AN: Big thanks to Yenny for pre-reading! And for all of you for sticking by me.
This is the final chapter, so enjoy!
Imagine the most wonderful aroma in the world. The scent that makes your mouth water and draws your attention no matter what you happen to be doing at the time. Whether it's the smell of hot chocolate on a cold day, or fresh lasagna baking in the oven, or death-by-chocolate cake cooling in the kitchen; it sings to you until you are powerless to resist.
Venom pooled in my mouth as the faintest aroma of human blood drifted by on the wind. Edward's eyes were black with hunger and I could only imagine that mine were just as dark. I knew it would be only too easy to give in to my instincts and feed. I could almost imagine what it would feel like to wrap my mouth around the warm skin and bite through to the river of bloody goodness waiting for me.
Edward's hand found mine and pulled me gently into the cover of trees. He crouched low to the ground and watched.
My brain was spinning, trying to put together what was happening and what was about to happen, and trying to fight against my instincts that were telling me nothing more than to feed.
Edward's hand squeezed mine gently and I looked up to see that he was watching me intently.
"What are you thinking?" he asked me, staring into my eyes. I stared back into his eyes, which were still jet black with the faintest ring of red around them. I knew that my own eyes were still the bright red of a newborn, and would be for months even if I didn't feed off any humans. I took a deep, unnecessary breath, which was supposed to be calming but only served to fill my lungs with that wonderful, tantalizing aroma and forced more venom into my mouth.
I closed my eyes and allowed myself to enjoy the sensation. I had already made my decision regarding human blood. I just needed to follow through on it now. When I reopened my eyes, Edward was still watching me, waiting patiently, okay maybe not so patiently, but waiting for me to answer his question. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I needed to stand by my decision.
I leaned forward and cupped his face in my hand before kissing him softly. He was still watching me, still trying to read my thoughts even though he knew it was impossible.
"What I'm thinking, Edward, is that red really isn't my color." I held my breath and watched carefully as my words registered to him. I wasn't sure how he would take it. I saw the briefest flash of disappointment in his eyes before it was gone and he kissed me gently.
"I guess we should get out of here, then." He stood and held his hand out to me, which I took with a smile.
"You don't have to leave," I told him. "I'll wait until you're done." I didn't want him to think that I was going to dictate his diet. That was his decision to make, just as I had made mine.
He never even hesitated. He just took my hand and led me away from the temptation that was nearing our waterfall and neither one of us looked back. When we were far enough away that we could breathe easily, we focused our attention on hunting. Edward found a grizzly bear easily enough and I found some deer close by. We fed until we were sated and spent the rest of the day exploring the forest and just enjoying each others company.
"Can I ask you a question?" he said tentatively as I lay in his arms and watched the sun setting over the horizon. I nodded against his shoulder for him to continue. His question consisted of one word. "Why?" He didn't have to elaborate. I knew what he was asking.
I sat up and ran my fingers through my hair absent-mindedly. I knew exactly why, but I wasn't entirely sure he would understand.
"My human life sucked ass, Edward," I told him. "I don't remember most of the details, but I do remember that much. You saved me from that existence and gave me a second chance." His hands came up to my shoulders and he rubbed them gently.
"I've watched your family over the last few months. They don't just exist, they live, you know? They go to school and to work and to college. They have friends, they have lives. It's what I've always wanted. If I give in to the desire for human blood, I'll always be on the outside looking in, and I want more than that." I turned to face him and was shocked by the emotion on his face. He was looking at me, almost in awe, like my words had struck a chord within him and had given him an epiphany or something.
"You are absolutely right," he muttered, breaking eye contact with me and staring off into space. "That's exactly what it's like."
I started to get concerned. What if he had taken what I said completely wrong? I wasn't trying to imply that he needed to change his way of life or anything. I would love him no matter what he fed on. He knew that, though, right?
"Edward," I tilted his chin up so he was looking at me again. "You know I would never ask you to change for me. I love you just the way you are. That will never change."
His lips curled up in a small smile, and then it got a little bigger, and a little bigger, until he was beaming at me, his eyes wide and his face clear. His mouth crashed into mine and took my breath away.
"Bella, Love," he whispered between kisses. "You have already changed me." He pushed me back against the ground and covered my body with his.
"That was me, just like you described. On the outside looking in." He looked deep into my eyes before leaning down to kiss me passionately. As his tongue explored my mouth, his hands wrapped around my back and pulled me in to him tightly.
"You saved me from that existence and gave me a second chance," he whispered into my ear, parroting back my own words before licking and sucking on my neck. "The Gods themselves sent you to me, Bella. My very own Angel."
I laughed to myself at his assumption. My hands gripped his hair and lifted his face up so I could stare into his eyes.
"You have that backwards, Love. I'm no Angel. It's you. You are the Angel."
We made love on the floor of the forest as the sun set below the horizon and as the moon drifted further into the night sky. It was not rushed or frantic, but the need pounded through both of us. The need to show each other just how much we meant to each other. We spent all night exploring each others bodies through touch and taste and in the end when he filled me completely I knew that I was whole. We fit together perfectly. We were meant for each other. The Powers That Be had finally found it within themselves to smile upon me. The sun was rising behind us, soft rays filtering through the trees above us to make our skin sparkle when we both reached our climax. We held on to each other, never wanting the moment to end.
Three months ago I lived outside of this world. I interacted when I needed to. I fed when I needed to. I maintained my distance and repeated my same monotonous day, day in and day out. Then I rescued a beautiful brown haired girl in an alley and my life was turned completely upside down. I no longer wanted to be an observer in the world. I wanted to experience life, and I wanted to experience it with her. I had come to realize that I had just been waiting, all those long boring years were spent waiting…for her.
Days with Bella flew by. We returned to Forks to properly thank everyone for saving my ass. While we were there, Alice went back into wedding-planner mode. Bella was more enthusiastic about the wedding than she had been before and she and Alice spent hours upon hours picking out decorations and dresses and flowers. I tended to disappear with Emmett and Jasper whenever they would get started.
It was good, though. It gave me time to do some research and find exactly what I wanted to buy Bella as a Christmas present. It didn't take me long to find it, and the price was definitely right. Christmas morning proved to be a very Forks-like day, dark and dreary with a wet snow falling and covering everything in a sticky layer of the white stuff. The family exchanged small gifts, but my mind wasn't on the sweaters that Alice had knitted for everyone or the new video games that Emmett had gotten us. I was itching to take Bella to see her present.
"Edward?" She waved her hand in front of my face and I realized I had zoned out. I blinked quickly and she laughed at me. "Come on, I want to give you your present from me." Her face was beaming as she pulled me out of the living room and down to the garage. I followed, curious to see what she had bought for me. No one had ever been able to surprise me with a gift before. I could always see it in their mind what they had gotten for me. But with Bella I was completely blank. It almost made me nervous. She put her hand over my eyes, opened the garage door and pulled me through. I heard the light click on and she uncovered my eyes. Sitting in front of me was a brand new Volvo. It was a black SUV, with four wheel drive.
I wrapped my arms around her waist and twirled her in a circle. She squealed a little and laughed. I kissed her swiftly and told her how much I loved it.
"I want you to know that it killed me to buy a Volvo instead of a new Challenger," she said with a gleam in her eye. I'm pretty sure she was serious, but I laughed at her anyway. At least now I knew what to buy her as a wedding present.
"Come on," I told her. "I bought you a present too." I ushered her in to the passenger seat before sliding behind the wheel and starting the engine. It purred to life and I smiled again to myself. Bella had bought me a car. Was it any wonder that I loved this woman?
I pulled the car out of the garage and into the snow, easily maneuvering down the driveway and onto the highway. A few short minutes and I pulled up to our destination. She looked out the window in confusion and then turned to me, her eyebrows raised in an unasked question.
We had stopped in front of a two story house that had seen better days. The paint was faded and chipped. The fence was rickety and falling apart, there were broken windows that had been half-heartedly boarded up, and there was a 'For Sale' sign in the front yard that was faded away to barely anything.
"What is this?" she asked.
"Come on, I'll show you." I stepped out of the car into the snow and went around to open her door for her. She hesitated a moment before taking my hand and following me up the sidewalk. I climbed the two steps on the front porch and put the key in the door. It creaked open slowly.
"Whose house is this?" Bella asked quietly. She knew. She was just looking for clarification.
"It's yours," I told her as I ushered her through the front door.
"You bought me an old house?"
"Not just any house, Bella," I told her quietly as I stepped through the front door and closed it behind me. With her human memories fading quickly, she didn't remember it right off. But she would soon enough.
The house was old, and dusty, and had obviously not been lived in for quite a while. The furniture still sat in a small circle around an old television set. Pictures still hung on the wall and sat on the fireplace, though the dust covering the photographs that were on display was so thick you could barely see the images beneath. It was as if the occupants had gone out one day and never came back.
Bella crossed the room slowly and picked up one of the pictures off the fireplace mantel. She wiped the dust carefully from the glass and saw the face of a little girl looking up at her. She was around eight years old, with brown curly hair and brown eyes. I knew the instant it had happened. Recognition flooded through her in a visible wave. She gasped and stepped back, the picture slipping through her fingers. I stepped forward quickly and snatched it out of the air before it shattered against the floor and placed it back on the mantel where it belonged.
"Edward," she whispered. "This was my house."
"Is, Love. This is your house." I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close. She put her arms around my neck and hugged me, pulling back just far enough to kiss me.
I watched as she wandered through the downstairs of the house. Mumbling to herself, remembering little tidbits of her childhood. The memories would fade away to nothing, but she would always have this place, she would always be able to go home.
She disappeared into the kitchen and I followed only to find her kneeling in front of the window.
"It's broken," she mumbled.
"Most of them are. They must not have boarded that one up yet."
"It's broken from the inside," she pointed out. "And there aren't any footprints in here except for ours." She looked around again, slowly, expectantly. She left the kitchen and went to the stairway, trailing her hand along the railing as she ascended the steps.
"The night of the car accident I had a dream," she told me as she climbed the stairs. "When I woke up from the accident, I was here. My parents were both here. We talked." She shook her head slowly as she tried to remember the dream. "My dad got pissed about something and threw his…" she paused, furrowed her brow and took a deep breath. "I don't remember," she seethed. "He threw something and broke that damn window."
She opened the door to a bedroom and we walked through. The room was painted a beautiful lavender color, which had faded with time. She chuckled to herself and I followed her eyes to the bed. The covers were crumpled and there was a pink Care Bear lying there on its side.
She picked up the stuffed animal and carried it over to the small dresser. There was a blue bear sitting there looking at her. She touched it gently and moved to set the pink bear on the dresser next to the blue one.
"Holy shit," she muttered. I crossed the room to see what she was looking at. The dresser was covered with dust, as was everything in this house, but next to that blue bear there was an area that was void of dust. The area where the pink bear was supposed to sit. Her eyes met mine briefly before she traced the spot lightly with her fingers. She lifted the bear and set it back down where it belonged, the same place it had sat for eight years, just waiting for her to come home
"This is amazing, Edward. Thank you so much for giving me this. It's the best present ever." She smiled up at me before leaning in to brush her lips over mine.
Bella decided that we should move the wedding date to New Year's Eve, despite Rose insisting that it was corny. At least it wasn't Valentine's Day, right? So at 11:30 PM on December 31, I found myself standing in a small archway covered in flowers and little white lights on the front yard of my families' home.
Alice had outdone herself, of course. The yard was surrounded by white Christmas lights and beautiful blue and silver flower arrangements. I know nothing about flowers, so I have no idea what kind of flowers they were. But they were beautiful. A strip of red carpeting ran from the front steps of the house to the archway, marking a pathway for Bella to walk down. There were chairs set up on either side of the carpeting for our guests. We had kept the guest list small, including only close friends and family.
Rose and Alice had been locked away with Bella for hours. When it was finally time to start, the music changed and I watched the front door of the house anxiously. Rose appeared first, her long blond hair flowed down her back, her blue v-neck gown flowed past her waist and swirled around her ankles. She smiled brightly as she made her way down the carpet, but she only had eyes for Emmett, who was standing next to me as my best man.
Alice came out next. Her short dark hair looked iridescent in the lighting. Her dress matched Rose's and they both looked absolutely beautiful. Her eyes were locked on Jasper's as she walked towards us, but she looked at me long enough to wink once before taking her place as maid of honor.
Bella appeared as the music changed. She was absolutely breathtaking in a sleeveless gown. The bead work across her chest glittered under the moonlight and I could see silver patterns embedded in the white fabric that hung down to her ankles and trailed slightly behind her. Her hair had been pinned up at the sides, but hung down her back in soft curls. Her eyes met mine and her smile radiated across the distance and warmed my heart. As she made her way towards me I had to stifle a laugh as I remembered Bella threatening Alice's life if she bought a strapless gown. Damn that pixie, though, because she had been right. Bella looked absolutely gorgeous.
We exchanged the customary vows and Carlisle declared us husband and wife. I leaned in to kiss her just as the clock struck midnight. It was an absolutely perfect evening. Jasper lit off fireworks and Emmett cranked up the music. We spent hours socializing with our family and introducing Bella to our friends that had come from near and far for the wedding.
As dawn began to break, everyone offered up their final congratulations and well wishes and went their separate ways, leaving us with only our close family. Bella and I only had a couple of hours to spare before we had to leave for the airport, so we joined in on the effort to help Alice clean up. When everything was picked up we all settled in the living room to relax before we had to leave. Carlisle and Esme curled up on the loveseat. Emmett and Rose lay down together on the floor in front of the television. Jasper sat in the armchair with Alice in his lap. And Bella lay across my lap on the couch.
I cleared my throat to get their attention and waited until all eyes were on me. Bella sat up next to me so she could see me too. I smiled at her, and then looked around the room at the rest of the family.
"So this is what it feels like to live in the world instead of just existing in it, huh?" I smiled to myself as I said it.
Rose snorted. Emmett groaned. Bella rolled her eyes.
"What?" I asked them all, feigning ignorance.
"We were expecting something, you know, a little more…insightful." Jasper said with a chuckle.
I quirked an eyebrow and turned to face Bella. She was trying not to laugh.
"I thought it was very insightful," I told her, staring into her eyes in all seriousness. The smile faded from her face and she leaned forward slightly. I reached up to tuck some hair back behind her ear. "I've existed in this world for a very long time, now I finally have something to live for." My lips met hers and we forgot there was anyone else in the room with us as my tongue explored her mouth and her hands raked through my hair, pulling me closer.
Yes, this is what living is supposed to feel like. Family. Friends. Love. I had everything I needed to last myself an eternity right here in this room.
AN: So that's it. What do you guys think?
I started re-reading from the beginning as I finished this chapter up and I realized it was pretty rough to start off. The OCD in me wants to go back and 'fix' it, but I'm going to resist. And I'm going to send out a huge Thank You to all of you that stuck by me and read, reviewed, and put this story on alert. Huge hugs and booby rubs for all of you! :o)
I will be starting a new FF in the next couple of weeks. The outline is done, safely in my head of course. But I hope to start putting words down soon, so be sure to put me on author alert so you won't miss it when I get it posted.