In Edward’s voice:
As I hummed, I could feel Bella relaxing in my arms. She was so fragile, so delicate. Soon her heartbeat slowed and her breathing became even as she drifted to sleep. I smiled to myself, remembering the tone of her words as she asked if I found her attractive; her lack of self-awareness amused me. If she only knew how attractive she is to everyone; how she calls to me in so many ways…
I inhaled, enjoying the scent of her slightly damp hair. The smell of her blood was still overpowering, but the monster in me was quiet. No longer would it control me – the new strength I’d found easily kept my burning throat in check.
Bella’s warmth radiated through me as she slept, creating a feeling of belonging that reached into my core. I wanted time to stop right now – there was no place else I ever wanted to be but with her. Her breathing changed, and her eyes began to vibrate beneath her lovely eyelids.
She was dreaming.
I so wished I could hear her dreams, what her subconscious was telling her about me. Was she remembering today, the fear that I instilled in her? Part of me, the practical part, prayed that she was.
I truly didn’t deserve her, and she didn’t deserve to live in the constant danger my proximity meant.
She deserved so much more…
But I couldn’t leave her now. The other part of me, my quiet, cold heart, told me that there was no life for me without her. I’d never wanted for anything before; but now, I knew that everything I was before her was empty. She completed me, made me whole. Now that I knew what that felt like, I couldn’t go back to the way I was. The change was irreversible.
“Not for me,” she whispered in her sleep.
Ah, the frustration was sharp. What was she dreaming about? I gently stroked her hair and waited for more.
“So beautiful. Mmmm, Edward.”
The familiar electricity that I felt whenever Bella said my name returned – amplified by the fact that she was asleep, so vulnerable here in my arms. It was good that my heart was silent; if not, it would be pounding so loud now that she would undoubtedly wake.
“I love you, Edward,” she sighed, and her sleeping face became angelic.
The force of her words rendered me breathless. We’d made our feelings clear, both in words and in actions, but nothing had prepared me for the power such a simple statement had. She loves me.
For so long I couldn’t understand Bella’s hold on me, why she fascinated me so. Even though I had succumbed to her magnetism, I still couldn’t see why she drew me in. She loves me. Now, like the sun rising, everything became clear. She was what I’d been searching for.
I’d thought it was just a coincidence that I’d encountered her; that random chance had thrown us together in this rainy little town. Somehow her simple statement had erased my confusion and I realized that somehow I’d been seeking her out. Decades that had seemingly been spent travelling, learning, sifting through mind after mind, had really been spent searching – trying to find her.
And now she was here, in my arms, safely dreaming. She loves me. The feeling of completeness filled me again, accompanied by another, unfamiliar, yet deeply satisfying warmth. Finally I managed a breath.
“I love you, Bella,” I barely breathed into her sleeping ear.
“Forever,” she whispered contently.
Excitement now filled my heart at hearing this word; it leapt up, grasping at hope – but I immediately chastised it. The thrill of her innocent dreams now calmed as the image I’d seen in Alice’s mind returned. My beautiful Bella, so pale and cold, with golden eyes… forever.
Before the argument in my mind could start again, I felt Bella take a deep breath. She started to roll over, so I carefully slid away from her. As she turned to face where I’d been, her breathing slowed and her eyes were still. The dreaming was over for now. Would she remember any of it in the morning?
Though I longed to touch her face again, I stepped back and sat in the rocking chair instead. The argument now started in my mind, between the moral Edward and the selfish, hungry Edward. The hunger was not for her blood this time, but for her touch. The urge to stroke her skin, kiss her lips, hold her tight was nearly unbearable. I wanted to be so close to her that we would never be separated again – ever. My imagination took me where I longed to be…
I could ask Carlisle to do it. No longer would her blood call out to me, calling to the monster within me. Only her beauty would beckon me, the look in her eyes. I could hold her tight, not worrying about crushing her papery thin bones. I could kiss her the way I so desired to… tasting so much more than just her lips… forever.
Alice had seen it…
And my heart told me that Bella would want it too, she would endure the pain for me; give up her life, her soul, willingly for me.
And that’s where the daydream ended and the argument continued. She didn’t deserve this unending night, forever damned. Heaven wasn’t meant for me, and I wouldn’t do anything that would keep her perfect soul from going to the one place I was barred. Forever was not for us. Sadness washed over me. Was there no middle ground?
There is the present. I was comforted that I would be with her as long as she would have me. I could be selfish and take pleasure in her love as completely as possible today. My chest filled with love for her again. No matter how my moral self chided me, there would be no argument to take away this feeling of joy – not tonight.
Bella was motionless, barely breathing as she slept. I knew she would stay that way for these darkest hours of the night, so I moved to her open window.
The thought of leaving her, even for the short trip home, tore at a corner of my heart for a moment; but I needed to go, just for a little while. My family deserved to know what had happened today.
After one more long look at her restful face, I leapt from her window and ran. The elation in me drove me faster than I’d ever run before. My heart was so light, so happy with her love that my feet didn’t seem to touch the ground. In what seemed like seconds, I was approaching the house. I slowed, and listened to the minds within.
Carlisle was worried that I hadn’t returned yet. He was beginning to fear the worst. Rosalie, on the other hand, was nearly ecstatic. She’d only seen Bella as a threat to her simple life, and was sure that the threat was now gone, that Bella was dead. A brief stab of hate and rage raced through me toward my sister. Alice was calm – she knew that all was well and was trying to convince the rest to make good on the bets they’d made. Esme was worried about me, Bella wasn’t in her thoughts at all. I bounded up the steps loudly, announcing my arrival.
As I opened the door, I tried to smother the smile that had occupied my face since I’d left Bella, but was unsuccessful. My family all turned to me as I entered, and I heard Esme’s relief at my return in her mind.
“How did she taste, Edward?” Rosalie sneered.
I turned to stare at her. At the sight of my still gold eyes, she scowled. My smile grew even wider. “Better than I had ever imagined.”
Carlisle gasped, but Rosalie just looked confused. I turned to my father so he could see my eyes and he relaxed, confused now too.
“I kissed her.”
Shock rippled through the room. Everyone was stunned into silence; everyone except Alice, who started giggling.
With a hrmph, Rosalie turned on her heel and stomped out of the room, furious. Emmett shot me a look of respect and awe before he followed after her. I laughed loudly at her response, a free, unrestrained laugh, and sat down opposite my parents. Jasper, now smiling widely, slid next to Alice and put his arm tightly around her. He had absorbed my happiness and it now reflected in his eyes as well as mine.
Carlisle’s curiosity filled my mind. He rarely spoke to me, but he couldn’t contain himself tonight.
“What happened today, Edward? You look so different…”
Had her love affected my outward appearance as well? “We went hiking, alone. She is so trusting; she had made sure that no one knew she was with me.” Anger colored my words for a moment as I remembered how Bella had guaranteed that I would never be suspected should things have gone… badly.
“How did she react to you in the sun?” Esme was curious too.
I looked into my mother’s eyes. “With wonder. She fears so little about me…” My words trailed off as I remembered when the fear did take over. “There was one point – she came so close to me…” I took a breath as shame washed through me for a moment and looked at my hands.
“But nothing happened?” Esme asked.
I looked up again with new conviction in my heart. “No. I couldn’t hurt her. I can’t ever hurt her, now.” The memory of her sleeping words now filled me again, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
“You love her,” Carlisle whispered, amazed. “And does she…”
I rose triumphantly. “Yes.” I could feel Bella’s pull now, the desire to return to her side was starting to ache in my chest. “May I bring her here tomorrow to meet Esme and show her the house?” Carlisle could see the longing in my eyes.
“Of course. You know you don’t need my permission, Edward.” He smiled. “If you trust her, then we trust her.”
My smile widened. “Thank you, Carlisle.” I turned to go up and change. As the stairs flew beneath my feet, I barely took notice of their discussion of the changes they’d seen in me. My mind was full of Bella, still high on her love.
Quickly I changed and did what little needed to be done to tidy my barren room. What would she think of this, my haven? I looked around – now realizing how vacant my life really was before her. My thoughts, my music, and Carlisle’s books were all that had filled the void my life was before. How had I survived with just that?
I tried to picture Bella here, looking out the windows, sitting on the couch. Would my mundane existence bore her? As I walked down to the front door, I saw my home with new eyes, imagining what she would see. On the second floor I stopped as Carlisle’s cross caught my eye. I always smirked at it when I saw it – the myths surrounding our kind were so wrong. Could Bella believe the truth? Would it scare her away from me?
It would be good if it did, I reminded myself. She didn’t need the danger I presented in her life; it would be infinitely better for her to run from me. Better for her, I argued, but not for me. I tried to silence the argument still raging in my thoughts.
I would tell Bella the truth, and if she ran then I would let her go. The memory of her terrified face in the meadow flashed through my mind, and my chest was suddenly empty. She would go, taking everything that I was with her. The thought of never seeing her again filled my empty chest with pain, and I had to fight to breathe. It is a torture I would endure silently, because what happened to me didn’t matter. Nothing mattered to me but her.
Only returning to Bella’s side would ease the agony I now felt, so I turned toward the stairs again. Maybe she would believe the truth… she had accepted so much already. How would it feel, sharing all the secrets of my world with her?
Only one subject would be off limits, and with that thought I went to find Alice. I needed to remind her that any discussion of Bella becoming one of us was taboo, no exceptions. Then I would return to my love, and wait for her to awaken.
As I started down the stairs, I found myself humming, my voice echoing the music in my heart…