What Happens in the Apple Orchard

by Mackenzie L.

This one-shot is the result of a picture prompt from Ivytruce2. She did a search on DeviantArt and came across a stunning photo-manipulation of Carlisle and Esme. The artist of this picture asked if there were any fanfictions out there for which her photo could serve as an illustration. Since there apparently were none, Ivy asked me to write one.

To see the photo that inspired this story, you can visit this link at lydra . deviantart # / d2xp1d3

We must give credit where it is due, so a very big thank you goes to Lydra, the artist, without whom this story would likely not have been written.


*The Twilight Saga and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.

The sun was warm on Esme's shoulders as she made her way through an endless field of greens and golds. The scene before her as she stepped outside that morning was godly in its grandeur. On this land the horizon was a perfectly straight line, a stark division between rich yellow-green and opaque ice blue. The sky seemed to rest over the field like a quilt of silk dotted with fine cotton clouds that hung low in the air.

She breathed in the sweet perfume of ripe apples while she walked through the vast aisle of her orchard, revisiting the hazy memories of her childhood spent climbing apple trees when she wanted to stay out of the house. She had always marveled at the intense heat that could consume their tender spot of land during the summer. It charged the air with the spicy breath of a tropical climate, and all the farmers had thought they'd woken up in Aruba.

It was late in the season now, and though the air was still tinged with humidity, a cool breeze could chase it away every now and again. As a gentle gust of cooler air brushed her face, Esme caught the smoky perfume of fallen leaves being burned in the distance, a familiar scent that only came when autumn was just around the corner.

To either side of her, trees both large and small lined the thin dirt path that weaved through the orchard. Branches curved above her head in perfect arches, bearing clusters of ruby red apples and emerald leaves. With each step she took, the scene changed around her like a moving tapestry of divine lights and sounds. In the trees above, birds tried to outdo one another in singing the most beautiful song. Their chirping notes clashed in a whimsical war, set to a distant beat of humming locusts.

The dirt path before her seemed to glow like a trail of copper dust under the sun. With bare feet she could feel every grain and pebble pinch her skin, reminding her that this astonishing fantasy scene was real. The tops of the trees were illuminated just as brilliantly, their leaves waving in the breeze like trembling green flames of fire. And the apples that bejeweled their branches seemed to glow, their glossy red skin so flawless it looked as if it had been painted right on the fruit.

Each apple that dangled above her head looked more irresistible than the last. Esme came to stand beneath a low hanging branch, her eyes wide as she stood like an eager ballerina on tiptoes to reach the most perfect apple in sight.

Her fingers just barely brushed the bottom of the fruit, causing it to bob back and forth on its stem. Frustrated, she gathered her loose floral skirt together with one hand and jumped once, hoping to knock the apple from its branch. When it did not budge, she made one last attempt, and finally it fell.

She gasped as it slipped from her fingers and went rolling along the path. Like an eager little girl she chased after it on her hands and knees, getting dirt all over her good skirt.

Just when the stubborn apple began to slow, it rolled tauntingly out of her sight, finding just enough space between the crevice of two trees to slip into the other side. With a sigh, Esme strained to peek through the foliage where she could make out the gleaming red fruit, sitting innocently in the dirt path on the opposite side of the trees.

She could have easily given up on that apple and picked another; after all there were thousands of perfect apples in the orchard. But the one that ran away from her seemed more special, almost as if it were leading her somewhere, and she simply had to follow it.

So Esme picked up her basket and sprinted down the path, scrambling through the first gap in the foliage that would allow her to pass through to the other side.

Peeking around the trees, her eyes hastily skimmed the new path in search for the elusive, runaway apple. About halfway down the aisle, her gaze came to an abrupt halt.

There, beneath the dancing shadows of the apple trees, a tall blond man stood with his back turned to her. Esme's first instinct should have been to duck back behind the tree; she should have been startled by the sight of a stranger in her orchard. But instead, she continued to stare boldly at the man from behind, her curiosity too great to look away for an instant.

He was dressed like a simpleton, in a faded white poet's shirt and sand-colored trousers that had been tucked up from his ankles. Like her, he was barefoot.

Clutching her basket, Esme cocked her head and bit her lip, considering the stranger from afar. She could tell from the broad balance of his body that he was young, close in age to her. She found herself puzzled as to why he would be out here, all alone in this orchard. Her urge to see his face grew stronger as she watched him stand in pensive stillness, praying he would turn around and end her torment.

He tipped his head back slightly, enjoying the brief caress of a gentle breeze as it fluttered the loose sleeves of his shirt and ruffled his blond hair. Esme smiled to herself, enchanted by the tender sight as her eyes wandered the length of his body in childlike fascination.

That was when she noticed that her apple was laying right beside his feet.

A tiny trill of fear seized her stomach as the man slowly turned around.

It did not surprise her that the front of him was just as beautiful as the back. Beneath those blond locks, a heavenly face resided, soft eyes and noble lips set in a gentle, perplexed expression. His gaze dropped to the ground just before he bent at the waist to pick up the perfect apple that rested by his foot.

He stood up to briefly study the fruit in his hand before his eyes at last reached her, locking tightly to her face.

"Is this yours?" he asked, elevating the apple in the cradle of his palm. His voice was soft, polite, and most notably, colored by a thick British accent.

Comforted by his approachable nature, Esme stepped forward out of her hiding spot with an easy smile.

"Yes," she said as she took several steps forward to meet him, "thank you."

She held out her hand for him to place the apple into her palm.

"It's bruised," he observed, stroking the weak brown mark with a careful finger, as if it were on the cheek of a newborn child.

"Shame," Esme murmured, bending closer to examine the disappointing blemish. "It was perfect when I picked it from the tree. And it was the only one low enough for me to reach."

"Let me pick you another," he insisted at once. Without waiting for her response, he stepped up to the nearest tree and searched its branches for the first flawless apple in sight. A tiny smile crossed his face as he found one worthy enough to give to her, and he reached up to tug it gently from its branch.

"Now tell me that one isn't just as perfect," he said proudly, turning it over in his hand for her inspection.

Esme smiled gratefully, accepting the new apple in exchange for the bruised one.

"It's even more perfect," she said brightly. Somewhat timidly, she glanced up to meet the man's eyes. "Would you be so kind as to pick me another?"

His eyes sparkled agreeably in response. "Of course."

She stood back as he turned his attention back to the tree, searching for the next best apple he could find. She was slightly fascinated by his willingness to serve her so readily at her every request. Surely he must have had more pressing matters to attend to rather than help a strange girl gather apples that were too high for her to reach.

Before long, he extended his hand to her again, presenting another shining scarlet apple for her to take.

Smiling deviously, Esme accepted the fruit and placed it into her basket with the other one. Hoping to keep him occupied so that she could watch him a little longer, she held out the basket with a innocently pleading expression.

"Will you fill this basket?"

His eyes dropped to the large wicker basket she carried, but his face was unsurprised. Instead he smiled almost knowingly at her, just as enthused to accept yet another pointless task from her.

"As you wish."

And he began to pluck every apple in sight, one by one.

So eager this man was to cater to her every trivial whim... No other person had ever served her so readily before, and Esme couldn't help but adore him for it.

"There aren't that many good apples left, you see," she conversed casually with him while he went on picking from the tree. "I do believe someone has been stealing them from me in the night."

His fine blond eyebrows rose in apparent shock. "What a despicable crime to commit," he gushed, his lovely accent exaggerating the words. "Stealing apples from a young lady's orchard..."

Esme watched contentedly while the young man continued to purge the tree of its finest apples, patiently plucking every stem from its place with a tiny snap. Her basket now hung from his elbow, held tightly against his hip while his other arm reached freely up to the higher branches. She couldn't help but admire the appealing ripple of muscle in his back and shoulders as he moved, his loose white sleeves fluttering in the wind like the wilted wings of an angel.

At long last, he turned to present to her a basket filled to the brim with only the most beautiful apples, delightfully dizzying in their countless shades of red and sparse spots of sunny green.

"Thank you," she murmured sincerely as she took the heavy basket from his hands. "You're ever so kind."

A charming, dimpled grin appeared on his face, revealing two rows of perfect, pearl-white teeth. "It was my pleasure."

Determined that he should not have to leave her so soon, Esme quickly devised a way to keep him to herself for a little while longer.

"Now I must ask one final favor of you, young man."


"Look up there, at the very top of that tree with the birdfeeder in it." She pointed to the tree beside them where several birds were congregated at the top, chirping their sweet symphony in peace. "There is an apple up there that caught my eye. Do you see it?"

He tilted his head to the side, easily finding the fruit she sought. So beautiful it was, it could hardly be called an apple. It was bright yellow in color, a most striking contrast to the red and green half-breeds that filled the other trees. It hung alone at the very top of the tree, surrounded by red-breasted robins, dangling in a band of warm sunlight. He could understand why she desired that apple above all the others. It was a taunting treasure, hovering like a mysterious figment of the imagination. It was truly a fantasy fruit, too beautiful to be real.

"It's...golden," he murmured, sharing in her awe.

"It's the only one of its kind in this entire orchard," Esme added, her voice low and mystical. "And so you see, I must have it."

"Naturally," he humored her with another winsome smile.

"So you'll climb up and fetch it for me?"

She turned to bat her eyelashes at him for good measure, but as if he had read her mind, she found that he was already halfway up the small tree that housed the golden apple. She watched his lean legs stretch from branch to branch, his arms hugging the trunk of the tree as he passed through thick curtains of leaves that trembled at his intrusion. She held her breath when he reached the top, and he paused almost reverently to stare at the place where the coveted yellow apple hung in its heavenly spot of sun. He reached in cautiously, letting the light tease his fingers before they touched the fruit. The birds that had been praising the precious apple with their song scattered in a fluttering mass, startled by the stranger whose hand now claimed the treasure they were guarding.

Esme saw him beam with pride as he gathered the beautiful yellow apple with both hands, holding it close to his heart as he began his slow descent. She was giddy with excitement as her handsome hero's feet landed victoriously in the grass. He stepped forward and graciously held out the enchanting, sun-kissed apple for her eager hands to take. Their eyes met as her fingers encased the fruit, and his intimate half-smile made her stomach turn flips.

"What are you grinning about?" he asked her softly.

"In Genesis, the woman was the one who picked the apple from the tree," she explained.

He raised one eyebrow, his glance shifting from the apple in her hand back to her face. "But this is not a forbidden fruit."

"How do you know that?" she challenged.

"I know a forbidden fruit when I see one," he murmured, his voice deep, his words highly suggestive. His accented voice only made every word he uttered more romantic.

"Where do you come from?" she inquired desperately.

His smile broadened as though her question had greatly pleased him. "Why do you ask?"

"I noticed you have an accent."

"I was born in London." He gave a mysterious little chuckle. "But that has nothing to do with knowing what a forbidden fruit looks like."

His voice was painfully exquisite; in the way he spoke, each word seemed to bloom like a flower, colorful and flirtatious.

Doing her best to ignore the implications of his remark, Esme continued her interrogation. "So how did you arrive here on this farm in the middle of Ohio?"

His expression twisted into one of adorable exasperation. "Visiting every square mile of Europe is somewhat exhausting. I wanted to settle down somewhere peaceful for a while."

She pursed her lips in attempt not to smile. "And I suppose you consider yourself to be some sort of vagabond?"

He grinned. "Something like that."

"So do you have a home close by?"

"Sadly no," he sighed, glancing despondently up at the sky.

"Then how do you make your living?"

He looked heavily amused. "Why, I work on this farm, Miss."

"Oh?" Esme ducked her head, embarrassed. "I didn't realize..."

"I didn't expect you to know me. You've likely never seen me before," he added cryptically.

"You look vaguely familiar to me," she mused, savoring the excuse for her eyes to study his beautiful face more closely. "Come to think of it, I think I've seen you around here at night before..."

"Perhaps," he conceded with a shrug, leaning back against the tree. "I do like to sit out in the moonlight during the summer on warm nights."

When this unexpected confession spilled so freely from his lips, Esme decided then and there that she could not bear to say goodbye to this young man. She wondered if this made her weak that just knowing he sat out in the fields on moonlit nights was enough to seal her to a perfect stranger.

But he wouldn't be a stranger for long.

"Tell me your name, young man," she demanded.

"Carlisle." The name rolled easily off his tongue, with the practiced silk of one who had said his own name thousands of times.

He stared at her forwardly, his stubborn dimples playing hide and seek on his cheeks as though he were keeping some fantastic secret from her. But she knew better. She was quickly gaining on him in this game.

Esme took a sly step towards him. "Are you the one who has been stealing apples from my orchard, Carlisle?"

It was hardly a question. Her voice was firm and knowing, but her eyes were mischievous, even lighthearted.

"Yes," he replied, without even pretending to be ashamed, a prideful twinkle in his eye.

Forcing a look of displeasure onto her face, Esme stepped slowly closer to her charming thief until she had him cornered up against the tree.

"And where do you hide them after you have stolen them?" she asked beneath her breath.

"In my pockets," he whispered back.

Moving her hand from her hip, she boldly reached inside his pocket to pull out the single, small red apple he was hiding.

"Were you planning to eat this apple?" she asked, dangling it by its stem tauntingly beside his mouth.

He looked surprised. "Would you rather I starve?"

"Perhaps I would," she whispered, delighted that her ruthless reply had caused him to squirm. "Perhaps I'm a heartless woman who would send you away hungry and think nothing of it."

"You aren't that woman," he said in a low voice. "I daresay you would be unable to sleep at night knowing you had sent a man away hungry."

While her heart was clearly affected by his seductive pleas, she found herself bristling with anger that he had the gall to justify stealing from her, even if it were only to keep himself from starving.

Frustrated by her many mixed responses, Esme snapped at him. "Why not? There are plenty of other farms only miles from here. Why don't you go steal some of their apples?"

He shook his head, gaining confidence in spite of her mild temper. "Don't you see?" He leaned torturously close to her ear and whispered six unthinkable words. "Only your fruit satisfies my craving..."

Desire coursed through her at his words, but Esme would not let just any man speak to her like that, no matter how attractive he happened to be.

"Leave my land at once," she ordered, the weakness of her voice betraying her true desires.

His eyes were deep with regret. Feeling sympathetic, she mercifully slipped the apple he had stolen back into his pocket where she had found it.

"You won't be stealing from my property any longer," she said sternly but quietly, her eyes icy but soft.

But the blond man's eyes were stubborn as he replied in a hushed voice, "If I cannot steal from you, then perhaps I will have to steal you."

She took a step backwards in shock. "Is that a threat?"

"No," he said darkly, slipping his hand beneath her hair to tip her neck back as he hovered over her face. "It is a promise."

Leaving no time for her to protest, he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers, and she could taste the truth in his words. His kiss surprised her – his lips were gentle and his fingers held a tenderness to them as he caressed the back of her neck. His touch was fiercely familiar, as if he had known her as a lover in another life.

Though it was unthinkable for a pair of perfect strangers to kiss in the middle of an apple orchard, Esme found herself relishing this man's intense kiss. She was surprised to find herself most disappointed when it came to an end.

"I just stole a kiss from you," he breathed huskily, his face still inches from hers. "Does that still make me a thief?"

Her eyes full of dark fire, Esme made to rebuke him, though she had no hope in hiding the passion that soiled her voice.

"I'd rather not say what that makes you."

All too aware of her struggle, Carlisle swiftly captured her lips in another impulsive kiss. This time his lips were enraged with erotic hunger; this time his hands found other places to touch besides the back of her neck...

Esme felt the basket of apples come tumbling to the ground beside their feet, but she made no attempt to pick them up. Their perfection would be marred by a dozen bruises, after all the work Carlisle had gone through to pick them for her. But they suddenly did not seem so precious, not even that rare golden apple she'd spotted at the top of the tree.

Though her eyes were tightly closed, Esme could sense the world darkening around her, the air growing cooler as the wind picked up around them, swirling through her hair and lifting her skirt. The arms of her enraptured farm boy held her tighter, pressing their bodies together until her breasts were crushed against his firm chest. Her hands repeatedly tried pushing him away, but deep in her heart she knew she was using only half her strength.

She never wanted him to stop.

But Esme was a stubborn young woman, perhaps even more stubborn than this greedy blond farm boy who so callously assumed she would let him take her after one kiss. She would not let her weakness get the better of her. Rather than surrender to his brutish advances, Esme kicked at his shins until he released her with a look of alarm.

She left him by the barren trees, standing amidst her basket of spilled apples, his eyes furrowed in confusion and his lips still frozen in an unfinished kiss.

She threw a provocative glance over her shoulder before she gathered her skirt in her hands and began to run away from him into the maze of apple trees. She had known his temptation would lead him to chase after her, but the harsh pounding rhythm of his feet on the ground as he followed her brought an unexpected pang of panic to her chest.

Her panic grew stronger as her eyes looked above to find a storm cloud looming directly overhead. Ominous clumps of gray hung low in the sky, threatening the land beneath with an ill-tempered grumble of thunder.

Her frenzied run at last came to a halt at the base of an invitingly tall tree. Thinking it would offer her the best protection, Esme leapt to grab hold of the lowest branch and began to frantically climb it until she was safely concealed in the center.

The steps of her stalker came closer to her hiding place, and though she did her best to remain as still as possible in the tree, the wind stirred the leaves apart, revealing her whereabouts to the man who now stood below her.

"Miss, you must come down from there," he called over the rushing wind. "This storm does not look forgiving!"

"I will come down when I choose to," she said snobbishly back at him. "I will not have you order me about."

"I don't need to tell you how devastated I would be if I found your beautiful body rendered to ashes in the morning," he said, his voice bright with warning. "Lightning is not so mindful about where it chooses to strike."

She resisted the urge to look down at him, fixing her stare instead on a spot high in the tree. He sighed heavily at her stubborn silence, but she still would not let her eyes wander down to him.

"I apologize for my behavior," he finally said, his soft voice carried to her on a gust of ruthless wind. "You had fair reason to run from me. I was awfully brash. Forgive me?"

"I don't think that I can," she said, her voice small and obviously insincere.

"I promise it won't happen again," he assured her. "But right now your safety is more important to me."

Unable to resist his insistence any longer, she looked down in consideration, her lips tight.

"Please," he begged, his hands clutching desperately to the trunk of the tree, "come down to me."

She could never dream of refusing that face.

Slowly, a bit begrudgingly, Esme stepped down from branch to branch, her skirt swaying uncontrollably in the wind. Small droplets of rain hit the backs of her knees as it began to drizzle. She feared that her slippery feet would cause her to lose her balance, but she shivered with relief when she felt a pair of large, warm hands grab hold of her hips just before she missed the last branch.

"I've got you," he murmured as he cradled her close in his arms.

Esme grasped the shoulders of the man who carried her, the pressure of her hands causing his wet sleeves to cling to his skin. The raindrops sliding down the slopes of his face savored their journey, falling slow and leaving slick trails to shimmer on his alabaster brow. He could see as she stared dependently up at him that she was truly thanking him through her eyes. Their silent stare was broken by a threatening flash of lightning, and both their heads snapped up to look at the sky.

"We have to find shelter," she whimpered, tugging his collar.

Thinking fast, he scanned the vicinity for a place they could keep dry. "The barn," he said, taking off in the direction of the faded red shed at the corner of the field.

He ran impressively fast, even with her weight in his arms. The storm roared on his heels like a hungry lion, shards of rain pelting his back like long, silver arrows shot from a vengeful army behind him.

He came upon the path that led to the paddock, but his strong feet still did not struggle through the ankle-deep mud and hay as the rain poured harder. He was panting by the time he reached the open doors of the barn, eager to have his barefoot damsel dry as soon as humanly possible.

The inside of the barn was humid and warm. High stacks of hay padded the interior wooden walls, and all was quiet save for the unrelenting gusts of wind that whistled through the cracks. Several dim lanterns were glowing inside, one for each corner of the small room. The space was strangely unoccupied by animals, not even a single rooster to pace the loft above their heads.

Carlisle walked deeper into the empty room until he found a soft space of hay to set Esme down upon. As soon as his hands left her, she demurely crossed her ankles and tugged her soaking skirt down past her knees. Gathering her wet hair in both hands, she brushed the drenched tendrils over her shoulder and squeezed the rainwater out.

She watched curiously from the corner of her eye as Carlisle brushed one hand flippantly through his blond hair, sprinkling stray droplets into the air. Her eyes followed his hands as he reached down to roll his trousers up to his knees, unveiling an attractive pair of muscular calves.

She swallowed hard as he settled comfortably across from her on the dusty floor with his back against a bale of hay, hands resting on his bent knees. His head turned to face the open doors of the barn, eyes mesmerized by the rain while he watched it come down in heavy sheets. He wore a mask of utter peace on his handsome face as he caught his breath, looking as though he could fall asleep.

"How long do you think the storm will last?" she asked him, less out of curiosity, and more simply to hear his melodious voice again.

"Anywhere from five minutes to the rest of the day," he said with a shrug. "Thunderstorms can be very unpredictable," he added with a tiny smile that made her heart squirm.

"Well, I hope it doesn't last too long," she sighed irritably. Reaching inside the clumps of hay, Esme began to collect small pieces of Indian corn and place them on her lap. "I tend to get bored fairly quickly."

A knowing look passed Carlisle's striking eyes as he watched her pick the kernels one by one off an ear of corn. She tossed the tiny orange and purple pellets against his knees, entertained by the way they rolled down his legs to gather at his feet.

"Why are you staring at me like that?" she demanded, suddenly self-conscious that his eyes had not left her face for at least two minutes straight.

"I didn't realize I was staring at you," he defended in a low voice, though it was clear by his face that he not only realized he was staring, he relished it.

"Stop playing coy," Esme scoffed, tossing another kernel of corn at his stomach. "You're not even trying to be discreet about it."

He chuckled softly. "I just noticed something."

She raised her eyebrows for him to continue.

"You're rather pale for a farm girl," he said. And while she expected his tone to be derogatory, it was almost...fond.

"I am confined to the house most of the time," she sighed sadly.

"'Tis a pity," he sympathized. "I can tell that you adore nature." As he said this, she felt his eyes brighten as if he were staring at someplace far within her, invisible to any other man's gaze. The dimple in his right cheek twinkled warmly at her before disappearing again.

"I do," she responded honestly. "I always have."

"As do I," he agreed, smiling gently. "Which is one of the reasons I've made it my home."

She shook her head with a shy smirk, staring down at the now naked ear of corn in her lap. Its kernels were all scattered around Carlisle's bare feet, like multi-colored beads of a broken necklace. Knowing she had used up her fun, Esme began fishing around in the hay for another ear of corn to mutilate.

Bunching her skirt between her knees, she nestled herself against the pile of hay and started picking more kernels apart with her fingernails. Once she had a sizable pile gathered in the hammock of her skirt, she began to flick them across at him, aiming for different parts of his body every time.

Carlisle remained perfectly still while Esme peppered him with pieces of corn, his face unfazed but lightly amused. After a little while, he decided to stretch his leg forward on the ground between them, the sole of his foot coming close enough to touch her where she sat. The length of his leg created a kind of discreet connection between them, drawing her attention down to the place where they now made contact.

Her eyes drifted up as she continued to toss corn kernels at him, only to find his gaze still steadily fixed on her face.

"You're staring again," she accused, her tone warning.

He frowned. "Where would you have me look?"

"Outside. At the ground. At the ceiling," she said stiffly, making sure to hit him squarely in the center of his chest with each new suggestion. "There are a thousand other places to look."

His frown melted into a self-assured grin as he shook his head. "Of all the places I could look in this room, I'd rather be looking at you."

"Why?" she asked timidly, careful not to meet his eyes.

"You're very pretty," he said, and she looked up in surprise to see his small, charming smile. "That's all."

She sniffed flippantly, trying not to show how affected she was by such a simple compliment.

"Not many men would find it easy to look away from you once they've seen your face," he admitted quietly.

"Are you trying to charm me into giving you something?" she asked suspiciously. "I've let you keep your silly apple, you know," she added dryly, gesturing to his pocket.

Not bothering to take his eyes away from hers, Carlisle reached into his pocket and carelessly let the apple roll away into the hay.

"I'm not interested in the apples anymore," he began seductively, drawing his leg back to raise himself up on his haunches, "but I would appreciate it if you gave me something else..."

Before he could come any nearer, Esme backed up into the pile of hay behind her and teasingly slipped the ear of Indian corn into his hand.

"No, not this either..." He grinned and tossed it lazily over his shoulder before crawling closer.

Feeling all too accommodating, Esme innocently batted her eyelashes at him. "Well then, what is it you want?"


He leaned close and brushed his lips once against hers, then backed away just enough to look into her eyes. Finding her gaze shadowed with permission, he returned to her waiting lips, this time with heavier fervor. His lips obliged her generously, effortlessly parting her mouth for his tongue to seek entry. He slipped inside for a brief but blissful moment, touching the tip of his tongue to hers before retreating so he could speak.

"You do not resist me this time," he whispered, surprised.

She sighed happily, ignoring his remark, and pulled his face closer to deepen the kiss. With her renewed permission, he buried his tongue in the cavern of her mouth, warm and desperate, silently communicating each of his deepest needs in every stroke.

Their kiss broke as they parted, each taking gulps of humid, rain-scented air.

"You're wonderful at this," she exalted.

He smirked breathlessly down at her. "Strange. I don't even practice."

"I suppose you're just a natural, then."

She reached out to him again, and took his face reverently between her shaking hands. His lips crashed into hers a third time, familiarizing himself with the dizzying curves and twists of her kiss.

His hands at last found her waist, pasting the wet fabric to her body as he rubbed his palms needily against her skin. She whimpered with delight as he clutched her tighter, desperately wishing there was no wet dress to break the wonderful friction he offered with his hands.

His body bucked against her, hovering over her so she was forced to pull him with her as she fell back into the thick nest of hay.

"Oh!" With great reluctance, Esme broke their feverish kiss, shaking her head in mortification. "We can't do this. Not here."

He looked crestfallen. "Why not?"

Her hand pressed to her forehead and she glanced worriedly around the empty barn. "What would people think?" she hissed in outrage.

"No one would have to know," he said. His voice was deep, assuring and dangerously confident.

The sight of his flushed lips and tousled golden hair had her resolve crumbling fast.

"Are you good at keeping secrets?" she furtively asked.

"Yes." He promptly thrilled her with the answer she had hoped for. "Very."

"And you won't tell a soul about how you defiled the innocent young farm girl in the barn during a thunderstorm?"

Never had Esme seen such deep, dark sincerity in a man's eyes before. Pressing one hand to his heart, he swore, "Only my own soul shall know of it."

He must have seen nothing but complete trust fill her eyes, for in the very next instant, his fingers were slowly untangling the criss-crossed white laces on the front of his shirt. Her eyes were captivated by the sight, straining with excitement to see beyond the beveled hint of muscle peeking through the entwined cords.

Each lace he took between his fingers wilted under his touch, and Esme imagined she would wilt just as readily when his touch came to her.

Breathing hard in her bed of golden hay, Esme curled her hands tightly around her skirt as she watched the stunning young stranger lift his shirt and toss it aside without a care. His hair became mussed as he pulled the fabric over his head, the damp golden curls falling into an angelic frame about his face. A trio of lost rain droplets slipped down his neck, and she longed to lick them away.

He stilled before her, poised on both knees, bare-chested and breathless as he waited for her to show the same signs of consent.

Mirroring the swift actions of his fingers, Esme precariously undid the lacings down the front of her peasant corset, moving slowly so she could watch the torture burn behind his eyes. He was trying to keep a firm grip on his patience – she could see from the way his teeth were clamped behind his tightly sealed lips, the way his chest rose and fell with long, unsteady breaths that grew heavier with every string her fingers unraveled. His clear agony thrilled her.

The steady pelting of rain on the roof grew more intense as the tension coursed between them. On shaky legs, she summoned her strength to stand upright before letting the dress fall away from her body. Her floral skirt floated down in a cloud of pastel prints to land in a silent circle around her ankles.

An innocent young farm girl like Esme should have been dreadfully shy disrobing before a stranger, but she stood before the eyes of a man with surprising confidence, her posture graceful and her hands calmly at her sides. She did not try to hide herself from him, and after seeing the fire in his gaze, she decided she would never want to hide.

She bathed in the rich warmth of his wandering eyes, never feeling more exquisite, more feminine, more desired than she did in this moment with her ankles buried in hay, and the rain thrumming overhead like the sound of a thousand heartbeats.

Her eyes speared into his, daring him to come forth and touch her as he so desperately wanted. She thought she saw him falter a bit as he stood, and it made her reel with pride that she had such an effect on this man. He was all but losing his balance at the mere sight of her bare body.

With his stare fixed on her face, he responded to her unspoken challenge, moving his hands down to disrobe himself of his trousers.

Her breath caught in her throat as he stepped forward to stand before her, tall and shameless, like a nude paladin in some romantic fantasy painting. Stormy gray light clad one side of his body, and the sultry glow of the barn lanterns lit the other. His skin shone smooth between the two as the colors fought for dominance to accentuate the sculpted angles of his figure.

Though her own body felt intimidated by the sight of him, her heart was eager to know him more intimately than any soul had ever known him before. They stood there across from each other for an aching minute, reveling silently in the contrasting spirits of their bodies, savoring the quiet agony of sight without touch.

Determined that they should not be forced to wait a second longer, Carlisle took the first step forward and laced his fingers with those of the trembling young woman who so willingly offered herself to him.

He bowed his head to place a chaste kiss on her shoulder, and she tipped her head back with a delicate gasp, reaching out blindly to clutch his waist.

"All this time I thought I was hungering for the apples in your orchard," he whispered throatily as he slid the tip of his nose across her slender collarbone, "...but really I was hungering for you."

Their eyes met for a fraction of a second before their lips did, a collision unlike any other that had yet to be explored. Esme was demanding in her kisses, and Carlisle, she was thrilled to find, had an abundance of generosity by which to meet her demands. The tips of his fingers raced across her back like flames of candles – flickering, fast, and hot. She felt his name on her tongue, though her tongue was trapped, held captive by his own. The word spilled into his lips, a clumsy whimper that he graciously echoed back.

Overwhelmed by his consuming touch, Esme felt her knees collapse beneath her, and with a gasp she tumbled gracefully into the soft yellow cloud of hay, tugging her chuckling lover along with her.

Strands of hay scratched softly at her sides as she moved, getting caught in her curls and between her fingers and toes. Every time Carlisle bowed his beautiful blond head to kiss her, he would rise again with several new threads of straw tucked into his hair. Everywhere she turned, the long golden blades prickled and prodded her skin, even in the most intimate places. The inescapable ticklish sensation aroused her in a rough but tender sort of way. She wondered if Carlisle found their makeshift bed of hay as appealing as she did.

Her eyes shifted up to his face above her, curious, searching. He replied to her questioning stare with a look of assuring adoration and a lighthearted kiss to her temple. Her body relaxed as his hands curved beneath her shoulders, dipping down the slender slope of her back and up again. She arched into the undulating motion of his hands, throwing her arms around his neck and shivering with need. At her bidding, he dove for her quivering breasts; lunged upon her begging flesh like a man starved, his tongue tugging and tasting every inch she offered.

He suckled her with the gentleness of an infant child, but the intimacy of a seasoned lover. Under the flaxen locks of his abundant blond hair, her fingers weaved and tangled and became lost. She cudgeled his waist with her knees, making him aware of her strength when provoked in all the right ways. It was only a taste of what he would feel when he was buried deep within her, but it was quite enough to thrill him into picking up his pace.

His hands played upon her limbs as a musician plays upon his most beloved instrument – with passionate dexterity, cherishing every sweet note he elicited from her lips. His fingers sought to complete an endless journey, across her arms, down her stomach, between her breasts, beneath her thighs... Her hands ached to mimic this unceasing and bold exploration on his body, but she was at a disadvantage lying under his shadow.

Eager that he should know this same pleasure, Esme tipped Carlisle's chin forward for her lips to claim in a powerful kiss. Under her spell, his elbows buckled and she was ready to catch him when he fell. She wrapped her arms around his broad back, setting him gently in the warm hay with his head pillowed by her discarded dress. She slipped one leg seductively between his, laying over him while her fingers mapped out every exquisite nuance in his body.

He was fascinating from head to toe, his skin soft and firm, his reactions to her touch precious. She learned of his weak spots for he hid nothing from her; she watched his eyes change and darken and widen as her fingers happened upon the clefts and crevices that appealed to him. Her pursuit was an enjoyable one, and one she never wanted to end.

Because he was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen when he tossed his head back and sighed, when he shuddered at her unexpected touches, when his lips opened in silent exaltation and his breath came rushing from his lungs like a drowning man who had finally reached the surface. He was utterly perfect – purring and writhing and reaching for her, cupping his hands around her head and begging her to kiss him.

She took a tiny fiber of hay and drew across his chest with it, feverish little swirls and loops that had no pattern. She wrote her dreams on his arms and colored his palms with her secrets. And when she ran out of imaginary ink, she tucked the strand behind her ear and appraised her work.

His eyes, heavy lidded, came up to her face. She watched their color waver, settling into a staggering blackness that drew her in like pure hypnosis. The time had come for him, and it must have come for her in the very same instant. She could feel her own eyes boiling with urgency, her own heart stretching beneath her breast.

Her lover lifted himself up halfway to sit across from her, and taking both her hands into his, he guided her into his lap, her face intimately close to his so that their gazes were unavoidable. She felt him stiff and ready against her belly as he pulled her nearer, his eyes fluttering closed as he brushed briefly against her soft skin.

With a brave hand, she reached down and grasped him, summoning the most exquisite sound from his throat. It was a burnished pair of syllables – not quite her name, but something reminiscent of it – like the rough, guttural grunt a fencer makes when his opponent has stabbed him with the blade. Not for a moment did she worry she had hurt him. She knew in her heart that this was a sound of deepest rapture, that the slippery spot that dampened the center of her palm was not from a droplet of rain.

A glorious current of excitement burst beneath her belly as she slowly guided him downward, dotting her skin with his seed. He was so close now that she could feel the shaky beginnings of his pleasure – the threat of explosion, coiled tight like a spring in his taut stomach. Sliding her legs further around his hips, Esme settled into his lap, offering her body as a vessel for his release. Her hands found the back of his neck as he nudged the slick bloom of her entry, seeking her permission.

She pulled his face down and kissed him fiercely to show him he already had it.

He whispered something inaudible against her cheek as he carefully slid into her, and one inch seemed like miles, the varying pressure and struggle for control overwhelming them both. He felt her tighten from within, her innocence beating him to the core with every tentative thrust he took. She collapsed back against his knees, surrendering her resistance so that he might fill her to the hilt.

With a force fueled by love, he sank deeply into her, and the painfully short journey was so blazingly familiar, it felt as if he had been traveling this intimate distance since the beginning of time. Once he was inside, it felt like he had never left her. The warm echo of his intrusion would linger long after his retreat, but this was just the start.

His hands slipped shakily around her back to pull her upright again, her face rising to meet his, their lips parting by instinct in case their mouths would meet. She paused with the tip of her nose tickling his, his eyes so close she could count the flecks of starlight hidden in each iris, uncovering colors that weren't really there – shamrock green, and crimson red, and the deep velvety violet of twilight.

He held her gaze as he moved inside her, pulling back in preparation to strike her again and again, each time deeper than before.

She felt it, straining, climbing – he was carrying her toward that slice of heaven, his arms hot and strong behind her back as he pressed her to him, his throat trembling with the weak, achy song of ecstasy.

It was the sound of his voice that ultimately pushed her over the brink – that soft whimper, that prelude to the production – it was like a sheer curtain that protected a raging fire. His pleasure broke loose and she heard the roar of his fire, and that curtain was scorched to shreds.

"Esme!" he exclaimed, shuddering, his entire body and the wholeness of his blessed being thrown into it, like a stone into water. His soul was being stirred by her love, and her tender little grips from within. She felt his love blossoming inside of her, streaking through her womb like the tide that rolls restlessly over a peaceful shore. He called a storm upon her peace, and she summoned the same storm to strike him as her lover's sweet revenge.

The sensation seized her, fluttered past her and through her like a lost pulse. She saw stars rise above her, an intangible horizon that melted into the pools of his dark, oceanic eyes. He was watching over her as she lost herself, and this magnified the intensity of her pleasure.

Her eyes strained to stay open while he thrust into her those last few times, and she could feel his strength melt away with every overture, leaving him stripped raw and breathless as his venery for ecstasy finally came to its close.

And when their high descended, enveloping them with the tremulous afterglow of gratification, she whispered in awe against his ravished lips, "I never told you my name..."

His eyes opened to hers, heady with countless secrets of which she was now quite familiar. All but the mystery of how he had come to know her name in the short time they had spent together...and now she demanded to know this.

"The wind told me," he said, his voice blushed with a cryptic sigh. His accent was thick and it twisted his words like the rough, quiet lines of a daydreaming playwright. "I listened for it, and I heard it. 'Esme,' it told me, 'Her name is Esme.'"

She smiled to herself, content with his fanciful response as she buried her face in his shoulder, kissing the curious markings on the side of his neck. His fingers flowed languidly across her back, tranquil and true, as if he were strumming a harp.

"I do believe I am in love with you, Carlisle," she whispered, and in her raspy voice, the words could not have sounded more sincere.

He held her tighter, breathing in deeply the scents of their love and the rain. "And to think you almost sent me away hungry," he whispered back.


After a long while, the rain finally ceased to fall from the sky. The storm clouds disappeared one by one like tufts of cotton candy in a child's mouth. From inside the barn the pair of lovers watched as the sun returned to burn low on the horizon. It lingered for a while longer, watching over them, a wise golden eye that never blinked and never closed.

Esme confessed that she was chilly, and Carlisle helped her back into her dress, not bothering to do the laces in front. Out of courtesy she supposed, he slipped his trousers back over his legs, but did not bother to button them either.

She smiled knowingly at him as she reclined back into their bed of crushed hay, and he predictably followed suit. Her fingers weaved tenderly into his hair, drawing him down to lay upon her breast. His own fingers found their home in her unruly caramel tresses, twirling strands of her hair around his thumb and releasing each piece as a ringlet. He plucked a stray frond of clover from her hair and held it in his hand, twisting it idly as he rested in her bosom. She breathed a gentle rhythm while he hummed softly to himself, some unknown song from his foreign youth.

His throat quieted after a little while, but before she could ask him to revive the melody, he spoke in a resounding, husky voice.

"Come let us watch the sun go down,
and walk in twilight through the orchard's green

"Is that poetry?" she asked curiously.

"Mmhm. Rilke."

"I thought I recognized it," she murmured. "I've loved many German poets."

She felt his notorious smile bloom against her bare breast.

"Have you loved many British poets?"

"I've loved at least one..." she sighed, stroking strands of soft blond hair away from his forehead.

"I believe he loved you back," Carlisle responded, sure and heart-wrenchingly passionate.

"You should speak with this accent every day," Esme told him at last. A smirk crossed her lips as she tugged playfully on his wavy blond hair. "I've grown quite fond of it."

He chuckled indulgently. "Now that we live out in the middle of nowhere, I think I'm safe to do that."

"Who knew living on rural farmland in the middle of Ohio could be so romantic?"

He lifted his head to raise his eyebrows at her in mild doubt. "I do believe we met for the first time on a farm in the middle of Ohio..."

"Yes, but nothing romantic happened that night," she reminded him, hoping he would find some way to refute her.

"I don't know about that…" he mused, his tone teasingly serious. "Looking back on it now, I recall it being much more...stirring."

"Moments like that are always vastly different in hindsight, Doctor Cullen."

"And you're back to calling me 'doctor' again," he whispered with a smirk.

"You'll always be my doctor," she assured him tenderly before adding, "Although I must say I quite liked you as a foreign farm boy."

"I think you're forgetting that I was also a thief," he reminded her, reaching into the scattered pile of hay to bring her the small scarlet apple he had "stolen."

Shaking her head, Esme took the stem of the forbidden fruit between two fingers and dropped it into her lap.

"No... I liked that part, too."

A/N: The poem Carlisle quotes is actually entitled "The Apple Orchard", and it was written by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in the late 19th Century.