"Where do the Volturi fit into all of this?"

We all stopped in our tracks and turned toward Carlisle. There had been no mention of the Volturi to this point, and even the thought of their name sent a shiver up my spine.

I didn't understand why.

Carlisle's face paled, but his expression was set in a calm mask. "That is something Eleazar or Garrett would be better suited to answer. For now, let's concentrate on the group of you and keeping you healthy and safe." He squeezed Edward's shoulder, guiding him and me back toward the door. "Go ahead and get some sleep. I'll see you all in a few hours."

His tone and words were meant to sound soothing and reassuring, yet they were anything but. The hesitation to even broach Jasper's topic made the Volturi seem even more threatening.

We all walked quietly to our rooms, the other four disappearing behind their doors before Edward and I paused in front of mine. He squeezed my hand just as I reached for the knob.

"Go ahead and get ready for bed. I'll be right back."

"Where are you going?"

He shuffled his feet, put his hands in his pockets, and looked down at the floor like he was nervous about something. "I'm going to go change out of these jeans. I'll only be a few minutes."

At the mention of his jeans, I glanced down, but he spun away from me quickly and practically ran away. I stood there for a moment, watching him rush into another bedroom and shut the door.

What in the world was that?

I shook my head and walked into my room. Despite my exhaustion, my mind was running a mile a minute, going over everything that had happened in the past day. Although I'd learned much more about myself, my life, and the reasons behind why we were here, it was unsettling to be so uncertain about what would unfold from this point on.

Even if the rituals and rites of being a Chosen Ones were intrusive, unnecessary, and ridiculous—as Carlisle put it—at least I had always known what the next day would hold and the plan for my future.

Now I wasn't so sure.

I sighed at myself in the mirror and stripped off my pants and sweatshirt, deciding it would be most comfortable to sleep in just the t-shirt. Edward wasn't back by the time I was finished in the bathroom, but the unfamiliar bed looked more than inviting. At this point, the floor would have been suitable for me to fall straight asleep. I shut off the lights—leaving on only one small lamp on my nightstand—and crawled under the covers to wait for him.

It was only another minute or two before I heard a soft knock on the door.

"Come in." I watched in the dim light as he walked in and stood next to the bed, wearing only a t-shirt and boxers, but his hesitation made me sit up. "What are you doing?"

"I'm just enjoying this for a minute."

"Enjoying what? We haven't even done anything yet."

He chuckled. "I'm enjoying the thought that this is the first time I'll be able to hold you all night."

My heart pounded and suddenly all the worries in my head were pushed to the side. There was nothing I wanted more than to simply be with him.

I threw the covers back. "Get in here."

His lips remained in that crooked smile I loved so much, but his eyes sparked with fire as they locked on mine. The air between us was thick, filled with tension, anticipation, excitement. I took a deep breath, trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach when he slid into the bed next to me.

I wasn't sure why I felt nervous all of a sudden. This was Edward. My best friend for almost two years now. The man I loved and wanted to have lots of babies with. Someone who knew me better than anyone else… even Carmen.

But when he wrapped his arms around me, pulled me tight against him—with my back pressed against his chest—and hummed in my ear, everything fell into place. My nervousness was replaced by a sense of security. A feeling that being in his strong arms was the safest place I could possibly be.

I let my mind and body relax, melting against him while he continued humming his happy tune. Our legs tangled together under the covers, and I giggled when the hair on his knee tickled my thigh.

"What are you doing?"

He brushed my hair to the side and kissed my neck. "Just feeling you out. I need to learn all of your spots."

"My spots?"

"Mmmhmm." He kept kissing my neck while his hand slowly moved down my arm to my waist, and then slid over my stomach and down, to rest between my navel and my panty line. "I need to know where you're ticklish, where you're sensitive, and especially where it drives you crazy."

It already felt like he was driving me crazy. I thought my heart was going to pound right out of my chest.

"I need to know your spots, too." I flipped around in his arms until I was facing him, running my hands down his chest and abdomen.

He closed his eyes and let out a long exhale, his muscles tensing and relaxing under my touch.

"Does that turn you on?"

"Bella," he groaned. "Just thinking about you turns me on. Being near you turns me on. Smelling you turns me on. Touching you turns me on. Being in the same bed as you? I imagine you'll have to get used to me always being hard."

My eyes immediately darted down there and I pushed the covers away. "I want to see it."

He let out a half-cough, half-laugh. "What?"

"I want to see it." I pushed his t-shirt up and reached for the waistband of his boxers.

He turned over on his back, watching me with wide eyes and panting a little.

"What's the problem?" I asked. "You're going to put it inside me. I think I should at least get to see what it looks like."

It was already making an interesting tent under the thin fabric of his underwear, and I was excited to see exactly what I had in store.

"Uhh… it's not a problem. It's just that I'm already… excited enough, and I might end up making a mess all over you."

I shrugged and sat up on my knees. "I want to see that happen, too." All those years of lessons about our anatomies and how they functioned were much more exciting in a real-life setting. I eagerly tugged his boxers down until I had him freed.

It was standing tall and proud, and I wondered if he would mind if I wrapped my hand around it.

He cleared his throat. "Well?"

I shook my head, his voice breaking me away from my marveling. "It's so much better than the plastic ones they showed us in our lessons. I really like it. It's a very handsome penis."

"Handsome penis?" His lips were sort of grimacing when my eyes darted for a moment to his face.

"Well, I was going to say pretty, but I didn't think you would like that."

"No, handsome is better. But don't call it a penis."

I leaned closer to it, blowing some air on the tip and smiling when he groaned. "You're right. Penis is too clinical. I'll call it Fred."


I nodded. "Can I touch him?"

He made some strangled sound in his throat, but croaked out a yes.

I trailed my pointer finger along the shaft and jumped a mile high when Fred twitched. I hadn't been expecting him to move like that.

Edward laughed and sent me a sheepish shrug. "I told you I was excited."

I laughed off my reaction and was just about to wrap my hand around him, when I was suddenly tackled and Edward flipped our positions. He had me pinned to the bed beneath him, pressing his forehead to mine.

"That's enough examination for tonight. Besides, I wasn't finished with you yet when you interrupted."

I smiled up at him, a little breathless from the feeling of his weight on top of me. "I was curious."

"I know," he whispered, kissing my forehead, then my cheeks, and finally my lips. "I love that you're curious. I hope you want me even a fraction of the amount I want you."

His tongue in my mouth almost made me lose my train of thought, but when he pulled his lips away, I gripped his hair to keep his eyes on me.

"I want you more than anything. Have no doubt about that."

He gave me a short nod, but didn't seem to believe me. "You've had limited options, though."

"I don't care if I had every male in the world in front of me, it would be you who I picked. I know it with everything I am."

The smile he gave me reached his eyes this time before his lips crashed down on mine again. It felt amazing the way he pressed me into the mattress and the way our bodies moved together. I wrapped my legs around him, savoring the friction we created with so few layers between us. Our kisses grew sloppier, our fondling of each other heavier, and my body literally ached for him. I thought I might explode when he pulled his lips from mine again and panted against my neck.

"We need to stop."

I nodded, although I didn't mean it. I wanted him now, consequences be damned. He tried to move off of me, but I kept my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist.

"Not yet."

He groaned. "We can't."

"I know. Just don't move yet. I like the way you feel right here."

He nuzzled my neck. "I'm probably crushing you."

"I like it." I ran my fingers through his hair, our heavy breaths calming a little. "Did you really save your first kiss for me?"

"Yes. It was always yours."

"Did you ever have sex with another girl?"


I smiled, even though he couldn't see it. "I thought all you suitors had to train with sterile girls? That's what I was told."

He propped himself on his elbows to look down at me. "The girls were provided, but I couldn't use them like that. They were brought in like cattle." He shook his head. "My mother told you how she raised us. How could I use those girls like that when it could have been another guy using my sisters the same way? I just couldn't do it. I talked to them, flattered them, made them feel good about themselves with my words, but I saved all my intimate parts for you. I wanted our experiences to be firsts for both of us."

"You really saved all this for me? Your kisses? Your Fred?" It felt like my heart was bursting with how much I loved him.

He nodded. "That doesn't disappoint you, does it?"

"No. Quite the opposite. I love it. I'm surprised the courting officials let it slide, though."

"I was never intended to have a shot with you anyway. That was probably why they didn't care."

My stomach churned, and I pulled his face down closer to mine for another kiss. I needed the security I felt with him covering me. So many things could have gone wrong in the last few months which would have prevented this moment from ever happening. I was more grateful than ever for this revolution. It allowed me to be with the one I was meant for. Edward may have saved himself for me, but this war could have saved me from a life of misery.

"Nobody will take you away from me now."

His only answer was a kiss so deep, it made my toes curl.