A Dozen Pink Roses

by Mackenzie L.

Written for Valentine's Day, to all my sweet readers.

-}o{-

This one-shot has been rated M for sexual content.

*The Twilight Saga and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer


Working the night shift at the hospital had its advantages.

The end of his day was marked not by darkness, but by the faint glow of hopeful morning light. A pale peach horizon behind a towering fortress of evergreens was just beginning to melt into blue. The silver street lamps blinked off one by one as he drove past them on the highway.

January had been bloated with blizzards, and March would be barren and bald. Mid February nestled itself between the two, neither too hectic nor too bare. The midway month brought with it a kind of sweet lull, masking its mornings with brief showers of fine, powdery snowflakes. The white dust would melt before dawn, and only those who worked the early clock would see these fleeting remnants of winter's dying dream.

The roads were quiet this early in the morning. Mottled gray streaks of guardrail followed his speeding car over miles of naked tar. Countless strips of white and yellow formed a predictable pattern down the center of the road, like faint fluorescent bars melting into a river of black. As the sky grew brighter, the road seemed to grow darker – a brilliant contrast only the coming day could awaken.

A single heavy sigh was the only sound in his muffled car interior as the trees and streetlights sped past his windows in a familiar blur. The roads became curvier as he approached the central part of his small town. The signs of shops were adorned with red and white, storefront windows dressed in lacy pink streamers and mobiles of cupids and paper hearts. Valentine's Day was an awfully brief holiday to afford such excessive decor, yet people tried to force upon it the same extravagance as Christmas and Easter.

Under any normal circumstances he would not have let any commercialized ornamentation lead him to purchase anything. But there was something secretive and intriguing about the charmingly simplistic decor of the corner flower shop that inspired him to park his car on the side of the empty street and venture inside.

The very first customer on Valentine's Day, Carlisle walked out of the store with a single bouquet of twelve roses. He had been bold in breaking a long practiced romantic tradition. Not a scarlet petal in sight, he held in his hands instead a bouquet of palest pink, so pale in color that they could have fooled even the cleverest of honeybees into believing they were white.

Their sweet fragrance filled his car, and the presence of life in its most innocent form was comforting to him... even if they were only flora. In all their years together, Carlisle's wife had taught him to appreciate the smallest signs of life.

The snowflakes had settled by the time he arrived home, the sky cool and clear above him as he walked up to the door and opened it with his key. The sun had not yet risen, and the house was still dull with the dusty remains of the evening's shadows. It was a bit like walking into a black and white movie, waiting for the colors to appear out of nowhere. His wife's soft scent was close by, taunting him lovingly from around some corner, out of his reach. He knew she would bring him the colors he sought.

He ventured into the dark house, hand pressed against the cold white wall until he reached the staircase. Somewhere behind him, a soft-toed series of footsteps inched closer to where he stood. He smiled to himself before he quickly turned around, hoping to catch her before she thought she caught him.

Her small hands grasped his neck in an affectionate strangle, struggling to reach him from her disadvantaged height. Knowing what she wanted, he leaned down to aid her, and she eased her choking hold.

She kissed him passionately, her caramel curls tumbling wildly onto his shoulders, her hands grappling desperately at the nape of his neck. As they struggled to embrace one another in their impatience, their tender reunion was disrupted by the bouquet of pink roses that Carlisle still held in his hand. Between their bodies, the flowers were carelessly crushed, their perfume bursting from the friction.

Her lips gently released his, just enough to ask, "Who are these for?" as she petted the fragrant pink flowers.

"For my..." he paused, cleverly letting the word 'wife' melt into "...Valentine."

She raised an eyebrow and insecurely bit her lip. "You have a Valentine?"

"Mmhm."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

He stroked a pitying finger across her exquisite cheek. "I didn't want to injure your feelings."

"Who is she?"

"She is...the most beautiful woman I have known in my three hundred years. She makes me feel alive and young and blessed... She is the reason for my existence...and she has given me a fulfillment I never thought possible."

Carlisle watched his wife's eyes shimmer as she endured his heartbreaking words, his feelings for this mysterious young woman who had stolen his heart.

"Why must you bring her these roses?" she asked, touching the petals of the smallest bud.

His pure golden gaze churned with poignant memories as he grasped her fingers and held them in his hand. "She once told me that little girls never outgrow their fondness for flowers." His voice was achingly soft, but somehow exhilarated.

The look on his wife's face was heart-splitting, her words shaky as she made one last attempt to keep him at her side. "Is there nothing I can say that would stop you from going to her?"

He bowed his head and kissed her fingers for forgiveness. "I'm afraid not, my dear."

Carlisle abandoned his beloved wife in the hall, the tips of her fingers still burning from his frustratingly light kisses. With a brutally aching heart, she watched from the door as he set out with his coveted bouquet of beautiful flowers into the frosty morning, each pale pink rosebud glowing for his true love.

-}o{-

The earth grew brighter around him with every step as Carlisle set out into the cold morning alone. The sky spread out over his head like a sheet of pale blue silk, the sun peeking through the weary brown tangle of branches that made up the forest. His trip was ever so short, but it felt like miles when she was waiting for him.

At last he approached the place where he knew she would be… his Esme. There was a window on the third floor of this mansion in the woods where he would often find her, sitting with her elbows on the sill, her gaze wandering the world beyond her bedroom, her imagination sighing with fanciful thoughts of what might be waiting for her if she dared to escape.

Today, her dreams would be coming to her.

Glancing around to be sure his presence was unknown, Carlisle quickly shed his jacket and left it to lay in the frosty grass. Without hesitation, he reached up to grab the wide white lattice on the back wall and began to climb. He was sure of his footing, flawless in his ascent having carried himself up this very wall countless times before. He was familiar with every weak spot in the lattice, every crack in the stone walls of the house, every challenging gap for his arms to reach. He had climbed up to Esme in the thick heat of summer, in the blustery eves of autumn, in the fragrant midnights of springtime. Each time the journey became more thrilling; each time the gift of seeing her face when he reached the top grew more exciting. He could feel her presence weighing down on his heart, and it spurred him to move faster.

Esme had watched her hero many times from her window above. Unbeknownst to him, her eyes would follow his every move, and her ears would savor his every sound. Every soft grunt he uttered, every tap-tap-clatter sound of the lattice as he tugged at the frames, and finally the catch of his breath as he caught hold of the railing that surrounded her balcony.

She would lean against the glass of her window, her fingers pressed against her lips, as if to physically contain her smile as she watched him in secret. Her heart felt forever young when he did this, barely able to blink for fear of missing a single move he made. He always shed his jacket before he climbed. Sometimes he took off his shoes as well. Today he had done both, leaving both his forearms and his feet gloriously bare. The chill had no effect on him.

Esme touched the window anxiously as she watched her admirer climb the lattice, each step and strain of his capable legs putting pressure on the flimsy white frames. She could not deny the delight she felt in observing him from above; she had always been a little bit fascinated by the way the muscles in his arms would swell ever so slightly when he reached for the next rung, how the wind would ruffle his thick blond hair when he raised his head to see how far he still had to go.

With each step he took closer to the top, her fingers trembled harder. She knew that in mere moments he would reach the balcony outside her bedroom, and with might unconquerable, swing his strong legs over the edge of the railing. He would knock on her door softly with his knuckles – three times slow, to let her know it was him.

…As if she had not been watching him from the moment he threw off his boots and jacket.

On his way up the steep side of the house, Carlisle looked inside each window he passed, searching for signs that Esme was inside. He knew when he had reached the right place, for she had left a single small white feather between the shutters of her window.

It was their secret symbol. When one of them needed to find the other, they would look for the dove feather the other had left behind. Doves were a symbol of hope, and their relationship was nothing without hope. At times like these, hope was their only ally.

Carlisle plucked the dainty white feather from the shutter and watched it shiver in the wind as he held it firmly between his fingers, with the promise never to let go.

His eyes flickered to the balcony door as he heard her slightest movement inside the room. Filled with forbidden excitement, Carlisle grasped the slim iron bars of her bedroom balcony, the muscles in his legs burning with a hero's strain as he hoisted himself up over the railing. His stomach flipped in fear as the bouquet of roses nearly slipped out of his hands, but he caught it just in time before it could fall to the ground below.

Clutching the roses against his chest like a father might cradle his infant child, he tapped three times slowly on Esme's door, awaiting the pattering sound of her eager feet on the floor as she came to see him.

The door opened with a quiet creak, and behind it she stood in all her simple, stunning beauty. Her hair like dark honey, held up by sparse pins in a loose knot behind her neck; her face full of love, and in her eyes a spirited sparkle meant only for him. She wore a dress of soft lavender colored cotton, and a pair of delicate pearl earrings. Her feet were bare, as they always were, even on a frosty day. She clutched the handle with her trembling fingers, so tightly he thought it might break. It made him remember how tightly she would hold him when she finally accepted his offer to love her.

Foremost a gentleman, he asked her permission to come inside, presenting his token of entry – the dove feather she had left for him to find.

"No wise young lady would dare let a strange man into her bedroom," she teased, accepting the feather from his open palm. He watched as she closed it protectively into her fist.

"You know I cannot be seen in the sunlight," he played along, his patience trying as he sent a worried glance to the glowing horizon. "Please let me come inside... You offer me my only protection."

With that, she readily took his hand and slowly pulled him into the room, closing the door behind them. Once inside, her eyes fell almost hungrily upon the roses in his hand.

"You brought me roses," she whispered, enchanted.

"It was the least I could do for the woman I love." He took her hand and pressed it to the bound cone of stems, encouraging her to hold the bouquet tightly before he let it go. "All I ask in return from her is one kiss..."

Esme's eyes closed contentedly as her blond lover leaned down, tilting his head to intercept her mouth. His lips still bore the chill of a frosty morning, having been battered by the frigid wind on his way to her window. She could feel his tongue slide against hers, the touch of his eyelashes on her forehead, the sweet burst of his breath as he resurfaced.

She slowly shook her head as he backed away, her eyes still closed. "I think you are cheating yourself by only asking for one kiss in return," she murmured.

"Mm?"

She opened her eyes to clarify, "It seems awfully unsatisfactory in the way of compensation..."

"Oh, but I am satisfied," he whispered assuredly.

Her fingers slid seductively around his jaw, bringing him down for another kiss. "Let me change your mind."

Her lips met his in an impulsive combustion of heat and passion, the cold room suddenly scorching with the fire of their love. His arms wrapped around her waist, bringing her closer until the roses rubbed against his chest. The smarting scent of the flowers seemed to grow stronger as their kiss intensified. When they finally parted, Esme pressed her nose to the roses with a beguiling smile, silently vowing to make use of his gift.

She moved first toward the vanity, and he thought she would place the roses inside the crystal vase. But instead she turned around and laid them on the bed.

She unwrapped the roses from their flimsy cone of light green tissue paper and held them in her hands. Her fingers touched the buds of the flowers lovingly, reverently – Esme had a way about her when she was touching life. Carlisle thought that she may have envied those roses for this reason. Perhaps she wished she could be alive in some way, in need of nourishment. But what Esme failed to realize was that she was already like a rose to Carlisle. She needed his nourishment; she needed his love for her heart to survive.

As far as being alive... Esme could not have been more alive to him.

But those roses, they were no longer linked with the earth. They had been cut off from their life source, and now they were surviving on emptiness. They had only a short while to be beautiful and free before they shriveled and wilted away into pale pink ash. They were, Carlisle thought, more like humans in this way.

Esme would not shrivel away into a pile of pink ash. She was to last forever, by the good grace of his venom and heaven's sweet mercy. She was to be his for eternity.

These roses were insignificant when compared to all of the other gifts he had given her. But in this moment, Esme treated them as if they were the most precious things she had ever set her eyes upon.

Her fingers twisted around the long green leaves of each slender stem, passing over tiny notches where the thorns had been removed. He watched her fingers, as he always had, with a tortured and tempted heart. A thousand years could pass and he would still watch her fingers that way – as if it were his first time witnessing the wonders of a woman's hand. He could be cast in the dust of the dry-lands, wasted by the waters of his willpower, lost in the erosion of time. He could be perched on the brink of the apocalypse and Esme's fingers would still hold him in a trance... His heart would give one last hefty pulse before he left the earth, from just one glance at her hands.

Presently, he felt an echo of that pulse within his chest as he watched her pluck a single petal from the fattest rose in the bouquet. Her fingertips were tender with the tiny pink flake as she let it flutter down to land on the corner of the bed. He watched, unsurprised in expression, but somewhat stunned inside, as his wife undressed each rose and began to spread their discarded petals over the sheets like an impromptu piece of artwork. Each delicate spot of pink looked even paler against the cornflower blue of the covers.

When she had finally destroyed every rose with her loving, patient touch, Esme stood back and dropped the single white dove feather to complete the mosaic of petals on the sheet.

"You don't look pleased, Doctor." She pouted as she appraised his face.

"I'm merely confused as to why my gift for you is now lying in pieces on your bed..."

"I intend for you to gain something from your gift as well." She sat herself gingerly on the edge of the mattress and petted the soft blue quilt beside her. A surge of excitement raced through him as she looked to him expectantly, waiting for him to join her.

"I would think you'd say it unwise for a woman to let a strange man share her bed," he murmured, inching toward her. His every step made the floorboards moan and sigh beneath his weight.

"You're not a stranger," she softly declared, her eyes glistening like honey-colored stars. "I know you..."

"How well do you know me, Esme?" he asked, his voice husky, impassioned.

"Would you like me to show you?"

She barely managed to ask the question before his lips had taken hers captive. Bound by his desire, Carlisle kissed his loving enchantress with a restless passion he only ever unleashed when they were alone. Her hands cradled his cheeks encouragingly as his kiss strengthened, the tips of her fingers stained with the scent of roses as they crept affectionately over his face.

He reluctantly released her as he felt her fidgeting in his arms. Her hands swept down his back to untuck his shirt, working slowly around his waist until she reached the front. Her eyes locked onto his as she began to undo the buttons one by one, starting from the very bottom, just above his belt.

They discarded their clothing slowly – as slowly as she had discarded that light green tissue paper. As the roses shed their petals, they shed their layers of fabric, knowing there was no point in covering anything now. A warm burst of morning sunlight finally invited itself into the room, spilling through every window to intrude upon their intimate moment. But the light was welcome now, where they knew they would be safe from prying eyes.

Carlisle finished the task Esme's caring hands had started, and with a flick of his thumb, the last button was free. He slowly pulled his arms from his sleeves, and let the pale green material wilt around him. His shirt, Esme noticed, was nearly identical in color to the tissue paper that had covered her bouquet. But the gift that hid beneath this particular wrapping was far more precious to her.

She was hypnotized by every inch of flawless white flesh on his body, spellbound with every quiver of muscle around his neck and through his arms, smitten with the pale blond trail that dipped below his navel. He touched himself for a few strange, slow moments, feeling the intricate landscape of his torso, his hands communicating precisely what he desired hers to do. Her excitement would peak when he slid his fingers down his front, pausing on the buckle of his belt before he slowly unlatched it.

That was where he stopped, expecting her to continue from where he had abandoned the task.

She took a deep breath and reached up to lay her hands on each of his shoulders before beginning the slow journey south. Her hands followed the path his had taken, kneading the firm flesh beneath her palms as she worked her way down. The tiny blond hairs on his belly tickled her fingers, her touch growing gentle as she reached the abandoned buckle of his belt. Her finger slipped beneath it, finding the button that when opened would mark the point of no return.

His breath hitched as she paused, and he took her hands in his, kissing each before he finished what she had so innocently started. His hands gripped the waist of his pants and he pushed them down past his thighs, his knees, and finally his ankles. The light from the window skidded across his skin in fluttering rays as clouds passed over the sun, each warm yellow band of light seeming too coy to linger on his nude body for more than an instant. The light melted away, leaving a few pricks of diamond dust to shimmer on his hip.

They never needed words to tell the other how beautiful they were. Carlisle could simply see it in Esme's eyes as she looked at him – how she could see nothing but perfection. He imagined she experienced the same wondrous phenomenon when she looked into his eyes.

Her gaze was the most intimate caress of all as it laved over his naked skin. Weak in the knees, he settled in relief on the very edge of the soft mattress, unwittingly crushing several rose petals beneath him as he moved back. Reaching out with needy hands, he gripped Esme's arms and urged her forward, parting his legs to make room for her approach.

His hand reached out to curl around the back of her head, and she soon felt the gentle tug of his fingers as he pried the tiny brown barrettes from her hair. Her eyes never left his as he freed her hair from its constraints with a look of unfathomable fondness. Her smooth caramel tresses fell upon her shoulders while he held the tiny pins in his palm and urged her closer with a subtle gesture of one hand.

She obeyed, the hem of her dress tickling the bare skin of his thighs as she came closer to his lap. His fingers teased a single pearl earring from her left earlobe first, adding it to his open palm with a twitch of a smile. He cocked his head as he repeated the series of simple actions on her right earlobe, eyes never parting with hers the entire time.

His arm stretched over to let the small accessories tumble onto the surface of the nightstand with a symphony of pitter-pattering pins and pearls across the polished wood. The irritated blue blink of the message machine on the nightstand begged attention for its three missed calls from Forks Hospital, but they would have to wait patiently while the doctor was busy.

Esme stepped forward, her height nearly an even match with Carlisle's when he was seated on the edge of the bed. Reaching behind her shoulders, he pinched the tiny zipper of her dress and slid it slowly down her back. A pool of lavender cotton appeared around her bare feet as she fell straight into his arms.

Their first embrace was chaste, unrushed. Their love almost always began with the gentle press of one body against another. But they did not seek more than this pure and simple contact. Having gone far too long in their lives without knowing such exquisite closeness, they never lost their need for it. It could be savored without the feverish grappling of limbs or the restless riot of fumbling fingers. The power of a patient embrace was too often overlooked by lovers, but it had so much more to offer. Simply wrapping their arms around the other for a prolonged moment of utter stillness heightened the hovering intimacy until it was all but burning between their bodies.

Esme waited for the moment when Carlisle would cave from the sweet tension. When that moment came, he would bow his head to rest against her shoulder, a soft whimper in the back of his throat.

Her head settled overtop of his, smiling to herself as the soft strands of his blond hair tickled against her cheek. She savored in stillness as he breathed raggedly against her breast, the tip of his tongue circling discreetly over her sensitive flesh. Drawing back, she pressed her palms to his chest, pushing him gently back onto the bed. He shuddered pleasantly at the feeling of each satiny petal kissing his back where she had left them on the sheet.

Esme patiently picked up the petals that had been scattered over the bed; one by one, she placed them in her palm. Carlisle watched her curiously as she completed her soft pink collection, and when her hand was full, she began to place the petals on various spots of his skin instead.

"What are you doing?" he asked her, the raspy tone of his voice betraying his intrigue.

"Decorating," she replied with a winsome smile, slipping one velvety petal across his open lips.

She had deemed him her blank canvas, and with every rose petal she pasted to his body, he was slowly becoming her artwork. She licked each tiny petal, coating it in her venom before she pressed it to his skin. To remain still was not a struggle for Carlisle as Esme covered his arms from his hands to his shoulders, but when the petals began to land lower and lower on his chest, he began to grow restless.

He could see that there were three petals still in her palm. He had only to guess where she would be placing these final markers. There was barely an inch of his torso left uncovered, but everything beneath his waist was still deliciously bare.

His stomach tightened excitedly as her eyes passed critically between his thighs, and she cocked her head in quiet thought, carefully weighing her decision of where to place her final three rose petals. She pinched the first petal between her fingers, rubbing it idly as she pondered her next move. Carlisle closed his eyes in anticipation as she lowered her hand.

One tiny tickle on his bellybutton.

One more just below it...

She lifted the very last petal to her lips and touched the tip of her tongue to it in a loving lick.

She placed that last rose petal on him – in a place where he would not be likely to ignore it – and his sigh melted her heart. He raised his hips from the bed as her hand curled around him, breathing hard under her merciless attention. As his hands reached up for her, she leapt ahead and fell against him, her lips connecting with his throat, her fingers tightening in his golden locks. He felt her, warm and small and smooth, all around him. Parts of her were moist, others perfectly dry. Some parts were softer than others, but all of her was his...and he needed all of her to be complete.

As if being rolled over by a forceful wave on the shore, he flipped her body swiftly beneath his, the rose petals raining down all around her as he hovered above. Her skin was diaphanous under the light as she let herself splash into the sheets like a swooning goddess. Her hair fanned out in frivolous tendrils, reminiscent of the idealized female in an elaborate art nouveau painting.

Taking advantage of her submissive pose, Carlisle scooped up a handful of fallen petals and sprinkled them lovingly over Esme's open body. The charming spots of pink were even more befitting where they lay upon her hair, between her breasts, down her slender stomach, and in her lap...

"Remind me," he murmured in a low, thoughtful voice. "Was there ever a goddess of roses in Greek Mythology?"

Esme trailed a finger down the column of his throat and cocked her head. "Not that I can recall."

"You'll be the first, then," he whispered as his fingers combed affectionately through her long, petal-strewn hair.

She averted her eyes with a brilliant but endearingly shy smile that made her lips look irresistibly kissable. He leaned down and clutched her bottom lip between his teeth, gently grazing the sensitive flesh. Her gasp sent a shudder through his body, and he lowered himself at last to nestle between her thighs.

His hands roamed the length of her arms, the curves of her waist, the exquisite arch of her back. He touched her as if this were his last chance to feel the softness of her skin, as if this were the final moment he had to memorize every detail of her body. His love for her swelled as he listened to the reverent hymn of her breath, the senseless words that left her lips, half-formed but full of meaning.

Like the perfect lover, she moved with him, responded to the careful work of his hands. She allowed him to indulge in her every crevice, his fingers lost in a sculptor's sensual fantasy. Her hands reached out for his shoulders when his touch became more desperate, tracing impromptu sketches on her quivering thighs.

"More."

The word was so soft, so innocent sounding as she uttered it. It was the first coherent word she had said since his hands had begun their ritual of tender worship. For a moment all he could do was breathe and stare, winded already from the sheer fire that thrummed between their bodies.

"Yes, my love."

Tucking his chin against the crook of her slender neck, he began to gently beat against her. His voice stayed quiet there, between the curtain of her hair and her delicate ear, murmuring unmentionable words and phrases as if they were the most reverent of prayers. She lifted her legs up around his waist, hugging him tighter with each measured thrust, breathing in time with him.

It was the way he moved his hips that fascinated her endlessly every time they made love. Sensual, rhythmic; slow then swift. His motions were beautifully controlled, interrupted every now and again by an unexpected flutter of desperation. He was so very aware of both their bodies, so keen in all senses to the nuances of his subtle craft. He paused when he felt something – and it was always something she felt, too. One of those tiny, pin-point moments where the love between them burst like a firework, and neither of them wished to lose hold of it. If they paused at just the right moment, the sensation would consume them as they embraced with careful, creeping arms. They grasped at it frantically while it lasted, like a bird they were wary of frightening off...and when it dispersed, they mourned its loss. But they never forgot the feeling.

Careening for the edge, their souls would merge seamlessly in the moment they lost themselves together as one. They would make their pleasure known in different ways; her soft, mewling cries drowning happily in his deep, feral panting.

Their hastening movements brushed the last few petals away, freeing the exquisite scent of rose to mingle with the essence of their love. Carlisle had never expected to be sharing this moment so intimately with those twelve pink roses. He had supposed they would watch the passionate scenes from afar with their chronic blush, perhaps on a distant shelf somewhere in the room, tucked properly inside a crystal vase. He would have never guessed they would be scattered in pieces all over the bed sheets, peppered across the pillows, their petals clinging to his skin while he shuddered through his climax.

Carlisle groaned with the glory of his release, his hands forming a reverent cradle for Esme's neck as he lifted her head to meld their lips together. His fingers frantically wove through her hair, gathering the petals that had nested there. Every sensation seized him in that moment, the sweet heat of Esme's breath on his chin, the silky strands of her that got tangled around his fingers, the tightness of her grip as he pressed further into her, the rosy spots of velvet between their bodies… Esme's hands, no matter how gentle they were by nature, were intimidating strong when she clutched his shoulders. He adored the feeling – that fierce, unforgiving protectiveness about her… the possessive fervor when she held him against her, claiming him as her own. And he never wanted to belong to another… So he let her mark him.

Her fingers kneaded and rubbed and clutched… his shoulders, his back, his neck, his biceps… She was everywhere at once, her lashes batting in a frenzy of intense desperation as she milked him for every last ounce of pleasure he had to give. He had since settled in stiff stillness deep within her, his eyes blossoming from ebony to sunlight as she continued to writhe beneath him. Having mercy on her, he gave her a gentle gift to end her torment, to loosen the final threads of her suspension. One sweet, slow joust of his hips, and he pushed her over the edge.

It was a complex feeling he had while watching her shriek and shiver with pleasure. He was first intoxicated by her every reaction, wondering what it felt like for her, fascinated by how many ways she could sigh, all the while enduring her forceful pulse after pulse around his buried length. It was a feeling like standing too close to a fire, a warmth unimaginable by any of the five senses… a crippling wave of love that was so strong it left him with a thrumming pain in his chest, a sense of fulfillment so rich it humbled him to the point where he longed to kiss the ground… and a tiny flicker of pride from knowing he would be held responsible for leaving the woman beneath him breathless.

Esme was like a panting white fire beneath him.

And she cooled slowly… ever so slowly. Much slower than he did.

He would think her pleasure was gone at last, but one little motion would set her off again, her hips nudging his a few more times for good measure. It was as if she were seeking some sort of security from him, some confirmation that her sensations were real, that he could produce them again if need be…

He calmed her with the expert stroke of his hand, weighing her down with his most sincere affection. When nothing but her lungs moved beneath him, he gently freed them of their sacred bond, settling with a heavy sigh beside her. His arms gathered her bare, beautiful body against him, smoothing the petal covered sheets over their hips.

"The thought of leaving you breaks my heart," he whispered against her breast.

"Then don't leave me. Stay with me for as long as you can," she pleaded, her voice hoarse from loving him. He could not imagine a night without hearing that voice, nor could he imagine a world where she did not exist. His chest felt repulsively empty just thinking of it... His soul shivered at the thought of never being warmed by hers again.

"Stay..." she whispered one last time.

And so he did.

-}o{-

Though the windows grew dimmer with each passing hour, they tried to deny the fading lights of the sky. They averted their eyes when they saw another white cloud slip into its bright pink and orange sheets for the night. The sunset mocked them as they carried on in their bedridden romance; as the minutes grew shorter, they became more desperate, their motions harsher and faster, their cries stronger and more demanding. No matter how many times they found their release, it never seemed to be enough. The tenderness that infused the satisfied silence after lovemaking only agitated their mounting passion, creating an endless cycle from which they had no hope of escaping.

It was in the hour well past twilight when their restless hearts finally calmed. The sky was a dull violet, like the color of newspaper ink when it is left out in the rain, a reminder of the dark shadow that would settle over them once they had parted. Carlisle sat up in the bed, his eyes empty as they stared out the windows, watching the ominous tendrils of inky purple seep into the sky. Leaving this bed never got any easier.

Esme knew she could say so little to comfort him, and truthfully, she needed to be comforted just as much as he did. Watching him leave her was like having a piece of her soul ripped out and trampled. Even knowing he would come back to her, she was still desperate to keep him by her side for as long as possible.

"We will be together again," she soothed him, her fingers savoring their last journey across his shoulders and down his back. "Very soon," she promised.

He turned his head ever so slightly to catch her eye, and the look on his face left her heartbroken. "I shall miss you deeply until then," he murmured, his lips lingering on her throat.

She kissed him with everything she had left within her, hoping it would be enough to help him through their goodbye. Lost in communion with his passionate lips, Esme realized she would miss so much more than just his kiss. She would miss the way the muscles in his stomach twitched when she placed her hands on him, the way his fingers would twist in the sheets while she toyed with his hair. She would miss the unholy amount of attention he gave to that one sinfully sensitive spot behind her knee, and hearing that telltale hitch in his breath when her ankle accidentally brushed against him beneath the covers. She would miss being able to reach out and touch him.

Sighing, Esme bent over the edge of the bed to gather his clothes where he had left them on the carpet.

"The next time you visit me, you should bring red roses... or maybe white..." she mused, coaxing a small smile from him as she slipped the sleeves of his shirt over his arms.

"Next time I'll bring you more than just roses," Carlisle promised. "I'll bring you tiger lilies, and daffodils, and daisies, and lilacs, and every other flower in existence."

"Do you know what I would like the most?" she asked him with a wistful gleam in her eye.

"Hm?"

"Birds of Paradise," she murmured the name as if it held magical powers. "Have you ever heard of those?"

A wry, intimate smile crossed his lips. "I think I have heard of them before."

Inspired to see his spirits lifting, she grinned back at him. "Will you bring one with you next time?"

"I'll bring two."

Outside the windows, evening had finally fallen. The sky was too dark to deny, the shadows too deep to doubt. Carlisle ventured back out into the cold, kissing his lover farewell ten times before she released him at last. He swung his legs over the balcony railing and climbed back down the lattice in the dark. When his feet landed on the ground, he looked back up to find her leaning out her window, her eyes full of longing as she watched him make his reluctant escape. He grabbed his boots from where he had left them against the wall of the house and slipped them over his feet. He then bent down to pick up his wet, frozen jacket, and slung it lazily over one shoulder. With one last wistful glance at his angel, he silently promised to return to her as soon as fate would allow.

As the moon hung solemnly overhead in the sky, Carlisle found himself at the front door of his house, breathless and still thrumming with the fulfilling aftertaste of the pleasures he had endured throughout the afternoon and well into the evening. His wife welcomed him into their house, this time with a warm embrace in place of a passionate kiss. Her eyes were full of question as he lifted his head from her shoulder and stared down at her, searching her soul for her true emotions.

"Did you find your Valentine?" she asked him quietly.

"Yes," he replied.

"Did she accept her roses?"

"Yes."

"Did she offer herself to you?"

"...Yes."

"And did you accept her offer?"

He answered his wife with the truth. "I always have and I always will... Every day for as long as I live."

His conviction burned her as he pulled her against his body and kissed her fiercely on the mouth. Every inch of him was warm and full of promise as he then lifted her into his arms and carried her unexpectedly to the stairs.

And with each step he took, another pale pink rose petal fell from beneath her lavender colored dress.