"Son of a bitch!" Edward snarled under his breath, his fists opening and closing over and over, but his breathing had stopped.
Alice and I were on either side of him instantly.
"You can't, Edward. He's a father, a husband...a good one," Alice whispered to him at top speed. "Look. See?" she asked, showing him whatever her visions were telling her.
He shook his head furiously. The low growl rumbling from him could merely be felt, not heard – something I was grateful for as we stood against the wall of the building. Carlisle had suggested Edward test himself every now and then, because he knew that the yearning for human blood would cause a sort of withdrawal in his son. He urged Edward to rebuild resistance by occasionally venturing out in public. So we were currently wandering a small street flea market in upstate New York on a rather cloudy day.
"Tell me," I commanded, tipping his chin to look at me. "I can bind you to me. Make it go away."
His eyes were fierce, black, hungry, despite the fact that he'd fed the day before – several deer and a few coyote. His normally warm, sultry red eyes hadn't yet started to show the diet he'd been working so hard to change the last few weeks. Carlisle said that would take month or two. So far, Edward had resisted most of the temptations, but occasionally, he struggled...like right then. Sometimes, it was due to the alluring smell of the human, and other times, it was dreadful thoughts that he wouldn't even repeat.
"You shouldn't have to," he grumbled, squeezing his eyes closed as the human in question moved on farther into the crowd. "But he was..."
"Staring?" Alice giggled, and I rolled my eyes at the two of them.
They had become thick as thieves – all mentally, of course. The two of them liked to have the most bizarre conversations the household had ever seen. It drove Jasper and me crazy, not to mention Emmett, who was way too nosy for his own good. Alice relished having a brother she could really relate to, and Edward had taken to the role very seriously. It was a rather adorable kinship. They tested each other's mental capabilities, played with visions, and that was the way Edward had learned about Alice's past – well, about what past she could remember. She only remembered waking up immortal and having two visions – one of meeting Jasper and the other of seeking out Carlisle. That little bit of info intrigued Edward to no end.
I sighed, shaking my head. "Staring at us does not put him on America's Most Wanted, Edward," I grumbled. "It merely makes him a creepy old man that likes staring at young women. He's no different than any other member of the male species. Let it go."
Without giving Edward a choice, I shielded him from it all.
"Bella, no," he complained. "I need to do this. I can do this."
Rosalie had been so right in describing Edward as tenacious and a perfectionist, because he truly was both of those things, which made him hard-headed as hell, but I feared he pushed himself too hard at times.
At my thoughts, he grinned and shrugged. "She said that?" he asked, taking my hand, but I merely snorted and smirked at him, daring him to argue. Edward sighed, his body relaxing infinitesimally. "The things he was thinking..."
"Were they really all that different than say..." I glanced around the market, my eyes locking with a boy in his late teens, who was gazing at me with a glazed-over look in his eye. "That guy? Or how about the guy over there at the vegetable stand that looks like he wishes he was Superman and could see through Alice's jeans with x-ray vision? Hmm?" I raised an eyebrow at him. "That would be no, right?"
Alice snorted into a laugh, giving Edward a side glance. "I'll go find the others," she chuckled, giving me a wink before disappearing into the crowd in search of the rest of the family.
I stepped up onto the sidewalk, stopping in front of him. "And really, let's be fair about this. Care to share just how many women are thinking about you...right now?" I asked him, folding my arms across my chest, because I was well aware of several women eye-fucking him as he stood in front of me. It made me murderous, but I had to maintain, simply for the fact that Carlisle would kill me if I just decided to pop the girl behind Edward in the mouth for drooling over his ass in the jeans he was currently sporting.
"Nope, can't," he chuckled, mocking my stance by folding his own arms across his chest. "You're shielding that, thankfully."
"How about before I did, smart guy?" I laughed, tilting my head at him while I watched his eyes mellow back out into the red I'd sort of come to love. They gave him an edge of dangerous sexiness that I hadn't expected to find attractive; then again, there wasn't much about Edward that wasn't attractive.
He grinned at my loss of focus, all lopsided and deadly, dragging his tongue across his bottom lip. Suddenly, I found myself tugged into the closest, darkest alleyway, with a very amorous Edward looming over me, around me, against me. I was surrounded by him – his intense stare, his amazing scent, and his strong arms.
"I can't help it, Bella," he growled sexily, pressing his forehead to mine. "It's all new and too much. Carlisle says the possessive feelings don't go away, but we'll find away to manage them. For now, though...no man looks at what's mine..."
The purr I let loose came unhindered and without shame. This was mate claiming mate. It was a dance we'd been doing since the beginning, since I'd found him on the rooftop across from my apartment in the city. It was the push and pull that we couldn't seem to resist, nor did we have any inclination to try. We'd driven the house into a lust-filled frenzy on more than one occasion – several occasions, actually – because poor Jasper couldn't help but push all that Edward and I were emitting back out to everyone else. Emmett loved us for it, and Rose didn't really complain, either, but Alice had become really good at foreseeing it, so she'd started to give fair warning, getting us or everyone else out of the house before we exploded. However, Carlisle saw it as intriguing, wondering if it was just because we were newly-mated or because Edward and I were frozen at a sexually-charged and hormonally-driven seventeen. My theory was that it was both, plus the fact that we were absolutely, stupidly, and happily head-over-heels for each other. We were stubborn and argumentative, cheesy and insatiable, daring and carefree, but we were also extremely protective of what we'd found, keeping certain aspects of our relationship close and secret. I was pretty sure that went back to how long we'd waited for each other – Edward longer than me, obviously.
"Bella," Edward rumbled in my ear, his voice husky and pure, rich velvet ghosting across my neck as my fingers slid up his stomach and around his shoulders, only to wrap myself around him, making me wish I could crawl inside of him.
My arms and legs gripped him as he pressed me forcefully into the wall behind me. "More," I begged when his lips, tongue, and teeth teased the sensitive skin behind my ear.
I could barely see straight when his mouth was on my flesh, his hands on my ass, and his chest pressed to mine, but my moan couldn't be held back when he rolled his hips against me, denim sliding roughly against denim. He was hard, straining against the front of his jeans, and he was hitting me exactly where I needed him – where I always needed him. It was an ache that never really went away, much like the burn in our throats.
Feeling his smile against my neck, I tugged on his hair to pull his face to mine. I whimpered when our lips met, because he kissed like he made love – deep, heated, and mind blowing. Sometimes, he was forceful, feral, and sometimes, he savored every single inch of me, making me feel so cherished that I wished I could shed real tears, but every time, he gave me all of himself – heart, body, soul. At that moment, he was slow, languid, thorough...possessive. Leaving one hand on my bottom, the other traveled slowly up my t-shirt, palming my breast.
Jesus, Edward, we have to stop, I thought to him, my breathing heavy as he broke away from me, but his thumb bushed over my peaked nipple, making me moan softly.
"Lift your shield, love. I'll hear them coming for us," he whispered, his eyes flickering between my mouth and what his hand was doing underneath my shirt, which was trying to tug down the bra cup in order to feel skin on skin.
I giggled, because I couldn't help it. "No!" I protested, lifting my shield. "Not the family, handsome." I chuckled, nudging his jaw with my nose for him to see the few humans that were casting curious or amused glances our way as they passed the alley. "Look."
"I don't have to," he said with a sexy smirk, his eyes dark with want, tinged with heated red. "They merely think we're young, unsupervised, and in love, Bella. All true...except for the young part. Though, the family is trying really, really hard not to disturb us. They're not far."
I sighed, cupping his face and getting lost at just how surreal it was to touch him after dreaming of him for so long. I still wasn't sure it was real, a thought that earned me a brief kiss.
"Come on, then," I said, wriggling down from his embrace, though he kept me close. "I don't care what Carlisle says. That's enough testing you today."
We both smiled at our father's amused chuckle that met our ears. He wasn't far but was respectfully giving us a moment, most likely holding back my brothers. We'd talked to him about managing ourselves, Edward's thirst, and the family. It was all very overwhelming. What I was grateful for was that Carlisle wasn't pushing, just guiding and suggesting.
"Okay," Edward conceded, "but I really do need to get this under control, Bella."
"But it won't happen all at one time, baby," I argued with a sigh, that term of endearment making him smile, because he said it made him forget he was old. "Just...allow yourself time. Would you have taken that man? Really?"
He paused, stepping back from me and running hand through his hair. He stared down at the ground, shoving both hands into his front pockets.
He winced, letting out a defeated sound. "I don't know. Maybe?" He shrugged a shoulder. "Not because he was particularly evil," he huffed, frowning a bit, "but in protection of you. His thoughts were vile."
"I'm sure," I allowed, "but thoughts aren't illegal. I don't need protection from a human, Edward. I've dealt with worse at school. I know that you may feel differently and you can't help but hear them, but people should be able to think what they want without being judged on errant lapses of reason."
Edward pursed his lips just a little, looking away from me and out toward the street. "You just negated the last eighty years of my life."
Chuckling, I stepped closer to him. "I did no such thing. You eradicated true monsters from this world, which probably saved the lives of many innocent people. Whether that was your place or not is a debate you can have with Carlisle, but not with me. I don't want to philosophize with you...I wouldn't be good at it, because I'm blinded by my love for you. However, the average person can think, daydream, or fantasize all they want...about anything they want. The monsters you removed are the ones that didn't know the difference between their fantasies and their desires to bring them to fruition."
"Are you condoning my former...lifestyle, Bella?" he asked softly, reaching for my hand and guiding me out of the alley.
"Nope, but I'm not condemning you for it, either," I whispered back. "It's simply...a part of what makes you...well, you. Would you go back to it?"
"Would you come with me?" he countered, raising an eyebrow.
"Uh, no," I murmured, scrunching up my nose and shaking my head. "I mean, I'd rather not, but I'd have to follow you..." I rambled uncomfortably, because we couldn't be separated, but I'd never want to change the way that I fed.
"Then, no," he said, grinning sweetly and pressing his lips to my temple. He leaned down to my ear, nipping at my earlobe. "But I don't have to like it when someone covets what's mine, Bella. That may never change." He chuckled at the laugh that escaped me, tucking me to his side. "Come, love...before they leave us."
This fact alone made Edward more at ease. He didn't say it, but I could tell that he was most comfortable with the two of us. After years of being alone, I was pretty sure it was overwhelming to be in a house full of immortals, most of whom acted like the young ages in which we were frozen; music, laughter, video games, arguments, and teasing were a constant din of noise some days. Other days, couples holed themselves up in their rooms, trying their best to give each other privacy, something that was limited in our house.
Edward liked his hunts with Carlisle, which I found out was something they'd done from the beginning. It gave them a chance to talk things out a little without having the peanut gallery around for verbal commentary. But I really think that Carlisle just loved having his "oldest" son home. As much as Carlisle loved us all, it was quite obvious there was a special bond between the two of them. We'd started teasing him about favoritism.
It had been two weeks since the street flea market, and Edward's withdrawals had calmed down, but he still struggled. The sense of smell was starting to become the issue. He craved human blood, as much as he didn't want to admit it, and I felt for him, because once the pure liquid gold had been tasted, nothing else would do. I'd gone through the same thing, and I'd only killed one man, so I couldn't imagine having to change my way of thinking, my reaction to urges after eighty years and countless humans.
That was where Jasper came in – and Emmett, too, simply to help his new brother out. Emmett had a way of breaking Edward's tension, but Jasper's talent and his long life's experience made him a much more reliable help.
But the last time we'd gone out in public, Edward had really lost it. There had been a recent kidnapping of a small boy in the local newspapers, a current event we couldn't help but watch because it was constantly on the news, not to mention the posters tacked up everywhere. We were in a shopping mall in Albany when Edward latched on to a mind that required all of us to restrain him. Apparently, that particular mall didn't do proper background checks or the guy had never been caught, but the security guard was Edward's primary target. Only with my shield, Jasper's calm demeanor, and Carlisle's promise to get the guy did Edward allow us to remove him from the building. And even that had demanded force. He'd been black-eyed, vengeful, and just all kinds of distractingly beautiful as he growled to us that the kidnapped little boy was still alive.
I was giving Edward space, which meant from my mind, too, because he'd been in a sullen mood since we'd returned from the mall. And until Carlisle came home with some sort of news about the kidnapped child, he would most likely remain in a foul mood. Edward couldn't help how deeply ingrained his former means of hunting was, but I hated to see him upset. If Carlisle said he'd catch the guy – the right way – then he'd meant it.
I wandered into Esme's private library, hoping to find something I hadn't read a hundred times. I came to a stop, giving the piano a long, slow gaze. It was the one thing in the house Esme wouldn't allow anyone to touch, so most of them barely acknowledged its presence, but I did. Often. When I'd first learned about Edward, I'd come into Esme's sitting room just to look at it. It was a beautiful and expensive black baby grand. Sometimes, she'd raise the top, like it was then, and sometimes, she'd close it, but she'd confessed to me that over the decades, she'd kept it tuned for him. "Just in case," she would whisper, with a squeeze to my shoulder and a kiss to my head.
He knew it was here, but he hadn't laid as much as a finger on it since he'd been in the house.
I could hear Edward's pacing upstairs in my room – like a lion in a cage – so I grabbed a book and fell down onto the sofa next to the window. The words on the page were meaningless, because the random trails of rainwater on the glass caught my attention. Lightning flickered through the sky, followed by a low rumble of thunder. It was that sort of weather that made me miss Forks, made me miss my dad.
Despite his silent entry, I knew when Edward entered the room. I could feel it in my chest, throughout my entire body, really, but his scent of wildflowers in the sun was uniquely his, which caused me to inhale deeply, relishing the soothing, settling feeling it brought at the same time it made every nerve I had stand at raw, alerted attention.
"You don't have to hide from me, you know," he said, kneeling by my side. His voice was soft and a touch tentative.
"I wasn't hiding," I snickered, locking gazes with warm and sweet red that was trying its damnedest to morph into an orange-ish color, though still a touch troubled.
"What were you thinking about just now?" he asked, tilting his head just a little to the left. "Your face was so...sad." He trailed a finger down my face and across my jaw, finally gliding over my bottom lip.
"My dad," I admitted, pulling and tugging at him until he crawled up onto the sofa with me, laying his head on my chest, his stomach between my legs. "This weather reminds me of him. Of Forks," I murmured, running my fingers through Edward's unruly locks.
"Are you sorry that Carlisle changed you?"
The question certainly surprised me, but I wasn't sure I knew the answer to it until that very moment. "No."
His head shot up, and he studied my face, not saying anything as he braced himself up on his elbows in order brush my hair with long sweeps of his fingers.
"But you lost so much..." he started to argue, yet he didn't finish.
"But I gained even more." I stared back out the water-beaded window, taking a deep breath and letting it out. "I'm not sure I've always felt that way, but with time comes perspective. Charlie would've died anyway, whether I was there for him or not. Carlisle said his heart was weak, his arteries in poor shape. If I'd have been human when he died, I would've been shipped back to my mother. No Alice, no Carlisle and Esme, no big noisy family...and no you." I shrugged a shoulder, meeting his gaze again. "I really would've lost my choices. At least in this family, I feel...normal – definitely more normal than I did when I was human. I fit in here."
"I'm pretty sure Carlisle would've found a way to keep you anyway," Edward chuckled softly, shaking his head. "If not Esme."
"Maybe." I smiled, tracing his eyebrow, down his cheek, and along his jaw line. "Why do you ask?"
He didn't answer; he merely laid his head back down on my chest, his large hand splayed out over my rib cage like he needed to touch as much of me as he could. I pressed kisses to the top of his head, following his gaze to the piano. I still kept my mind closed to him, because it seemed he needed the solace, the quiet, and he hadn't complained so far.
"When I was changed, I was so...confused," he started, his thumb softly rubbing circles on my stomach over and over. "Carlisle said my mother begged him to save me just before she died, but for years, I wondered if she knew what he was or if she was just...praying aloud to God and Carlisle happened to hear her. I've seen his memory of it, and I can't tell. Or maybe I'm just trying to force my own interpretation on what I see."
Leaving my lips against his hair, I rubbed his back, much like the way he was holding onto me: spread fingers, little movement, but as much touching as I could get. I knew this story – I'd begged Carlisle for any information about Edward he'd tell me – but I hadn't heard it from Edward's view. Carlisle was convinced that Elizabeth Masen saw through his human facade at the end of her days.
"I was raised to believe in God, that what Carlisle had turned me into was something straight from hell. I hated it, fought it, but the only thing that kept me from trying to destroy myself was that one simple thought that my mother may have known the truth," he gushed, but his voice was barely above a whisper. "The angry side of me wanted her to see what she'd done, see what she'd condemned me to, but the other side of me – the little bit of my human side that's still left – wanted to make her proud."
My brow furrowed and I squeezed him closer, but I stayed quiet. It seemed he needed to get this out, like it had been building since he stepped foot in the house. I wanted to argue with him, tell him that any mother would be proud of the man in my arms. He was brave and strong, following a path that he thought was right. He was smart and noble, wanting to rid the world of its evil, despite the fact that he thought himself to be just as wicked. And he was honorable, because even though he'd made many mistakes, he was willing to own them, face whatever came his way because of them. I couldn't see how any parent wouldn't be proud to call him son.
"I accused Carlisle of shredding my soul, of destroying it," he continued, and I could hear the shame in his tone, "which is utterly ridiculous, because to look at him, to see him work, anyone can see just how amazing his soul is. And then there's you," he said, sitting up at bit in order to look me in the eyes. "There's no way on Earth your soul is destroyed. None. I see it radiate out around you. So damn beautiful," he muttered, shaking his head. "I don't know what to believe anymore. I've seen heinous things, participated in them. I've committed every sin in the Bible – vanity, gluttony, greed, pride, lust, slothfulness... and definitely wrath."
"Lust?" I teased with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, Bella," he chuckled darkly. "You really have no idea," he told me, nipping at my lips softly. "I've seen it all in others' minds, but never truly experienced it...until you."
"I think lust between two people that love each other isn't a sin. It's a beautiful thing." I smiled at his soft laugh, kissing him again. "If you were raised to believe in God, then surely you understand that all you need is forgiveness and to change your ways, Edward. It's faith in yourself, your own forgiveness that will set you free. You don't have to believe in anything, but if it brings you comfort, then you need to let go the past and move on."
My views on religion were limited to a few years in Sunday school. My mother had tried them all, including Buddhism, Taoism, and Scientology, but after I was older, I'd stopped going with her. It all depended on her mood and just what was going on in her life at the time. However, long, in-depth talks with Carlisle had taught me that while all religions were different, their core element could be considered similar – that there was a higher power and that all creations were worthy of love and acceptance. Carlisle seemed to live by the Golden Rule: Treat others how you'd want to be treated. It was very simple for him and probably why he was such an amazing doctor.
"How can I do that when I still feel the need to..."
"Protect the innocent?" I finished for him, and he nodded slowly. "You can still do that, you know. You just can't exact your type of justice. The guy at the mall has to answer to God for his own sins, Edward."
"That's what Carlisle said," he sighed.
"Yeah, I can imagine he did," I chuckled. "He's a doctor, so his whole existence has been about saving lives, not taking them, no matter what they've done to deserve it. No one is perfect. We're all evil by your definition, because we've all broken the seven deadly sins. We can only make amends and try to do better next time."
I cupped his handsome face, trying to wipe the sadness and tension from it. He looked lost, confused, like he couldn't decide whether to bolt from the room or kiss me senseless. He looked every bit his frozen seventeen – unsure, sweet, and anxious. Lying just under the surface was the fierce predator that wanted to find the mall's security guard and eradicate him. Edward's pure power vibrated underneath his skin, like a humming electrical line, but his tender touches were all for me. But gazing up at him right then, I could see the boy that Elizabeth Masen had spent her dying breath pleading for.
"I think your mother loved you so much that she was willing to beg anyone that would listen in order to save her son. It just happened to fall upon the ears of someone that could actually do something about it. She wanted her beautiful boy to live, in whatever capacity that may be. She wanted him to continue on without her, to find things that made him happy, to see the world, to laugh, to make friends, to fall in love, to do his best with the opportunity that was given him."
"Esme agrees with you," Edward whispered, his brow furrowing as his eyes flickered toward the door for a second.
"I just bet she does," I laughed once. "She told me those same things when Charlie died."
"Did it help?" he asked, slipping his arms underneath me in order to hold my shoulders. Pressing his forehead to mine – which I'd discovered was his way of grounding himself – he dropped sweet, barely-there kisses to my lips.
"Not at first," I answered softly and honestly. "I was a newborn, so nothing calmed me, and Charlie's death made me feel very...guilty. It was a long time before I could really listen to the family. But I knew I had to make a choice: stay angry, or grow the hell up...or as Rose puts it, 'Put my big girl panties on and deal.'"
The grin that spread over his face was beautiful; even better was the slight chuckle that shook us both. "It seems you've done just fine," he snickered, shaking his head. "I don't know about the panties part."
I giggled at the word "panties" coming from him, but I shrugged a shoulder. How did I explain that I had needed to find myself first before I came to terms with his mere existence, much less what he was supposed to be to me? That I'd had ten years of waiting, learning, preparing, and hoping for the moment he'd walk into my life? I sighed, looking out the window again at the rain that was falling harder.
"I don't know about fine," I admitted. "I just know how I feel. I never want to kill another human because my loss of control took away someone's dad and husband. I don't want to be that monster. I never want to lose who I was before...the real me. My personality is still me, and I'll always look exactly the same; only my diet has changed. But I can't judge you on your choices, because I've made decisions that affected my life...forever. Some I regret, but others were worth it. I can only live my own life the best I can; I can't condemn someone for living theirs – no matter what they've done. I don't have to answer for them, but perhaps one day, I'll have to answer for mine."
A small amount of tension left his handsome face, but his eyes heated, swirling from red to black. "Bella,"
was all he murmured before his lips were on mine. They were warm, wet, and when his tongue claimed my mouth, I could do nothing more than surrender to him...although it almost felt like he was surrendering to me.
Our legs tangled, as did our tongues. My hands tugged at his shirt, pulling him closer while trying to feel skin at the same time. Edward turned his head the opposite direction in order to kiss me deeper, a moan escaping him at the same time his hips surged forward against my own. He didn't stop; he merely reached down to my knee, hitching my leg higher around his waist just to do it again. Only, this time, I could feel so much more.
My skin prickled into a fiery explosion, and my center clenched hard. The cotton of his t-shirt shredded in my hands in the center of his back when his very hard erection pressed against me just where I was hurting for him.
His hands gripped my hair, controlling every second of his kiss, finally wrenching my head to the side so that he could taste the skin of my neck. Cupping his firm ass, I pushed him into me – hard – which unraveled the last shred of my control, my shield going a little haywire. The pillar candle on the coffee table hit the rug with a dull thump, making us both jump.
Sorry, I thought to him, grasping either side of his face and pulling him up to meet my gaze.
"Don't be," he panted, his eyes even darker than before as he licked his lips. "Bella, I... I just... I need..." He huffed frustratedly through his nose, shaking his head. "I fucking love you...so much..."
I nodded, understanding what he needed and pushing at him to sit up. His face fell a little when I stood up from the sofa, until I silently offered him my hand. I led him through the room, my goal being our bedroom, but I gave the piano a glance on my way by.
"Not yet," he answered my unasked question. "I know why Esme saved it, but I'm not...there yet. She wants the man I was before I left, and I'm not him. I want to be, but I'm not."
Looking over my shoulder, I smiled warmly at him. "You will be, Edward. No one is rushing you on anything."
"I know," he muttered ever so softly, following me up the stairs to our room. When we closed the door behind us, he said, "I don't understand it."
"I love you," I stated, forcing him to sit on the edge of the bed so that I could stand between his legs, and his hands immediately pulled me closer. "What's not to understand about that?" I asked.
"That I get," he chuckled softly. "I don't understand why they care. They don't know me."
I pulled the tattered remains of his t-shirt off of him and dropped it to the floor, grimacing at what I'd done, but he said nothing. Physically, he was perfect. Long, lean muscles, smooth skin, and just a smattering of hair – some on his chest and the rest leading temptingly down into the waist of his jeans – were just the tip of the iceberg. His face, his lips, his strong jaw, and his soft hair called to me like I'd never experienced. He was beautiful, angelic, but still masculine, radiating strength, wisdom, and power that only living for a hundred years could bring someone. And I wondered if he saw himself the way I did, the way women in public saw him. Something told me no.
"You may have been absent, but you were never gone. Carlisle and Esme spoke of you like you'd merely just...taken a vacation. Their love for you created respect from the rest of them."
"And you?" he asked, toying with the hem of my shirt.
"I love you," I stated again, this time, a little more firmly as I shrugged a shoulder. "It's always been there."
It's permanent and unwavering. It came through my change stronger than I can explain to you, I thought to him at the same time my own shirt was swiftly removed.
Edward was done talking.
He lifted me to straddle his lap, his fingers immediately snapping my bra off and tossing it to the floor. Gently, he cupped my breasts as I leaned in to kiss him, losing myself in the feel of taking control this time. My hips rolled, my tongue claimed, and my hands gripped hair.
Breaking from his mouth, I nipped lightly down his sharp jaw, whispering, "Lay back."
Edward used his strength to drag us both to the center of the bed, keeping me on his lap. He reclined back, his eyes flickering between my face and my heaving chest. Bracing myself on his shoulders, I kissed him again, moaning low when he gripped my hips to grind me against him – like I needed help seeking friction.
He grinned against my mouth at my internal sarcasm. "Just trying to help, love."
I giggled softly, kissing his chin, his chest, each nipple, and his navel, swirling my tongue out just to taste his skin. When I reached his belt, I sat up on his thighs, gazing down at him. He was just stunning as his stomach muscles tensed when I reached for his belt. His biceps and forearms flexed as he grasped my thighs, but he made no move to stop me from removing his jeans. The thick, dense sound of his cock falling to his stomach hard, heavy, and already leaking caused my breathing to hitch and my eyes to almost roll back. To humans, we're hard as stone, cold, and unmoving. To each other, we're warm and pliant. But that sound was alien to me and so very fucking sexy. It was a sound that I was grateful for my perfect immortal memory recall, because it was definitely something I wanted to hear again...and again. And I wanted to taste every drop he'd give me.
Seeing my thoughts, Edward gasped and groaned, a small rumbling purr echoing through the room. "Bella, shit... You don't..."
It was too damn late, because my hand wrapped around his thick cock just as I swiped my tongue across the tip of him to catch what was already leaking. The flavor! It was all Edward, only concentrated. Dragging the tip of my tongue around the edge, I found that he was most sensitive where the skin was thin, extra soft. He was hot steel wrapped in silk, he was veins that no longer funneled blood, he was twitching flesh, he was growls of want and love and need, and he was mine.
Incoherent words gushed from him when I sank down over him completely, moaning at the feel of long, strong fingers weaving into my hair. I tortured him like he tortured me – slow, languid licks and strokes building up to light nipping teeth, and finally to long, hard sucks. I teased his inner thighs with my thumbs, tickling the crease where his leg met his hip, which caused another string of profanities to hit the air. But when I cupped his balls, I knew he'd just about reached his limit, because he twitched hard in my mouth.
I gazed up at him through my eyelashes, locking eyes with solid black, and I watched him shatter. To see years of stress and frustration melt away from his glorious face, from around the hard edge his eyes seemed to carry, was all the reward I needed. His whole body arched, his fingers gripping my hair as he came hard down my throat. The sound of my name alone could've made me come with just how desperate and amazing it sounded.
When I pulled off of him, Edward moved in a blur, and I found myself pinned underneath him, my jeans obliterated somewhere in the room. With one hand braced by my head, the other grasped a fistful of my panties, and then he twisted hard, the sound of ripping lace making me gasp.
"What about you? Hmm?" he purred, trailing his nose down my cheek to the soft spot behind my ear. "My turn now, love?" His voice took on the tone of the devil himself as he posed the same question he had the first night we'd mated.
He smiled wickedly against my flesh, chuckling darkly. His hands skimmed, pinched, and groped. His lips ghosted back to my mouth, where he kissed me deeply. And for a split second, I wondered if he'd used my open mind against me, to do exactly what would drive me crazy with teasing, taunting.
"Uh uh." He shook his head at me and smiled an unbelievably sexy, crooked grin. "I'm not above cheating, beautiful. But your sweet, responsive body tells me...everything I need to know," he crooned, nipping at my lips before skimming his nose down my neck, across my collarbones, and finally, around each high-peaked nipple. "I don't need to cheat," he explained, flattening his tongue over my left nipple. "I can see when your eyes darken, Bella." His words were murmured sexily as he placed random, open-mouthed kisses to my stomach, but his eyes didn't leave mine. "I can feel your nipples harden at whatever you're thinking about or at my touch...or even when I step close to you."
I shuddered hard when his tongue flicked out to swirl inside my bellybutton, my hips bucking up off the bed.
"But mostly...I can smell you, love." He inhaled deeply around my mound, at the crease of my legs, and just inside my thigh. "I know when you're wet for me. I taste it in the air, all tangy and sweet, hear it when you rub your legs together like you're doing now, and I can feel it on my fingers, my lips, my tongue."
My head fell back to the bed, my whole body writhing in pain with the want of him. His words, his voice...they were making me crazy. My arousal doubled, my hands reached for him, and my thighs pressed together.
"Edward, please, please make it stop!" I finally begged, because I felt raw, swollen, achy. And he'd barely even touched me.
My legs were suddenly lifted and spread wide open, his mouth kissing my sex with slow strokes of his tongue but also with deep, rumbling growls. If he kept that up, I was going to come instantly. There wasn't an inch of me that was left wanting. His tongue expertly drove me over the edge, with deep tastes of my center, dragging licks from one end of me to the other, and finally, with hard sucks to my clit. Over and over, he took me like that. When one orgasm would end, it seemed another hit me stronger, harder, until finally, he was growling, looming over my face at the same time he sank balls deep inside of me.
"Yesss," I hissed at the same time he grunted out his own curse.
We froze, feeling the atmosphere shift slightly.
Edward stayed as still as a statue as he gazed down at me. "You're all I want, Bella," he whispered, closing his eyes slowly and nuzzling my nose with his, up one side and down the other. "Nothing else matters but this. Nothing. I can do anything as long as you're with me."
My eyes stung with tears I couldn't cry, but I cupped his face. "I'm not going anywhere, baby. I swear."
"And that's the only fucking thing I have faith in right now," he said with his lips so close to mine that I could feel the vibration of his voice. "Is that wrong?"
"Nothing about us is wrong, Edward," I assured him, waiting for him to acknowledge what I'd said. When he nodded, I whispered, "Make love to me..."
When his mouth met mine again, it was soft, sweeter. He moved slow, but deep, whispering words of love in several different languages. I recognized French, Spanish, definitely Italian, and something that sounded like Russian.
Edward may have thought he didn't have a soul, but at that moment, I could see every bit of it...and it was beautiful and loving and giving. We held each other close as he gave himself to me over and over, sometimes burying his face in my neck.
He loved me for what seemed to be hours, or it could've been mere minutes. Time alone with him usually caused me to lose track of everything around me. He took his time bringing me to my last climax, pulling it from me with sexy words of encouragement just before he let go himself.
As he held me quietly, I realized that he'd lost his faith in everything but what he was holding onto at that moment, and that was okay, because he'd lived a long life witnessing terrible things. I could imagine that the ugly parts of the world could shatter just about anyone's faith in God, in one's purpose for life, in themselves. And my Edward desperately wanted it all back. He was used to long years of being in control of his actions – a long eighty years – and because immortals essentially don't take to change very well, he was now struggling with his diet, his new family, and being mated. For someone used to being alone and under someone else's command, I could imagine that it was all just too damn much.
I laid my head on his chest, my fingers playing with his own as we watched the rain still coming down outside my windows. His body was much more relaxed, and I was grateful he hadn't gone back to pacing and being pissed off that we'd stopped him from killing the security guard at the mall, a thought that made him chuckle softly.
"Sorry about that," he murmured, dropping a kiss to my head. "I just wanted... I wouldn't have given it another thought about stalking him back to the child. I'm sorry for my outburst."
I leaned in to another kiss to the top of my head before I gazed up at him. "If Carlisle can fix it, he will," I said, and he stared at me for a moment before nodding one time.
"You're right, you know," he said softly, his warm, deep red eyes drifting back to the rainy weather outside. "I've lost faith in myself. I can't be both people. I can't be what I was for so long and at the same time be a member of this family."
I sat up abruptly, tugging the sheet around me. "What are you saying?"
"Calm down, love," he soothed, propping himself up on his elbow at the same time his free hand cupped my face. "I'm saying I have to let go of one those sides of myself."
I wanted to ask him which one, but his eye roll at me made me giggle, because he wanted me and to be wherever I was. It was letting go of the past that was giving him so much trouble. It was also figuring out where he fit in when it came to the family, besides just as my mate.
"Edward, for all those years... What did you want?"
"Freedom from Aro," he answered immediately.
"To do what?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
He smiled softly and nodded, looking down at his own hand splayed on the bed. "To do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. Maybe come home to Carlisle. I just knew I didn't want to be...enslaved anymore."
"Before you left, what made you happy?" I asked, tilting my head at him.
He huffed a humorless laugh, shrugging a shoulder like a belligerent teen. "Not much...little things. Um, playing the piano, finding big game on a hunt, running...definitely running. Arguing with Rose."
I giggled, leaning over to kiss his forehead. "And would those things still make you happy?"
"Probably," he allowed, his brow furrowing when he glanced up at me. "But you make me the happiest. It's unsettling how much I feel I don't deserve you."
I tsked at him, rolling my eyes. "You deserve happiness just as much as anyone else, Edward. And you have your freedom. If you could do anything right now, what would it be? If you could take on any task, learn something new, or travel somewhere... What would you do?"
"I just did it," he chuckled, giving me a wink when I laughed.
"Utterly insatiable," I sighed dramatically.
"Um, pot...meet kettle..." he teased back, gathering me into his arms. He sat back against the headboard, pulling me on top of him. His fingers trailed lightly up and down my spine, over my bottom, and back up as he gazed at me. "I want you every second, and somehow, I'm not sorry for that."
"Me, either," I chuckled, kissing his lips quickly.
"This is a big change for you, too, sweetheart. What would you do?"
"Everything," I answered simply, shrugging a shoulder. "Whatever we wanted. We'll need to move again in the next year, so school is a possibility, Edward. As boring as it can be, it gives us the freedom to settle in somewhere, to get a place of our own or live with the family. We can hunt together, play together, stay in bed all day when its sunny..."
He grinned, and it was so beautiful, but he suddenly said, "I want a car. Something fast and ridiculously expensive."
I laughed and nodded. "Then you can have one. Believe it or not, Rose has amazing skills as a mechanic.
She and Emmett take care of all the cars. That's their thing."
"Interesting," he snorted, his face scrunching up into an adorable expression of confusion.
"I'd like to try college," I stated with a shrug. "I didn't get much choice the first time we moved, and this last time, I got my own place."
Edward eyebrows shot up. "College," he mused softly, his fingers still ghosting up and down my spine.
"Now you get it," I chuckled. "Become a lawyer...catch bad guys the legal way..."
He laughed, hugging me close. "Christ, love..." He chuckled again, this time pressing kisses to wherever his lips reached. "I'm totally over-thinking this shit, aren't I?"
"I don't know, baby," I sighed deeply, tracing his face with one finger. "I can imagine hopes and dreams weren't high on your list."
"I know I've been difficult, moody... I've just been afraid to let go. My identity is lost somewhere," he admitted.
"Edward, you've been going through withdrawal. No one is mad at you. We're all here to help you. Jasper can feel your bloodlust, Alice sees what decisions you make – good or bad – and I'll stop you," I told him.
"This family won't judge you. They certainly allowed me my moments to rage and fight and struggle. They never even batted an eye. And when it was over, and I felt stupid and guilty, they didn't even accept my apologies."
"They love you," he offered as a simple explanation.
"And I love you, which just brings you with me. We protect our own," I stated. "The withdrawals won't last much longer, baby. I promise. You've only been inside this house for about a month. Thirty-five days, to be exact. No one can 'find themselves' in that short of a time. You've been through too much."
"You've counted?" he chuckled.
"Yep, they've been thirty-five really good days."
"Fan-fucking-tastic days," he purred, his hands slipping down my back once again, only this time, they rested on my ass, giving it a good squeeze.
Suddenly, we could hear the front doors burst open and the sounds of my siblings piling into the house.
Edward flinched, most likely from the mental assault that came with it, so I shielded the room for him.
Instead of going off to their respective rooms, the television came on at the same time Carlisle came home. All of it drew Esme out of wherever my earlier activities with Edward had scared her to.
"Should we join them?" Edward chuckled softly.
"We don't have to," I snickered, shrugging a shoulder.
That decision caused a laugh to escape Alice, but suddenly, the volume on the TV went up, a news report echoing up to us as if we really were in the room.
"Missing four-year-old Matthew Clover was recovered today, found in a cabin just north of Albany. Forty-one-year-old Nicolas Dolby Keyes was arrested for his kidnapping from the shopping center where the child was last seen. Keyes is facing felony charges for kidnapping, child endangerment, child pornography, sexual battery on a minor, and rape. If convicted, he's facing life in prison. He is also now a suspect in several cases of missing children in the surrounding states.
"Matthew Clover was discovered by a group of campers, who called the tip in anonymously. The caller stated that they stumbled upon the cabin while on a hike and had seen Keyes and the child through the window. The campers refused to leave a name, though authorities are trying to trace the call.
"Crime scene investigators are combing Keyes' cabin and the surrounding area in search of clues that might lead to other missing children. The police have stated that there are possible shallow graves on the property, and due its location, they might have never been found..."
Edward had frozen at the sound of the report, and even his breathing had stopped. He gazed up at me, his eyes never leaving mine, because we both knew what the family had done without them even saying a word.
They'd tracked Keyes, waited until he was fully inside his cabin with the little boy, and then called the police, most likely using a disposable cell phone that couldn't be tracked. I'd even be willing to bet that they'd found the shallow graves themselves, marking them somehow so that they could easily be spotted by the authorities.
They'd given Edward what he'd wanted: the child safe and the bad guy caught. And they'd done it without a single drop of human blood being shed, something that Edward had been incapable of at the time.
"Did you know?" he whispered, barely above audible.
I shook my head slowly, smirking down at him. Nope, I thought to him, I think they wanted to surprise you.
"Huh," he said, but nothing else.
However, I could see it in his eyes that he finally understood that he was truly accepted. They'd merely filled in when Edward had been unable to do it himself. It was what families did for each other.
His face was so adorable that I couldn't help but grasp either side and kiss his lips roughly. You look...confused, I chuckled. You also look like you want to go down there and hear all about it.
He nodded fervently but didn't move. "I don't know what to say," he whispered, his brow furrowing.
"They don't expect you to say anything, but I can imagine that Emmett wants to brag with a play-by-play." I snickered, but it broke into a laugh when Emmett's big voice boomed up to us.
"Hell, yeah! Come down! You shoulda seen the guy's face when the cops pulled in, Eddie," he yelled.
"Don't call me Eddie!" Edward growled, but a smirk played on his face as he sat us up a little. He turned to me, saying, "Lift that shield, love."
With a giggle, I slipped off of his lap at the same time I lifted my shield. Edward tilted his head as he tried to watch all five minds downstairs.
"Carlisle followed Keyes. The rest were hunting when he called, and they ran to meet him. They all checked out the cabin..." he murmured, frowning at whatever he was seeing.
"Good deeds deserve celebration," Emmett called up. "You need to lighten up...Eddie."
Emmett was baiting Edward. I knew that from experience. He wanted to rile him up, poke at him until he finally got the reaction he wanted. Emmett used to do it to me all the time. He'd pester and pick, tease and taunt until I couldn't take it.
Edward growled low, tugging on his jeans. In the blink of an eye, he was down the stairs. The sound of snarling, laughing, and breaking furniture echoed up, and before I could get dressed, Esme was already on it.
"Take it outside, boys! Now! You won't break my house," she told them, but I could hear her amusement, her love shining through the scolding.
Alice appeared in my doorway. "Definitely time for celebration," she murmured, smirking her little all-knowing smile. "Edward's decided to beat Emmett with his own arms."
"Wait! Are we celebrating the good deed...or the fact that Edward is ripping off Emmett's arms and using them as a club?"
"Six in one hand...half a dozen in the other," she sang, which caused me to laugh. "It was touch and go there for a bit with Edward," she said, her eyes sad. "He couldn't decide anything, because he was too angry...and then suddenly, he wanted a list of things." She grinned up at me.
I smiled at her, shrugging a shoulder. She'd probably seen most of the conversation, or at least some of it, but I could see that she had a clue. Some things about Edward, I kept private, his personal admissions and worries being a part of it. I wanted to ask her what she'd seen, but I didn't.
"You're sure?" she asked, grinning at me. "I can name a few things that you both want."
I shook my head, because I wanted Edward to tell me himself...in his own time. "Nope, Alice. Let this one slide. He's struggling with his past enough; no need to taint his future by outing everything," I said, but my eyes begged her to understand. There was a part of my relationship with Edward that I wanted to remain unseen.
When she nodded, I followed her downstairs, where I was pretty sure I could hear the boys still wrestling at the far end of the property, with Esme still scolding, Jasper and Rose cheering them on, and Carlisle's laughter. And I had to smile, because it sounded so normal, so absolutely perfect.