Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment own all things Twilight-related. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: This little piece of angst had a painful birth. Painful for me, that is. I hope all the fuss was worth it in the end. It's definitely set within the New Moon time frame.

Many thanks to Carol, AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed, einfach_mich, and ClairDeLune13 for their insightful comments and suggestions. I needed a lot of hand-holding on this one despite its short length. Any mistakes in the final draft are entirely my own.

Warning: If infidelity pushes the wrong buttons for you, I recommend backing away slowly.

(~ * ~ * ~)

Rain pounds against the windshield of my car, its cadence a welcome sound. The hypnotic sway of the wipers always soothes the nerves I have to subdue in moments like these. This night is like so many others: cold, wet, and forbidden. I am many miles outside of Forks, away from prying eyes that might recognize my vehicle. Or hers…

It's a dangerous dance we perform in the shadows, though it always begins so innocently. A casual touch; a gentle smile; a quick glance laden with meaning, shared only between the two of us. A sign we both recognize. And it always leads us to the same place, the same culmination. Me. Isabella. Moments of passion defined by need and loneliness so raw that seeing her anguish sometimes threatens to tear a hole in the fabric of my essence.

The old Chevy pickup is parked in its usual spot when I pull in. Our room is cheap and surprisingly clean, well worth the amount I pay monthly to keep it reserved. More importantly, the manager – while not so clean himself – isn't prone to asking questions. It's a convenient situation. And a necessary one.

As I turn up the collar of my jacket and jog towards room twenty-six, I can't help but ponder how I ended up here in this faraway corner of nowhere yet again. As though my repeated attempts at justification will make what we're about to do any less intrinsically wrong in the larger scheme of things…

Bella is Edward's mate. I have no doubts whatsoever that they are meant to be, yet while she is human, he keeps himself at bay. Few touches. Mostly words and promises that offer little comfort to a young woman's heart. My attempts to speak with him about this have proven futile; he is too headstrong and inexperienced. So wholly concerned with not harming her physically, he doesn't realize that his distance forces another kind of torment upon Bella. She doesn't deserve to be wrapped in such negative emotions, not when her young human life should be filled with hope and happiness.

Alice had seen when Bella's growing despondency would reach its turning point. Had it been allowed to progress to that point, the end result would have been devastating for all of us. It's still difficult for me to comprehend even now how a simple yet deliberate paper cut from gift wrap – a desperate act done with the intention of being mortally wounded and then turned – could have led to the destruction of both Bella and my son. I just couldn't let that happen. The fractured and unstable bridge between them needs to remain intact until the time is right. That's why, in a moment of shocking clarity, I made the decision to take action when I first saw the sadness and longing in those soulful brown eyes aimed in my direction. Alice knows about us, of course. I've no idea whether she approves, but her silence on the matter speaks volumes. It's all a big secret – hers, mine. Ours. Forever.

The door opens easily with my key card, and I'm immediately enveloped in the warm smells of strawberry bath gel and steam. Her natural scents aren't offensive to me in the least, but no amount of reassurance seems to help. She likes to be clean, she tells me. I don't argue.

I find her sitting on the bed, facing away from the door, shoulders slumped. Something must have happened today – another attempt at intimacy rebuffed, perhaps. They happen too frequently as of late. I understand Edward's reasoning, but her pain cuts a path too deep for me to ignore.

Turning, Bella looks intently at me, those beautiful eyes clouded with shame and sorrow. The sight is heartbreaking. I set my keys on the dresser and hold out my arms; within seconds, I'm embracing her tiny frame, rocking her gently back and forth while she clings to me. No one should have to feel this lost, this unwanted. She deserves so much more. I kiss the top of her head, burying my nose in her long locks. When she glances back up at me, my lips pave a trail of adoration from her forehead to the tip of her nose, and, finally, to the place where she wants them most. I wash away the salt of her tears with my venom as our tongues tangle. She's trembling. She always is when we begin, desire mixing with a touch of disbelief that I'm actually here, holding her, offering my love in every way possible…because loving Isabella is as easy as breathing, I've found. My son is a very lucky man.

Still kissing her, I ease my jacket off and let it fall to the floor. My shirt follows, both our fingers working in tandem to undo the buttons. The heat of her palms against my chest is galvanizing, my arousal nearly painful. She's so much more demonstrative with me now, her touches sure, playful even. It took me a long time to draw her out of the shell in which she'd been hiding, a long time for her to believe she is worthy of what I offer.

One simple tug, and the robe she's wearing falls open. I slide it off her shoulders, finally breaking our connection so I can drink her in. She would have me believe that she's unappealing with her small breasts and slender hips, but the woman I see before me is perfect in every way. She won't meet my gaze as I admire her, staring instead at the floor, her face suffusing with color.

"Gorgeous," I whisper.

An instant later, I sweep her into my arms and carry her to the bed. Lying atop the comforter with her hair splayed, she reminds me of a nymph taken from one of Bouguereau's masterpieces. Timeless beauty. She will be a stunning vampire one day.

Her lips finally curl into a smile while I continue my warm regard, but she turns her head away, obviously still embarrassed. Resisting the urge to chuckle, I trail one of my fingers along the bottom of her foot, delighting in her reaction. Her body jerks, toes curling as she pulls away from my touch. Her smile deepens, as does that alluring blush. She is wonderfully responsive, and not just with this simple gesture. Inhaling deeply, I undo my belt and slide it off, making short work of my slacks and underwear after that. When my gaze returns to her, I find her staring intently at me. I remain still, allowing the scrutiny. Her fascination with my body hasn't changed, even after all these months. I'd expected as much our first time together, but her continued interest only adds depth to my aching desire whenever we meet.

The mattress dips as I climb on and lay beside her. "You are so beautiful, Isabella," I whisper, brushing defiant strands of hair away from her face. The words tumble so effortlessly from my lips, in part because I mean them with all my heart, but also because she needs to hear them. I find it more than unfortunate that the circumstances in her life make her feel less than desirable.

She reaches for me then, wrapping delicate fingers around my member. I moan softly as she explores my length. The gentle tugs and squeezes fully ignite the tempered passion I reserve just for her. By the time I bend down to claim her lips once more, her eyes have already fallen shut. I know what this means.

The fantasy has begun.

I shouldn't mind given the situation, and for the most part I don't. This has always been about her, not me. Still, the detachment stings just a little. He is the one kissing her now. It's his hand caressing her face, her breasts…her moist folds. He is the one rubbing her sweet spot in slow circles until she arches her back, gasping and shuddering with pleasure. It's always him.

Working her into a frenzy with my lips and fingers and tongue…it's an absolute joy. The expressions on her face, the way she clutches desperately at the pillows and bed covers – it feeds my own satisfaction in ways I know it shouldn't. But by this time, as always, I'm too caught up in the wave of our desire to care. The smell of her arousal, the beautiful flush across her chest…it's too much. She's ready for me. Nudging her legs apart, I roll over and settle within the cradle of her thighs. She begins to pant and whimper the moment I guide myself through her folds, edging in slowly. She's tight. Very tight, even now, many months after taking her virginity. I can't help the deep groan that escapes me as I sink into her heat; she feels utterly divine.

Bella's arms wrap around me when I begin to move, and I grin at the uninhibited sounds she's making. There's no doubt at all about how much she's enjoying this. Grinding my hips against hers, I make sure I'm hitting just the right spots, inside and out. A careful thrust here, a gentle undulation there… She shudders beneath me, her breath hitching. My lips find hers again, our kiss filled with forbidden promises that will dissipate like dust caught in a flurry of wind. Already the emptiness gnaws at me, but I push it away for her sake. This is her moment, and it needs to be special regardless of what churns deep inside of me. When she grabs my ass with both hands, urging me to move faster, I calmly deny her, keeping my rhythm slow and steady. I want this to last; I want her to feel this pleasure right down to the tips of her toes…for bringing a spark of happiness to my stubborn son's eyes and a spark of hope to the rest of our family's, for trusting me to help her through this difficult time…for being the beautiful, wonderful person that she is. And if I'm perfectly honest, another part of me wants her to realize exactly who it is that's bringing her to this level of bliss, even though I know there is no place for me in her fantasies.

Snaking her hands over my shoulders and down to my biceps, Bella grips me there, using the leverage to meet my thrusts again and again, angling herself just as I'd shown her. Even at this languid speed, it won't take long. When her harsh breaths turn into a whispered chant of, "Yes…yes," I slow even further, coming to a stop while still fully sheathed inside of her. Ignoring her moans of frustration, I busy myself by nuzzling her neck. I lap at the pulse point there, dragging lips and tongue all the way up to her earlobe, where I latch on and suckle until I feel her begin to tremble.


I cringe inwardly on hearing the name. I always do. My focus, however, remains firmly on the young woman in my arms. She tries to move, but the only thing my insistent bulk permits her to do is shift her legs helplessly. One of her hands slides into my hair, fisting the strands. It feels wonderful, and in return, I wriggle my hips just enough to make her cry out softly.

"Edward, please!" she begs, her voice broken with need.

I pause a bit longer, teasing with tiny nips and kisses, until I hear her breathing start to escalate. Then I pull myself out and plunge back in over and over, wrapping one of my arms around her lower back to pull us even closer. Her hands roam frantically over my body and the bed, grasping at anything and everything while the pitch of her voice rises. Finally, with one last determined thrust, she comes apart, screaming his name. I immediately reach between us, using my fingers to heighten and prolong her pleasure. There is nothing in this world more breathtaking than a woman in the throes of ecstasy, and tonight, as always, I find myself even more moved by the tears that spill from her eyes as she arches beneath me. That, I suppose, whether she realizes it or not, is her small gift to me. They are a precious reminder of her humanity and a vision I will cherish for the rest of eternity.

Rolling us both over, I cradle Bella in my arms, delighting in the way her body twitches with aftershocks. She hums when I press a kiss to her forehead; I don't need to see the rest of her face to know she's smiling. We lie quietly for some time, caressing one another. I wait patiently; sometimes she craves more, and despite my own discomfort, I'm always more than willing to oblige. Tonight, she pushes herself up to look at me. Her eyes are conflicted. I know instantly what she wants, but it's the one thing she knows I just can't give her.

"This is about your needs, sweetheart, not mine," I remind her gently.

She opens her mouth as if to say something, but then stops, leaning down to capture my mouth instead. I welcome the connection, weaving my fingers through her hair. Our kiss is light and sweet, and when we finally part several minutes later, the smile she offers me warms my heart.

"Thank you," she tells me.

I respond by touching her chin and whispering, "Be happy, Isabella."

She glances down briefly before smiling at me once more. It doesn't escape my attention that this one is somewhat forced, or that her eyes have misted. Before I can comment, she slides off of me, giving my hand a parting squeeze. My gaze follows her as she walks to the bathroom and closes the door. Moments later, I hear the sound of the shower being turned on.

Pulling back the bedclothes, I sit up and slide myself underneath so I can cover my still prominent erection. My gaze wanders to the ceiling as I absently finger the headboard's design with one hand and my aching member with the other. Unsurprisingly, my arousal soars. I close my eyes, visions of my beloved wife solidifying in my mind while I grip myself and pump. Almost immediately, though, her face begins to fade away as images of another beautiful brunette superimpose themselves…brown eyes wide open, a blissful smile upon her face, screaming my name as she writhes beneath me… I quickly spend myself into the sheets, reeling.

Devastation. It hits me hard each time. I am hardly immune to the stresses of this forbidden arrangement, despite being certain that my involvement is helping the people I love. It's become easier to hide my thoughts from Edward, but it still requires a great deal of concentrated effort. I never would have believed myself capable of infidelity, either, yet here I am. And the most crippling of all is how much I enjoy these stolen moments. Bella. Dear, sweet Isabella, who's managed to worm her way into a small, previously undiscovered corner of my heart. I knew going in that I couldn't possibly make love to someone I didn't in some way adore; however, I'd never expected the emotions to affect me as strongly as they have. So many variables. So many risks. I just keep telling myself the reward of seeing my son and his future bride riding into the sunset will make everything I'm going through now worthwhile. One day I will dance at their wedding. Of this, I am certain. They will have their happily ever after.

My thoughts are interrupted when I hear the shower cease. With a twinge of sadness, I reach over and turn off the bedside lamp, plunging the room into darkness. It's part of our established routine, a way to acknowledge that the fantasy – and our time together – is over. A way to sever the intensely intimate connection without dwelling on any residual feelings…aloud, anyway. I listen while she dries herself and dresses. More steam billows into the main room when she finally emerges. This is always the hardest part – watching her go, knowing the joy I was able to offer her is only a temporary respite from reality. Gathering up her backpack, she leaves, offering me neither a farewell nor a backward glance. I'm still staring at the closed door when the sound of her truck's engine fades into the night, leaving an awkward silence in its wake.

(~ * ~finis~ * ~)


Poly lovers take note: AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed took the TwiKinkFest plunge a few weeks back, and the result is a delicious fic called Intervention: A TwiKinkFest Entry in Five Parts. This is pretty much Carlisle/everyone, so if you're Team Carlisle, you'll be in heaven. Please note the nature of this particular challenge, though: KINK. There's LOTS of it in here, covering a wide range of very particular kinks. Be sure to read all headers before digging in, but if you're up for the ride, it's so worth it!

I'm not much on self-promotion, but along that same vein, I posted a poly story a few months back that some of you might find interesting. It's called Beloved. No kinks (sorry!), but I do explore how the Carlisle/Edward/Esme dynamic might have progressed once Esme joined the family. Definitely more sweet than sassy, with a healthy dose of citrus.