A/N: I entered this oneshot for the Enchantments contest and it won judge's pick first place! Please read and enjoy!
Enchantments Contest Entry
WINNER: Judge's pick - FIRST PLACE
Title: Into The Deep
Word Count: 9992
Fantasy Element or Creature: Nymphs (Greek mythology)
Summary: Into The Deep things never sleep; they peep, and creep, and weep. Take heed of one's warnings, and bypass the callings of things that seem pretty, but deep down they seep.
An arrogant and self absorbed Edward is dragged on a vacation to Greece by his mother. What he finds there will open his eyes in more ways than one.
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I make no profit from using her characters in this story. No copyright infringement is intended.
I sat across from Esme in the coffee house and rubbed my hand over the five o'clock shadow on my jaw.
"Mother, it's impossible for me to leave now," I complained, trying to be as gentle as possible with this let down. "We're in the middle of financial reports and the directors are coming in next week for the Annual General Meeting. It's a bad time. I'm too busy."
"Honey," she coaxed, sitting forward. "You're always busy. It's always a bad time. You haven't had a vacation in five years, you missed Thanksgiving dinner, and I've counted five new strands of grey hair on your head since last week."
I grabbed my hair when she said that and turned to face my reflection in the window.
"I do not have grey hair," I gasped, running my hands nervously through my hair.
"Business will be fine without you for one week, Edward. Your father and Jasper will keep the board occupied and handle the AGM in your absence. I assure you, the company won't die without you there to spoon feed everyone. And a natural disaster won't materialize in New York City just to mash Cullen & Sons Ltd. into the ground. I won't take no for an answer."
I sat back in the chair and passed my hand over my face, giving myself a mental kick for walking right into this. There was no way I was flying to Greece for a week when the most important meeting of the year was about to happen. I never missed the AGM. I fucking hosted the AGM.
So what if I didn't eat properly, slept in the office, had high blood pressure and needed a liver transplant at twenty-seven years old. I wasn't going to let my mother kidnap me for a week of seclusion just so that she could fuss about my health and unhealthy lifestyle. Not to mention, I hated nature. I had no interest in cottages and lakes or trees that went on for miles. I wanted brick and mortar, phones that rang with rich bastards on the other end, sky scrapers that touched the fucking clouds, and multi million dollar contracts falling into my lap.
What the hell was I going to do cooped up in a cottage on a Greek island with Esme for an entire week? Drive myself crazy, that's what. It wasn't going to happen.
Two Days Later
"Would you like me to stow that for you in the overhead compartment, Sir?"
"Thanks," I mumbled to the flight attendant, handing her my laptop carrier.
"You're welcome. Your seat folds down into a bed if you should want to sleep, and here is the wine list. Press this button when you need an attendant."
"Yes, yes. I know how this works," I grunted, waving her away irritably.
"I'll have the Moet Chandon, dear," Esme ordered, resting her hand on mine to shut me up.
"Yes ma'am," the young girl answered, smilingly. "And you, Sir?"
"I'm fine," I said, pulling my hand out from under Esme's.
I'd already swallowed enough sleeping pills to put down a horse. All I wanted was to sleep through this flight without unnecessary fussing. So I pulled the blinders over my eyes and eased the seat into the horizontal, reclining position and snuggled under the blanket.
"Good night, Mother," I said.
"Sweet dreams, darling."
Greece was overwhelmingly hot. I felt like I'd stepped out of the freezer in Manhattan, and into a Mediterranean oven. We travelled from New York directly to Athens, then from Athens to Crete by boat. I wished that Esme had done her research about the route before hand, however. Otherwise, I wouldn't have travelled in an Armani suit; now sodden with sea blast.
"You have to be fucking kidding me," I said with an asinine chuckle, on coming face to face with a Donkey on the jetty in Crete. The young boy who sat on top held his hand down to me, while an older man was strapping my luggage across the Ass' ass.
"Edward," Esme snapped, with a disparaging look. "Sshhh!"
"Mother, I swear to God. You will be the end of me."
She tried to be all dandy and embracing of the donkey ride, but I saw the distinct look of discomfort on her face when she realised she had to stick her Jimmy Choo's in the dirty grip. And I suppose my expression wasn't entirely backward when my pressed pants had to be hiked up in order to get my leg over the creature.
And of course, like the instinctual being he was, he jerked when we touched, as if he sensed my aversion to him and decided we wouldn't be friends. I grabbed on to the boy in front of me with the jerk and widened my eyes at Esme; still pondering the dirt on her shoes.
Her donkey seemed to like her.
We moved up the side of the steep cliff, one donkey in front and one behind, until we came to the top, which overlooked the wide expanse of blue ocean.
"Oh my God," Esme gasped. "Edward! Isn't it just...beautiful?"
"My ass hurts," I answered. Then I looked down at the creature between my thighs and raised one eyebrow. "No pun intended."
By the time we got to the station where we could take a bus to the cabin, I was sore and walking like a bow legged cowboy.
"Why can't we stay in one of the hotels in town?" I complained. "They will have internet access out here."
Pointing a brochure into my face she said, "That is exactly why I'm taking you Into The Deep."
"Into the what? That's actually the name of the place?"
"Yes. It's a lovely nature lodge on the edge of the forest. I booked a private cottage for us. It's quiet and secluded and you'll be able to relax. You can forget about using your cell, too. I doubt you'll get reception out there."
"You can't be serious." I laughed out, incredulously. "You didn't say anything about stashing me away in the forest, Mother. I agreed to this vacation on the condition that I could bring my work with me."
She shrugged and smiled at the elderly man behind the information desk in the bus station. "I said you could bring your work with you, darling. I didn't say you'd be able to do any of it."
"This is entrapment."
She took my hand and started toward the bus, which was still being loaded with passengers' luggage.
"Signomi," the man called as we were walking away. We stopped and turned to look at him.
"I'm sorry," Esme said with a giggle. "We don't speak Greek."
He smiled then and shifted his eyes between us.
"My apologies," he said, his speech crusted with a thick Grecian accent. "Into The Deep? Ya?"
"Yes," Esme answered, smilingly. "Do you know it?"
"It is beautiful," he said, with discomfiting wisdom in his eyes. "Enchanting, but...there is something you should know."
He leaned forward and dropped his voice with a finger pointed upward. Esme was way too enthralled by his bizarre behaviour to be taken seriously any more. I couldn't wait to hitch a flight back to New York, and was already planning on getting the lodge owners to let me pay to get the internet wired all the way to the forest.
"The bridge," the man said, turning his eyes toward me in particular. "Should not be crossed."
"What bridge?" Esme asked, her smile stretching from ear to ear.
"There is a bridge off a ways that leads deep into the woods. The lodge owners don't talk about it because the myths scare the guests away." Then he looked at me. "But some need to be warned more than others."
"Listen old man," I quipped, unnerved by the direction of his focus.
I shoved my finger into my chest. "Not a nature person, mm kay? So your bridge is pretty safe. I don't want to go into the woods or into the deep or into anything that isn't an air conditioned hotel room, or a pretty little..."
"Edward, shut up," Esme cut in, tugging my hand downward. Then she glanced at the weather beaten guru with white hair and sun burnt skin.
"He just doesn't want us to go wandering and get lost in the forest. That's all. Isn't that right, sir?"
A twinkle caught his eyes, like an old man telling ghost stories to his eager grandchildren around a camp fire.
"Lost is an interesting way of putting it," he said with a weathered smile. "But according to the myth, when handsome young men go beyond a certain part of the woods...they don't come back."
"Okaaay...Come on, Edward," Esme said, pulling me toward the street. "The bus is ready, let's go."
I chuckled cynically at the white bearded man and followed Esme out.
The bus ride lasted forty-five minutes, and I couldn't help but notice with concern that everyone else got off at stops along the way. Esme and I were the only ones left on the bus in the last fifteen minutes. And while she was happily smiling out of the window, I was nervously avoiding pointed eye contact with the driver in the rear view mirror.
When we stopped in front of a wooden gate, I leaned over Esme and peered out the window. There was nothing but flora and fauna in sight. I didn't see a hotel or cottage anywhere.
"We are here," the driver said, raising his eyes to the mirror again.
I stood into a crouched position with a sigh and stepped off the bus, torn between my relief to get away from his prodding stare, and my discomfort with this place.
"Where is the hotel, Mother?" I asked, making a complete circle on the spot.
"Nature lodge," she corrected, then she bent her head toward the driver, who never came out to off-load our luggage. "Sir? Where do we go from here?"
He nodded toward the wooden sign shaped like an arrow that read Into The Deep, pointing toward a path between the trees.
"In there?" I asked with my eyebrows raised. "Mom..."
"Help me with my luggage, Edward," she cut in. "And pay the nice man."
Minutes later we were hobbling with our bags through the trees, along the cobblestoned path that the "nice man" could have driven us through in his bus. Thankfully, it wasn't a long walk. Before we knew it, a quaint but charming cottage-like structure appeared.
"I thought they said on the outskirts of the forest?" I mumbled. "All I see is fucking vegetation."
"Your attitude is exactly why I brought you here," Esme chided. "You need a retreat to clear your head and return to being my sweet son again. A five star hotel with all the amenities would serve no purpose in getting you to unwind. This is exactly what I had in mind, no internet and no distractions. Just peace...and quiet."
Then something stung me and I slapped my face. "And bug fever, apparently."
We were greeted by two women at the front desk who knew us on sight. One look around the place and it was obvious why. They weren't exactly over-booked.
My only reprieve was that they weren't hard to look at. They were attractive, smiled a lot, and their accents were just about the only charming thing about the place, in my opinion. They took us to our cottage and handed me the key. And despite my appreciation of their wide smiles, I was only too happy to close the door in their pretty little faces and fall face down onto the bed.
"How many days?" I mumbled into the mattress.
"Five," Esme chided, opening the partition between our two rooms. "And you won't die. When was the last time you took a trip with your mother?"
She opened the double doors which led to an outdoor porch, and just like every other five minutes before that...she gasped in delight.
"Edward, you have to come out here and see this!"
I rolled onto my back heavily and stared at the ceiling fan, trying to catch a blade with my eyes and count the rotations.
"Edward!" She called again.
"I thought you said you wanted me to relax."
"Listen to your mother and come here."
I dragged myself off the surprisingly comfortable King sized mattress and met her on the patio.
More trees. More flowers. More cobblestoned paths that wound in and out of rocks and fancy grottos. And the sound of running water somewhere.
"This is exactly what dreams are made of," she said, clasping her hands over her chest. "I have been to the world's finest hotels and have never seen anything quite as beautiful as this place. It's so peaceful here."
"How did you find this place, anyway?"
"I found it online. Should I order us some coffee?"
"I don't want anything," I answered, walking back inside. I unzipped my laptop carrier and pulled out my computer.
"What are you doing?" She demanded, following me in with her hands on her hips.
I glanced at her warningly, kicked off my shoes and shuffled backward onto the bed. "I have reports to write."
"Edward Cullen, put your computer away right now."
"There's no internet, Mother. I won't be long. I'm just finishing something."
"Edward...I brought you here to rest. You haven't been well. Don't think I don't know about the test results that came back three weeks ago. And the fact that you thought you could keep something like that from me is..."
I shut the laptop loudly and tossed it onto the mattress. "Is that why you brought me here? To corner me and fuss about my shit?"
"I'm only worried about my son. I'm not trying to corner you, but you don't talk about the things that matter, and you don't take care of yourself. You hide behind your work. You stay away from family gatherings, and you..."
I got off the bed and she stopped. With harsh movements, I shoved my feet back into my shoes, walked onto the patio, and jumped over the wooden banister.
"Where are you going?" She ran out after me.
"For a walk. You wanted me to enjoy nature? Watch."
"Edward! Come back!"
It wasn't easy to lose myself. Fifteen minutes or so of walking and I was already surrounded by thick foliage. I walked aimlessly until the cobblestone path disappeared and merged into overgrown tufts of grass.
I knew Esme had used this trip as an excuse to hover over me. She never "mothered" Jasper in this way. She never nagged him about his hours of work or tried to force feed him when he missed lunch one day. Me, she fussed over endlessly, which annoyed both Jasper and I; for different reasons perhaps, but annoyed us nonetheless.
Thus the reason I avoided family gatherings. I detested the accusation in Jasper's eyes for something I had no control over. It made me uncomfortable and guilty. And I hated the way Esme encouraged it, too blind to see how she hurt him with her unwavering focus on me, despite Carlisle's many warnings.
"Edward...when are you going to find a nice girl to marry? Edward...when last have you trimmed your hair? Edward...am I ever going to get grandkids? Edward...you have dark circles under your eyes. Where did you sleep last night, honey? Edward, your tie is crooked. Have you eaten for the day yet, Edward? Edward...Edward...Edward...!"
I raised my head suddenly and stopped to perk my ears. Strange. I thought I had heard laughter. Shaking my head absently, I stuffed my hands into my pockets, lowered my eyes again and continued to walk. Then I heard it again. It was definitely laughter...female laughter...like light giggling echoing over the air.
I turned around and looked back, and frowned at the small wooden bridge behind me. Funny. I couldn't remember crossing it. Then again, my mind was so far away that I could have but didn't realise.
The faint sound of laughter caught my ear again and I snapped my head toward the enchanting sound.
"Hello?" I called out. "Is someone out there?"
Of course, there was no answer. Only then did I notice the rippling lake a few feet away. I walked to the edge of the water and looked at my reflection. And in doing so, realised how dirty my shoes were. So I squatted and dipped my fingers in, about to pass some water over the tip of one shoe when the giggling passed over again. It was closer this time.
Standing up quickly, I put my hands on my hips and narrowed my eyes.
"Who's there?" I called.
Slight movement between two trees made me look to the left just in time to see the flash of pale skin disappearing behind a trunk. I frowned harshly and took a tentative step forward, then stopped. Whoever, or whatever it was, it was running away from me. And maybe...that was a good thing.
My heart started racing as I turned toward the bridge, cursing myself for being careless enough to get lost.
By some miracle the bridge was still there waiting for me, and I made it across to the other side without incident.
I thrashed through the woods once on the other side, trying to remember the way back, and lost count of the number of times I called myself a jackass. I could have gone anywhere else in the lodge to get away from Esme, but no, Edward chose to walk straight into the fucking forest.
"Good going, jackass."
I was lost.
I circled on the spot, trying to find even the slightest glimpse of the cottage through the leaves, but there was nothing but trees and more fucking trees. I kicked one of the trunks in frustration, turned and let my foot loose on the one behind as well.
"Okay, Edward," I said to myself, stopping to take a deep breath. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. "You're the Managing Director of a multinational empire. Calm the fuck down and try to remember the direction you came from."
"I will help you," came an unexpected, soft voice from behind.
"Holy mother of fuck!" I shrieked, whipping around to find the deepest pair of brown eyes I ever had the good fortune of meeting.
I stumbled backward awkwardly, my gaze falling to her bare breasts, then to the thin wire of branches tied around her hips.
"Jesus!" I cried, falling backward onto the ground. "Where did you come from?"
She didn't say or do anything but stand there like a poised goddess and stare down at me calmly.
My mouth dried up immediately. My tongue went languid and I lost my voice. Still, my eyes didn't lose their swagger. They wandered down her frame then up again, pausing on her pert nipples, naturally, before finding her face and the flowers that were woven into her dark hair.
Had I not been terrified by the unnatural aura around her, I would have grown inside of my pants. Instead, I dug my fingernails into the tree roots underneath me.
"Please don't do that," she said, looking down at my fingers.
I shook my head uncertainly, tightening my grip.
"You are hurting the tree," she answered. "Please, stop."
I did as she asked, and let go.
"I will help you," she said again, motioning with her hand for me to stand up. Her accent sounded like the girls' in the cabin, sweet and unmistakably Greek.
I gulped and got up clumsily, staring at her like she would disappear at any second. My heart raced. Everything about this felt like an out of body experience.
"Don't be afraid. I am here to help."
"Are you a ghost?" I managed to ask.
A whimsical smile touched her lips and she blinked away from me. She shook her head to indicate 'no', and the movement made some of her hair fall over her shoulders and cover her nipples. I was completely awe struck, both frightened and ensnared by her beauty.
"Come this way," she said, walking off.
I blinked and rubbed my eyes, trying to decipher if she was an illusion, but her stealthy figure continued to move through the trees. I also noticed the way she touched every tree trunk in reverence as she passed.
"Follow me, Mr. Edward," her dancing voice called.
"Wait, how do you know my name?" I asked, running after her.
"You said your name out loud before," she said. "I heard it."
Then she stopped and pointed. "If you follow this direction, you will come upon the cobbled path. Go. Do not turn left or right, and do not turn back."
"Who are you?" I asked.
"Go, Mr. Edward."
Then with a gentle shove, she pushed me in front of her.
By the time I turned back to ask more questions, she had vanished.
"Goooo..." I heard a whisper. "Before it is too late."
"Too late for what?"
But she was nowhere to be found.
After standing there like a fool for minutes on end, I stumbled in the direction she had pointed, and found the path. Dazed and confused I found the cabin again and walked straight into Esme's groping arms.
"Oh my God! Edward!" She shrieked as she hugged me to her. "Thank God you're alright. Where were you? Are you crazy, walking into the woods like that without a guide? I was worried sick. Don't you ever do that to me again!"
She held my face between her hands and searched my expression.
"What happened to you? You're as white as a ghost."
I took her hands from my face and shook my head dismissively. "I'm perfectly fine. Let's go inside."
My dreams were enchanted that night. I saw her again, the goddess in the woods, and I heard her calling my name. Her breasts glistened under the moonlight, and her hair whisked around her face. And by the next morning I was immersed in thoughts only of her.
I couldn't stop thinking about her and it bothered me that I couldn't say with certainty that any of it happened at all. It started feeling like a daydream. It very quickly turned into an obsession and by my third day I was planning to go back into the woods and right the questions in my head.
I needed the escape anyway. Esme was making it very difficult to stay cooped up with her 24/7.
She touched my hair too often, and whenever we ate she reached over the table with her napkin and dabbed at my mouth, like I was still a fucking toddler.
And the dreaded conversation about my health kept coming up, no matter how many times I tried to avoid it.
"Honey," she said, sadly. "I hope you know I mean well when I worry about you."
"I know, Mother, but you needn't worry so much. I can take care of myself."
"When were you going to tell me about your liver, Edward?"
I dropped my napkin and sighed. "I don't want to talk about it. Please don't force me to talk about it."
"I am your mother. This is not something you should or can keep from me. Have you any idea how crushing this is?"
"Answer something for me," I snapped. "And tell me the truth. Is this the real reason you brought me here? You force me halfway across the world and stick me in a corner of the forest so that you can interrogate me? Because I wouldn't be able to escape? You could have done this in New York City."
She bunched her napkin in her hands and turned her eyes away.
"You wouldn't let me," she said flatly. "You push me away. You push everyone away, and are so focused on work...only work. I know you, Edward. You're hiding. I know you aren't well, and you're trying to pretend like this isn't happening. But that's only going to make it worse. You are my son. How can I not worry about you?"
"Jasper works just as hard as I do, Mother. He's just as engrossed in work and just as detached from everything else. I don't see you fussing over him."
"Jasper isn't sick," she muttered. "And he takes me to lunch once a week. He and I understand each other, despite what you and your father may think. You, on the other hand...if I don't stalk you, I'd never see you."
One of the hostesses came to our table to clear away our plates. I noticed that she had stopped smiling me at two days ago, both her and the other hostess. With an exasperated breath I turned to Esme.
"You panicked everyone the day when I went for my walk, didn't you?" I asked, leaning over the table with a hushed tone.
"What do you mean?"
"Why does the hostess look so worried whenever she comes next to me? And how come the two of them are the only ones that seem to work in this place? Where the fuck are the people...in this place?"
"Don't try to change the subject. We're talking about your health."
"Geez, woman!" I exclaimed. "Seriously! You will kill me before my liver does."
"Edward!" She gasped, cupping her hand over her mouth.
"I gotta get outta here." I pushed my chair back and stood.
"Where are you going?"
"For a walk."
"Oh no you don't," she said, pushing her chair back too. "I'm not letting you go back out there by yourself. You don't know this place. You can't just go walking into the woods like Little Red Riding Hood. And she knew the woods but still got eaten by the wolf!"
"This isn't going to work, Mother. I can't stay here with you if you don't give me space to breathe. You wanted me to unwind and relax. That's what I'm trying to do."
"What if you get lost?" She turned to the two girls who were staring at us quietly and eating every word of our conversation. "Are there guides?" She asked them.
They shook their heads.
"No, we advise that our guests stay on the premises. We don't go into the woods. That is not our property."
"I'll be fine," I said, bending to kiss Esme on the cheek.
"What about the bridge?" She asked.
I hesitated. "If I find it, I won't cross it. I won't go far, I promise. I'm just going to find a tree to sit under and read. When I come back, we'll talk."
A spark of hope lit her eyes. "Do you mean that?"
I didn't take a book with me. I walked as fast as my legs could go and meandered through the trees in search of the bridge.
It was much harder to find when I was actually looking for it; impossible, in fact. I walked until I got thirsty, forgetting to factor in the Greek sun, and ended up slumping to the ground under a tree to rest.
"I must be crazy," I said to myself, closing my eyes with a sigh. Time passed and nothing happened. I stood up when it was clear that I was making a fool of myself, and headed back the way I came.
But then the distant echo of laughter stopped me. My heart skipped a beat as I turned toward it. Like an eerie symphony it found me through the trees, and like a blind man, I started groping toward the sound. I followed it like a map, using my ears as my guide, and was led straight to the bridge.
With a sigh of relief I held on to the rope railing and made my way across it. The laughter was louder on the other side. It was everywhere, like soft giggling; and not from just one girl, but from many. If only I could find them.
Just like the first day, I couldn't locate the source of the heavenly sound. I walked alongside the lake, passing my eyes over everything in sight, waiting for the owners to show themselves.
Then I heard it again. It passed in gleeful torrents, up and down the length of the lake then died to an infectious giggle.
"Where are you!" I called, wanting to laugh myself.
Movement on the surface of the water caught my eye then. Amongst the many lily pads was a wreath of flowers that moved ever so slightly. I narrowed my eyes and stepped onto the bank, watching as the wreath floated toward me. It stopped halfway across and emerged just enough for me to see the face of a girl rise out of the water.
"Holy fuck," I whispered, jumping backward.
The wreath was wrapped like an ornament around her head. There was a girl in the lake. And with only her eyes and nose above water, she peered at me curiously.
She started moving again, slowly, and I took another faulty step backward, considering running for the bridge.
"Hello," I said to her, when it was clear that I was too frozen to move.
The laughter lifted in the air again, still echoing as if it came from afar. Then suddenly, another head emerged from the water; then another...and another.
"Sweet mother of..."
Movement behind the bushes on the other side of the lake made my head snap up. A girl peeked out from behind a tree there too. Fumbling on my feet I bumped into a tree behind me and held on for dear life.
They were everywhere all of a sudden; all naked, all nubile and young, and all staring at me as if I was the last man on God's green earth. The ones on the other side of the bank stepped into the water and joined the rest. Then they were all parting through the lily pads, toward me. My eyes shifted nervously between them as I pressed against the tree, gulping like that was the last I would ever taste of the air.
How odd. This should have been every man's fantasy, yet still, I couldn't get my body to react accordingly. Seven pairs of breasts were coming in my direction, seven pairs of sultry eyes and seven pretty smiles.
And I was scared shitless.
One of them opened her mouth and started to sing, to which the others started to giggle and sway. And finally, I knew the source of the sound. It was them. The moment the sound met my ears something came over me and I relaxed unconsciously. Between their infectious laughter, their sultry body language and the hypnotic voice of the singing one, I was trapped.
I searched their faces for the one I had met the first day, but she wasn't there. These faces were new, taunting, luring me to the water's edge with their sounds and seductive movements. Before I knew it I was at the edge of the water, kneeling on a rock, with no memory of how I got there.
They reached up and touched me. I felt fingers in my hair, on my shoulders, on my arms, on my chest. One hand groped the inside of my thigh, and instinctively, I tried to move away. Still, they held on to me and when they felt my resistance, their touching changed from petting to demanding; their voices cooing, though none of them actually spoke a word.
"Wait," I said, trying to push their hands away with smile. "What are your names?"
When I talked their eyes lit up and they laughed again, exchanging glances of astonishment. Their fingers tightened on my flesh, like possessive hooks, about to pull me into the water with them.
I was both tempted and afraid. I didn't know what or who they were. They looked human, beautifully human, though at the same time...not.
I couldn't get my body to resist. I felt the distinct need to pull away, but my knees were slipping out from underneath me. I could see by their faces that they weren't trying to hurt me, perhaps. They looked more fascinated and playful than threatening, but I didn't like the feeling of being out of control; like they had some kind of power over me.
"He is mine," came a voice from behind. The moment I heard it, all hands fell away and the girls retreated in the water.
The hypnotic sensation lifted off of me, and I turned around to see the girl from the first day; the one I was looking for.
I stood up slowly and turned toward her, mesmerized once again by her command and composure.
"Mr. Edward, move away from the water's edge."
I did as she told me and stepped off the rock.
"It's you." I said. And she was even more beautiful than I remembered.
The ones in the water started grumbling. I looked back. They were holding on to each other and whispering in each other's ears. One of them stretched out her hand when I looked, and cooed in a strange animal-like sound, which made me cringe. A shudder passed through me and I put more distance between me and the lake.
The one at my side said something in Greek to the ones in the water. They all smirked. Some snorted. Some giggled and waved. But they all sank into the water one by one, and swam away.
Completely mind fucked, I turned back to my goddess and stared.
"Who are you?"
"Why are you here?" She asked, less amused than I had hoped.
"I came to find you."
"This is no place for you."
As she said that, her eyes darted to the side and her sense of calm vanished. Suddenly there was shrieking and wailing echoing through the woods, the sounds raising my pores in aversion. I inclined toward the goddess in my anxiety, thinking that she could somehow protect me from the strangeness.
"Come quickly," she said, and turned.
Where are we going?" I asked, following her.
I was much clumsier over the roots and rocks than she was. Her lithe movements over the terrain seemed more like a dance than a stride. She was in an awful hurry to get somewhere.
"Where are we going?"
"Hush," she said, over her shoulder. "Be quiet, and follow. And be careful with your footing."
A deep rumbling passed through the earth just then and the ground started to shake.
"An earthquake?" I stumbled forward, losing my balance through the vigorous shaking, but she was at my side in a flash, holding on to my arm.
"Don't worry, it's almost over,"she said.
"How can you tell?" I yelled.
Then just like that, it stopped.
My gasp of relief was audible. It took me at least ten seconds to digest what had just happened and convince myself that I was alright. I didn't even realise I was digging my nails into the trunk of a tree until she pointed it out to me.
"You're hurting the tree."
And so, I let go. "Sorry."
"Can you climb?"
As skilful as a cat she embraced the trunk and scaled it in a flash.
"Well I'll be damned," I muttered, looking up after her.
"Come up here."
"I haven't climbed a tree since I was twelve."
"You are still twelve somewhere inside of you," she said.
With a deep breath I lodged my foot against the base of it, flexed my muscles, and climbed that mother fucker.
Half an hour later I was sitting next to her on the lowest branch, dripping in perspiration.
"You were right," she said, with an intuitive smile. "You aren't twelve anymore."
"Show off," I quipped.
She turned her eyes outward and sat with her back perfectly straight, not needing to hold on like I did.
"You still haven't told me your name."
"My name is Swan," she said, keeping her eyes forward.
"Swan..." I repeated after her. "Perfect."
Being this close to her was intoxicating. I couldn't keep my eyes off of her.
"The lake is dangerous for you," she said. "You must stay away from there."
"Those women...who...no," I shook my head. "What are they?" Because I knew from the moment I saw them that they were anything but normal.
"Do you know Greek mythology, Mr. Edward?"
"Not much, I'm afraid."
She glanced at me then touched her lips with her finger before continuing.
"Those girls are nymphs of the water. And unlike the other creatures in that lake, they are quite warm blooded."
"Water nymphs, Mr. Edward...spirits of the lake. They dwell there."
"Spirits? So, they aren't...girls?"
"Do they look like any of the girls you know, Mr. Edward?"
"I guess not. No. But...what about you?"
I dreaded her answer, but knew it before she even said it.
"I am like them, yes."
"I am a wood nymph," she said confidently. "I dwell amongst the trees. I look out for them and they look out for me. We sustain each other."
I shook my head and passed one hand over my face in disbelief. "Forgive me," I said with a small chuckle. "But...I don't know...I mean...what on earth are you talking about?"
"Forget what you think you know about the world. When you are here, none of it will make any sense. Nymphs are spirits of the earth. We are scribed in Greek mythology as fable...legend. But as you can clearly see, we do exist."
As was obvious by my expression, I was still having trouble.
"Spirits of the earth, attached to landforms and the elements." She said.
"Can I touch you?"
I scratched at my stubble and looked below. "I must be dreaming."
"You are awake, Mr. Edward. You are also nosy and stupid. I told you not to come back...but still, you did."
"I had to see you again."
"Human males. No matter how many times I learn, I will never understand."
"What do you mean by learn?"
"Books." And she pointed upward. "I read, and learn...but still, I am amazed."
"You're not the only one amazed here, darling."
I looked up to see the bottom of a wooden platform nestled between the branches.
"What is that?"
"Do you want to see?"
She stood effortlessly and pulled herself up through the space in the platform. When her feet disappeared she poked her face back down through the hole and smiled at me. "Still twelve?"
Another half hour later, I was sitting on the floor of a makeshift tree house with my lungs in my hands. There were books everywhere. Thick, dusty books on the floor; books on a shelf, and books in the stringy hammock.
She looked at me softly, with a quiet understanding in her eyes that should have been unsettling, though it wasn't.
"What has made you unwell, Mr. Edward?" She asked. I tried not to scare myself with the fact that she sensed that.
With a deep breath I waved her question off. "Too much about me. Tell me about you. Is this where you live?"
"I live everywhere in the woods. This is where we read."
"My sisters and I. The wood nymphs."
"You have sisters?"
"NINETY FOUR SISTERS?"
Her giggle was endearing.
I took another few minutes to adjust my faculties to this outlandish dream and got to my feet.
"Where did you get all these books?"
"From travellers over the years," she answered. "They like to give us things."
"Like you, Mr. Edward."
"Male travellers, I assume."
The man at the bus station came to mind then, and I remembered his caution with chagrin, wondering exactly how much weight his warning held.
"Is this how you know how to speak English?" I asked. "By reading?"
"And the ones by the lake?"
"They do not read."
"Books cannot survive water. As well as, they are careless with everything they touch."
"Is that why they didn't speak to me? Because they couldn't?"
She leaned over to finger the spine of a book in the hammock and her breasts fell out from behind her sheath of dark hair. I tried not to ogle, but the feat was incredibly difficult.
"Why did you say the ones by the lake are dangerous?"
She stood upright and looked right at me. "They would have taken you for themselves and had their way with you. But they don't know how to take care of humans. They mean no harm...but the humans...they always die."
"They have no intellect for humankind, Mr. Edward. They only see a male and their passion takes over. It is not often a male comes through these woods. And God help them when they do. It is hard for the nymphs to...control themselves."
"So, in other words, you saved me."
She passed by me and went to stand by the hole in the floor, looking down pointedly.
"Have you saved others?" I asked.
She jumped through the hole then, and vanished.
I hurried to it and dropped to my knees, but she was fine, standing at the foot of the tree with her hands on her hips. She landed like a cat. When she started walking away, I panicked. So with all the skill I lacked, I slid down the trunk and bounced from branch to branch until I landed on the floor with a graceless thump.
Running behind her disappearing form, I called out to her. "Swan! Wait! Where are you going?"
"You must go back," she said. "I am taking you back."
"Not just yet. Please. I want to talk to you some more."
She turned around and faced me, and waited for me to catch up before lowering her voice in warning. And not for anything could I stop glancing down at her creamy breasts and upright nipples. Or the way her hips curved above the vines and leaves that were tied there.
Fuck, she was sexy.
"Mr. Edward, leave now before you can't. These woods are protected and overseen by forces that are out of my control."
"I only want to talk."
"We have talked enough. I will show you the way out, but you must promise that you won't return."
"Come with me," I said on impulse. "Back to New York City."
Her eyes sparkled immaculately, and I swore I saw red pool in her cheeks. "I cannot."
"Why not? I know it sounds ridiculous, but I could show you the world. Have you ever been outside of the woods before?"
"Mr. Edward...I cannot leave these woods."
"Tell me why."
"My spirit is connected to these trees."
I passed my eyes over the arrogant barks and grimaced, completely losing my mind to the illusion of her pretty face.
"Will you die if you are separated from them?"
"I only die if my tree dies."
"So, you have a particular tree."
"One of them is connected directly to me, yes. I live once it lives."
"And how long has it been alive?"
"You are only twenty..."
"And shall live to over one hundred if nature allows it. Though I will always look the same."
Forever young...God bless her.
I reached out and dared to take her hand. "Swan...I don't know what has come over me...but ever since I met you, you are all I can think about. If I go back, I will frustrate myself with thoughts of you and drive myself crazy. I want to know you better. Please...allow me."
"It is impossible. I took you away from the water because I wanted no harm to come to you. And in the same way...I must take you back."
I had no plan. I didn't know what I wanted from her, how long I would stay, or where to go from there. All I knew was that the thought of leaving and never coming back was daunting. In just a few hours I was besotted, driven more by an instinctual, masculine attraction to her than emotion. But still, it was powerful enough to cloud my better sense.
I simply had to know what it would be like to touch her.
"You took me away from the ones in the water...yes. And you said that you've never done that before..."
She broke our eye contact.
"You like me," I said..
She pulled her hands away from mine and looked at the ground. Her skin was warm and felt much more tender than I knew she was inside.
"You said I was yours," I continued.
"So that they would unhand you," she countered, looking up again. "Once you are claimed, they cannot touch you."
"Then make me yours, Swan," I said, taking a step toward her.
The potency of her aura was overwhelming. I neither felt like myself nor acted like it. It was definitely like an out of body experience, and suddenly, in that moment, standing there in front of her between the prodding trees, she was all I wanted.
"You don't know what you're saying..."
"I hear myself clearly." I raised my hand and stroked her cheek with a finger, running my eyes over her face and hair. "You like me, and I like you. All I want is..."
"I never said that I liked you."
"Then tell me you don't, and I will go back."
She frowned and dropped her eyes to the ground again.
I took her chin with my index and raised her face, taking another step closer. There was nowhere else to go. Her half naked body was almost touching mine and by the way her irises dilated I knew she was feeling the same electricity I did.
"There are eyes everywhere," she whispered, dropping her gaze to my lips.
"Your ninety four sisters?" I whispered back.
Her smile undid me, and when she nodded with her lip snagged between her teeth, I fell.
"Beautiful Swan," I mumbled. "Bella Swan."
"Bella?" She asked, still looking at my mouth.
"It means beautiful, in Italian. It seems I should add an Italian dictionary to your collection."
"Are you from Italy, Mr. Edward?"
"My grandparents were."
With her face upturned to mine and her lips parted like they were, it was all I could do to not grab her hungrily and mold her against me. I was well aware that her otherworldly divinity had everything to do with my entrapment, but at that moment I was without presence of mind. Common sense failed me miserably. I was asunder. I wanted, if not needed, the spell of her kiss. I was not leaving the woods without at least that.
"You like me, don't you Bella?"
"Yes," she answered. "And I like that name very much, Mr. Edward."
I held her face gently in my hands and bent, holding my eyes to hers until I couldn't because of how close we were, and her fingers curled possessively into my shirt. I had her.
"Then you can be my Bella."
The first press of our lips together was enigmatic. I felt a lustrous energy shoot through her and snare whatever self-constraint I had left. This girl...this...thing...wanted me. And I didn't have the kind of control I needed to take the straight and narrow. Not when the wider path was so goddamned pink and soft and cooing against my lips.
What would it be like to bed a goddess? Someone who belonged neither to my world nor the earth in any capacity that I understood?
Could the magnitude of what was rushing through me kill me? I was about to find out.
I felt her breasts. I felt them. Those lovely things that danced freely around the woods came to press against me as she wrapped her arms around my waist. I stepped forward and pushed her backward, holding her face between my hands as we kissed, feeling like she would break if I squeezed too hard.
I backed her up against a tree and pinned her there, moving one hand to palm the bark over her head.
"If you become mine, it will stay that way until you die," she whispered.
"I am already yours," I whispered back, unable to conceive the thought of being with any normal woman after this.
I passed my hands over her shoulders and down her arms, rejoicing quietly at her soft moan when I spread my fingers over her breasts and cupped her. Her mouth grew voracious as she grabbed for my hair and pulled my face flush with hers.
Her energy was igniting. She was nubile. She was sexual. She was heated. She had gone from a mystical, quiet fawn, to a seductive explosion.
I grabbed her hips and lifted her then wrapped her legs around me. I was sure she was naked under that sorry excuse for a garment around her hips. So soft she was...so soft.
Before I knew it, we were on the bed of dry leaves on the ground with her legs hiked up at my sides. Her back was arched as she squirmed underneath me, as I touched her everywhere. Exploring her body was like something out of a dream. The creases under her butt cheeks, the underside of her thighs, the flat planes of her stomach, every part of her drove me wild.
I slid one finger into her then two, trying to gauge how ready she was to take me. Her walls were tight but her head fell back in a manner that suggested she wanted more. So I gave her more.
"Make me yours..." she gasped, raising her head slightly, then dropping it heavily against the ground again. "Make me yours!"
My face fell into her neck as I pulled my fingers out of her and freed myself from inside my pants. I was hurting to thrust into her. My body couldn't stand the tension anymore. The longer I waited the less patient she got and for someone who was supposed to be new at this, she knew all the right signals to throw at me.
That of course was my own assumption, because Swan never told me she was a virgin.
Her nails sunk into my back when I pushed myself halfway inside of her. She was so tight, I didn't want to hurt her. After pausing for a while and paying for it dearly under the fire in her eyes, I shoved my way in fully. She felt incredible on the inside.
I pulled out then went in again, then again, and again. And every thrust made her cry out with a sensual frown on her forehead.
"You are mine," she gasped through our rhythm. And finally, the gravity of her words hit me. "For all time, you are mine..."
I ground my teeth together, eyes fastened to hers, and pounded into her over and over, increasing both the pace and the force with every push.
We were breathless and panting, sweating and groaning, then a moment of fear gripped me when the first glint of damnation passed through her eyes.
Something in her touch changed. Her hands became possessive, and her body language got aggressive.
I dropped my head and closed my eyes, so that I couldn't see, trying to fool myself into believing this could end well. I felt when my body started revving before the climax. The sweet burn overran and I held my breath as the last second of upheaval burst out into her.
What have I done?
"You are mine," she whispered, as I collapsed into her arms. Disoriented and languid, I rolled off her chest and squinted against the sun above.
"Yes," I answered with a sigh, turning my face to look at her next to me. "So, now will you come with me?"
"I can't leave the woods," she said, still glowing in post coital bliss. "And now, neither can you."
"Huh?" I grumbled, sitting up slowly.
"You will stay here with me, and I will take care of you."
"Errrr, no, Swan," I said with a dismissive chuckle, buttoning my pants. "I can't stay here."
She got to her feet gracefully and put her hands on her hips.
"You were the one that came back for me."
"Yes, I came back to find you because I like you...a lot. But I never intended to stay. That's ludicrous."
Now these were the things I should have made clear at the beginning. She had been right about me, of course. Human males - we were hapless and stupid when confronted with the guile of beautiful women. I was doomed from the start. Swan wasn't only beautiful, she was naked and sexual and she ran freely amongst the trees. At what point exactly was common sense supposed to outweigh the appeal of her staring nipples?
She had tried to warn me, yes, but I didn't expect this.
A grim shadow fell over her face. Her sweet projections from before vanished, and her eyes were suddenly cold and accusing.
"You won't be allowed to leave, Mr. Edward."
"What are you talking about? Who's going to stop me?" An answer I prayed never to find out.
"Look, we can talk about this back at the cottage, okay?" I tried. "I'll get you some of Esme's clothes and we can sit down and talk over a meal. What do you eat anyway?" I asked, looking around in abysmal worry.
What. have. I. done...
"I can take care of you, Swan," I went on, nervous now. "I'm wealthy, and would actually like to show you my world."
Silhouettes started emerging from between the trees then. I looked to the left then to the right, turned around, then back again. All of a sudden, there were half naked girls everywhere, stepping out from behind the dozens of tree trunks all around me.
Two of them came forward and stood on either side of Swan, one with short black hair and the other with long blond hair.
The fear that enveloped inside of me was castrating. I literally felt the intangible bond that linked them all together, like a life form that groped toward me and shot through every molecule in my body.
I dashed through the trees like a coward, running like a blind man with no direction or focus. Seconds into my flee however, my feet rooted themselves to the ground and I fell forward.
I managed to pull myself upright again, but couldn't get my feet dislodged from the earth. I stared down at them in horror, wriggling and writhing in vain. Then they started transforming before my wild eyes, into tree roots, planting me right there on the spot.
"What the fuck?"
I whipped my head back to the girls and screamed in terror as the bark crept up my legs, slowly but surely, turning me into a tree.
"SWAN!" I screamed. "SWAAAAN!!"
"You said you'd be mine," she said, a hurt and disappointed look in her eyes. "Then you tried to leave after you got what you wanted from me."
My thighs were now wood, binding my two legs together. "SWAN!" I screamed in terror.
I felt my body crack and twist as my torso transformed, then it took my arms too, forcing them up and out.
More branches came out of my elbows, then my fingers spawned leaves in seconds. Before I knew it my face was taken as well, and I lost my voice. I heard the wood as it cackled and claimed all of my face, even felt when a spout of new branches and leaves burst off the top of my head.
It was over. And in none of my most gruesome nightmares was I ever this mortified.
Swan stepped in front of me then. I saw her face. She looked endearing as she touched me with admiration and sadness in her eyes.
"I actually liked this one, Alice," she said to dark haired nymph at her side. "When you change your mind, Mr. Edward, you will be freed again. You have lots of time to think it over. And don't worry, when you have a change of heart... I'll know."
She turned away then and danced through the trees with Alice and the blond one behind.
"Honey?" Came Esme's voice through the haze. She was shoving me gently. Opening my eyes, I sat up and gaped at her stupidly. "Are you alright?"
My heart was thundering in my chest as I passed my eyes over every inch of the airline, on the verge of joyous tears when I realised what had happened.
"Holy shit," I gasped, still nervous and unsure as I passed a hand over my face. "It was a dream."
"Welcome to Athens," came a voice over the intercom. "Please observe the fasten your seatbelt sign and prepare for landing. We hope you had a comfortable flight with us, and we thank you for flying with Delta Airlines."
"Are you okay?" Esme asked again. "You look shell shocked!"
"Mom," I said, fastening my seatbelt with shaky hands. "I love you. Promise me that whatever happens when we get to this place that you won't let me near the woods, and I will be just fine."
"I love you too, darling. And sure thing. That was some dream!"
"You have no idea. What's the name of this hotel anyway?" I asked.
"Oh, I'm glad you asked. I found it online actually. It's a lovely little place near the forest called Into The Deep. You'll like it."
My heart screeched to a break-neck halt...and I blanched.
A/N: I don't know if I'll make it a full fic, though there is potential there. I am working on two fics right now, IDoL as well as a new one. But hopefully, some time in the furture? Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!