of an answer has angered him and, as if her face is a book, he seems to read it all.

"Shhh, now, Isabella," he soothes. "I'm not angry with you. You have far surpassed expectations simply by remembering my name."

The slight hint of pride along with his soft words loosen her tongue, and she bombards him with questions before she can stop herself. "Who are you? What's going on? Why do I feel like I know you? Your face and your voice are so familiar to me, but I don't understand why. What and whose expectations have I surpassed? Why was anything expected of me?" She pauses to take a breath, looking down at the lace trimming the hem of her dress, chagrined, and says in a small, quiet voice so unlike her, "Sorry, I'm just terribly confused." Her throat dry, she adds, "May I have something to drink, please?"

He doesn't answer, but she feels a strong breeze, and then he hands her a glass of wine, still sitting beside her on the chaise. She doesn't take the glass. Instead, she scrambles away from him, scooting back until she hits the arm of the couch and can go no further. "Wh-what was – how did you… I don't understand. Who – what are you?" She stares at him for a moment, her face a study in fright, and repeats in almost a whimper, "I don't understand."

"And you aren't meant to. Take your wine, Isabella," he commands in voice that brokers no argument from her, and she gives him none.

She takes the proffered wine, cupping the bowl of the goblet between her shaking hands, and stares at the sanguine liquid sloshing and dripping down the inside of the glass like so much blood…and the dam breaks. Her dreams from the past few months – the ones she can only barely remember upon waking, but recalls vividly as she drifts to sleep – come flooding back, dots start connecting, and she suddenly feels as if she's going to be sick.

Images are twirling madly in her head like whirling dervishes – the dress' auspicious arrival, Alice's sudden appearance, her hard body, her frigid skin, her eyes seeming to change color. With each new image, another piece of the puzzle falls into place, slowly revealing the truth – perfectly-timed arrivals, flesh like a block of ice, eyes changing color…arrivals, hard and cold, eyes changing from black to…tawny, ochre colored eyes…tawny, ochre colored eyes… Edward! Alice! Even…Jasper! They all have the same eyes! Oh, God!

They're coming more quickly now, all the little inconsistencies of the past couple days, the past few months, in no particular order – her frequent feelings of being watched, Alice seeming to know her way around her building…'Honestly, I couldn't in all good conscience allow you to carry this thing on flat ground let alone while traversing stairs…at least, I'm assuming you don't live on the first floor?'…and her cryptic warning to lock the door, no other vehicles in the parking lot of the costume shop, the dreams, the pull she'd felt that made her follow him, the maze and the disappearing pathway, the missing photos downstairs in the office, the dreams…

It's as if everything, starting with the very first dream all those months ago, has been leading her, almost herding her, to this room…to this moment …but why?

"So Alice…and Jasper…" she asks instead.

"My sister and brother…so to speak."

"And they were part of this…whatever this is?"

"Yes," he says, and she nods, as if it matters, as if he needs her approval, which he clearly doesn't. He says nothing.

"And the missing pictures, they were really of you? This was your house?"


"Why did you remove them?"

"I didn't want to reveal my hand too soon. I couldn't risk you remembering, not then, not there. Seeing them shouldn't have caused you to, but your mind works…differently than most peoples, and I couldn't risk it."

She doesn't know whether she should be offended or not, but it turns out it doesn't matter; she never gets the chance. Everything finally hits her, crashes down on her and knocks her flat, and she visibly pales. Still he says nothing, simply clenches his jaw, but when she wobbles slightly, having grown dizzy, he scolds her. "Drink, Isabella. The last thing either of us needs is for you to fall faint…the couch notwithstanding," he adds with an only slightly malicious smirk, his teeth flashing bright white and sharp in the candlelight.

She has enough self-preservation to not argue, and dutifully drains her glass – grateful for the way it seems to help steel her nerves. When she hands him the empty goblet, he magics it away with a gust of wind the same way he conjured it there in the first place, and asks, "Shall we talk now, Isabella?"

"I thought we were…" she starts, but the look on his face has her changing her tune. "I mean, if that's what you wish," she answers, hoping to appease him and make it out of there alive.

"Who I am…"

"I know who you are…well, what you are," she blurts, forgetting about self-preservation for a moment.

He smiles indulgently at her. "And what is that, Isabella. Enlighten me, please."

The word is on the tip of her tongue, dying to slip out – no pun intended – but she freezes because to say it is to make it real, and she doesn't know if she's ready for it to be real just yet…or ever. This can't be happening to her, this has to be a Halloween prank of some sort, a trick, and any moment now she'll get her treat. As much as she'd like to go on believing that for as long as she possibly can, she knows she's just delaying the inevitable truth.

"Well, I'm waiting." His tone's lost its velvety texture, it's gritty and course like sandpaper against her skin, and she chafes under its pressure. Opening her mouth, she sputters, but she still can't seem to spit it out. She wishes just once in her life, she could have kept her mouth shut and her foot out of it.

"Say it, Isabella! Out loud! Now!" he bellows at her frightfully, causing her heart to nearly stop – he hears the stutter, and smiles – before racing so fast, she's certain it's going to burst from her chest at any moment.

"Vampire," she wheezes, closing her eyes tight, and hoping against hope that when she opens them, he'll be gone…but it doesn't happen.

Instead, she hears his voice – all smooth and caressing, once again – and feels his breath on her ear, too close for comfort. "Now, was that so hard?"

"No," she chokes out, too afraid of the consequences to even consider not answering him, but it doesn't escape her notice that, exactly as she remembers from her dreams, he doesn't answer her.

"Who or what I am isn't so much important as who and what you are to me, or rather, what I believe you to be, and what I intend to do with you."

"Am I wrong?" she questions hopefully, choosing to ignore the portentousness of his statement. Her eyes lift eagerly to the face of her beautiful, but terrifying captor. How can someone so indefinably beautiful be so frightening? she wonders.

"All the better to draw our prey – to draw you in – my dear one."

Had she spoken that aloud? She couldn't remember, but was still trying to when he continued – answering her question with a question, naturally.

"Will confirming or denying your fears make it easier to accept? In the long run, does who or what I am really matter? Knowing it won't change your fate."

"What is my fate?" Bella hears herself ask, but she isn't sure that she wants the answer to this question, either.

He tents his fingers and holds them in front of his face, the longest one touching his full bottom lip, while fixing her with a ponderous look. "That is what we are here to find out. I'm still…undecided, at the moment. It all depends," he answers ambiguously with a wave as he un-tents his fingers one-by-one.

"On what?" she volleys.

"Oh, a variety of things – on you, on me, on us, on which…hunger I yield to. You know – this and that."

"That's rather vague," comes her retort, getting angry now. She's not a yo-yo; she doesn't like being toyed with, and she tells him so.

"I think you'll find, dearest Isabella, that I'm not all that interested in what you like. This isn't about you; it's about what I want. Right now, I want you; I simply can't decide how."

"You've been planning this for months and, now that the big moment has come, you can't decide? Sounds to me like you have performance anxiety. They have pills for that, you know."

"Do you want to die?" he rages, towering over her and suddenly looking every inch the ferocious vampire that she still isn't certain he is (but isn't certain he isn't, either). She may, she thinks, if only to end this purgatory she's currently in. Of course, she doesn't say this out loud; she's a lot bolder in her head than in reality where his ire has her cowering in the corner of the sofa. "If that's what you want, I can make that happen for you. Insult me again, and I'll make the decision for you. Trust me when I say that it won't be in your favor.

"Now, if you're done behaving so impudently…" letting the sentence trail off, he stops and assesses her, waiting until he has her attention before continuing. "This was set in motion more than just months ago, try years. And I already told you why I'm undecided," he pauses, taking a moment to look her over in such a way that Bella finally understands what it means be 'eye-fucked', and then his gaze falls longingly to her neck, locking in on the throbbing of her jugular. "I assure you, my indecision has nothing to do with performance anxiety. I'm more than ready to…perform."

She shivers, telling herself that it's the fear prompted by his words rather than from the innuendo dripping from his double entendre, causing it. Another puzzle piece falls into place, and now it really is fear causing her to shiver.

"1989…the year I was born," she whispers to herself, indicating the year that the house was donated to the college, specifically to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. She brings her eyes back to his face, and he tilts his head to her in a nod, looking slightly impressed as he confirms what she's just put together.

"With all the time and effort that's been expended to get to this moment," he adds, "I need to be certain of my decision before I make it. After all, once it's made, it can't be undone."

"Why me?" she demands shakily, a tinge of hysteria staining her voice. Ignoring her, he sniffs the air – his eyes closed, a cruel smile transforming his face, and his mouth working like he can taste her on his tongue – and her skin crawls. Strangely, she feels more violated by this than if he had just forced his tongue down her throat, and she doesn't understand it.

"Something about you calls to me – both to the man and the…beast, but don't worry, il mio amore, I would never force myself upon you. If I take you to my bedchamber, you will come as my willing guest," he all but coos his promise, licking his lips lasciviously. She shouldn't find it even the slightest bit arousing, but she does…only the slightest bit though, and she'd never admit it. Smirking at her, he looks as if he's on the edge of laughter, and combined with her annoyance over her own traitorous thoughts, it's enough to push her over the edge.

She moves with a speed that startles them both, and seems to astound him so greatly that he doesn't even attempt to stop her hand from connecting with his face, though she knows very well that he could have. The flat of her palm meets his rock-hard cheek with a resounding thwack! Bella bites back the cry that bubbles up as pain radiates out in waves from her already-injured wrist; she won't give him the satisfaction of knowing she's hurt. After a moment, she somehow manages to vehemently vow, "Never! I will never willingly go anywhere with you. Not even if my life depended upon it, you sick, demented fuck."


As soon as the words are out her mouth, she crumples back against the couch clutching her wrist to her chest and trying not to sob, her moment of courage revealed for exactly what it was: mere bravado that once spent, was gone, leaving her the same scared little girl she knows herself to be. She's not courageous, and what she did – poking a hornet's nest after the hornets have already warned you that they'll sting you – wasn't brave; it was stupid.

Clearly, she's pushed both him and her luck too far, because the very moment she closes her mouth on the last syllable, he is on her – over her – much like in her dream. However, unlike her dream, there is nothing about it that's sensual and nothing seductive in his face; he's frightening, and she would cry if she could only remember how. Reaching up with one cool, long-fingered hand, he grips her chin painfully, forcing her to meet his eyes. His face is close enough that their noses are practically touching, and she can taste his sweet breath.

"I warned you once not to insult me. Don't. Push. Me. Don't make me do something both of us may regret. A bit of advice: there's a thin line between feisty and foolish. Watch that you don't cross it," he warns, his eyes black and terrifying. She thinks he's being nice though; she knows she's already crossed that line. He releases her chin to brush his hand, cool and soothing, softly over her wrist, the gentleness of the gesture confusing her contrary as it is to his manner literally seconds before. Still touching her wrist, he looks pained as he whispers, "You broke it. You should be more careful."

He tilts his head, his face pressing closer, and his lips ghost across hers. His hand is back at her chin, turning her face to the side, and his nose trails across her cheek to the hollow below her ear where he takes a deep breath. The draw of air and his flesh on hers leaves the spot cold, and she shivers, causing his entire body to go stiff and his hand to tighten its grip on her chin almost to the point of pain.

"Don't move. Be very still," he instructs in a soft voice that's heavy with the same tension that's apparent in his body, and now Bella's, as she mirrors him.

Some sick, dormant, and obviously masochist part of her awakens, sighing over the eroticism of the position she's found herself in, and it takes all of Bella's control to not shift underneath him, wanting something…more, but she can't, or won't allow herself to put her finger on what it is. It's getting more difficult to maintain her stillness, her muscles protesting the rigidity she's forcing on them. Just when she thinks she can't possibly remain motionless any longer, she feels him relax above her, and with a sigh, the tension leaves her body. He doesn't immediately remove himself from above her, and the longer he remains there, the more aware she becomes of his body against hers.

Despite their clothing, every point of contact between them is like a bright spot of light heating her flesh until she no longer feels his chill. A small movement brings his lips in contact with the column of her neck, causing her pulse to race wildly. Is this the end, she wonders, tensing, but he simply places a chaste, lingering kiss there before pulling his head away and staring down at her, his soft eyes reminding her of the way he always looked at her in her dreams. He turns her head so she's facing forward again, and they just stare at each other, as if they're looking for something in the others' eyes. His hand leaves her chin to brush over her cheekbone and then he slides his fingers into the loose waves of her hair.

When his eyes shift to her mouth, her lips part expectantly, but rather than kiss her as she's expecting, he closes his eyes and inhales deeply. He opens his eyes and the tawny ochre is replaced by a darkness darker than her own brown, darker even than black, and her fear surges back to the forefront. She can't deny the hint of lust that she feels, in spite of knowing that it's for the dream Edward, and not the horror-film-Edward hovering over her.

A long, contemplative look, and he says, "Your rapid cycling emotions are going to give me whiplash. You switch between lust and fear so frequently that my mind can barely keep up, and trust me when I say that that is a feat. I thought it would help me choose, but it leaves me in more of a quandary than before. Unable, as I am, to decide which smells better: your fear or your arousal. Hmm, I shall have to think on it some more, but while I'm thinking, dance with me."

And he's suddenly standing in front of the couch, his hand extended to her. She wants to refuse his offer, but she knows he wasn't offering, so she takes his hand, rising, and they dance for an unknown amount of time. Stopping at infrequent intervals, he plies her with more of the sweet red wine, and by the time they take their final bow and he leads her back to the couch, she's thoroughly intoxicated from both the wine and his vicinity. Their eyes never leave each other as he helps her settle, stretched out, on the couch.

Not releasing his hand, she tugs him to her, wanting him closer for some unknown reason that she can't even begin to explain – not that she wants to – and he allows it. Settling over her with his hips wedged between her parted thighs in a position that is becoming familiar to both of them, he gazes down at her. "Is this close enough?"

"No, closer," she whispers with a sultry pout, and he presses closer, but it's not close enough so she whispers against his lips, a hairsbreadth away from hers, "Closer, still."

Mutually closing the distance between them, their lips finally meet, and she sighs. Her soft exhalation seems to set something off in him, and he takes control of their kiss with a possessive, dominating growl that arouses her. She shouldn't like this, shouldn't need more, but she is far too gone to refute any of it. His growl makes her want so much – to be possessed, dominated, owned by him – and she arches her back, offering herself to him; he happily accepts.

He shifts, rocking back onto his knees between her parted thighs, and moves his hands toward her chest as if he's about to crudely grab her breasts, but she doesn't think he would do that…would he? She starts to back away from his reaching hands when they seem intent on doing exactly that, and the reality of being awkwardly groped like they're in high school and inexperienced virgins pulls her out of her lust-induced haze. She freezes, her shame and mortification over the slutty way in which she's acting temporarily rendering her immobile, and it's just long enough to allow him time to slip his long fingers down her bodice and pull.

The sound of the tearing fabric is what finally snaps her out of it, and she feels her desire rush back, full force, as she stares down, watching as the fabric shreds so easily under his hands…hands that she wants on her…in her…

She moans softly, but needily. He stops as the tear nears her belly button and releases the two halves of her bodice, letting the fabric fall to the sides, exposing her and he stares. Bella makes no attempt to cover herself, doesn't feel the need or want to, and she has a feeling he wouldn't allow her to do so anyway. The appreciative, hungry way he's staring at her makes her feel powerful and in control…for a moment.

Hovering above her again with no warning, his tongue laves a line from the center of her throat to the valley between her breasts, causing her to gasp, and a heady but equal mixture of desire and fear to swirl in her stomach. She wants more of it – more of this feeling of need and fright, loving his forcefulness, and she tells him so, moaning out, "More! Please more!"

He complies, rucking up her skirt, pushing her panties aside, and slipping one, then two fingers inside her. Devouring her breasts greedily, moving back and forth between them, he thrusts his fingers in and out, each upward thrust of his, meeting a downward thrust of hers. She's driven to the edge quickly, but rather than cool their ardor, her orgasm only seems to spur them both on. She can't find it in herself to care how wanton she's acting or how loudly she's urging him on, not with the way he's looking at her: mesmerized and in awe as if he can't believe he's making her feel this way, drawing these reactions out of her.

Using his fingers while his lips and tongue explore her chest, neck and mouth, he brings her to orgasm two more times, and still she begs for more. Desperate and wanting, her eager fingers scramble for his belt buckle so tenaciously that he's forced to restrain her hands above her head with one of his – taking care to not harm her wrist – while the other sees to his pants himself; he doesn't want her to further injure herself or feel any pain, and he tells her so. A small portion of her mind thinks that's an odd thing for him to say since he all but told her that he is considering killing her tonight, but she doesn't want to think about her death.

Or maybe the possibility of her impending death makes her want to enjoy this as much as she can. She's not sure, but whatever the reason and despite the outcome of the evening, she's been safe and rational for too long; she wants this, wants him. Giving up, she gives in to the dark, and the last remaining shred of herself that she has been holding back – that has been holding her back – joins the rest of her. She surrenders herself to him fully and it feels like falling.

She wants to touch him or writhe beneath him, but his hold on her broken wrist above her head prevents it, so instead she watches him with heavy eyelids and lust-filled eyes, licking her lips in anticipation. His jacket and ascot had disappeared ages ago, leaving just his shirt – half-unbuttoned with some of them missing altogether – which he quickly shoves up and out of the way, and his pants, which, fueled by their mutual urgency, he only manages to shove halfway down his legs.

He lines himself up, lifts his head, peering deeply into her eyes, and then with one sure thrust he ensconces himself fully inside of her warm, slick depths, causing them both to gasp. This, she thinks, this is what's always been missing. She's never felt this desperate, all-consuming need that she feels now, or this fullness, this completion, either. Meeting each of his movements as he withdraws and plunges forward again, they assume a desperate, primal rhythm – surging against each other, taking the pleasure they need and giving in return, they scratch and claw their way to the peak.

Panting and gasping, both of them on the cusp of ecstasy, his mouth leaves her lips to whisper in her ear, "You are mine, il mio amore. Always… Forever…"

As she starts to tumble from the heights of ecstasy, unintentionally taking him with her, he bares his teeth, giving her the gift of either eternal slumber or eternity…he's still undecided.

~ Fin ~

1. …palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss… - Act I, Scene IV, Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
2. …he thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts… - It, Stephen King

This story is complete. Unsatisfying as it may be, this is how it ends. I'll leave it to you to decide whether Bella lives or dies, because I have no clue.

Several of you have expressed interest in wanting to know why Bella dislikes being called Isabella. It was merely a plot device used to illustrate that Bella is all alone in the world, having lost her parents to some unknown, tragic accident. If you look closely enough, the answers are there, but I may have been too subtle about it. (If that sounds cocky, please forgive as it wasn't meant that way. It's just that, since I wrote it, it's all so obvious to me. I sometimes forget that the reader lacks the knowledge that I have. Lol.)

Thanks for reading. This was a bit different for me, but I really wanted to try my hand at writing something that was dark without being angsty. I apologize if I missed the mark, or if the ending was anti-climatic. I rather like how it ends, but you'll have to let me know.

Happy Halloween!