ENTRY #91 - AH

Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest
Pen Name:
Twitter:

Title: Destino
Picture Prompt Number:
26
Pairing:
ExB
Rating:
M
Genre:
Romance/Angst
Word Count (minus A/N and Header):
9,943

Summary: Their paths cross in Venice when she loses her way. One day and night is all they have, but it isn't enough. Sometimes destiny has other plans.

Warnings and Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. No copyright infringement is intended. This story contains explicit language and sexual situations.

"Scusi."

He involuntarily looks to his left and finds a tiny brunette with wide, innocent eyes staring expectantly at him. With no desire to speak to anyone, he ignores her, hating himself for noticing she's attractive. He can't be bothered to put effort into anything but self-pity.

"Do you speak English?" she asks with a hint of pleading in her tone. If she senses his intentional disregard, she doesn't let on.

"Se io parlo italiano a voi, spero te ne andrai." He doesn't answer her question directly, instead choosing to tell her that he's going to speak Italian to her in the hope that she'll go away. He omits the fact that he speaks fluent English, that it's his native language as a born and bred American.

"Il mio hotel è scomparso." She struggles to piece together the bits of Italian she knows because she needs his help. She can't find her hotel, but in her attempt to convey this she tells him her hotel went missing.

He snorts in derision, mocking her innocent mistake despite knowing what she meant. She's stupid in his eyes, nothing more than a helpless tourist and an opportunity to make someone else feel as shitty as he does.

"Non mi rendevo conto di un edificio è stato demolito oggi. Deve essere stato il più silenzioso esplosione nella storia di Venezia." He ridicules her by saying he didn't realize that a building was demolished that day, that it must have been the quietest explosion in the history of Venice, and ends with a loud laugh. The sound is so harsh, she flinches.

"Sorry. I speak very little Italian and poorly at that." She nods apologetically and takes a step back as her cheeks begin to colour. She feels foolish, grasping the sardonic tone of his message without understanding the words. His beauty appealed to her from a distance, but it's tempered by the sadness she sees in his eyes. She won't judge him for his treatment of her, too forgiving for her own good. "Sorry for bothering you. Scusi."

He rolls his eyes at her, pretending the irritation he feels is due to her compunction, but deep down he recognizes that he's angry with himself. He's being a dick, and she's done nothing to deserve it. It's not her fault that his father is an unforgiving bastard who won't let his only son return to the U.S. After six months in this hellhole, he'd do anything for the comforts of home, to see his friends, and take a piss in privacy.

He watches her turn and walk away, finally allowing himself to really look at her. She has the most amazing long brown hair. It shimmers in the sunlight like it's adorned with ruby jewels and stops just above her ass, as if meant to emphasize the most spectacular part of her body. From her shy demeanour, he knows she has no idea how beautiful she is, and that kind of innocence makes him curious.

"Aspetta!" Instinct compels him out of the chair. He tells her to wait and chases after her without really thinking about what he's doing.

Once he's at her side, she says, "You've already had your fun at my expense. I'm not talking to you until you speak English. Nice try, but you're as American as I am. Although I have to say the accent is pretty impressive."

"What gave it away?" he asks, nervously pushing his hands into his pockets. He feels exposed. Even more, he feels like an idiot for assuming she was stupid and helpless. She's clever and direct and obviously better than he is at hiding who she really is.

"Your clothes, your hair, your bored expression. You don't exactly blend, and only someone who's been everywhere and seen everything would be bored in St. Mark's Square."

"That's Piazza San Marco," he corrects in a perfect accent, being a smartass on purpose. It's second nature to him. "And I haven't been everywhere or seen everything. I've just seen enough of this place to last me a lifetime."

"How can you say that? There's so much history and culture here." She takes in his skeptical expression and continues. "Even if none of that matters to you, this has to be the best people-watching spot in the universe. Let's face it, laughing at strangers is kind of your thing."

He hates that she's so observant, that she sees through him so easily. Vulnerability is like a poison thanks to the lessons his father's taught him. Yet, he can't help but be impressed. He can't remember the last time someone understood him so quickly or fully. He's captivated by her.

"It's not very much fun to laugh all alone," he says matter-of-factly, subtly implying that he wants her to stay. "I'm Edward, by the way. Current Venice resident, hater of St. Mark's Square, and alone despite being wickedly charming and good-looking."

"Don't forget modest," she adds. He's grinning at her, and it's completely contagious. He's not exaggerating about his looks or charm. She's already forgotten his refusal to help her, and all it took was one crooked curve of his lips. He's all mahogany hair and pale skin with piercing eyes that seem a different shade of green every time she looks at him. And she looks every chance she gets.

"You didn't say who you were." He's leading her, trying to make her open up. Normally he's better at reading people, but she holds her cards too close to her chest for his liking.

"No, I didn't."

"And you're not going to," he hedges.

"Does it matter who I am?" Surely he doesn't want to know the boring details of her life. She's lived in the shadow of other people for too long, and just this once she wants to be who she is right now. Free, alive, in the moment.

The way she looks at him makes him believe she's as interested as he is, but her rebuff says otherwise. He reasons that if she doesn't want to tell him her name, then she probably doesn't want to know him at all, and it's only her politeness that makes her speak to him.

"No, I suppose it doesn't. Describe your hotel, and I'll give you the directions." He masks the dejection in his voice with civility, something he's mastered with excessive practice. So much of his life has been about obligation, putting on a dignified air and doing what is expected of him. He doesn't like slipping into that fakery with her.

"Does that mean you're going to make sure I get home safely?" She looks away as she speaks, smiling at the ground instead of him. Suddenly, she doesn't care where she should be or whether she ever gets there. All she knows is she wants to be near him, and the feeling is overwhelming.

"Your home is on the other side of the world, isn't it? I don't think I can get you there, but finding your hotel is a sure bet." He's not sure what she's implying with her question, whether she's teasing him about earlier or asking him for help again. He hopes she'll tell him where she's from without realizing the information she's giving away.

"Home is where the heart is," she says, looking directly into his eyes. She's being purposely evasive, too afraid that who she believes she is won't be interesting enough to hold his attention. He's worldly and sophisticated. She's a small-town girl who'd never been out of her home state until a few weeks ago.

Disappointed that she won't tell him anything, he's inadvertently short with her. "If you say so. Do you want my help or not?"

His inflection warns that she's crossed some imaginary line with him, but it's the way his eyes harden that solidifies his solemnity. She doesn't know how to moderate it, but she wants to try. It's up to him whether he accepts.

"Maybe… maybe not." She answers in a singsong voice, throwing her arms out and twirling. She's happy and wants the same for him. She thinks maybe if she pushes her happiness out into the universe that it might make the sadness leave his eyes, if only for a little while.

He freezes in place, stunned by the girl revolving around him. Her hair flies wildly in the wind as she spins, free and happy. He's never seen anything more pure and beautiful in all his life.

Dizzy, she stumbles and reaches out for him. He's faster; his hands are around her waist before she makes contact with his biceps. Her unfocused eyes make him smile. They're so deep and warm that he wants to curl up in them, sure they could make him feel whole again.

"I think maybe…" He speaks quietly, willing her to agree. He gives her a moment to respond and continues when she doesn't, all the while holding her gaze. "Besides, you've already accepted it." He squeezes her waist to remind her.

She grins and takes his hand, pulling him to the middle of the square. "Show me your Venice." It's a dare, and she's counting on him to take it. She's seen bits and pieces of the city, but she wants to see what it means to him.

For a moment he's in total disbelief. She's an absolute mystery, a secret wrapped in a puzzle, but he can't wait to learn her inside out. Once he realizes she's finally given him the leverage he's been after, he arches an eyebrow at her, fighting a smirk. "On one condition… you have to give me your name."

She closes her eyes and blushes. "Bella."

"Of course," he says sarcastically. He's not sure he believes her, but the name suits her perfectly. "Are you ready to see the real Venice?"

As soon as Bella nods, he entwines their fingers and takes off. In his excitement, he's practically dragging her, overlooking that it's impossible for her to match the gait of his long legs. She giggles and rushes to keep up, happily following his lead.

They start at St. Mark's Basilica, which Edward describes as a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. He points out the arches and marble columns, and highlights the carvings around the main doorway. When she mentions she likes the bronze doors, he sweeps her inside and shows her the vivid mosaics decorating the domed ceilings. Her eyes widen as she takes in the magnificence and listens to him explain the gold and bronze details, drawing her attention to various parts.

The bell tower is next: Campanile di San Marco. They climb the Campanile all the way up to the belfry and look out over the city. The view is breathtaking, and Bella squeezes Edward's hand to say thank you, too filled with awe to break the silence. He points out the bells and describes what each sound means, including the execution bell. When he jokes that he wants to ring it, just to see what happens, she giggles and pulls him outside while he pretends to fight her.

Wanting to get Bella away from the crowds, Edward pays a boat owner he knows to take them to San Giorgio Maggiore, an island just off the southern coast. Bella has mentioned she loves to read. He takes her to the Cini Foundation Arts Centre where a friend of his gets them into the library. The collection of manuscripts thrills her, and while she's looking, Edward wanders over to the music scores. She sees the reverence he has for them and asks if he's musical.

He smiles sadly. "Not any longer."

Once they return to the mainland, Bella is anxious to lighten the mood.

"Take me somewhere fun," she requests.

Before today, his idea of fun would have been something so different than what it is now. He simply wants to see her smile and thinks a gondola ride on the Grand Canal will be just the ticket.

He requests a specific path of the gondolier, slipping him cash as he shakes his hand. They float along the canals while Edward points out buildings. He explains the differences between the fondaco houses and grander palazzos, drawing her attention to the detailed friezes and capitals. She listens attentively, and when he contrasts the older Byzantine elements with Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical styles with ease, she realizes he has a greater than average knowledge of architecture. The passion in his voice is unmistakable, and the way his face brightens as he speaks makes her happy.

As they pass under the Ponte dei Sospiri, he reveals his ulterior motive and tells her, "This is the Bridge of Sighs. There is a local legend that says lovers who kiss on a gondola as it passes under the bridge at sunset are granted everlasting love and happiness."

He's barely finished the words when her lips cover his. She's been looking for an excuse to kiss him since the first time she saw him. His soft lips don't disappoint.

Her kiss sets him on fire. He's almost glad that it took this long, because now it's the only thing he can think about.

"But we're not lovers," he whispers, wishing they were.

"It's not quite sunset either, but it can't hurt. Besides, I'm not superstitious anyway." She grins and kisses him again.

When the ride is over, they stop at Edward's favourite café. He orders them food without looking at the menu and notices how her eyes darken when he speaks Italian. They share the dishes, laughing and talking, exchanging tiny touches from time to time. His yearning bubbles inside him like lava.

Darkness begins to creep in around them, but neither acknowledges it. This is the beginning of something—a crossroads—and they both feel it, but time is the enemy. He takes her face in his hands and stares into her eyes, searching for the words to tell her what she makes him feel. He wants her like he's never wanted anyone, but it's not just physical. There is something about her that is so alive, so different from what he's become, and he covets it like an addict. He wants a piece of it for himself, to take it in and let it loose inside his broken soul so that he can feel that alive for even a few moments.

"Bella, I…"

"Do you trust me?" she asks. Her palms are sweaty and shaking, but she knows what she wants.

"Yes," he replies, blinking at her in confusion. The question seems so out of left field.

She takes his hand and walks with renewed purpose. He follows willingly, not really caring where they're headed. As long as they're together, it doesn't really matter where they end up.

He points at the Correr Museum, wrapping his arms around her from behind and turning her towards it. His lips brush against the shell of her ear and press a kiss to it as he whispers, "Museo Correr."

His breath on her skin makes her shiver. She stands stock-still, waiting, hoping, wanting more. So much more.

He tells her the museum holds a sizeable collection of Antonio Canova's work, quietly informing her that his marble sculptures are nudes.

She looks at the ground for a moment, gathering her courage before she turns and looks into his eyes. "Come on."

There's a shop to the left of the museum that she's been in already, so she knows it has what she needs. Stopping in front of the display of condoms, she points to a popular brand, hoping it might be the one he uses. It's easier to ask him this way. The magnitude of what she's feeling will overwhelm her if she tries to put it into words, and she's afraid it might scare him away.

His eyes pop once he understands what she's doing. It's exactly what he wants but the opposite of what he's expecting. He slides her hand over to a textured variety promising female pleasure, so she'll know he wants it to be good for her. She shakes her head and reaches for a box of super-thins. She wants him as close as he can be. It's the only thing that matters to her.

She isn't afraid when she whispers the name of her hotel in his ear. Going there no longer means her time with him is over.

They weave through the streets, breathless and giggling, stumbling like they're drunk. In some ways they are—love drunk.

They're two opposing forces when they enter her room. She's rushing, undoing buttons while she forces her tongue into his mouth and uses her body weight to urge him toward the bed. He's gentleness and patience, covering her hands, pulling back from her kiss but not away, and doing his best to hold her close to him as she tries to squirm away. He's torn between giving in to what she wants—what he ultimately wants, too—and slowing things down. There's so much of her he wants to explore and enjoy, and he doesn't want to miss any of it. He fears if he rushes through, he'll never be able to show her what she makes him feel—that the feelings will disappear before he has a chance to figure out what they mean, and that he'll have to let her go that much quicker.

She wiggles away from him, obstinate, determined to have her way. His eyes are transfixed as she peels off her clothing, letting it fall to the floor in a pile. She pauses for a moment, meeting his gaze as she reaches behind her to unhook her bra. He pounces, hurtling across the room until his body crashes into hers, and they fall back onto the bed.

"You're taking away my fun," he grumbles, only partially joking. The sight of her half naked is already driving him crazy. She'll be irresistible completely nude. He needs to re-route their interactions before the situation controls him, if he wants a chance of doing this his way. Plus, removing a woman's clothing is his favourite part of the game of the seduction. She might be a sure thing, but he's still anticipating the euphoria of her concession. He needs it even more from her, but isn't sure why—maybe because he feels so out of control in every other way. "Leave the rest to me, or I'm leaving."

She knows he's lying, but she's more than willing to go along with his demands now that he's so close. His hard body pins her to the mattress authoritatively, and she's keenly aware of how much she likes it. If he were to spread her thighs, he'd find she's already wet enough to fuck.

He pulls her hands above her head, not entirely comfortable with the position he's got her in. He's not into domination and certainly doesn't want her to feel submissive, but he needs the distraction, a brief pause so he can touch her the way he wants to. He knows he can make her forget that she ever wanted to rush.

Without breaking eye contact, he secures her wrists with one hand and uses the other to draw a path down her body. He slowly drags his fingertips along her arm and across her collarbone to her side, barely grazing her breast as he passes it on the way to her hip. She's silent as she tries to process the sensations without being consumed by them, but the goose bumps that erupt on her skin tell him he's on the right track. He mentally adds hearing her scream with abandon to his list of wants, knowing he won't stop until she can't hold in her reactions. Only then will he have given enough to her.

She relaxes underneath him, and his body further molds to hers. It's almost too much, too fast. She's all softness and curvy curves—more than he'd imagined she'd be. He buries his face in her neck, trying to calm his thundering heartbeat, but it's in vain. She smells amazing, and the warmth of her skin is melting his resolve. He's never been so overcome with desire.

"You don't know what you're doing to me," he murmurs, pressing a kiss to her neck. She nuzzles his cheek with hers in response. She wants to touch him, but he still has her arms pinned.

As if he can read her mind, he releases his grip on her wrists, and her fingers curl around his torso, tracing the lines of his muscular back. Every brush and press of her fingertips makes him feel less solid, less like himself and more like something he doesn't recognize.

"This needs to come off." She gets two buttons opened before he sits back on his heels to help. His shirt discarded, he offers his fly to her, more than willing to take his pants off on his own but hoping she'll want to do it for him. For some reason he needs the reassurance that she wants him the same way he wants her: naked and panting.

She feels like her behaviour is too forward as she tugs his jeans down, even though she realizes how ridiculous it is that wanting him inside her makes her feel nothing of the sort. Her reactions are confusing and distracting and plant a tiny seed of doubt somewhere deep down inside her soul.

Her blushing cheeks are beautiful but worrisome. He'd give anything to know what she's thinking. The negative filter he sees the world through contaminates his thoughts until he's so afraid of the answers, he won't ask the questions that plague him. Instead he watches her face for hints and quietly asks if she's okay.

The answer to his simple question has never been so complicated. She's more than okay in some ways, less in others, so she nods and gives him a tiny smile, mentally reprimanding herself for not containing her reactions to him. She's always given too much away, and that could lead to the end of everything with Edward, something she's not willing to risk.

He hesitates before he finishes undressing but ultimately decides he'd rather not have to stop to take off his boxer briefs later. He's not being honest with himself, making an excuse that allows him to be closer to her without questioning whether he can control himself. His willpower hangs by a thread.

He leans over her for a kiss and it brings their bodies together. She fits perfectly against him—it's like a taunt—and their parts line up in the most dangerous way. His hips push against hers, granting and seeking friction. He knows he shouldn't but it feels so good. If not for her panties, he'd be pushing into her already.

They kiss, passionate and hungry. Every time she presses her tongue against his, she's wordlessly begging him to take her. She can feel his hard cock pressed right where she wants it, and as good as it feels, she wants him inside her. Each moment that passes makes her more doubtful that it will happen at all. She can't figure out why he's stalling and fears he's having second thoughts. She knows she should ask, but she won't. It would be like giving him an out. If he wants what's happening between them to stop, he needs to find the courage to say it. She's never been more certain about what she wants.

He shifts to the side a little, so his weight doesn't crush her, and slides a finger over her nipple. It pebbles under his touch, and he's enthralled watching the rose-coloured flesh struggle against the lace that envelops it. He only lasts a moment before he pulls the cup down to free it. One taste is all he wants—at least that's what he tells himself.

She watches him, quietly amused. He looks like a child on Christmas morning. His tongue peeks out to lick his lips and then, without warning, he sucks her nipple into his mouth. She arches her back and writhes against him. When she's sure he can't make the pleasure any more intense, he adds his teeth, pinching her delicate flesh until it's just this side of painful.

Drifting in a haze of lust, she's almost incoherent. She can't remember how he got her bra off, only knows it's gone. He continues his torture, fondling her other breast for good measure, and she can barely breathe though the sensations. It's too much and not enough, and God, she's never been so horny.

Her fingernails dig into his back, and he smirks. It's a sure sign that he's hitting all the right spots. He's beyond caring about how insecure she makes him feel. As long as she exhibits pleasure, he's able to push the doubts aside.

"Touch me," she pleads, reaching for his cock to give him tit for tat.

He groans and curses when her hand wraps around him. He's either forgotten how good it feels to be touched, or she has secret magic in her fingers, because it only takes a few pumps to bring him to the brink. If it weren't so embarrassing to lose control so quickly, he'd let her finish him right then and there. Pulling away from her touch feels sacrilegious and is against every instinct he has but pride. The only upside is that prolonging his release will make it that much more spectacular.

He slides down her body and out of her reach. She whimpers in frustration at first, but stops short of complaining when he spreads her legs and settles between them. She likes the way he looks, framed by her thighs, his dark, wild hair begging to be pulled.

He's turned on that she's watching. He has every intention of maintaining eye contact while he goes down on her.

He runs his nose along her center, and it weakens his intention to take his time with her. He pulls back out of self-preservation, barely able to contain his lust. He slips two fingers across the area instead, only to realize she's completely bare. Even through her panties he can feel it, but he slides a finger to the inside of her thigh and pushes it under the fabric for proof. It's his undoing. She's lusciously fleshy and warm, and he wants in.

Her panties are shed roughly and crudely, but once his tongue plunges inside her, she couldn't care less if her panties are still in one piece. She's strangely calmed by his eyes—dark and stormy and beautifully Edward—as they stare at her with their hidden secrets and unspoken messages. There is no sadness in them, and that's what matters most to her.

He shows her no mercy, working her hard with his fingers and tongue. Each time her eyes close, he softly demands she open them. When she squirms as the sensations become more intense, he holds her still and forces her to feel. He wants her undoing to be swift and intense.

Her hands slide into his hair, yanking and pulling in response to his task. She's so close that her thighs are shaking. She bites her lip to hold in her moans, noticing the disapproval on his face. She won't give him the satisfaction of screaming, even though she's sure that's what he's after. It's leverage for a second time, and she'll barter it later if he refuses her.

She's losing the fight. He won't let her close her eyes, won't slow down, won't give up, and she can only think of one thing to do to camouflage her reaction when her orgasm hits. She pulls him roughly by his hair and kisses him hard while his fingers finish her off.

Despite the pain he's in, he focuses on her. She maintains eye contact until the moment she comes, and it thrills him that she does this for him. It more than makes up for her silence. He feels triumphant when she curls into his body and lets him support her weight as she comes back down to earth.

She's woozy and weak in the best sort of way, momentarily satisfied but not sated. She presses tiny, open-mouth kisses to his neck to tell him she's ready for more, but he doesn't move. She giggles. He's a gentleman—although there was nothing gentlemanly about what he just did to her—and she wants to return the favour with the same intensity.

He's happy just holding her, but his cock has other plans. The heat from her mouth makes it twitch in anticipation. Yet there's a part of him that doesn't want to disturb the serenity and intimacy of the moment.

When he doesn't take her hint, she decides to use humour to force the issue. She pushes back on his arms until he loosens them and falls back on to the bed with a dramatic flourish. Not only does it make him laugh, it gets his attention. Keeping her knees together, she lifts her bent legs in the air and lets them fall wide open in proposition.

He freezes for a moment, afraid to move because she's too good to be true, and if this is just a dream, he doesn't want it to end. Sensing his reluctance, she stretches out her foot and strokes his knee with her toe. The contact reminds him how real she is and what she's offering. He smiles sheepishly and grabs the box of condoms off the night table, wasting no time rolling one on.

She wraps her arms around his neck and pulls him toward her. His pink cheeks don't go unnoticed.

"It's been a while," he mutters, eyes cast downward.

She doesn't want him to feel embarrassed. In a weird way, she'll be flattered if her body's too much for him. She pushes him back a little, and when he rolls to the side she climbs on top of him. His face reflects his curiosity and confusion.

"Just let me."

For a moment he worries that she thinks him incapable but he quickly realizes that she's trying to help. Besides, he can't deny the view is spectacular. He puts his hands on her hips when she lowers her mouth to his neck. He likes the way she feels between his fingers, and a sense of belonging washes over him. It's not real—he knows this—but since he likes the way it makes him feel, pretending for a little while won't be so bad.

She plants little kisses along his jawbone, moving towards his ear and circling back to where she started. She's anxious to connect with him but cautious, hoping that his reluctance to take her has more to do with his performance than his partner. If nothing else, she's pragmatic. He may not feel the way she does, but he's earned a roll in the hay after pleasuring her so completely—at least that's what she tells herself. It's not as if she has any experience with one-night stands. Plus, if she's being honest with herself, she wants to feel him inside her, to share the closest physical connection between two people. It will mean something to her, and it's easier for her to focus on being selfish than what it might mean to him.

She's doing everything right: the lightness of her touch, the places she touches, the warmth each touch leaves behind. Whether it's the roll of her hips, the arch of her back, or the soft slip of her skin against his, the way her body moves is so erotic to him. It takes everything in him to keep from trembling underneath her, and he's barely holding it together.

It's too bad he's already put the condom on. She'd like to put her mouth on him, but the nasty taste will make her gag, which is not exactly conducive to the mood. Oral normally isn't her favourite pastime, but he makes her want to perfect the skill. She likes the idea of his hands in her hair guiding her mouth back and forth and imagines the way his silky skin would feel against her tongue.

She touches his thighs and every inch of skin between his navel and his hips—everywhere but where he wants it. When her tongue presses into the grooves low on his abs, he grabs her by the shoulders and flips her over. He's on her within seconds, the tip of his cock pressed against her entrance and his wild eyes searching hers for the go ahead. She does him one better, pushing her hips up slowly so he sinks into her.

He cusses quietly, unable to entirely control his mouth. She feels so good wrapped around him that he grabs the headboard to channel the rush. Otherwise, he'll lose control. Even the idea of letting go and really fucking her is dangerous because of how it toys with his desire, so he pushes it out of his mind. He focuses on the movement of her hands as they caress his sides and the gentle brush of her lips against his neck. Her touches are reverent and tender, and they remind him she deserves the same treatment.

Once their eyes meet, they lock. She's the only thing he wants to see.

He moves slowly, savoring every bit of the delicious friction. He has to fight not to rush; being so close to her messes with his resolve. Not only does he not want it to be over, he knows this may be his only chance with her. He's been told he's good in bed, but he's not trying to wow her. He just wants her to remember being with him, to leave some lasting impression like she's done to him.

She's never felt so out-of-body. She feels him everywhere, all at once, like time has slowed down so that every second is distinct and distinguishable from all others, like every cell in her body has its own brain and the ability to process touch and emotion. Each press of his hips brings on a new round of pleasure that streams all the way to the tips of her fingers, head, and toes.

He eases her thighs up towards her head, bending his knees and sitting on his heels to change his angle for more control. The urge to pull her legs over his shoulders is strong, but he doesn't want to make her feel like a slut. It's about making her feel good, and he knows how deep she'll take him in this position. She moans softly when he presses forward, and the sound is music to his ears.

The rhythm of his hips speeds up. He can see by her expression that he's making her feel good, but he still has to coax her eyes open with quiet commands every now and then. Staring into their endless depths keeps him focused on her. It's the only way he can share what he's feeling in a meaningful way; words won't do it justice.

No man has ever made her come during sex, so her second orgasm sneaks up on her. His deep strokes hit her in just the right spot until she explodes. White light flashes behind her eyelids as the waves of bliss wash over her, one after another until she's screaming.

Her orgasms are as beautiful as she is. Now that he's seen one up close and personal, he thinks he'd like them to be his life's work. It would be more fulfilling than any job he'd be paid for, and stellar compared to the life he's stuck in. The 'if onlys' trickle into his consciousness, but he refuses to let them distract him from his time with her. He can waste the rest of his life on regrets. This moment is Bella's.

He prays for endurance, but she's not making it easy. Her hands squeeze his ass as he thrusts into her, and she pushes her hips off the bed to meet him. She whispers in his ear about her orgasm until his muscles bunch and his body tenses. She knows he's close, and it only makes her work harder.

He's on the precipice. He needs to slow down or pull out if he has any chance of continuing, but he has a feeling she won't let that happen. Instead he lifts her body to his so she's straddling his hips and his thighs support her weight. His arms curl around her, one under her hair to her neck, the other low on her back, just above her ass. His grip is tight—a lifeline—and the only thing that's keeping him grounded.

He holds her still while he thrusts with abandon, fucking her like she's a common whore because he can't control himself any longer. She gives into him, letting moans and curses fly from her lips to encourage him. He's never known this kind of intensity, let alone shared it with another human. He didn't think it existed.

His name leaves her mouth sounding like a mewl, and he's done for. He forgets everything—time, space, his own freaking name—as he comes, holding her so tightly he bruises her delicate skin.

She watches in amazement as he goes over the edge. He's utter perfection in every way. Though she misses his stormy eyes when they hide behind his lids, she's the opposite of sad. She finally knows what true happiness feels like.

He's choked up by his emotions and presses tiny kisses to her shoulder, whispering almost inaudible apologies for hurting her, for losing control and fucking her so frantically. He lays her down and kisses her everywhere, coming back to the bruises on her hip more than once. She shushes him and asks him to hold her. She wants the refuge of his arms because she's not ready to let him go yet. Just this once she'll be indulgent and leave the world on the other side of the door for a little while longer.

As soon as she settles against him, he's in heaven. The weight of her body next to his floods him with the same sense of belonging from earlier. He loses himself in the feeling, imagining that she belongs to him. The notion makes him so content that he drifts off effortlessly.

She studies his body while he snoozes, taking in his athletic build in greater detail than she could earlier. At one point she's tempted to wake him because she's so worked up, but she's afraid that when he wakes, he'll leave and chooses instead to worship him in silence. Eventually she drops off too.

He can't remember ever sleeping so soundly, and when he wakes with Bella in his arms, there's no doubt why. It's early, before 6:00 AM—or late, depending on your perspective. He has no idea how he's going to let her go. She's the epitome of beauty, and she's given him more than anyone who's claimed to care about him. She's reminded him to laugh, to love and what freedom and happiness feel like.

And he can never repay her for any of it.

The alarm on her phone goes off some time around 6:30. He tries to shut if off but he isn't familiar with the interface. She smirks at him, only one eye open, and grabs the phone out of his hand to stop the intrusive sound. She tells him she hates getting up, and when he suggests there's no need, she quietly informs him that she has to leave town in a couple of hours.

He's crestfallen. He'd hoped he would have the day or at least the morning. Two hours is barely enough time to say goodbye.

They hurry through showers. He watches from the vanity, sullen and withdrawn, as she washes and rinses and conditions and shaves. Before she finishes, he pushes his way in behind her. There's barely enough room for one but he doesn't care. He wants her close anyway.

She tries to focus on the comfort of his strong arms as they wrap around her middle, but the way his insistent cock presses against her ass is distracting. The condoms are in the other room, and she doesn't want to pull away from him to go get them. Instead, she drops to her knees and takes him in her mouth.

The sight of her mouth on him is almost worth the fact that she's too far away to touch. He'd rather get her off, but he can tell she wants this by the way she moves his hands to her hair and demonstrates what she wants him to do. He won't fuck her mouth, especially not after last night's loss of control, so he whispers how good it feels and lets her lead.

She watches his reactions as she experiments with her tongue to learn what he likes. When she takes him as deep as she's able to, his groan makes it worth the effort. She is incredibly turned on by the way his ass flexes, his hips moving unconsciously to match the rhythm of her mouth. When he comes, he pulls away but there isn't much room. His semen spills mostly on the tile but some in her mouth too. It's salty and a touch sour, but not horrible. It tastes like Edward and makes her remember that he's been in her mouth. That alone makes it worth it.

He drags her to the bed to return the favour, asking her to sit on his face so he can push his tongue so deep in her pussy that she'll see stars. He's already made her explode; now he wants to make her purr—a long, slow burn that she'll never forget.

He lies in the middle of the bed and pulls her body to his, manipulating her until her knees are on either side of his head. She lowers herself on to his mouth when she's ready. The position makes her feel dirty in the sexiest way.

She's not quiet or shy while he works her. He periodically pinches her nipples and squeezes her ass, running his hands all over her body to keep her close, but it's the way he entwines their fingers that really gets her. When she comes, she clamps his head between her thighs, feeling as if she's going to pass out. She doesn't see stars, but that's probably because she's beyond comprehension, so thoroughly tongue-fucked that her brain can't recall the shape.

They lie spent on the mattress, avoiding the inevitable until a text tone chirps from her phone and brings them crashing back to Earth. She explains the message without reading the text. It's a warning about meeting the tour bus on time.

He shrouds his devastation in a smile and focuses his strength on the time he has left. Running a hand under her hair, he curls it around her neck and kisses her softly before getting up to dress.

She stares at his naked ass, his beautifully chiseled back, and strong legs, watching them disappear under clothing that she has an irrational hatred for. She follows his lead, getting up to slip on clean panties and a bra that she doesn't really want to wear. Nothing feels right. She rushes to the bathroom to brush her teeth and hide the tears in her eyes. Once she can control herself, she rejoins him, pulling on jeans and her dirty t-shirt from the day before.

He helps her pack, checking the room for anything she might have left behind instead of telling her not to go. He has no claim on her; he never did. If she knew him and what his life was like, she wouldn't choose to stay. He wouldn't either, if the choice were his. He won't saddle her with his misery.

They drop off her suitcase and take a walk, neither ready for the goodbye. Watching her leave will bring him to his knees. He knows he can't do it, so he leads her in the opposite direction with a particular place in mind.

Bella follows Edward without a word. She knows she shouldn't wander too far but secretly wishes that it's far enough to make her miss her bus. Sharing this thought might make him laugh and break the tension between them, but she keeps it to herself. Her time with him was never about keeping him, nor was he ever hers to keep.

They don't walk far, a few blocks at most. It's early, and the sunlight is breaking just above the buildings, making everything glow orange. On a different day, it would make him feel warm and hopeful, but he knows it's an illusion. He feels glum at best, and hiding his sullen mood has become impossible. Each second that ticks away brings him that much closer to the end, and he's all too aware of how near it is.

They reach the Rialto Bridge, and Edward whispers "Ponte di Rialto," wanting to see her eyes darken one last time to prove to himself he can affect her. It doesn't make him feel the way he thought it would, or perhaps he simply can't get past the sorrow of what is about to happen. He avoids it for a moment, indulging his denial by rattling off the bridge's history and architectural facts, at least until he sees the frown on her face.

It's time to say goodbye. She bites her lip to keep her tears at bay and squeezes his hands lightly. He won't look at her. She gets the sense that saying goodbye is hard for him, and she doesn't want to make it worse. Pushing up on to her toes, she kisses both his cheeks like she's seen so many Italians do, and murmurs a goodbye close to his ear. After a few moments of hesitation to give him a chance to say something, she lets him go and heads back in the direction they came from.

"Bella, wait!" he calls. He knows his question will only make their goodbye harder, but he has to know. A few quick steps and he's beside her. She walks just a bit further and sits on the top step of the stairs. He folds in beside her and takes her hand.

She waits patiently for him to speak, wondering if the pattern he's drawing on her knuckles is all he's capable of in terms of goodbyes.

"Do you regret it?" he asks softly.

She hesitates for just a moment so she can hide her emotions. "Not one minute."

"And if you could do it again..."

"I'd do it again and again and again."

"You don't think... I mean if we-"

"It would have been amazing," she tells him, cutting him off. In a different time or place, they might have had a chance, but she can't hang on to an unrealistic dream, not when what she shared with him was already a dream come true.

"I wish..."

"Me too."

Her answer makes him smile. As much as he would have liked to make future plans, he's not in a position to. Getting a definitive answer about her feelings would have been equally great, but knowing that what happened means something to her is enough.

He glances at his watch. "You'd better run or you'll miss your bus. I'm going this way." He points toward the San Polo district and gets to his feet, brushing off his jeans to stall for time. For a moment he thinks about kissing her goodbye, but he knows it will only complicate an already arduous situation. The tiny, tentative wall around his heart will crumble and letting her go all over again will rip a giant hole in his chest. He opts for a tender kiss to her forehead.

She looks over her shoulder and watches him walk away until his form disappears from view. Even though every cell in her body is screaming at her to go to him, she doesn't. Their lives are worlds apart from each other. Making promises that can never come true will only debase what happened between them. Her tears fall freely. They may never have had a future and he might never have been hers, but her heart is broken all the same.

~8~

After getting in heap of trouble for his disappearing act, his father has him under even closer surveillance. Edward barely notices. The whole world seems colorless since he kissed Bella goodbye. He walks by her hotel daily, clinging to vestiges as he fights for his fading memories. It's easier to recall the way she made him feel than the exact brown of her eyes or the sweet smell of her hair. He's a zombie wandering aimlessly through days and nights that bleed into each other; time is meaningless.

His work slips, and it leads to mistakes that cost his father's firm a major client. He's indifferent to his father's threats, even the personal ones. There is nothing his father could do that would make Edward feel worse than he already does. He's accepted that his life is not his own, but he no longer sees any value in what remains after he's been picked clean by the man who was supposed to love him unconditionally.

Ironically, it's Edward's indifference that finally goads his father into allowing him to return to New Hampshire. The house in Hanover is as empty as Italy, its familiarity lacking the emotional comfort he expected it to hold. He feels no sense of belonging—rather, a lack of fit. There is no connection, motivation, or reason for anything. The only real thing that remains is the pain he feels. It slithers out at night, clawing at him with its sharp talons and steel teeth, and rips him to shreds. He welcomes it because it taunts him with the only thing he holds dear: Bella. The hazy dream-like images of her are the only warmth in his otherwise cold life.

When everything else has failed, his father plays his final card and detonates the shreds of Edward's future. Firing his son isn't good enough. He makes the ultimate power play by disowning him, unwilling to allow his ungrateful heir to sully his good name any longer. Edward is too depressed to feel the relief and freedom he would have a few short months before. He's given twenty-four hours to clear out his belongings and vacate the family home.

His stepsister takes pity on him, secretly taking him in. Alice gives him a few days before she presses for details. The story breaks her heart. She can't say she understands what he's been through, but she understands why it affected him. When she tells him it was love, it rips a hole in his chest. Thinking he lost someone special is one thing, realizing he lost the one devastates him all over again.

He's a ghost of his former self. Alice has never seen someone so heartsick and convinces him a change of scenery might help. They end up in Texas to visit a friend of Alice's from college. Edward feels like a third wheel. Even in his stupor he can tell there's something going on between Jasper and his stepsister. He tries to keep himself scarce, spending a great deal of his time outside or sleeping. On Alice's insistence, he joins them for meals. On this particular night, Edward decides to explore the house while Jasper and Alice watch a movie. He finds himself in Jasper's office.

He stares at the diplomas on the wall before taking in the photos in the frames on a shelf nearby. A group shot where Jasper's long hair is twice its length captures his attention. Edward's eyes peruse the other faces and settle on the hooded girl in the corner. She looks so much like Bella that his stomach twists, and the pain that is normally reserved for his dreams stabs him in the gut. He grabs the frame and brings it to Jasper.

"Who is this girl?" he demands.

"I didn't know her very well, man. She came with my friend Charlotte," Jasper explains, pointing to a petite, platinum blond girl in the photo.

"Do you remember her name?"

"Umm... I think it was... now what in the world was her name?"

"I really need you to remember, Jasper. It's important." Edward's eyes dart from Jasper to Alice and back.

"Izzy?" Jasper asks. "I think it was Izzy."

Edward paces impatiently, never taking his eyes off the picture. Alice senses his tumult and asks, "What is it?"

"You're sure it's not Bella?"

"That's Bella?" Alice blurts.

Jasper replies, "I'm not sure of anything, but I keep up with Charlotte on Facebook. I'll give her a shout and see what I can find out."

Edward wears a path in the floor as he waits for news. Alice is quietly optimistic. This is the first spark of life she's seen in him. She desperately wants the girl in the photo to be his Bella.

A couple of hours later, Jasper announces, "Her name was Izzy, but it's short for Isabella. Charlotte couldn't remember her last name because they weren't close. They hung out occasionally because Izzy was dating her friend. She did give me his name."

Even if she has a boyfriend, Edward refuses to consider that it might be too late. Until he spotted her in the photo, their whole relationship was an impossibility. Now the only things he wants to concentrate on are her beautiful face and the piece of paper in his hand that says 'Emmett McCarty.' Even if Emmett no longer knows where she is, he'll know her last name. With a last name, Edward can find anyone.

Edward is ecstatic to learn that Emmett is no longer dating Izzy Swan. Though the name feels strange on his lips, he's grateful to have it. It's another clue that brings him one step closer to finding her. Emmett hasn't kept in touch with her since graduation but gives Edward the last address he had for her, a third floor walk-up in Wicker Park/Bucktown, Chicago. It's the first tangible link to her, and despite the fact that it's out-of-date, Edward travels to Chicago to see if she still lives there. She doesn't, but seeing the place she once lived and imagining the way she might have used the apartment makes him feel closer to her. Rosalie, the young woman who used to be her roommate, is kind enough to give Edward Bella's forwarding address.

With Alice's financial help, Edward finds himself in the small town of La Push, Washington to chase down the next lead. The reservation has a strange vibe to it, and he gets the distinct feeling that he's not welcome. His face-to-face meeting with the man at the address he was given is just short of hostile. Aside from admitting he knows Bella, Jacob Black is unwilling to so much as hint about her whereabouts. His answers to Edward's questions are clipped and evasive, and each question seems to provoke him further. Edward sees he's getting nowhere and decides to cut his losses. He books a motel room in the closest town and prepares to try again tomorrow, hoping he'll find a friendlier person to speak to.

A few hours later there is a knock on his door. A police officer with salt-and-pepper hair and a big, bushy moustache greets him and explains that he is following-up on a disturbing the peace complaint made by a local. Edward knows this is Jacob's doing and smiles politely, answering the questions asked of him without hesitation, even volunteering his driver's license of his own accord. When asked why he's visiting the area, Edward falters, taking in the man's small-town appearance and weighing it against the possibility that he might be able to help. Edward throws caution to the wind and explains that he met and fell in love with a girl in Venice. He doesn't offer why he lost touch with her, but details his chance happening upon her photo in a friend's home and how he's tracked her across the country following leads.

The policeman nods once or twice as he listens, and when the story finishes, he asks the girl's name.

"Isabella Swan, sir, but I knew her as Bella."

The police officer clears his throat roughly and makes a joke about the story being kind of far-fetched. Before he leaves, he apologizes for the bogus complaint and interrupting Edward's night.

Thirty minutes later, there is another knock. Edward expects Jacob Black or the police officer, not who he finds.

She's too stunned to speak. She hasn't allowed herself to say his name since the day she left Venice. The idea that she might see him again had become an ever-present dream but not one she expected to come true, especially not in her own small town. At first glance, he's pale and too thin, and his eyes look dull. As she watches and waits for his recognition, they become resplendent, that brilliant green that she's always found dazzling.

He falls to his knees, tongue-tied by the relief he feels. With closed eyes, he reaches blindly for her, not entirely sure he isn't dreaming. The moment he feels her solid body under his fingertips, he wraps his arms around her calves and murmurs that he's never letting her go.

"I don't want you to," she replies, her soft voice the most blessed sound he's ever heard. She kneels down to his level to look him in the eyes.

"How did you know I was here?" he asks, thinking he needs to thank whoever helped him.

"You told our story to my father, but I hope you didn't tell him everything." Her cheeks blush pink as she remembers his hands on her body.

"That was your dad?"

She ignores his rhetorical question. "Edward, what are you doing here? How did you find me?"

He tells her the story, linking Alice, Jasper, Charlotte, Emmett, Rosalie, and finally Jacob. She listens, stunned, as her tears spill down her cheeks. He dries them with his thumbs before sitting back and pulling her into his lap. He whispers words of regret, apologizing for hurting her and for not realizing how much she meant to him before it was too late. His world was so hollow without her.

She cries openly, unable to hold back the wave of emotion as she tells him that she's been an empty shell without him, how her father recognized her as the girl in Edwards's story, and knew Edward was the one she'd been pining for.

"I thought we weren't meant to be," she admits in a small voice. "That what happened—the good and the bad—was fate."

"Destino," he whispers, laying on his Italian accent thickly to make her smile. "It doesn't matter whether the courses of our lives are predetermined or not, I know without a doubt that you're it for me, my meant-to-be, my destino."

She kisses him sweetly, nuzzling her head into his neck as she tells him that he has thirty minutes to take her to bed before her father expects them back at his house. He smiles; it feels like a lifetime since he's had a reason to. He's grateful and overwhelmed and more than willing to do whatever she wants, as long as she promises to never leave his side again.