I woke up later and more slowly than usual the next morning, not because I wasn't well-rested but because I was well-used. I'd reached for Edward during the night, needing the reassurance of his touch, but while I'd have been content to merely cuddle, he'd quickly felt such a powerful wave of desire that it lit my own and within seconds we were both desperate for each other. At first I tried to slow him down, worried about his injuries, but if anything he'd felt more energized – more alive – than ever before.
I rolled over and stretched, a smile growing on my lips as I remembered how he'd flipped me over and taken me roughly from behind. The knowledge that I had venom in my system had seemed to excite him, and he'd been less concerned with my fragility than he was with relishing the idea that I'd be with him forever.
God, his voice. So low, so passionate, as he'd whispered everything he was going to do me after I became a vampire and couldn't be injured. He'd reached into my hair and pulled my head up to his, his other arm snaking around my hips, holding me to him almost ferociously. I shivered at the memory. His voice had sent a vibrato through my body that only intensified as he held me so tightly, and I'd come harder than I'd ever thought possible.
We hadn't had morning sex yet, and suddenly it seemed like a good idea. A very good idea.
"Edward," I called out, knowing he was probably in the kitchen. "Come up here."
"Crazy man," I raised my voice, letting a moan slip in. "Come up here and get all crazy on me again, like you did last night."
Still no answer. Where was he?
I got up, not caring that I wasn't dressed. What was the point of clothes, anyway? All the best things in life happened without – oh, shit.
I yanked the curtain shut and stumbled backward. We had company. Edward had been standing by the fireplace with the most amused look I'd ever seen on his face, and two other people were sitting in our chairs, their faces politely blank. Shit!
I heard Edward clear his throat. "Swan? Or perhaps I should call you Stupid Girl? Would you like to come down and meet Carlisle and Esme?"
He laughed. "Don't be embarrassed. Get dressed and come down."
"Okay." I scrambled for some clothes, beside myself with mortification. If there was a way for me to hide out up here all day, I might have taken it. But I was dying to meet Esme, so I pulled myself together and climbed down the ladder.
They both rose to meet me, and I extended my hand to Carlisle first. "I'm Bella."
"It's such a pleasure to meet you." His smile was so welcoming that my embarrassment quickly began to dissipate.
"It's more than a pleasure," Esme reached out to pull me into a hug. "It's a joy."
As soon as her arms were around me, I felt the same energy I had when I'd first entered the cabin. It had been her. I brought my hands up to the back of her shoulders, returning her hug. She had a scent not unlike Edward's, although it didn't feel sedating either. Instead, her embrace felt immediately maternal and it was easy to imagine her assuming the role of the other Cullens' mother.
I should have remembered my manners and thanked her for letting us use her cabin, but instead I said the first thing I was thinking. "How did you get here so fast?"
"Edward came and got us last night. Well, he came to talk to Carlisle, but we insisted on coming down to meet you."
I pulled away to look at her better. She was in her mid to late thirties, her auburn hair shoulder length, her eyes the same color as Edward's. Maybe it was the length of time I'd been in the cabin, combined with wearing her clothes, but I felt like I already knew her, like we'd known each other for a long time.
She seemed to feel the same way, content to smile at me without speaking.
"I broke your figurine. The one of the swan. I'm so sorry."
Her smile widened. "I'm just so happy you're here. With Edward." She reached up and ran her fingers like a comb through what must have been my very tousled hair.
I was surprised to feel tears forming in my eyes at her touch. I never cried. I swallowed and blinked, trying to stay composed.
She noticed my reaction and smiled again. "Edward told us all about you, but he didn't do you justice. You're lovely. Just lovely."
"Thank you. So are you."
"That's kind of you to say, but I don't feel very lovely after that run."
"You ran all the way from Alaska?"
"Of course. Do you think I'd walk to meet my new daughter?"
"I hope you don't mind that I think of you that way. Edward will always be a son to me," she smiled at him, "and since you're his mate, that makes you part of our family."
"No, I don't mind." I didn't. Not at all. But I was still floored that they'd run all the way from Alaska. "When did you get here?"
"Just a few minutes ago. I'm sorry if we woke you."
"I wish you had." I turned to Edward. "When did you leave last night?"
"I guess it was around two."
I wondered if that had been one of the reasons he'd been so vigorous with me last night – so that I'd sleep deeply enough not to notice he'd left. He reached out a hand to me, and I slipped into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"So you ran all the way to Alaska and back, and after what happened last night? Are you feeling all right?"
"I've never felt better," he answered, kissing my head. "I told you, your blood was the perfect cure."
"About that." Carlisle reached down and picked a small bag up off the floor, moving over to the desk and opening it. "I was wondering if you'd let me take a small sample."
"Of my blood?"
"Yes." He pulled out a syringe and some vials. "When Edward told me about the venom in your blood, I almost refused to believe him. I've never heard of such a thing."
"You haven't?" I sat down in my chair and offered Carlisle my arm.
"Never. Of course, it's been a while since we lived among people, and it's harder now for vampires to communicate as well, but still – something like this would have gotten around if it had happened before."
I watched as Carlisle went to work. Edward had told me he used to be a doctor, and it didn't look like his skills has dulled any since he'd left society. He was done drawing the sample in no time and then gave me a quick physical, checking my blood pressure and listening to my heartbeat.
"Edward tells me you've been feeling stronger."
"What other changes have you noticed?"
"I've been forgetting things that happened before I met Edward."
"Interesting. Any changes in appetite or sleep?"
"My appetite's good, although I seem to losing my sense of taste." I glanced at Edward, not having told him that. "And sleeping is fine, as long as Edward's here. I don't sleep as well when he's out."
"But overall, you feel okay?"
"I feel great. I've never felt healthier, to be honest."
"Hmm. Well, I don't know what to tell you. I'll do some bloodtests when I get home, and then I'll try to come back in a couple weeks to see you again. I suspect the only way we'll be able to tell if you're advancing into becoming a vampire is by checking your blood regularly. In the meantime, though, I don't see any cause for alarm."
He packed up his bag and Edward gestured for him to follow him outside, leaving me with Esme. She sat down across from me. "Now we can talk about the important things."
I smiled. "Like what?"
"Like how you two met."
I told her how he'd knocked me down in the forest, thinking I was an animal because he couldn't hear my thoughts.
"Why were you in the forest?"
"I was running away."
I paused and searched my memory. "See, this is what I mean about forgetting things. It had to be bad enough for me to run away, but I can't remember what it was." I got up and moved to the desk. "But I can memorize an entire textbook. Is that normal?"
Esme nodded. "Your memories slip away gradually, while at the same time your mind can focus with amazing precision. I used to write things down so I wouldn't forget them."
"I tried that." I flipped open my notebook. "But now I don't always remember why something was important to me. That's what bothers me the most. I feel like I'm forgetting something important." I ran my finger over the FHG on the first page.
"Would Edward know?"
"He might. Charlie might, too."
"My dad. He lives in Forks."
"Oh, how nice. You haven't forgotten him, at least."
"You mean I will?" I turned to her in dismay. "Like Edward had forgotten his mother?"
"I don't know. Like Carlisle said, this kind of gradual transformation is unheard of. Maybe if you change slowly enough, you'll be able to remember more than the rest of us do."
Esme's voice was naturally comforting, and I smiled, feeling better already.
"When I started to forget things, I realized that the first things to go were the least important – things I didn't need to worry about."
"Like how I forgot to tell Charlie I was okay," I sighed in relief. Of course. I still felt bad about that, but he'd been just fine – worried about me, but fine.
Esme smiled, her expression turning curious. "What do you mean by Edward 'had' forgotten his mother?"
"I'd brought a bottle of chocolate syrup with me when I ran away. When Edward smelled it, he could see her face again."
"Really. That's remarkable."
"Other foods help, too. He's remembered a lot of his childhood since we've been here."
She stood and joined me at the desk. "So you've given him back some of his humanity, and he's given you some of his vampirism."
"I guess so," I said, laughing a little, but she could tell I was still upset and pulled me in for another hug.
"It's going to be all right, Bella. I know it is."
I felt myself tearing up again. What was the matter with me? "Esme, can I ask you something weird?"
"Of course. You can ask me anything."
"Did you build this cabin for me? I know that sounds presumptuous, but I felt something when I first walked in."
She let me out of the hug but kept her hands on my arms. "Yes and no. I built it hoping Edward would have use of it someday. It always made me so sad that he was alone. I was hoping he'd find his mate and bring her here."
"If you build it, she will come?" I smiled.
"Exactly. And it worked."
"How did you know to put in a kitchen, though?"
She sighed and started straightening my hair again. "I don't have the same gifts Edward and Alice do, but I've learned to trust my instincts over the years, and they haven't let me down yet. Something told me the cabin needed a kitchen, and I didn't argue with myself about it. I just did it."
I nodded and gestured toward my books. "I sort of get what you mean. I have no idea why it's so important to me to learn all this, I just know it is."
"Trust your instincts, then, and keep learning."
"And keep being so good for Edward."
I had to laugh a little at that. "He's the one who's good for me, Esme."
"I remember feeling that way when I met Carlisle," she smiled, leaning forward to kiss my cheek. "Trust me, though. You're the best thing that's ever happened to him."
A/N: Sorry it took me so long to update. I'm having more trouble than I expected getting my head back into the story but don't worry - I will finish it; it just might take longer than I'd thought. Plus my kids are out of school, which makes it harder for me to write. And it's 90 degrees here again today, so my brain cells are melting. Good enough reasons for the delay, I hope :)