A/N: Oh, these kids… I wrote part of this in class last night. I'll let you guess which part. Ehehehe. Good student, me.
Bella stirred to the sounds of movement around her. By then, she was used to waking up sore. She pointed her toes as she stretched. It was seconds before it sunk in that the ache she felt was far from typical. She opened her eyes just enough to verify she wasn't crazy; she really was in a surprisingly cozy cabin, laying on a pile of furs. The blanket that had been so hastily shoved aside shortly before was draped over her.
And her husband stood at the fire, his back to her. He was covered only by the blanket that rested over his shoulders. Bella shivered, a thrill that ran through her body at the sight of him.
What a curious thing it was to become part of a person. She'd been at once consumed, his body owning hers completely, and powerful. That she could take him inside of her and watch as he was lost and found all at once. The way he looked at her, as though she was the answer to every question he'd posed to the world.
She wanted to rise and go to him, to wrap her arms around his waist and draw him back down onto the furs with her. This seemed a counterintuitive thought. She still stung and ached from his first intrusion, yet every instinct in her yearned to have him again.
Still, she was far from certain of herself. Instead of pushing to her feet, she shifted where she lay, rustling the blankets so she made enough noise to draw his attention. Edward turned toward her and smiled.
It was a forced smile; she could tell instantly he was unhappy. Bella forgot all about seduction. All at once she remembered how they'd ended up in this cabin lined with steel traps and musty-smelling furs. She'd awaken in a daze from the haze of lovemaking. The rest of her family was not, she wagered, so lucky. While she lay safe in her husband's arms, they were exposed to the elements. She sat up in a mild panic.
"Do you think the others are okay? Do you think they've found shelter from the storm?"
His eyes flicked to hers, and his tone was mild when he spoke. "I have no earthly way of knowing that." She must have looked stricken because his expression softened and he scooted away from the fire to sit closer to her, his hand to her leg. "Lightning storms can be very dangerous, but the wagon train generally gets through them just fine. It's a matter of luck, but the others know as well as I do how best to keep out of trouble." His eyes narrowed. "Which is more than I can say for you."
Bella ducked her head and drew her legs up to her chest, pulling the blanket tighter around her. "You're still angry with me."
He set his lips in a thin line and scooted closer to her. He took her by the shoulders and gave her a light shake. "Bella, do you have any idea how close you came to being out there in that storm absolutely alone? Of course I'm still angry with you. You were unbearably foolish, and it could have cost me the only thing in this life I hold dear."
"You think it's different for me? How could you think I could leave you behind? I had to go find you."
"I was never lost." There was a note of exasperation to his tone. "Let me ask you this. If I wasn't here, could you make it back to the trail on your own? Do you know where it is? What direction to head in?"
Bella was quiet. She knew damn well she'd turned herself in hopeless circles when he came riding up.
"That's what I thought," he said. "What in the name of all hell were you thinking?"
Indignance began to tug at the edges of her uncertainty. "I already told you what I was thinking. I couldn't leave you. I couldn't. It was too awful to think of moving forward without you. You think I could have stood it? Walking off and not knowing if you were safe?"
"I told you, I know exactly where I am. I always knew where I was and how to find the trail. Never at any point was there a time that was in question. I always knew how to get back to you."
"I wasn't worried you'd get lost. I was worried something would happen and I would never know."
"I know how to survive this trail, Bella. You should know that by now."
"What is the one thing you've put into my head over and over? Nature is unpredictable and unforgiving. I've heard enough stories from Victor and Laurent about who's fallen on the trail, guides and greenhorns alike." She scowled at him. "Does it even occur to you to remember what happened the last time you wandered off on an errand James sent you on? Away from the camp, away from where I could see you? If I hadn't followed you then, you would have died."
Edward opened his mouth to respond but quickly shut it again. He was glaring at her. She glared right back, and he growled in frustration. "You're stubbornness is going to get you killed. Don't you understand that?"
"Could you have walked away and simply trusted that the land would give me back to you? On James's word, no less. I'm forced by circumstance to trust him with my life. Don't ask me to trust him with yours."
For a full, tense minute, they stared at each other angrily. Then shame began to cut through Bella's indignation along with a healthy helping of confusion. She knew he'd been irritated before, when they first got to the cabin, but then he'd pulled her into his arms and...
She ducked her head and worried the edge of the blanket between her fingers. "Are you terribly angry with me?"
"Oh, I could throttle you cheerfully." He sighed and scooted closer so their covered knees touched. "But I can't be angry at you without being angry at myself. I wasn't paying attention. If I'd tied the horse right in the first place, neither of us would have been out here. And then, when James roused me, I could have woken you up to reassure you. I should have done that rather than let you wake to find me gone."
Bella's throat tightened. In retrospect she could see how stupid she'd been, running off as though she had any hope of finding him before she got lost herself. But she could still remember the fear and panic that had consumed her. It still lingered like a coat of bile on her tongue. It was what kept her from promising to never do anything so reckless. She would. Over and over, she would make the same choice.
She raised her head and straightened her shoulders, looking him straight in the eyes. "I don't want to wake up like that again."
Edward took her hands and raised them, so he could kiss her knuckles. "That's a promise. Be patient with me, Bella. I'm learning to be a good husband, and I won't make the same mistakes twice."
He moved again so he was beside her, and Bella relaxed as the last of the tension dissipated from the air between them. She watched him kiss each of her fingers in turn. Her blood ran hot in her veins, and her heart began to pound. She wanted to lay back, pull him with her and over her. She wanted to be consumed by him again.
"It's not like you to be so careless with the horses," she said, trying to derail those wanton thoughts.
He raised his head and began to trace the line of her chin with the tip of his finger. "Yes, well. I was distracted."
His gentle touch sent flames under her skin and electricity over it. "By what?" she asked, breathy.
He crooked a finger under her chin and tilted her head up. "Providence saw fit to give me the most beautiful wife in the world. It's hard to concentrate on silly things like my job when I would rather be with you." He swept his thumb over her lip, his eyes following the movement. "When all I can think about is..."
He let his words disappear into her lips. It was not a quick kiss but one that only stoked the fire in her veins into an inferno. She let go of the tight hold on her blankets to wrap her arms about his neck.
Edward groaned into her mouth and pulled back slightly. He caught the blanket before it fell off her shoulders and pulled it up tighter around her. Their breath mingled between them, and he had to swallow several times before he could speak. "Ah, Bella. I might have spoken too soon about making the same mistake twice. Here I swore I wouldn't put you in danger, that I wouldn't subject you to the weakness of illness out here, and look what I've done." His sigh was a stutter near her ear. "What I want so much to do again. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done what I did. I swear it was only my intention to warm you, but damn if you didn't feel so good against me like that."
"Of all the things to apologize for." Bella gave a shaky laugh. Her eyelashes fluttered with the sensation of his fingers trailing up and down her back. She hid her face at his neck, too shy to look at him as she spoke her next words. "I wanted you. I... I want you to again."
He brought her head up to study her face again. "Are you trying to tempt me?" His voice was stern, but his eyes betrayed both amusement and what Bella was coming to recognize as lust.
Her husband wanted her. She was sure of it. The idea made her chest tighten. Emboldened, she got to her knees and pressed her palms to his chest. His eyes followed her as she leaned in and began to press tiny, sweet little kisses to his chin, his cheeks, the corner of his mouth. "If I was," she said between kisses. "Would you say it's working?"
He growled and Bella found herself flat on her back in the next heartbeat, her breath pushed out of her by shock. He held himself above her, staring down, his eyes dark and mischievous. "Little girl, do you know what games you're playing?"
Before she had a chance to think about what was happening, he'd leaned in to claim her lips. As he did, his body brushed hers, his hips pinning her. He broke their kiss quickly which was just as well; she was already breathless. Their noses touched, and they both panted. "Don't you know, Bella, that a proper wife shouldn't be such a wanton wench?"
He was so close to her, his body engulfing hers, that Bella's thoughts scattered. She couldn't have answered him but then, she wasn't at all sure he was looking for an answer.
"Didn't I hurt you, Bella?"
"N-no," she said on a breath. "Edward, no."
He tilted her head and kissed her more softly. "I did. Of course I did. Yet you still want me again. Now?" His hips pushed against hers, and she whimpered. Not in pain, but because of the sensation that shot through her. "You're not scared."
"No," she said, though truthfully, part of her was. It had hurt. Of course, she'd known it would. She didn't have the right words to tell him how she felt. Yes, she was nervous. Physically, it had been an odd mixture of pleasure and pain. But beyond the physicality, there had simply been something… more about her joining with Edward. That, and it seemed her body yearned for his instinctually. It was a primal need. Her hips bucked up, responding to his without her conscious effort. "I would… I want...I want you."
He growled again and let his full weight bear down on her. They were a tangle between his blanket and hers, bits and pieces of their skin touching. "I don't want to deny you," he said between voracious kisses. "You know that, don't you?"
"You don't have to." She tangled her fingers in his hair.
He rolled partially onto his side, enough that he had a full view of her body. Her blanket lay over her haphazardly at best now, and he pushed it to the side, exposing her breasts fully to the balmy air of the cabin. Bella's chest rose and fell sharply. Edward's touch was gentle. He brushed his thumb over her nipple and then cupped her breast. He leaned down, taking her in his mouth. Bella made an odd noise somewhere between a squeak and a low moan.
The lightning storm that raged outside was nothing compared to the flashes of fire and heat he sent through her body.
With a groan of his own, Edward rolled away from her. He got to his feet, groaning as he did, barely managing to catch his blanket before it fell away from his waist.
As he stepped away from her, toward the fire, she sat up, still panting and befuddled. "What are you doing?"
He had grabbed up a pitcher and basin by then, and he came back, resting these at her side. "My intention was to take care of you when you woke," he said, pouring water into the basin. He looked up at her with an adoring smile. "You destroy my best intentions, my wanton witch." He kissed the tip of her nose.
Feeling confused and foolish, she began to reach for her blanket, but he stopped her. He swept the hair off one shoulder and ran his lips along the line of her throat. "Let me take care of you, Bella. That's my duty as your husband; to take care of you." His words rumbled against her skin, and she sighed.
Edward lifted his head and kissed her cheek before he set about his business. He ran a soft cloth through the water in the basin and began to clean her. The cool water was pleasant on her overheated skin, an altogether different sensation that pulled her nipples ever more taut as he worked.
He started at her face, taking care to press with the lightest touch under her eyes and harder around her ears. He wiped at her neck, his eyes straying lower to where water trickled down the side of her breasts.
Then lower. He pushed her back to lay on the furs as he tended to her, wiping down her front.
She wondered if she should be embarrassed. When he pushed her legs open, she was all too aware of the stickiness that had long dried against her thigh. She threw an arm over her eyes, torn between giving herself over to the exquisite experience of his touch and self-consciousness at her lack of experience with anything. She still wasn't sure if it was right to want him the way she did. He'd said it himself, that a proper wife wasn't so brazen.
Surely he'd been teasing. Hadn't he? She couldn't speak, and he didn't as he wiped away the evidence of their coupling.
All pondering, worry, and any thought in general went straight out of her head when he slid down her body and buried his face between her thighs. She gasped and jerked, her legs coming up, but he raised a hand to push them back down. "Hush," he admonished, silencing her confused yelp.
"I… you… oh. Oh." She quickly lost the ability to speak as he began to lick and suckle. This… this was not something Bella had any concept for. Her hands scrambled. One of them tangled in his hair, the other reached back, seeking something, anything solid. She needed something to keep her tethered to this planet because this was something other. Just other. It was wrong and right and frightening and exhilarating and she wanted to tell him to stop, stop. There was something she wasn't ready for her, something unknown, and it was building inside her. Quickly. Coiling. Her muscles tensed and twitched, out of her control, and she didn't know if she liked it, but at the same time, she did. Oh, god. She did. And she was scared that if she opened her mouth, she would beg him. For what, she had no idea.
His tongue probed her deeper and her hips bucked. Her hand found the foot of the bed. She clung. She clawed it. She realized too late she had the other hand had slipped to his shoulder, gripping hard. The noises she was making were ones she had never heard before, not from anything let alone her own mouth. Yet she couldn't stop them, and she couldn't make them form words.
What was this? What was happening? She was about to come apart at the seams; she was sure. She called his name. Then she screamed it as she was driven into madness. Her body convulsed, and her vision went white.
Sense returned to her slowly. She loosened her grip on the foot of the bed, finding her fingers aching and cramped with tension. Her body trembled with an odd weakness, limp and pliant as Edward straightened and gathered her into his lap. He rocked her, pushing damp tendrils of hair away from her face and kissing her cheek.
"What…" She swallowed. "What was that?" she whispered, trying to make her wobbly limbs respond so she could wrap her arms around him.
He chuckled. "Did you enjoy it?"
She had to think about that for a moment. She muffled the answer against his skin as she hid her head in the crook of his neck. "Yes."
"It's what you did for me in the water." With her face to his neck, she felt him swallow thickly. "And before…" He sighed. "Before shouldn't have happened, Bella. And it won't. Not out here. I won't tempt fate again."
She raised her head, but before she could argue, he pressed a finger to silence her. He replaced his finger with his lips against hers. "Soon," he promised, the word a rumble against her skin. "Two months. Perhaps two and a half, and we'll say goodbye to this godforsaken trail forever. Then…" His hand dropped to her belly. "Everything, Bella. I'll give you a home and a family. I promise."
They kissed and rocked and silence for a while longer, and Bella was content to be in his arms. Surviving as they did day by day on the trail, it was sometimes hard to believe this journey would ever be over. Home, she thought.
What a strange concept to wrap her head around. She had begun this journey thinking she would go home to her father's house, with the Cullens and their brood close by. Her whole world had changed. A home of her own, and a family. She was almost surprised at the wave of longing she felt. She wanted those things. She'd never thought about it before, not in any real sense, but she wanted it. She wanted this. Edward.
Their journey had an end. She had a future that wasn't dusty trails and coffee and bland biscuits for breakfast each morning. She had a future, and, if Edward could be expected to keep his promises, a say in what that future looked like.
Bella yawned and rested her head on his shoulder, sleepy and content as a kitten in a sunbeam. "Can we have a cat?" she murmured, not really awake anymore.
His body jostled as he chuckled. "Cats are, as far as I understand it, essential on a farm anyhow. I expect we'll have more than one."
"Good," she said as the world began to fade away.
When she woke again, the fire was low and the night was quiet. The lighting and rain had ebbed. Edward had laid her on the cabin's little bed, but in the low light she could see his form on the floor beside her. She frowned to herself, not really awake, and got out of bed.
"Bella?" he murmured sleepily.
She didn't say anything. She simply lay down on the furs on the floor with him. He grumbled something, but he lifted his blanket and tucked her underneath with him. Satisfied, she lay her head on his chest and drifted back to sleep in an instant.
A/N: I was totally supposed to get them out of the cabin and back to the family but ya know, Bella hadn't had hers so… there ya go.
Many thanks to barburella and jessypt. Love them so much. Hope you all have a great weekend!