Baby It's Cold Outside O/S Contest

Title: Heading North

Rating & Any Needed Warnings: M (some language and a lemon)

Word Count: 14,765

Pairing: Bella & Edward

Summary: Bella plans to visit her best friend for the holidays when she is stranded in a blizzard, fearing death only to be saved by an angel. Will he take her to heaven or hell? Entry for Baby It's Cold Outside O/S Contest

Disclaimer: Twilight and all of its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, who I am not. Copyright infringement is not intended.

A/N: So I wanted to let you all know this little O/S has a few firsts for me as a writer in it. Not only is it my first attempt at Present POV but it also includes a full on lemon (yikes!). I work without a beta at present so please excuse all the errors I'm sure you'll find, I tried my best to fix them. Now off with you, read away!


Heading North

What in the hell am I doing here? In the middle of winter, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a freaking snowstorm?

I am currently sitting in my car, which is crawling along at a whopping ten miles an hour, down a very dark, very cold, very icy wet road that probably hasn't seen any other traffic since sometime last week, judging by the amount of other vehicles I have crossed paths with, which is a zero. Yet here I am attempting to make my way through not sheets, not blankets but a fucking blizzard of snow.

Clearly, driving up here for a holiday break was not my best idea.

My head is throbbing, pulsing blood slowly and painfully in my temples as I continue to squint at the windshield which has so much snow covering it that the wiper blades are groaning in complaint. I can literally hear them screaming at me that the weight is too much. Only the smallest sliver of clear glass is open enough for me to see the road ahead and even that is for a few seconds as the blizzard wails on.

I really have lost my mind. I need to do something to get myself together. I reach over to the radio and snap it on, hoping to hear something about this hellish snowstorm.

"Can't be too careful out there folks. The snow is really starting to come down now, and according to local weather Doppler it won't be stopping anytime soon. Looks like the biggest snowstorm to pass through this area in many, many years. So take my advice and just stay in tonight. Unless you're looking to be a popsicle, haha!"

Well that wasn't helpful. Damn radio announcer thinks he is so clever in his warm little studio with his warm heater and cups of coffee. Jerk.

I can't help but be a smidge bitter. I am in the worst possible vehicle to be caught in a snowstorm. Betty, a 1953 Chevy truck, and I have been through a lot. Not only did we endure the near constant rains of Forks for years while growing up but we have survived this particular drive up to Ketchikan several times when I was a student at the University of Alaska three years ago. We use to make the trip at least once a year but it was usually during the summer months when I was on break.

I chose Alaska to study anthropology where the original settlers of this content came from. The program is great and I loved my time there, which is why it was a hard decision to leave. However when the chance to build my skills as a cultural social anthropologist in London presented itself, the choice to leave was made for me. The amount of learning and professional gains I made there still astound me given my nature of shy reservation but thankfully, it has never held me back professionally, it actually enhances it.

I thrive in anthropology; it pushes and pulls me in the most interesting directions. I am able to use all of my logic and mental patterning skills to research and discover about those people and cultures that have come before. So while it may take me time to warm up to new people, my quiet skills of observation only add to my work. I have only recently opened up to in a similar manner in relationships outside of work.

I broke out of my bubble some in foggy London but nothing too drastic which eventually lead me back to Seattle where I can still work but feel more at home. It was lonely across the pond, even for a solitary person like me. So when I got a call from my college roommate and best friend demanding I show myself before she came down to Washington and kicked my ass right back across the Atlantic, I complied.

Which is why I am now here. In the middle of nowhere Alaska. In an outdated truck which hasn't seen much use since I left for England three years prior. Betty has been good to me but I feared when I got back she had seen better days and this fear is looking to be true. Of course, I just had to listen to that idiot Jake though. He had promised Betty could make this trip, 'No problem' he said. He lied.

I should have known better than to trust a kid just out of high school. Okay maybe he isn't that young but he is at least three years younger. And the son of my father's best friend which is really the only reason I let him look at Betty to begin with. I did it as a favor. Now look where the favor has gotten me.

Puttering down the lonesome and desolate highway at barely faster than a snail's pace. Truthfully I know the snow is a driving factor in the creeping slowness I am enduring. However, even if it wasn't snowing harder and faster than I've ever seen before, Betty wouldn't be going much faster. The old girl has struggled to push over fifty even in her best years and only a few hours before when I was still lingering across the Canadian border, she was whining and choking at thirty without the addition of snow.

To make matters worse the heating seems to be failing. I lean over to the vents, holding my fingers close to see if any heat is coming out. The air moves but only just and what is managing to escape isn't exactly what I would call hot.

I really prayed we could make it to the next town. I should have known when my inner voice told me to stop in Prince Rupert to stay the night, I should've listened. But I was so close to Ketchikan, only another ninety miles, I thought I could handle it for another two hours without a problem. I was just being overly cautious, I reasoned.

Now my simple two-hour drive turned into four and if I have to guess, I still have about fifty miles to go. So based on my rate of travel so far I'm looking at another two hours minimum. And only if I can see out of the windows and get Betty to hover closer to fifteen rather than ten. This does not seem promising.

My time away from Alaska and its fickle weather has apparently left me blank of its intricate knowledge. I never would have attempted this drive if I still lived in the area. I feel a bit foolish and naïve, pulling a dangerous stunt like this as if I have no idea how harsh winter snowstorms can be in this terrain. And how quickly than spring up, going from mild to horrid in a matter of minutes, much like this one has.

I decide to push through this. All of these doubts and fears, useless ponderings of what I should have done and knew better to do aren't getting me anywhere. I need to focus on the road ahead of me and getting to Tanya's place in Ketchikan safely. Once I'm there I can berate myself for acting like a know-it-all teenager. Right now surviving this snowstorm is more important, I mentally remind myself.

Suddenly, Betty sputters and hisses. I wrap my hands around the steering wheel and grip tightly, attempting to keep the truck in a straight line since I've begun to drift a bit erratically and am afraid I'm no longer on the road which is hard enough to see without this added jumping around.

"No, no no no. Please don't do this to me. You can't do this to me..." I beg my truck. "We can't stop here. Please, please, please Betty…" I continue to plead but to no avail. It is only moments later before she heaves loudly, engine groaning and coughing before one long shudder is uttered and we come to a complete stop.

"Fuck."

I pull on the keys, clicking and turning the ignition over and over, hoping to hear it click over and start once more.

Nothing.

"Shit, shit, shit."

This can't be happening. I can't be stranded here. Please, dear sweet baby Jesus, don't let me be caught out here. I try the key once more praying to anyone who will listen. The silence is deafening.

"Damnit," I whisper into the cab, knowing my efforts are wasted.

I lean my forehead against the cool, worn steering wheel and close my eyes. This cannot be happening. What the hell was I thinking? I should have stayed in Prince Rupert, got a hotel and waited this out.

Adrenaline is rushing through my veins causing my heart to pound within my chest as my mind races with the many possibilities of what could happen to me out here. I knew better than to try and brave this on my own. What the hell am I going to do now?

I grab for my cell phone which has been carelessly tossed into my messenger bag. I rummage through the bag, shoving aside loose paper napkins, old gum wrappers, chapstick and pens. I need to find my phone because if I'm fortunate I will have a signal. Finally, my fingers feel the hard surface and I yank the silver phone out and flip the cover open.

Damn! No signal and only one bar of battery power left. I silently curse myself and my laziness this morning when I decided I could make it without charging it up. This latest slip in judgment only further frustrates me and causes more panic to bubble under my skin. I need to calm down though if I want to get out of this pending disaster.

Taking a moment to gather my thoughts, I quickly go through a list of what to do in this type of situation. It may have been a few years since I lived here but I know what precautions to take. First things first, find out where I am. If I'm still on the road I may be lucky enough to have someone pass by and help.

My eyes probe the road outside, peering into the swirling white just beyond my window. If it's at all possible I think it is snowing harder. The small sliver I had visibility from previously is no longer cutting it, I can't even see the wiper blades. I'm going to have to clean off a section if I have any hope of seeing where exactly I am.

Well double fuck.

I take a deep breath in and exhale slowly, letting the air slip loudly through my pursed lips. This is not a decision I want to make but I will have to.

Getting out is not a smart idea. The wind is howling, snow is pounding across the sides of the truck and the glass is so deeply covered I'm sure if I were to roll it down, the snow piled there wouldn't even fall.

Of course my years of living in the great white north have taught me that if you are ever caught in a blizzard in your car DO NOT get out. This is rule number one. Getting out of the car in a blizzard can cause you to become disoriented and lost within a matter of yards of your car, leaving you exposed to the elements and certain death. Instead you should wait until someone comes to find you. Chances of living to see that day versus finding help on your own in the snow are much higher.

Of course no one has seen snow like this in years around here and not a single person has been on this road in what I believe is weeks so I think I'm screwed either way.

Fuckity, fuck fuck.

My survival instincts are at war with my mental reasoning. My instincts tell me to get out and attempt to walk along the road until I come across some house or car or hell even a damn moose to find some help. Surely there must be someone who lives out here that I can get help from.

Then I remember I'm in Nowhereville Alaska, population me and Betty. And Betty has already kicked the bucket. Bitch.

Okay that may be a bit harsh. It's not like I didn't know this could happen, given all the trouble the truck had on the drive so far. I pat Betty on the dashboard and say a quiet goodbye to the old girl, knowing she won't be seeing any more travels even if we do get rescued. And even if she is a bitch for stranding me like this I love her for all the times we've shared. I just wish getting to Ketchikan would have been another.

After a few moments have passed in silent mourning, I turn my thoughts back to the situation at hand. I am at a loss of what I should do. Intellectually I know to stay in the truck and wait. And since the snow isn't letting up and I have come to realization that no one is out there, this is probably my smartest and somehow safest option.

Decision made, I think of what comes next. I know I need to alert any possible passerby of my position but am unsure of what to do. I don't have much in my truck that can help. I rifle through the glove box and find a mess of fishing lures and a bright red and yellow striped scarf. I quickly decided the scarf might be useful as a type of flag. I make a quick decision to risk the snow for a few minutes in order to tie the scarf to the antenna of my truck, keeping one hand on the truck at all times. Once I've done that, I hop back into the cab and shake off as much snow as I can into the passenger floor so my clothes don't get more soaked.

Next up I know I need to stay warm. In an ideal situation I would be able to use the heater of my truck. Well this is clearly not an ideal situation. Betty has been laid to rest and the heat isn't going to come on no matter how much I will it. I can vaguely recall my father telling me doing light exercise can help in these situations but the only exercises I can think of are jumping jacks and kegels and I don't think those will help much.

I have no idea how long I may be stuck out here and I may have to worry about food and water as well. I can always use the snow for a water source but at a certain point it will take more energy to melt the snow in my mouth than gain any benefit from it. Yeah, I watch Discovery Channel's Survivorman. If he had an episode on how to survive an Alaskan blizzard however, I missed it. Damn my luck.

Then I have a brilliant thought. I have always been a planner and knowing how neurotic I was during my time at college, I think I may still have some things tucked away somewhere in the truck. Excitedly, I do a small dance in my seat, wiggling back and forth in a victory dance. This can work, I can survive this.

I reach under the bench seat and feel around with my hands for anything I may have left there for just this type of situation. My fingers are stretching and reaching but coming up empty. I don't care what I find under there as long as it's something. A blanket would be the best option since the cold is only growing stronger but I'll settle for some old stale crackers or a half eaten cupcake at this point. Finally, I feel something cool and crinkly and pull it out.

"Ah ha!" I shout in triumph as I hold my prize up in the darkened cab. It is a water bottle, half full. Okay, it may not be the greatest find but it's better than nothing. I can't help but hope that if this is hidden under the seat maybe something else will be too.

Quickly tossing the water bottle onto the seat, I reach back down and grab at the floorboard in search of more treasure. After a few minutes of nothing else I panic a little. There has to be more. I know I haven't driven this truck in years but my father must have taken it out a few times. He loves to munch on sunflower seeds, surely some have fallen and are lingering down here somewhere. I mentally shudder at the disgusting thought of eating seeds I find on the floorboard of this dirty old truck but desperate times call for desperate measures. Being in a blizzard of epic proportions is desperate by any standards, I'd say.

Getting frustrated, I huff loudly and proceed to crawl onto the wet, sticky floor and look under the seat. If I can just find something, anything to eat I will feel better about this, like I might have some chance to make it.

I don't want to think about what will happen if I don't. My mind can't wander there yet. If I do, the tears I've been holding back will begin to fall and I doubt I'll be able to stem the tide.

Unfortunately for me the space holds nothing more than dust and grime, a few coins and a tattered piece of notebook paper. I grab the paper and haul myself back up on the seat, clutching the tiny treasure to my chest. I unfold the paper and scan over the contents there.

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

It's a poem I loved in college. I thought it was so beautiful in its melancholy, how a man can have his mind so quickly changed by the messenger of death when that is what he once sought.

Now I don't find it so beautiful. In fact it's rather morbid considering I might be facing my own death and it is not something I was contemplating before tonight. All I wanted was to visit my friend, do a little shopping with her and maybe entertain the thought of hitting on a few good looking men at our favorite pub in town.

Alaska has nothing if not men, this is a known fact. One of the many reasons dearest Tanya never left her home state. She likes to pretend it's because she loves the rugged outdoors but I know it's because she loves outdoors men.

Tanya Reed is and always has been a woman in control of her life, unlike me. When we meet during sophomore year of college at a coffee shop, I hated her on principle initially. She was the complete opposite of everything I was and still am in many ways. Cool, calm, collected and drop dead gorgeous. I was awkwardly shy and uncoordinated, bumbling along in my little bubble until she took me under her wing. Not only was she nice to me that day but she eventually became one of the nicest and most sincere people I have known since.

Which is why I was willing to make this trip without much coercion. I miss her and the life she lives, care free and always with confidence. It has been three years since I've had an actual visit with my best friend, due to being in England and then trying to settle back state side, so when she issued her warning I didn't hesitate. In fact I rushed to get here so I could spend as much time with her as possible.

So much for that plan.

I shiver in the chill night air which is beginning to creep steadily into the truck's cab. I no longer have any hope of seeing out of the windows as the snow is piled so thickly very little of the full moon light is able to get in. A glance at my watch tells me it is just after seven in the evening though one can hardly tell a difference between now and midday as the sun barely passes over the horizon during the winter here. The darkness of winter is off setting to some but never bothered me when I lived here.

I feel slightly different now, obviously.

The cold wind pushes harshly against the sides of my truck, rocking it gently. It's a very soothing motion, enough to cause me to be drowsy despite the severe cold that I feel seeping into my bones. My fingers, though covered by gloves, feel frozen and tingle in pain. If I couldn't see my bright red nose I would swear it is no longer on my face because it's so cold. I huddle tightly under my thick, gray winter parka in an attempt to keep as much warmth close to my body as I can. My dark brown hair is loose over my shoulder but contained by the hat I have worn throughout the day. My body is shivering in the rapidly cooling air and I am worried how long I will last if someone doesn't find me soon.

Time passes in a slow and wicked dance of snow, wind and silence outside the truck. I am imprisoned in Betty, unable and unwilling to bare the elements although the idea continues to grow in appeal. As the minutes turn into hours, I steadily began to believe I may not be rescued. A few tears slide slowly from my eyes at this realization.

I am beginning to become very tired, eyelids dropping with the need for sleep. Internally I know I am not really tired, it is simply my body's attempt to conserve energy. I don't think it would be wise to fall asleep out here but I really can't keep fighting it either.

I don't have much of choice it seems as my body begins to shut itself down.

My eyes flutter close. I blink them back open.

Close.

Open.

Stay awake, Bella. Stay awake.

Close….

Open.. Close….

Open.

Close….

..

.

Somewhere far away I hear a noise. I am so deeply submerged in my subconscious however I can't seem to recognize the sound. My mind clears once more and I resubmit to sleep.

What could be minutes or hours later I feel a horrible icy draft before something is pressing against my body, engulfing me in warmth. I am so numb at this point I believe I'm floating. Maybe my time has come and I am going to heaven.

If this is how heaven smells and feels, I'm all for it. I want nothing more than to be enveloped in this warmth and the earthy, spicy pine smell surrounding me as I am weightlessly carried to my next life.

I think I hear another noise, perhaps a dog barking but can't get my eyes to work. They are heavy and weighted and uncooperative. I snuggle closer to the warmth and delicious smell knowing that I'm safe.

Then the noise is louder, right beside me and I want to know what it is. I will my eyes to open, pushing with all my might. Briefly, my eyes crack open. I cannot see much in the dim light, only the dark black wool of what my face is pressed against where the smell is strongest. My dreamless subconscious is pulling me back under before I can see more.

Just as my eyes close I see a man's neck covered in a thick beard.

"I didn't know angel's had beards…" I mumble softly into the crisp, frozen air before sleep claims me once again.

*~*~*B&E*~*~*

My limbs feel heavy. I am not floating anymore but the smell of heaven still clings all around me. I am laying on a soft, flat surface but my body is shaking. I am so cold and this doesn't seem to fit with any descriptions of heaven I've ever heard.

"So cold," I mumble out, my teeth chattering.

I feel myself wrapped up in something firm and warm. Oh so warm. It is wonderful and I bury my face into the sensation. This is more like the heaven I've been told about.

The warmth spreads all over my body, encasing me in a strong grip. If I had more energy I would try to force my eyes open so I can see what is holding me so closely. The chill slowly begins to leave my body but I am still so tired. My mind is foggy and body heavy. All I want is to sleep. Who knew dying could be so tiring?

I decide I will investigate heaven later after I've rested and will sleep to come as my body continues to tremble.

The warmth shifts away from me leaving me feeling cold again. I don't like it.

All of a sudden I feel myself immersed in liquid warmth, scalding hot even. I try to move away from the searing heat but the weights in my arms and legs are still present and another force is pressing down on my shoulders. I try to fight against it but my body seems to be revolting, only able to shake and tremble. I don't understand what is going on, just that I don't want to be here for surely I've not gone to heaven but hell. I struggle for a few more moments before I feel a warm breath across my cheek.

"Just stay. This will help," a velvet tone whispers into my ear. I am instantly soothed and comforted by the voice and relax. This is my angel come to take me back to heaven with him once more.

My mouth attempts to move but my lips are frozen. I wonder why they would be, I can't remember. I just know I was cold before the angel appeared and now I'm warm again. My eyes flutter briefly and I see just a splash of the beautiful angel face as it hovers above. I can only focus on how beautiful it is before I drift off to sleep, the hot liquid no longer scorching but soothing as the angel watches over me.

*~*~*B&E*~*~*

I slowly come back to consciousness, the light sunshine of day breaking against my face. I am surrounded by the most enticing smell I've ever encountered. It reminds me of a dream I had last night... something about heaven and hell... I can't really remember.

I stretch my arms and legs, feeling my body ache as it attempts to do as I've asked. I have yet to open my eyes, just trying to piece together the night before. I know I was headed to see Tanya and it was snowing. Lots of snow... a blizzard actually. Quick images assault my brain as events of the storm come back to me. Leaving Prince Rupert, Betty dying, no food or blankets in the truck... Feeling frozen solid and wanting to sleep. And then nothing, no memories. Just strange dreams of beards and velvet? They don't make any sense. I need to wake up and figure out where I am and how I got here.

Before I can make a move, the unexpected happens. I feel something rough, wet and warm drag across my cheek. I let loose with a shrill scream as I rip my eyes open while pushing myself away from the wetness, my pulse thundering in my ears.

I am fully awake now as I stare into a bright pair of startling blue eyes. The eyes belong to a huge, wolf like dog with black fur covering him except for his clean white face. He is beautiful, his head cocked to the side as if surprised by my response to his tongue's assault.

Before I can calm my racing heart a loud THWACK emanates from a room outside of my own before the door to my sanctuary is thrown open. Standing in the doorway is yet another reason for me to scream. For perched there as if ready to fight, is a man. A man with wild, red brown hair standing up on ends and angles that defy gravity. His eyes are roaming over the room, shifting back and forth rapidly as they take in everything. His mouth, though hidden behind a thick beard, is visibly tensed into a thin line.

Oddly, my mind immediately brings up the image of the angel I dreamed of. I don't understand it but I am still so shocked at the wild, animal like man caged in the doorway that I can't process more than him right now.

His body looms in the threshold, broad shoulders tense and heaving with labored breaths. His frame is tall and long, legs encased in dark jeans but bare feet. His torso is bare and I mentally trace every line of muscle I see on his abdominals and chest, all lean and gleaming with water. There is smattering of dark chest hair across his pecs and the water is finding it difficult to leave the area. I can understand why it wouldn't want to. He also has some sort of tattoo inked across his chest, directly above his heart. I can't be sure from this distance but it looks like a type of compass.

I don't have a second more to ponder why he is wet or the tattoo because the cheek assaulter breaks the tense silence with a loud bark before leaving my bedside and happily trotting over to the man, giving his free hand a generous lick.

Clearly I'm not the only one who gets the wet welcome.

"What happened?" the wild man asks in a forced tone.

I try to speak but my throat is sore. I swallow a few times to get everything working again. I am still staring at the half naked man who despite his wild appearance and abrasive words is utterly gorgeous. It's a little distracting to say the least.

"I.. uh," more swallowing, "I was scared. He… um... licked me." The words tumble out of my mouth with little grace. I can tell the man agrees as he gives me a pointed look as if to say 'is that all?'

"I was still asleep and it scared me. I didn't know where I was," I hurriedly add hoping it will make me seem saner.

The man continues to stare at me. His eyes, which I can now tell are a deep shade of forest green, hold me captive under their intense gaze as he assesses me. I feel naked under his scrutiny and move the thick covers closer to me, acting as a shield. The movement seems to break him from his appraisal and he gives a sharp nod of his head before turning on his heel and walking back out of the room without another word.

The sudden departure leaves me just as confused as before. I watch as both the man and dog walk down the hall before disappearing out of sight. I am left huddling under the blanket and completely baffled.

He just left. Didn't explain anything. No, 'Sorry about that, he's really friendly' or 'You're here because...' or even 'You are a goddess and we should marry immediately.' Nothing. He said nothing.

This won't do. I quickly untangle myself from the sheets and blankets which cover me from head to toe. There are many layers and I am surprised I didn't wake up sooner due to the extreme heat cocooned underneath them. I don't usually like to sleep with so much heat on top of me; the coolness of night air always provides comfort for some reason.

I throw my legs over the side of the bed once I am free and shakily stand on wobbly legs. I can't understand what exactly has caused me to be so out of it. My body is acting like Bambi and this is my first try at walking. I steady myself by leaning one hand on the end of the bed. As I regain my balance I do a quick inventory of the room I'm in.

The room isn't large but neither is it small. The bed is a dark, rich mahogany sleigh style with deep blue bedding. And of course extra blankets and quilts which have been covering me. Directly across from the bed is a matching dresser. The floor is covered by soft, cream colored carpet which tickles against my toes as I stand.

The walls are a soft beige color which accentuates the beautiful exposed light timber of the A frame roof. The far wall is composed of four large windows which overlook the trees outside which I can tell are bathed in the thick white of snow.

At least it has stopped snowing. For now.

I shake my head and gather myself to leave. I need to confront the wild man and get some answers. I smooth my hands down my clothes and take in their appearance for the first time.

A little gasp escapes as I realize I am not in my clothes. The black t-shirt is huge and hangs down to just below my bottom. I have gray sweatpants, also too big and too long, hanging dangerously from my hips. I can only think of one reason I would be wearing these clothes... he changed me. I am startled by this, unsure of why he would. Did something happen that I ripped my clothes or was something else the reason? Did we... no, surely not. I would remember that.

I am both mortified and angry. He saw me naked. Naked! I didn't change my clothes, the dog didn't change my clothes and since I haven't heard anyone else moving around this must mean he did. Embarrassment flushes my cheeks red and anger begins to simmer in my belly at his audacious actions.

I rush out of the room and down the short hall. I am facing a set of wooden stairs and a set of doors, one on the left and one on the right. I am curious but I want answers more. I figure the man and his dog went downstairs so I descend the stairs only to find myself in a wide open living room. The room is just as nice as the bedroom with an open floor plan, glass picture windows stretched across every wall so that you almost feel like you are sitting in the forest. My eyes are drawn to a large, probably hand crafted gray stone fireplace with a roaring fire already crackling in the hearth. Directly beside the fireplace is a built-in bookshelf that reaches from the floor to the ceiling and is completely filled with either books or music, both records and CDs.

There is a small living room type of area sectioned off by two tan couches, a coffee table and end tables to match. Behind the couches is a kitchen which shares the same light timber color of wood paneling. There is small table with four chairs nestled off to the side as well. The room is so light and airy that I wish I lived here so I could enjoy the space in summer as well. Alaska can be quite beautiful in the summer.

The man is not in here but I hear a tapping coming from somewhere. I turn to my left and see a small hallway and follow the noise to its source. The man is there, typing away at a laptop without seeming to realize I've come downstairs. The dog is sitting in front of the desk, his ears twitching as he sleeps. I watch the man for a few minutes, taking in his overall presence as he works.

The man has put on a white v-neck long sleeved shirt and it clings to the muscles I know are beneath. His face is set in a very determined expression, his focus never breaking from the screen as he writes furiously. He face is truly beautiful, hard strong lines and elegant features. His lips are pursed again but this time in a thoughtful pout and I can't help but lick my own mouth, all my indignant anger fading as I watch his tongue give his generous bottom lip a lick. Just that small peek of pink tongue and all of my coherent thoughts vanish leaving only salacious ones behind.

I can't believe I am having thoughts like this about this man. Not only is he a complete stranger who has seen me in my natural state, but he hasn't told me anything about himself. He could be a deranged killer for all I know and I am his next victim!

Somewhere inside I know this isn't the case but right now I can't be sure.

I clear my throat. "Um, hi."

He looks up quickly and snaps his laptop closed. His forest eyes glare at me and I am caught off guard. I don't understand his ire.

"Uh, well.. I just. Um..." My ability to speak has disappeared. I know the only way to get answers is to talk but he seems upset with me, as if I've offended him. His apparent dislike for me is not helping my inherent shyness right now.

"I just wanted to um, well thank you, I guess?" I ask more than say. "I don't know why I'm in your house..." I trail off hoping he will fill in some of the blanks.

Nothing. He continues to stare. I take a deep breath and go on.

"Well, um, could you maybe tell me what I'm doing here?" I ask this time. "Or you know, where I am?"

He sits behind the large desk leaning away from me in his chair and just looks at me, not saying anything. The dog has perked up and is watching me as well. I feel like I'm on trial as the two intense sets of eyes stare at me.

The dog breaks first and emits a small whine as he begins to crawl slowly towards me.

"Seth."

Immediately the dog stops. He looks at me with a longing look and I gave him a small smile. He really is beautiful, much like his owner.

"You are in my cabin. I found you in a truck a few miles from here." His voice is like velvet, soft yet strong at the same time. I am slightly startled by the sudden sound as well as the lovely tone in which he has spoken. It reminds me of something...

"Oh," I take a breath, realizing what he has just said. "Thank you."

His eyes never leave my own but he says no more.

"Thank you for saving me. I.. I don't know what happened."

"You were stranded in the blizzard two days ago."

My mind reels with this new information.

"How? What do you mean? Two days..?" I can't process this.

The man shifts uncomfortably in his chair. His hand reaches up and runs through his messy locks before down over his thick bearded jaw. I watch him with pleading eyes, begging for more information. Some way to make this make more sense.

"I, uh.. found you. Outside. Well, in your truck buried in the snow." He fidgets some more, dancing in his seat while I try to grasp what he has told me. I was in my truck buried in the snow. I really was going to die. I can't believe this. How close I was to death and this man saved me.

"You were very sick, hypothermia. I had to get you warm so..." he lets his words trail off as he scans my body and I realize what he is saying. I instantly turn pink, blushing at the thought of this man seeing me naked even though seeing him in a similar state is apparently something my body is very interested in. I can feel my blush deepen as the image of his bare, wet chest and tattoo flicker across my mind once again.

"Um, I... Well you were.. and..." he doesn't seem to be able to find any words and he can't look at me. This is fine because I'm having trouble looking at him as well. I need to get out of here as quick as possible.

"Yes, okay. I understand," I mumble. "Can I use your phone?"

"The phone lines are down."

Well this is news. And not the good kind. Shit.

"Oh, uh. Can I use your computer then?" I question. His response is fast. He visibly tenses once more and pulls the closed laptop closer to his body.

"I just wanted to email someone, you know. Let them know I'm here," I softly explain. I don't understand his reaction, I'm just trying to get out of here.

"I don't have internet. Plus the phone lines are still down," he quips.

"Oh. Oh right," I am at a loss. He is being so mean and I don't understand why. I'm just trying to get out of his way.

"Well can you take me to somewhere I can get some help?"

"Can't get out. The roads are still closed off from the snow." He shrugs.

"So I'm just stuck here?" I demand sharply. My anger is finding its way back.

"Try your hand out there if you want," he snaps back at me. He opens his laptop, effectively dismissing me. I huff and turn, unable to stay in the same room as him anymore.

I can't believe him! I am trying my best to be polite and leave, as he clearly wants me to do, and he is nothing but rude. Asshole.

I flop gracelessly on the soft leather couch and huff with anger. Just who does this guy think he is? I didn't ask to be stranded here, that's for damn sure.

My eyes fall to the end of the couch where I see a neatly folded patchwork quilt and a pillow stacked together. My mind freezes as I realize what this means.

He slept on the couch last night. Probably the night before as well. And he did this because I was in his room, recovering from hypothermia. I was hypothermic because I was caught in an Alaskan blizzard due to my own stupid actions. This man has shown me kindness beyond measure, saved my life- twice!- and I'm upset because he saw me naked and can't get me out of here faster?

Bella Swan, you are a bitch. This poor guy... I don't even know his name I realize. I jump up from the couch and swiftly walk back to his office determined to fix at least this error.

"I'm Bella Swan, by the way." I surprise him with my quick entry and words. I wait for him to respond and see him hesitate.

"Edward… Edward Cullen," he softly replies before dropping his eyes back to the screen in front of him. His name lingers in my mind, I think I've heard it before. I dismiss the thought as I see how uncomfortably he shifts in his seat. I sigh quietly.

"Look,..." I pause, unsure of how to go about this before just pushing the words out, "I'm sorry for my behavior. I'm just... a little nervous. About being here with a strange man and all." His eyes snap back up and I can see a hard edge in them, as though I've offended him.

"Not that you are strange! I, I just meant I don't know you. And you, you've seen me naked..." I ramble. "I mean, you took my clothes off and I didn't know and-"

"So you wouldn't get sicker!" He jumps in, his cheeks flushing red at the direction my comments are taking.

"I know! I know, I mean I know that now. And really, I don't mind… shit, I didn't mean to... Oh god, this isn't going well." I pinch the bridge of my nose and try to get my thoughts together so I can properly thank him.

"Um, what I'm trying to say is thank you. For saving my life, both in the snow and from...you know, hypothermia." Another deep breathe in. "I appreciate you letting me stay here until I can contact my friends to let them know where I am."

"It's not a problem," Edward states.

We stare at each other, not speaking or making any sort of movement. A loud grumble is heard, coming directly from my stomach. I throw my arm across the offending section and close my eyes in embarrassment.

"You must be hungry," he softly chuckles. It's a lovely sound. "Why don't you let me finish up here and I'll make you something to eat."

I nod and retreat back to the living room, Seth close on my heels. I settle on the couch and take in the beautiful view outside. The ground and trees are covered in so much white; the snow glimmering and sparkling like thousands of diamonds. My breath is taken away by the astounding sight and I can understand why Edward lives here. I stroke the soft fur of Seth's head while I wait for Edward to appear.

He does so a short time later and walks directly into the kitchen, turning to the refrigerator and speaking with his back towards me. "I think something light for now, we don't want to upset your stomach." He turns to the counter which faces out into the living room. "Soup okay?"

"Sounds great. Thank you." Edward's head bobs in response before he turns back to his cabinets and pulls out more things he will need. "Feel free to turn on the TV or something," he calls over his shoulder.

I don't hesitate to do as he says and walk over to the large bookcase I noticed before. My eyes blaze across the many titles. He has a great selection, everything from classics like Dickens and Hardy to modern works by Patterson and Kootz. I have a hard time deciding and just pick an old favorite, A Farewell to Arms. I tuck myself back on the couch and begin to lose myself in the amazing world Hemingway created.

Edward sets a bowl of soup down in front of me sometime later, startling me out of my reading haze. I look up and see that his eyes have a sharp edge to them once again as he stares down at me. I shrink back into the couch, unsure what I've done to upset him.

"Chicken soup," he comments dryly.

"Thanks."

I lay the book on the table as I reach for the bowl and spoon, giving a slight smile as Edward continues to watch my every move.

"Oh my god, this is so good!" I moan as I shovel more of the liquid delight into my mouth. The soup is delicious and possibly the best thing I've ever eaten.

Edward ducks his head shyly before he looks back at me. His eyes are soft and kind, truly breathtaking. I lose myself in the glittering gems. "Thank you. I'm glad you like it."

"Like it? This is the best soup I've ever had! This is so not from a can!" I proclaim.

"Uh no. It's homemade," Edward smiles softly at me as he explains. "It's my mother's recipe. She worked a long time to get it just right."

"Well tell her not to change a thing! It's wonderful," my mouth can barely get the soup in fast enough.

Edward tenses, his soft and timid expression changes back to the hard man from before. I watch his eyes shade over and twist in some hidden emotion. He makes a noncommittal noise before turning to leave.

"There is more on the stove if you want. I'll just be in here if you need anything," his voice fades as he moves away. "Sleep in the room when you're tired."

Instantly, I feel as if I've done something wrong. Something I've said has upset him and I don't understand. This seems to be a perpetual state of being around Edward.

I don't know how long I will be here and I don't want to annoy this man anymore than necessary. While his mood changes are giving me whiplash, the fact remains he saved my life and I owe him. The least I can do is keep my foot out of my mouth and stop pushing his buttons. I resolve to be more aware of what I'm saying and a better guest. Edward is a mystery and one I desperately want to solve since it is before me.

Finishing my soup, I take the bowl and spoon back to the kitchen and place the items in the sink to clean. As I soap and rinse the dishes, I form a plan. I will get to know Edward while I'm here. I will draw him out and learn what it is that has hurt him. If I can I will make things right for him.

He has saved my life twice already.

And one of those times I was naked. My face flushes but this time it isn't from embarrassment. It is from the desire to see Edward in the same state.

*~*~*B&E*~*~*

The following days fall into a similar routine. Edward and I spend little time together, speaking only when necessary. He is distant and reserved, keeping himself locked away in his office when he is not making meals for the two of us. We do share those but the silence between us is thick. I have attempted to draw him out, asking questions about his work and family but he shuts me down at every turn.

So instead I ask questions about his cabin, Seth and the life he has here. I have learned he has lived outside of Ketchikan for the past five years with only Seth for company. He had the cabin custom built.

The only real thing I've seen Edward get excited about is music. We spent an entire evening discussing and listening to the various records and CDs he has. I can tell it is a true passion of his and glad it is something we share as music has always been easy for me to discuss, helping me shed my shy nature.

That evening is a favorite of mine due to the nature of what we discussed and the way it opened up the path for friendship we have formed since then. Although it isn't strong, we are communicating more. I feel more comfortable around Edward to be myself, silly jokes and awful teasing included. He is even welcoming it to a certain extent and it warms my heart each time he gives me a smile or a soft laugh. I have noticed the light in his eyes shines brighter now and I can't help but reflect it back in my own. Edward is truly a man worth knowing.

When we aren't eating and Edward is busy typing away at his laptop, I find myself entertaining Seth, exploring the cabin or reading and listening to music by the fire. It is a lovely way to spend time since it is still unclear when I will be able to leave. The weather turned dark again the day after I met Edward, dumping even more snow onto the feet worth already piled high.

It is now three days after I have first woken up, bringing my grand total of days here to five. I am worried about my friends and what they must think has happened to me. Unfortunately the phone lines are still down and I have no way of getting word out to them as my cell completely lost power and the charger is in Betty. Edward has no cell and I don't want him to go back out to my truck, even if he could find it again. I am afraid the volatile weather could stir again at any moment and I would be left here all alone. I would miss him and his brooding silences.

Sighing loudly, I drop my latest book onto the coffee table. Seth perks his head up from its resting spot near my feet. I can't take sitting here anymore. While reading all day can be a nice vacation, I feel I've reached my limit. I'm bored. As nice as Seth is, he lacks in conversation abilities. I pat Seth on his head and pad softly to the office.

Edward is there sitting in his model like glory behind the computer screen. He is so beautiful, beard and all that my heart rate picks up in excitement. He notices my arrival and pauses.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"So, I'm bored."

He laughs. "Not much I can do for you there," he comments wryly.

I sigh. "Sure you can. Come do something with me."

A quirked eyebrow is my response.

"Ugh, Edward. Come on. There has to be something we can do," I lament. A thought strikes me and a huge smile breaks across my face. His own face takes on a wary look. "I have the perfect idea! Let's go outside and play in the snow!" I cry happily.

He scoffs.

"It'll be fun."

Edward seems unconvinced and continues to stare at me. "It's well below zero out there, you are recovering from hypothermia and you want to play. In. The. Snow?" he questions roughly.

I don't let his tone get to me. "Yes, I want to play in the snow. It will be fun."

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"I said no, Bella. It's not safe."

"It will be perfectly fine, you big baby." I sigh in frustration. Edward shakes his head, still disagreeing. "Fine. Don't come then. But Seth and I are going. We want to have fun while we still can," I remark and turn to leave.

After pulling on more layers of Edward's divine smelling clothes, all man and pine and spice, I trudge back downstairs to find Edward near the fireplace looking torn. I know he wants to come out and play but is just being stubborn, especially given his little tirade in the office minutes ago. I internally smile at his conflicting emotions.

I pull on my boots and coat, gather my gloves and hat and open the backdoor. "Feel free to join us when you quit being an ass," I call over my shoulder while Seth races off into the yard.

Seth and I run around in the snow, kicking up snowdrifts and chasing each other. I feel so refreshed, even though it is so cold my limbs froze almost as soon as we stepped out. I won't back down though, I need this. Edward needs this, even if he can't admit it.

I begin to roll a few snowballs, packing the snow together in medium size balls. After I have a few lined up, I turn towards the cabin and lob the first one at a window. It hits with a loud thump and breaks apart before sliding down. I giggle as I watch it drop.

I throw another snowball at the same window and smile widely when I see Edward appear behind it, his mouth hanging open in shock. I merely shrug and quirk my eyebrow in challenge before tossing another snowball at his face in the glass. I turn back to find Seth rolling in the snow, covering his thick fur in the white flakes. He is such a silly dog and I have already fallen in love with him. He has been a great companion for me over the past few days. I understand why Edward has him. I call Seth over and crouch down to rub his belly and ears, warming us both up a little.

I feel a soft thump hit the middle of my back and I shout at the impact. Turning I see Edward standing a few feet from me, a dazzling smile stretched across his handsome face. His teeth are so white against the dark brown of his beard, his green eyes sparkling with laughter as he watches me.

"Oh it is on!" I shout and duck down to make more snowballs. Edward laughs loudly, a sound so joyful and light that I momentarily forget what I'm doing and look up to see his beautiful smile until another snowball lands against my arm. I quickly scoop some snow together and launch it at Edward, laughing loudly when the snow smacks him in the face.

"Oh Bella, you shouldn't have done that," he threatens as he tears across the space between us, running towards me. I let out a shrill scream and attempt to evade him but he is too fast and grabs me by the waist, lifting me high in the air and tossing me over his shoulder.

"Let me go!" My laughs are drowning out any attempts I'm making at getting him to stop. "Edward, put me down!" I giggle out.

"You sure about that Bella?" He stops walking to ask.

"Yes, put me down. Right now." I try to be stern but am still shaking with laughter.

"Alright but remember," his voice drops lower, whispering near my ear in a seductive tone, "you asked for it."

Edward drops me and I fall into a large snow bank, sinking deeply into the cold wetness. I am shocked at his actions and feel a light jolt of panic that I will be trapped in here before I hear the loud guffaws of Edward's melodic laughter from above. I feel my panic and irritation fade at his genuine delight and merely shake my head as I attempt to climb out.

"Edward, help me! I'm stuck," I cry.

"Alright, alright," he chuckles as he puts a gloved hand down into the Bella shaped hole to lift me out. I grab his wrist and pull hard, yanking him into the snow bank with me. Edward falls down on top of me with a hard umph and I can't help but laugh loudly at the look of astonishment and surprise on his face.

Seeing him covered in the fine mist of snowflakes that are kicked up during our activities brushes my memory and I gasp.

"You're my snow angel!" I cry out. "I remember you saving me, that night in the blizzard! I thought you were a bearded angel." I laugh in amusement at the ridiculous look on Edward's face as he hovers over me.

"You remember that but not to pull someone into a snow pile?" he asks with mock anger.

"Oh I know that, too. You just needed to get something besides your head stuck up your ass for once," I tease.

"What the hell, Bella?" he chastises. I laugh harder at his reaction, my whole body shaking both from cold and from Edward's indignation.

Edward's façade cracks and his own soft chuckles tumble lowly from his lips. I smile warmly at him, grateful to finally see more than just a brooding pout. His lips are so soft looking and they tease me, begging me to press my own against the red of his.

"Your smile is beautiful," the words slip softly between us.

"So are you."

An electric yet comfortable silence falls over us, covering us in a warm current. I gaze up into Edward's shining green eyes. He looks at me with different emotions sliding across his face before one settles. A small intake of breath is all I'm able to do once I recognize the look.

He lips press to mine and they are every bit as soft and inviting as I've imagined, dreamed they are. I press my own lips with a gentle firmness to his, brushing them against him and reveling in the sensations it creates. His beard tickles my face, slightly rough at first but soothing after a few minutes. Much like the man, I silently muse as we continue to caress each other with our lips, our bodies joining in as I feel Edward's large hands cup around my face, holding me tenderly and close. I sigh, parting my lips slightly. Edward takes this as an invitation and nibbles on my top lip before sliding the tip of his tongue against the bottom one. I open my mouth readily, anxious for this kiss to deep.

Our lips and tongues dance together, caressing and gliding over one another in a quiet sort of passion. I can feel so much of Edward in this kiss, not just his physical body which is pressed firmly to my own, but the man he has kept so hidden. He has tried hard to hide himself from anyone and anything; behind a beard, a cabin in the middle of nowhere, in the silence he forces but right now in this moment, while our lips seek the warmth of each other, I can see him. I can feel all of him, his passion and desires, his darkest secrets. I'm not scared by any of it.

We kiss each other deeply and strongly, soft and gentle, short and long for minutes on end. As we lay here in the freezing snow, with Seth barking somewhere in the background, I feel myself become grounded. I know that I was meant to be here and kiss this man. I moan at the knowledge.

The sound seems to break our bubble and Edward stops, pulling his mouth away from mine and ending the sweetest torture I've ever known. He peers down at me before frantically pushing himself off of me, spewing apologies.

"Bella, I'm so sorry. God, I don't know what I'm doing," he cries. "I'm sorry, I didn't… that was… we shouldn't.."

I stumble up and out of the snow watching helplessly as Edward retreats back into himself, abandoning the man he has been in the last few minutes. I am unsure what to do, how to get him to stay here.

"Edward, no. Don't say that," I plead softly with him.

"I'm sorry, Bella. This can't happen." His voice shakes and his eyes beg me to understand before he slips on his mask of indifference. "I'm going to get cleaned up. You shouldn't stay out here much longer, you'll get sick again." He turns sharply and jogs back into the house.

I stand, shivering and trembling. Both from the freezing temperatures and Edward's cold actions.

*~*~*B&E*~*~*

We are awkward at dinner later that evening. I am confused by his hasty retreat from our kiss earlier.

He seemed to enjoy it. I enjoyed it. What is the problem? I don't understand him at all.

I push the food around my plate, barely aware of the taste as I bring small bites to my mouth. It is some sort of beef dish but I can't enjoy Edward's cooking like I usually do. We exchange very few words and even fewer looks.

I can't take much more and push away from the table, picking up my plate and glass to head to the sink. Edward's head pops up as he follows my path.

"Where are you going?" he asks, breaking the air with his baritone voice.

"I'm done." My words are small and spoken without emotion. I don't know if he understands my meaning since he turns his head back down, his face crestfallen. It is so different from the smiling, laughing man from just this afternoon.

I sigh and shuffle to my post on the couch, plucking the discarded book up once again. My routine will continue as it has, only the lingering memory of the kiss burning in my heart now.

I hear Edward follow my lead, shuffling around the kitchen and placing the leftover food into containers before walking behind my position on the couch to resume his own routine in his office. I feel my heart tug painfully in my chest as he passes.

I drop my head to my chest, all pretenses of normal leaving. I am hurt by his actions and confused. I wonder if I did something wrong or if the kiss was bad and he wishes he hadn't started it. I can't understand what happened to make such an abrupt change. I don't know how it happened but sometime in between his angry glares and brooding silences, I've fallen for him.

It isn't that I'm a masochist, far from it. I did not fall for the angry or wild man he tried to portray. It is the soft and gentle man he truly is, the one he hides that I have fallen for. I am able to see that man in the actions he does more than any words he does or doesn't speak. He sets extra blankets on my bed at night while he continues to sleep on the couch. He asks me about my favorite foods and then cooks them each day so I'll feel comfortable in his home. He plays with Seth, lovingly and kindly. It's his talks with Seth that he doesn't know I've heard, where he has full conversations as though Seth will respond. He spills his heart out to his best friend and it touches mine deeply. I still don't know what has him hurting so deeply inside, but the man of stone he shows isn't real. Despite his best efforts and the alarmingly short time we've known each other, I am completely falling for Edward.

The revelation is startling and sad as I can see now that while these feelings are strong and deep for me, Edward does not feel the same. The playful and endearing man who kissed me with passion earlier is not who's with me now. I sniffle quietly and a small tear glides down my cheek without permission. I reach up and swipe the evidence of my disappointment away with my fingertips.

"Bella."

I turn swiftly at the sound of Edward's voice. He stands behind me, his expression drawn. I force a smile to ease his apprehension.

"Are you alright?" he questions with caution as he steps closer.

"Yeah. Just a little sad," my voice quivers. Edward's face falls, more upset than I've ever seen it before and I try to quickly fix my error. "I'm just missing my friends and family. I'm sure they're worried about me."

Edward walks around the sofa and sits beside me, the cushions sinking with his weight. He studies my face, eyes shifting back and forth between my own. I want to close mine, keep him out from the truth he is sure to find there. While I do miss my family and friends it isn't the real reason for my tears and if he looks closely into my brown eyes, he will know. He will know it all.

"Oh Bella," he sighs out with his breath, its warmth blowing across my face as he leans over and pulls me into his embrace. I want to fight it off but the comfort I feel while wrapped in his arms is too much of what I need and I melt against him.

"I'm sorry," he whispers, soft velvet against my hair. "I'm so sorry, baby. I don't know what to do. I just don't know."

"Why, Edward? Why?" I murmur, hoping he will give me something.

I feel him inhale deeply and hold it before exhaling onto the top of my head. I am sitting across his lap, folded against his chest with one arm around his waist and the other across mine as he slips the long fingers of his right hand through my hair. I feel his lips press a soft kiss against the crown of my head and close my eyes, waiting for him to speak.

"Bella, it's complicated. I just…" he sighs. "I don't know where to start."

"Is it me? Did I do something?" I ask while tilting my head up to see his eyes. He smiles down at me, a crooked grin on his face. It is my favorite smile and one he rarely uses.

"No, sweet girl. It isn't you. You… you are beautiful. Perfect," he caresses my cheek and presses a kiss to my forehead.

"Then what is it? Why did you pull away earlier if it isn't me?" my voice isn't as strong as I want it to be but I will get my answers.

Edward sighs deeply, his chest rising and falling with the action. I grab his left hand and hold it within mine, playing with the space between his fingers as I wait.

"I don't talk to many people."

I snort.

"Okay, any people," he concedes with a slight grin before going on. "I haven't always been this way though. I use… I use to love people. And I loved life. But what I loved most," he swallows and I can feel his Adam's apple bob against my head. "I loved my family more than anything."

I slip my fingers into his and squeeze his hand knowing this is it. This is the secret he has been hiding from me. I've asked about his family before and have gotten nothing but spite and bile thrown at me. For him to be sharing this now, I know it must be the source of his anguish.

"I grew up in Chicago with my family. My brothers and I were only a few years apart, so we were very close. We shared everything. I don't have a single childhood memory that doesn't include them in some way," he speaks with reverence. "This one time Emmett decided it would be a good idea for me and Jasper, our younger brother, to have a bubble gum chewing contest. We couldn't have been older than five or six, I guess," he continued as I watch in awed silence as he slips back into the playful boy of his youth.

"Emmett had a thing for gum, loved all kinds of it. He used to beg our parents to buy those bubble gum tape rolls, he would chew those things for hours," Edward laughs softly and shakes his head before going on. "Anyway, so he tells me and Jas that we're going to have a contest to see who can blow the biggest bubbles and Emmett, being the older brother, popped the bubbles while we had huge ones and gum was everywhere!" His laughter shakes me on his lap and I smile, picturing the trouble making boys he and his brothers must have been. "So yeah, gum is all over the carpet, the walls, toys. And it's all over us, our clothes and in our hair. We ended up cutting our own hair to get it all out, afraid of what Mom would do if she found out. I don't think my hair ever grew back right after that," he muses while running a hand through the disheveled bronze locks. He stops speaking and I look up to see his face wilt again and I tighten my hand across his waist, pulling him into my side to offer comfort.

"So yeah, we were very close. I loved my parents just as much. You couldn't have asked for better parents than Carlisle and Esme Cullen. They gave so much of themselves to not only us but the community. My dad was a doctor and used his position in the community to help get better health benefits for women and children at shelters. Mom stayed at home with us while we were growing up but once we left for college, she volunteered and spent a lot of time raising money for underprivileged youth and schools. Things were really good for all of us.

"Jasper and Emmett especially. They both fell in love with two great girls, Alice and Rosalie. Rose and Em actually meet in high school and it was rough at first but when they got together they never looked back. Fought like cats and dogs but yeah, there was love. And well, Jasper and Alice…. They were something else. Love at first sight, 'cosmically written in the stars' as Alice use to say." Edward pauses and takes a few more deep breaths.

"Do you want to stop?" I ask gently. I am desperate to know more but if he needs to stop, I can wait.

"No, it's better this way. Rip it off like a band aid you know?" I nod, I do know.

"Alice and Jasper got married right away but it took Rose and Emmett a little longer to settle down. But after they decided it was the right time they wanted to do something special. So they planned a destination wedding and we all went down to the south of Brazil. It was great, my whole family was there and I was happy to see both of my brothers so happy. I was doing pretty good on my own, my writing career was taking off and things looked great for all of us."

Edward takes a minute to gather himself and my mind is swirling with thoughts and memories. I remember how I've heard the name Edward Cullen. He was a writer, two published novels that took the publishing world by storm. I never got around to reading his books, though they are on my list. My friend Angela had mentioned them once, flashed me a picture of the gorgeous writer and said his books couldn't be bad if he looked that good. I look up cautiously to study Edward's features. It is him, beneath the lines which now crease his strong brow and hiding behind the thick beard is the jaw line I swooned over once upon a time. I run my fingers along the line wishing the reason for the beard never happened, that he never had to hide himself. Because as I remember the strong, perfect face which covered the jacket of his books, I know the withdrawn and shadowed man beside me has endured true sorrow. There was some sort of tragedy a few years back which caused the reserved author to become a complete recluse, no information ever being released about the accident. I am suddenly aware that not only am I sitting with the handsome author but about to discover the tragedy which ruined it all.

Edward clears his throat once before pressing his lips to my temple and resuming his tale.

"The wedding was beautiful and everyone loved the shared vacation. A couple days before we were set to leave, I got a call about work and had to leave early so I flew back to Chicago right away. Turns out that call for work, a problem with my book editor, ended up saving me life. My family…." his voice catches and hitches, "they got caught in a tropical storm in flight on their way back three days later." His body tenses up, muscles locking and I squeeze him tightly with both arms. The pain and hurt lacing his voice is so thick I can feel it coating everything in the room and I am broken for him, with him.

"Oh Edward," I rasp and pull myself up to a sitting position so I can look in his eyes. Tears are falling from the deep green depths and my already broken heart shatters further at the devastation and turmoil I see.

"If I hadn't gotten that call I would have been with them. I would be with them now. I should be with them." I don't like where this is going and shake my head in argument.

"No, Edward. Don't think like that," I plead in earnest.

"I moved up here right after the funerals. Have you ever had to bury six people at once Bella?" he asks shrewdly. "It's the most horrific thing I've ever done. I had to get away. I couldn't let myself be near anyone, in case something like that ever happened again. I just fled, quit my job and ran off."

I watch his face morph from grief to anger and then back as tears slip down into his beard at a rapid pace. I know he is angry with himself, feeling blame for not being with his family and for not being strong enough to handle their deaths. He is so wrong; he is the strongest person I know.

"Edward, no. You were just protecting yourself, its okay." I comfort him with my words and my hands, smoothing my fingers over his soft hair and face. "It's okay. It's okay."

I pull him to me and he lays his head in the nook between my neck and shoulder, softly crying tears he has held on to for too many years. I stroke his hair and murmur softly to him, trying in any way I can to soothe him as he holds onto me as close as he can, his arms wrapped around my body.

"That's why I pulled away. I can't be close to you because I know." He looks up and fiercely stares into my eyes, capturing my attention. "I couldn't live if something were to happen to you. You're too important to me now," he speaks softly, his breath warm against the cool tracks of tears he's left on my skin. "You came here and everything changed. I've felt more happiness with you in the last week than I have in over five years. I couldn't find words to write since the accident and then you… you come here and read your books and won't let me get away with being a jerk and the words… the words just came. They can't stop now, they just keep coming. To feel this happy and find my words again… Do you get what that is? It's everything, Bella. You are everything. I can't lose you, too." His head drops back down after the rush of words and declarations, shielding him from what he perceives will be a rejection. How wrong he is.

"Edward, look at me." I try to lift his head but he won't budge. "Please, look at me." He lifts his head slowly and finally my eyes meet his, coffee brown to forest green. "Nothing will happen to me. Nothing could happen to me," I explain.

Edward shakes his head and tries to protest but I stop him with my lips, a firm but tender kiss. It tells him how much I feel for him, how much I mean what I've said and am about to say.

"Don't you see? You've already saved me. I would have died, if it wasn't for you. You've already saved me and you keep saving me. You've done so much more for me than anything I've done for you. My life is yours." I slip my hands around his jaw and stroke the course hairs, trying to convey the depth of everything I'm feeling with my eyes in case my words are not enough.

"Bella… I- I," he licks his lips, "I know it's fast and I've been a complete and utter ass to you, both today and since you've been here but it doesn't change anything. I- I think-" his voice stutters, "I think I could love you."

I am riveted. The words he says spark, burning in my soul and beat in rhythm with my heart. I am shocked by his admission but so sure of his pure honesty since it shines clearly from his eyes.

I reach for him, pulling him to me and cover his mouth with my own. We trade heated kisses and passionate moans as our tongues reacquaint with one another. Though it has only been since this afternoon since they met, the stretch of time they were apart seems too great. I lose myself in the feel of his lips and hands as they brush against me. I don't even break our kiss to speak, "Me too, Edward. I could love you, too. I want too. I want you, here and now. Forever."

This seems to be all he needs as he slips his arms around me and lifts us from the couch to ascend the stairs. We continue to share warm kisses and caresses as he walks to his room and gently places me on the bed. He gazes down at me, hovering just out of reach. The light from the hall shines behind him giving him an angelic glow. Edward waits for a moment, trying to give me time to back out of this if I need it. I simply smile as alluringly as I can and beckon him closer with a finger.

He smiles my favorite crooked smile as he sink down on the bed and covers me once more with his body, his hands gliding up my legs and hips, running over the contours of my stomach and ribs before they skim the outside of my breasts and arms to cradle my face.

"You are so beautiful," he uses my words from earlier, his voice worshipful as his eyes.

"So are you." I reply, reaching my arms up to mimic his position. He lowers himself down to me, placing small kisses across my forehead, my eyes, cheeks, chin and then lips. I respond to the call of his delicately red lips and match his touch with my own. We share our secrets together as we press our lips and bodies to one another. I can feel the small hum and fire of the electric current as it singes across my skin underneath my clothes.

I want more, I want to feel all of Edward's skin pressed against mine and see if the current can start a fire.

Edward seems to be in tune with my thoughts as he skims his hands to the hem of my shirt before guiding it up slowly and pulling it away from me. I lie under him and watch as he traces the lines of my body with his fingertips, his eyes following in reverence everywhere his hand goes. I feel more desired, wanted, worshiped in this moment with Edward than with any other man I've ever been with. It is in his eyes, in his lips as they purse, in the light touch of fingers ghosting over the exposed flesh of my breasts once he has removed my bra.

My back arches as I push closer to Edward as his lips wrap delicately around my nipples, coaxing soft moans of pleasure from me. He palms my breast tenderly as his mouth works the other and I feel more. More with him, for him,… needing him. My hands reach for his shirt pulling the light gray material over his head quickly before he descends once more to engulf my breasts in his warm mouth.

I run my hands over the muscles of his chest and back, giddy to be touching him as I've wanted since first seeing him. I can feel Edward's arousal for me firmly against my thigh and I need to feel it elsewhere, deep within me. My fingers travel lower down his body and I pull gently on the button of his jeans, unsnapping them and pulling the zipper down as well. Edward releases my breasts from his mouth and emits a low groan as I rub the hard bulge hidden within his black boxer briefs.

"Shit, Bella," he cries out before crashing his mouth back to mine and grinding his hips into my own, my hand still locked on him. I moan in agreement, desperate to feel him.

"Please, Edward. Please," I beg, unashamed of how much I want him. How much I need him. I reach back up to him and push my fingers through the cascade of wild hair, loving the way the smooth silk strands feel in my hands, as if this is where they belong. Edward kisses me deeply, his tongue plunging into my mouth and tasting me there before he lowers to my chin and neck. The feel of his warm tongue as it draws lines and patterns across my neck is divine and I cannot stop the sounds from tumbling out.

"More, please. More," I shudder out breathlessly. I reach as far down as I can and push on his jeans and boxers, a silent plea of throbbing desire. He quickly shoves his clothes off before returning to my lips.

Edward kisses me with sweet and desperate kisses as he reaches down to pull my jeans free from my body. I am on fire, burning in my desire for him and this moment of connection between us. It doesn't matter that we have only known each other for a week, that we haven't gotten along the whole time. All that matters is this moment, where Edward is pressed against me, skin to skin with nothing in between and I can take him in to me, take in all of him. The beautiful and fun parts, the broken and angry parts. I want every part of him, I want it all to be a part of me.

Edward slips into me in a long thrust, filling me to completion. We both groan in pleasure, kissing any part of the other we can find. His skin tastes of honey and salt, his unique scent cascading around me, creating a bubble of just him and me.

"Bella," he moans my name and it is its own gift from heaven, separate from the gift that is Edward. "You feel so good, baby. So good," he cries.

"Yes, Edward, God! Yes, so good," I echo his passion.

His thrusts are long and slow, sliding against me in all the right ways. There is no rush to finish, no need to push each other over the edge. The desire I feel for him is slow and pulsing, burning like an ember waiting to be stoked to flame but no less potent, no less powerful. I lose myself in this act, this connection with Edward. I am no longer the shy Bella who couldn't talk to a man or the helpless girl stranded in a blizzard. I am simply Edward's. Just as he is mine. We don't need to say the words, as I can read it in his eyes which are boring into my own as we move in a steady rhythm, gathering in speed and force.

"I'm going to come, baby. Come with me." His voice breaks and his breath is short pants as he begs me.

"Yes, Edward, please. So close," I moan in response. It is the only response possible.

Edward reaches down between us and circles his fingers against me, urging me forward into the beautiful oblivion that waits just on the other side as he continues to thrust. I feel the surge of passion bubbling up in my stomach and fall into the waves headlong, bursts of white light and stars shining behind my eyes as I throw my head back in ecstasy and call out his name. He is right behind finding his own release and my name falls from his lips as he shudders against me.

Edward drops to his side and pulls me against him as we steady our breathing. We lay with our bodies pressed tightly against one another, my right leg thrown across his body as my head rests on his arm as I trace of the lines his tattoo. My finger drags across the points of the intricate compass star. It is shaded in blues and greens with a decorative needle pointing to a cursive 'N' while small unconnected lines circle the compass.

"It's for my family," Edward's low voice breaks the mutual blissful silence we lapsed into. "My mother always told me to let my heart guide me. She said it would never be wrong and would always bring me home."

I smile at the sweet words of his mother. I feel a moment of sadness that I will never know the family which means so much to him but I am pleased he now feels comfortable telling me these things.

"Was she right?" I ask him as I press a light kiss to the inked skin, directly over his heart.

"Of course. It lead me to you."


A/N: The poem is A Dust of Snow by Robert Frost. I hope you enjoyed this little story and would love to hear your thoughts via review!

a/n2: OH HOLY NIGHT Batman! This O/S won 3rd PLACE in the public vote of the contest! To say I'm blown away and beyond thankful for the reviews and votes is an understatement. Thank you so, so SO much! You make it worth it, peeps. Truly.

And just so you know, I'm adding a little self made 'banner' on the profile for this fic in addition to the one I won! Link on profile if you'd like to see 'em.

Oh, and did I mention I'm working on Edward's POV? Cause I am... ;)