Lying on our bedroom floor, I held her tight as I dared, grateful for her understanding and forgiveness. With her head resting on my shoulder, I breathed in the delicious burning perfume coming from her damp hair as she told me about the dream.
I am such a fool. Once again, I overreacted. One would think I should know better by now.
Squandering an entire afternoon without her touch, it was crime that provided its own punishment and pain. She could accept me for what I am, why couldn't I? All the hurt and anger I obsessively harbor for what I am… it would never be able to change anything. It had all been for nothing, its only accomplishment was to make her hurt and angry as well.
I had to commit to never acting like this again. She loves me. She loves a… vampire.
Determined, I said it over and over again in my head until I no longer hesitated at the word. Slowly I felt a wave of emotion I could not rationally explain building inside me. It wasn't quite as intense as the first time I heard my name whispered in her sleep, but it was strong and ran deep, and I physically felt a change surge through me, settling into my pores.
What did this mean? Did I now love myself?
Now there's a thought. My body shook underneath hers with amusement at the idea and her head lifted off my chest, no doubt to discover the reason.
But acceptance… that was something different. I did not have to be this way. I would not be this way, ever again.
I inhaled deeply. It felt liberating… the weight that I had carried for a century had vanished. Once again, it was her… her love and her acceptance that rescued me.
"I love you." I whispered, tightening my hold on her. I wanted to shout it in the streets.
She smiled so serene, pressing her lips to where my heart lay, now so light and alive I could have sworn it was beating, then laid her head back down.
It was hard having to move away from her warmth to get up off the floor with this new found freeness. Harder still, watching her get dressed and resist the urge to tear the fabric from her soft, beautiful body and make love again.
Priorities Edward, I reminded myself. She hasn't had dinner yet.
I pushed my lustful seventeen-year-old thoughts aside and threw on my clothes.
We headed down the stairs together, practically arm and arm. She seemed to notice that something had change, though she did not comment, just smiled happily and at ease.
It was impossible to keep myself from her. Unlike the forced solitude of today, dinner was a duet. Hands crossed and touched; bodies lingered so close in the small kitchen that the act of making a grilled chicken salad felt almost like foreplay. I sat catty-corner to her while she ate, my knee rubbing up against hers under the table.
"Priorities…" I mumbled, tearing my eyes from her mouth as she put a bite of food into it.
We walked out to the truck past the slightly diminished snowman, the back of my hand brushing hers still distracted. My gloves were not on… I warmed the truck up with the remote starter for fifteen minutes before we came out. Definitely, one of my better investments.
We tooled noisily down our dark slushy road. With the temperature rising and the sun shining all day, the snow had melted down considerably, but I left the chains on anyhow planning for the late night freeze. Turning on to the highway, the dazzling moon that had shined into our bedroom became visible once more, no longer hidden behind the trees.
"You can see nearly everything" She commented upon it reappearance. "Its so bright and beautiful."
"Nearly as beautiful as you, Mrs. Cullen."
She sighed unconvinced, her cheek pressing into the arm of my jacket and yawned. It really wasn't that late, but I could feel her body relaxing against mine, hear her breathing grow shallow. On the edge of consciousness, the rhythm of her heart slowed and the hand lying atop mine slipped off. Her eyes fluttered open and she yawned once more as she clamored to take it again. It would be only moments before she was asleep.
Concern, if only momentarily, overpowered my high. Though I had made it a point to stop badgering her about sleep several weeks ago, I was fully aware of her lack of rest this weekend. I briefly considered waiting until she was out and then sneaking her back home.
No, I decided. It was a bad idea as soon as I thought it. She wouldn't like that one bit and after my behavior this morning, I had no desire to make her angry twice in one day. Halfheartedly, I did try at least, suggesting that we turn around and I would go later by myself. Naturally, she was hearing nothing of it.
"I won't get to see Esme and Carlisle again before they leave." She argued groggily.
"Perhaps we could just go there, and then come home?" I suggested.
"I'm not tired." She lied, unable to hide the truth with her yawn.
I groaned discouraged. She could be so damn stubborn.
It was usually a half hour into town, but hoping she would at least get a brief nap, I took my time and soon she was snoring gently against my shoulder.
She must have been exhausted. We pulled into the parking lot, not even the engine shutting down or my opening the truck door roused her. I slipped silently out and removed my jacket, fashioning a pillow out of it and laid her down across the bench seat. I paused to brush her hair from her face and took one last look. The calm stillness of her face, it took my breath away. She was so beautiful when she slept.
I fought my desire to hurry though the wretched place. Perhaps she would get a little more rest in the truck while I was in there. But it was only a few minutes until I heard the cadence of of her pulse change, her yawn followed by the squeak of the truck door. I moved quickly then and was nearly finished when she spied me, eyes narrowed and a frown on her beautiful face. I stifled a laugh as I put a half gallon of milk in the cart.
"That better be extra crunchy peanut butter under the bread." She growled, walking up to my side and inspecting my purchases.
"Nothing but the best for my slumbering princess."
"You should have woke me up."
"Yes, you missed all the excitement." I smirked, rolling my eyes at her. "I wrestled a grizzly bear right in the middle of the freezer section."
She glared at me, but a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "You should let Emmett know they have them in stock."
"I'll be sure to mention it to him." I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and she blushed as I kissed her forehead. "I think I have everything. Let's get out of here."
Between the cold night air and her brief nap, she did seemed somewhat revived. I loaded the groceries into the back of the truck, and we made our way to Target, her favorite big box store. I didn't argue with that one. We really did need new sheets.
"Ooh, flannel ones are on sale." She exclaimed re-energized, dragging me by the hand past the piles of clearance Halloween decorations and candy and over to the end cap display.
"And how much are we saving this time?" I teased. "Two… three dollars?"
"Hey, I've told you before: frugality is not a vice."
"I give in, I give in," Hands up in surrender, I laughed and kissed her cheek. "Do you have a color preference or should I just unload the entire shelf into the cart?"
"Well, we do go through a lot of them." Ignoring my teasing, she cut short another yawn looking up at me from the corner of her eye. "Hmmm… I guess it really doesn't matter, but it might look a little weird if we get too many."
Not exactly sure how, I talked her in to ten. While I dug through the shelf to get the right size, she wandered off farther into the isle to find us a new comforter.
"Come take a look at this Edward." she called out cautiously. Curious of her tone, I walked down and joined her in the middle of the isle.
There they sat… rows of them. I stood there stunned. How could I not have thought of something this obvious?
Never to be cold to her in bed again…
She snaked her arm around my waist as I stared at the cube shaped plastic bags filled with electric blankets dumbfounded. This wasn't about my personal baggage, now fully jettisoned from my life. I just wanted it… to feel as warm as her when we touched.
"Well… what do you think?" Fingering the diamond around her neck, she eyed me warily, as if I might view the idea offensive. It took me aback for a second, this hesitant reaction from her, but after my recent behavior, I certainly deserved it.
But I was not the same man now.
"It never crossed my mind."
"Do you think we should buy a couple?" She smiled in encouragement, and then blushed. "Accidents do happen."
I was unable to control the grin spreading across my face. "I don't know…They're not on sale."
"Oh, just leave me alone and put a couple in the cart."
"Never." I proclaimed, lifting her off her feet and kissed her on the mouth. If she had blushed in the grocery store, her face was now beet red catching sight of a middle aged woman turning into the isle... then abruptly backing out.
"Edward!" she whispered flustered, struggling in my grasp to pull away from me.
I laughed and sat her back down on her feet. My whole attitude had truly changed since the morning. I was floating, positively giddy over her find as we made our way to the checkout, my evening plans already forming in my head.
Damn, that's a shit load of sheets, The college age boy's thoughts pulled me from my own as he swiped the bar codes over the infra red light.
"You were right." I snickered under my breath to her.
"About what?" She whispered back.
I just could not resist the opportunity.
"We go through a lot of them." I said looking straight at the boy and smiling unabashed as I paid, patting my wife's behind to underscore the point. It was hard to gauge whose reaction I enjoyed more, hers or his.
"I'm glad to see you are in a better mood." She growled as we left the store. "even if it is at my expense."
"Just looking forward to trying out our new toy."
She slowed to a stop in the middle of the parking lot, a fresh wave of crimson flushing her face.
"It would be rude to not to see your parents before they leave…" She decided biting down on her lip.
"That's what I keep telling myself."
We pulled up behind Carlisle's rental car about nine thirty. Alice had chosen well. A large nearly abandoned stone and wooden farmhouse with a dilapidated barn and an overgrown orchard. It was well isolated, though it did not have quite the cover of our old house in Washington. Unfortunately, the trees surrounding the buildings were apple, pear and maple and during the winter months, they would not provide the cover the large cedars in the old front yard had. But it wasn't too bad. At least its southern exposure faced the back of the house and away from the front door and driveway.
Heat, electricity and plumbing had been the main focus for the past few weeks so we walked the slushy path someone had shoveled to the rear entrance; the front steps were rotted beyond repair. While my wife and I attended school, the others had worked quickly, tearing out the old crumbling walls and running new wires for lights and outlets. The new furnace had arrived last Monday and the drywall went up that night, the finish coat of plaster completed three days later.
"Hey guys." Emmett and Rosalie greeted us at the kitchen door. He was holding up a cabinet on the wall; she was manning the screw gun.
"Those are very nice." Bella commented.
"Thank you. They came this afternoon." Rosalie finished off the last screw and stepped back to admire her work.
My brother stopped just shy of bear hugging my wife and sniffed, looking at me with a big broad grin.
I smell sex and can-dy… he hummed in his head.
"Not one word." I muttered. As if I hadn't spent decades listening to all of them, let alone smelling them. But I couldn't help grinning a little sheepish.
"Not one word about what Edward?"
"Don't worry about it, Love."
Emmett began to chuckle, Rosalie pressed her lips together.
"What's so funny?" She now demanded, looking around at herself.
A snort slid though Rosalie's nose, Emmett looked like he was going to bust open any second. I leaned into her ear and whispered, though we both knew they would hear.
"We didn't shower before we left the house."
It took a moment for her to process exactly what that meant. It made her reaction at the store look like nothing.
"Don't worry about it little sister." Emmett did what he could to reign in his amusement. "My poor brother's been without for a long time. Its good to know he's finally getting some."
It didn't help.
Rosalie stepped in and smiled at her. "You haven't been here in days." she said in an excited tone more befitting Alice than herself, taking Bella's hand and pulling her toward the living room. "Let me show you what we've gotten done since your last visit."
Bella turned to look back at me slightly confused, but not unwilling to go.
I struggled to keep my smile planted on my face until they were gone, my mood souring. Lately I tried to avoid Rosalie whenever possible. I could barely stand to speak to her.
I felt guilty about it. I should be happy about Rosalie's change in attitude. It did please me the earnest effort my sister made to make Bella more comfortable… to be friends.
I just could not get past the smug satisfaction — not totally unintentional — that seemed to emanate in every thought that crossed her shallow brain. Bella had stayed human. Rosalie had won.
Did she think this was some sort of contest? I thought angrily. She had been my only ally last spring during the vote. Of course, I was thrilled Bella chose to spend a year at school. Maybe not for the same reasons, but my wife staying human was one of the few things we agreed on completely. The pain I eagerly took on, the concentration I gladly exerted everyday… they were a small price… a ridiculous bargain, in exchange for her love… and her soul.
Nevertheless, it irked me to no end Rosalie's attitude… the pleasure she took in her victory. I wanted no one's pity, but at least the others, Esme in particular, had some sympathy for us. They were all well aware of the irrational risks Bella took on to be with me, the tremendous effort I had to exude to keep her safe. Some days their concerned thoughts were truly touching.
My sister on the other hand had never once felt any compassion toward either of us for the obstacles we faced, nor did she waste one ounce of worry over the danger we both carefully maneuvered around just in order to love one another. Ever the narcissist, Bella staying human meant one thing to her… the possibility of a child she herself could not have.
And how did she think that was going to happen?
"Rose is trying." Emmett said, reading my grim expression and pulling me from my angry thoughts.
"I know." I answered taking a deep breath and followed him into the living room.
Esme was rolling out light beige paint above the stone fireplace as we walked in.
"Another week and I think it will start looking pretty good."
Bella glanced over at me and smiled as she listened to Rosalie prattle on about Thanksgiving break. Moments later Alice and Jasper, having skipped over the decimated stairs, came through the front door carrying a large pizza box and a two-liter bottle of soda.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think about cup and a plate until we pulled in." Alice apologized.
"Alice unprepared?" Emmett teased. "We need to write that down on a calendar."
She stuck her tongue out at him.
"It's not a problem Alice," my wife eyed the box not wanting to be impolite, "but I hope you don't expect me to eat this all by myself."
"Just do the best you can." I chuckled.
"Rock, paper, scissors… Loser has to eat an entire slice?" Jasper suggested to Emmett.
Sure… Emmett's thought died in his head as his gaze fell onto Alice's all too innocent face. "No way, you'll cheat."
He was right, of course. They already had it worked out before they got here. With an eighty percent guarantee, Jasper would be paper… Emmett would be rock.
"I'll leave the room." Alice offered, smiling sweetly.
two minutes later...
"Christ, it's hard to believe pork smells even worse dead." We all laughed at Emmett's revolted face as he downed his prize, wrinkling his nose as the pepperoni and sausage pizza came up to his mouth.
"No one made you drink that pig." Rosalie commented.
"Jasper and Edward got the bulls and those cows didn't even try to put up a fight."
"We've hit the occasional farm." I explained to Bella slightly embarrassed, cringing at the memory of draining my first cow out on a ranch back in the sixties. It was an interesting night. We had pulled up stakes quickly that day with no time to hunt.
"In Colorado?" she asked.
"Yes," Carlisle replied, nearly as curious as I was. "How did you know?"
"Cattle mutilations." she giggled in response. It surprised everyone but me. Most humans would find a bunch of vampires draining livestock frightening or at least disgusting. She thought it was funny.
"I read about it once." She clarified, blushing embarrassed.
"I thought we were still spreading the rumor it was aliens." Emmett recovered first, chuckling and patting her on the back. "Just one more of the Cullen secrets the world can never know."
She relaxed then knowing we weren't offended. "Don't worry; I'll take it to th... I can keep my mouth shut."
Everyone, except Rosalie thought the same thing at once. No, you wont take it to the grave.
"Its just an expression." Esme said softly, touching her on the arm... Jasper took care of the rest.
The conversation moved on. Furniture would not be here for another week. Leaning against my chest, she nibbled on her dinner while we all sat around on the tarps protecting the floor discussing the house. Esme explained details she wanted from her sketchbook. Alice gave a precise account of how much of the exterior renovations would be possible before the actual winter weather set in.
We didn't stay much longer. Yawning, she tossed the crust from her only slice of pizza back into the box suggesting wearily that Emmett was welcome to come over tomorrow and join her for leftovers.
It was clear to everyone she was spent, the effects from her brief nap in the truck beginning to wane. Hugs and goodbyes were short and soon we were rumbling down the road on our way home. She didn't try to fight me when I pulled the quilt from behind the seat, wrapping it around herself and curling up on the seat. Laying her head on my lap, she was out before I even got on to the main road.
Listening to her light snores, I surmise my evening plans were now changed. That was fine, I thought to myself. I could wait till morning.
Once home, I laid her down on the couch still tucked in her quilt quietly as I could, and went back to the truck for our packages.
I rolled over and fell on to the floor.
"Are you okay?" I heard him call down from the balcony of our loft.
"I'm fine." I mumbled, trying to get my bearings. The clock above the fireplace said it was just past midnight. When did we get home?
"Come up stairs." He laughed briefly, watching me struggle to escape my blanket then disappeared from view.
That was strange, I thought yawning and rubbing my eyes. Not that I really needed assistance, but I knew what he was like…
I freed myself from my cocoon in a befuddled daze, shedding my jacket and boots as well as I made my way to the staircase. I staggered up to our bedroom slowly, making an extra effort not to trip in my half-awake state.
He was already in our bed, blankets up to his chin.
It confused me more. What was he doing there?
Edward pulled his hand from under the covers and patted my side of the bed. His odd behavior shook most of my sleepiness from me. I tilted my head to the side trying to understand. Then the light bulb finally came on.
"I need to brush my teeth." I smirked and skipped off into the bathroom.
Now fully awake and alert, I was enthusiastic to join him, but I took my time, moving at a leisurely pace with my nighttime routine. He had picked on me all evening long. Let him squirm for a few extra minutes.
I didn't really care about the electric blanket one way or another, but if it eased his anxiety that he made me cold, well then I was all in favor of it.
Face washed, and teeth and hair brushed, I returned to the room pulling my turtleneck over my head and tossed it on the chair with Edward's clothes.
"You know, this really isn't necessary." I said running one finger over the new comforter.
"Perhaps, but…" Edward pulled back the blankets, inviting me.
My jeans, my bra and my panties stayed beside the bed where I stripped them off and I climbed in.
A pair of very strong warm arms wound their way around me pulling my back against his hard chest.
"Go back to sleep." He murmured softly kissing my hair and began to hum my lullaby.
Sleep? I didn't want to sleep… at least not right away.
The music cut off as I squirmed in his embrace, turning to face him.
"I'm not tired."
"Yes, you are." He murmured.
"No, I'm not." My leg curled around his hip, the inside of my calf rubbing against his thigh.
"You have passed out on me twice this evening."
"Then I am well rested." I smiled, my lips pressing against his shoulder.
"How about in the morning?" He suggested.
"Sure," I giggled as I lifted my head a began to gnaw on the edge of his jaw. "I'll be happy to make love again in the morning."
He twitched against my body, giving his own need away. In spite of the fact that he apparently wanted to argue the point, I knew capitulation was not far away.
I wished I would never sleep again. My hand went to pry itself between us to touch him, but he held it at bay, lacing the fingers in his own.
"You'd rather watch me sleep?" I kissed our entwined fingers and rocked myself against him refusing to be defeated.
Edward trembled slightly then his eyes closed for a moment, steadying himself no doubt. When they opened, he replied.
"It is my second favorite bedtime activity." He smiled angelic.
"Sure it is."
"I'm not kidding." The smile faded from his face as he released my hand and brushed the hair from my face, replaced by an intense and serious expression.
"You have no idea how wonderful it is. It's hard to describe the… the contentment?" He paused, searching for what he wanted to say.
"No… peace, the peace it brings me. Lying beneath your warm body… listening to your dreams… feeling your heart beat against mine…"
His voice rose slightly from its quiet reverent tenor, a note of mischief now showing in his eyes. "There is nothing better. Well… almost nothing better."
I stared into his perfect face. His amber eyes, inches from mine had me utterly transfixed. Unconsciously I pulled in closer, my nose rubbing against his. The smell of his sweet breath washed over my face and I swallowed, my open mouth pooling with hunger, desperate for a taste. I had only to reach out a little further and he would be mine.
The fire that scorched my throat receded to a minor annoyance as we kissed, surrendering to both our needs. To say I acquiesced would be an obvious lie.
To have her soft lips against mine… I could endure any pain for the pleasure it provided.
Other than when we showered, it had been weeks since we were anywhere near the same temperature. My heated hands linger behind her back as her arms wrapped around my neck. Nails digging into my hair and pressing her face to mine, I rejoiced at our heart loud and strong thundering on my chest. My fingers slid down her body tracing the shape of her hip and gently grasped her thigh. She rocked against me again and I moved too, thrusting carefully outside of her, feeling the pulse pound in her loins as the blood began to make it swell. She began to perspire as our legs tangled in the warmth of the blankets. My mind went back to our honeymoon and the warm tropical weather. It seemed like yesterday and yet an eternity ago. We had come so far…
Still kissing, she pushed at my shoulder and I fell back, pulling her atop me. Her dark tresses cascaded off her shoulders encasing my face in a heat so different from the blanket it was absurd to compare the two. What man could resist anything she desired? At least I had been chivalrous to try.
Finally, I forced her to breathe. She gasped wildly as my mouth moved on… nibbling on her jaw… lifting her chin so I could get to her throat to lick the dew that had begun to form there.
"I need you inside me." She moaned.
It was not an offer or a plea. It was a command. She moved higher, positioning the entrance of her womb to the tip of my erection. My hands moved to her hips as I thrust up through the moist folds of flesh, her cervix tight and pounding against my hard shaft.
Under the heat of the blankets, sweat began to pour out of her as she made love to me. Her lips left mine as she lifted her body higher and higher. Her diamond pendant, now apparently a permanent part of her, swung like a pendulum just above my chin. Pulling her body straight up, our blankets fell away and crumpled at my knees as we moved in tandem, my pelvis rocking beneath her as she lifted and dropped on to me. Her fingers held tight atop my hands that buoyed her hips enjoying the feel of the soft flesh encasing them. Straining from exertion, beads of perspiration dripped off her nipples onto my chest as her legs pumped.
I rose from the mattress, my tongue delirious to taste the nectar. I bent her back against my hand, my mouth falling onto her breast while I continued to relieve her burden, lifting at her waist and dropping her down on me.
Her face and neck flamed red. Her legs began to quake and her heart beat erratically. Oh, the aroma... it would only be a matter of moments… for both of us.
She cried out as I growled and kicked the blankets off my feet, throwing us back down on to the bed. Now on top of her, I tore my hands from her body, digging into my palms with my nails. Fists shaking underneath her, I thrust as hard as I dared, staring into her liquid eyes almost black the pupils so large. The pillows fell to the floor. Her knees slid against my ribcage in the wetness, curling her pelvis up to meet me.
Her whole body froze, head rolling back, and her spine arching off the bed as she came screaming my name.
The smell of it… the sound of her ecstasy sent me over the edge. I squeezed my eyes tight and came in rare silence, insane with the intensity and nearly convulsing on top of her.
With my weight on my elbows, I panted, resting my forehead against hers and pried my fingernails from my palms trying not to wince from the pain.
"What's the matter?" she rasped breathlessly, her voice hoarse.
"I saved the bottom sheet… and probably the mattress too." I smiled triumphant, pulling on to my knees to retrieve the electric blanket. I laid back down beside her wrapping it around us as she clamored up on top of me.
She was too exhausted to ask anymore, closing her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Reviews are always welcome. The next piece in the series is called "Ticklish". Head over to my profile if you would like to have a look.