Contest entry for the Light The Darkness contest

Title:I Fall When You Leave


Rating: M

Summary:He couldn't live in a world where she didn't exist. A Light the Darkness entry.

Disclaimer:The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.

Words: 8082

Life went on. There was evidence all around me. The sun made its trek across the sky, and I watched its rays travel across the wall I stared at with blank black eyes, day in and day out.

The other occupants of the house moved around, spoke, laughed, loved.

Life went on for everything and everyone but me.

I didn't move, didn't feed, didn't do anything except lie there, never budging from the spot I'd been deposited in by Emmett and Jasper after they dragged me out of Rio and brought me to our cabin in the Canadian wilderness.

I remained lost in an unending loop of vivid memories from my short time with Bella. It was mere months—nothing compared to how long I'd already walked this earth, but it was the only time in my existence that mattered.

Trying in vain to take my mind off of her, if only for a few seconds, I focused on the tiny particles of dust that danced in the air. But that only made me remember dancing with Bella on our prom night and how wonderful she felt in my arms, and the crack in my chest that rivaled the Grand Canyon widened even further, the pain intensifying to a level never before reached. I screwed my eyes shut against the onslaught and reminded myself for the millionth time that I'd done the right thing.

There was no hope for me. But maybe there was hope for Bella. To have a good life. To get married and have babies.

My face contorted with the acute pain that lanced through me at that thought as I curled my body in tighter on itself. To think of my beautiful girl loving someone else, kissing and touching someone else… I swallowed against the bitter taste of inadequacy, a hot spike of jealousy joining my already tumultuous emotions.

The thought of her making love with someone else…

Reliving the endless fire that consumed me when I was born into this immortal life would surely hurt less than enduring the thought of another man knowing my Bella in ways I never could.

Never would.

Change me.

She'd said it so casually, but how could she not understand that I could never damn her to this endless existence? That I could never take away her beautiful soul?

A loud, pained wail pierced through my thoughts, and I bolted upright, listening to the other minds in the house.

All I could hear was panic and grief but nothing concrete.

I made my way out of my room and leaned heavily on the side of the wide archway that led into the large living room, hearing hushed whispers of sadness and comfort but still nothing that told me what was going on. I then realized they were all frantically blocking their thoughts from me.

Alice was visibly distraught, being comforted by Jasper, who'd been gone for a couple of days, finally driven away by the near-constant misery I was projecting. Carlisle held Esme to him, whispering soothing words in her ear, and Emmett and Rose were huddled together in a corner.

I cleared my throat unnecessarily, and six pairs of golden eyes were suddenly on me.

"Jasper. You're back," I said. "What's happened?"

"Oh, Edward," Alice sobbed. "I'm so…"

"What?" I asked as panic began to surge through me. I couldn't think of anything that would cause such a reaction in the entire family.

And that's when I heard the two disjointed words that would bring me to my knees.






Vampires are supposed to be incapable of having a heartbeat, but in that moment, mine stuttered and flatlined. A sharp pain stabbed my chest, and my limbs turned to liquid as I slumped to the floor.

I couldn't bleed, but I was bleeding out, didn't need to breathe but was suffocating.

Closing my eyes, I wished for death, for anything other than this black hole that was sucking me in and chewing me up, spitting the mangled pieces of my body back out.

For a single, blissful second, my pain overwhelmed the voices inside my head. I knew silence then, welcomed it like an old friend. Except the silence reminded me of her again, and then my tortured cries split through the quiet like an axe through feathers.

The thoughts of my family came rushing back, no longer barred by their blocking methods—the grief, the heartbreak, the bone-deep loss.

I sat still while their words wracked through me, spinning through my mind and slicing into my consciousness, the guilt and sorrow consuming me.

Then a vision came through from Alice: Bella's friend, Angela, placing flowers in front of a gray headstone, the words on it cementing the fact that my one and only love was gone forever.

Another tortured scream erupted from me, and I buried my face in my hands and rocked back and forth.

I couldn't go on without her.

Raising my head and looking to each of my family members, I saw that Rose was the only one who would make eye contact with me.

"Kill me," I whispered to her. "Please just kill me."

A cacophony burst from the group—shocked gasps from Alice and Esme, a whimper from a hunched Jasper, Carlisle's cried "Son!", but Rose was my only focus. Our eyes stayed locked, unblinking, unmoving even as Emmett spoke fiercely into her ear. Her face contorted, her head jerking away from him, and then I knew I had her.

Rose was the only one in our family who held real resentment toward me. The others didn't like my decision to leave Bella, but Rose never wanted her in our lives in the first place. She hated the upset my misery had caused, and it would be a million times worse now.

"Please," I mouthed again, my face crumpled.

"We won't stand by and let that happen, Edward. We won't lose another member of our family today."

Carlisle's words felt like a punishment, just another wrong I could never make up for.

"Let her," I pleaded, looking at my family from my position on the floor. "God, I'm begging you."


"Let her!" I repeated, raising my voice, hoping to be heard as my already-fraught temper snapped. "I cannot live like this. I've lived a hundred years of misery, and I will not live the next thousand in this hell. Kill me, Carlisle." I sobbed. "If you ever loved me, kill me."

He did nothing but stare at me, his arms wrapped around a dry-faced but weeping Esme.

I gathered all my strength and stood, spreading my arms wide. "Do it," I commanded. "There's nothing left for me now, not without her."

"You have us," Alice cried.

"Son," Carlisle said again, his voice infuriatingly calm. "We're your family. We love you. I know it feels like your heart won't heal from this—"

"I have no heart left to give you!" I shouted, begging them to understand. "It's with her, dead and buried. There's no way back for me now."

Looking to each of my family members again, I saw nothing but downturned faces.

Pure, unadulterated rage swelled inside me, giving me strength my starving body had been sapped of, and I picked up the side table next to me as though it was weightless. A snarl ripped from my throat as I threw it across the room, ignoring the audible gasps and pleas to calm down inside my mind. It hit the large flatscreen that hung on the wall with a satisfying crunch, and I flipped over the sofa next, smashing through the room like a wrecking ball as I tried to purge the despair that ate away at every cell of my body.

I felt a tug on my arm and lashed out without thought, the resulting crash making me pause. I turned to see Carlisle flat on his back, having flown through the wall of the house. My family rushed over to him and looked at me through fearful eyes, and that's when I reached my breaking point.

I burst through the wall of windows beside me, glass raining down like a waterfall, and I charged straight out into the thick forest beyond.

I ran, and I didn't look back.




Don't do this, Edward.

I bared my teeth at the first whisper of a thought that reached my mind from somewhere behind me.

Please come back. We need you here with us. Think of Esme. And Carlisle...

I growled as I pressed on, increasing my speed as much as I was physically able, wishing I could outrun their thoughts.

It was the first time since I'd left Forks that I wished I'd fed. I was the fastest in my family, but not now. Not in this weakened state.

As they gained on me, I felt the fight leave my limbs, and I crashed to the ground, skidding on my knees and coming to rest with my head in my hands.

Sobs wracked my body.

Jasper and Emmett approached me cautiously, Alice not far behind them.

My head snapped back, and I let out an inhuman noise—a growl-scream so loud, all the remaining wildlife within a five-mile radius scattered.

"HOW?!" I cried.

"Edward…" Alice murmured.

I stood and turned around. "How could you NOT SEE?!" I roared at her.

"Don't," Jasper said. "This isn't her fault."

Alice sobbed, "I don't know," over and over again anyway. Had she tried?

"You told her not to look, Edward. You can't put this on her."

I tried anyway. I'm sorry, but I needed to check on her. You've been so miserable; I had to see if she was okay—if she'd moved on like you wanted. But there was just nothing. I'm so, so sorry.

"Then how did you…" I ran a hand through my hair, trying desperately to collect myself enough to determine what happened. "How did you find out?" I asked quietly.

"I went to Forks," Jasper said.

I tore my gaze from Alice's anguished face and glared at Jasper.

"Don't look at me like that," he said, nostrils flaring. Emmett stepped closer to me, presumably in case I tried to hurt Jasper. "When Alice couldn't see anything, she grew a little frantic, and I've always carried guilt that this whole situation was my fault anyway. So… I went."

"It wasn't your fault, Jasper," I said honestly. "We didn't belong in her life. Period."

"Yes, we did," Alice wailed.

Jasper wrapped an arm around her and continued his story.

"I spoke with Charlie, told him I was in town to check on the house since I was passing through to visit a friend in Oregon. He seemed too distraught to question my story, and when I asked him about Bella, he broke down right there in his kitchen and told me…" he trailed off with a wince as the image of Charlie, hunched over his dining table with beer cans littering the space around him, was shown to me briefly.


"She'd gone into the woods and been mauled by a bear."

"Oh, God." I clutched my shirt over my heart, tearing at it. "Why was she in the woods? Why?" I asked no one in particular. "God, she must have been so scared," I whispered, imagining my sweet Bella having to endure something so horrific.

"Charlie mentioned something about a clearing, way up in the forest. That's where she was found. They think she was hiking."

I shook my head. Hiking? Not the Bella I knew.

A niggling thought pressed against the frayed edges of my consciousness—a sickening vision slithering up my spine like a snake, curling around my throat and choking me.

"It's so high up! I don't remember it being this high up."

"Be thankful you have your own method of fast transport, Miss Swan," I teased, my hands squeezing her thighs as they wrapped around my ribcage. "And you don't remember because you had your eyes closed almost the whole time."

She giggled. "I'd never find this on my own. I'd probably spend the whole day walking in circles just looking for it."

I shook my head again, but the memory wouldn't be denied. I wondered if the heartbreak had driven me insane, but then animage flashed through Alice's mind—a clearing full of wildflowers, two figures entwined in the soft grass. And I knew she'd figured out the same horrible truth that I had.

Bella was looking for our meadow.

Placing my palm over my still, dead heart, I thought that if it could still pulse and pump, it would surely have withered with the weight of the realization.

All those hours spent barely touching her even though my arms ached to wrap her up tight, or the time spent hating the sadness on her face when I pulled away from a kiss. All those months spent apart, tearing our love to shreds because I wanted a better life for her, and now she was dead.

Every effort to keep her safe had been for nothing.

I'd killed Bella.

Not with my hands, not with my teeth, but as sure as if I'd torn her to pieces, she was dead because of me.

I squeezed my eyes shut, never having wished for the relief of tears as fervently as I did then.

Remembering the sheer terror on Bella's face the night James had bitten her, my mind twisted the memory so she was cowering in front of a huge bear, its paws batting at her as she screamed, its mouth, full of razor-sharp teeth, gaping wide as it lunged at her.

The images were pure torture.

"I have to go to her."

Emmett took a step closer to me, faltering when he saw the expression on my face. "But she's gone, Edward. You can't—"

"Let him go," Alice whispered. "He needs to go."

Jasper grimaced, and I could hear his frustration as he tried to push against the onslaught of emotions rushing at him—Emmett's sadness, Alice's resignation, and my guilt and anguish.

He'd tried to quell my misery before, and it hadn't worked. And my grief was far too profound now for anything to tamp it down.

He released a heavy sigh and stood behind Alice, one hand on her shoulder, his way of telling me he'd take her word.

I glanced toward Emmett, my final obstacle.

"It wasn't your fault, Ed," he pleaded, his voice quieter than I'd ever heard it.

Our meadow.

"It's all my fault." I closed my eyes, feeling my heart rot away. "If I hadn't left her…" I trailed off, wishing my insides were as strong as my exterior.

"You shouldn't blame yourself, man."

"Emmett," Alice said, shaking her head at him. They stared at each other for a second, and then Emmett turned and faced away from us all, his massive shoulders slumping in defeat.

"At least go to Carlisle first."

I nodded even though he couldn't see it, running back the way I came. I left my siblings behind, wondering if I would ever see them again, whether I could ever tolerate the whisper of Bella in their thoughts.

Once I reached the house, I was hit by a wave of grief-ridden thoughts so powerful it threatened to knock me down once more. This wasn't for Bella, though. It was for me.

"You're leaving again, aren't you?" Carlisle asked. He wasn't in sight, but his words carried as clearly as if he was standing right beside me.

"You knew I would."

"I think I always feared you would, Edward," he said as he stepped out onto the front porch. "I accepted you'd need those years decades ago to break free of the restraints my lifestyle placed upon you, but once you were back, I didn't think you'd leave again. Even after you ran from Forks, I never thought you'd stay away for good. This time, though… this time is final. I can feel it. "

"You have the rest to keep you company now. You don't need me."

He came down the steps to stand a few feet in front of me. "I have always needed you. You were the first, Edward, after centuries of being alone in the world. My son. I will still have the others around me, but your absence will be a hole in my heart no one else could fill."

I closed my eyes against the guilt. "I can't stay."

"I know, son," he said, moving closer. "I know you need to do this. But there will always be a home for you with us. No matter how far you roam or for how long, we will forever be waiting for you to return." He rested a firm hand on my shoulder. "We're a family, Edward, and you are as much a part of it as the rest of us."

I stared into the compassionate golden eyes of my father,wishing I could give him a different answer. "There are some wounds that not even time can heal."

Carlisle squeezed my shoulder. "There is always hope, son. Always."

He released me, and I looked toward the ground, eyeing the wet leaves by my feet. "And if I never come back?"

A tortured cry sounded from Esme inside the house before she suddenly slammed into me, hugging me to her andsobbing.

"We won't stop hoping, Edward," Carlisle said, his voice strained. "We will never give up on you."



The wind blustered as I ran, making the leaves on the trees flutter as their branches shook, but there was no breeze to be found for me. Just an unending stillness, a desolate forest full of solitude.

I had to accept that this was my new path in life, to walk alone once more.

Leaving Bella was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my century of existence, but I'd never felt the loss of her so acutely as I did then, knowing I was running toward her final resting place.

I'd always believed there was a thread connecting us, one that would transcend geography or time, but it had tangled when I left her. It grew shorter and finally snapped, and now there was nothing to tie me to this earth.

I was floating, free-falling and plummeting into an abyss so deep, I'd never reach the bottom.

I ran through Canada, ignoring the scents of animals all around me, their blood smelling foul and bitter. Arriving in Washington cloaked by the night's darkness, I reached Forks just as dawn began to break, the sky fading from black to murky gray.

Bittersweet pangs of nostalgia hit me hard as I ran through the sleepy little town. I saw Bella's beautiful face on every street I turned on to, and my steps faltered, the heartbreak overwhelming me.

I entered the cemetery slowly, reluctantly, knowing that seeing her grave firsthand would be the thing that would finally, completely unhinge me.

The ground was wet, but it was still easy to track the smell of freshly dug mud. I walked down the rows of headstones, like arrows leading me toward my Bella.

And there it was—a slate stone with her birth date engraved on it. And although I already knew it was there, I wailed, "NO," as I fell to my knees in front of it.

I moved closer and began talking to her, hoping she'd hear me somehow—that she'd know that I never stopped loving her.

"Bella… sweetheart, I'm so sorry. So, so sorry," I said, pressing my lips to her name. "I love you. I love you so much, and I was so wrong."

I wrapped my arms around the headstone like I was wrapping them around her body—carefully, so carefully—resting against it gently so as not to crack it or knock it over. "I miss you all the time, love. Every single second of every day. Some days I feel sure I'll buckle under the weight of how much I miss having you in my life. What have I done, Bella?" I cried into the early morning light.

"I thought I knew pain when Jasper told me you'd… that you were gone, but this... Seeing this is more than I can take." I blinked as misty rain began to fall, the droplets rolling down my face like phantom tears. "You lit up a life that'd been dark for over a century, Bella. You gave me your light, your brightness, a chance to be in something other than endless black, and I wasted it." I shook my head and focused on the lettering on her headstone that read 'beloved daughter'. "I'll never be able to tell you how sorry I am. Never.

"I've sinned, my love. I've killed people; I've torn them apart one limb at a time, but the very worst thing I've done will forever be breaking the heart of someone as loving as you."My fingers stroked her name as I spoke. "I stole that love for my own selfish need and then threw it back in your face. I liedto you. For that, no penance could ever be enough."

I pressed my cheek against the stone before me. "I thought the life I led before you was hell, but an eternity of knowing I left you alone to die is immeasurably worse. I've never wished for an end to this existence as much as I do now, knowing I'll never feel the heat of your palm against my frigid skin again, your warm lips against my own."

Touching my fingers to my lips, I sobbed futilely, going through the motions without tears. I knew I'd never find another mate; I'd never want anyone else.

I had nothing.

No one.

Eternity stretched before me, and it had never seemed so endless before.

My mind searched for an option, but I knew there was only one I could bear to take. I fingered the matches I'd taken from a convenience store somewhere just outside the border.

I hadn't decided before now, hoping Alice wouldn't be able to see in time to stop me.

"So this is it, I suppose," I murmured. "I always thought this life would end just as my human one had—alone and terrified, unknowing of what came next. And yet I'm none of those things. The burden of the hurt I passed to you is constant company, plaguing my mind every unbearable second of every day. There is nothing to fear anymore, for I have already lost the only thing I couldn't live without. I know what comes next, and the relief of it feels overwhelming. There is no life for me without you," I whispered, the plain truth of it making my chest ache even more.

"There is nowhere in this world that I could outrun the memory of your blushing smile or the way you spoke my name in your sleep. I pray that this next stage will give me respite from that, because the memories taunt me. I want nothing more than to see and hear you again—to touch your face just one more time. I'm selfish to the core, Bella. And if this doesn't work... If this doesn't bring us back together, then at least I'll be dead." I squeezed my eyes shut. "At least I won't have to walk this earth without your presence in it."

I pressed my lips to the silver engraving of her name once more.

"My love for you will never die, my beautiful girl. Because it's the only thing in this world that is true," I said fervently. "Please know that it never wavered. Not even for a second."

I stood, pulling the pack of matches from my pocket. It was still early morning, too early for anyone to be here before I burnt down to ash.

I cried out as I heard Bella calling my name, the sound feathering across the wind. It was nothing more than a cruel trick of the mind, I knew, but even that small noise was a balm for my broken heart. I struck the match, wanting to die with her still ringing in my ears.

"Edward, don't!"

My eyes snapped open as something slammed into me from the side, the flame being blown out from the force of the air around me as I flew through it.

I landed in a crouch, my instincts taking over and readying for an attack, only to see sad red eyes trained directly on my own, set in a face I thought I'd never see again.

"Bella," I breathed.

My heightened senses made every nerve-ending spark and tingle at the proximity of a version of my Bella I never wanted to see. But the existence of this version of Bella meant that she was here.

Dead but alive.


I crashed into her without thinking, wrapping her up in my arms so tight, if she'd still been human, I would surely have crushed her.

"Oh, Bella. Oh, God."

She mumbled something against my shirt, and I realized I had her face pressed against me and loosened my hold on her.

"I'm sorry, love." I ran my fingertips over her now sharper features, taking in her wide crimson eyes. "How?" I whispered brokenly.

"Laurent found me," she said, the melody of her voice the sweetest sound I'd heard in all my years. "In our meadow."

My brows furrowed, and I shook my head slightly in disbelief. "Laurent?"

She nodded. "He said Victoria asked him to track me down, that she wanted revenge against you for James. A mate for a mate." She shrugged. "I told him that you'd left me."

I winced.

"I didn't understand why she would still want me dead if you and I were no longer together. But he didn't care about any of that. He said I smelled far too good to pass up."

"God, Bella," I all but whimpered, pulling her face back to my chest and hugging her tighter. "I'm so sorry I left you all alone."

"You did what you had to do, Edward," she murmured with clear sadness in her tone. "And I wasn't completely alone. The pack saved me before he was able to kill me, and they've taken care of me since."

A swell of panic rose up from my belly, and I pulled her back by her shoulders to look at her face. "You knew about the wolves? You were alone in the woods with them? What the hell were you thinking?"

She leveled me with a glare. "I didn't know about them before that. And I was thinking about you." Her eyes darted around a bit before resting back on my face. "I was so lost, Edward. You absolutely broke me when you all left. I had no one to talk to. Your family was my family." She slammed her open hand against her chest. "I knew it was because I wasn't good enough for any of you, that you didn't love me the same way I loved you. But from what I heard just a minute ago, you lied to me. You took everything from me without even giving me achoice."

Her eyes flashed at me in anger, and her nostrils flared.

This wasn't the Bella I'd left in the woods all those months ago. This Bella was a force to be reckoned with. It was as clear as day.

"You're right," I said, squeezing around her shoulders lightly. "The things I said to you… Lying to you like that… It was the most despicable thing I've done in my entire existence, Bella. You could never not be good enough for us. For me." I brought my hands up to cradle her jaw, my fingers sliding into her silky hair. "You have always been the very best thing in my life. Even after I left, even when I was consumed by the pain of giving you up, knowing that you were out there somewhere, living your life, still gave me the tiniest sliver of happiness. And I clung to it like a lifeline."

"But I wasn't living, Edward." Bella ripped her face out of my hands and stepped back, wrapping her arms around her middle in what looked to be a practiced move. "I was dead inside... hollowed out. I was a shell of the person I'd been before. You said I would forget about you, but you couldn't have been more wrong. I was in the meadow that day, trying to find some trace of you. Of us... to hold on to."

Guilt crashed over me again like a tidal wave at the realization that I'd made us both suffer so much. And for what?

I closed the distance between us again. "I know I don't deserve your love or forgiveness. But, Bella… If you'll let me, I will spend the rest of forever making it up to you."

My palms again rested on either side of her face, and her eyes fell shut.

"For so long," she whispered, "I waited for you to come back, to tell me that you'd made a mistake by leaving. That thedistractions weren't enough." She opened her blazing eyes again. "And that even though I wasn't enough either, you couldn't stay away. And when you didn't… I had to face the fact that maybe you never really loved me at all."


"Those bruises to my heart that you left me with," she continued as if I hadn't spoken, "they didn't fade. They got darker and darker, and I didn't see a way out. And when I knew Laurent wasn't going to back down, that he was going to kill me, the fear gave way to relief."

I couldn't stop the pained whimper that escaped me.

"I know," she said, reaching up to stroke my cheek. "But you yourself said only moments ago that you would feel relief from the pain if you ended it. And you were going to, Edward." A sob broke free from her chest. "You were going to end yourself because you thought I was gone."

"You're everything to me," I whispered to her.

Bella's lips crashed into mine then, shocking me into stillness for a split second before my hands flew into her hair and my lips pushed back against hers. The kiss was charged with so much pain and emotion, tinged with sadness and regret, and we clung to each other desperately.

She pulled away first, and I released her with great reluctance, skimming my hands down her arms to take hold of her hands.

"No more lies, Edward."

"No more," I agreed.

"I need you to tell me the truth now. To my face."

I knew she'd heard at least part of what I'd said when I thought she was gone, but it was clear that she needed more from me.

And I would give it to her.

I'd give her anything she ever asked for.

"Bella…" I cupped her jaw in both hands, skimming my thumbs over her cheekbones and relishing the fact that she even existed. "I love you more than I could ever express in words."

She placed a hand over one of mine. "Try," she pleaded.


"You…" I closed my eyes and shook my head before gazing at her again. "You're my whole world, Bella. From the moment I saw you, every breath I took, every move I made, revolved around you in some way.

"At first, I fought against the pull to consume you. But the thing is, love, you consumed me," I said, pressing my palm to my sternum. "My world was dull and colorless before you splashed into it, lighting it up in vibrant hues. You shook me awake from a slumber I'd barely noticed I'd slipped into.

"And when I left you…" I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment. "I fought against the magnetic pull to come back to you with every fiber of my being. And every moment after I broke both of our hearts, I lived in a world of neverending blackness, the memory of your face," I said as I skimmed my fingertips over her features again, "your smile, your laugh, the only things to break it up. Those memories never faded, and they both soothed and tormented me.

"It's simple, really." I cradled her face in my hands again. "You are my mate, my one true love, and even if we had been separated forever," I said, swallowing against the pain that notion pushed up from my chest, "I would have simply wandered the earth aimlessly again. There would never have been another to take your place. I would have, and will, love you until the very end of my days."

Bella's whole body sagged in what seemed like relief.

"It's the same for me, you know," she responded with a soft smile, her fingers playing with the buttons on my shirt. "It always was. You may have thought I didn't have the capacity as a human, but I felt just as much for you then as I do now." She watched her fingers for a moment before bringing her eyes back to mine. "And I hope you understand now... that I didn't lose my soul. And that your soul… is beautiful, always has been. And I never stopped loving you. Even when I believed the love you held for me was nothing more than a wisp of regret in your past." She shook her head as her eyes pleaded with me. "I couldn't. Because we belong together. As you said, it's as simple as that," she finished with the sweetest shrug.

Bella's face was tilted up toward mine, her hands still on my chest, and I covered them with one of mine and dropped a kiss on her lips. "You always were brilliant, my love."

She chuckled, and I joined her, enjoying the momentary levity.

"I was so relieved after the change was complete, and I still remembered everything about you," she murmured, bringing her palm up to rest against my cheek. "You were so important that the memories of you had endured and survived, and I wondered if the hurt you gave me would ever end."

"But, I—"

"Shhh," Bella soothed, cutting off my protest and kissing the corner of my mouth. "The hurt will heal, Edward. And I know that you won't ever leave me again. Because I won't let you can't outrun me now," she teased with a wink, relieving my anxiety and making me smile. "And I won't ever leave you either. But that hurt you gave me, it won't leave without a fight."

She pressed her lips to the other side of my mouth.

"So you need to fight, Edward," her honeyed voice continued. "Show me you love me. Show me that you won't ever leave me, that I'll be yours for the rest of time." She brought her lips fully to mine once, twice. "Show me you're my mate," she said, flicking her tongue against my lower lip, causing a spike of lust to shoot through me. "Show me that you want me."

Gazing into her bright eyes, I slid my hands into her hair once more. "Always." I kissed her fiercely, harder than I'd ever dared when she was human. I'd been nothing but gentle with her before, but Bella made it clear she didn't require me to be anymore. She bit my lip, sucked the top one into her mouth, yanked on my hair to the point of pain. She released my lips to suck the skin of my throat, right where my pulse had once been, possessive and needy and perfect.

I had no doubt that if my heart could still beat, it would carry her name, mainline my love for her through my veins.

"I crave you," I whispered into her sweet-smelling hair. "Your scent, your skin, the way you sigh into a kiss…"

Bella moaned around my skin then, and I decided that was infinitely better than a sigh.

She brought her lips back to mine, opening to me and deepening the kiss like we'd never been able to before. Our tongues slid against each other and tangled together, and a whole new world of possibility opened up for me.

If she'd let me, I could finally have her in ways I'd only ever imagined before.

When I broke away to give her air, I trailed my lips down her neck, and she fisted my hair in her hands, both of us moaning at the sensations.

Quickly realizing she didn't need air anymore, I made my way back to her mouth and stayed there for God only knows how long—licking, learning, twisting, tasting.

Bella took hold of one of my hands and brought it down to her breast. I swiped my thumb across her hard nipple, brushing it gently as she threw her head back in pleasure. I lifted her leg with my other hand, forcing her to place her arms around my neck and cling as she wrapped herself around me.

"I've pictured this so many times," I murmured into the skin of her neck. "I'd lie next to you in that little bed, and I'd ache with how badly I wanted to take you, claim you."

"You can now," she said, and I pulled back to see her smirking. "Forever is a long time."

"That's where you're wrong, sweet girl." I nudged her shirt to the side and scraped the sharp edge of my teeth across the skin of her shoulder, eliciting a pleasured hiss from her. "I'll never get enough of you. Forever isn't long enough to do all the things I've thought of, nowhere near enough time to worship your body how I need to."

Bella whimpered at my words, and I gripped her pants at the hip, bunching and twisting them. And before I knew what was happening, they'd ripped from her body. I cared about nothing but touching her, couldn't imagine letting go of her for even a second to let her take them off.

I was so caught up in how beautiful she was that I didn't notice we were traveling through the air until I landed flat on my back in a small clearing in the woods.

"You're not the only strong one these days." Her smirk was wide and taunting, and I couldn't resist kissing it.

"You think you're stronger than me?" I teased.

I knew she was. In so many ways.

Bella grasped my hand and pulled me up from the floor, launching her body against mine and pushing me backward into a tree. There was a loud crack as we hit the trunk, but thankfully it remained standing.

"Impressive," I said, watching her eyes blaze at the implied challenge.

She stepped back a bit and gripped the bottom hem of the large t-shirt covering her, bringing it up slowly. I swallowed hard as the creamy skin of her stomach was exposed inch by inch, groaning when I saw the underside of her breasts.

"No bra?"

"Not much need for one," she said, her pace slowing even further as she showed me the merest hint of a nipple that reminded me of the color of her blush as a human.

"Don't tease me."

"Don't tell me what to do," she said softly, her lips still tilted in that devilish smirk.

"Oh, I'm not telling," I said, practically panting as the full curve of her breasts were revealed to me for the first time. "I'm begging."

She ripped the shirt over her head then. My eyes raked over her as she stood naked before me, wearing nothing but a challenging smile.

Seeing her like this for the first time was nothing short of incredible.

"You can have me… if you can catch me," she said with a raised eyebrow.

"I hope you run fast, pretty girl."

She giggled as she took off at a slow pace, and I shook my head. Clearly someone wanted to be caught. I let her stay in the lead for a moment, following her deeper into the woods, and then I pounced. I came up close behind her and wrapped my arms around her small waist, halting our movement and dipping one hand down past her stomach.

Bella gasped as she felt my fingers between her thighs, gliding against her slick flesh. I feathered over her with tentative movements, waiting to see if she'd object. Only babbles of encouragement left her mouth, and so I moved my fingers faster, harder, grateful my memory meant I'd never forget the noises she made as she got closer to orgasm.

"God, you're exquisite," I groaned.

I needed to see her face, so I removed my hand and spun her around, pulling her in close and wrapping an arm around her. I kissed her as I brought my hand back down and slid a finger inside, feeling her squeeze around me for the first time. She threw her arms around my neck, and I moaned against her lips as I pumped my finger in and out, rubbing the heel of my hand against where she needed it most.

I pulled back just in time to watch her face as she came undone, her limbs tensing all around me as she curled herself further into my body. She whimpered and writhed, slumping as she came down from the high. I slowly ran a hand down her spine and held her close, so grateful for her beauty, her love, her.

"Make love to me," she whispered, resting her lips against my cheek. "Take me, Edward. Make me yours, finally."

"Here? In the woods?" I asked. "Do you really want our first time together to be outside like this?"

Bella pressed her lips to mine again and pulled back to look into my eyes, stroking my cheek with her hand. "It doesn't matter, Edward. I need to feel you." She began unbuttoning my shirt slowly. "I need to know that you want me to be yours forever." Ripping the rest of the material away, she murmured, "Right here. Right now."

Her words proved too hard to resist, and I tore off the denim that covered my legs.

My eyes took in her completely naked form again as she stood before me, trusting me enough to make love to her, and my knees nearly buckled at how beautiful she was.

I'd seen similar moments in the thoughts of countless minds, but this… Nothing could have prepared me for the sight of my gorgeous girl up close, the feel of her flesh in my hands, against my body. "Amazing," I whispered as I reached out once again and felt the weight of her breast in my hand.

Bella stepped forward, arching and pressing into me.

I let her lead as she pushed me to the forest floor. She climbed on top of me, pressing us together in the most intimate way, running her hands over the planes of my chest and stomach.

The rain had stopped, and as the break of dawn filtered through the trees, I swallowed hard at the sight of soft morning sunbeams kissing her skin. She glowed, her skin radiant as it reflected the light, but not even that could compare to the beauty of her face as she stared down at me.

"You're so beautiful," I whispered to her, and she was even more so as her face lit up in a breathtaking smile.

I brought my index finger to the hollow between her collarbones and watched its path against her shimmering skin as it traced down between her breasts and over her navel. Her breathing accelerated as my hand fell back to my side, waiting, wanting.

"I'm here," she said. "Touch me."

My hands flew to her hips, my fingertips pressing into her skin that was no longer warm. At her gasp, I released her and let my hands fall to my sides again. "I'm sorry, love. Did I hurt you?"

She shook her head. "No. I want you to grab me, Edward. I want you to touch me in all the ways you never could." She reached down and wove her fingers through mine. "I want you to claim me as your own, and I'm going to claim you."

Bella brought my hands back to her hips, releasing them and resting her hands on my shoulders. I squeezed the flesh at her hips again, and she flexed them, sliding against me, the friction making me ache for more.

She lay down against me then, pressing her lips to mine and moving forward so that my hardness slid against her, just brushing her entrance. When she pulled back, I locked my eyes onto hers.

"I love you," she whispered.

"Until the sun falls from the sky."

I released a shuddering breath as she took me inside her slowly, and my arms curled around her, encasing her and anchoring her to me.

Being inside my Bella was better than I ever could have imagined, and if it were possible, I would have lain there with her until the end of time.

She rested her forehead against mine as I bottomed out, savoring the feel of her.

"Better than I dreamed," she said, her words lighting me up from the inside out.

I kissed her, and she swallowed my loud moan as she slid up my length and back down in a long, slow stroke. She shifted her hips again, lifting her torso and resting her hands on my chest. Another slow stroke, and I slid my hands over her perfect skin, up to cup her breasts as she moved a little faster, testing out her new position.

I couldn't stay still any longer and pushed my hips up into her as she came down on me. Her loud, pleasured cry of my name echoed around the woods, and I moved my hand so it rested in the junction between her neck and shoulder, pushing her down against me. "You were made for me," I groaned, pressing my head back into the ground beneath me.

She moaned again, louder, rolling her hips as we learned how to move together in a steady rhythm.

"God, why did we wait so long?" she asked, her nails scratching across my chest.

"So I could let go," I replied, pinching her nipples and relishing her gasp. "So I could do this."

I flipped us over at a speed that would have blurred our movements to the human eye, sliding my hands into her hair and kissing her fiercely, thrusting deeper and deeper inside her.

Bella whimpered loudly, the sound vibrating against my lips. Her obvious enjoyment made me piston into her harder, wanting to give her the pleasure I'd promised. My hand slid between us, brushing against where we were joined, and she cried out.

My senses were supposed to be superhuman, infallible, but being inside my Bella overwhelmed them all until all I could see, all I could feel was her.

"Scream for me," I growled into her ear as I rubbed and circled with my fingers, feeling my orgasm creeping over my body.

A minute later, she did. She came with my name on her lips like a litany, echoing around the forest like we were the last two people on Earth. Her body gripped and squeezed my length harder than I would've believed possible. When she sank her teeth into the flesh of my shoulder, marking me, I grunted and finally succumbed to the pleasure slamming into me.

My world shrunk to a single point of light and then exploded, euphoria like I'd never known crashing over me so fully, it was a wonder I remained conscious. Bella's hands cradled my face as I rode out the last seconds of pleasure, her aftershocks amplifying mine and making me shudder.

I buried my face in the neck of my mate as her fingers raked through my hair, feeling so much love it consumed me.

"I used to think of this existence as a living hell, Bella. A sick farce of a life," I whispered against the skin under her ear. "With you, though... it's heaven on Earth."

Bella wrapped herself around me so tightly that her newborn strength caused me to grunt in pain, but my happiness overwhelmed it.

I had always been hers.

And now… she was mine.