Previously:

"How do you stand the heartbreak of being human?"

I could save her from that. I would. I would offer her ten thousand sunsets and then ten thousand more.

"Because humans don't think like that," she answered, grasping my hand but not taking her eyes off the view. "One of our greatest charms—or flaws—is that we like to pretend we're going to live forever. Otherwise, you'd never live at all."

"So, carpe diem?" I asked, and she turned her face to mine, her brown hair swishing around.

"Is it possible for something to be both a myth and an absolute truth at the same time?" She shrugged her shoulders, not waiting for a response from me. "With everything we're doing—our lessons in humanity, your puddle list—I can't truly teach you how to live, Jasper; you have to discover that on your own. I suppose I can only help you learn how not to die."

She leaned forward and kissed me just as the last of the light left the sky. In my heart, I promised that I would make it so neither one of us would ever learn the cruel lessons of death but discover how to live our lives together. Forever.


Chapter 24

Once the sun had set and we'd returned to the cabin for dinner, the air was certainly less filled with tension. I would have thought that as we moved closer to the time to go to bed, Bella would have started growing tense and would have begun nervously chattering about box checking, but she seemed completely at ease as we enjoyed our meal. Her unhesitant touches to my hand, my face, my arms, and my back, and the unbroken string of conversation, led me to believe she'd either come to some conclusion about there being no reason to be anxious or I'd perhaps made some incorrect assumptions about where we might have been headed. I'd meant it when I'd said I didn't mind what happened this weekend as long as we were together, but some box checking would definitely be nice.

We were standing at the sink, her washing our dishes from dinner as I dried, and I couldn't help but think about how nice it seemed. I'd had so many moments of absolute comfort with Bella in various kitchens. It was no wonder humans were always hanging around them in television shows and movies. I was looking at the counter, imagining what other fine times we might be able to have in future kitchens, when Bella asked me a question that took me by surprise.

"Want to play a game?"

I continued to run the dishtowel around the inside of the damp pasta pot, but I was drawn up short. I glanced at the clock, and it was still early. Her wanting to play a game didn't necessarily mean that was going to be our only source of entertainment for the evening. I tried to tell myself that this was only our first night in the cabin. Bella might need to ease into things a little more.

"Um . . . I'm not sure what you might be interested in. I didn't bring anything, but there may be a deck of cards somewhere in the house," I replied.

"Not that kind of a game," she said, handing me the saucepan. "I was thinking more along the lines of Twenty Questions."

I sighed in relief. This had potential. Where would you most like me to kiss you? What would you say if I touched you here?

"Bella, you're always welcome to ask me anything."

"Good. I just feel like there's so much I don't know yet." She turned off the water, and I handed her my towel so she could dry her hands before I started putting the dishes back in the cabinet.

I smiled when I thought about how much time we would have to get to know each other. Maybe this would become a thing for us for the rest of our lives—asking questions, learning lessons. I'd never had anything like that with Alice. There had never been any curiosity because she knew the answer to everything as soon as she thought to ask it. There had never been much history to discover about her either; all of her life had either been a mystery or just waiting to start, she'd said.

"What's been your favorite decade?" Bella asked me, reaching on her tiptoes to put a colander in the top cabinet. It would have been the gentlemanly thing to assist her, but I gathered too much entertainment in watching her stretch, not to mention her extended arm caused the bottom of her shirt to raise just enough to show me a pale flash of her hip.

It took me a moment to answer, but I knew she would think I was taking my time to think about what I was going to say, not that I was too busy staring at her.

"The 1960s," I finally told her. "There was so much excitement brewing. Everything seemed new, and everything screamed, This is the future!"

"Like what?" she asked, moving toward the sofa in the living room, now a cozy spot due to the fire I'd built in the fireplace when Bella was setting the table.

"Things were still a little new at home. We'd been working out the kinks of so many vampires living as a family for a decade, and by the sixties, we finally hit our stride. I was really starting to grasp the charade better and was able to start attending college with everyone else for the first time." I joined her on the sofa and smiled at how the flames created a soft and flickering glow on her face. "Plus there were the biggies: Camelot, the changes in civil rights, the music, landing on the moon, James Bond."

She laughed. "I like that you put James Bond right up there with landing on the moon."

Her hand was perched on the top of the couch near my shoulder, and I turned my head to kiss it. "When do you think your favorite era would have been?"

She paused to think and made tiny clicking noises with her tongue. "It might be difficult to look past how nice things are right now." She laced her fingers with mine and smiled. Perhaps I would be able to ask her a similar question in a century and she would have a different answer. Then again, I found myself also drawn to right now—to every moment I'd spent with her. She was right. How could I pick a time other than when I fell in love with her?

"Can I ask this time?" I asked her, running my thumb along her hand.

"I don't know . . . that may be against the rules," she said with a smirk.

"I may just need to chance the penalty then."

"Then by all means, be my guest." She shifted closer to me.

I knew what I really wanted to ask her, but I needed to phrase it carefully. I didn't want to risk spoiling anything. "When was the first time you realized you were falling in love?" As soon as the words were out of my mouth, her mouth dropped open in a tiny "O." Was that too much? Worse, I hadn't thought that it might prompt her to talk about Edward. "You don't have to answer that. I mean, you might not even be in a position to answer," I quickly added, both attempting to remove and add my foot to my mouth at the same time apparently.

She quickly pressed her lips to mine, and I was glad that she might find my rambling at least slightly endearing. "I can answer it," she said, leaning back.

Please don't be about Edward, I silently chanted to myself.

"Well, maybe I can," she said, a crease forming in her forehead.

This was a bad idea. I needed to think of another question to ask her.

"I'm not sure if there was an exact moment."

It was going to be about Edward.

"It all seems so seamless now."

Maybe she was talking about me. Please be talking about me—thinking about me.

"I guess if I had to point to a moment, it would be after I told the story about touching the lion." She was close enough to me that I could feel her breath against my lips.

It was about me. She'd told me that story. I had to verify it, though. "And then you felt my teeth?" I asked.

The corner of her mouth rose, and my eyes darted between her smiling lips and her dark eyes, reflecting the orange of the fire. "And then I felt your teeth," she confirmed.

My smile started to grow, as did my confidence. She'd fallen in love with me.

"And then I tickled you," I said, remembering how we'd fallen down on my bed as I'd exacted my revenge on her. That was the evening Emmett had come over to try to make me see reason about my feelings for her. How right he had been.

"And then you tickled me," she repeated.

My girl was always right, it seemed. It had been seamless in so many ways. "And then you called me."

She exhaled the lightest laugh. "Yes, and then I told you that you looked dashing in your work vest." Maybe it was just the reflection of the fire, but her eyes danced with the same excitement I was feeling.

"And then I came over for dinner."

"Every night," she added.

"Every night," I whispered, my face growing even closer.

"And then I was almost hit by a car."

I frowned. Thatwas not a part of Memory Lane I wanted to stroll down.

"And you kissed me," she quickly added, her forehead resting against mine.

"And then I knew for sure," I told her, ready to say it.

She closed her eyes, but I could feel her face stretch into a smile. I pulled back so I could see her whole face. I needed to see her.

"And then you knew for sure . . ." She let the sentence hang there, buoyed by her quick breathing.

"And then I knew I loved you. Really loved you. I am for sure in love with you."

I couldn't wait for her to have any kind of response. I needed to kiss her in that moment, the same as I did when I'd first realized my feelings for her. I pressed my lips to hers and tried to put every ounce of my feelings into that one single kiss. I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her whole chest flush with my body. I was so overcome with the desire to be close to her.

She finally pulled away softly, and we were both breathing heavily in the space between us. When I released her shoulders and allowed her to move her arms, she brought her hands up to either side of my face and cupped my jaw. She looked radiant as she smiled, and I wished for that one moment that I was still a vampire, just so I would have the ability to catalogue every detail and cast them to memory forever. I never wanted to forget a single second of this exchange.

"I am for sure in love with you," she said strongly.

I would never forget this. I would make this moment such a part of myself that I would will it to remain with me always—even throughout my change.

"I don't feel like asking anymore questions," she said.

"You don't?" I asked, and she shook her head. "That last one was a good one to end on."

She nodded and stood up from the couch, stretching her limbs slightly before reaching out a hand to me. "I agree."

I took her hand but supported my own weight as I joined her in standing. "We've had so many moments." We'll have so many more.

She grinned, and I wondered if she was thinking the same thing I was, about how long and happy our future would be.

"Like when you told me I was yours." She kept her hand wrapped around mine.

"And I kissed you some more." I kissed her right next to her collarbone, one of my favorite places.

She gasped at the feel of my lips there, and I fought not to take my kisses lower. "And then your family told me I was your mate."

I chuckled. So that was what Esme and Rosalie had said to her upstairs at the house, basically mirroring my conversation with Emmett and Carlisle.

She didn't ask me what I found funny; instead, she took a step back and pulled my hand so that I would follow.

"And then you asked me to go cabin-ing with you." Another few steps backward.

I decided to take a slight risk as my heart sped up. "And then we talked about what we might add to and cross off my list." I looked at her nervously as she took another step backward, guiding us to the hallway. For a moment, it seemed as if our roles had reversed. It was Bella who had been so nervous in this hallway earlier in the day.

"And then we . . ." she painfully trailed off. And then we what?

Another step.

"And then we . . .?" I asked.

Another step.

We were at the bedroom door now.

"And then we crossed them off," she said with a bite of her lip.

And then we, my head repeated. And then we crossed them off. And then we crossed them off! I crowed to myself.

She was still biting her a lip, and a look of indecision finally crossed her face. It was as if her plan only went as far as the door. There was no reason for her to be afraid of what might happen. I was more than capable of taking over at this point. I had lots of plans.

I didn't waste another second before bringing my mouth down to hers for a firm kiss. As our mouths were still joined, I spun us around so that I was the one walking us backwards into the room. She took giant, rushed, giggling steps forward to match my excited pace. I stopped when the back of my knees hit the bed.

Which one to cross off first? I asked myself. Please stop me if it gets to be too much, I added. I wasn't sure how much I trusted myself to put the brakes on if I needed to.

I trailed kisses down the side of her neck while her hands went to the bottom hem of her shirt. No brakes so far. I stepped back and allowed her room to pull it off. At first, she just grabbed her top shirt, but she quickly reached back down to grab her camisole as well. As she lifted her arms to clear her head, I gained my first sight of her chest.

Oh.

She pulled her hair free and, after taking a glance behind her, tossed her shirts on the floor.

Oh.

I just stared at her. This room didn't have a fire or any of the lamps turned on, so her skin was a creamy shade of pale blue in the faint light cast by the moon through the window and the light coming in from the hall. She was all swells and roundness and hollows and planes. I wanted to feel her and draw her and taste her and memorize her. The sight of a thousand women wouldn't have prepared me for the way I felt when I saw mine.

She raised her arms in a self-conscious movement, and I quickly moved to abate her worry, grabbing the back of my own shirt and gracelessly yanking it forward over my head. I let it drop to the floor, and in my own moment of potential self-consciousness, I was once again grateful I no longer had my scars. I wanted to stand before her looking as flawless as she looked to me.

Bella grinned at the sight of my bare chest and hesitantly placed her hand on me, as if she was asking permission. I grabbed her other one and also placed it on my chest—right over my heart—so she would know she was always welcome to touch me. I wondered if she could feel my pulse racing. I brushed my middle finger over the underside of her wrist and felt her own fluttering heartbeat.

All of the words that seemed to spill out of us earlier were gone. I wasn't sure we needed them.

She accepted my prompting, and her hands began to run up and down my chest, skimming over every contour. If I could have stood losing the sight of her, I would have closed my eyes from the pleasure. As it was, I wanted to see more of her. I wrapped my arms around her and brought my hands up to the back clasp of her bra.

"May I?" I asked, breaking our silence.

Instead of answering, she removed her hands from my body and reached behind her back to help me in the unlatching. I watched as the cups slowly lowered and then fell away from her body, leaving her completely exposed.

Oh . . .

I smiled at her and slowly raised my hands to touch her. She was lovely. I just skimmed the surface of her body and delighted in the feel of her, amazed how she could go from soft to softer in such a small expanse of skin. I watched in wonder how her body reacted to mine with just the lightest touch, and I saw how she shook from the feel of my hands on her skin. I drew circles with my fingers and stretched down my thumbs to run them along the undersides of her breasts. Every movement was fascinating. It had never been like this before. I'd wondered for years what all of the excitement was about. What made breasts worthy of such fantasies and the launching of countless marketing campaigns?

Now I had no words for it. I felt as if I'd finally been inducted into some fraternity of men. I, Jasper Whitlock, was clearly a breast man.

I wanted to look her in the eyes and try to determine what she was thinking, feeling. I couldn't tear my eyes away, though. Instead, I hovered my hands over her, wishing for some remainder of my gift. Did she like this? Was she nervous standing there so exposed? Was she excited about what else might happen? Was she frustrated by my fixation?

I brought my hands around to cup her fully, and I let the weight of her small breasts rest in my hands. Wonderful. I dared to squeeze them slightly, and while I was worried I may hurt her with my exploration, I was happy to hear her breath catch. It spurred me on further, and I massaged her with my fingers, watching how each one sank into her flesh just slightly. Her eyes fluttered until one of my pinkies grazed the skin of her underarm.

She immediately drew into herself with a laugh, putting her arms protectively around herself before wrapping her arms around my waist and stepping closer so that we were flush together.

"You already crossed Tickling Bella off your list," she said with a smile in her voice.

I wanted to pay attention to her, but my mind was currently consumed with how her breasts looked pressed up against my abdomen. Bella glanced up and had to move her head around to catch my eye.

"By your staring, I take it you approve. At least I hope so…"

Pop Tart, you have no idea. "I can see why they merit their own base," I admitted. Hello, Second Base. "I think we're going to have a lot of fun, the three of us," I said, meaning me and the two of them.

She laughed, and I kept staring as they jiggled in response against me.

"So you'd like to stop at this item on your list?" she asked. That worked to clear my head, drawing my attention back to her eyes. I loved her breasts, but I was definitely willing to come back to them.

"We can do whatever you like," I breathed. Whatever she'd let me do, I thought, growing excited.

I saw her hands flutter to the waistband of her pants and stop, so I decided to take the lead in unfastening her jeans before moving on to my own. At the same time, we pushed them both down and stepped out, awkwardly balancing then to remove our socks. As a vampire, everything happened so fast that we didn't really have these stumbling movements; there was never anything that could be labeled stumbled. What I had with Bella was so human, and I embraced the sometime stilted movement. As I pulled off my second sock, I wondered where the socks went in all the love scenes in the movies. Why did they cut out this endearing lack of grace?

I stood up, and we were both clad only in our underwear. It was obvious at this point how I felt about her—how a part of me felt about her, at least, but I didn't think her eyes had traveled that low yet. Instead of giving her the opportunity, I pulled her body against mine and let her feel my excitement against her pale belly. She leaned into me, and I ran my hands up and down her back while she peppered kisses against my chest and neck. I followed her lead and pulled her thick hair to the side so that I could have better access to her neck, kissing and nipping the entire surface from her shoulder to under her ear. I could hear her breathing hitch as I sucked on a particularly sensitive spot, and her hands squeezed my hips in response, drawing my attention to the fact that I'd been subtly rocking myself against her, straining against her.

My lips traced a path up to hers, and I kissed her with a fervor I didn't know was possible. Every bit of my effort and passion were returned as our bodies found their way to the bed. She fell back against it and quickly scooted to the middle, and I climbed up and hovered over her, taking in the beautiful sight of her body on top of the dark quilt. Was she flushed? Would her skin turn pink in the wake of my kisses? I couldn't see well enough in the dark room, but my imagination was painting a lovely picture.

"I love you," she whispered, her face full of an emotion that didn't require light to interpret.

"I love you." Don't be nervous, I silently told us both as I bent to kiss her lips. It was a soft kiss, full of gratitude for everything she'd given me—and for what she would be giving me if we kept going.

I repeated that same light kiss on each of her collarbones before exploring her breasts in a new way. Their softness was even more appreciated by the sensitivity of my lips and tongue. Just when her hips started to rise from the bed, she whispered, "Jasper, I want to touch you, too."

I knew she couldn't reach much with me being so far down her body already, but I wasn't sure she should touch me. I didn't know if I could handle it in the moment. I was sure the second she touched me it would all be over.

"You will. I promise," I told her. Just not yet. I wanted to make sure she was well attended to and ready first.

I kissed my way down her stomach and peppered kisses around her navel, eliciting my favorite giggle.

"You've been warned about the tickling," she growled in mock ferociousness, her laugh betraying her.

"So I have," I said before running my tongue along her hip bone. The laughter ceased, and I mimicked my actions on the other side.

"Wait!" she called, pulling me up by my shoulders.

I brought my face up next to hers. "What's wrong?" I asked, concerned.

"I'm just not sure . . ." She trailed off.

"Bella, we don't have to do anything more. This has been wonderful, believe me."

"Oh, I know," she quickly said.

"Then what is it?" With my feet, I pulled up a throw blanket from the end of the bed and then draped it over us so she wouldn't grow cold. Had it not seemed presumptuous, I would have built a fire in this room, too.

"I'm just nervous, I guess. About what to do, what you'll like," she stammered. If she only knew that I liked anything—everything—with her, then she wouldn't worry for a second about my enjoyment.

I grinned. "Have you liked this so far?" I asked her, and she nodded. "Then you know just what to do. There's no need to be nervous." I ran my hand underneath the blanket and down her stomach.

"What about during? What am I supposed to be doing then? What if there's something you want and I don't know how to do it?" She was rambling.

"How about this," I proposed, my hand gently coming to a rest at the top of her panties, "if there's something I want, I'll tell you."

"You'll tell me," she repeated, closing her eyes as I ran a finger up and down the outside of her cotton underwear.

"I'll tell you," I whispered, pressing just a little firmer.

"Good," she whispered back, meeting my hand.

"Good?" I asked with a smirk, giving her more of what she wanted.

"Good," she breathed, and I started to kiss her neck again, daring to bring my hand back up to her waistband and slipping it under.

"Are you still thinking about being nervous?" I inched my fingers lower in the same path I'd taken before.

"Only a little." I felt her reach out for me with her hand. I still couldn't let her touch me yet.

"Just feel." My touch grew bolder. "Don't think about being nervous." I loved the feel of her on my fingers. "Don't think about during." I heard her take in a shaky breath, and her mouth fell open. "Just think about what's happening right now."

"O-o-kay," she stuttered, her head pushing back into the pillows, making my confidence surge.

Her panties were definitely restricting my movement, so I stopped just long enough to help her pull them down. I couldn't risk taking my own off yet, no matter how much I longed to do so. Pace yourself, pace yourself, I chanted.

I was still tracing the same slow path until I eased one of my fingers into her and she gasped. "Are you thinking about during now?" I asked her, pretty sure she wasn't thinking about much of anything.

"Umm . . . I am now." She exhaled at the end as I moved in and out. Oh. Obviously this would make her think of it.

"But is it making you nervous?" I wanted her to be sure before we started.

"No . . . I . . ." Her breath hitched.

I knew just what this situation called for, what would erase any trace of nerves and what might stave off a bit of my own eagerness. I listened to the quick rasp of her breath as I again kissed my way down her body, taking only the smallest opportunity to press myself against her hip as I passed. I wasn't subtle enough, though, because I heard her groan and felt her try to move to face me. I pushed her hips back down and continued my descent, though. With what my fingers were doing, her disappointment was short lived.

When my mouth touched her inner thigh, she stilled. "What are you doing?" she quickly asked.

"Relax," I urged her.

"But, what are you going to do?" she asked, sounding agitated. So far, my plan was backfiring.

"I want this," I assured her. "I'm telling you what I want."

She stilled, and my mouth returned to planting a path of kisses up to meet my hand. "Really?" she asked, looking down at me.

I nodded with a grin and kissed her—so close—while maintaining eye contact. Really. "Shhh," I hushed her softly, placing another kiss closer yet. Her eyes didn't leave mine. I withdrew my hand and I saw her swallow. I kissed her right where I wanted, and her eyes glazed over. "Really," I told her before words were no longer necessary.

I didn't look to see if she was still watching me. I closed my eyes and focused on just the feel and taste of her against my mouth. I explored and chased every noise and breath that fell from her lips, hungry for each new sound and how long I could get her to hold them. I opened my eyes just in time to see her clench at the sheets on either side of her legs. I didn't want her to feel like she had to hold back in any way, so I reached my hands up to grab hers, resting them back down to rest on top of my head. Her fingers instantly tangled with my hair, but her touch was hesitant.

I brought my face up only for a moment. "You can tell me, too," I told her, pushing her hands against my head more firmly.

The message was received as I went back to work, her fingers grasping my hair and pushing against me in the same rhythm I set up. Her sounds became more constant, and even as my jaw burned, I was insistent in my mission. Come on, come on, come on, I chanted in my head, willing us both on. The effort and exertion was new on my part. I hated to think about Alice at an intimate and amazing time like this, but I couldn't help but think about how much better this was. Everything before had been so carefully choreographed and almost outside of my control with its orchestration, but in this moment, I felt like the most powerful maestro. I was doing this. I was making her feel like this, come apart like this. She didn't know what was coming, what to expect. Bella hadn't dictated anything and had let us both find our own way tonight. It was the first time I'd ever been able to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

We were so close. Come on, come on, I kept saying to myself, and I finally felt her hands pull at my hair hard enough to hurt before pushing me almost uncomfortably close to her. I reveled in the strain as I heard her choking breaths and hiccupping gasps, culminating in a long, low wail.

As she relaxed her grip and gently pushed my face away from her, I was externally still but internally high-fiving myself left and right. Yes! I did it! I did it. It wasn't as if I'd had doubts, but the power rush was undeniable. When I looked at the dreamy, cross-eyed look on her face, I had to stop myself from throwing a punch into the air. Huzzah! I, Jasper Whitlock, was a god among men, certainly.

When her thighs stopped shaking and she reached her hands out to me, I bent my neck to start Round Two.

"What are you doing?" she asked me, confused.

I glanced up and placed a small kiss on her right inner thigh. "More of the same," I said with a grin.

"But . . ." she paused, "it worked," she said shyly.

I chuckled. "You know you can have more than one. That was just the first in a line of many—I hope."

Both her mouth and her eyes widened. If her reactions were always so rewarding, I couldn't wait to see how many she could get.

"Could you come back up here, please?" she asked politely, though her breath was still coming in uneven bursts.

Though I would have been happy to stay between her thighs for as long as she would let me, I quickly obliged and hovered over her, stopping only to plant a kiss over her thrumming heart before looking her in the eye.

"Yes?" I asked, and she pulled me so that my body was resting on top of hers, my underwear-covered flesh pushing temptingly into her. Now it was my turn to grip the sheets so that I didn't rush things and just dive into her.

She smiled at my reaction and pushed her hips up to meet mine, our bodies already starting a dangerous rhythm. "I wanted the next time to be together," she said, straining to reach her mouth to mine.

I wanted that for her, too. That would, of course, be the romance novel ideal, but I knew the chances of her climaxing from her first time were slim to none. It was the main reason why I wanted her to have as many as she could before I got mine. As for the during, I was just hoping not to hurt her too badly; I knew pleasure most likely wouldn't even be an offering.

"You probably won't . . ." I started.

"I'll still like it," she assured me quickly.

Good. I hoped so, and with her hips grinding against mine, I wasn't going to be able to wait much longer. I reached down and pushed off my underwear, realizing that the condoms I'd brought were all still in my bag. I hadn't wanted to seem presumptuous and place them in the nightstand where she might find them. I regretted it now.

I spared a glance to the other side of the room before kissing her lips firmly. Just as her hand trailed down between us to grasp me tentatively, I groaned, "I'll be right back."

A look of doubt crossed her mind. "What is it?"

"I just need something from my bag." The look didn't disappear. "Protection," I explained. "It isn't the most romantic, but it's practical."

"Oh," she said, the look easing. "I'm all good if you want to not do that—use one, I mean."

One part of me felt that we should have had this conversation earlier, but I'm not sure when it would have fit in; things had been awkward enough when we were still referring to it as checking her box. Even in my thoughts, I was censoring myself. The idea of sex with Bella—sex with Bella!—was just too exciting even to think.

Sex with Bella! I mentally shouted, stopping myself again from pushing right into her.

"By all good, you mean—"

"I'm on the pill," she said, stopping her stroking and reaching around to my back, urging me closer to her.

That was good enough for me.

When I first felt us together—hard and soft and so moist and warm—I couldn't imagine getting out of the bed just to put something between us at that point. I wasn't going to last, especially with the pressure of her hand urging me forward.

I gave her a hard kiss imbued with a promise: It will be better and last longer the next time. When my lips stilled, I didn't move my face away, choosing instead to rest my forehead on hers, our breaths mingling between us. For every breath out of my mouth, I took one in from hers. I tried to focus on the rhythm and sound of those breaths as I brought one hand down to guide myself into her, going as slowly as I possibly could.

I stilled right at her entrance. Would it be better to push in all the way and get it over with or should I try to ease her into it? I cursed myself and my lack of foresight. I should have done some research first. As I debated, I rubbed my tip up and down against her wetness. From the noises she was making, it was clear Bella wasn't in the same kind of internal turmoil as I was. It seemed I was taking too long trying to decide the best course of action, because she again pressed both of her hands against me and hiked her legs up higher, urging me forward.

I tried for a middle road as I moved into her, pulling my face back to watch hers intently. I told myself I would pause at the first flicker of pain. She certainly didn't look euphoric, but she wasn't crying in discomfort either. Her eyes were closed and she switched to breathing through her nose, but her hands didn't leave my hips. I stopped when I was fully seated in her.

Her eyes opened then. "This is it," she breathed. "I mean, we're doing it. This is the actual moment."

"Uh huh," I said without eloquence, trying to keep still. "Yep, we're in the midst." I nodded with effort and she gave out a little laugh.

"Okay. Let's do this," she said as if she was cheering herself on, letting herself know that she could do this. I practically expected a "Go team," as her face began to show some excitement.

I was still trying not to move and silently counting in my head when she ordered me to kiss her. I happily indulged her and was immensely relieved when she again pulled me closer.

Once I started moving, I quickly understood her giddiness, though I still needed to control my movements. We were doing it. I chuckled over the it aspect—me checking her box. I was so a human male. I loved it. I loved her.

Sex with Bella! I silently crowed again as I moved within her.

Her face remained eager, though she would occasionally grip me harder than necessary. I didn't think it was out of pleasure. She seemed to be cataloguing everything about this experience together. I wanted to as well, but it just felt too good. I was starting to grow overwhelmed by how good it felt.

"I love you," I whispered, hoping I'd lasted nearly long enough. This was my first time in this new body. I couldn't possibly be expected to do too well.

"Mine," she said with a grin, and I was impossibly close. "Please."

Please, what? I wasn't sure I could do much of anything. I was barely hanging on.

"Let go, Jasper. I want to watch you."

With those words, I lost it. I trembled above Bella, my body thrusting a final time as I emptied inside her. My orgasm was almost ferocious with its power. This was all so new. God, I loved it.

I collapsed against her chest and let her run her hands up and down my back before tangling in my hair, her soft kisses against my forehead.

"Mmm," I mumbled. "I like that."

"I liked that, too," she said, purposefully mishearing me.

"Did you?" I tried to keep the wonder out of my voice.

"Yes." Her breath tickled my face.

"You'll like it even more the next time," I assured her, just to be safe.

"I think I'll like it every time."

I rolled off her, finally cognizant that my weight might be a burden. I pulled her to me, and she rested her head on my chest.

I hoped she would always like what we did together. There was no doubt in my mind that I would. I hadn't been prepared for how new everything would seem—how different it would be. Sex as a vampire was neat and tidy. There was pressure and pleasure, but it was an expected climb and peak—smooth and controlled, like everything else in our lives. Perfect. As a human, it was sometimes messy and erratic. There was trembling and fumbling and unexpected stops and starts. Every part was involved, from moist skin to panting lungs to quivering knees. Nothing was by rote, and I thought the trial and error was exhilarating. The herky-jerky passion and the spontaneity of its every detail was a level of perfection I hadn't realized existed. It was quite simply the most spectacular thing I had ever done. It was perfect. She was perfect. We were perfect together.

.

.

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Author Note: As always, thank you for your patience between chapters. I hope your households haven't been hit too hard by sickness

Let me know if you do not want a teaser sent your way in your review.

Fic recs:

"The House of Glass" by LuckyStar815: When you're seventeen, you believe in Prince Charming. When you're twenty-four, you're tired of waiting for him and try to settle for less. When you're thirty, you know for sure he doesn't exist. (WIP, E/B, AH)

"The Inside Garden" from the Season of our Discontent Contest: For years Bella has been building a garden inside herself, a dream world she'd love to open the gate to and walk right through. But she's trapped in the real world, and she knows that hope is nothing but fantasy and that friendships don't last. (E/B, AH, One shot)

"Beyond Time" by TKegl: After the Cullens leave Forks, a twist of fate lands Bella in Chicago in 1918. She thinks it's a second chance to build a life with Edward, but when she finds him, he's not quite what she expected. Can Bella create the future she's hoping for? (E/B, AH, complete. If by some chance you haven't already read this, if you liked my story "Leaves of Grass," you'll love this, too. If you haven't read "Leaves of Grass," then I definitely recommend it.)

"Pinky Swear" by kharizzmatik: Bella always knew she loved her best friend, but it isn't until she finds out he's engaged that she remembers just how much. How far will she go to make him see he's marrying the wrong woman? A story about finding your heart and losing your head. (AH, E/B, Complete)