Just a quick post to let anyone who's interested know that I am not flouncing. A Forever Moment will be continued.
Um, kidding. But it won't be posted until the entire thing is written and I can slap up those chapters with regularity.
Thank you, as always, for your interest.
(This teaser will be deleted--poof--once I am finished with chapter five.)
The song, Whisper From The Mirror by Keiko Matsui, is also a teaser for the next chapter. A clue!!!
And now, a few paragraphs which may or may not change.
They watched her constantly, Edward more than anyone else. If he wasn’t touching her physically, she felt the pleasure burn of his gaze, or heard the caress in his voice when he spoke to her. Somehow he knew when she needed space, although it wasn’t often—just during the worst phase of the bloodlust that flared painfully at least once a day, and sometimes more if she hadn't fed yet and heard even a bird's heartbeat.
The need to feed was always there, a constant burning pain in her chest and throat, the biggest part of who she was now. The bloodlust left no room for choice or control. It stole everything from her, stripped her identity, reduced her to an animal. Jasper’s ability to sense her emotions and Alice’s gift to see her future made it impossible for her to hide. There was no pseudo making it, there was just her poor ability to bear it. She was frightened and angry because her pain was Edward’s, just as his pain was hers. And she was desperate to hide this weakness.
How had Edward ever resisted killing her?
She couldn't ask him. She'd couldn't ever gave him even a moment to doubt or regret turning her.
I don't expect to win (over 700 stories have been muhnahminated), but just being nominated is an honor. So THANK YOU TIMES 23 to whomever thought of my story.
First round of voting: 7/9 to 7/13 at midnight
Short list of Final Nominations: 7/18
Final voting: 7/22 to 7/26
Winners announced: 7/28
The Indie awards site has quite a list of stories, so if you're on the hunt for something good to read, please to be clicking on the link above.
Also, lots of Xs and Os to my beta reader, DiAnne. This story wouldn't be half so good without her wicked proofing skills and input.
Update: I did not make it to the next round, but there are some wonderful stories still in the running, so I definitely encourage Twilight fan fiction readers to explore the site. Obviously, they are well-worth reading. My favorites so far:
This chapter’s song is The Thirst of Maharit by Spirits in Ambience. I searched high and low for a video other than what is played to Queen of the Damned images, but found nothing. Nonetheless, the song is perfect for Bella’s awakening—its steady techno beat is enthralling, evocative of a pounding heartbeat, and echoes of dark mystery.
It was the fierce burn radiating up from Bella’s chest to her throat that brought her back from where ever it was that she’d gotten lost. She found herself hurtling through the tunnel in a great wave of sensation and color and sound, as if she carried the heart, ears and eyes of a crowd of people. There were no words to describe what she felt, other than painfully, overwhelmingly thirsty. It made it next to impossible to feel anything else.
She gasped and growled in one sound, her body wrenching, going stiff in shock from the crushing weight for her desire of blood. Edward’s arms were tight and solid around her. Not cold, not carefully gentle, but tight. Hard, ragged sounds came from his throat, as if in reaction to her response at waking. His jaw was clenched, his mouth tense and unsmiling. One of his hands cupped the back of her head, his thumb moving in small circles against her temple. His eyes began to lighten from black to brown, but she could see they were still overly dilated in a predator’s intense gaze. Only this predator’s stare wasn’t callous, but anguished, gradually softening to one of relief.
Some of her hurt and unease lessened at the sight of his face, and he must have seen it. He moved, or she might have, and his lips grazed hers.
“Bella, it’s over, it’s over. I love you, you came back to me, I love you.” She inhaled his words, his breath, hoping to beat back that other craving that was building, building.
And then he was kissing her everywhere, whatever he could reach of her face and neck and shoulders, not yet able or willing to sense she was still stiff and in distress in his arms. Her hands curled into claws on his shoulders. She wished she wanted to return his kisses just as fervently, but it was a secondary emotion to that of the overriding thirst. And she hated it, hated that blood was her first thought, her first need, but it overruled everything else. She felt she’d die without it.
“Edward,” she whispered into his hair, oddly feeling as if her soul was being torn in half. I’m sorry.
With a snake-like movement, she was out of his arms, away from his hands, the wall of windows a breath away. One leap and she was there. Amazingly, her body no longer seemed bound by the laws of gravity. Her palms were against the glass, then through the glass as if the window was nothing more than paper, glass shattering in silver and white, the sound of it like music. Behind her, around her, she heard the echo of more than one indrawn breath. The hollow rush of air inside their bodies sounded like the deep tones that came from the biggest of the conch shells she’d held to her ear on the beach of Isle Esme.
As she burst through the window, colors of the night exploded at her in new hues as her eyes picked out starlight, even through the dense snowfall that softly blanketed the pyramid of firs. Where the trees were not so close together, the snow sank slowly in a dream-like quality to the forest floor’s long-dead moss, lichen and vines that made walking through them difficult, dangerous even. She inhaled, noting the differences between spruce, madrone and alder. The air was nothing more than a caress against her skin; her breath did not create a puff of steam as it once had. On her tongue, she tasted the moisture-heavy snap in the air of the still-advancing storm, all of it a profound assault on her senses, almost miracle-like because none of it seemed real.
Her bare feet landed against the hillside in a gentle thunk and a small spray of snow, but the impact was negligible, no more jarring than if she’d just taken a step. The tiniest sense of joy and freedom filtered through her bloodlust, and she realized immediately that she could land noiselessly the next time. She felt light and agile, felt the stirring of an incredible sense of power, awakened to all that surrounded her, in tune with nature, if nothing else. And for the first time ever, she ran with fearless grace. It felt like flying.
But she was being chased. They were behind her. Four of them, and they were being deliberately loud. Edward’s vanilla and honey scent was closest, followed by Jasper’s amber and sandalwood, Emmett’s pine and moss, and Alice’s firethorn and orange blossom.
“Ah-ah-ahhhhh,” Emmett sing-songed behind her. “The family that feeds together, stays together.”
“Shush, it’s happening exactly as I predicted,” Alice said.
Her mind processed their tones of happiness, recognized that they weren’t angry with her, or even fearful. Still, she ran faster, a matter only of thinking it; there was no effort involved. It seemed as if the trees were advancing on her, rather than she on them—as if she was a bullet shot from a gun. Now to find a target...
A strange lassitude slowed her steps as she approached the rushing water of Hoh River, a sense of calm worming its way into the tempest of her need. Jasper. Edward was running beside her now. His smile was wide and triumphant, his stare fierce and loving as he reached out and took her hand in his. They took the leap over the water together, his jump stronger and longer, but his fingers tightened around hers, pulling her with him the rest of the way. She fought through the compulsive, desperate need and smiled her thanks at him.
“I love you,” he said again, but his voice sounded different. Deeper, more guttural, definitely animal-like. And for a moment, she thought she could feel his bloodlust echoing hers. It was quickly followed by the thought that she hadn’t yet said those words to him. Unease joined the painful burn in her throat. How could she have forgotten?
“I love you, Edward.”
He saw the apology her eyes held. As they bounded off the surface of an icy rock, he brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it. “I know,” he growled in that same animalistic voice, his eyes almost wild. And she knew without asking that her eyes mirrored the same fervor. In giving her newfound nature freedom, he released his. There was nothing to fear anymore.
They ran silent as wraiths through the trees that thinned out the higher they climbed. It was wildly beautiful—the deep valleys carved out by glaciers, the occasional waterfalls, ice-covered rocky arches, the areas where trees grew out of trees, the steep landslides bare of anything but slippery, icy snow. There were no trails; they ran where no human could go, their speed, strength and equilibrium allowing them to find leverage, to move forward, upward. She’d never been so close to Mount Olympus before.
Silent as they were, their passage did not disturb the small hearts of the creatures they passed along the way, although the sound stirred something primal within her. A few yards later, she heard the slow cadence of a large heart and her focus narrowed, sharpened. She heard herself growl, and it was a warning to those with her. The animal was hers; she’d fight for it. Edward dropped her hand, and they fell back as she cleared one fallen tree only to land atop another. Below her was the mouth of a den hidden partially under the fallen tree.
Her head cocked as she considered the scent and sounds that came from the dark hole. Dead maple mixed with musk, dirt, hot breath, and fecal matter. A loud heart meant the animal was big, and the raspy, irregular breaths indicated the bear was awake. Her eyes closed and she whined softly. There were two more smaller, faster heartbeats. It must be female with cubs.
She leaped off the tree, hit the ground without a sound, and dove headfirst into the hole. Her hands were claws in the thick fur, dragging the animal along the slanting slope of the den and outside it in one smooth move. Her growl was as loud as the startled bear’s—her savage need to conquer just as primal as the bear’s need to defend. It took a swipe at her and glanced off her waist, its claws tearing part of her oversized tee shirt away. She caught the animal’s limb on the downswing and jerked it down.
Need it, need it, need it.
Falling against the head and shoulders, Bella ground the gaping jaw into the snow with the palm of her hand and bit into the warm jugular. The warm spray of blood hit the back of her throat and she was gone, gone, gone, not caring that the bear still struggled, back limbs scratching at her legs, roaring in agony. There was nothing but the sound of a heart pumping sweet warmth and wetness into her mouth. She drank and devoured, and it was need fulfillment as she’d never expected. Wantonly, she readjusted her jaw and bit again, lower this time, wanting another gush to hit her throat. When it didn’t happen, she growled in frustration and rolled across the angry bear to the other side of its neck and sank her teeth again through fur, skin and muscle. Everything inside her was alive and electric, like a human experiences an adrenalin rush. The bear struggled to its feet, and Bella curled her legs and arms around the animal’s middle in a death hug. She moaned at the fresh flow of blood, and it was bliss, and she was elated that the bear was so huge.
When there was nothing left to drink, her head rose slowly, reluctantly, the after-effects of feeding like a drug in her veins. She was buried beneath the bear’s heavy blanket of furred body. Tracing a finger across her mouth, she stared at the crimson wetness in fascination, then sucked it away. The bloodlust still beat like a pulse in her throat, but it was manageable now.
The sound of the two little heart beats still inside the den made her tense. Should she--
Edward was crouched on top of the fallen tree where she’d made her attack, looking beautifully godlike against the severe terrain and black sky that still spit heavy flakes of snow. Like her, he was barefoot and barely dressed, his button-down shirt open almost to mid-belly. The way he was crouched left little doubt about the strength in his thighs, but as always, it was his eyes that caught and held her attention.
Wow. If she’d thought his eyes were mesmerizing before, she hadn’t fully understood the definition of the word. He could always do strange things to her insides when he stared at her that way with such intense adoration and love. She licked the rest of the blood off her lips and watched his eyes flicker, grow dark. Definitely animalistic. That wasn’t a look she had seen from him before—as if he wanted to devour her.
While she lost herself in just staring and admiring, he jumped down and lifted the bear off of her. And even though she didn’t need help standing anymore, she took his hand when he offered it just so she could touch him.
“That was the most uninhibited display of lust that I’ve ever seen,” he said, dropping his gaze to her mouth.
She lifted her free hand and slid it under his shirt to caress his chest. His beautifully hard, exquisitely muscled chest. “More,” she said. “I want more.”
He stepped closer, and they were thigh against thigh and belly against pelvis. She hissed; it was the first time he’d ever deliberately pressed his erection against her. One of his hands came up to cup her palm against his chest, while the other dug into the hair at her nape, and pulled her head back.
“More what?” he growled against her neck.
“I’m still thirsty,” she whispered as his lips descended to her collarbone. “And…and the bear—” She swallowed as his hand moved from hers on his chest to her waist and began to climb. “—the bear has cubs.”
His fingertips brushed the underside of her breast. “I’ll take care of them.”
The sting of electricity between them brought every nerve in her body alive. His touch was the same, yet different. Where once the tip of his fingers rose goosebumps, now they left a wake of fire. He was still a drug she couldn’t live without and its pull was stronger than ever. And now she wasn’t sure what she wanted more—blood or Edward.
“Ar--aren’t you thirsty? Where is everyone else?”
“Always so curious,” he murmured, cupping her breast, his mouth leaving a trail of kisses up her neck. “Everyone else is over the next rise, chasing a small herd of elk.” He pressed his lips against her chin. “One less herd after tonight.” Now the corner of her mouth. “And…I’m only thirsty for you.”
He backed off enough to slowly lick his way across her bottom lip and when her eyes opened, it was to see his look of pained, savage need. Holy everlasting crow. It was like feeling the drive of her human hormones and needs amplified by some impossibly high number.
“You consumed that grizzly,” he ground out, his breath a caress against her mouth. “Now I want to consume you.”
With a growl, she sank her teeth into the hard flesh of his bottom lip. She tasted his gasp just before he bit her back and then they were soothing each other’s lips with their tongues. And in his kiss, she felt the fall. Her world spun out of control again and all she could feel was his body and his mouth and his tongue. His hands on her shoulders, her waist, her buttocks as he pulled her roughly up into his arms. His tongue as it swept past her lips, into her mouth, a slow sensuous brush against hers. Their first time. Moaning, she wrapped her legs around his waist, rocking her hips into his, moving her hands to his face. She wanted to touch his mouth as he kissed her, like he often did her. It was safe now.
It was safe now.
It was also erotic as hell being able to taste him with her finger pads and her tongue, to feel him lose his steely control. Their kiss quickly turned savage, the intensity between them growing, and the night was no longer silent as their breathing raced out of control, became panting, frenzied growls of raging desire finally, finally being let loose. She backed off often, just so she could come at him again. A strangled sound came from her throat as his arms lifted and lowered her, moving her against him. Her fingers hooked into the deep opening of his shirt and tore it from him, baring his chest. She laughed once, the sound of a wild woman, then mimicked the movements of intercourse with her tongue in his mouth. He was giving her what she’d wanted for so long. Right here, right now, her thoughts were centered on him and nothing else.
With a choked moan, he sank to his knees in the snow, releasing her only to yank the sweats down her legs, the rest of her tee shirt off. She lay against the blanket of snow and pulled him close by the waistband of his jeans, but he resisted, hovering above her body. His eyes were black as he stared down at her. One of his hands smoothed through her hair that was splayed against the snow.
“God, you’re beautiful,” he said.
You make me feel that way. She unbuttoned his pants. “For you, Edward.”
His hands moved with a tender savagery down her breasts, along her stomach, over her hips. She couldn’t help the way her body arched up to seek his, couldn’t stop the sounds ripping from her throat at his touch. “Mine,” he growled.
“Forever,” she panted and jerked the zipper down as her desperation grew. Now TAKE me. She ached to have him naked and hard against her.
He swiftly tore the jeans down and off and she admired his body as he had hers. Just the sight of his lithe, tight-muscled stomach made her gasp. Never, never would she grow tired of looking at his hard male’s beauty. She slid her hand down his stomach and touched him, curling her fingers and palm around the hard length of him. He’d never let her before. He hissed and she watched every muscle on his body tighten, a dangerously distracting feast for her eyes. It took her a long moment before she could raise her gaze to his. His eyes were wild again, but the expression on his face was torn. She tightened her grip and moved her hand slowly up and down, anxious to stir a reaction like what he’d pulled from her so many times. She needed this, needed to do this for him.
She leaned forward to run her tongue up one of his pelvic bones and when he tried to push her back, she bit him there. In answer, he fell against her body and took her mouth again, caught her hands in his and pinned them above her head. Her mouth and tongue gave him what he demanded as she rolled her hips up against his again and again. He was silky smooth and hard against her. She growled. Damn it, she wanted to touch him.
And so she fought for dominance, knowing how it would affect him. Hooking one leg behind his knee, she dug her foot into the snow and shoved hard to the right. She had one moment of glee at being on top before he allowed the momentum of her spin to carry her right back to the bottom again. Their mouths didn’t break apart once. Growling, she bit his tongue. He released her, growling back as he grasped her thighs just under her buttocks. She went right for his hair and tugged hard, holding his mouth to hers.
Now, now, now.
She widened her thighs and lifted her hips, and he sank inside her with one hard move. Tearing her mouth away from his, she screamed in pleasure. His teeth were against her throat, his hands on her hips, moving upward until he had her by the shoulders. She dug her heels into the snow and met his every thrust with equal fervor. Their bodies melded, colder than the snow they mated upon, but inside her, a fiery inferno rose. Not painful this time, but equally as consuming, and as strong as the bond between them. He moved against her wantonly, unrestrained, knowing exactly how to reach that spot inside, claiming both victory and annihilation over her body. As if there had been any doubt; he’d always had control over her body’s reactions. Her orgasm was so intense that the sounds coming from her throat broke in uneven places.
Her body still shuddering, she watched him fight the fall. His face was tense, his amazing jaw clenched, his beautiful mouth compressed, then open as he gasped for breath. Wild-eyed, Edward gave way to a moment of fear—he’d never been able to let go of his control during ejaculation.
She tightened around him, dragged her nails down his chest. “Let go, Edward.”
He threw his head back and began to pound harder against her, his movements quickening, becoming erratic. She moaned as he grew larger, stiffer inside her. He began to convulse, the growls trapped in his chest breaking free, growing louder. And then he snarled, a deep sound that filled the night and her heart. He fell against her and bit her savagely above her left breast, and she gasped, losing control as he lost control, and came hard again.
It wasn’t until he swept his tongue across where he’d bitten her that she opened her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he breathed, his eyes impossibly soft and loving again, curling around her heart like chain locking into place.
She snarled. No more damn apologies. “I bit you first.”
His soft breath stirred the hair at her temple. “My little lust-driven girl.”
“Vampire girl,” she amended with a note of amazement.
“No,” he said against her ear. He kissed his way along her jaw. “Just my girl.” Pressed his lips gently against hers. “My wife.”
She shifted under him. The thirst was swelling again. “Are you still…sorry that you changed me?”
The gaze in his eyes was unfathomable. “Yes. No. I don’t know. For the most part, no.”
“I didn’t mind at all just now,” he grinned, then pulled her to her feet and up hard against his body into a hug. “We can talk about this later. For now, you have to feed again. Let's go catch up with our family before they drain all the elk.”
She dressed, turning away when he snapped the necks of the bear cubs. Their fierce little cries of distress, cut off so abruptly, hit her with a sense of regret. A part of her had known how this would end as soon as she attacked their mother, but that part hadn’t cared. Hadn’t been able to care. In that state, she had been mindless. And she felt the same crazy intensity building again now.
. . . . .
Edward’s breath caught and hurt at how lost she looked. Her eyes, the chilling red of a newborn, yet beautiful as she would always be to him, were vulnerable and confused. She was still in the throes of coming to terms with the transformation, and he let the full force of his love—so deep he felt it in the marrow of his bones—play across his face and in his eyes, willing her to feel it, to begin to heal.
“Bella?” he whispered and held his hand out to her.
The soft cloud of her chestnut hair flared as she spun for the higher ground and the promise of more blood, but she kept her hand in his, and her fingers gripped him like a lifeline.
. . . . .
I’ve bent the rules of Meyer’s vampires a bit. In my little tale, Bella is not stronger than the others, because restraint and physical power can only increase with age and experience. Obviously, though, it doesn’t affect how dangerous she is one little bit. ;-)
part 5 teaser
This piece's song is called Gorecki by Lamb. Listen to the lyrics. They convey exactly what I'm trying to show with Bella's perspective for part three.
Awareness came briefly, beginning with a black starburst that exploded in her mind, shocking because it wasn’t just a value of that color, but the shiny black of onyx, hard black like obsidian, smoky black like charcoal. There had been nothing but mindless waves of agony before; if there were colors, she didn’t remember, but whatever this was, it penetrated her with a force like nothing she’d ever felt before. It felt like the first few seconds of dropping from a great height, or like waking from a sudden sleep with the feeling that she was missing something important.
Distantly, she thought she heard herself sobbing and screaming in a frightening, uncontrolled way, but those sounds were impossible to reconcile. She wasn’t a crying, screaming type of girl, but neither could she wrap her mind around the enormity of what was happening.
What was happening?
Something woke her up, had her lifting her head off her pillow. Bella rolled to face the awful sound. Her mom. Crying. Desperate heavy sobs, the kind that shook your chest on the way out.
Pushing her mom’s bedroom door open, Bella found her buried under covers and a pillow. The lump that was her mother shook with the force of emotion, and Bella’s chest tightened in pity. She was only a kid, but even she knew her mom had unbelievably bad luck at choosing the wrong kind of men.
When her mom willingly came into her arms and let Bella comfort her, she whispered like a mantra to Renee that it would be all right. And for some reason, Renee believed her, even though Bella didn’t know a thing about how to get over loving someone.
The explosions of black-hued starbursts continued, forcing the space inside her head to expand, until there was a vast darkness. Dizzy, she tried to pull back, and the world wrenched sideways. Something in her mind unraveled and images came fast and furious, like a movie in fast-forward.
A clenched jaw of an angel, turning to look daggers her way with black eyes, that lightened to gold eyes, his gaze soft and searching.
Tears on the face of a brown haired woman who smiled tremulously with the back of her hand pressed tight against her mouth.
The glint of a silver police badge as a man shrugged his shoulders, his face both annoyed and embarrassed.
Sunshine on the face of an angry boy-man who morphed frighteningly, abruptly, into a russet furred wolf.
An ethereally beautiful, pale faced girl whose golden eyes were warm one moment, then blank and distant the next.
Tree branches that arched in a canopy above her head, their limbs blurring as she moved past them in warp speed.
And all the while, the flashburn of fire raced from both ends of her body, from neck and toe, ripping through her heart, a continuous blue-hot pain. Her heart leaped at the colors she saw, pounding, pounding harder than she’d ever felt it.
GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH.
Help me, help me, help me.
There was so much room to feel as she lived on.
She kept begging it—the pain, the encroaching black, the fire—to stop. Stop it, stop it, please stop it, please--she gasped in agony and terror of not being able to escape—stop it, stop it, stop it, why can’t I just die, I want to die!
Her spine arched—she felt it, although the movement was frighteningly alien—and oxygen tore down her throat, filling her lungs with intense heat. She gritted her teeth against the pain of it, disappointed and stunned that it was impossible to drown in fire. That just the act of breathing hurt.
When would the relentless cycle of hell and hurt end?
It felt different now. More focused.
GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH.
More focused on her heart.
Her hand rose. Tear it out, she was going to tear it out, right out of her chest--
Something held her down.
Whispering in her ears.
. . . That grew into murmurs.
. . . That grew into words.
“—to my voice, Bella. Listen to my voice and feel me here—”
Feel me here, feel me here.
There was a rush of understanding—Edward—before nothing became a fiery everything again. She resurfaced a moment or two thousand later, closer now, able to smell such a scent—beautiful—and to hear a voice. Ragged, but like smooth magic in this hollow strangeness where she suffered, she fought her way toward it. If she could just get close enough--.
“—with me, Bella. Please stay with me. Let me help you through the pain—”
And she remembered that she was dying so she could be reborn again. Her words, not his. And it should have been hard to think, to concentrate, but the memory flashed inside her like light.
She remembered feeling fear and certainty, hoping the certainty would drown out the fear, because Edward would sense her fear, hear her racing pulse, would never—not if she was too scared. And she had most certainly been terrified, but she had also been sure of what she wanted.
The force of his hold had taken her by surprise—like iron. Fast, close, and icy. But like a woman who is fortunate to make peace with God before dying, she’d exhaled and surrendered. She wanted to become like him. She wanted him. She wanted forever with him. No more caution, pain or sacrifices on his part, no more fears, no more doubts.
She remembered longing for that often. Knew that it was happening now. That it was taking painfully forever, just as he had warned her, obviously hoping to put her off of the idea.
“It will be your first true experience of forever, Bella. Unbearable pain, endless pain. James’s bite times three days. Seventy-two hours. It will seem like forever.”
She tried not to gulp at his hard words of desperation. Nodded at him. Was careful to keep her expression clear, but gravely understanding. The pain at the thought of him feeling helpless and hurting over her while she went through the change kept wrenching her heart, but she just couldn’t protect him from this sorrow. He’d made it through. She’d make it through, too.
“It’s not God’s idea of being reborn, Bella. You’re choosing to die. To commit suicide, in a way. Please, you have to understand that.”
“I’m choosing a different kind of LIFE, Edward. This choice is…it’s part of me. Who I want to be. Nothing you say is going to make me change the way I feel.” And then she repeated his words in a whisper because she could see how close he was to the breaking point. “Please, you have to understand that.”
She’d never wanted to die, at least not in the literal sense of the word, but then she’d never counted on meeting someone like Edward. Loving and needing and wanting someone like Edward. Before she met him, she’d never known—never guessed—she could feel such depth of emotion. From the first, he had made her feel like his everything. Her love for him was like breathing, was an unbearable longing. Would always be that way for her, although she didn’t know how or why. All she knew was that nothing—GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH—else mattered but being with Edward.
She also remembered that living was supposed to be harder than dying, but it wasn’t. Not this time.
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t—
It was not like feeling her body grow weaker until it was numb, her mind at peace with what was happening. Not like being suspended in dark, cold water, giving up and giving in because she’d already lost what mattered most. It had been so easy that time…
This kind of dying was being consumed by hellfire from the inside out while the sky, this world, blew up around her. Would it never end?
Screaming, she was screaming again—oh, god, help me, help me, I can’t bear it—and it filled only a small portion in her mind, which was odd because she’d never heard this kind of scream inside her mind before. It sounded different, felt different.
James stepped with inhuman strength against her shin. She heard the break before she felt it, and then a wrenching feeling of piercing, uncomfortable pain—weird, so wrong, the feeling that only her skin was holding the two broken parts of her leg together—and she couldn’t help screaming. But the pain was quickly overshadowed by her concern for Edward, and she breathed through it, determined not to give James the show he wanted. He could have her blood, her death, but nothing else.
Now she realized how weak her scream had been, and she was fiercely triumphant. So pathetic, so cowardly of him to toy with a human. Surely his quick vampire’s mind and senses had realized that.
She was able to focus on different parts of her body now, to compartmentalize the pain by degrees as the venom burned through her blood. Wriggling her toes was like inciting the flames—it didn’t lessen the violence of the pain, it just sharpened her focus of the pain there. Everything from her fingertips to her lips burned inside. It was indescribable, incomprehensible, beyond anything she could have imagined, forever. She arched into it or against it, and the movement was all lava, both effortless and agonizing. The pain, even as it trapped and incapacitated her, seemed to give her unlimited power.
Screaming, she tried to hurl herself through it, away from it. Screamed again when she found her body’s power trapped. She struggled against the hold.
“Bella, don’t fight me, please don’t fight me. You’re almost through this. You’re almost there.”
Turned, and he wasn’t there.
. . . Wasn’t there.
. . . . . .Wasn’t THERE.
A terrible sense of loss gripped her. Fear, primal and ferocious, clawed its way through her body and she panicked, falling into it hard and fast. Without Edward, she’d die.
Diediedie, she’d die, couldneverbewithouthim, she’d—
A tiny pressure against her cheek.
The silken voice again, a tiny piece of calm.
“—here, Bella, I’m right here next to you.”
Next to you, next to…
Her eyes opened. Why hadn’t she thought to open them before?
He was there—Edward!—not even an inch away, though his face was hazy at the edges and utterly clear at the center. Hope, love and agony battled for dominance on his face. His eyes were entirely black, not with hunger, but with despair. Staggeringly intense, terrifying to see, but she couldn’t help losing herself in his eyes. He was there. Here.
“For…got…you…were…here,” she tried to say. Maybe she said it. Or maybe she imagined it?
His reply was lost in her scream, but she hadn’t meant to scream, hadn’t meant—
And his fingers, she thought she felt them against her face, turning her back to him, even though she was screaming. There was no icy touch, just fire, just the urgent need for it all to end, end it, end it, please end it.
“—and forgive me, but I want it to end for you, too, Bella. I promise this will end, I promise, I promise. I want you, I want you forever, and I promise I won’t leave you. I love you, I’m sorry, I love you—”
I love you.
She heard the broken torment in his words, his words that echoed in her mind and became her thoughts. She hurled the words back at him before the pain made her forget again.
A choked voice, air against her ear. “Why are you sorry?”
You’re sad. But I love you. Love you. Love you.
A ring of golden light frosted the popcorn pattern on the ceiling above her, 851 rough bumps in its circle, each one creating a distinct shadow. Eggshell gave way to four different shades of gray before fading into light.
His lips were a breath away. “Are you—are you here? With me?”
I keep losing you.
“Don’t close your eyes, love. Look at me, Bella, please, please. Know that you’re not going through this alone.”
Alone. Alone. Alone.
Dimly, she felt herself shaking her head. Convulsing. The agony, the unrelenting burning, wouldn’t let her focus on anything, kept shredding her thoughts into pieces.
The bell tower gonged and she was running through water, her legs burning, weak and stumbling, but she had to get to Edward, had to. A shadow loomed overhead, casting the water around her in such darkness, she couldn’t see ahead. Still running, she looked up and blood fell in heavy drops from the sky. It coated her slowly and thoroughly, like a big egg had just been cracked open on her head. She fell to her knees as the gong sounded again and the blood encased her skin, became her skin.
Sobbing, she opened her eyes again and gasped. Edward. She hadn’t lost him after all.
“Didn’t make it,” she gritted.
Thought I didn’t make it.
“Blood. Heavy. From…”
His fingers against her face felt wrong, all wrong. Or her face felt wrong, almost like a mask. “You’re hallucinating, love. It’s okay, it’s okay, I did, too.”
Minute-by-minute, fireburn and fear kept up its game of tug-of-war inside her body, inside her head, never once letting her forget the other existed. Surely one side would win eventually…
Her heart picked up its pace again. Stronger.
GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH, GUH-GUNGH.
It beat so fast that she could no longer catch her breath because the heartbeats were ripping up into her throat.
Edges, sharp unending edges with lights and colors where there shouldn’t be light and color, shoved way through her head and bloodstream. She heard it, every movement inside—racing heartbeats that pumped what felt like lava through her veins, tissue matter shrinking like plastic crinkling, the eerie sensation of her skin thickening, hardening, of bone scraping against bone, reforming itself into weightlessness. She heard every movement outside—heavy breathing, a man sobbing, her screams, the brush of skin against skin, cloth being ripped asunder as her nails dug into softness. She was an unwilling captive being forced to witness an impossibility: her body giving way to the venom, to the geyser of fire, her body becoming alien, something other.
End it. End it, end it, endit, endit, endit.
“Bella, honey, you’ve got to look both ways before you cross the street,” her dad yelled, shaking her shoulders with each word. There was a white line of anger and worry around his mouth. “You could’ve been killed!”
“Doctor Ash said a little boy was found dead two years ago,” her mom choked. “He’d been playing leap frog on the rocks, too, but no one found him after he got trapped. Bella! Bella, I could have lost you.”
Like the reverse end of a fireplace bellows, oxygen was sucked from her throat and then pushed back into her lungs, which no longer seemed able to expand. The air tasted like hot, sour vapor. She was choking on it, asphyxiating after all.
The rock smacked into her back again, right between her shoulder blades, and another volley of water choked its way out of her lungs.
“Breathe, Bella! Breathe!” Jacob begged.
Finally, she heard an angel’s voice trying to call her back from hell.
“Bella, please! Bella, listen to me, please, please, Bella, please!”
Her eyes snapped open.
Nothing. No hellish pain. No acidic fire. No feeling.
Lightflash, color on fire, movement too fast and then too slow, slow, until time stopped completely.
. . . . .
This piece's song is Lifehouse's EVERYTHING because anything less just wasn't going to work.
Bella heard him scream and a shock wave of anguish stole her breath. Her cry, when it came, was one of answering distress that echoed in her head. His pain was why she’d planned it this way—a spur-of-the-moment decision to help alleviate his stress—the reason why she’d made Alice swear to keep all hints of the imminence of the plan out of her thoughts.
Terrible, she hadn’t realized how terrible it would be for him—
The weird sensation at her throat—Edward had bitten her, something she’d imagined before but never in detail—suddenly felt like fire-heated knives being driven into her skin. Abruptly, the world spiraled away. Oh! She’d known it was going to hurt, hurt worse than anything imaginable, but the agony! It was a climbing tidal wave of black heat that filled her veins, moving slow, moving fast, setting her nerve endings on fire.
It was everywhere and suddenly, she was every surrender and protest of one being burned alive. Her skin trapped the building tempest inside, protected it even, holding her prisoner as she flailed against cage walls that weren’t…weren’t there? On the edge of exploding into pieces, she craved it, prayed for it. In answer, the tidal wave of black heat grew into a maelstrom of fire that burned blue. Her insides liquefied as the heat rushed into her lungs, and she couldn’t help but gulp the lava.
Sound and silence came, another inferno that rushed into every corner of her body before it retreated in a great vacuum that sucked her gut-first into a tunnel with no end.
Death wasn’t coming fast enough.
Braids of flame wrapped around the bones in her body, surrounding everything from toe to skull, drawing impossibly tight until she no longer felt the difference between force and fire. Color and darkness became one, battling with the chords of sound and silence, until pain and terror and hellfire was everything she knew.
Was all there was.
. . . . .
Edward watched her fight against the scream. Tension grew in her body until she was whipcord taut against him. The mouth he so loved to kiss was pressed flat in a grimace of torment. Small sounds of distress climbed in her throat, and he pressed his lips against her cheek. As if she sensed him there, recognized his touch, her face turned and their noses bumped. Her teeth clamped onto her still-tender lower lip, biting until blood welled up and dripped down her chin. The sight didn’t excite him, it just broke his heart again.
een her lips, prying her teeth off her lip. She took a strangling, gasping breath, her neck arching, and screamed, screamed, screamed. The sound tore like a live wire through every cell in his body, and the ache in his chest flared again. She screamed until her vocal cords tore and nothing came but a rasp, yet she continued to hold her mouth open in a silent cry. Curling even closer around her, he swept his tongue along the torn part of her throat. It was a wasted effort because she’d never feel the negligent pain of a torn vocal cord next to the venom burning through her bloodstream, but he’d have fed her his own heart if that would help.
Even though the flow of blood through her body had slowed, her skin was still warm. Maybe sixty-two degrees now, but it would be hours before her body dropped another fifty degrees, more hours after that while she burned as she changed.
Don’t, don’t think of that.
Her mouth still gaped in a silent cry, and mindless and desperate with her, he could feel that his face wore a similar look. With the exception of the time when he’d thought she was dead, no moment would ever be blacker than this one.
Eventually her neck relaxed and she slumped against the pillow. He pressed close enough for her to smell his breath, hoping it still had the power to affect her. Again, as if she sensed him there, she turned until her mouth brushed his cheek. The shape of her words against his skin stung like acid.
He kissed his way down her face, only barely holding back his own despair as he pulled her impossibly close to his body, wishing he could somehow absorb her pain. Wishing neither of them had been put into this situation, most of all her. But wishing did no good. Wishing was for fools who had given up.
Far from heaven, in the depths of whatever there was below hell, Edward imagined that he writhed in the fire with Bella, forcing himself to relive the details of his own change as penance.
The venom had abruptly wrenched him away from the dazed fatigue, the muscle aches, the headaches, of the infection. For an instant, he thought he’d been injected with acid. When his eyes opened, he’d been aware of something close beside him, almost on top of him, and then the pain had driven away all thought. The venom had scored his insides from the throat-down with diamond-hard ice that expanded until he’d felt as if he would explode. And then he had—his body exploded into wildfire, but it was only a prelude to the hellfire that raged endlessly afterward.
He wasn’t sure when he started counting the seconds, wasn’t even sure why he thought to count them at all, but he awoke in hell at 241,015, convinced that God hadn’t forgiven him for losing his temper with his father. After all, he’d only asked for forgiveness after the disease struck. His father fell ill so hard, so fast, and Edward hadn’t had the chance to apologize properly. Even under the best of circumstances, the words I’m sorry were empty, just words.
He’d tried to accept God’s punishment, but found that it wasn’t lenient, that it fed on itself between one heart beat and the next, driving him literally out of his mind. And then he’d become aware of the presence--of Satan himself.
“I’m sorry,” he’d screamed in rage at the devil, somehow mindful that the words meant nothing, yet hoping otherwise anyway. In answer, Satan morphed into an unforgiving God, and back again as it suited him. Until he could no longer tell God from Satan, could no longer separate reason from absurdity. And when Satan, who was incongruously blond-haired, repeated the words back to him—I’m sorry—Edward had felt well and truly mocked. How could God forgive him if his father hadn’t had that chance?
He felt that way now as Bella thrashed against him—as if he had committed a sin impossible to forgive. His heart made one decision while his brain made another, and now he had to follow it through. There were no words to describe the feeling, but he welcomed the pain the memory brought, absorbing with every fiber of his being, just where Bella’s love had brought her. He hoped it wasn’t to the brink of hell. It was his fault, and only his, for agreeing to turn her.
It’s not her fault, God!
He sobbed against her throat, terrified for her because no one knew better than he did that there was no peace in this life, that his kind was not forgiven. Hadn’t he taken her in every way possible now? Hadn’t he brushed aside all thoughts of conscience, disregarded every Commandment—human, vampire and otherwise—just so that he would never have to live without Bella? All those months denying his bloodlust…fighting against the all-too-real human desires that could also kill her…just so he could kill her this way.
Selfish, selfish, selfish.
Love didn’t always heal. Sometimes, loving someone was the worst thing possible.
Would she mistake him for the devil? Would he apologize, unable not to utter the words that meant so little, as Carlisle had done with him? Would she hate and fear him, as he had Carlisle?
Beside him, Bella stiffened and wailed, her body arching off the mattress. The sound slid upward in register and torment, bouncing back at him from the corners of the room until her vocal cords tore again. The venom could repair them almost as fast as she destroyed them. He kept his palm at her throat, his thumb moving back and forth and back and forth across the fading pink scars left by his teeth.
She’d come because of the heavy silence left after Bella’s screams. She had a need, a thin hope, to help stave off his mindless tendency of masochism.
Caught unaware, feeling oddly irritated, he felt a growl rise.
Bella went limp again, her face gray and stiff with repressed pain, eyes still closed. He didn’t know if she’d be able to see him, yet he wondered… Curling tightly, tenderly around her again, he pressed himself against her dropping heat. If only his body’s temperature could help soothe away what burned inside of hers.
Alice was at the top of the stairs now and the growl left his mouth. Barely eight hours had passed since he’d begun the process that would end Bella’s life, and she was still vulnerable--
Bella’s body arches, fierce anguish rolling off of her in waves. His hands are a constant caress against her body as she screams. Her cries die and her mouth gapes in a soundless scream. Fists rising, she pummels him with almost half of a newborn’s strength, breaking one of his collarbones.
He shuddered at Alice's image. Her gift wasn’t always a blessing, not when those visions revealed how the ones she loved could suffer. Especially not when he was already on the edge of insanity, feeling beyond helpless and frustrated at having to watch Bella suffer. Alice couldn’t help him now. No one could.
Bella needs to hear your voice, Edward.
His growl rose, unbroken and growing louder as she continued to advance and throw her visions at him in double time.
Bella sobbing, choking on her screams, pain and panic written on her face. On his. He yells at Alice—ugly, angry, unforgiving words, the monster alive in his eyes. Jasper is there, but he fights past, through, over the fabricated feelings of calm—he’s mindless-mindless-mindless—and they square off only feet away from the bed Bella thrashes on.
Alice pushed the door open. Edward turned, feeling both savage and vulnerable, but Bella’s rising hip unbalanced him and he was totally diverted. Her body, in the long white t-shirt he’d put her in, was already hard enough to lift his off the bed. Another of her screams filled the silence until she broke off in a sob, a dry
rasp of sound that tore harder through him than the venom ever had.
“Talk to her, Edward. She needs to hear your voice.”
And that’s when he realized his silence, an unconscious desire not to intensify Bella’s suffering by the pain and shock his voice could reveal, was just another selfish act of denial—a lie. Because even though he felt as if the world was closing in and he couldn’t breathe, he still did breathe. Ignoring the hot shame of that thought, because Alice was right, he took a breath, hating that it eased him when Bella would find no relief for days yet.
“Bella, love, I’m here,” he said urgently against the shell pink of her ear.
Could she hear him?
Did she know who he was?
Too anxious at first, he palmed the side of her body, then forced moderation because while her skin was growing harder, it still wasn’t tough enough to withstand his normal pressure. “I’m here with you.”
Long tendrils of her hair coursed over the pillows as her head thrashed back and forth. Her breathing was harder, louder now, different. Remorse washed through him again when he noticed her expression’s look of internal battle.
“You’re over halfway through,” he lied against the tidal wave of pain.
His body, bare from the waist-up, was curved impossibly over Bella’s, almost as if he was trying to sink into hers. His hair was in wild disarray, his face ashen, his eyes black and bottomless as he gazed at Bella’s face.
Edward metaphorically dying as Bella’s body died.
He felt himself shrink from what Alice saw.
“Sorry,” Alice whispered.
Like him, the force of her emotions had taken her by surprise. No one had been prepared for the reality of his misery because Alice hadn’t been prepared, because a vision couldn’t always prepare her—or any of them—for the real thing.
“Um, no I’m not sorry,” Alice said. “Bella never wanted this kind of suffering from you, Edward.”
He exhaled against Bella’s cheek, pressed his lips against her temple.
“She doesn’t see this as a death sentence,” Alice whispered.
“It’s hardly a gift of life,” he growled. Then shook his head. Why was he arguing with Alice?
“You’re wrong, you know. Once she’s past this, once you’re past this, you’re going to eat your words.”
He ran a thumb under one of Bella’s eyes, still puzzling over the look of consternation on her face.
“If you’d spend one of those breaths on yourself--stop castigating yourself for desiring love and happiness like the rest of us--I’d be able to show you. The simple truth of the matter is that Bella saved you, Edward.”
Leave me alone, Alice.
“This couldn’t have happened any other way. Besides, you’re tormenting Jasper.”
Bella’s eyelids twitched. Against the bedspread, her fist shook with the vehemence of her agitation and he reached out to cup her hand in his.
“I can’t change who I am. And Jasper doesn’t have to be here.”
Cut it out!
“We’re all here, Edward. We’re going to stay, too, because we love you both.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here,” he said to Bella. Her forehead knotted and he could see the scream building again. Lost, out-of-sync, still too much on the edge. That’s how he felt. Two seconds away from losing it. Alice was wasting her breath.
Too bad YOU’RE not okay.
Alice usually thought the most painful things because it seemed less intrusive, more like a whisper of confidence than an accusation.
--a challenge, always have to take you by surprise, and usually it makes me happy having you TO challenge, but not now.
She was trying to distract him.
Jaw clenched, he turned on her. “Stop it.” And when that didn’t work, when she just stood there looking at him with his pain echoing in her eyes, he added: “Please.”
“Don’t you think Bella can sense your agitation?”
But she was grasping at straws. He wanted to both cry and rage at her efforts, but felt incapable of holding on long enough to either emotion.
It’s not all death, doom and devastation, you know.
Outside, the sun finally made it to the top of the firs and a weak ray of gold fell in a long line across the bed.
Because if it was, none of us would be here. Be together. Love each other.
He heard her, but the words touched his mind like whispered echoes.
“Just saying,” she said, and there was a shrug in her voice.
Bella began gulping in gasping sobs that shook her body against his, and his hands cataloged her limbs again: arms, waist, legs, still smooth satin. Her heartbeat was still too fast, but he knew that was the venom. He knew, because he remembered how terrifying the racing heartbeats were, remembered the sound of it, the unrelenting pain that stole the need to live. Even now, she was wishing for death. And the sunlight, even though it was still a shining ribbon across his body and Bella's, grew dim.
Pressing his lips against Bella’s cheek, and then her ear, he whispered the lyrics of the song she’d made him listen to a few days ago.
You are the hope that keeps me trusting
You are the light to my soul
You are my purpose
And how can I stand here with you
And not be moved by you
Would you tell me how could it be
Any better than this
You’re all I want
He watched her brow slowly unknot, knowing he didn’t trust the intent behind the words, but holding on to the promise of her belief from that moment. And he felt a kind of soul-deep warmth when she curled tighter against him, as if she knowingly sought comfort. It had been exactly eight hours and thirteen minutes since he had felt that kind of warmth…
“I will always be here for you,” he whispered.
When his eyes opened, he saw Alice sitting in the chair.
“How much longer?”
She frowned at him.
Don’t ask yet. It’s still TOO much longer. I’m sorry. Besides, she can hear you.
Doubt and desperation had him imagining that his dead heart jumped. “How do you know that?”
“The short answer is because I know almost everything. Since you want the longer answer, I’ll tell you it’s because a good portion of her tension is gone now, and she’s not screaming as much or as loudly. Clearly, you are the antidote.”
His mouth twisted. How could he possibly—
“An antidote requires elements of its infection,” she reminded him. “Don’t be so pigheaded blind. Like she says all the time, she’ll be fine.”
But Bella wasn’t fine. She was dying, hurting, and terrified. Alice didn't remember the agony of the change, but he did. Nothing was going to be fine in his world until she was through this—and maybe not even then. He couldn’t pretend otherwise.
The shadows crawled across the bed as the sun retreated behind the clouds. He began to sing the song to her, some of the words coming out softly, some not at all. Alice left during the fifteenth refrain, and her voice in his head was both exasperated and apologetic.
Thirty-two hours, Edward. Okay? Thirty-two hours.
. . . . .
In this piece, Renesmee doesn’t exist. Not because I think it’s impossible for Edward to get Bella pregnant (this is a world of fiction, after all), but because I don’t want a gruesome birth to overshadow the sacrifice they make for each other.
I know the rest of the Cullen’s immortality came about as situations of life or death, but I always wanted Edward’s act of taking Bella’s life—and her understanding in the moments before he does so—to be one of cognizance.
No moment of desperation.
Just love, just sacrifice, just the power of stinging awareness.
This piece's most-influenced song is called Honey and the Moon by Joseph Arthur. It's a bittersweet little song about a guy singing about a girl who seems to want all the wrong things.
Nineteen minutes after Bella laid the palm of her hand against Edward’s cheek and said the words that crashed cymbal-like in his mind—
--he settled her back against the pillows of the bed—their bed.
His hands were trembling.
His insides were trembling.
Because there was nothing else he could do or say to stall her, to hope that she’d rethink what she wanted. He saw it in her eyes—her doe-brown eyes that were steely soft as she stared at him without blinking.
“It’s going to be okay,” she said.
Alice’s voice came to him from two floors below. She’s right, Edward. Two-and-a-half days is all it’s going to take. The image she foresaw flashed into his mind:
Bella’s face in profile, pale, eerily beautiful…motionless. Like a statue. Turning now, her eyes under their heavy fringe of lashes bright red, full of confusion, even fear, until her gaze met his. The gentle curve of her cheek rounded as her mouth curved into the peek-a-boo smile... You see? She’s going to live, Edward.
He took Bella’s hand in his, noting the contrast her small pink palm made against the larger snowy white of his, marveling anew at their body’s difference in temperature and texture and weight. She was so...
Fearless, and willing to go through hell now, unheedingly eager to give up everything to become what he was.
She couldn’t see that, though—wouldn’t see that—until someday soon…or someday long…after her human body’s death when she was something else entirely. And then the moment would burst upon her in all its heartache, a bombshell that promised pain and horror in the aftermath because there was no going back.
How could he prepare her for it in a way that made sense to the uninitiated?
Even Rosalie had tried.
Bella, how can you want this? How can you give up so much?
Her fingers were warm against his cheek. “Stop thinking.”
Closing his eyes, he lifted his hand and held her warm fingers against his face. “I thought I was ready for this day,” he murmured.
Her voice came as gentle as a whisper. “How could you be?”
He looked at her in surprise and saw that her expression was torn—certitude warring with sorrow.
“I’m sorry, Edward,” she said with a catch in her voice. “I hurt inside when I try to imagine what you’re going to go through to do this, and I’m so sorry.” Then her voice strengthened. “But I don’t look at this as dying, not when it means that I can be reborn in a way that is better for us.”
Under his hand, her fingers moved to trace his mouth. He recognized the physical gesture as one he’d often initiated himself—a mostly unconscious communication of his desire, love and sometimes, even deliberate manipulation because…well, because he could. The essence of that kind of physical gesture, especially against the face, lay in the power of how it was received. As he fought not to be swayed under her touch, he wondered when she’d picked up his habit.
“I knew what I wanted a long time ago. I knew I wanted to be like you long before I said it out loud. Do you know what has changed since then?”
Nothing, her eyes said.
“I don’t want to wait anymore,” she whispered.
He knew she felt emotionally ready, as ready as someone could feel without having gone through the change, but physically? The pain wasn’t something anyone could prepare for. She still had to die before she could live again. And he knew just how much she was going to wish for death.
He still suffered moments of great, tearing doubt that ate at whatever part of his soul was left, although she’d unwittingly put her side of things into perspective for him once.
“If our roles were reversed and I was the vampire, would you…would you want me…”
And he’d felt the soul-wrenching hurt of that thought—the unreasonable, all-consuming painful pull that cared not for the difference between right and wrong, outside of that only necessary idea: Bella. The power she exerted over his heart made him long to be the one doing the sacrificing, the hurting, the dying; in this world or any other. He was certain nothing would ever change that. He would go to hell.
Die horribly and go to hell.
Suffer how ever much pain he had to suffer in hell to be with her.
It was nearly impossible for him to accept that she’d do the same for him. That she was prepared to do it for him. The thought made him breathless with fear and panic, turning his sight to gray.
How can she, how can she, how CAN she?
Railing against this decision always destroyed his self-control. Already his breathing was uneven, his hand on the bed beside her balled into a fist. Worry for her was like acid in his stomach. Though he never would have thought it possible, his love for her was different now. More powerful. Ever since the night they’d first made love, his emotions had intensified. It was almost like a volcano of pent-up feeling had exploded inside his chest, lava and intensity overflowing, receding only just before he drowned, leaving him with a new heart that seemed not to fit so well inside him anymore. It kept swelling up into his throat, trying to choke him.
Bella lifted his fist and bit his knuckle. “Kiss me.”
He recognized her words for what they were: a distraction tactic. But that went both ways.
He leaned down to press his lips softly against the warmth of hers. Like always, her body and her scent shot a jolt of fire and need through him, and his mouth was slanting rougher than he’d meant to against hers. Before either of them was aware of it, his body was flush against hers on the bed and she was gasping for air. He ran the tip of his thumb along her wet lower lip, holding her mouth open for the penetration of his finger and then, hesitantly, for his tongue. It wasn’t something he allowed himself to do often because the way she tasted excited his dangerously carnal desires. It never helped, either, that she was so amazingly responsive to him, that just his tongue in her mouth could give her an orgasm.
Before the red haze could claim him, he moved his lips down her chin and across her jaw, until his tongue was a cool caress against his favorite, hot, oh-so-delicious, place under her ear. Gone, she was still gone and senseless, and his hands rose and cleanly tore the little cotton shirt she wore in half from neck to hem. Carefully, he bit her bra apart and she arched under him, against him, up into his mouth.
He ran the tip of his thumb across her erect nipple, murmuring his need for her against the underside of her breast. Under his lips, her heartbeat was pulse-pounding thunder; he worshipped the sound with long stroking laps of his tongue. She tasted so good that he kept going, all the way down the tender, white silk of her belly. Hard shivers shook her body as he ripped at the denim waistband, but she was warm and flushed pink as his palms smoothed down her hips, moving the material down her legs. He pressed a kiss against the inside of her ankle.
“Bella,” he whispered, his voice thick with desire.
If only this moment could be their forever.
He alternated between kisses and licks as he made his way up her calf, to the back of her knee, to her kitteny softness. Three months ago, one month ago, he couldn’t have done this…hadn’t even dared to imagine being intimate with her like this. But maybe, if he was strong enough—and he knew it wouldn’t take long—she would wait because she would want, and they could try a forever kind of moment again.
The tangy scent of her soft, delicate curls intoxicated him almost beyond the point of restraint. Every part of her was so very dear to him, love and desire playing merry hell with his control and common sense. When one of her errant moves caused her to roll away from him, he panicked and pulled her writhing hips back with a growl. She made a soft sound of what could have been shock or fear or distress, but it barely registered with him as the warmth of her fragrance filled his senses. Swift, painful desire burned through his body like fire-licked whiskey. Eyes closed, his fingers holding her gently, inexorably prisoner, he slid his tongue into her.
He felt her body tense and bow, tasted the extra essence as her tissues stiffened and reddened with the influx of blood. There was nothing for impossibly long seconds but his animalistic need for her, nothingnothingnothing. His tongue mimicked the action of intercourse, lapping at her, but it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough, and then he was sucking from her as he would have sucked her blood. Another hard, lingering rub of his tongue made her muscles contract and she screamed, and feeling her orgasm almost sent him over the edge to his own…
Her second scream brought him up short.
He tore away from her with a strangled hiss, careening against the far wall, his elbow leaving a hole in the drywall. Through a passion-induced fog, her halting voice came to him over the fury of his breathing.
“Edward, you can’t—oh, God—. This is so embarrassing,” she almost wept.
Feeling strange, feeling clumsy and heavy, he straightened, his body’s impulses still going north and south. Bella was glaring at him with tear-filled eyes, one of her hands pressed against her mouth in shame or fear.
His voice was ragged. “Bella?”
She hunched forward, one of her arms wrapped around her naked midriff, as if she wanted to curl up and hide. “They can hear us, Edward.”
Because he was distracted by his still uncomfortably there desire, and the wrenching aftermath of what he’d thought was her fear over what he’d done, it took him a long moment to understand what she was saying.
She was embarrassed by her vocal outburst. Not hurt. Not scared.
He’d forgotten that the heightened hearing of vampires offered no privacy here. It had never bothered him before. There had never been a reason for him to resent it, especially since his mind reading ability made privacy impossible for everyone else. Thoughts of mirth, chagrin, disgust and happiness came from downstairs. They’d heard much more than just her scream, but it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to mention that.
He made a sound, something between a sigh and a groan, trying to cudgel his laughter into submission. That absurd, guileless dignity of hers—she would be hurt if he laughed right now. Kneeling at the side of the bed, he wrapped his arms around her.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, wondering if the tender laughter that twisted his heart could be heard in his voice.
I was just half out of my mind for you…
She was trying to tug him upwards. “You can make it up to me.”
And because he still wanted what she wanted, because his time with her was never enough, he let her pull him back onto the bed. It was early January in Forks and the city was in lockdown from heavy snowfall and freezing temperature advisories. He’d turned the thermostat up to 85-degrees in their room so he could touch her this way. As she helped him yank the rest of his clothing off and they came together skin-against-skin, he was sure the sweetly erotic sensation of it would never diminish in power.
He pulled her arms above her head and gathered her wrists into one of his hands, then held her there as he moved his body in a slow caress against hers. With his lips pressed against her collarbone, he ran his free hand down her quivering skin, all the way from the tip of her breast to the inside of her thigh. Moderating the pressure of his touch was second nature to him now, but sometimes the all-consuming ache he felt for her made him move too quickly. As wickedly fast as he could affect her—his kiss of frost igniting her stormfire—she did the same to him. Her breath caught as he pushed a knee between her thighs and slid too eagerly into her heat. He pushed down and she arched up, his growl a bass to her soft soprano.
Their mouths searched for and found each other, white heat becoming red. He released her wrists to allow her more leverage and she came against him hard, already out of control. Maybe it had something to do with their body temperature, that odd lick of heat that flared whenever they touched…that painful yearning to sink so deeply into her that they would forever be one. Her wildness often incited his, but it could also hasten his release and the sooner it came, the better for her.
She was already orgasming when he shifted and raised the back of her knees to his shoulders. He felt the naked skin of her thighs quivering against his chest, the new, tighter hold her body had on him. He pulled back—the muscles in his back and neck stiff, one hand abusively-hard on his thigh while the other was a caress against her thigh—he pulled back, pushed in, and his own body was shuddering convulsively.
Too fast, it always happened too fast.
“I hope it will be like this for us again…soon,” she said a few moments later.
He moved his head back slightly on the pillow they shared so he could see her better, then traced a finger along her cheek. “It’s already like this for us…now,” he said and moved his hand down her throat, across her breast—
She caught his hand before he could reach her belly. “Mmmm, stop that.”
It didn’t exactly sound like a command, so she couldn’t blame him for not listening. His fingers were nearing their target when she sighed, turned and clamped his hand between her thighs.
“Now it’s time,” she said, gentle as a kiss, as if she knew how her words would sting.
And his heart rose into his throat again. Choking him.
His fingers, cold against her cheek, pressed softly against her warmth.
Open your eyes, Bella.
Looking at him, she was looking at him silently now, her eyes steely soft again.
“Lets take a bath first,” he said and made a move to lift her from the bed.
“No, Edward.” She cupped a palm against his cheek. “No.”
“Then lets at least get you dressed.”
“Why? Because Carlisle will be coming up to give you morphine—”
“No morphine.” She backpedaled at the look in his eyes. “Did you have morphine? Did Carlisle? Rosalie? Emmett? I just want you, Edward.”
He shook his head. “You’re getting the morphine.”
“It will dull my senses.”
“It’s supposed to dull your senses,” he growled.
“Edward, please. I don’t want the morphine.”
“And I don’t want to do this,” he said.
She didn’t even flinch. “I know. But you will, because it’s what I want. Because you promised.”
Their eyes held until the intensity became too painful for him. With a low cry of torment, he pulled her into his arms in one move. “I’m afraid, Bella. Afraid for you.”
She wrapped her arms tightly around him, pressing her face against his neck, and he felt her lips against his skin as she spoke. “I’m going to be fine, Edward. I’m strong. I’m ready. It’s time.”
And you promised, you promised, you promised, he heard between the words, although she didn’t say them again.
They sat still and silent until she moved to press a kiss against his neck.
“Do it,” she said. “Please keep your arms around me, though.”
He drew back to see her eyes—those steely soft eyes that spoke of nothing but her fierce, hell-damned determination to see this through. Tilting her head back, she exposed her throat in unmistakable invitation. Her neck muscles were beginning to shake with the strain of holding the position when his hand finally rose from her shoulder to cup the back of her head.
Jesus and Mary, help her.
And he leaned forward to press his mouth against her carotid artery. “Bella,” he whispered.
Are you sure?
“I love you,” she said. Not a whisper, but a calm affirmation of trust and acceptance.
Before he—oh God, dear God—pierced her warm skin, his fingers caressed her cheek, dabbled in the folds of her ear—a distraction, a very momentary distraction from the pain to come because nothing would distract her once the venom hit her bloodstream. Just as nothing but his love for her would distract him from her blood, but he knew what Alice knew as her vision, both a comfort and a torment, played in his head: that he would be able to stop. If he wasn't certain of that, his lips wouldn't be pressed against Bella's pulse with more intent than just a kiss, no matter what he'd promised.
Eyes closed, he took a breath, his last until Bella would take her first as a vampire, and arms cradling her as tightly as he dared to hold her, he opened his mouth and bit into the girl he loved. Just as he’d known they would, his teeth sank effortlessly through silk and glass. They cried out simultaneously—she in pain, he in another kind of pain. Heat, desire, ambrosia! coursed over his tongue and he swallowed, and the taste of her was better, impossibly better than what he’d remembered—Bella, Bella, I love you—and he swallowed twice more, understanding with new clarity that horror was no longer different from love, pain no different from pleasure, an angel no different from a vampire.
With a growl, he broke away from the painful, pleasurable lure of her blood, his tongue sweeping across the deep gashes his teeth had made. Tried not to fixate on the rose and pink flower he’d left against her neck.
“Bella,” he gasp-choked.
Lightning fast, moving lightning fast now, he went to the femoral artery in her thigh next, another major vein. Sobbing once, he tore through her skin, his voice mingling with hers. Just bit this time, didn’t drink, didn’t dare drink, because it was too hard to stop, because he didn’t deserve to taste her and he never should have. He heard nothing but the pounding of her heart, the sound of her skin tearing, the cries she still kept trying to smother, the growls that ravaged his aching throat.
Killing her now, he was killing her now.
Her body was stiff and arched, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. Against her white, now bloodless cheekbones, her lashes were long and jagged. She thrashed from the deeper pain, no longer shrinking away from his teeth on her other thigh, on her wrist, on the inside of her elbow. Because she could no longer feel those minor pains. Backing away from her, he wiped his mouth on the the bed sheet, but he couldn’t stop the way his tongue ran across his teeth, searching for more of her blood.
Hatred for who and what he was burst inside him like an inferno, violent and more unbearable than he’d ever felt it before. He wanted to tear the hair from his scalp, to gouge his eyes out and claw the skin from his face—to destroy anything that had ever attracted her to him. Vision black, soul black, heart black, he screamed. He bent over her, his body naked and whole, her body naked, torn, in distress. Dying. His body wracked with tearless sobs, he screamed until his oxygen ran out.
. . . . .