A/N: SM owns the characters and the Twilight canon. This is just my take on what happened first. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thanks to Lacym3 for pre-reading this.

I'd like to dedicate this to my angel, my Char.

In The Arms of the Angel

(Peter's POV)

It'd been at least half a decade since the day I woke up here, woke up to confusion caused by a head too full of thoughts and ideas and details of my surroundings gathered by my overactive senses. Among those details gathered was a complete physical description of the pale blond man standing several feet from the place that I sat. He was glaring at me like I had killed his favorite horse, and I could actually feel the hatred and rage rolling off of him, though I didn't really understand how.

"You have some sort of problem with me?" I asked, immediately noticing that my voice sounded different than what I was used to.

"Shut up, newborn," he spat. "Get out to the field with the others before I rip you apart myself. You better believe that I'll do it. I couldn't give two shakes about you or your life before today. Just give me your name and get your worthless ass out of my sight."

Yeah... Meeting Jasper for the first time was not really one of those romantic moments that is forever cherished in someone's memory.

I was born Peter Orin Walker on a ranch in the Dakota Territory near the joining of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. My ma and pa raised me and my seven older brothers and four sisters amidst the chaos of the Civil War, attacks by natives, dust storms, floods, and everything in between. It wasn't an easy life out on the frontier, but pa had always told me that we were adventurers, just like John Smith and Columbus and the rest, paving the way for the America that was to come.

It was that same adventurous spirit that led me to this very camp, to be honest. I'd packed a few things – mostly books - in a rucksack one day, kissed my ma good-bye, and told pa that I was going to follow the Missouri until it ended and find myself a place in this world. They wished me luck and sent me off.

Guess that luck wore off at some point around where the Missouri fed into the Mississippi. Whatever the case, I was here now, and this angry blonde man was telling me to get my ass moving.

So I did as he told me and went out to the field. That's where I learned what I was and why I'd been made. No longer the quiet reflective young man I'd been, I was now a vampire warrior. Or at least that's what I was supposed to be.

That first year, I'd been trained by the angry man whose name, it took me months to learn, was Jasper. I was forced to fight day after day, night after night. I hated it, but it was the only way to survive. I kept hoping that, somewhere along the way, either Jasper or Maria would decide that I'd done all they needed me to do, and I could leave. It was that hope that kept me going, kept me fighting.

As the year came to an end, I learned that the soldiers who lived the whole year were, in fact, given their freedom as I'd long hoped, but that freedom came in the form of death. It was a disturbing revelation, but I could see the optimistic view that death at least got them away from this hell on earth.

With nothing but more war and eventual death to look forward to, I tried to make the best of my situation, and so removed myself as much as possible from the chaos of the camp every time I got the chance. On the days that I was lucky, one of the new recruits came with a book or two in his bag. On the days that I wasn't lucky, I simply re-read one of the books I already had.

When I wasn't reading, I was watching. I watched everyone in the camp, but mostly Jasper. There was something about him that drew my eyes every time he was near. The way that he carried himself – he would have appeared regal to anyone else, but my careful observations allowed me to see the slump of his shoulders when he thought no one was watching. He let everyone around him see the Major, the unrelenting leader of this army, the man who cared for no one and lived for the fight. But that wasn't him. No, the man I saw hated being in this camp just as much as I did.

It had taken me more than two years to get him to speak to me, and believe me, it was not for lack of trying. Somehow, I knew not to give up on him. And now, some three years later, I still wasn't sure that I could call him my friend, but I was damn well the closest thing he had to one.

I could see him now, as I leaned up against the side of the stables that housed, at current count, eight new recruits, each screaming in agony through some stage of the change. He was standing up on the mesa, the wind just strong enough that his hair and his long coat waved in the breeze, staring into the sunset. The sun had gone down low enough already that his skin didn't have any of that special "vampire effect" that was the worst part of this new life. It was a damn smack in the face to my masculinity. Shaking my head, I cursed Maria for what I was sure was the three hundred thousandth time since I'd woken up as a vampire.

Looking away from Jasper's still, silent form, I returned my eyes to the book in my lap. I'd been trying hard for over an hour to concentrate on it – I really liked this Tom Sawyer kid – but between the incessant noise of newborns – angry, fighting, feeding, fucking, breaking shit – and the screams from the stable behind me, it almost impossible. All I'd ever wanted was quiet; an end to the constant chaos that plagued this camp; but it didn't matter where I looked, quiet was nowhere to be found.

Deciding that reading was not happening for me tonight, I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out a deck of cards that I'd taken off of one of the newborns that didn't make it through our last battle, and walked up the hill to join Jasper on the mesa, hoping I might convince him to play a few hands of rummy. I didn't say a word as I took my place beside him, instead following his line of sight with my own eyes, searching the horizon for whatever it was he was staring at. I found nothing; nothing but the long brown line of the desert, littered here and there with little brambles and cacti, as far as the eye could see.

There was nothing to look at out there, just like there was nothing here in the camp. We were in hell, with nothing to run to, nothing to give us hope. Just nothing; only the place that we were. It had been this way for years, and yet I refused to give up hope that a change would come.

"The new ones will wake by sunrise," he said, his voice as free of emotions as it always was. Jasper had brought so much death to others that he had begun to resemble death in his life. "Will you help me with them?"

"I will," I said.

A few hours later, as the sun's first rays were showing on the mesa, I made my way over to the stables where the new recruits were still filling the air with their screams as the venom made its way through their bodies, making them like us.

Walking through the door, I didn't proceed any further into the room, preferring to stay back while I waited, out of the way of any newborn who might wake up already out of control.

Jasper was standing in the center of the room, his stance commanding and powerful, as always. I could feel the hatred and anger coming off of him like the waves of the Gulf of Mexico washing against the sandy beach. I never understood how a person could feel something so much that the others around them could feel it too. No one else affected me like this; only Jasper. Being near him was taxing. There was no one in this camp other than Jasper and Maria who had passed their newborn year, so it was only the two of them that I could really talk to. But it took so much effort to get Jasper to speak at all, and even if he did, it was always accompanied by the horrible feelings that knotted my stomach. And Maria... Well, let's just say I'd rather spend all of eternity alone than speak to the bitch that sentenced me to it.

I leaned against the wall, fidgeting in a very un-vampire-like way. The stable was thick with negative emotions in a way that made me glad that I didn't actually breathe air anymore. Just as I started to consider stepping out of the stables to get away from Jasper, something changed.

The noise of the camp – the screams, the thundering crashes of vampire against vampire in the field outside, the shattering of glass and splintering of wood, the roars and groans – were suddenly silenced. The hatred and anger that had been choking me only seconds before had faded away, and I was filled with the calmest, most peaceful feeling that I'd experienced since the moment that Maria and her sister found me on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Snapping my head in Jasper's direction, I looked at him in confusion, wondering what he was doing to me. As I took him in – his countenance, his stance – I realized that nothing about him had changed at all.

What in the hell was happening?

As I searched my mind for some sort of explanation, a blur of color flashed past me at high speed, the scent of almond blossoms and raspberry sorbet trailing behind. Immediately understanding that one of the newborns must have awoken, I followed the scent to the corner of the barn, finding a small blonde woman cowering there, crouched down looking like a cross between a wild cat and a rattlesnake about to strike.

Rising to my full height, I stopped moving and held my hands up in front of me, showing her that I wasn't a threat to her. I couldn't help but stare at her as I breathed in deep, savoring her scent. Her brilliant red eyes stood out in sharp contrast to her porcelain skin, a button nose and full lips the color of the inside of a strawberry completed her face, which was framed by long waves the color of the golden wheat that had grown in their fields of our neighbor's farm in Dakota. In a word, she was beautiful.

But her beauty was the last thing that I needed to concern myself with. In the few seconds that I'd paused to examine the newborn in front of me, I'd allowed myself to be distracted. She was now crouched, ready to strike, her wild blood-red eyes scanning the room rapidly.

"It's alright, Sugar," I said, keeping my voice soft and gentle so as not to startle her. "I'm not going to hurt you. Can you come here to me?"

I knew it would annoy Jasper; he preferred to treat each new one with the same harshness that he had me when I'd awoken. But the peace that was filling my entire being in that moment wouldn't allow me to be anything but gentle with this female.

Unfortunately, I was not the only vampire in the room, and therefore I was not the only perceived threat to her. I was, however, the one within her reach.

She took me by surprise when she lunged at me, and my ill-preparation, in combination with her newborn strength, sent us both tumbling to the floor. Keeping my hands tight on her forearms, I refused to let her slip away from me as we rolled over each other several times through the hay that lined the stable floor. She was growling at me the entire time we tumbled, and the ferocious look in her eyes let me know how important it was for me to be on top of her when we stopped moving – I needed to have the upper hand to get her under control.

We came to a stop near the center of the wooden floor with me straddling her legs. Knowing that I had her in a precarious position already, and could easily subdue her, even kill her, if I felt the need, I allowed her hands to remain free, waiting patiently as she flailed wildly.

"Get it all out, Sugar," I said, knowing that she needed a way to release her fear and confusion. I remained seated right over her pelvis, my arms crossed over my chest as I leaned back to stay out of harm's way. I tried hard not to notice the way that we were so perfectly aligned. I was already waging a silent war in my mind due to the way in which the brilliance of her red eyes, which were locked on me in anger, screamed to me as a man while the innocence of her face begged me to protect her. "I'll give you another minute, but that's it."

I waited patiently in silence as she continued to lash out for a bit before slowly calming herself down. I knew that other things must have been going on in the room, but I heard no sound other than the hisses and growls that the girl under me emitted. A corner of my mind found me wishing that I was able to stop what I was doing and enjoy the quiet, and perhaps somehow make it last forever.

Finally, the female was quiet. "Done now?" I asked. She nodded, looking defeated and afraid. "Don't be scared, Sugar. My name is Peter, and I'm just trying to take care of you. Can you tell me your name?"

"Charlotte," she replied softly, her voice sounding like the wind chimes that my ma used to have hanging outside our front door to let us know when bad weather was coming. She looked surprised by the sound of her own voice, but that didn't surprise me at all.

"Yes, you're different now. You're a vampire, like me." Her red eyes widened in disbelief. "It's true, Miss Charlotte," I continued. "You feel that burning in your throat?" I reached down and took her hand in mine, moving the two together and laying them over her neck. Her skin was soft and smooth, her small hand fitting perfectly in the embrace of my larger one. I kept my voice soft and gentle, not wanting to cause her to feel threatened again. "You're thirsty. If you promise me that you'll stay calm, I'll take you outside and we can make you feel better. Would you like that?"

"Please, Peter," she agreed, her hand squeezing her throat as the burn began to irritate her. "Please make it go away."

Something about the way she said my name made me worry that something was going to change in my life, or maybe that it already had, but I shook it off. Right now, the only thing that I needed to worry about was getting her fed and getting her out into the training field before I pissed off Jasper. Rising slowly, I pulled the hand that I still held to help her up. She didn't need my assistance, really, but I gave it to her all the same.

I led her out of the stable doors and we walked along the side of the building, not stepping out into the sun until we turned the corner to make our way to the second barn on the property, the one that Maria kept at all times supplied with humans for her army to feed from. Charlotte gasped and stopped moving as we left the safety of the shade.

"What's wrong?" I asked as I turned back to look at her, wondering what was wrong.

I couldn't help but smile when I saw her staring at her own hand, marveling over the way it sparkled in the sunlight. I had to admit, the sparkles pissed me off in general, but somehow, she made it look appealing.

"That's how you'll always look when the sun is out," I explained. She looked up at me with her bright red eyes wide with wonder. She tilted her head to the side as she looked at me, then began to smile. "Don't," I commanded. "Don't you dare fucking laugh."

Damn sparkles.

Her face immediately returned to an expression of seriousness, and she began to walk again. I was almost glad for the burning of her throat; it kept her from talking to me.

A gust of wind blew across the field from the east, bringing with it plenty of sand and the scent of the humans in the barn. Again, I hadn't expected it, and Charlotte took me by surprise. All I could do was chase after her as she ran at full speed toward the feeding house. There was no way I could catch up with her, and I cursed my inattention, knowing that Jasper was going to have my ass.

Why was it that this girl kept catching me off guard?

I got to the barn less than a minute after her,finding a macabre scene awaiting me. Already she had three bodies lying at her feet, the fourth in her arms as she sucked eagerly from the vein in its neck. There was blood pooled at her feet, originating, it seemed, from a large gash on the chest of one of her victims, and more streaming down her arms, dripping to the ground from the tips of her elbows.

She growled when she became aware of my presence, and I knew better that to approach. I might have not been handling this newborn with my usual finesse, but I was not stupid. I stayed exactly where I was, not moving an inch until she let the body she was drinking from fall to the floor.

"That's enough, Charlotte," I called gently. She was already dangerously close to Maria's wrath - our leader did not allow anyone more than one human at a time – and I needed to distract her from her blood frenzy before she took any more.

She looked up at me and I shifted uncomfortably as my Levis began to feel tight. I wasn't ashamed; there was no male vampire in the camp who wouldn't have had the same reaction to her, standing there, with blood dripping from her full lower lip, in a ripped dress that revealed patches of skin just above her breast and all of her milky white thigh.

"Feel better?" I asked, keeping my voice steady as I tried to focus on anything but her thigh. Luckily we kept more suitable clothes for the soldiers than what she had come in wearing; I'd take her to get dressed right away, before she could distract me even more.

"Yes," she replied, her voice tinged with fear as she shrank away from me. "Did I do the wrong thing?"

I realized then that the scowl on my face that came from trying to ignore her had frightened her.

"You did what was natural," I replied, soothing her. "But we need to clean up this mess and get you changed. You're new, so this is understandable, but you will have to learn to control yourself from now on, or Maria will see to it that you are punished. And you do not want that to happen, I assure you."

I found myself wanting to do whatever was in my power to prevent this girl from being hurt in any way by Maria. Or by anyone, for that matter. I'd never felt so protective over anyone since I left my sisters behind in Dakota.

"Help me," I commanded as I used hay to cover up the blood that had soaked the barn floor. "We need to move these bodies outside. I'll show you what we do with them – you'll do this yourself after each time you feed. Understand?"

I waited for her to agree, and then showed her how to take the remains out to the pile on the west side of the barn where they would be burned in the evening with the others. Then I led her to the farm house on the northern side of the field and helped her find some new clothes. Once she looked presentable, I took her hand and led her back outside. As we walked toward the training field, I explained to her everything that she would need to know to survive here in Maria's camp.

"You're leaving me?" she asked as I turned to walk away from her.

"I have to go back to the stable. I have work to do," I explained, then nodded toward the training field and Henry, who Jasper had placed in charge of the afternoon's training exercises. "And so do you."

She nodded timidly and walked over to the dark-haired vampire who stood in the middle of the field, just as I had instructed. With one last look over my shoulder at her, I made my way down to the stable to see what else Jasper required of me. With each step I took away from her, the noise of the camp increased.

Back in the stable, things were as calm as they could ever get. There were three recruits left in various stages of the change; one, I could tell from the speed of his heartbeat, would be waking within the hour. Jasper was leaning against one of the supporting beams near the center of the row of stalls, his arms crossed over his chest.

"You about done babying that newborn?" he asked accusingly. "What in the hell was that about, Peter?"

I raised a brow in surprise. It was probably the most words Jasper had ever spoken to me at one time. "Wasn't babying her, Major," I replied. "Just taking care of her is all."

"Yeah? That's why you let her attack you?"

I shrugged. "Figured I'd let her get the fight out of her system while she was down."

"Never figured you the type to get his ass whooped by a woman," he sneered.

"There wasn't any ass whooping going on, jackass," I defended.

"You want to talk about an ass? Pull your head out of your own!" he commanded menacingly. "That woman is gonna get you killed if you don't. I guarantee you that if she doesn't do it herself, Maria will kill you for being a dumb fuck."

By now I was once again drowning in the anger that surrounded Jasper, and I was about ready to jump and attack him myself. "You done?"

"For now," he replied. It sounded like a threat.

"I'm going then."

I walked out of the stable, the tension in my shoulders holding my muscles rigid as I ran a hand through my hair.

I fucking hated this place.

Over the next few weeks, I tried to go about my business in the camp like nothing had changed. But something had, that was for damn sure. I watched the recruits as they trained, just like I was supposed to, but I didn't pay attention to any of them but her. I watched each movement of her body as she moved through her fights with the grace and skill of a wild cat. Her eyes never lost their wildness, and there was something so feral about her – more so than any other newborn I'd ever seen come through Maria's army. She wasn't the most skilled, but she was fierce when she fought so that, even from the sidelines, I could tell that her opponents were terrified of her.

I watched her too in the feeding house. She had become much more neat there, no longer spilling rivers of blood onto the floor, but the technique that she used was more suited for a vampire hunting out in the world rather than one standing in a buffet line. She was oddly fascinating to watch, and I experienced the same tightening in my Levis every time I watched the fear appear in her victim's eyes. It was intoxicating.

My favorite thing about her, though, and the one that kept me so close to her all the time, was the air that she was surrounded by. Wherever Charlotte was, it was quiet. The constant noise and chaos that had plagued my existence since the moment that I opened my eyes and saw Jasper standing over me simply disappeared whenever I was near her.

I tried not to be obvious about it, but I saw her notice me whenever I entered her proximity. She knew I was there, and she probably knew why. It made me feel like a bit of a creep, really, like I was preparing myself to do something terrible, something to hurt her. But that was as far as could be from the truth. In reality, I was terrified that something would happen to her, something that would take this peace away from me.

And so I watched, silently protecting her from the sidelines.

A few months into her new life, Charlotte and the rest of the army had a real battle to fight. Maria was finally ready to take on Pablo Gomez for his territory, just to the east of our current location. Winning this battle would double the size of her empire, losing it meant several more months of training another batch of newborns before we tried again. This was our life: a never ending war to get Maria what she wanted.

Jasper and I rarely entered the battles; fighting was what the newborns were for, we were there to ensure that Maria's interests were protected and things went her way. The two of us stood off to the far southern side of the field, watching with an air of aloofness. For Jasper, the aloofness was real, but for me, it only masked the anxiety which ate at me, knowing that Charlotte was in danger.

In the months that she'd been in the camp, I'd managed to finagle means of spending time alone with Charlotte, under the guise of improving her control. The truth was, I just wanted her near me. I wanted to enjoy the quiet that she carried with her. I'd begun to see her as an angel, sent to save me from the hell to which I'd been sentenced for so many years. Even if she couldn't take me away from this place, she could give me peace.

Using the deck of cards that Jasper and I had played several silent hands of rummy with in the darkness of the night in the hours that Charlotte was enduring the agony of her change, I challenged her to hand after hand of the game of all fours, rummy, even poker. I claimed that handling the cards would improve her control of her strength, but honestly, that was of little concern to me. Playing cards with her gave me a chance to talk to her, a chance to learn who she was.

I loved the way her red eyes twinkled when she knew she had a winning hand. I loved the way her soft laughter followed each failed attempt to shuffle the cards, an action which usually resulted in them flying into the air and raining down around us. I loved the way she allowed her fingertips to brush over my hand as she took the cards from me, sending electricity coursing through my body.

I was quickly learning that I just loved her.

My musings were no distraction from the battle before me, though. It wasn't safe to be distracted while twenty-three young vampires from the enemy camp, as well as twenty-four of our own, any of whom might turn on her at any moment, were in the same field with my Charlotte.

My Charlotte? Yes, that was what she had become, I realized. I didn't know what to make of it, or what to do about the fact that I had fallen in love with her. After all, we lived in a life and death scenario every day, where her life was only valuable to Maria as long as she was winning, and where the threat of her destruction was waiting behind every turn. Even if she survived all of her battles, there was little chance that Maria would allow her to live past her first birthday.

It was stupid to feel this way for her, but there was no stopping it. It's just the way things were.

Suddenly, a sharp keening wail sent panic racing through me. Charlotte. I'd know that voice anywhere. She was in danger.

Not caring about my orders, my safety, or the fact that my actions would certainly earn me severe punishment later, I sprang into the midst of the battlefield, weaving in and out of the individual skirmishes, until I reached the place where my angel was struggling to gain release from the arms of a large, brutish-looking Mexican vampire.

"Ella es la mia," I growled at him in his native tongue, letting him know that the vampire in her arms was not his to touch.

The vampire was startled by the fact that I was speaking to him in the midst of battle and his grip on Charlotte loosened. Seeing my chance, I grabbed the arm closest to me and held tight to it as I leapt over his head, ripping the arm off as I pulled the tendons beyond their flexibility. He cried out in pain as I landed and I used his distracted state to wrap my arms around his neck, tearing his head right off and tossing it to the ground. Letting his decapitated body fall, I reached out and took Charlotte by the hand.

"Come, angel, there's no time to lose," I commanded, leading her to safety off of the battlefield. I ran for nearly a mile, finally stopping when I came to a small dilapidated shack. "Good enough," I declared, knowing that I couldn't go much further without incurring the worst of Maria's wrath.

I immediately began checking Charlotte for injuries. "Are you alright? Have you been hurt?"

"Why did you do that?" she demanded, full of fury.

"Do what?" I asked, confused, still trying to ensure that she was unhurt despite her increasingly aggressive efforts to push me away.

"Why did you stop him? Why did you take me away?"

"He was going to hurt you, kill you even. I couldn't let that happen."

"Let," she scoffed, finally succeeding in pushing me away. "You can't let me get hurt? You can't let me die? But neither can you let me live, Peter!"

"I don't understand..."

"At least if that vampire had killed me, Peter, at least then I would no longer be trapped in this hell that you call a life. My life is nothing but fighting and war, serving Maria, who will certainly kill me soon if no one else does it first. I hate this life, Peter, and you have trapped me here! You believe that you are my savior, when actually you are the judge who has just sentenced me to further punishment."

Guilt filled me as I heard her explanation. In all the times that I had watched her fight, I had assumed that her ferocity, her aggressive nature, and her untamed spirit were all signs of having been made for this life, that it suited her. I had been wrong. So very wrong. Just as I was trapped in this life, so too was she.

I reached out to take her cheek in my hand, but she backed away, not letting me touch her. I ached at the loss of her touch.

"I'm sorry, Charlotte. I was merely trying to help."

"You cannot help, Peter! You, of all people, cannot help," she cried, turning away from me.

I reached for her once again, this time taking her hand in my own. "Angel? Why me of all people? Why is it that I who want to help you am the one who cannot?"

She turned toward me, eyes burning with rage, and gave her arm a hard shake, causing me to lose my grip on her once again. "Because you are what holds me here. If it wasn't for you, always watching me, I would risk everything to try to leave. If it wasn't for you, always protecting me, I would enrage Maria or let myself be killed in battle. It would be easy, just to let it all end. But you won't let me, and I cannot bring myself to leave you."

I stared at her, realizing exactly what her words meant. She felt the same pull that I did. She needed to be near me, just as I needed to be with her. This was it.

I took a step toward her, moving to embrace her, wanting her to understand that I didn't want her to leave me.

"I am so happy to hear you say this, Charlotte. I love you, Angel."

"No!" she shrieked, lunging at me, knocking me to the ground and pounding on my chest with her fists.

I absorbed every wrathful punch of her tiny hands, willing myself to bear her pain for her.

"Don't say that to me! I hate you! I hate you, Peter!" Her words damaged me much more than her physical attack ever could, and I couldn't bear to let her continue repeating the words that struck me like blows.

I flipped myself, flinging her off of me, and jumped to my feet. "Get up," I commanded.

I was stronger than her, and technically her superior, so she obeyed.

I walked toward her, and she matched each of my steps with one of her own, backing away until her back was up against the wall of the run-down shack. I stopped when she reached that point, not wanting to pin her in. If there was any chance of convincing her to love me, it had to come from her free will.

"You don't hate me, Angel," I said gently.

"Yes I do!" she screamed at me, her voice filled with venom as her blackened eyes bored right through me.

I stepped forward again, decreasing the distance between us to only a foot. "You don't," I repeated softly.

"I do! I hate you because you are the only reason that I must remain in this hell! You trap me, and I hate you for it!"

Her voice had lost much of its ferocity already, and so I took the risk and made another step toward her, bringing me close enough to touch her. I took each of her arms and held them in my hands, not wanting her to run.

"Then we are locked in the same cage, Angel. I hate this place just as much, if not more, than you do. It is only when I am near you that I find it bearable." I softened my grip and let my hands slide up her arms and over her shoulders, my touch gentle and loving. I reached her neck and passed it too, not stopping until my palms held either cheek. I looked deeply into her beautiful red eyes. "I would be happy anywhere in this world, so long as you were there with me. Let's leave this place together, and go find our place in this world."

Her eyes widened as she looked at me. "You'd take me away from here?"

"I would do anything for you, Angel. You have already saved me; let me save you."

I saw the answer in her eyes, and it was all I needed. Leaning into her, I brought my lips down over hers, kissing her gently as my hands held her cheeks. When I saw that she would not resist, I let my hands slide up her face, tangling in her golden waves as I deepened the kiss, letting myself melt into her, existing only in the angel that I held in my arms.

Charlotte, thrown off balance by my movements, leaned back into the wall of the shack, moaning softly as the intensity of our kiss continued to grow. Her hands moved over my shoulders, and wrapped around my biceps. I could feel her pressing her body against mine as the passion between us ignited.

Pulling my lips away, I spoke softly to her. "I love you, Charlotte. I have loved you so long already. Let me love you forever."

"Please, Peter," she said, echoing the words she had spoken to me months before.

I crashed my lips down against hers once again, this time kissing her with so much force that the wall of the shack gave way behind us, and we collapsed in a heap of limbs and lips in the pile of splintered lumber. Her soft giggles tickled my lips, and I broke away from our kiss, laughing right along with her.

As I stroked her cheek, looking with more happiness than I ever remembered feeling upon her smiling face, I realized that the peace that Charlotte had brought with her was the effect of the one thing that Maria's camp had always lacked: love.