Carnelian and Ice
Edward takes a small step closer, opening his arms, and she can feel his warmth radiating from his body in welcoming waves. Before her concerns for his safety can stop her, she leans into his embrace. She trembles as he pulls her frame against his chest, close to his heart. He rests his chin on top of her head and brushes her hair – his touch so gentle and comforting that, if she were still human, Bella would abandon herself to the relief of a cry. But she's no longer human, and the tears will never come.
"I've wanted to hug you since I saw you on the bridge," he whispers. "Now tell me: what sorrow is devouring you?"
For the first time since her metamorphosis, Bella lets her façade drop. Her first words are a whisper – she tells Edward how she died in a car crash, and how many years she's endured since she became a vampire. She recalls fragments of her human life, entrusting them to him as if they were delicate shells from a sea she won't be able to admire again.
Edward draws her with him to the couch, where he gathers her into his arms. Comforted by the warmth of his embrace, she talks about Alice, the vampire who changed her, and tells him of their years together. It's thanks to her that Bella overcame the maddening first months of her new existence without attacking a single human. Alice mentored her with the experience she'd acquired through decades as a vampire, as well as the enthusiasm she'd kept from her human life. When Bella pined for what she had lost on that fatal day, when a sightseeing trip to Thompson Pass and Valdez had ended with her and Angela meeting their fates along the Lowe River, Alice never failed to support her. Thanks to her, Bella learned to mingle with humans, as far as it's allowed for immortals. Together, they got an apartment in Fairbanks and started up a graphic designing service based on the Internet.
"So Alice is still with you?" Edward asks.
"No." The moment of their separation comes back to her; Alice's room is the one she identified as the "guest room" to Edward – its first guest. "Alice had...well...she has a gift," Bella begins to explain, pondering how much she should disclose about her friend. "She can see the future, in the form of random visions. Three years ago, she had a vision about her mate."
"For a vampire, a mate is his or her true other half. Vampires mate for life, or at least that's what Alice explained to me." Vampires. Bella can't help but notice how easily the word slips from her mouth, even though she's talking with someone who shouldn't believe that her kind even exists. "She had a vision of an empty diner in Philadelphia and of the man she'd been waiting for a long time, so she left immediately to go find him. Her premonition proved to be true. Now she's married to Jasper, and they've relocated to Canada. They asked me to join them, but I refused. As odd as it might seem, Alaska is the only home I've known since my change, and I couldn't bring myself to leave it for long."
Edward tightens his embrace around her before voicing his question. "But you're alone here."
Bella scoffs. She tilts up her head, boring into him with her gaze. "Is there anything strange about that? Who would ever seek the company of a monst–"
Edward's fingers touch her lips before she can complete the sentence. If Bella's heart weren't still, it would skip a beat due to her shock; what man knowing the truth would allow himself so close to her razor-sharp teeth?
"Don't say that word," he softly admonishes her. He cups her face in his hands, and the touch of his fingers is scorching on her icy skin. "Why do you see yourself that way? Based on everything you told me, you've always tried to rise above—to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that you didn't choose. You're trying so hard to retain whatever essential humanity you can. You're a beautiful woman. You're brave."
His kindness makes Bella squirm. Embarrassed, she grabs his wrists and effortlessly distances him from herself.
"Don't push me away, please," he says.
"I want to believe you, but..."
She lowers her gaze and lets another defense fall in front of him. "I'm afraid to hope."
"When we talked about the ice sculpture, we agreed that the darkness doesn't have the power to overcome the light, didn't we?" he reminds her. "You greatly encouraged me, showing me that light. Your generosity toward me, your insight about that ice carving...there's so much beauty in you." He sighs. "You don't see yourself very clearly, you know."
Bella turns herself toward him. "I wish I could see myself the way you see me."
"Just think about it, okay?" He stifles a yawn, then, and he offers a sheepish smile. "Maybe sleeping on it will help."
The mention of sleeping gets Bella's attention. She caresses Edward's cheek, circling his tired eyes. The weight of the hard day he's gone through shows clearly on his face. He needs some rest, she thinks, touched by his humanity.
"You're exhausted," she observes. Bella fishes around in her memories until the image of her room back at her parents' house resurfaces. She recalls many evenings she spent studying until late, when she craved nothing more than the comfort of a few hours' sleep. If she focuses enough, she can almost remember the feeling of her muscles relaxing while she snuggled up under the blankets, and the pleasant numbness as sleep took her.
Edward takes her hand in his. "I haven't slept much lately."
"May I show you the guest room?"
He nods. "Where do you...?"
He leaves his question incomplete, following her toward the guest room, but she understands what he means; she gives him a small laugh, imagining he's thinking about coffins or other common beliefs about vampires. "I don't sleep at all."
Edward's eyes widen in shock, making Bella worry if tonight's revelations have been too much for him. She gestures to the tiny bedroom, which is decorated elegantly in shades of green. "My room is next door. I furnished it as a study and use it for work. The kitchen..." She chuckles. "Well, it's just for appearance's sake. Sometimes I come here to read or to watch TV," she adds, pointing to the wooden double bed in the center of the room.
She toys with a lock of her hair, unsure about what to do. "Have good night," she says finally.
Edward turns toward her and puts his hands on her shoulders. "Thank you, Isabella." Moving slowly, he brushes his lips over her forehead. She stills under his touch. She's afraid he will wince, repulsed by her cold, hard skin, and she's ready to retreat. But when his mouth caresses her cheek, moving closer to her lips, a soft moan escapes her.
"Would you stay?" he whispers.
Bella doubts if she's heard right, but before she can reply, Edward repeats his invitation. "I realize it will probably be tremendously boring, since I'll only be sleeping, but would you stay here with me?"
"Would you trust me?" she can't help but ask, finding it hard to believe that Edward would accept an inhuman predator in the same room with him while he's defenseless, abandoned to his slumber. Of course, not even an armored door would stop a vampire, but still...
He chuckles. "I thought we'd already covered this point. I do trust you."
A few minutes later they're facing each other on the bed. They simply hold hands, trying hard to not embarrass each other with closer contact. It doesn't take long for Edward to fall asleep.
Bella looks at him in awe. She takes in his handsome features – the strong line of his jaw, his broad chest, his well-defined muscles. Too low to be heard by human ears, she whispers to him her thoughts about the night they're sharing.
He stirs, and utters a word. "Isabella."
Bella is mesmerized by the sweetness with which her name falls from his lips. Out of habit, she used to correct those who called her Isabella and always pointed out that she goes by Bella. With Edward, she hasn't felt that need. On the contrary, she likes him calling her by her complete name, because that is the way he makes her feel: whole.
Edward's lips stretch in a smile, and Bella wonders what he's dreaming of.
"Carnelian," he murmurs in his sleep.
Thank you for reading! Reviewers get a poem.
Do you think Edward has figured out that Bella and I.S. Carnelian are the same person? Or it's just his subconscious talking? Tell me your opinion in your review.
The next chapter is due to be posted next Monday.
Thank you! to my friends SatinCoveredSteel, Marlena580, and Jmolly; a special hug to Camilla10. Camilla has posted a new story! If you've watched BD2, you can't miss it: "Seeing the Wolves," by Camilla10. s/8716970/1/Seeing-the-Wolves
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Carnelian and Ice's extras (different pics for each chapter, as well as the story banner and blinkie) are available on MyReadingLounge: h.t.t.p : / / myreadinglounge. blogspot. c.o.m/