"Vent et øjeblik!"
Jasper heard Edward's shout and politely waited a moment for his counterpart to catch up with him. But only a moment. "Engelsk!" he hissed over his shoulder as he started walking again. "We don't want to impede traffic or draw attention to ourselves."
Edward winced. "Sorry. I know. But this is New York. It's not as if Danish is uncommon in such an international city. It's not like we're speaking Klingon."
The two men paced with smooth rapidity through LaGuardia, their carryon bags hanging securely from their shoulders. In all respects unremarkable save for their model-perfect looks, they still garnered several stares. "Klingon?" Jasper muttered, knowing the other man would hear him. "What the hell is Klingon?"
Edward made an impatient sound. "Star Trek. It's how true Star Trek fans know they're part of the group."
"And you're a Star Trek fan?"
"A Trekkie," Edward corrected with some quiet dignity. "Yes."
"Wonderful. Just don't tell her first thing. I don't want to ruin this."
Edward compressed his lips. "Mary Alice always knows best. She knew about me," he confessed, as if to some hidden religion. "I am sure that my...hobby...won't cause a disruption in the...arrangement." He ran a pale, nervous hand through his ruddy brown hair. A learned gesture and so characteristic of him that he did it without thought.
The taxi ride was undertaken in apparent silence. In truth, the driver was convinced his fare was a gay couple and he hoped for something – anything – along the lines of what the Americans called a PDA. Public Display of Affection. He had a secret addiction to gay porn and thought it would be amazing if something happened in his cab.
There was a great deal happening in the rear seat, but the driver was ignorant of all but the most blatant of the happenings. It was just as well. Both the men were vampires and the driver was a primary variety of prey.
Remember, Isabella of the Boston Swans is older than any vampire you've yet met, Jasper thought purposefully at his protégée. She's never even consented to consider a mating before. Only Mary Alice's reputation has persuaded her.
Edward nodded, tapping in Morse Code to Jasper – a vampire who was changed during the American Civil War – I know this. I will not embarrass you. Isabella has the right of refusal and I will not contest her decision.
Mating, for vampires in the twenty-first century, was complicated. So many of the cold immortals had built up such fortunes in their lifetimes on earth that some of the relationships began as business deals. Mergers. Jasper Whitlock and his mate, Mary Alice, were facilitators of these matings. The high-profile variety.
Now remember not to react to her thoughts. Don't assume to know what she's feeling either; that's my department and she is counting on my veracity to signify that this will be a true mating.
I know, Edward tapped with near silent impatience. I am not a newborn.
If I were human, I would be sweating, Edward tapped on Jasper's arm as they rode up the elevator at 4 East 89th Avenue, adjacent to the Guggenheim Museum and just off 5th Avenue. It was, in all of Edward's research, a good address. Pre-war, the website said, he hoped it was a place Isabella felt at home.
He wondered if she were uneasy. As uneasy as he was. He had met Mary Alice quite by accident. Well, he'd believed it was an accident at the time; she had since shown him that her decision to travel to Denmark for the architecture had led her immediately to a vision of himself.
He was standing on a balcony with the night sky behind him, speaking earnestly with a petite woman of vampiric beauty and grace of movement. Her eyes were not visible, but the curve of her cheek, the draping of her dress and the lustrous fall of her hair had definitely captured Edward's attention as he saw them in Mary Alice's mind.
I know her, Mary Alice had then thought to him. Her name is Isabella and she is in New York City. Then, Mary Alice of the knowing eyes reached up and cupped Edward's face in smooth palms before speaking aloud. "She's been waiting for you."
Relax. I can already catch the scents of others of our kind, Jasper advised. "All right? We're here," he continued out loud. This was Edward's cue to remember not to respond like the reader of minds that he was. Jasper knocked on the paneled door and Edward did a quick mental inventory.
Portfolio on my BlackBerry? Ja.
This was, after all, to be a financial as well as relationship merger. Isabella controlled much wealth, accumulated through her centuries of life. She had had a series of human business managers, but the last one in the genealogical line had died and she was hesitant to trust someone new.
Edward, on the other hand, managed his own interests, visiting with his brokers and picking their brains. Thus, he'd done very well with his financial interests with a limited number of years. Only fifty, really. He was quite young.
The door opened and, instead of the beauty he had been expecting, Edward found himself being greeted by a tall Ancient.
This is the one? The scarred one? He has a sharp eye and strong lines; he would do...
"Welcome. Mr. Whitlock?" he asked, eyeing Edward with distant courtesy. "Right on time, we thank you. I am Marcus of Volterra," he went on, with a hand flat on his chest before Jasper could do more than lift a brow. "Do come in."
"I'm Edward Cullen," Edward said before accepting the invitation. "This is Jasper Whitlock, Mary Alice's mate. The Empath."
Oh, so you're the Mindreader?
Jasper looked beyond the dark-haired, brooding figure into the filtered light of the room beyond. "May we come in now?" he inquired, his slight American Southern accent lilting his voice.
In future years, as the decades rolled over and under him, to the left and to the right, Edward Cullen would keep the next hour shining in his memory. Not that he forgot anything, but this was a gilded hour.
Her scent struck him – freesia, lilacs, musky sweetness – seeming to spiral in from every part of his body to bloom in his chest, middle and groin. Then, she rose from a black leather chair and he drank in the sight of her. Just as in the vision from Mary Alice, Isabella was petite, delicately curvaceous, graceful. Her eyes startled him. They were golden. Under straight, thin brows, they shone with guarded welcome. Her porcelain skin was expected, the black dress clinging beautifully to her, over the barest rounding of her hips and down her thighs.
Edward felt every muscle in his body tightening and he hoped with each cellular structure that Isabella would consent to be with him. He already felt lost in her eyes. Golden eyes. How did she do that? Contact lenses?
He reached to her mind with hesitation. Desperately, he wished to know her deepest thoughts so he could please her. He was frightened of her possible rejection with a power that surprised him.
Calm down! Jasper mentally shouted. "Isabella," he said audibly. "It has been a long time. My wife sends her best wishes."
"I am sure she does, Jasper Whitlock."
Her voice captivated Edward and he felt himself swaying lightly before getting a firm grip on himself.
Young, so young. - Marcus
Careful! - Jasper
And nothing whatsoever from Isabella.
"This is Edward Cullen," Marcus said in the tones of formal introduction.Young. But he's staying silent so perhaps he's not foolish. Energy crackled in the air as he regarded the space between Isabella and Edward. "If you two would shake hands, I can better judge the bond."
"What?" Jasper blurted, his usual smooth demeanor ruptured. I didn't know about this. What the hell is she thinking? Isabella will be hearing from my Mary Alice about this. "I mean, I just wasn't expecting this."
Edward could not tear his eyes from Isabella as she arched her brow. "Did you think I would rely solely on your word, Mr. Whitlock? I believed strongly enough in Mary Alice's vision to invite Mr. Cullen here, but that didn't mean I wasn't going to seek an expert of my own."
"You're an Empath too?" Edward wondered, briefly touching Marcus' traditional dark-burgundy gaze.
I see relationships, Young Edward. So come, touch Isabella. At Edward's shocked, embarrassed expression – the emotion of which made Jasper almost giggle, but he turned it into a snort at the last moment – Marcus' lips twitched.Shake hands. Impetuous boy.
Isabella waited, her expression serene though her eyes glowed from within. "Well? Am I that terrifying?"
I can't hear your thoughts and that is terrifying, in a way. "No, Isabella. Not at all."
She extended her hand. He accepted it with both of his.
Oh. The sudden, encompassing jolt was a physical thing as much as it was emotional and even spiritual. Isabella's eyes widened with a sudden snap. The pressure Edward felt on every centimeter of his skin was amazing. His stony flesh felt as if there were an effervescent warmth moving just around the upper layers before sinking deep inside of him. He still could not hear her thoughts, but he felt utterly comfortable with that. If this were truly the way a mate bond felt, he was going to be able to spend eternity with a peaceful mind. A calm woman who would leave him the quietude of his own thoughts.
He could kiss her feet. And he would. If she let him. Every toe, her instep, the curve of her heel, up her Achilles tendon... His mind flew, imagining how she would taste, how she would smell as he inched up her legs.
This is the strongest mate bond I have ever seen. Astonishing.
Edward acknowledged that with a sparse nod; his attention was all for Isabella. He stepped nearer to her. She closed the gap, her eyes still wide with astonishment and darkening with desire.
Edward, you lucky dog. The two of you are so wrapped up in such a complicated haze I can hardly see you. Can you even hear me? Bet you can't. Bet my Mary Alice had this so right that you can't even think straight. I remember how it was...
Edward didn't even bother to nod at Jasper. He tuned out his sponsor's thoughts entirely, heeding only the confirmation he received from Marcus.
Isabella took a moment to skim her hands up his arms and he put his arms around her so that they were almost dancing, there in the quiet of her home.
"I'll just leave the paperwork on your dining table, Isabella," Marcus murmured with a smile clear in his voice.
Jasper cleared his throat like any human would at such a moment. "I'll leave Mary Alice's paperwork there, too, Isabella. Edward."
"Edward..." Isabella whispered.
"I've waited for you a long time," she admitted with a voice that sounded relieved, fulfilled and happy. He couldn't remember anyone sounding that happy in his presence before. "So long..."
"I feel almost like I cheated," he confessed, pulling her more tightly against himself. In the background, he heard Marcus and Jasper speaking about leaving the new mates alone "for an hour or so." Papers rustled, steps crossed over floors of wood and tile, the heavy front door opened and closed and soft laughter sounded on the other side of it.
Isabella seemed not to hear nor care. "Cheated? How. We've never met before today."
"I haven't had to wait nearly so long."
She smiled. At him. His dead heart seemed to pulse inside his chest. "Let's not keep me waiting any longer, shall we?"
Slender, nimble fingers plowed through his hair, full lips slid along his jaw, fragrant breath wafted over his skin. Edward kept his eyes open as he turned and moved and bent to claim her lips with his.
"Oh, there. Yes..."
"This would go much easier if I could read your mind."
A soft laugh. "Marcus said you could do that. Not mine?"
The bronze head lifted, dark burgundy eyes meeting darkening amber. "Not a whiff of a thought."
"Hmmm...good." She rolled over to him. "Close your eyes..."
Hands. Lips. Tongues. Panting building up to groans and shouts and one long, hoarse scream.
A low voice. "I love being a vampire."
"Oh, me too. Just now, this is everything."
Something thudded, something cracked. A bell-like moan. "Ohhh...now... Right...ahhh, yessss..."
The sun set. Darkness flooded the room. They barely noticed. The sun rose and a light laugh was once again heard at the front door.
"Go away, Marcus."
"You heard my mate."
"Mate...I never knew it would be like this."
Outside, Jasper and Marcus signed their names to a congratulatory note and slid it under the door.
"If they're anything like Mary Alice and me? They won't be coming out of there for at least a week."
"Only a week?" Marcus' smile managed to be proud, sad and reminiscent all at once. Jasper felt the emptiness that hovered over him. "My Didyme and I spent a full month under a waterfall..."
It took the entire flight back to Copenhagen International Airport for the two men to share all their stories. And now they each had one more to add:
The incredibly strong mate bond of Edward Cullen and Isabella of the Swans.