Entry for the Twi Girls Next Door Christmas Crackers Gift Exchange.

Plot bunny supplied by Fuzzyltlwingedthing.

Banner made by MidnightTrain.

Many thanks to my wonderfully supportive pre-reader, Shazzio. Thanks also to the amazing ladies at Project Team Beta, 4mejasper, thalia-csiny & SqueakyZorro.

SMeyer is the acknowledged creator of the Twi-universe. I'm just letting her Edward out to play a little.


Midnight temptation

I hunted, taking down deer, elk, and a black bear whose early awakening meant its untimely demise at my hands. I glutted myself, feeling so full that I was uncomfortable, all in an attempt to gird myself for the coming day. Now that I had acknowledged the pointlessness of trying to stay away from the siren song of Bella's blood and its inexorable allure, I had thrown down the gauntlet. Tomorrow, I was going to behave as the gentleman I was brought up to be and interact with her in a polite and companionable fashion.

In my frenzy to bolster my reserves to restrain my thirst, I had pursued my prey like the feral predator I had been transformed into so many decades ago, the control I'd worked so tirelessly to establish stripped away completely in my desperate need to prepare myself. Barely three hours had passed since full darkness had descended, I realized with dismay, now needing something to distract myself for the remainder of the night hours. My feet began moving before my conscious mind recognized my path, and my sense of anticipation heightened when I realized I was going in search of her−Bella.

I battled with myself each step of the journey back to Forks, the monster within struggling to silence my characteristically logical and principled side. My path on the trek home remained unchanged. I rationalized as I ran, assuring myself that although the monster was restless, he had been sated and therefore contained. I was only going to look, planning to maintain a safe barrier of distance between us. I just needed to check on her, I kept repeating to myself, to see her face to verify for myself that she was okay. Since I had given in to the urge to be an obsessive vampire stalker, I might as well do a thorough and complete job of it.

As I approached the edge of the forest backing the dark and silent Swan residence, I made note of Bella's ancient truck and her father's cruiser parked in the gravel driveway, suggesting they were both home. I scanned the neighborhood for any conscious thoughts in an attempt to detect the threat of a potential observer to my nefarious activities. It was just after midnight, and thankfully it seemed that the sparse human population nearby were all asleep.

I assumed that the home of a police officer would have some sort of security features, like deadbolt locks and security lights, eliminating the feasibility of using the regular entry points. There were a few houses identical to this one in the township, and having a basic recall of the layout, I decided to try an upstairs window, thinking that few people would consider installing a lock on an otherwise unreachable upper story opening.

Looking at the almost full moon and the pattern of shadows it cast on the ground, I planned my path across the yard to take full advantage of the inky pools of darkness the overgrown shrubbery provided. I padded silently across the patchy lawn and scaled the weathered clapboard in half a second. Gripping the eave above the window, I peered through the uncurtained glass.

I drew in a ragged breath as my mouth dropped open, and only my innate vampire reflexes stopped me loosening my hold and tumbling to the ground in shock.

It was unquestionably Bella's room. I could see her sprawled on the small twin bed, her coverlet kicked onto the floor and the sheets twisted around one of her long, shapely legs. She lay on her stomach, and she was naked.

Bare.

Completely unclothed.

For the first time in my long existence, my mind was instantly wiped clear of all lucid thought. As coherency fled, my physical body took over, reacting instinctively and making various parts of my long-dead anatomy spring to life. Heat rippled through my body, and I felt a visceral tingling building deep within my belly. As I became aware of my almost instant response to the astonishing view I beheld, I reacted in blind panic. Releasing my death grip on the overhead eave in a shower of crushed wood and shavings, I sprang to the ground and sprinted away, for once not caring about who or what might see my inhumanly fast retreat.

When I was a safe distance deep into the forest, I erupted, uprooting trees and hurling rocks, attempting to work off the excess of confusing and alarming emotion. My thoughts were a maelstrom of recrimination and self-loathing. I trembled with exertion, my breathing harsh and ragged. Although breathing was unnecessary for a vampire, it was a long ingrained habit, another ploy used to maintain the charade of a human appearance. In times of extreme emotional turmoil or physical stress such as this, the instinctive predatory response to gather oxygen reserves and test scent markers returned with a vengeance. I stood panting and rigid as I tried to gather the remnants of my self-control around me.

I had spied on her in her most intimate moment, and my body had responded in the basest way imaginable. My body had been excited and eager, my muscles tense and the venom free-flowing.

And to think I had thought her blood was the most desirable thing ever!

I had been so wrong. I still wanted her blood, but the vision I had just seen convinced me there were other things equally as appealing.

Seeing Bella, her skin bathed in the silvery brilliance of the moon, her lush curves and lithe limbs exposed before me, I had never felt my humanity so clearly. I couldn't remember ever reacting in such a way, even when I was human. Although I had been an adolescent, I had no personal recollection of the typical hormonal yearnings I had heard and seen in the minds of others. My own hankerings back then had been reserved for the triumphs obtained in war; an inexperienced youth's misguided glorification of events he could not truly understand.

This was a completely novel situation for me. I had no previous experience for comparison to draw upon, no pre-established idea of the appropriate etiquette for such a situation. I couldn't help but reflect on the irony of the situation, which would never have come about at all if I minded my manners in the first place. All I knew was that now I wanted her; my body yearned for hers, almost as much as it had her blood. Just like that day I first scented her blood, I felt the want burn and writhe within, all fire and need, this time from an entirely new source of temptation.

Even now, although I knew I had acted abominably−a lascivious voyeur taking advantage of a private scene−I felt that inexorable draw to return to her, to be near her again. It was like a magnetic force exerting an unrelenting pull to draw me closer. But now, I also ached to take her in my arms, to touch her, to caress every inch of the glorious skin my eyes had feasted on.

A myriad of fantasies flickered behind my eyelids, imaginings that, for once, didn't end with me draining her lifeblood. I had always considered that type of private musing to be somewhat sordid and tawdry. Just remembering some of the more frequent scenes that played out in Jessica Stanley's overheated imagination brought back the familiar sense of revulsion. Yet, when I exchanged Jessica with Bella in those recalled visions, I could feel my body stir again in primal response.

Was there any promise, any potential of transferring those illusions into reality?

Bella intrigued me. I had been drawn in initially by her unfathomable mind and my obsessive curiosity. I had gotten to know her better, attracted by her keen view, sharp intellect, and generous personality. Now it appeared her body enticed me as well; not just the potency and aroma of her blood, but the allure of her physical form−a form which held an irrefutable…fascination… for me now.

The question was could and would Bella ever reciprocate these feelings for me?

Rationally, my brain screamed that the answer should be no. I was a predator, the most dangerous being Bella would ever encounter. I hungered for the taste of her blood, desperate for her vital essence to gratify and sustain me. Yet I struggled against the monster vampirism foisted upon me and fought constantly to maintain my more noble human attributes. I was capable of deep consideration and emotion, and I could be a loving and thoughtful son and brother. Surely, if I could just learn to confine and discipline the monster within me that threatened to consume her, I would be able to share with her the same aspects of my personality, my humanness?

I slumped in dejection. What could I offer this goddess, me, a lowly and despicable monster? I was in no fashion or fantasy a normal man, the kind of suitor someone like Bella deserved.

Knowing I shouldn't want this, but powerless to halt the lure of such an outlandish notion as attempting to further any kind of relationship with her, I justified my next action the way I had done with my previous behaviour.

I would face temptation head on.

It was just a matter of acclimatizing myself to her. Just as I had done with the tantalizing scent of her blood, I simply needed to get used to it, to inure myself.

Besides, I had seen naked bodies before. I had examined many cadavers in the course of my medical studies.

However, comparing Bella and corpses in the same thought did not sit well with me. Those poor people who had donated their mortal remains to science were no longer present when I carried out my observations, their flesh inanimate and their souls absent. Although deeply asleep, Bella was still very much present. Her room literally vibrated with life, heightening my own vampiric senses and impulses.

Looking at her again wouldn't be lecherous if it was all about respecting and admiring rather than coveting, would it?

If I had some uninterrupted time to familiarize myself with this new, unexplored facet of Bella, I would be able to learn if anything…more… was possible, I reasoned.

The monster cackled around the bonds and gag I had tied him with, mocking my pitiful attempts at self-persuasion. I ignored him, set on my plan for some private exploration with Bella.

I walked back to the edge of the woods, my pace calm and measured, trying to keep the sense of anticipation to a manageable level. Mentally scanning my surroundings once again, I scrambled up the side of the house eagerly, gently and noiselessly easing up the casement so I could slip inside. I stood immobile in her room for a long moment, allowing the overwhelming aroma of her scent to surround and embrace me, almost welcoming the familiar burn in my throat as it ignited the need in me. The demand for her blood hadn't exactly diminished, but my overriding sense of excitement made the thirst manageable for a change. I was a man on a mission, and nothing was going to thwart my plans.

Although I was impatient to once again feast on the sight of Bella's exposed skin, I didn't want to seem like a complete scoundrel, even to myself. Although she remained asleep and therefore insensible to my presence, I was mindful of maintaining some sense of decorum. Rather than just ogling her, I took the opportunity to examine her things, learning new details about her from the belongings scattered across every surface. I scanned CD covers and book titles, examined her photographs, and noted the color and style of the various items of clothing draped here and there. Only when I had satisfied myself that I had paid adequate attention to each clue to her personality did I turn to gaze at her.

I drew and held my breath in wonder. I don't know how I ever considered her average-looking. It seemed obvious to me now why so many of the other boys had been so taken with her on the first day of her appearance in Forks. They had not even had the pleasure of seeing her in her entirety as I was now, and I vowed none of them ever would, if I had any influence over the matter.

Her features were relaxed in sleep, her skin glowing as the moonlight flooded her room and highlighted every inch of her. Her hair was a silken curtain splayed across the expanse of her bare shoulders and trailing over her pillow, curling delicately at the ends. Her long, curved lashes fluttered minutely against the roundness of her cheek. Her lips were slightly parted, enticingly plump and begging to be kissed. I fought the urge to press my own frigid ones against hers, riveted by the desire to see if they were as warm and moist as the sweet breath that ghosted in and out.

My eyes paid homage to the smooth and luminous expanse of her pale skin, all mysterious dips and undulations that begged to be explored. I reverently followed the tracery of fine veins and capillaries visible beneath her translucent skin to my heightened vampire sight, captivated by the sight and sound of her blood pulsing its way throughout her body. From her shoulders, her torso tapered beguilingly to a slim waist, a hint of the fullness of her breast just visible trapped beneath her. Feeling my own breathing rate speed slightly, I lowered my gaze, taking in the round curve of her buttocks, so ripe and luscious. My chest rose and fell with increasing rapidity, and aware that trying not to focus my attention on certain, more enthralling parts of her very female anatomy was ineffective, I let my increasingly heated gaze wander even lower. Her legs were lithe, and seen without their usual denim camouflage, seemed to go on forever. One leg was slightly bent, giving the barest hint of the hidden wonders currently concealed at their apex.

She was breathtaking, her silhouette both fascinating and arousing.

I couldn't help myself. I needed more, testing the limits of my endurance even further. I moved nearer to her side, kneeling so close that my thighs rested against the edge of her mattress. Bending from the waist to hover over her, I inhaled, deliberately taking the scent of her in for the very first time. Although my throat scorched and burned with renewed thirst, I welcomed the flames this time, revelling in the diversity of aromas I found in different places on her body. Her thick chestnut tresses smelled of warmth and sunshine, a natural and heady scent that not even the synthetic strawberry of her shampoo could completely mask. Her breath was pure, both sweet and minty from brushing her teeth just before retiring for the night. I could detect the hint of minerals in the deodorant she slathered under her arms, weakened over the course of the day, allowing traces of her perspiration to break through. I preferred her natural scent, rather than this artificial retardant, enjoying the tang of the salty muskiness.

I listened carefully to her breathing, which stayed deep and even. I peered closely at her eyelids, noting the movement of her eye underneath, indicating she was still soundly asleep. As long as she remained so, I felt free to continue my illicit perusal at leisure. I ran my nose as close to her skin as I dared, testing and comparing the scent I discerned over the small of her back, down her side and over her thigh. Her skin had its own smell, so intoxicating and piquant that I could almost taste it on my tongue, making my mouth well with venom in response. This scent, too, was salty and musky, with an undertone of something unique, something just…Bella.

This inimitable bouquet made me hunger for more, and my questing senses sought further indulgence. As my nose barely grazed the inside of her thigh in search of her most intimate scent, I was almost overcome again. In a flash of swift movement, I hastily retreated outside, sprinting laps around the perimeter of the township. I held my breath in my lungs all the while as I frantically fought to contain the monster fighting tooth and nail to break free, hell-bent on conquering the tempting source that had been just within its reach.

That scent! What an intoxicating and exhilarating blend of nirvana! It held far more attraction, far more possibility than her blood ever could. Once drained, her blood was gone, never to be renewed or relished again. The essence of her sex was an offering with endless possibilities, the gift that, with the right encouragement, kept on giving. I would never tire of it, could live on that alone, would bathe in it, if I could. I could now commiserate with the obsessive enthrallment I had seen, and tried to block out, from the minds of my brothers.

My lungs strained with discomfort. The unpleasant sensation added to the painful tightness in my pants, exacerbated by the friction caused by my frenzied running. I slowed my pace, satisfied that I was regaining some lucidity again.

Now I knew what it meant to be driven mad with lust, and all I had done so far was smell her!

Still, it wasn't enough. I wanted…no, needed…more.

Did I dare?

Looking was one thing, but touching…

Yet, I wanted it, craved it so badly that I could feel the sensitive pads of my fingertips tingle with expectation.

To touch her would be…divine.

I could sense the shift in my feelings for this delicate and fragile human, my curiosity and admiration evolving the closer I got to her. It felt as if her very soul was reaching out and touching something within me, awakening not only my long-dead physical body, but resurrecting parts of my humanness, too.

Could I do it? Could I touch her without losing mastery of my tightly bound self-control?

I reached out my hand, realizing I hadn't even made the conscious decision to return to her, yet here I was again, standing by her bed. I was a fool for thinking I had the strength to resist the call of Miss Isabella Swan, ingénue, siren, temptress.

Using every iota of my acute vampire senses, I ghosted my hands a mere fraction of an inch away from her skin. It was velvety-soft, and I could feel the electricity flow between us, just as it had the first time she had inadvertently touched me that day in Biology class. I was so close I brushed the barely visible, fine, downy hairs covering her body. I began at her delicate shoulder blades, mirroring the curve of her back before swooping over the mesmerizing arc of the roundness of her buttocks. I followed the smooth planes of the back of her legs as they tapered toward her dainty ankles. As I neared the end of my tactile exploration, Bella stretched slightly, pointing her toes and elongating her leg enticingly. She let out a husky sigh of contentment. I froze, waiting with bated breath to see whether she would wake.

"Mmm…Edward," she whispered, as I silently rejoiced. She was dreaming of me! She wanted more of whatever it was she imagined I was doing.

The unnamed feelings I had detected emerging earlier surged and coalesced. I could almost visualize the reactivation of my frozen heart, the wave of emotion acting as a stimulus to the re-energization of my petrified organ. In that moment, I was permanently changed, the first time such a major occurrence had happened since my transformation. I had only seen this happen twice before, when both Carlisle and Rosalie had found their mates, yet my mind still struggled with the magnitude of the revelation.

With a huff of impatience, Bella became increasingly restless, wriggling before turning over onto her back and throwing her arm over her head. The movement was enough to distract me from my absorbed cogitation, and once again, my mouth fell open as I contemplated this new view of Bella. I couldn't help it; my eyes were drawn to her beautiful breasts, so round and pert and inviting. Then my eyes darted over the swell of her hips, moving ever lower, taking in the small triangle of downy curls. Her legs had parted slightly when her position had altered, and just beneath the covering of hair, I could see…

Oh, God in heaven!

She was exquisite.

Who needed religion when a woman such as this existed, a woman far more worthy of worship and veneration?

I lost any semblance of propriety then, throwing caution to the wind and allowing my eager hands free rein. I was already damned to hell for my immortal change; my lascivious behaviour was just another example of my further descent from grace. I covetously ran my hands over her body, watching captivated as her nipples pebbled beneath my fingers, despite the lack of direct contact. It seemed that on some primal level, Bella was aware of my presence and responded to me. My notion appeared to be confirmed when her back arched and she hummed in pleasure, her chest rising until her nipples brushed my poised hands. Accepting her unconscious invitation, I tenderly cupped her breasts as I stood motionless, struggling once again with overwhelming sensation and emotion.

Her actions were pushing me inevitably closer to the edge of my restraint. It was too much, the smell and feel of her rousing every primitive and instinctive response within me. Nonetheless, I wasn't ready to relinquish this unique opportunity to extend my illicit exploration just yet. Who knew if I would ever get another or would be willing to chance it? Thinking furiously, I resolved that it was all a matter of control. As long as I was the one wielding it, I could continue as long as my self-possession held out. Too much input or stimulation from Bella would quickly erode my self-imposed bonds, before completely obliterating them. Such a situation could only end in catastrophe. I had seen how easily this could happen in the memories of the Denali sisters' early forays with their human lovers.

No−it was better this way. Bella had to remain unaware of my study of her and continue to be in a state where her actions could not excessively test my limits. As my mind still reeled and my body thrummed in reply to hers, I waited as her body relaxed back into deep sleep. With ardent interest, I stared at her intently, observing all the signs I had read that indicated Bella had reached the sleep stage where dreaming occurred. Her breathing became fast, but irregular in pattern and much shallower. Her heart rate also increased, a corresponding pounding that vibrated through her chest, into my palms and along my arms, travelling right through me, too. I could see her eyes flickering back and forth beneath her heavy lids, and her supple limbs relaxed back into their former languid position.

Once I was satisfied that she was safely preoccupied with her own internal reveries, I moved my hands once again, tracing feathery circles around her enticing areolae with the lightest touch of my fingertips, watching them pucker in reflex. I was spellbound, ecstatic that my touch made her body respond, desperately wishing the situation was different so I could test her reactions to all manner of caresses. Exploring further, I skimmed my hands down over her soft belly to the silken hair below, palming the mound of pillowy flesh padding her pubic bone. The heat radiating from her there was surprising, and before I could control my errant thoughts, I was conjecturing what that warmth would feel like wrapped around me. I trembled with the effort of containing my desire and licked my lips in anticipation. Bending again, I moved my hand just enough to allow my nose to nuzzle her delicate flesh, mindful of keeping contact to the barest minimum to stop her reacting to the coldness of my touch. Mentally preparing my inner fortifications against the thrashing of the monster, I inhaled, taking in a lungful of her intoxicating scent again. My pupils dilated as my eyes rolled back into my head, a low groan escaping me unbidden.

If I couldn't have her blood, I could have this, right? This enticing elixir would be just as sustaining and wouldn't cost her life. One kiss, one taste…could I?

The notion bounced around inside my head obsessively, tormenting and tantalizing.

Earlier, I had fought and overcome the urge to lay a chaste kiss on Bella's lips, yet here I was, contemplating performing a far less innocent action on a far more intimate area of her body.

Perhaps, that is the answer. A true gentleman would lavish open signs of his esteem and affection on the lady of his desire, well before acting on his less virtuous yearnings.

Resolute, I moved back up her body, and with infinite care, I softly pressed my lips against the satiny sweetness of hers.

Bliss.

Through her barely parted lips, I savoured her taste, minty and fresh and all Bella, so like her skin but without the salty tang. Careful not to release any venom past my lips, I kissed her again, adding more pressure and lingering longer this time, enjoying the contact more than I thought possible. It left me with a sense of warmth, of connection to this intriguing woman

If only…if only it were safe to do this when she was awake. If only she wanted me like this, too.

I withdrew only when her lips pouted slightly, a barely perceptible movement I felt rather than saw. Instead, my mouth followed the column of her throat, pressing light kisses all the way down to her collarbone. I couldn't resist; my tongue darted out to sweep over the delectable hollow between her neck and the bony protuberance.

Ahhh…her taste!

The monster rattled the bars of his cage. Undeterred, my lips blazed a path over her chest, up to the peak of her breast, again relishing her reaction to me and the change in texture as her nipple contracted beneath my tongue.

I could feel the resonation of her sigh through her chest, causing me to cease my oral worship for a moment as I ascertained whether she was stirring from sleep. It seemed the rousing originated from my devotions, however, as my sensitive nose perceived a surge in the perfume of her intimate haven.

She…enjoyed what I was doing!

I tested my theory by circling and flicking the tightened bud of her nipple a few times and was rewarded by a heady increase in the scent as her body shivered in pleasure. Emboldened, I kissed my way down and over her navel, my tongue darting out occasionally to taste her.

This was where the true test would lie: the fine balance between pleasing her and waking her. I very much wanted to see if I could please her, without the interference and peril of her taxing my self-discipline.

I nuzzled my way through her dusting of pubic hair before tentatively burrowing my tongue between the silken folds below. I laved her flesh from top to bottom and back again, stoking over and around the hooded swelling of her clitoris. I felt her muscles tense and twitch beneath me as her heart and breathing rate increased tempo.

The monster rejoiced, knowing her arousal provoked and tested my restraint, waiting to grasp the opportunity to break free at last. I raised my eyes, my gaze taking in the delectable sight of the flush suffusing her chest and cheeks, further inciting the monster's growls of jubilation. Her hands fisted the sheet beneath her, yet there appeared no other indication that she was waking. Spurred on by her reaction thus far, I continued, excited and eager for more.

As I accelerated my movements, my tongue almost vibrating against her most sensitive and secret place, I felt everything become slicker and more fragrant. The monster ceased his smug predictions of my capitulation, and watched, incredulous. Suddenly, every part of Bella tensed beneath my mouth and her body arched like a bow off the bed. The most erotic sound I have ever heard emerged from between her parted lips, and my tongue was coated with her ambrosia.

I was euphoric. The monster was stunned, rendered insensible by the unexpected attainment of a substance as quenching and intoxicating as the blood he thought was the pinnacle of nourishment.

Once again, I waited as Bella calmed, satiated now, and languidly rolled onto her side with a slight smile on her face. I adoringly stroked her hair as she settled back into a peaceful sleep, surprised but thankful she had not woken, or had at least remained in a dream-like state throughout. Moving to the old rocking chair tucked into the corner of her room, I sat avidly watching her and contemplating the night's adventures.

I had faced the temptation of her scent and blood. I had pushed my self-imposed boundaries of decent behaviour, first smelling, then touching, and finally tasting her, all without spilling a single drop of her potent and vital life essence. I had wanted to spread her wide with my hands, to lick and suck and bite her all over. I wanted to take, to possess, to plunge myself into her hot, wet, silken depths. I wanted to hear her moan and beg, to scream my name as she spread more of her delicious scent and wetness all over me. I wanted to make her mine in every way possible.

Instead, I had explored, had discovered new strengths, and gained helpful knowledge of this mesmerizing woman, whom I now knew to be my perfect match and future mate. My endeavors had been richly compensated with the evidence of her pleasure and the subjugation of my own inner demon. I savored rather than devored her, had given rather than just taken.

My mind went back to the two possible futures Alice had seen for Bella. At last I could see my own options from the dichotomy of these images.

In my longing for eternity with my soul mate, I could commit the most selfish sin ever and transform her into an immortal. As perfect as this solution appeared, I could not in good conscience ask Bella to surrender her soul and condemn her to this half-life.

Her value merited more than that.

The alternative was for her to retain her humanity. If I were to attempt to forge any sort of relationship with her, I would have to behave in a far more prudent and vigilant manner than I had indulged in tonight. Although I had managed to keep a hold of the reins on my control, it had only been possible because Bella had remained asleep. It would be impossible for anything more to happen between us if she were a more active and demanding participant. I could not afford to endanger her in any way, and although it involved considerable self-sacrifice and discipline on my part, it would be worth it to play any part in Bella's life and, hopefully, affections.

I continued to watch over her as the night waned, steadily breathing in her unique perfume and plotting for our linked future.


If you read and enjoyed my full-length story "Through a glass, darkly," you may be interested to know I am hard at work on a new story. It is titled "In Justice" and will begin posting in the next month or two.