The rain fell, quietly and persistently, as I waited to see Bella again. Branches and leaves canopied me from getting soaked but some drops broke through, landing on my hair, my clothes and my skin. It washed away the dust that had accumulated from the days on the road. It was too damp here in Forks for dust to really gather. The dirt washed away here, leaving a slight grime behind.
Bella's house was just at the edge of a forest filled with tall trees, perfect for concealing my presence. The deepening dusk and the shadows provided shelter from prying eyes, as I waited for Chief Swan to fall asleep in front of the TV. Bella was in the shower; I could hear water bounce of skin and tiles and the steamy smell of her blood.
I tried very hard not to think about what she looked like.
There were more pressing matters to attend to.
The journey from Phoenix to Forks had been like a dream. Bella thrilled me and surprised me and scared me all at once. She pushed me for answers and pulled me into her world until I felt like I hardly even knew my own mind anymore. She had taken over, coloured every thought I had and ever action I took, and she knew all things that made me who I was.
We squinted at the Grand Canyon at midnight and skimmed stones across a lake in Oregon and she bought a slushee in every gas station I stopped at. She closed her eyes when my iPod played and waved her hands around when she insisted on connecting hers.
She knew me, now. She said she didn't care about the harsh edges and obtuse angles that showed the worst of me and I believed her. I felt like I hardly knew her at all. Like I could never know enough about her and years could pass and I would still be looking for more more more.
When I had pulled up outside the little white house where she spent the first months of her life, Forks was experiencing a rare moment of watery sunshine and my original plan to walk her to her father's door and kiss her goodbye had to be scrapped. It had occupied so many of my thoughts while she slept, while she sipped her drinks, while I questioned my sanity, on the drive here that to that my disappointment was almost crippling.
I was filled with sorrow that I couldn't kiss those warm lips. I berated myself for not seizing the opportunity one of the many times it had presented itself along the way. I had wanted to. Of course, I had wanted to.
But this was somewhat of a momentous occasion for me, the first time I would really kiss someone. The first time I had wanted to.
I was not driven by curiosity or coercion or unsustainable lust; just the fact that I could imagine nothing more right in this world than Bella Swan's lips against mine.
Her human frailty and her maddeningly fragrant blood would be a concern but I was confident I could overcome my most in-human urges. Her scent, like someone had set sugar and fire alight, was the most tempting thing I had ever experienced. My body had long lost the natural physical reactions of humans. When I hunted animals, I was driven by something instinctual; some raw, primal need for dominance and survival and sustenance. In the musty woods and wide plains, my body moved and stilled because it had to catch the prey. In my mouth, venom pooled and coated blade-sharp teeth to ensure my target was irreversibly immobilised; so I always won.
The effect of Bella's blood was different. It made all of me react: my mind and my instincts and my memories and my monster and the almost-abandoned place inside of my where my emotions reside.
It was all-consuming but it was also something I could rationalise, something I could try to control.
I'd always enjoyed at challenge.
After days with my throat on fire in a confined car, I could manage a little kiss in the fresh air.
The pipes stopped rattling and I listened as Bella twisted the shower knob, swished back the curtains and dried her wet skin with a rough cotton towel. Once I was sure I had heard the snap of elastic around her waist and a zip closing, I went to the tree beneath her bedroom, climbing it in one easy step.
The wooden framed window was ajar so I swung from the branch, feet first, and landed on a thread-bare carpet as light as a feather. She didn't react, clearly distracted by combing out her tangled hair and I took a moment to readjust to the heady, mouth-watering scent of her. It was different here in Forks, away from the sun and the dust. The near-perpetual rainfall made it seem cleaner and muddier all at once and I couldn't tell which, if either, I preferred.
She was wearing some faded plaid panama pants. They had been blue once, or green, but they were now various hues of dull grey. And with them the sweater I had lent her in Phoenix, still creased in the elbows and with a butter stain she's acquired in Nevada on the shoulder. It did something to me, her wearing it unwashed and still holding the scent of both of us, and I found myself holding my breath.
"Hello," I said, quietly, conscious of her dozing father downstairs.
Bella jumped. Her hairbrush clattered against her desk and we both froze, waiting to see if her father would stir. I could have disappeared out the window before he hit the bottom step of the stairs but I still prayed for him to remain asleep; I didn't want to go back to waiting in the shadows.
"It's ok," I told her, as she cast panicked looks toward her open bedroom door. "He's asleep."
"Oh." Her body relaxed but she shuffled over to shut the door anyway. "You're sure?"
"Of course," I said. "I can hear him snoring."
"Can you..." she hesitated, and that regret at not being able to hear her thoughts struck me all over again. " Can you tell what he's dreaming? Does it work that way?"
"It depends. People think, to an extent, while they're asleep. Their brains do work. But much of what happens is subconscious so it's not so easy to get a read on." I paused to concentrate on her sleeping father and just like earlier, the thoughts were very muted indeed. Bella had asked me to tell her what her father was thinking when we arrived here earlier today. I hadn't been able to get an exact content of his mind but the general tone was joyous.
"Is he happy, though?" Bella asked, meaning 'Is he happy I'm here?'
"I think there are ducks in his dream," I said. "All in a row and a tiny pair of red wellington boots in a fishing boat."
Bella broke into a wide smile. Her smiles were infectious and I grinned back at her for no good reason.
"How did you get in?" she asked, "Did you climb the drainpipe?"
"The tree, actually," I confessed. "Was that wrong? Should I have asked?"
"No," she paused, thoughtfully. "Definitely not wrong. Next time maybe try pegging a few stones first. What if I was getting changed?"
"I waited until you were dressed."
"How could you tell?" she asked and I pointed to my ear. Bella resumed brushing her hair; loose strands caught in the bristles and drifted to the floor. Her room was filled with childish drawings and trinkets. Her lone bag was dumped carelessly in the corner and the shelves were crammed with tattered books, movies and half-used art supplies. Freshly risen dust swirled in the air, evidence of a shut-tight space brought back to life. Someone, I didn't know if it was Bella or her father, had hastily attempted to wipe away the dust but behind the clutter and under the bed much still remained.
The bedding was new though, hastily bought by Chief Swan after a phone call from the road, and a soft hand-knitted blanket was draped over a rocking chair.
"Is is strange being here?" I asked, anxious for her to settle into this little town.
"A little." She put down the brush. "I've never really spent a lot of time here, not since I was a little kid. I don't know how to make it feel like home."
"You can't," I said. "That will happen naturally, if it's meant to. Do you miss your mother's house?"
"Not as much as I thought I would."
"No regrets, then?" My tone was light but I was on eggshells, still afraid she would change her mind.
"Did you, um, forget something?" she asked. "I'm not complaining. I just didn't expect to see you so soon."
"No. I wanted to see you again." I told her, honestly. I also wanted to kiss her senseless, but I couldn't quite say that. "I was curious to see how you got on with your father."
"It was fine. A little awkward. He asked a lot of questions."
"Among other things."
"Did he ask how you knew me?"
"I told him we met on Facebook through some mutual Forks friends," she said, shrugging. "I don't think he believed me. I'm a terrible liar."
"I don't have a Facebook account."
"Me neither," she replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "It was the only thing I could think of at such short notice."
"Sure. I mean it's not like you had days in the car to come up with a plan," I teased.
"I had other things on my mind," she said, defensively. "Like finding out my new friend was a –"
"Don't say it." I cut her off.
"It's not a dirty word, Edward. I'm not...offended by it."
"I know," I said. "It's just a lot for me to deal with and besides, you never know who might overhear." I had hammered home the importance of secrecy as Bella questioned me on the drive here. It was genuinely a matter of life and death, after all, and it was a necessary habit to have for dealing with the real world. Bella shrank into herself. I knew she was easily embarrassed and I had a tendency to be abrupt. I had to get back on track with my original plan.
"May I?" I said, nodding towards her newly made bed.
"Be my guest."
Instead of sitting at the side, as I gathered she expected, I lay back on the bed with my arms behind my head and my ankles crossed.
"Comfy," I said, shifting the mattress a bit. Bella shook her head, like she was indulging a child, and that tell-tale blush crept up her neck.
"Make yourself at home, why don't you," she muttered as she fixed her wet hair into a thick braid.
"Oh I intend to," I replied, fixing my gaze on her. "I didn't bring you all the way to Forks and not plan on spending time with I got you here. If you want me, that is."
"Of course!" Bella was adorable when she was flustered. She gestured a lot and her heart rate would spike and her skin coloured. Her body told me all the things her mind did not. The bed dipped as she sat beside me, tucking her legs beneath her.
She was looking at me intently and I made myself go perfectly still, hoping a little that this first kiss might be initiated by her. After that initial time outside her mother's house, there had been plenty of occasions on the journey here when I felt like she was about to kiss me. She would stare at my mouth or my neck until her eyes glazed over, pupils darkened and pulse quickened and I would have to focus very carefully on driving.
I had always dismissed the way I look as nothing more than a honey trap for potential prey but in those moments, over these last few days, I felt a little differently.
"You look different," Bella said eventually. Almost hesitantly, her hand came towards me and her warm fingers skimmed along my cheek. "Your eyes are golden now and the dark circles are gone. You look more..."
"Alive?" I supplied.
"Vibrant. Healthy. A warmer version of you."
"I hunted before I came here," I explained, closing my eyes. As much as I appreciated Bella's open acceptance of what I was, the gory truth was still hard for me to admit to. It wasn't humans, I'd told her that straight away, not any more. But it was still blood and gristle and bone and the unforgettable silence of a heartbeat coming to a halt.
"Charlie cooked me a steak."
"It's not exactly the same thing."
I kept my eyes closed, fighting back images of Bella eating a rare steak and the stain of blood on her lips.
"He enrolled me in Forks High, too," she continued. "I start on Monday. I'm kind of dreading it."
"I guess I better go to school on Monday, too," I said. "I haven't been in a while. See, I was gallivanting through the desert with a pretty hitch-hiker I found by the side of the road."
"Hey! I wasn't hitch-hiking when you found me. "
"No. I was crossing the road and you nearly hit me with your car."
"Semantics," I said, picking some dirt out from under my nails, and Bella bashed me with a throw pillow. I rubbed my arm in mock pain and she folded her arms, glaring at me. She was almost as adorable when she was mad as flustered.
"So I was wondering, and you can totally say no if you want to, if you could drive me to school on Monday morning. I don't have a car yet and the first day in a new school is going to be hard enough without the added humiliation of being brought there in a police cruiser."
"I'd love to," I said. Sincerely, I would. It had to be infinitely preferable to my squabbling siblings. "You can see my real car; I have to give the Merc back to Carlisle. And I'll show you to the office and give you the grand tour of the buildings. I'll walk you to class and sit with you at lunch and I'll even transfer to the same classes, if that's not too oppressive."
"You can transfer this late in the year?"
"I should be able to swing it."
"Maybe not all of my classes. You don't want to see me in gym. But I hope we have at least some of the same schedule."
"Me too." I meant it.
"Will you really sit with me at lunch? What about your family?"
"Well, it's the perfect chance for you to get to know them," I said and her face dropped. "Don't be scared. They won't hurt you and I've warned them already to be on their best behaviour. "
"They're going to think I'm pathetic," she said, mournfully.
"Not around me they won't."
"I'm serious, Edward. What if they hate me? What if everyone in the school hates me?"
"They won't, Bella. My family are already fascinated and the kids in school couldn't find you anything but lovely. "My words did little to lighten her sorrowful expression. "You'll make new friends easily. And in the mean time, you've got me. The seat beside me is free in almost every class I take."
"So we can, like, share books and swap homework?"
"And whisper when the teacher's back is turned?"
"Can we pass notes in study hall?" Bella looked at me from beneath her lashes, eyes sparkling with warmth and hope, and the very idea of swapping notes in school with her made me happier than I ever imagined it could. I spied some pens and paper sticking out of an open dresser drawer, so I grabbed them and was back on the bed before she could blink.
"My Little Pony," I commented. "Very cute."
"That's at least ten years old." Bella wrinkled her nose and I started to scribble. "I don't think my dad ever threw anything of mine away."
I balanced the notepad on my knee, and despite Bella's best efforts, I shielded the page and wrote extra fast so she couldn't see what I was doing.
Want to cut class and listen to music in my car?
Mr. Green is planning a pop quiz tomorrow. Study Chapter Four.
Can I drive you home?
Do you want to study together after school?
Did you like that book I gave you?
Will you come for a walk with me Saturday morning?
I have to leave early. Jasper and I are going hunting. Alice will drive you home, if you don't want to walk.
There's a leaf in your ponytail. Sorry about that.
Wait for me after class, there's something I want to show you.
Will you wear that blue shirt on our date tonight? That colour looks wonderful on you.
Are you counting the minutes until we're alone again? I am.
"What is this?" Bella asked when I gave it to her to read.
"I'm practising the notes I'll want to write to you."
"Oh," she replied, her pink cheeks lifting into a smile. She took the pen from me and I watched as she wrote in slow deliberate strokes, making a point to hide the purple-margined page from me.
If I get detention over you, there'll be BIG trouble.
"I never get caught," I told her. "No need to worry."
She took the notebook from me and I waited patiently while she hunched over, writing messy paragraphs while her hair fell in her face.
I'm worried I won't know how to act around you when we're around other people. On the drive here, it was like being in a bubble. All those things you told me ...your family and your mind reading and all the years you've lived...I can't stop thinking about how insignificant the stuff I told you in return is. How can I watch you pretend to eat pizza in a stinky cafeteria, when I know you'd rather be running in the wild, or worse, drinking the blood some football player? (This is just a guess, btw, I don't think they would taste very good. Too sweaty. Too much protein.)
What about history class? If no-one knows the answer, should I ask you? Do you tell the teachers when they're wrong?
How can you stand the noise when all those people are thinking and talking at once? How will I stand it, if it makes you uncomfortable? What about the secrecy you told me was so important? What if I slip up and say something I shouldn't? How do they not see what I see when I look at you? You're so special. How do they ever think that you are ordinary?
What If I say something dumb and someone overhears me? I don't want to make people suspicious of you. I don't want you to get in trouble with those Voltori (sp?) guys you told me about. What if those other vampires, the ones that knew your sister, come back? What should I do?
I don't know what to say, or how to say it, when it's not just me and you. When we're alone, it's like the whole world disappears. You make me feel alive. You know this already, but you just have to give me one of those crooked smiles and my heart pounds and my skin heats and breathing gets embarrassingly loud.
You make me feel special and it's like I could be with you forever and it would never be enough time but I'm not special, not really, and I'm so worried that when there are other people and it's not just you and me that you'll see how true that really is.
Unsettling as they were, that out-pouring of ink and words was a gift, the closest glimpse I would get to the inner-workings of Bella's amazing, complicated mind. I read them in mere seconds but I waited for a long quiet moment after while she picked at a loose thread on her new bedding.
I abandoned the pen and took her warm hand in mine.
"I don't know how it's going to be either," I said. "I've never done anything like this before. I've never sat in the cafeteria with anyone but my family. But, Bella, I know you're smart and despite what you think, you're extremely special. You're an extraordinary young woman and even if you were the plainest creature on earth, you'd still be special to me. This is going to be difficult, and honestly, it's probably going to be a little weird. But don't worry about the little things. We'll figure this out together, okay?"
"Okay. "She lifted her head and gave me a small, hopeful smile. "Maybe you should have written that down. It might come in handy for my next freak out."
"There's no guide book for this thing we have, Bella. If you feel ...unsure about things just talk to me, instead."
"Fine." She took the notebook from me again. "I just have to do this one thing first."
She printed words on the page and handed it back to me.
PS. The answer to all this questions is most definitely YES
My heart, my cold silent heart, soared with a kind of nervous joy I hadn't thought possible for me.
"I have something for you," I blurted out, before I lost my nerve again. The topaz ring had been in my front pocket ever since Arizona. In those hot, endless hours with Bella in my passenger seat, I had twisted it between my thumb and index fingers, careful not to dent the pliable silver, to distract myself from the rush of her blood through her veins.
Now it seemed very important to give it to her.
It had to be more than a lifeless reminder on a shelf. It wasn't a memory of this unpredictable, beautiful girl who'd barged into my boring life. It belonged to her, to the things that we shared. It meant something for now, something for the future and something we hadn't yet said.
I slipped it from my pocket and dropped into her waiting hands. Let her decide what finger to put it on.
"This is the ring I admired!" she said. "How did you buy this without me noticing?"
"I didn't exactly buy it," I admitted, trying very hard to sound nonchalant.
"You stole it?" Bella sounded thoroughly scandalised, as her wide eyes examined the rustic looking ring.
"Of all the crimes I've committed, a little shoplifting is very minor. Besides, I made sure to leave some money for the seller."
"Don't do that, Edward," she admonished. "This is a nice thing. Don't bring all that darkness into it."
"Do you still like it?" I asked, of the ring and maybe of me.
"Are you kidding me? I love it. Thank you so much." She slipped it on her dainty middle finger and it looked just perfect.
"You're more than welcome," I said, already thinking of other rings and other fingers. "It looks good on you."
At a human pace, I moved and sat right beside Bella on her bed. My legs stretched out on faded carpet; my feet rising dust when they hit the ground. Gently, I took her hands in mine again. I felt the warmth penetrate my cold skin, the fragility of her bones and the rush of blood through her veins. Her pulse throbbed at her wrist, faster by the second. I stroked the bruise-blue vein with the tip of my thumb, reminding myself of how human she was, how delicate. I swallowed down venom, licking it away from my lips and Bella sucked in a sharp breath.
"Do you remember what we talked about in the car?" I asked.
Bella nodded, slowly, and I wondered if what we had discussed was too much for her young, human brain to process. Her thoughts were silent to me so I couldn't know how she really felt. Relying on her words and physical reactions to indicate her feelings posed somewhat of a challenge. It didn't help that everything about her was so...distracting. How was I supposed to have a serious, mature conversation when her heart was pounding and an inviting pink blush was creeping up from beneath the collar of her shirt?
"Specifically," I continued, "What I told you about the physical effect the scent of your blood has on me. The venom we produce and the instinctual urge to..."
"Bite?" she offered.
"I was going to say act on that instinct, but bite works too." I gave her a half-smile, trying to ease the tension a little. It had been heavy, on and off, since Phoenix and now in this musty little bedroom it was about to break. "I believe that these are things I can overcome. I want, I fervently hope that I won't do anything to hurt you but you need to understand, to remember, my limitations and that it's all so new and different and..."
"Edward," she said, cutting my off. Her hands were on mine now, softly squeezing my sharp knuckles and icy skin. "You're rambling."
"Sorry," I said, gulping down venom to regain some composure. "Sorry. I just need you to understand how important, how potentially dangerous, this is. "
"I do," she replied, leaning in towards me. " I've been thinking about it all the time and I promise not do anything to...push you. I don't want you to be uncomfortable around me."
"I'm not," I protested and Bella shot me a disbelieving look. "I mean, yes, it can be difficult. Because of what I am. But I enjoy your company, I like being with you, so much that the other stuff is not intolerable."
"Well, that's nice. I very much like spending time with you,too."
"I'm not bringing all this up to be morbid," I tell her. "I've been on this earth for a long time and I've never met anyone like you. I've met thousands of girls and none of them hold a candle to you, Bella. You're beautiful and clever and you surprise me and challenge me. You make me feel things I never thought possible and I would like..."
"I would like..."
"Edward," she said my name and licked her lips and instinct, some deep essential part of who I am, pushed me towards her until my face was mere centimetres from hers. "Kiss me. Please."
I inched closer. Her scent and warmth of her breath flooded my sense and a war raged inside of me. The drive to bite her, to drink that intoxicating blood, was immeasurably strong but the need to touch and feel was stronger.
She exhaled and I tasted it in my throat.
"I've never..." My voice was ragged.
"I need to go slow. I need you to be still. I need..."
Bella closed the gap between us. I could feel the tip of her nose and the tiny, fine hairs on her cheek. I could feel the rush of blood beneath her translucent skin. She froze, her face against mine, and her breath came in pants as she waited for me to keep my promise.
I moved my mouth to hers, barely brushing her waiting lips. The heat was a shock. My throat tightened and my mouth burned. I froze, too, fighting every dangerous impulse as my knuckles clenched bone-white beneath Bella's palms.
Her eyes were closed; a crazy sign of faith and when she sighed against my stony lips it felt like surrender. Bella trusted me not to hurt her. How could I possibly betray that?
So, I kissed her.
It was the scariest, most wonderful experience of my entire existence. Her mouth was warm, pliant; it begged for more pressure, more movement. Her lips trembled and her heartbeat was so loud it was like a moth's wings fluttering against my eardrum. Her taste, her smell, the feel of her skin and sheer emotion in her littlest actions became everything.
True to her word, Bella was still. Patiently, she let me adjust to this intense new sensation, holding my hands in hers like she could somehow control me that way. Internally, I was coiled tight like a spring but I had gained enough control to calm the external signs. When my body finally relaxed, when the tension left my shoulders and my fists unclenched, Bella relaxed too.
She loosened her grip on my hands and returned my kiss in tiny, hesitant movements. She shifted so her body was closer to mine, kneeling up on the bed while I kept my feet firmly planted on the ground. The same position we had been in outside her house in Phoenix, when simply touching her hand had seemed like an instrument of torment.
Slowly, she skimmed her hand along my arm, my shoulder until it came to rest at the back of neck. The fingers of her other hand entwined with mine and I found my other hand at the slight curve in her slim waist. I couldn't trust that I wouldn't leave purple fingerprints on her flesh, so I clutched at the fabric of her (my) sweatshirt and felt it stretch and tear beneath my fingers.
She kissed me urgently, frantically, like something was about to tear us apart. I responded as best I could, constantly struggling to keep my strength and my vampire-instinct in check. It was tough, also, to keep my other instincts in check. Kissing Bella felt more than natural.
When I run I push myself to go further and faster, not because I can, but because my body tells me I should. Kissing felt the same. As if the only right thing to do was keep going and going.
It was impossibly warm, unimaginably inviting and all I wanted to do was taste and consume and explore. I wanted to know everything, to feel everything and from the open, wet way Bella pressed her lips to mine, I could tell she felt the same.
Her breathing grew shallow and erratic. Her body melted against mine, every soft curve of her fitted against me perfectly. I knew I had to call a halt to this before we got carried away. I couldn't allow the venom pooling in my mouth near her.
So with deep regret, I tore my lips away. She needed to breathe. I needed to regain control of my desire.
"Edward," she moaned, as heavy breaths left her swollen mouth and at breakneck speed, I landed my mouth at her throat. My nose skimmed along her jaw line and my cool breath blew across her overheated skin. I kissed my way along her delicate collarbone and the dip in the hollow of her throat. Bella became very still again, but for the pressure of our entwined fingers, as I ran my lips up and down the side of her neck.
She exhaled in a stirring way when my mouth met the smooth, sensitive skin just behind her ear and I breathed deeply. The scent of her blood, her body, was addicting; the sweetest thing in the whole world. It brought me such pleasure and it caused me so much pain, as my throat ached to drink.
With deliberate caution, I dragged my venom-coated lips back down along her throat until they came to rest on her pulse.
Her artery throbbed beneath my lips. I could taste her skin, all soap and sweat, and almost taste her rich, fragrant blood. It rushed through her veins, under her paper-thin skin, and, after carefully concealing my teeth, I pressed the tip of my tongue on the spot where it beat the strongest.
I held it there, overwhelmed by the closeness, and Bella squeezed my hand and played with my hair. Our breathing came in a matching rhythm. Her heartbeat found a steady pace. I could have bit down and let her thick sweet blood flood my waiting mouth.
How I badly I wished to taste her. How I wished my kind could be like the fictional depictions where we could bite drink to our hearts content without that pesky venom making things more complicated.
Bella tenderly cupped my cheek, while I went through the agony and the joy of having my lips at her throat.
I held them here as long as I could. When I could take no more, I went to her open window leaving her stunned while I gulped in great mouthfuls of the rain-soaked air. The silence hung heavily all around us as she scrambled back against her headboard, waiting for me. I rejoined her when I could, pulling her against my chest so her rose-pink cheek could rest where my heart should beat.
"Did I hurt you?" I asked and I felt her shake her head. "Did I scare you, then?"
"No," she said and her tone make me think she hardly believed that herself. "I probably should be scared, right? I should be terrified that you'll hurt me...physically, emotionally, whatever. But I'm not. I'm not scared at all. When I'm with you, it's so amazing that that's all I can focus on."
Bella twisted her head to look at me, trying to gauge my reaction.
"Yes," I agreed. "You probably should be scared. But I can't tell you how much it I appreciate that you are not." I watched her settle herself back against me. "Bella, I promise won't ever intentionally do anything to hurt you. But if you ever feel uncomfortable or sore or anything you have to tell me. I won't know. You have to tell me."
"I will," she said. "I promise I will."
"So..." I ventured, after a few seconds of listening to her heartbeat and the rain on the roof. "Was that ok? I don't exactly know what I'm doing there, either. You can tell me if it's not right."
"You mean the most wonderful, fantastic, exhilarating, romantic moment of my life? Are you kidding me? As first kisses go, it was pretty much perfect."
Inside, I swelled with pride and joy. "First of many, " I murmured, pressing a feather-light kiss on the top of her head.
"I tried to my best to not move," Bella said, making a figure of eight motion on my torso with her index finger. "I stayed as still as I could, as long as I could."
"I know," I told her, hearing the anxiety in her voice. "You were...are...perfect. Don't worry. We're just figuring this out together, remember?"
I felt her body relax at my words and she snuggled closer, just letting me hold her. I started to play with the tip of her braid, brushing the damp strands against the back of my hand. It was so quiet, so peaceful, so right. We lay there for I don't know how long. It wasn't important to check or listen for the tick tock of my watch.
Bella's eyelids started to droop and her breathing became more and more regular. I had seen fall asleep several times on the drive home. I had never much of an opportunity to see a sleeping person and it had been strange and fascinating. She talked in her sleep and I would hang on every word. Here in her bed, with her plaid pajamas and fresh cotton sheets, if all felt far more intimate. I did not sleep. I felt like an intruder.
I shifted, trying to determine the best way to move without disturbing her, and Bella's eyes flew open. She gripped my shirt and her arm stretched out across my stomach.
"Don't go," she croaked. "Please, just stay a while longer."
I thought of my bedless bedroom in the cold glass house. My family would be waiting with their questions and teasing and silent judgements. I settled back down on the bed, taking the blanket from the chair to pull over her.
"I'll stay," I promised, wrapping my arms around her.
I'd stay forever.
That's all folks! I hope you enjoyed the romance. I really enjoyed writing this one, it reminded me of my olden fic days. Thanks again for reading and reviewing and generally being awesome. Thanks to averysubtle gift who allowed me the opportunity to write this and was amazingly sweet and patient about it.