Thank you for reading, and for the many encouraging reviews and PMs last chapter. You guys ... you're fantastic.

This chapter is unbeta'd - all mistakes are more mine than usual. This is my first Bella chapter ever! If you hate it, well, so be it - my bad. If you love it, scooooore.

Disclaimer: I do not own twilight.


Chapter 31

I am the spark
Before the blaze
I am the raindrop out at sea
I cause the ripples that become the crashing waves

"Reign" - UNKLE

Waking up next to Edward was … wonderful. I blinked at the strange walls and ceiling around me, unable to stop my smile when I realized where I was and whom I was lying next to. Strong arms held me loosely over the thick layer of blankets, giving me enough room to move while still making me feel cared for and safe. My smile grew bigger when I remembered the night before and the warm, swirling ecstasy I had felt at Edward's hands. Not once during my many dreams about him had I come close to knowing such ... wonder.

A familiar, low chuckle rumbled in my ear. "Good morning, Bella."

"Morning." I turned my head on the mattress to look up at him and bit back a groan. He lay against the pillows, smiling and bathed in the golden sunlight pouring through the windows, looking inhumanly beautiful. The light refracted against his skin, making his strange eyes shimmer, and when he smiled, my stomach fluttered. "Do you have to do that?"

His brows furrowed in confusion. "Do what?"

"Look so perfect? It's too early to deal with you sparkling like a diamond when I've got bed head and morning breath," I scolded, narrowing his eyes when he laughed softly.

"I'll see what I can do. You should know, though, that it's no longer early morning, so part of your argument is void. I think you look very pretty, by the way, despite the bird's nest on your head."

"Hey!" I exclaimed. Sitting up, I tried to smooth my hair while also searching the room for a clock.

"It's ten-thirty," Edward said, gently combing his fingers through my hair.

"Oh, gosh, you shouldn't have let me sleep so late!"

"Why on earth not?"

"Because, well …" I trailed off as he stared at me, a little line forming between his brows just before he let out a sigh.

"Bella, you were tired. I let you sleep. We don't have to be anywhere today, so why does it matter if you get a little extra rest?"

"Well, when you put it that way," I mumbled and felt my face flush when Edward leaned forward to press a kiss to the tip of my nose.

"Why don't you take a shower or whatever you'd like to do while I make some coffee." He sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress.

"Okay. Actually, wait." I followed him with my eyes as he stood and walked around the bed. "Do you know remember how to make coffee?"

Edward's face was thoughtful as he held a hand out and helped me to my feet. "I think so. If worse comes to worst, we can drive into town; there's a trading post with a diner attached. Unless you'd prefer that anyway?"

"I think I would like that, if you don't mind," I said. "I'm pretty hungry."

He drew me in for a hug. "Totally understandable. If you get ready in the next fifteen minutes, we can be at the trading post before noon."

aDc

I looked up from my plate to find Edward looking at me with amusement. We were sitting in the trading post's diner, surrounded by loggers and townspeople, while I attacked my food and Edward warmed his hands on a mug of coffee.

"What is it?" I put my fork down and dabbed at my mouth with a napkin. "Do I have something on my face?"

"No, no," Edward said. "It's nice to see you enjoying your food."

"I am enjoying it, very much. I can't remember the last time I was this hungry; especially for pancakes and eggs."

"Must be the fresh mountain air." Edward's voice was playful and his smile transformed his face. Around us, I sensed the other diners take notice; their conversations paused and their eyes widened as they stared at the beautiful man in their midst.

I swallowed before shaking my head slowly. "I think it was all of the … sleep I got."

We watched each other for a long moment before laughing.

"You did sleep peacefully, now that you mention it," Edward said, turning the cup in his hands. "You hardly stirred all night."

"Were you watching me sleep? Always the creeper."

He smiled, shrugging and looking sheepish.

"You didn't have to stay with me, Edward," I said more seriously. "It must be very boring for you, just lying there waiting for me to wake up."

"I don't mind." He smiled gently. "I did some composing and thought about a project that Emmett and I are working on. It's not often I have a chance to stay still in the dark like that, with just my thoughts. At home, there's always someone else to talk to or somewhere else to go. It was nice knowing that I could just lie there with you."

We paused when the waitress stopped by to refill my coffee, her eyes lingering on the man across from me when she asked if we needed anything. Edward answered her politely, though his gaze held mine the whole time.

"You told me once that you suffered from nightmares," he said when she had moved on. "I was pleased that you didn't seem to have any last night."

For a moment, I just looked at him, moved by his thoughtfulness and delicacy. "They've gotten much better," I said, "especially since my dad made me start seeing Carmen."

"That's good to hear. I wondered how that was going. You're very private, after all."

I nodded and ate another bite of my pancakes before speaking again. "It was hard at first—really hard. It still is." I sighed. "I never thought I'd say this, but Charlie was right: it helps to talk about the things that had happened with Jimmy. Even when it hurts."

"Are you able to talk about … everything?" Edward asked, his voice dropping slightly on the last word.

I pressed my lips together, considering how to answer before I realized that he looked almost nervous.

"I know that we agreed not to talk about James Chase," he said quickly, "I just wondered if talking about it with Carmen would help."

"That's all right; I knew what you meant. No, I haven't talked about what happened with him … to anyone."

Edward simply nodded, turning his eyes back to the cup in his hands without a word. In a flash, I understood that he was honoring his promise not to question the decisions I had made in Sacramento, though they obviously continued to weigh on his mind. I appreciated the gesture, but Edward's sudden silence left me fumbling with my thoughts and words.

"I know that probably sounds ridiculous: keeping secrets from your therapist—"

"You don't have to explain, Bella," he interrupted gently. "Whatever you want to discuss with Carmen is your decision."

"I know that." We sat quietly for a few moments before he raised his eyes to mine. "I don't think discussing Chase would be helpful, for me or you. I'm not the only person that was in his kitchen, Edward. And it would be difficult to explain how things happened, without giving you away."

Edward nodded. "Thank you for thinking of us. You don't have to protect us, Bella; we've become expert at finding ways to start over when we have to."

"Well, I'd rather not be the reason you and your family have to leave town to get away from law enforcement," I told him, ignoring the flush that spread like fire over my face. "I still feel like you just came back into my life, Edward; it'd be nice to keep you here for a while."

"I'm not going anywhere, Bella." Edward reached across the table to rest a hand over one of mine. I sighed when I realized his skin was warm from holding the coffee cup, and he gave me a small smile. "I'll have to remember that trick. I'm assuming you haven't told Carmen about me, then?"

"I told her what I could," I said truthfully, smiling when the worried expression on Edward's face eased. "She knows that we've been dating and that I have feelings for you."

"Perhaps you can tell her about my feelings for you …?" he suggested, looking adorably unsure.

"Definitely," I replied shyly. "That's not something I'd ever hide."

A slow smile spread over my lips, just as one did over Edward's.

aDc

Edward took me deeper into the woods surrounding his family's house that day, showing me a few of the places that he and the others liked to visit. Having spent years in Forks, I was accustomed to forests. These woods were different from woods I knew, though, and beautiful in an austere way that awed me.

"I can see why you like it here, Edward; it's just gorgeous." We were walking beside a creek that wound its way amongst the massive trees. The ringing silence all around us made the sound of the gurgling water and our voices seem very loud.

"As much as I enjoy the cities where we choose to live, this is one of my favorite places that we stay," he admitted. "There are forests on the East coast I'm fond of, too, in Appalachia. Emmett grew up there as a human, and the woods are deep and wild; perfect for creatures like us. Carlisle has talked of moving the family back that way when the time comes."

I frowned as Edward's words made other ideas form in my head, disturbing ideas that made me feel cold. He was watching me when I looked up, his brow crinkled as he waited for me to speak again.

"How long will your family stay in Port Angeles?"

Edward's steps slowed, finally stopping before he answered. "The family normally stays in one place for ten years or fewer before we have to move on; the average is around eight if nothing unusual happens. Toward the end of a stay, Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper usually went off on their own for periods of time, to make it appear that they were off pursuing their studies at university.

"We've been following some unusual patterns in the last few years," he continued, "because of me. The family has to leave the Chicago area when they found me, and we went east when I was finally ready to be around humans. We came Washington to pursue a position that Esme had found; that's how we wound up in Port Angeles."

I swallowed hard, my heart hammering as my brain did the calculations. "So, you could all be gone by the time I graduate from college? Would I … I'd never see you again?" I asked, my voice squeaking on the last word.

Edward stepped closer at once, drawing me into his arms as he spoke soothingly. "I can't see that happening, Bella, ever. The way I am drawn to you is too powerful for me to ignore, I know that now."

"But what will you do?" I buried my face in his chest, trying to hide the stupid tears that had welled in my eyes.

"I'll figure something out," he said confidently, his lips moving against my hair. "We can move to another city as a family while I keep in touch with you at school. Or I could live apart from the family for a time, if I had to. I won't be far, Bella, I promise."

"I can't ask you to leave your family, Edward. If I could, I'd apply to colleges on the East coast; that would make your life easier," I mumbled, nearly pulling away when Edward chuckled. "Don't laugh at me."

"I'm not laughing, sweetheart, I promise. But I don't want you trying to figure out ways to make my life easier when you should be focusing on your own. Don't live your life for me, Bella; live it for yourself. That's all I ask."

aDc

I tried not to let my discussion with Edward about our future affect my mood as the day wore on, but it was difficult. When I thought about the Cullens leaving Washington in just a few years, my mind went on, further into the future. Edward was immortal and I was not. How could a relationship work when the man I loved would stay young and beautiful forever, while I changed every single day?

The idea that we were living on borrowed time made me feel needy and reckless, and then that made me feel out of control. Before confronting James Chase, I reacted badly to feeling out of control. I would stop eating and withdraw as much as possible, seeing mainly Jacob and my dad, and rarely speaking while at school. With Carmen's help, I slowly found ways to work through my feelings without isolating myself; just talking to her or my dad helped. Now, however, I faced a future where Edward might not exist, and every coping mechanism I had learned seem to slip away.

"Bella, come here," Edward commanded softly while I scraped my uneaten dinner into the trash.

"I'll just clean up," I hardly had time to mumble before he rose from his seat at the table and crossed the room. Taking hold of my shoulders gently, he silently steered me from the kitchen into the den.

"Will you please stop obsessing about something that may not even happen?" Edward sat on the leather sofa in the center of the room and pulled me down beside him, rubbing my arms in an effort to comfort me.

"I'm not obsessing."

He pressed his cool lips to the apples of my cheeks and then my nose, speaking in a quiet, comforting tone between kisses. "You've hardly spoken all afternoon and I think you ate three bites of your dinner. There's no point in worrying that far ahead, Bella. You have to trust me to figure out a way to make things work."

My voice was a strangled whisper when I replied. "I can't help it. We're finally here, finally together, I can tell you how I feel … and now I find out that I may only have a little while to enjoy it?"

"You really don't listen to a thing I say, do you?"

"I do listen!"

"I don't think so," he said with a wry shake of his head. "If you were listening, you'd have heard me explain repeatedly that we can find a way to work it out."

"Yeah, or not find a way," I snapped back, my face reddening immediately when Edward pressed his lips together. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to—"

"It's okay."

"No, it's not," I exclaimed softly. "God, Edward, we're alone for once and who knows when that will happen again? I don't want to spend the time we have here arguing with you."

"Then stop," he said. "I know you're feeling uncomfortable about what the future holds. All I can say is that I'll do whatever I can to make sure I'm in your future for as long as you want me."

"I'll always want you, Edward. That's exactly what worries me." I swallowed hard as his eyes moved over my face, looking at me with such care and concern. "What about four or five or ten years from now? What's going to happen when I turn twenty-five? When I turn thirty? I'm going to keep getting older and you won't; how is that going to work?"

"I don't know," he said quietly, dropping his hands to take mine. "I can't give you answers to any of these questions, sweetheart. I'm not Alice: I can't tell the future."

"I'm not sure I can live like that."

"That's how we all live, though. None of us knows what will happen from one day to the next. Only that there will be a next day, no matter how we feel about it."

Edward's smile was heartbreaking. "I don't want to think about any of that right now. I've spent too much time in the last five years wondering and thinking. I don't want to think about why I can't give you the things you need, as any human man could. I don't want to wonder about how soon people in Port Angeles will notice that Carlisle and Esme aren't aging. Or about you going off to Seattle for school, and maybe meeting someone new—"

"I wouldn't," I choked out, but Edward shook his head.

"Right now, it doesn't matter. Tomorrow, we can worry about everything. For now … just be with me, Bella. For a little while, let's forget."

"I'd like that."

I raised a shaking hand to cup Edward's cheek, and my heart squeezed when he turned his face into my palm. He breathed out the softest sigh, his eyes sliding closed so that his long lashes fanned across his white skin. He looked so weary; I couldn't help bringing my other hand up to cradle his face gently. I leaned in, pressing my lips against his closed eyes first and then his cheeks, trailing slow, sweet kisses over his skin. He exhaled again, his sweet breath ghosting over my face before I brushed my mouth against his.

"I love you," he murmured, his lips moving against mine, and I felt him smile when I replied the same.

Edward drew me toward him, his strong arms holding me without holding on too tightly, and he hummed when I wound my arms around his neck. I kissed him, moving delicately until he opened his mouth and took my lower lip between his. My long, low groan filled my ears at the same time that my skin caught fire. Without thought or intent, I slid my tongue into Edward's mouth.

He froze and that sudden, utter stillness in my arms almost pulled me out of my warm haze of lust. Then Edward was moving again, his hands moving over my back and neck, reaching up under my hair and sending a flash of white heat through me. I went from hazy to dazed.

"Oh," I groaned stupidly when he moved to kiss along my jaw, my bones turning to jelly with every touch.

"Are you all right?" he asked between kisses, letting out a little groan himself when I clung to him more tightly. "Bella, I'll stop if you—"

"Don't you dare." I tilted my head back so he could run his nose along the skin of my neck and sighed shamelessly. "You feel so damned good, Edward."

"Mmm, you do, too. I've thought about you this way so often." His voice was low as he nipped my clavicle with his lips. "It's hard to believe that this is really happening."

"I feel the same way."

I leaned away slightly, taking hold of his face again and bringing it up so that I could look into his golden eyes. The emotions I saw blazing there stole my breath. In a flash, I knew. Despite our differences, Edward and I were right; we fit. This, the love between us, was true, more so than anything I'd ever felt in my life. I wanted to hold on to him for as long as I could. I wanted everything with him.

"Edward, will you do something for me?"

"Of course, if I can," he replied, and my eyes pricked with tears at his words because I knew he meant each word.

"I want … to be with you," I said, licking my lips when his eyebrows drew together. "That way. I want to know what it's like to love someone like that, with you. Is that something … can we do that?"

For a long moment, Edward didn't answer. He sat without moving, becoming too still again, though his eyes gave his emotions away: desire, fear, sorrow, love.

"Not tonight," I said hastily, giving him what I knew was a weak smile. "I'm not quite ready for that just yet. But someday?"

Edward blinked, and his beautiful face softened.

"I think so," he said gently, raising one hand to smooth the hair back from my forehead. "I'm so … humbled that you would trust me like that Bella; you can't know how honored I am, and proud of you, too."

He brought his hand up, kissing the tips of my hair wound around his fingers, and my heart cracked a little before it turned on a dime. Even Edward's loving movements and words couldn't stop the dark doubts that so often lingered in the corners of my heart.

Why would this beautiful creature want you?

"Really?" I swallowed hard against the lump that filled my throat. "It doesn't bother you that I'm … that he did those things to me?"

Edward's eyes flashed with an intensity that pierced me, and his low words made the tears standing in my eyes spill over. "Never, Bella. To me, there is nothing about you that is not perfect and beautiful and whole. I'm going to keep telling you that until you believe it."

As he so often did, Edward read my cues with endless patience and without complaint. He held me, soothing my doubts with whispered words and kisses until I felt steady again. He grinned when I stood and tugged him up after me, and let me lead him through the house and up the stairs. He smiled when I raised my hands to my shirt collar, and ran a thumb over the apple of my cheek when it flushed with heat.

"I want to try something." He stepped closer, his lips ghosting over my forehead.

Intrigued, I tilted my head to look up at him. "What is it?"

"I'm not telling just yet. I need about ten minutes, though. You get ready for sleep in the meantime." The gleam in his eyes made me grin, and he winked impishly before he blurred and was gone.

Ten minutes seemed both too long and too short as I changed into another sleep shirt and put away my clothes. I listened hard for other noises in the house while I washed my face and brushed my teeth, but heard only the wind in the trees outside of the house.

I was settled under the pile of blankets on the air mattress when I heard Edward's light step in the hallway. My mouth went dry when he walked into the room, dressed only in a white t-shirt and boxer briefs. I couldn't stop staring at the long, lean, and painfully beautiful man smiling down at me.

All that smooth, white skin.

"I was beginning to think you'd ditched me," I joked weakly. My breath hitched when he dimmed the lights and walked to the side of the mattress to crouch down.

"You can't get rid of me that easily," he said. "Mind if I join you?"

"No." I blurted, backtracking quickly when his smile faltered. "I mean, no, I don't mind! Or yes, join me. I don't know what I'm trying to say," I said throwing the blankets back, "but come on in."

Edward slid into bed, his smile returning when I gasped in surprise.

"You're warm!" I laid a hand on his arm, marveling at the heat radiating off his skin; he felt like a stone that had been baking in the sun.

"You like it?"

"I like you any way, Edward, but this is amazing. How did you do it?"

He shrugged and took my free hand in his own. "I took a hot shower; there's a bathroom on the first floor. Holding the coffee cup and then your hand this morning gave me the idea. The heat won't last forever, of course, but I thought it would be nice for you."

I smiled at that and cautiously slipped my fingers under the edge of his t-shirt sleeve. "Just for me?"

Edward's expression became suddenly shy. "For me too; it's nice to feel your skin against mine."

"That is nice."

"I … won't be able to breathe for much longer," he said, nibbling on his lower lip. "The way you smell when we're together like this is very tempting. I'm sorry about that."

"Don't be." I leaned forward to kiss him, giggling when he wrapped his arms around me and fell back against the pillows.

"I won't be able to say much. You don't mind?"

"You had it right earlier, Edward, and last night. Let's just be ourselves and be together."

"I'd like that," he said, giving my own words back to me, his eyes shining as he pulled me down for a kiss.

We moved together under the blankets, our limbs tangling, Edward holding his breath while my breaths grew loud and ragged. Together, we were a blur of sensation and emotion that made my head and heart race. Edward's shirt came off and my fingers moved over the warmed expanses of his inhumanly smooth skin. His hands on my thighs, my waist, my ribs, my breasts, pushing the sleep shirt up under my arms, his touches edged with the faintest undercurrent of roughness. Our fevered kisses and hoarse whispers, two bodies throbbing with desire as my blood turned to fire.

"More," I heard myself groan. I wanted to free fall into pleasure—to abandon myself to it. To drown. "Touch me, Edward. Please."

Edward's hand slipped slowly under the hem of my underpants, stopping my breath entirely as he opened me with long, slim fingers. His eyes burned even as he watched me carefully, always mindful of my comfort levels. He knew just how to move over my most tender flesh: slowly, both gently and yet not, each touch making me burn and sigh.

"More?" he mouthed, smiling gently when I moaned out something like yes.

Together we pulled my underpants off and I started mumbling as he continued to tease me. "Please, please, don't stop."

I was writhing by the time the heel of his hand replaced of his fingers. I had time to draw one breath before Edward slipped a finger inside me. I froze for a long moment while every bone in my body turned liquid. Before I could think to urge him on, Edward's other hand pressed against my back, canting my hips forward onto his fingers, and I gasped as my need detonated. I clung to him, wrapping my arms tightly around his neck as we rocked together, our eyes locked; I couldn't look away. One finger became two, stretching me in the most delicious ways until I didn't care anymore if I breathed or spoke or thought.

"Oh, God," I think I said. I may have screamed.

My body took flight, soaring high and then higher, bliss blossoming from my belly and rushing outward, searing my nerves. I fell, my mouth and eyes wide, staring at the man beside me in awe.

"Beautiful," he murmured.

I realized I could feel him too; Edward, hard and needy against my thigh, and for the first time, I needed to touch him; I craved it. Somehow, I made my hand move, pressing it between his legs, feeling the soft cotton of his underwear and Edward shuddered, his face crumpling with need. He turned away, hiding his teeth in the pillow while I buried my face in his shoulder. The waves of my pleasure began to ebb as I pressed my hand over him more tightly.

I heard a tearing sound as Edward's fingers slid away from me. Warm and wet, his palm pressed my hand against his hard flesh, curving my fingers to fit around him as our hands moved together. Edward groaned into the pillow, long and low as his body curled inward. A cool wetness spread against my palm beneath the cotton, while the man I held in my arms trembled.

It was much darker when I opened my eyes next. I didn't remember falling asleep, and I sighed to realize that I was cocooned in the blankets again, while Edward held me over the fabric.

"The heat wore off?" I asked, snuggling into his side when he hummed.

"I'm afraid so; sorry, love. I … may have ripped the pillow you were using last night, by the way. With my teeth."

It took a moment for his words to sink in. When they did, I laughed, and felt him chuckling beside me.

"Jeeze, Edward; I'm surprised the air mattress survived."

"It nearly didn't. I have an extra one in the car, though."

"You're so weird," I said through my sleepy giggles. "I like it."

"I'm glad that you're good with weird," Edward murmured, tucking the blankets in around me.


A/N

Thank you so much for reading. How'd I do? Never mind, there was moar citrus, right? And I co-opted some lines from the movies like the pirate that I am. Aarrr. ;) Feel free to yell at me if you need to.

I'm projecting 3 or so chapters left. I'll be back soon, I promise.