I shrugged out of my shirt as I walked to the French door that led straight to the private beach, letting it flutter to the floor a split second before I felt the wood floor give way to sand. I half grinned as I heard Bella's heart stutter then restart in double time. I resisted the urge to turn and look at the blush I could feel creeping up her neck to stain her cheeks, preferring instead to picture it in my head while still allowing her the privacy of the bedroom that she clearly wanted.
I didn't stop walking until I reached the curved tree that was halfway between the house and the water. I stood for a moment looking out over the moonlight reflecting off the surprisingly still water. This is it, I thought. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the silence. I'm so accustomed to the babble of voices that ebbs and flows around me all the time that here with only my ever silent Bella for companionship I feel disoriented by the lack of thoughts. This was one of the main attractions to choosing Isle Esme for our honeymoon, of course. I wanted to be able to focus on nothing but us. Me and Bella. My wife. The surge of fierce satisfaction and joy wells up in my dead chest for one glorious moment before the panic rushes in behind it to crush it. How can I do this? I'll hurt her.
My damned perfect recall brings back the face of a livid Jacob Black – was it really mere hours ago? - hurling accusations at me. Both the ones he managed to verbalize and the more pointed, vicious ones that never made it to articulation. That were meant for me alone.
You'll kill her? Just to get some? It's not enough for you to take her life, make into what you are – a damned monster. No. You can't even wait for that, you selfish sonofabitch. You'll kill her.
He had been practically incoherent with rage. Rage for me and what Bella admitted I had agreed to. Fury for Bella for trusting me and risking everything for me. And behind all of that, disgust. Disgust with the very idea that I would touch her. And disgust with himself that he continued to be surprised by what I would do.
I squeezed my eyes shut in a vain attempt to block the images and memories, pressing my hands hard against the sides of my head. He's right. How can I do this?
I forced my head up again and listened to the sounds drifting clearly out from the house. I could hear Bella moving around inside. It sounded like she was rifling through the suitcase; I could hear the soft swishing of fabric. And then, quietly, a distinct snort. It made me wonder what Alice had packed that caused this reaction. A sudden vision of white satin and lace flashed across my mind. I couldn't stop the electric tingle of excitement that sang through my whole body at the idea. The urge to run back inside was nearly overpowering. My God, I was like a child! I knew that to get through this night I was going to have to exercise more control than I had needed over the past century, and here I was nearly ready to lose it with nothing more than my own lascivious imagination.
Quickly, before I could create any more fantasies from the sounds inside the house, I kicked off my shoes and stripped off the rest of my clothes throwing them over a low, crooked branch of the tree. I ran straight to the water's edge and hurled myself into the warm, blanketing depths. I would just stay down here until I got a grip on myself.
I started to go over every precaution I'd devised to make this as safe as possible. I had spoken at length with Carlisle and my brothers trying to get a better understanding of what I can expect and any ways to try and maintain my focus. Fat lot of good Emmett was on that front. Guffaws and innuendo about how he'd never tried to reign himself in with Rosalie were not what I needed. Jasper wasn't much more help, though significantly less irritating about it. I gathered from my conversation with him that he would be little help to me since his absorption in the moment was generally always complete since he was blessed – cursed? – to feel not only his emotions, but Alice's as well. Well, at least I didn't have that to worry about. I would have plenty to deal with just getting a handle on my own lust without having to experience Bella's, too.
Carlisle tried to help. He, at least, could be clinical in his descriptions and did his best to keep embarrassing images from running through his head during the conversations. The long and short of it was, I was going to have to try and detach myself as much as possible while making love to Bella as a human. I had plenty of practice with that over the past months as she became increasingly persistent in her attempts to push the boundaries of our physical intimacy. My plan was simple. I was just going to have to focus on Bella's experience. I could do that. I could make it all about her. Her safety, her pleasure, her damned "human experience" that means so much to her.
I kicked out and started swimming to try and escape from my own frustrated thoughts. The darkness was no shield to my eyes and I could see that all the fish and other sea life were well hidden while I was in the water. I decided to head back to the shallower water, it wouldn't do to have Bella come looking for me while I was out of sight and I honestly wasn't sure how long I had been underwater brooding. Within seconds I was standing again in water waist deep not far from my original entry point. The house was clearly in sight. Within seconds I could clearly hear the sounds of water from inside. Bella must be in the shower.
My eyelids flew closed and I pinched the bridge of my nose as I was assailed with mental images of Bella in the shower. It continued to amaze me how unaware she remained of her own appeal. I vowed to myself that I would make this night's activities into an exercise to show her, once and for all, the desire I felt for her. The water abruptly turned off and I could hear more rustling noises from inside. I cursed myself for a selfish bastard because the only feeling that coursed through my dead heart now was joy. Because above all the fear, beyond all the doubt, the monster inside was purring with pleasure and anticipation. I wanted this. More than I had ever wanted anything in my more than a hundred years walking this Earth. It rivaled even the instinctive drive I felt to protect Bella. And there was the problem. Two opposing forces, as it were. And I know enough of my own weakness, my own selfishness to know that I would let the monster win. I could lie to myself and say it was because of the promise I made to her, because it was what she thinks she wants, but in truth I was deeply grateful to have those flimsy excuses to give in to the monster.
But, as the images I had conjured of Bella in the shower danced relentlessly through my mind I was visited by yet another wave of emotion. Amazing how being with her continued to reawaken the human man buried deep in years of immortality! This time, though, I felt real fear. I knew that if my body were capable of betraying me in that way that I would be shaking like a leaf. As it was, the water lapping softly around my waist remained undisturbed. Yet, the fear grew. What if I hurt her? What if I – but I couldn't even complete that thought. It couldn't happen. I could not let this happen. Bella would just have to adjust. It's not like this would be the first promise to her that I broke.
I was edging closer to panic. So much worse than the increasingly common episodes I'd been experiencing over the past several months now that the moment was nearly upon me. I tried to organize my spiraling thoughts, knowing that it was going to take some serious persuasion to make Bella understand that this could…not….happen.
Just then I realized that Bella's heart was racing and her breathing was coming in quick gasps – almost as if she could hear my own thoughts and was preparing to argue with me already. I mashed my lips together, resisting the urge to run to her and soothe her. Then I heard her voice. Just a whisper.
"Don't be a coward."
Well. A laugh huffed through my lips unbidden. I was certain that she didn't intend those words for me, as low as she had murmured them. Looks like I wasn't the only one experiencing some nerves. One side of my mouth hitched up as I unwillingly felt the panic and fear start to retreat, leaving in its place a strange and uneasy peace. I could hear soft footsteps on the sand behind me and I forced myself to remain still. To resist the urge to turn and look at her. I wanted the moment to gather this newfound peace around myself, as I knew I would need every ounce. I also perversely wanted to prolong the anticipation. The moment I had dreamt of for months. No, years, really. Decades. More lifetimes than I cared to remember. Was here. Bella was going to be mine.
She slipped her hand over mine, hovering on the surface of the warm water. I wished desperately that the searing heat of my desire could translate into true warmth in my skin. She deserved warmth. I gazed intently up at the moon, prolonging the sweet torment.
"Beautiful," she said. It sounded like music to me. Like an invitation. "It's alright," I answered knowing that she was referring to the moon. I slowly turned. My eyes lead, then my head and finally my whole body followed the motion until I was facing her. I turned my hand so that we were palm to palm, being careful to keep them under the surface of the water to hold on to that illusion of warmth. The quote from "Romeo and Juliet" flitted through my mind just then. "For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss." How appropriate, I thought wryly.
"But, I wouldn't use the word beautiful," I continued. "Not with you standing here in comparison." And finally I let my covetous eyes drift over her face, so familiar and achingly beautiful, down her throat where I could see her pulse just under her skin throbbing and calling me to me and then lower. My breath hissed out silently between my teeth. I was quite certain that there was no force of God or man that could have caused me to move then, I locked my muscles so tightly in an attempt to not leap on her immediately.
Of course, I was wrong. Bella always managed to surprise me, so why did I think this situation would be any different? She raised her other hand, much steadier than I felt, and placed it feather-light on my chest. A shudder wracked my traitorous body as I felt her heat spread through me from that one point. Her scent swirled around me in the warm, humid air and I felt my eyes drift closed as I let the sensation surround me, fill me and finally eliminate any remaining vestiges of my intention to prevent this from happening.
"I promised we would try," I begged, shocked as the rasp my voice has become. "If…if I do something wrong, if I hurt you," I choked on the word as the probability of that once again reared its head, "you must tell me at once." Bella nodded slowly. Futilely, for what felt like the millionth time, I desperately tried probing her mind. Never had I wanted to hear her thoughts more than in this moment. She took a small step toward me, closing the distance between us as I tried to ignore the familiar frustration at my failure, and she laid her head against my chest right next to her small hand.
"Don't be afraid," her angel's voice was soft but distinct. "We belong together." I could hear her conviction in her tone and in the way she leaned into me. So trusting. I sighed softly, knowing once and for all that I would do my best to fulfill this promise.
"Forever," I surrendered. And I pulled her agonizingly soft body against mine and drifted with her into deeper water.