He Has Defiled My Sanctuary

It wasn't pure coincidence that I happened to drive by the church and see Carlisle's car in the parking lot. I didn't usually drive down that street, since it wasn't near any place I frequented. But my husband wasn't due home for a few hours, my children had scattered to the four winds, and the house just felt so empty and sad. So I'd gone out to do some errands. Afterward, I kind of drove around aimlessly for a while, just thinking. When I passed the N BLACKBERRY street sign and caught a glimpse of the church spire against the gray sky, I made an impulsive right turn and drove into the Prince of Peace parking lot.

I didn't know Carlisle was there when I made that decision. I think I was just feeling lonely and wanted to feel some connection with my husband, even if that connection came in the form of sitting in my car in his church's parking lot. I had never come here once since we moved to Forks, though Carlisle went regularly. He couldn't always make Sunday services because of his work schedule, but he stopped almost every day on his way home from the hospital. He'd always done that, no matter where we lived, as far back as I could remember. I asked him why once, and he said it gave him a few minutes alone to pray and gather strength. "Recharge my batteries" was how he put it.

There were two cars in the parking lot. One was my husband's Mercedes, and I assumed that the green Subaru belonged to Pastor Weber, the Lutheran minister who had presided over Bella's and Edward's wedding. If there had been any other vehicles there, I might have just sat in the car and waited for my husband to come out. As it was, I felt nervous about going inside. But the same impulse which had directed me to come here in the first place made me shut off the ignition and cross the lot to the commercial glass doors.

Carlisle had never been fiercely loyal to any one denomination. No matter where we lived, he came to know the local clergy automatically due to their frequent visits to the hospital. He would draw them into discussion and feel them out, sometimes attending different services until he found the one church where he felt most at home. Every time that happened, he reminded me that I was welcome to attend services with him. He never pressed the issue after I politely declined, but on the Sundays when he didn't have to work and would kiss me goodbye before leaving for church, I could see the hope in his eyes that maybe, this time, I would accompany him.

I never had. The only times I'd set foot in a church were for our children's weddings. In recent years, with justice-of-the-peace ceremonies in various locations becoming much more common, even those infrequent visits had become few and far between.

Once inside the lobby, I stood still and looked around, trying to get my bearings. To my relief, I could see the sanctuary directly to my left through a low archway, and I made my way across the tiled floor toward the sacred space. My heels clattered loudly against the tile, the noise making me extremely self-conscious, then abruptly stopped when I crossed the threshold onto green utility carpeting.

Carlisle sat alone in a pew about halfway up the aisle, head bent over his folded hands. I stood in the archway for a long moment and just stared at him. Up close, my husband was over a foot taller than me, and so broad in the shoulders and chest that I felt completely dwarfed at times. But from this distance, and in this hugely proportioned room, he looked so much smaller. Younger. More vulnerable. It was a little disorienting.

He had to know someone was there—even without vampire senses, no one could have missed my tap-dancing across the lobby—but he couldn't have known it was me or he would already have looked up. He probably assumed I was a fellow parishioner come for a few moments of quiet contemplation. But my hesitation in the doorway must have made him curious, because soon he raised his head and looked back over his shoulder.

"Hi," I said softly.

When Carlisle recognized me, his face broke into the biggest smile I had seen in a long time, and he had half risen from the pew before I reached the end of the row. "I didn't mean to interrupt," I said as I slid in next to my husband, and I meant it. I wished he hadn't known I was there so I could continue to watch him pray. "I'll just sit here with you. You looked so peaceful."

Carlisle didn't answer. He just kept smiling, and he raised my hand up to his lips and gave it a soft kiss. Even when he bent his head again, he never let go of my hand. I felt like I could never tire of watching him, but I felt awkward staring during what was sort of a private moment, so instead I squeezed his hand a little tighter and started to look around me.

I couldn't explain what it was, exactly, but somehow I just knew right away why Carlisle liked coming here. There was a sense of peace in this room which I had never associated with churches before. I remembered very little of my childhood, but I'd always thought of church as being dark and gloomy. This room was very large and bright, with beautiful stained-glass panel windows lined up one after another up and down each of the side walls. They had no particular theme; one depicted roses, another random squares of different colors, and still another an ocean scene. I could just imagine how beautiful they must be when the sun was shining through them.

Poor Carlisle. He would love that so much. But he could never risk coming here on those sunny days. My poor husband, who already had enough burdens to carry, would always be denied that simple pleasure, one most people probably never even thought twice about. In that instant, I decided that for our next anniversary, I would add a stained-glass window to his study. I knew that lots of people worked with stained glass as a hobby, and I was sure I could find out how to do that online.

Apparently finished with his prayers, Carlisle lifted his head and turned his full attention to me. "What brings you here, my sweet?" he asked in that soft, husky voice of his that always turned me to mush.

I smiled and squeezed his hand again. "I was lonely. I happened to drive by because I know you like to come here, and there you were." I paused. "I hope you didn't feel self-conscious with me here. I just wanted to be near you."

"Of course not. You could never make me uncomfortable," he said with such certainty that I believed him. He wasn't just being polite.

"What do you pray about? Or do you mind . . . ?" I didn't want him to feel like I was prying.

Carlisle thought a moment before replying. "Different things. I ask for help with problems that are troubling me, or answers to questions I have."

"Oh." I was surprised, actually. Somehow I had always assumed Carlisle came here to beg forgiveness for what he was, and for his baser instincts. That was a major reason why I had never been interested in religion since my transformation. I didn't want anything to do with an entity who would expect me to ask forgiveness for something I had no control over.

"But sometimes, like today, I just want to say thank you. Especially now, when we're all alive and healthy." Carlisle pulled me close to him and began to nuzzle my neck. "Very healthy."

I giggled self-consciously, hoping the pastor was far away from us. What would it look like if he walked in on the doctor and his wife necking in his sanctuary? "Dr. Cullen, you forget where you are," I said primly, pushing back against his chest.

"Oh, I forget nothing," he said teasingly, walking his fingers up my skirt towards my lap. With an exaggerated gesture, I pushed his hand off my leg.

"What in the world's gotten into you?" I asked in mock exasperation. My husband wasn't cold or rigid by any means, but this was frisky behavior even for him. "We're in a church, for heaven's sake."

"I know that." Carlisle's expression turned serious all of a sudden. "I know. I'm just so happy you're here with me. Not just here at church. Here in my life." He pulled me onto his lap and gazed right into my eyes. "I try not to think about what could have happened. But we all know in the back of our minds that it's a miracle we're all still alive, and together. That's what I've been praying about these last few days."

Yes. Yes, it was. Like my husband, I tried not to think about what could have happened. But I had a sudden flash of understanding. If Carlisle were . . . gone . . . I knew I wouldn't have the strength to go on existing. It was only because of him that I existed at all. Losing any of our family would break us into pieces. But losing this man, my mate, the love of my life, would mean losing my will to live.

Thinking about that, and about how happy I had made my husband just by sitting next to him here in his church . . . I felt so awful. Carlisle's faith meant so very much to him. Would it have been so hard to accompany him to church every week? It didn't matter what I believed. It would make him happy to share this part of himself with me. Why had I been so selfish?

Not knowing what to say, I leaned in and kissed him. He responded eagerly, his hands threading through my hair and pushing it back behind my shoulders so he could caress my neck.

After a moment, I shifted my weight and broke the kiss. "I'm sorry I never came to church with you," I whispered. "I never knew how much it meant to you before."

Carlisle only pulled me back, and the kiss deepened. His hands dropped to my knees, which were now straddling his. He began to caress my bare legs just under the hem of my knee-length skirt. I loved when he did that, touched my legs. I lifted myself up so my weight rested on my knees at either side of my husband's lap, hoping he would stroke the sensitive skin just behind them. As though he knew exactly what I was thinking, Carlisle did just that, and I swear that simple touch was more titillating than even having him touch my breasts or slide his hand between my legs. His fingers traced the thin skin along my creases over and over. I could have sat like that and let him stroke me for hours. But my husband had other plans, and his hands were soon moving northward, sliding under my simple black knit skirt and tracing an entirely different crease, the one where thigh met bottom.

I smiled when I thought of the dainty lace undergarments his hands were grazing. They were a far cry from the modest, sensible cotton bloomers and chemises I'd worn during our early years together. I grew up long before Victoria's Secret, when true ladies would never dream of wearing lingerie. It hadn't been until Alice joined us that I finally began to have a little fun with my underwear. At first, when Alice tried to steer me past the racks of sensible cotton bras toward the sheer lacy ones, I had protested. I couldn't imagine wanting to wear something so provocative, even if only my husband would ever see it. But Alice had made a good point: It would make Carlisle feel very loved if he knew I dressed that way with him in mind.

That had finally made me stop and think. My husband wasn't the type of man who would ever judge me by my clothes, but that didn't mean that he wouldn't appreciate a little extra care being taken for his sake. So I let my daughter choose a few sets of the beautiful lingerie for me. I was very nervous the first time I wore them for him, but Carlisle had been absolutely thrilled when he undressed me and found the soft, feminine pink underthings. He knew the lace and ribbons were for his eyes only in the privacy of our bedroom. Just as now, fifty years later, this set was for him, and him alone . . . in the privacy of a nearly empty Lutheran church.

Carlisle pushed my skirt up so that it bunched around my waist, exposing my lilac silk-and-lace panties. His fingers ghosted along the edge of the waistband, then two of them slipped in just under my navel and pulled the elastic slightly away from my body. I waited. I knew the instant he caught my scent, because his eyes, still purest gold from our morning hunt, darkened to amber. He held it open like that and we both breathed in the unmistakable aroma of my arousal. Carlisle's nostrils dilated. Barely a second later, my clit was throbbing like a beating drum and my panties were dangling from my husband's fist.

"Carlisle!" I hissed, scandalized. I hurriedly smoothed my skirt back down so it covered my knees. Even though I would have heard anyone approaching long before they were close enough to see or hear us, I still glanced furtively out into the hallway, terrified that someone had witnessed my husband losing control. "How could you?"

"My darling, these panties are far too wet for you to wear," he teased. "I merely wanted to help you change into a dry pair."

"Oh, you monster." I had to laugh, even though it was partly from nervousness. I couldn't believe what we had just been doing. What had come over me? "Where will I get a dry pair now? I'll have to drive home with nothing on under this skirt!"

"I'm afraid I didn't think that far ahead. I hope the lady forgives me." Carlisle's eyes danced with mirth. "Try not to get pulled over, will you? Some nice young police officer might mistake your intentions."

"You're impossible." Carlisle was already at work undoing the buttons on my simple white shirt. I slapped at his hands. "Carlisle, I mean it. We can't do this here." I tried to sound firm, but I don't think it worked all that well. Because, to be perfectly honest . . . I was seriously turned on by what we were doing, and where we were doing it. It was wrong, so wrong. But lust has a funny way of clouding the mind, and I was having trouble remembering why this was wrong.

"Oh, no? And why is that?" my husband asked, tracing my collarbone through the opened placket. His tone was light, but his eyes were still very dark. For a man with such impeccable self-control when it came to bloodlust, it seemed Carlisle was falling prey to the same carnal weakness as I was right now.

"Someone will see," I said desperately, then mentally kicked myself. Of all the arguments I could have used, I had to pick the one most easily rebutted?

Carlisle was finished unbuttoning my shirt before I was even done speaking. My chest heaved under the lilac bra which matched the ruined panties on the pew beside us. Carlisle smiled at the sight of my breasts inches from his face, and his hand was already playing with the clasp in front.

"Don't you dare tear that!" I hissed at him, cupping my breasts to protect the garment from a similar fate. "There is no way I'm walking around without a bra on."

"Oh, definitely not," he assured me, tracing the scalloped edge of one brimming cup. "We'll be needing the bra." With that, he reached up with both hands and slid the bra straps off my shoulders so they hung loosely around my upper arms. Before I could stop him, Carlisle took hold of the scallops and began to roll them down. I winced as the lace scraped roughly against my nipples, which were already pebbling in anticipation. Carlisle's knuckles brushed my ribs as he finished his intricate task, pulling and squeezing until the twin peaks were adjusted to his liking. My breasts were suddenly thrust upward and outward, held in place by the combined underwire and bunched lace.

"Wait here." With vampire speed, Carlisle crossed the narthex to the archway I'd entered through. He pulled the heavy oak doors away from the walls and closed them, shutting us off from the main lobby. There was no lock, of course. But that was just as well. How would we explain that if we were discovered? My face felt strange, and I wondered if it was some kind of phantom blush stealing over me. This whole situation was surreal. It was obvious my husband was about to do something very improper to me in this house of God. Who wouldn't blush?

Carlisle was back by my side in an instant, holding out his hand to help me up out of the pew. He picked up my torn panties where they lay in a heap on the wooden seat and slipped them into his pocket. It only made me realize more acutely that I was standing half-naked in the church aisle. But Carlisle was about to show me that he wasn't going to stop at only half naked.

He came around behind me and pulled at my skirt until it was up around my waist and hanging like a tail from my back, then took both of my hands and pinned them behind me. I didn't even have time to react. I only knew that one moment I was feeling practically naked with only my skirt to cover the most private parts of my body. The next moment, I would have given anything to have even half the skirt back in place.

Holding my wrists and my bunched-up skirt at the small of my back, Carlisle propelled me up the aisle and the two stairs to the chancel. With my arms held back, my breasts were thrust proudly forward from their makeshift truss, the nipples hard and engorged. With each step, my thighs scissored against each other and chafed at my aching mound, the insides of my legs slick with moisture. In my entire life, I had never felt so . . . exposed. So wanton. I felt like the harlot being paraded in front of the mob, the tools of her trade on display for all to see.

Yet I felt no fear as a result of Carlisle's sudden need for this salacious demonstration. He had always been so conservative, so . . . gentlemanly in the bedroom. Even now, there was nothing crass or crude about his words or actions. His gaze as he undressed me had been loving, not mocking. The things he said were clean and respectful. He would stop in a split second if I asked him to. At home, this playfulness wouldn't even be so very unusual for us.

If only we hadn't been in a church.

I had assumed Carlisle was marching us toward the door on the other side of the chancel. I wasn't sure what it led to—a supply closet, maybe? It couldn't lead outside, not that far away from the wall. Whatever the room was used for, we would have relative privacy for a few precious minutes. My thighs clenched together in anticipation of what my husband was about to do to me in that room, and another surge of wetness dampened my folds as my heels clicked lightly against the thin carpeting. But Carlisle surprised me when he stopped us directly behind the altar.

The altar was covered with a light green linen cloth, the edges of which were intricately embroidered with gold crosses. A thick sheet of glass covered the top of the altar, protecting it from the candlesticks and large freestanding cross which were arranged with mathematical precision across the center. Never loosening his grip on my wrists, Carlisle's free hand deftly moved these objects to the floor, safely off to one side.

I had no heartbeat to quicken. No pulse to race. My breathing may have become very shallow right then, but really, I didn't have to breathe at all. Yet when I finally understood that Carlisle intended to have me on the altar at the front of his church, something shifted inside, and my body began to tremble. Was it fear? Abhorrence at the thought of such sacrilege?

Or perhaps . . . anticipation?

Carlisle turned me around so that I stood dead center behind the now-empty altar, facing out over the rows of pews. He let go of my hands and skirt for a brief moment, and then the soft garment was being yanked down my legs to fall in a puddle around my feet.

There was no one else in the room but us, and the heavy doors remained closed, yet if I had felt exposed before, it was nothing compared to how completely vulnerable I was right now. Clothed only in the thin protection of an unbuttoned shirt, breasts jutting free from their lace prison, the silky patch between my legs soaking wet and plastered to my skin, stripped and placed on display in what was supposed to be a sanctuary . . . Only the return of my husband's calming grip on my wrists stopped me from fleeing the room in shame, from covering my bare and dripping sex with my hands, from crawling under one of the pews and crying tearlessly in utter mortification.

Carlisle sensed my fear and took a step closer. Through his pants, I felt his arousal pressing against me from behind and whimpered. "Shhh," he whispered, and I closed my eyes and tried not to tremble so hard. "I'm here. I'm your husband. You know you're always safe with me."

I did know that. I knew he would never hurt me himself, or place me in danger. But I was afraid that his lust was clouding his judgment. Maybe I hadn't had much to do with God since my transformation, but surely he would not look kindly upon us using his house of worship like a cheap motel?

"This is wrong," I protested weakly, my voice trembling. "It's wrong for us to do this here, in God's house."

"How could anything we do to physically show our love be wrong, Esme?" he said in the reasoning tone he often used with our children. His hand rubbed circles on my back as he spoke. "If God is real, then he is everywhere. We're just as much in God's house when we're at home in bed as we are here."

I wanted to protest, but I couldn't think of a single argument. I didn't know what I believed, really. It had been so long since I let myself think about questions of morality. I was a vampire. If I was damned, there was nothing I could do to change that. And being able to live out my existence with this extraordinary man, I felt, had always made it irrelevant what came after. Could this small act really make so much difference?

"Could you really walk away now?" Carlisle murmured against my ear. His breath made my hair flutter, and he smoothed it back and tucked it away behind my ear. "Could you dress yourself and walk out of here with me? Drive home with nothing on under your skirt, leaking onto the leather upholstery? Could you settle for having me at home in our bedroom for the ten thousandth time? Wouldn't you spend the rest of your life imagining how it would have been to make love with me on the Throne of God?"

I was back to taking those shallow, heaving breaths again, each inhalation pushing my nipples out further over the sacred piece of furniture. Dear God, he was right. Even now, I could feel more moisture seeping into my folds. If we left now, I wouldn't be able to make it home anyway. And he was also right that a part of me wanted this even if it was wrong. I had wanted his caresses in the church pew, wanted to be free of my confining clothes. And right now, this very second, I wanted my husband to lay me out across what he referred to as the Throne of God and pound me until I screamed myself hoarse. That part of me didn't care if this was depravity beyond comprehension. That part didn't want to be made love to.

It wanted to be fucked. Thoroughly, completely, and brutally fucked.

I hung my head in defeat, not trusting myself enough to speak. Carlisle inched me forward and very carefully pressed his hand against my back until I bent forward and rested my upper body on the altar. I was still in my high heels, and my hips stood slightly higher than the surface. I knew my husband had a magnificent view of my backside thrust up toward him.

The glass was cool even against my frigid skin, and my stomach muscles tightened reflexively. My bare breasts bulged against the unyielding surface, nipples rock hard and aching from the pressure. The edge of the altar was millimeters away from my clit—just close enough that I could sense it there, and longed to grind my throbbing sex against the protruding lip of wood until I made myself come. But unlike with our sheets at home, my breasts could not slide easily against the glass, and Carlisle still held my wrists behind me. He was in control of my body, and kept me just out of reach of the satisfaction I craved. I squeezed my thighs together and willed him to hurry.

My husband slid one hand between my legs, and I was ashamed at how eagerly my body responded. "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship," he whispered, tracing one finger lightly against my slit. "Romans 12:1."

I couldn't help the unladylike snort of laughter that escaped. "You know, somehow I don't think this is what Paul had in mind." A second finger joined the first, and I gasped as they pinched my clit. His knuckles began to knead my sore flesh, rolling that swollen little bundle of nerves between them, and sending the most brilliant sensations coursing through my center. My nipples ached even harder than before, and I willed him to let my hands go so I could massage them in tandem with his attention to my clit.

"Spread your legs for me, Esme," he breathed, and I obeyed without question, moving my feet about a foot and a half apart. The rush of cool air against my soaking wet sex made me whimper. I was practically shaking from pent-up need. How much longer would I have to wait for release?

With my legs now out of the way, Carlisle cupped my mound in his whole hand, one finger back to massaging my clit. I closed my eyes in ecstasy. His hand was so huge, covering every inch of my wet skin. I felt so warm. So loved. So safe. And then, just when I was starting to feel the familiar tightening in my lower belly that signaled impending release . . . the hand was gone, and the wetness was once again cold and clammy against my skin.

I cried out sharply and then clamped my mouth shut, horrified that I might have been heard. Carlisle stilled, and seconds ticked by like hours as we listened for the sound of voices or footsteps. Only when several minutes had passed with no sound did I relax.

"Esme."

"Mmmm. I'm sorry," I said softly. "It just felt so wonderful, and then you took it away."

"Esme, I am nowhere near being finished with you. Will you be able to control yourself on your own? Or do you need me to cover your mouth for you?"

"Please," I whispered, wanting him inside me so badly that I would have agreed to anything. Anything. "Please. Cover my mouth. I want you." A moment later, Carlisle's fingers were tracing the swell of my lips. His touch was so very tender, and I nibbled lovingly on his fingertips, tasting my wetness there. Then the hand was gone, and I lay there stupidly with my mouth still slightly agape. The next thing I knew, my mouth was being slowly forced open by something very rough and very bulky. I started to turn my head away, but Carlisle laid his hand against the small of my back.

"It's all right. Trust me."

And because I did, I let him fill my mouth with the unknown substance. It was cloth—I realized that right away. I tried to remember whether there had been something on the altar that he could have taken, but all I remembered was the linen cloth, and that was definitely still under me, and under glass. He hadn't taken a step away from me. So it had to be something he had on him.

Whatever it was didn't completely fit in my mouth, and I caught a flash of lilac when I looked down. My eyes widened in shock as I realized that I had been gagged with my own lace panties.

"Mmmph," I said. My tongue moved when I tried to say his name, and suddenly I was tasting silk and nylon and my own arousal, which had soaked the panties so thoroughly before he ripped them from my body. I rose slightly from the table, inadvertently grazing my clit against the edge. I cried into the silken gag when I felt my nerves begin to fire, and instinctively angled my hips back toward the altar. Carlisle loosened his hold on my wrists and pressed his hand against my stomach, holding me back from the furniture which had been about to be my sweet release. My eyes burned with phantom tears.

"Shhh," he whispered into my ear, lightly palming one of my bare breasts. I moaned, and the sound was muted almost completely by the gag. I felt better when I realized how much the panties were muffling the sounds of my distress. Right now I was so aroused that the lightest touch from my husband made my body betray me. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep myself from moaning, or even screaming, depending on what tortures Carlisle had in store. Now that the burden of suppressing my vocalizations was lifted somewhat, I didn't feel quite so afraid.

"All right, my love." Carlisle lowered me back onto the glass, this time using both hands to position my hips so they were several inches away from the table. My hands were free now, but I knew I had to be very careful. Our own furniture was easily, and discreetly, replaced when our lovemaking became too rough. If we were to break the altar in my husband's church . . . I shivered, thinking of just how impossible that would be to explain. So I placed my palms flat against the protective glass and lay there waiting for the love of my life to enter me.

He didn't make me wait long. I heard his pants being unzipped and the soft swish of them dropping down to his ankles, and then in one swift thrust he was inside me. The force he used was powerful enough that I rocked forward and almost teetered on my heels, but he still fell just short of filling me completely. I disliked being taken from behind for this very reason—he just couldn't reach far enough into me from this angle, and my exposed clit always ached for sweet friction which never came.

Carlisle held my hips firmly in place as he thrust himself into me over and over. Once again, I felt the tingling and knew my moment was approaching fast. Yet this time, with my clit getting no stimulation, the sensation came and went, and I knew that if I didn't lose the orgasm entirely, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying as I needed it to be. If only Carlisle would let go of my hips and cup my mound again. The mere thought of how the steady pressure would feel against my nub made me so hot that I moaned against my gag.

Then, just as I had resigned myself to a lackluster orgasm, my prayers were answered. Carlisle slid one hand around to my belly and began to pull me backwards with each thrust. The other hand snaked down between my legs and spread my mons apart, his fingers forming a V to perfectly fit my folds. His palm gently grazed my clit with each stroke downward, and I whimpered helplessly into my lacy gag. I was panting like an animal, legs quivering in anticipation. Any second I was going to come so hard that I might not be able to control my body. What if I broke the glass, or the altar? But my mind was so hazy with lust that I honestly didn't care. We'd figure that out later. Right now I was wound so tight, and Carlisle's fingers were moving faster, faster, faster . . .

Just as my eyes were about to roll back in my head, my husband pulled out of me again, and this time, he pulled out all the way. There was no thrust. His hand left me at the same time, and I lay panting and gasping against the cool glass, my livid sex still clenching and unclenching around thin air. When I realized what Carlisle had done, and why, I let out a muffled howl of protest and stood up shakily, turning around to unleash my fury on him.

But my anger dissolved when I saw him standing just a few paces back. Because the same look of sheer frustrated longing that I knew was in my eyes right now was mirrored in his, and though I continued to breathe deeply and throb like crazy down below, I knew he wouldn't have stopped without a good reason. We both knew that our release was sweeter when we took our time building up a slow burn. We were taking a huge risk doing this here, and part of me thought we should just hurry up and finish.

The other part wanted to squeeze every last drop of reckless screaming abandon out of the experience.

I knew I must look utterly ridiculous with my panties spilling out of my mouth, and I dropped my gaze, only to rest it on his swollen member, which stood at full attention and still glistened with my wetness. The hem of Carlisle's shirt grazed his tuft of golden-blond curls, and somehow the fact that he was partially clothed only aroused me further. Carlisle naked was perfection. Carlisle half-undressed was somehow even more alluring.

My husband smiled. "See something you want?" he said teasingly. I nodded, knowing he wouldn't understand me if I tried to speak through my gag. "Well, we'll get to that eventually." He took my hand and led me several steps to the right side of the altar.

My spirits sank. Eventually? He had just brought me to the brink of madness, and the only thing that kept me from knocking him to the floor and riding him like a bucking bronco was the hope that he was finally going to lay me down and finish me off. I no longer cared where we were, or who might hear, or whether this were a moral abomination. All I cared about was feeling Carlisle's rock-hard member pulsing inside me. Now he told me we'd get to that eventually?

Carlisle, still hampered by his pants, shuffled around in front of me and picked me up by the waist, setting me down on the short side of the altar with my legs dangling inches above the ground. Ah, now I understood. I couldn't lie down across the table from the side we'd been on; it was too narrow. From this side, the table was long enough for even my husband to stretch out on it. Finally, my aching body was going to be given what it so desperately needed.

I was prepared to scoot backwards so that Carlisle could climb on top of me. But he surprised me by pushing me down on my back as I was, then tugging my body forward so my bottom hung over the very edge. Only when he lifted one leg and draped it over his shoulder did I understand. When Carlisle had said eventually, he'd really meant it. Because right now, he planned to work on me with his mouth.

I should have been elated, but instead I felt frustrated beyond belief. I knew Carlisle would never let me come like this; he would save that for the eventually, when we joined together the way our bodies were meant to do.

Carlisle began to tease my folds with the tip of his tongue, and I slammed my head back against the altar in utter defeat. This was going to be bad, I knew. Not only did I feel ridiculous in this position, but this time I knew I wasn't going to be allowed to come. How could I stand being brought to the edge of my sanity and then yanked back to earth yet again?

If only we weren't so exposed. If we were on the floor between the pews, or even the floor behind the altar rail. Any floor behind any piece of furniture. Anywhere but splayed across the altar, my husband kneeling between my legs with his face buried in my sex.

Despite knowing that he was going to leave me hanging at the crucial moment, I couldn't help enjoying Carlisle's attention. He knew just what pressure to apply, and where, to keep me guessing. He took his time, alternately laving my mons and swirling his tongue around my clit. In spite of myself, I began to angle my sex towards him, thrusting my hips upward to meet his tongue or the tip of his nose as they grazed my most sensitive spots.

Carlisle wasn't having any of that, though. One thing about my husband: he liked to be in control. Oh, he was more than solicitous in the bedroom, and if I wanted something badly, I need only ask. But trying to get my way on my terms, without swallowing my pride and asking him directly, just never worked. He had me figured out within a minute, and soon I was lying helpless again, unable to budge, my hips held securely in place as he teased me without mercy.

One of his favorite means of torture was to lay his palm flat against my folds, pressing down until the skin pulled taut and my clit bulged out like a pebble. The pain of the stretched skin was exquisite, and Carlisle teased the engorged nub by applying feather-light pressure from his tongue and then blowing gently on the wet skin. Meanwhile I was unable to move, unable to speak, unable to think, mewling like a kitten while he reminded me repeatedly, without speaking a single word, that my body was no longer mine to control.

Once again, just when I felt as though my body would explode into a million little pieces, Carlisle pulled back with precision timing, leaving me a quivering mess of shattered nerves. Despite having known what was coming—not me, in other words—I still cried out my frustration into the gag which had absorbed more than its fair share of heartache this day.

Carlisle let me have my tantrum, standing patiently next to the altar I hadn't moved from. My legs were hanging limply off the edge, where they'd fallen after he was no longer there to wrap them around. I knew I was wasting time, but I just didn't care. I felt so bereft, so forsaken. I wanted my husband, and I resented him for being such a relentless tease.

Finally, I sighed and sat up, ready for what I desperately hoped would be the final round of this intricate game. Wryly, I thought about how I had left the house this morning because I felt lonely, and drifted towards church because I wanted to feel closer to my husband. Who knew fate would take me so literally?

While my feet were still near the ground, I kicked off my heels so they wouldn't have far to fall, not wanting the echo to give us away after all we'd gone through to finally get here. Then I placed my palms against the glass and moved back so that my whole body lay straight on the altar.

I heard Carlisle kicking off his own shoes and the pants which had fallen to his ankles earlier. He stood over me for a long moment, scrutinizing my supine figure from head to toe. He stroked his thumb over both my nipples in turn, which swelled and hardened once again at his touch. Then he slipped one hand between my knees, which I had been squeezing together without realizing it, and pulled them apart so my legs lay spread and ready for him.

"And now, my precious wife," he murmured, laying a hand lightly across my belly, just above my patch of caramel silk. "This time, I promise you, I will let you come. And come you shall." He pinched my jaw with his other hand—not cruelly, but just enough to titillate—and turned my face to his. "I warn you," he added softly, tracing one finger up and down my slit as he spoke, "by the time I'm finished with this body, you'll be so far gone that you'll need to check your wallet just to remember where you live."

Maybe his words had made me so wet again that I could feel it trickling onto the glass under my body, but I certainly wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. "Thank God," I muttered, knowing it would be muffled by my makeshift gag. But Carlisle's low chuckle told me that he knew exactly what I had said.

"Apropos."

In spite of the achingly slow buildup we'd endured to get to this point, I'm afraid neither of us lasted very long. I couldn't tell which of us was more frustrated by then, but Carlisle had barely gotten himself onto the table before he was frantically joining our bodies, and unlike when he took me from behind, this time he filled every inch of me with his hot, throbbing member. I clenched around him as tightly as I could manage, smiling when it made him wince in pain.

We found a rhythm, Carlisle angling upward toward me with each thrust to finally give my clit the friction I'd been craving for what seemed like hours, and me milking him each time he had to pull back. He was too busy using his mouth to pleasure my swollen nipples for me to really enjoy his facial expressions, so I settled for staring at the stained-glass window above us. It depicted a crying Jesus standing in front of clouds and a background of pure blue sky.

It was the blue I focused on at first, ashamed to meet the stare of even a stained-glass holy man. But then I changed my mind and looked straight into the painted brown eyes, resenting that I felt I had to hide the pleasure I was feeling right now. I deserved that pleasure. And my husband deserved better than a God who would judge him for grabbing happiness where he could.

When I finally slipped over the edge and came, it was so hard and fast and powerful that my vision blurred and the colors blended together like a kaleidoscope of fractured glass. But I didn't close my eyes, never looked away from that image. There was defiance in my stare—I defied any entity who felt his rules had been broken when I made love to my husband in this house of worship.

Only when I felt Carlisle's gentle hands on my face did I tear my gaze away from the crying man in the window and meet my husband's eyes as he came and they darkened to black. Though his eyelids fluttered slightly at the peak of his crisis, Carlisle's eyes never broke their hold on mine. I felt as though something new formed between us in those brief moments when the world spun crazily and only my lace gag kept me from shattering every window in the building with my screams. We had shared something so deeply private and powerful and forbidden here that I doubted we would ever be quite the same around each other again. Even now, coming down from such great heights and at our most vulnerable, neither of us broke eye contact for even a split second. I trusted this man to protect me, even during my most helpless state of being.

At home, we sometimes spent hours after lovemaking talking in bed, or just lying together and enjoying each other's closeness. I craved that closeness now, but there wasn't time. Reluctantly, but knowing we had to erase any sign of what had just happened, Carlisle and I both climbed down from the altar and began to gather our discarded clothing.

We had spent far too much time in this room, engaging in acts which would render anyone speechless if they knew. Yet only now did my sense of urgency return as I unfolded my bra and adjusted my sore breasts inside the cups, then hastily buttoned up my shirt over them. My panties were a total loss; my skirt brushed tantalizingly against the bareness beneath. My spent sex still thrummed gently, and the insides of my thighs were uncomfortably sticky when I tried to walk.

Yet I had never felt so completely satisfied, so thoroughly sated in all my life.

Carlisle smiled at me as he buckled his belt over his shirt, which was all he had to do to be presentable. His smile quirked up at one corner as he teasingly dangled my panties in front of me, then slipped them back into his pocket.

"Stop," I said halfheartedly, feeling strange at hearing my voice out loud again. Now that the heat of the moment had passed, I was back to being sensitive about his teasing. Yet something was subtly different. What we had done was so completely beyond anything I had ever imagined, and I would never again be quite so bashful about sexy innuendo. My husband had fucked—yes, fucked, and the word would never be completely taboo in my thoughts again—me senseless on an altar dedicated to God. Let him make jokes about my underwear.

Just as I was wondering what on earth one said at a time like this, the sound of footsteps in the hallway had me staring at Carlisle in horror. We'd so nearly gotten away with it. Someone was coming now?

With the same vampire speed as when he had closed the church doors before parading me naked across the narthex, my husband flew to the altar and replaced the candlesticks and cross. I went to open the doors, but Carlisle was faster, and they were both open and resting against the walls in the blink of a human's eye.

Carlisle took my arm and ran us up the aisle almost all the way back to the chancel, then turned around. "Just act natural," he murmured, putting his arm around my waist and walking us forward at a leisurely pace. "We cleaned up. Our clothes are on straight. You can't blush. We're just a married couple taking a little time to visit with God."

I was still a little giddy, and that struck me as unbelievably funny. I snorted again, and my shoulders shook as I tried to suppress my laughter. When Pastor Weber came around the corner, he found both of us standing there with foolish grins on our faces.

"Hello, Dr. Cullen," he greeted my husband warmly. "And Esme! I don't think I've ever seen you in church before. I'm so glad you decided to visit us." He took my hand and shook it vigorously. Inwardly, I cringed like a cornered animal. To me, the scent of our lovemaking was strong, unmistakable. Pastor Weber would surely notice. He would know immediately what we had been doing in his house of worship.

But though even humans can sometimes pick up on the scent of arousal, apparently Pastor Weber couldn't, or didn't understand.

"I'll be coming here with my husband fairly often from now on," I promised, knowing it wasn't just an empty gesture, something the doctor's wife might say. I would be coming back. I hadn't suddenly been converted—I still had my doubts about religion as it was practiced. But I would come for my husband's sake if nothing else. He deserved that much from me.

"I hope you will. You look . . . so very happy right now. It's like you're lit up from the inside." The pastor almost sounded wistful. "People seem to forget that church is a place where you can come to feel happy. To them it's just another errand on Sundays. It's different with your husband. And you, apparently." He smiled at us, and I had a sudden flash of insight. This man must feel the same way about his flock that Carlisle and I did about our children. He wanted us to be happy and healthy. To him, visiting with God was a beautiful experience, something he just wanted to feel again and again, and he wished the same for us.

I, in turn, felt a little sorry for him. Because I knew he would be horrified if he knew what had just gone on in the chancel. And it made me sad. I felt that Carlisle had been right—how could anything we did out of pure love be so wrong? Our bodies were made for this. My love for my husband was far too powerful for mere words, so I had to tell him with my body. But Pastor Weber had been trained to believe that such pleasures of the flesh were, at their core, corrupt. I was sure he loved his wife very much, but they would never know the deep connection Carlisle and I shared. I wanted that for him as sincerely as he wanted me to draw strength from his God.

I was so lost in these thoughts that I almost missed that the clergyman had excused himself to return to his office. Only Carlisle's thumb playing with the waistband at the back of my skirt brought me back to the present, and I gave him a dazzling smile.

"Just how often do you plan on coming here with me, Mrs. Cullen?" he murmured. I had already opened my mouth to reply when I saw the edge to his smile and realized the double entendre of his words.

"Oh, stop," I chided him, glancing furtively down the hallway. If I had been human, I would have blushed redder than Bella used to.

Carlisle took me by the arms and made me face him. "I love you so very much, Esme. I'm not ashamed of what we did. I hope you aren't, either."

I shook my head. "I'm not ashamed. It was . . . so very beautiful." I reached up to touch my husband's cheek. He was so very beautiful. The pastor was right—Carlisle just looked lit up from within. I loved him so much that I thought my heart was going to burst from it.

Carlisle's hand covered mine and his head tilted against my touch. "Yes. Yes, it was." His voice was husky. "So beautiful."

Together we walked outside to the parking lot, empty except for our two cars and Pastor Weber's Subaru. Carlisle kept his hand at the small of my back the whole time. When he paused next to my car, I clung to him, irrationally afraid to leave his side even just long enough to drive home. My husband must have felt the same way, or at least sensed what I was feeling and sympathized.

"Let me drive you home, darling. We'll get the car later."

That was more than fine by me. I know it's ridiculous in this day and age, but I loved when my husband would drive me places. I always felt so taken care of, so cherished. Carlisle and I were a good match in that way—he came from a time when the man was expected to protect his wife. His sense of justice was so strong that he had never translated that into a need for dominance, but the instinct was still there. I may have been born more than two centuries later, but there was still an expectation of chivalry among the better men of my generation. I had adapted to women's changing roles in society just as well as my daughters, but at my core there was still a whisper of longing to be cherished and protected. It was as though Carlisle and I reached out across the generations and each brought our own balance of power to the table.

Or to the altar.

I settled against the supple leather upholstery on the passenger side, blissfully aware of how wet I still was under my skirt, and smiled when I thought back on the last half hour. I knew this was going to become one of my most precious memories. And not a bad fantasy for the future, either. While Carlisle was easing into the driver's seat and starting the car, I was already wondering where I might be able to order an altar table and which fabric store I could find that beautiful linen at.

And for the second time that day, I lay back and let my husband bring me home.