Sunday, October 14, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 10

Chapter 10
BELLA
Gazing around the small clearing, I sighed a breath of relief at having hunted. Even though it hadn't been long, it always cleared my head and my emotions. And emotions had run high in the house at the end of the night. I quickly disposed of my recent kill – a couple of lynx. They, along with the buck I'd found not far from here, had been enough.
Winding my way through the dense woods, I found Edward sitting down on a fallen tree.
"You're not hunting?" I asked him, collapsing into his embrace with a small giggle when he fell back with me into the autumn leaves. They plumed up around us.
"No, not yet," he answered, smiling up at me. "I'll go later."
Bracing myself on his shoulders, I gazed down at him. He was so handsome, but it went beyond looks. His sweet soul and giving heart made him an honorable man. But it was the fun, silly side of my Edward that made him irresistible to me because I got to see that more than anyone. I swept my lips across his, careful to keep myself in check. Carlisle was more important at the moment, and I knew Edward should be listening for him.
"Can you hear him?" I asked, giving him one more kiss.
He sat up, keeping me between his legs. I turned my back to his chest, letting strong arms wrap all the way around me and soft lips press to my ear as his voice pushed his breath across my skin.
"Yes. He's fine. He's trying to get Archie to show himself before feeding him." He chuckled a bit, but shrugged a shoulder. "I don't think it's working. I only hear Carlisle."
Nodding in acceptance of that, I let out a deep breath, laying my head back to his shoulder.
"You hunted, I see," he said softly, his voice soft, warm, and sweet as he inhaled a trail up my neck. "Mmm, lynx..."
"Mmhm," I hummed, smirking at just how sexy he sounded. "Yes, I miss big cats."
"Me, too, my beautiful girl," he crooned, opening his mouth to my skin and swirling his tongue just behind my earlobe, only to end in a suckling kiss that had my eyes rolling back in my head. "We'll have to remedy that soon."
"Shouldn't you be—ungh," I rambled incoherently because the open-mouthed kisses to my neck didn't stop. "Paying attention?" I finally rasped out.
He laughed softly. "Multitasking, my love..."
"Right," I snickered, but it turned into a long, soft moan when teeth entered into the mix of sensations he was regaling along my throat. When his hands flattened against my stomach and grazed up to just under my breasts, I was suddenly well aware of where we were. "Edward..."
He laughed again, pulling back, only to press a kiss to the back of my head. "Perhaps you're right, love. Esme's not far. Though everyone else took off farther than I can hear them."
Turning a little in front of him, I rested my arms and chin on his thigh and gave the woods around us a long, slow gaze as Edward's flat hand ran over my head and down my hair. It felt good to be back with him after separating too far earlier. That had really hurt. I hadn't expected it to come so quickly or so sharply, so it had taken the girls quite a few minutes to get me to focus.
"That bad, baby?" he asked, tucking my hair back so that he could see my face.
Shrugging one shoulder, I simply said, "It's better now."
"Good." He sighed deeply, kissing my cheek. "Love you."
"Love you, too, Edward," I replied instantly, my mind thinking back to the house. "Do you think... I mean... Does Carlisle see something of himself in Archie?" I asked, laying my head on its side in order to look up at his handsome face.
Edward smiled sadly and nodded once. "A bit, yes. It's the refusal to feed, I think. But so far, everyone has a little something about Archie that's driving them to want to help."
"Like what? Who?" I asked.
He grinned at my urging. "Is this how I earn my present, sweet girl?"
I laughed, gripping his leg until he growled sexily. "Maybe. We'll see. Keep talking, Cullen."
I heard Esme's chuckle and smelled her before she actually appeared at the end of the small clearing. Edward and I glanced up at her as she stood across from us.
"No, no...of course not," he answered an unasked question of him. He gestured to the space on the log next to him, and she sat down. "And he's fine. He's talking to Archie now."
"Thank you, Edward," she said, kissing his cheek. "I didn't want to interrupt, but I was curious like Bella."
I giggled. "You weren't interrupting. You could never." Poking Edward's stomach, I said, "Now you have to answer."
"Okay, okay," he sighed dramatically, rolling his eyes at the same time. "I know when I'm a beaten man."
His sweet, lopsided smile crawled up his angelic face as we laughed at him, and he tilted his head a little, as if he was checking in on Carlisle, but then he turned his attention back to us.
"I think, yes, Carlisle sees himself the most in Archie," he started, "but the rest do, too. Alice, of course, understands what it's like to wake up completely confused. And I honestly believe without her visions, this would've been how she ended up – feral and scared."
Edward's fingers combed through my hair over and over, but his gaze was far away. When he spoke again, it was soft, almost sad.
"Kevin is interesting. He hates William – Archie's father. He was too close to being like Kevin's own father," he stated, grimacing a little. "He feels sorry for Archie, especially when he realized that Archie had unfortunately had no alternative but to put up with it. Adrian agrees with him, and he understands Archie's self-hatred."
My nose wrinkled at that, and Edward rubbed it gently with his finger, his eyes a warm amber as he gazed down at me. He knew I loved my life, a fact that made him very happy.
"With you, Bella...yes, your shield draws you to him, but I know you hate to see someone suffer," he stated softly as I nodded, glancing over when Esme hummed in agreement.
"I feel for him," Esme chimed in, looking between us. "He not only had this rough human life, but an even tougher immortal one. And he most likely felt so much...more after his change. The fears, the hatred, the anger...it would've been overwhelming, I imagine."
Edward nodded. "That seems to be the consensus among everyone else. He reminds Demitri of a few vampires that have been brought into Volterra." He paused for a moment, smiling a little. "It seems Carlisle's patience has paid off. Archie just revealed himself."
"He's going to feed him as much as possible, isn't he?" I asked, crushing a dry, dead leaf in my hand and then brushing the crumbles off Edward's jeans.
"As much as it takes to fully sate him, yes." Edward looked over to Esme. "His theory is if he can feed him enough, then he'll be easier to deal with, even more susceptible to help. The fact that Archie has yet to speak bothers him. A lot. Demitri's concern is that he wasn't of sound mind to begin with."
"You mean not very smart?" Esme put it kindly.
"It was Carlisle's concern when he turned me, actually," Edward said with a chuckle. "Having a fever for that long can cause...damage. And Archie, if you remember from what we found out, suffered from pneumonia along with his mother."
I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "You're perfectly brilliant. I can't imagine that the venom didn't help you...and Archie for that matter."
Edward laughed, as did Esme, and he kissed my lips roughly. "You're the biased one, my love," he whispered. "And I was still ill when I was changed. Archie was healthy. That would be the difference. Venom can heal a lot of things, but not something in which the person has already recovered. Birthmarks, missing limbs, brain damage – all those things stay as they were, only enhanced. The birthmark stays, the missing limb doesn't suddenly grow back, and the brain stays damaged. It may heal some of the issues, but not all. The brain is such a complex organ...even Carlisle isn't sure what changes venom makes other than the enhancement of how quickly and how layered we can think."
"Okay," I conceded, "but what if Archie's father was such an ass – sorry, Esme – that Archie tried to make himself scarce? You remember Wendy was like that when her father would come home drunk. She felt that if she made no noise, stayed hidden in her room, then she could avoid the beatings. What if... What if William was that bad after his wife was gone?" I asked, trying to not get wrapped up in the emotions of my former human friend from Portland.
My husband's brow wrinkled in thought as he listened to my mind more than my rambling questions. "You think his talent was something he had prior to his change? Like your shield?"
"It would make sense." Esme nodded when we glanced over at her. "You yourself said not too long ago that we carry something from our human lives into this one. His ability to become...overlooked may have been his."
"I don't think anyone has given it much thought," he said, shrugging a shoulder. He paused for a moment in thought. "It's certainly a good theory. We'd have to know more about Archie's human life to know for sure."
"Finish telling us about Carlisle. What's he truly see?" I begged.
Fighting his smile, he nodded. "You know Carlisle's story. How he'd been changed by accident, just like Archie. How he fought not to kill. The fact that Carlisle had to learn his own way makes him feel sympathetic toward Archie. The fact that he waits too long to feed gives Carlisle reason to believe that eventually, he could drink from animals, especially since he already has."
"And you, my sweet boy?" Esme asked, brushing his hair from his forehead, and I smiled at them because she loved him, doted on him like he was her own son. "You became rather opinionated in there."
My once grumpy, brooding man emerged for a split second, but he disappeared just as quickly as he came once I started to smile. I had a feeling that if there were others around, he wouldn't have spoken, but he sighed deeply.
"We're basically the same age," he began, his brow wrinkling as he gazed around us. "I know that by comparison to some, I'm a young immortal. But I always felt my life was long already." His soft gaze landed on me. "Now...it's not long enough..."
It took all I had not to kiss him stupid in front of Esme at that moment.
"The things I've seen, places I've been to, things I've accomplished...the list is pretty long. And I've been lucky that, for the most part, I had Carlisle to guide me, and then the rest of my family as they came along." He cupped my face. "I've found my other half, something I thought would never happen," he said, chuckling when I kissed him quickly simply because I failed to hold it in.
Esme giggled at us. "Keep going," she ordered, nudging him. "Quickly, before your sweet words cause Bella to kiss you into next week."
He huffed a laugh, shaking his head. "I've seen so much of the changes in this world and experienced so much, and I look at Archie... He's missed everything."
"Is it because you're from the same time?" I asked him.
"Yeah, maybe," he allowed. "But if you really think about all the things we've seen since 1920, then he's going to be truly overwhelmed with it all. The world was different then...simpler."
"It was," Esme agreed. "But they were harder at times, too. Like you said about his father. He would've had no choice but to do as he was told. And parenting was different. There was no room for illness, weakness, or emotions. A man was supposed to be strong, not collapse under the weight of bad experiences. It's much more acceptable for a man to express his emotions, his feelings now."
There was so much history the two people with me had witnessed. It made sense, due to my age, that I didn't know everything, but to think of someone that had been around as long as they had not knowing that there had been not only a second World War, but four more wars after that. That music was no longer just heard in person, but that it wasn't even a tangible thing anymore. An MP3 couldn't really be seen, just clicked from the computer to the player. And that led to the millions of advances in technology, medicine, transportation... I shook my head because it really was breathtaking to imagine trying to absorb all at one time.
"Now you see?" Edward asked. "You're well adjusted, and it's a lot to take in."
Esme and I cracked up, and our laughter must have been contagious because he joined in eventually, a hand clawing at his hair.
"I'm not sure..." he started, his nose wrinkling a little as his voice trailed off. "I'm not sure what he knows. He has to have seen a few things come through the house when new people moved in. He would've heard radios and TVs. He would've heard conversations. I'd be willing to bet the Dixons had computers and cellphones. It was only ten years ago. But it's more than that... If he ever leaves this place, he won't believe his own eyes when it comes to cars and noise and people."
It was then that Esme voiced the one question that I'd been afraid to ask.
"What happens if he can't...acclimate?" She wasn't really asking Edward, but seemed to be thinking aloud.
"I don't know." Edward face carried an ancient sadness with that admission as he glanced between us. "If he can't feed himself, if he can't accept any of it... Well, that's where Jasper and Demitri have experience, and it usually ends...poorly," he stated, glancing behind him. "Carlisle's joining us."
Esme smiled when her husband emerged into our little clearing. She patted the seat next to her, but even I could see the weariness on his face. After kissing his cheek, she asked him how it had gone.
He sighed, shaking his head, and looked over to Edward. "Did you see?"
"I could see you mostly. I saw him a little when he finally appeared for you," Edward answered. "He fed?"
"Yes, just about took all I had left. I'll have to make my way into Portland for more," Carlisle said, frowning a little. "I used Bella's deal-making scheme to get him to cooperate. It seemed to work. He's willing to give and take. I told him about us, giving him a little history here and there. He seemed to listen for the most part, but since he refuses to speak, I asked him to nod or shake his head to answer questions. He didn't really like it, but he tried. For every question he answered, or every time he listened to me, he earned a bag."
I smiled, thinking that what had started out as my temper had now turned into the only way to work with the poor thing. "What did you ask him?"
"The first thing I asked was if he thought he could learn to trust us, and he nodded yes," Carlisle started, leaning his elbows on his knees. "Next, I started asking about his time in that house, whether Victoria had just left him – she did."
"Damn," Edward groaned, shaking his head.
"She told him nothing, son," Carlisle practically growled, his brow furrowed in anger – something he rarely showed. "I can't know the details, of course, and he would've sensed if you had been close, so you'll have to read his mind to know exactly what occurred. From what I could get out of him, his father did tie him to the tree, Victoria started to drain him, and then he woke up in his own home, his father..."
"Don't say it," Esme gasped. "Let me guess... A ravenous newborn woke to find his own father to be his first meal."
"Yes," Carlisle said with a nod. "I believe Victoria orchestrated it to be that way. She lived with him for some time but abandoned him quickly. Honestly, I think he hid from her, and she became frustrated, but that's my opinion."
"Poor Archie." I frowned, crushing a handful of fall leaves in my hands. "Did he return everything?"
Carlisle laughed, shaking his head. "And then some. I left it where he put it...on the piano."
Edward eyebrows shot up high on his forehead. "Some of that isn't...ours."
"It seems Bella offered him a clean slate, and he took advantage." Carlisle chuckled again, turning to Edward again. "He left you a gift, though. I think he's beginning to trust you most of all. Maybe because you've only ever been honest with him."
Edward ran a hand through his hair, and I could see by his face that he didn't know what to say. "Music sheets?" he asked, his brow furrowing. "His mother played the piano. Maybe that's what he feels most comfortable with."
"Perhaps," Carlisle allowed. "Or maybe he sees something in you."
"Or maybe it's because he can communicate comfortably with you, Edward," I suggested, running my fingers through his hair because his had wrecked it. "He might like that he doesn't have to explain anything, or even speak. I mean, I understand that."
Edward grinned when Esme and Carlisle chuckled but nodded in agreement. "I'm sure you do, sweet girl."
Carlisle smiled at the two of us and stood. "Anyway, I promised him some quiet time because I know we're a loud, boisterous, active group of people, so give him a little while before you head back."
"Yes, sir," Edward said with a single nod and a wry smile.
Just before he and Esme left the clearing, he faced us one more time. "Oh, and I think Demitri has a point. I think we need to treat his thirst like a newborn's. Feed him often. He's grown so used to suffering that sating his thirst will kick some of his needs into overdrive, I think. We'll see how he is in the next day or so."
"Okay," we said together.
Once they were gone, I sat up on my knees between Edward's legs. His hands immediately fell to my sides.
"Whatever shall we do with a few hours alone, Mrs. Cullen?" he asked, his honey eyes swirling into a deep amber as I wrapped my arms around his neck.
The sound of my name caused a purr to escape me as I nuzzled his sharp jaw. "Hmm," I hummed, brushing my lips across his cheek and then his chin. "Maybe...our waterfall?"
"Exactly what I was thinking," he said with a devilish laugh, standing up with me in his arms. Tossing me over his shoulder, he popped my ass one time, causing me to squeak more in surprise than in teasing pain. "I like the way your mind works, beautiful."
I couldn't help but giggle as he took off into the woods at his fastest speed, still keeping me draped across his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
"Hey, caveman," I teased, smacking his butt since I had fantastic access to it. "You should hunt, you know... We have time."
Edward's laugh was full and sexy and all kinds of happy, but he did come to a stop not far from our waterfall. I could hear the musical splashes from where we were as he slipped me down in front of him. He kept me in his arms, and my legs immediately wrapped themselves around his waist.
"The only thing I want to consume is...you," he said the last word coming out in a slow, rumbling growl as he nipped at my lips.
Grinning, I pressed my forehead to his, capturing either side of his handsome face in my hands. "Yes, but we have time. Go. The bear not far from here may not wait, but I will."
He sighed dramatically in defeat, smirking when I laughed softly at him.
"Limited time offer, Mr. Cullen. I suggest you take it. The bear and the deer I can smell..." I raised an eyebrow at him.
"I'm going, I'm going," he grumbled, kissing me as he finally set me down onto my feet. "You're probably right. The next few days will be...trying, at best."
He was gone in a blink, aiming toward the deer to our left first. I heard the crash through the shrubbery as he quickly took down his kill. Smiling, I edged my way along the small creek that was fed by our waterfall to watch him take down the bear.
I chuckled to myself as an old human memory clamored up out of nowhere. Edward and I were sitting in the cafeteria at Forks High, still trying to figure out who and what we were to each other, but the subject of hunting came up.
~o~
"Are you like a bear, too?" I asked in a low voice.
"More like the lion, or so they tell me," he said lightly. "Perhaps our preferences are indicative."
I tried to smile. "Perhaps," I repeated. But my mind was filled with opposing images that I couldn't merge together. "Is that something I might get to see?"
"Absolutely not!" His face turned even whiter than usual, and his eyes were suddenly furious. I leaned back, stunned and – though I'd never admit it to him – frightened by his reaction. He leaned back as well, folding his arms across his chest.
"Too scary for me?" I asked when I could control my voice again.
"If that were it, I would take you out tonight," he said, his voice cutting. "You need a healthy dose of fear. Nothing could be more beneficial for you."
"Then why?" I pressed, trying to ignore his angry expression.
He glared at me for a long minute.
"Later," he finally said. He was on his feet in one lithe movement. "We're going to be late."
~o~
I came up out of the memory just in time to watch my predatory lion strike. His long, lean body captured the black bear in a graceful dive. Gone was the facade of my sweet piano player, my calm, controlled husband, and my silly, lovesick Edward. In his place was the ultimate feral aggressor.
No, I wouldn't have been able to handle watching Edward hunt back then – and not for the reasons he'd assumed. Yes, he would've been out of control with his bloodlust, but for me... For me, I would've been out of control with a different sort of lust.
He was – in all ways, shapes, and forms – utterly sexy when he hunted. He was taut muscles, sharp senses, pure strength, and flawless grace. No matter how long we lived, no matter how many times I'd seen him hunt, it never, ever got old.
Black, carnal eyes locked with mine as his mouth attached to the bear's neck. I licked my lips as I watched his throat constrict with swallow after swallow. It took all I had to hold in the moan of want as I watched him, but it all flew out the window when one long finger curled, beckoning me to join him.
I approached him at an almost-human pace. The bear was unmoving, though breathing deeply as a sign that he was now weakened. Edward pulled his mouth away, his eyes still black, still sharp on my own.
"Take him with me, Bella," he commanded, almost leaving no room for argument. His voice was raspy, deep, and utterly mesmerizing.
And there was the other reason I would've never been able to see him hunt while I was still human. Something, somehow, went completely haywire when we hunted, especially when it came to carnivores. It was the release of control, the letting go, and the blood itself. All of it sent the two of us – and all vampires, really – into sexual overdrive.
The growling purr I let loose echoed around us as I shook my head no. "I don't need it, Edward," I said in a soft tone, my voice now laced with want and need. "But you do."
Edward's breathing was deep as his heavy-lidded and lust-filled gaze watched my approach. His long, strong fingers gripped black fur, but he didn't move as I knelt beside him. I titled my head in a manner that wasn't me, but was instinctual on some level.
"Is he going anywhere?" I asked, fingering his shirt with one hand and rubbing Edward's clenched fist with the other as he shook his head. "Then let go for a second."
Eventually, he did as I asked and released the fur. Swiftly, I tugged his shirt up and over his head, depositing it next to me in the dry grass. Licking my lips again, I could see Edward's jeans straining under the pressure his erection was putting on the poor fabric. My theory was that Edward's cock was stronger than denim and zippers and buttons.
My husband grinned smugly at that thought, a dark, sexy laugh huffing from him. But it died quickly in his throat when my hand rubbed him over the rough material.
It was time for a command of my own. "Now... Drink, Edward," I told him, rubbing him just a touch harder, only to stop and toy with the button. I was teasing, and I knew it.
Instead of bending down to the bear's neck, his eyes were on my face, though they betrayed him as soon as the sound of a zipper hit the cool, autumn air. Leaning forward, I scraped my teeth across his bare, beautiful shoulder, humming against his skin when my hand made purchase on silken steel. Long, strong fingers wrapped around my wrist in a grip that shook just a little, which caused me to smile into my open-mouthed kiss to his shoulder.
"I don't think so, my beautiful girl," he growled low with a slow shake of his head. "I think I earned something, don't you?"
Smirking, I sat back on my knees. I whimpered a little at the feel of the teasing tips of his fingers as they gathered up my shirt, only to quickly tug it off over my head. It landed right on top of his. But it was the deadly smile that made me chuckle a little. I knew that smile. It was Edward's "I'm a lucky bastard" smile. The set was purple as promised, and the small cheeky underwear hidden underneath my jeans were currently becoming soaked the longer we knelt there letting the anticipation build.
"Show me," he ordered, his breathing in pants as he helped me to my feet.
He was barely hanging on to his control – I could see that much – but I wasn't sure exactly what he wanted. There were ideas and schemes flickering behind those onyx eyes. Lifting each foot, Edward yanked off my socks and sneakers. When my jeans crumpled to the forest floor, a long, low growl rumbled around me and vibrated through his hands as he reached out to just...touch.
The next sound that escaped my Edward made my brow furrow. It sounded like defeat, like surrender as his face nuzzled my stomach, his lips opening to my skin. Threading my fingers into his hair, I held him as closed as I could. Flat, warm hands slipped up the side of my thighs and around to my ass, giving it a squeeze before snaking up my spine. Sensitive fingertips seemed to memorize every detail of lace and silk along the way. When my breasts were finally exposed to the cool air, dark eyes locked onto mine as his lips brushed softly over every inch of skin now free of their confines.
Working his way back down my torso, his nose inhaled deeply from one hip bone to the other. His fingers tickled as he urged my legs farther apart, his eyes instantly snapping to mine.
"Watching me hunt did this to you, love?" he asked, licking his lips, only to give his bottom lip a long bite like he was completely losing his self-control.
I could only nod due to his hand palming me possessively. With my fingers still in his hair, I brought his lips to mine. He tasted divine, like blood and me and his own unique flavor. I loved him so much that I thought my chest would explode with the feel of it blossoming up to the surface. And with the memory of our conversation in Forks still right there, I realized I loved every part of him – angry, protective, hunting, or just playing music. It just didn't matter. It had never mattered.
"Fuck," he suddenly hissed, his eyes squeezing closed as he sat back on his heels. His forehead fell forward as his lips brushed across my thigh. "I want you, baby...in ways I can't even...articulate."
As if to remind us that he was still there, the bear let out a long, snuffling sound.
"Finish him, Bella," Edward stated, his palms skimming over every inch of me, only to cup my face. "Finish him because you'll need the strength his blood brings...trust me."
The carnal tone to his voice made me fall to my knees. I knew that tone, and despite the fact that we were pretty sturdy as immortals, I had a feeling that walking the next day was going to be difficult.
"Now there's a goal," he teased, shifting me until I was between him and the bear. "Drink," he purred against my shoulder as his nose traced along my skin and up to my ear at the same time his hands tried to guide me closer to the animal.
Warm fur grazed sensitive parts of my skin as I bent over. Latching my mouth to Edward's bite, I drank deeply, my eyes rolling back in my head at the taste of the blood and the feel of my husband's never-ending touch – both breasts, my stomach, my ass, and along my spine. When he reached purple lace and silk, strong fingers gripped the waistband, tugging them down to my knees.
I felt his cock slip between my legs as his strong chest met my back when he lined up behind me. Two flexing, strong arms braced on either side of mine, but it was the voice in my ear that caused me to lose all reason. Edward and Bella were gone, only to be replaced with mated predators that just couldn't get enough – enough blood, enough of each other, enough of anything.
"He tastes so good, doesn't he, baby?" I heard in my ear just before teeth nipped at my earlobe. "Take all of him...and I'm gonna take you. Just like this."
Though it sounded like a warning, he didn't give me too much time to brace myself, so when he slipped into me as far as he could go, my mouth broke from the bear's neck to cry out.
"Damn it," he growled, his forehead falling to my shoulder. "I don't tell you enough, Bella..." Teeth scraped against my shoulder blade as his breath came out in bursts across my skin. "God, I fucking love that you're mine...always, indestructible, and just fucking perfect..."
My head thrust back, my cry echoing in the woods around us, because Dirty Edward had just come out of nowhere. And it seemed like he was feeling a little...feral.
Fingers linked with mine, weaving black fur in the midst, but Edward's other hand tugged at my hair, holding my neck back so that he could thrust deeper and deeper into me. He filled me over and over, his mouth leaving stinging kisses along my back and shoulders. When he finally let go of my hair, he pushed gently on my back.
"Come on, love...drain him. Drain him and come for me at the same time," he ordered, and my hand squeezed his as I bent to finish off our kill.
Edward released my hand, sat up, and cupped my ass, spreading me open and thrusting deep within me with a swivel of his hips. The last of the bear's blood filled me, giving me the feeling of strength and a heady over-fed sensation, but I wasn't sure that wasn't a result of the things Edward was doing to me. His fingers played me better than any instrument, bringing me to the peak of bliss, only to slow down, thrust harder, and start all over again. Thumbs swirled over my clit and my other entrance, fingertips skated down my spine, and palms slapped at my skin just to make it that much more sensitive, leaving it stinging and needy. My climax came out of nowhere, hitting me hard and making my eyes burn with the need to shed tears.
Suddenly, I was pulled away from the bear, straddling Edward's lap. His strong chest pressed to my back as he rearranged me to ride him slowly.
"Give me another, Bella," he whispered in my ear as his fingers slipped teasingly down my stomach to my now over-sensitive nerves. "That sweet pussy feels so good when it grips me...like it never wants me to leave..."
My head fell back to his shoulder as my hips worked over him. It was slow, graceful, and more of a grinding than riding, but already his touch was winding the coil in my stomach tightly. The combination of his teeth on my neck, his hands cupping a breast, and fingers rubbing just where I needed it most sent me over the edge one more time.
"Mm, that's my girl," he praised, giving a purr when my hand reached back to weave into his hair once again.
Rolling my hips harder, I could feel him harden a bit more inside of me. His fingers gripped my hips, his breathing was in bursts, and the most delicious language spilled from his refined lips.
"Right there, baby... Fuck!" he urged, lifting me up and down to bring him to his own climax. The sound of impervious skin slapping was the most erotic thing as he mumbled, "You feel so fucking good," against my neck.
Edward's teeth latched onto the spot where my shoulder met my neck, his long growl vibrating my back as he came with a muffled roar. Stilling me by wrapping his arms all the way around me, he breathed heavily into my neck.
"I swear, you'll be the death of me, Bella," he teased in a whisper, smiling when I huffed a breathless laugh at the old joke. "Come, my sweet girl. We didn't quite make it to our waterfall."
Without moving from his lap, I turned my head to nuzzle his strong jaw. "Swim?" I asked, because I suddenly only smelled bear.
He kissed my cheek, smiling my favorite Sweet Edward smile. "Right now, I can't think of anything I'd like better."
Setting me on my feet, we both winced at the loss of contact, but he scooped me back up into his arms once he'd completely removed his jeans. He bent down so I could grab the rest of our clothes, only to run us the rest of the way to our secret place. I couldn't help but laugh when he yanked all the clothes from my hands just in time for him to dive into the water with me still in his arms. I barely caught a glimpse of them landing on our flat rock before I was submerged with sexy, happy, and sated wrapped around me.
~oOo~
EDWARD
"Bella..." I grunted, struggling against her shield. "Baby, I want to touch..." My voice sounded whiny, even to me.
"I know you do," she chuckled, straddling my stomach. "But...you can't," she sang, biting her bottom lip as she loomed over me.
My fingers dug into the trunk of the tree she had them pinned against, which only earned me fistfuls of shredded bark. I don't know why I fought it, because there was no way to break out of her shield.
We were still damp from our swim, and this was payback for an underwater wrestling match she'd lost. Chuckling, I sighed in defeat, my head falling back to the dry, crisp, dead grass underneath me. My sweet, deadly-sexy girl loved to take control, and honestly, I loved it when she did, though I hated not being able to touch.
We'd completely lost ourselves during my hunt – something that happened more often than not. It was usually feral and rough and dirty. It was something I never thought I'd ever get to take part in before I met Bella. Or hell, even when I first met her. In fact, only ever witnessing it through the minds of my family, I wasn't sure it was something I'd ever even want, but damn, it was fantastic.
Which reminded me of the memory my hunting had triggered in her a few hours prior. I'd read about it when she'd written her book, but somehow, seeing it in her mind made me really see...me. Grimacing at what my words, my voice, even my facial expressions had done to her...
"Sweetheart..." I said, and her gaze snapped to mine at the change in my tone. "I'm... I didn't mean... I'm sorry for that conversation in the cafeteria. I was an ass."
Her brow furrowed for a second only to smooth away quickly as she realized what I was talking about. The sweetest of smiles crawled up her beautiful face, and she released my hands from the tree. I sat up quickly, keeping her in my lap.
"No, you weren't," she said with a giggle, shrugging a shoulder. "Well, okay...maybe a little," she allowed with a smirk. A patient expression smoothed over her face as she cupped mine. "I understand, you know...probably better now than then."
"I know you do. It just..."
"Just what?" she asked, brushing her lips over mine one time, only to pull back. "I wasn't mad, Edward. I wasn't even disturbed by your reaction to the question. I just...wanted to know." She placed her fingers over my lips when I started to say something. "Baby, you and I then... We were kinda stupid." She laughed, and I couldn't help but chuckle. "You were this hundred-year-old curmudgeon that suddenly felt every single hormone a seventeen-year-old boy could feel all at once, but you were well aware of what you really were. No, I'll never hold your answers against you. I pushed and pushed to the point of annoyance. I always appreciate your honesty...then and now."
"The curmudgeon thanks you," I said with a chuckle, kissing her wedding ring when she laughed. "I really just didn't understand what you saw, why you weren't scared of me."
She grinned, shaking her head. "And you say I don't see myself clearly. Besides your always-changing mood, you were so sweet and thoughtful, Edward. You talked with me...not at me, like everyone else. You asked me about me when everyone else was just wrapped up in the fact that I was the new girl. You left me notes to stay safe, you watched over me when I slept, and you made me feel important. You took care of me when I'd been taking care of others my whole life."
My brow furrowed a little, but I nodded, leaning in to the touches to my face.
"You weren't an ass, baby. You were a gentleman trying to protect me from the worst thing you could imagine at the time: yourself."
"I scared you," I whispered, gazing out over the dark clearing. The stars were barely peeking through the trees.
"No... Well, yeah, but I was so wrapped up in wanting to know more and more that I didn't stop to think that you were revealing everything that you'd held secret for a very long time," she explained.
I smiled and nodded because that I understood. We'd figured out ages ago that we'd mated that very first day, that very first real conversation in Biology, though for me, I was pretty sure it was at the first sight of her. From that moment on, I couldn't get enough information about her, due to the inability to read her thoughts. I'd never really thought that it was the same for her, but it made sense.
"I love you," I said, my forehead falling to hers as my arms hugged her tightly. "I never really wanted to scare you; maybe I was testing you. You know, to see if you were worth it." I snorted into a laugh because that was bullshit if I'd ever heard it.
She laughed, running her hands up my chest to my neck. "Silly ass...love you, too."
Chuckling against her neck, I sighed. I was glad we could talk about our past without one of us truly losing it anymore. Though my leaving was forgiven and understood, it was normally an avoided topic...just like we were doing right then.
"We should get back," I told her.
"Okay," she answered softly.
We both glanced over toward the rock when my phone alerted to a message. Regretfully, I lifted my gloriously naked wife off of my lap, and we walked over to our clothes. I glanced at my phone, seeing a message from Alice.
"Looks like we're alone. Everyone made their way to Bangor, including Carlisle and Esme. They won't be back until tomorrow," I said, handing Bella my phone.
Bella sucked a breath through her teeth teasingly, rolling her eyes. "They went dancing without us? I'm so holding this against them."
I grinned over at her as I redressed, and the phone alerted again, causing her to chuckle when she read it.
"Oh, apparently, she sees us interacting with Archie. That's why they're staying out," she told me, handing my phone back. "If they come home, it won't happen, she says."
Once she was dressed, I pulled her into my arms. "You want dancing? We can dance. Who needs a club?" I asked her, setting her feet atop of mine just like I had the first time we'd danced. Despite the fact that she could dance now, I loved the sweet giggle that it caused.
She smiled sweetly, kissing my lips. "Leading. I know. You don't have to say it, Edward."
Laughing, I spun around with her once, only to set her back down on her feet. "Come, love. We should check on him. See how he's handling all that blood Carlisle gave him."
Before we left the area, Bella helped me dispose of the bear we'd taken. We ran hand in hand back to the house. Once we crossed into the yard, I slowed down, listening for any sounds coming from inside.
Bella squeezed my hand, causing me to glance down at her. "Let's respect his fear, Edward," she said softly. "Announce us. That way we won't scare him."
I could see already that her shield was pulled toward him, but she forced it back. Her mind was curious as to how Archie was faring after his chat with Carlisle and feeding, but even more, she was curious as to what the vampire had left for us on the piano.
With a chuckle at that last thought, I said, "Fair enough, sweet girl." I tugged her closer to the back kitchen door, saying, "Archie, it's just the two of us," as I let us inside. "Edward and Bella."
The hum of the refrigerator the kitchen, the tick of the clock in the living room, and the soft whir of a laptop fan were the only sounds I could hear...until the a fairly loud click met my ears. It was the sound of the bookcase door either opening or shutting, I wasn't quite sure which.
I know, I heard softly in my head. I heard you coming.
I smiled a little because Archie's thoughts were clearer, more concise now that he'd fed. He still sounded weary, sad, and scared, but the difference was noticeable.
"You sound...better," I noted aloud as Bella and I made our way through the dining and living rooms.
Bella's eyebrows shot up as she glanced my way.
I feel...different.
"You feel more yourself, Archie. It's best to feed more often," I advised. "I realize that's difficult for you, but we've vowed to help you. We'll keep that promise."
That's what he said. Carlisle's face swam to the forefront of Archie's mind.
"Oh, wow," Bella gushed in a whisper once we stepped into the library. "You've been busy, Archie," she said with a touch of a giggle to her voice.
Archie mentally flinched at the sound of her voice, but he forced himself to remain calm. He reminded himself of what she'd done, of how she'd fought for him. Not her, not her, not her, he chanted in his mind as he compared my Bella, who he was starting to trust, to his maker, whom he refused to even think her name.
And Bella wasn't kidding. The entire top of my piano was covered in just stuff. It seemed fairly taken care of, though most of it ranged from just about every decade. Glancing at the bookcase, I saw that the click had been to open it, not close it.
"That's a lot of stuff, Archie," Bella said with a laugh, but her eyes were raking over stacks of books, old radios, some framed pictures, and even a violin as I made my way to the front of my piano.
Leaning neatly on the music stand was a pretty thick stack of music. It was yellowed and dog-eared, but still readable. It seemed hand-written, and I tilted my head at it, but my attention snapped up to my Bella when a heard a dry sob escape her.
I wanted to laugh, but I wanted to squeeze her in a hug at the same time. Her small arms were wrapped tightly around her box of letters, her nose pressed to the wood.
"Sweet girl," I said with a slight chuckle. "Come here," I told her, making her sit down on the bench.
Kneeling in front her, I watched as she frantically took some sort of mental inventory of each and every written word. They were all there, just as she'd filed them.
She's upset. Tell her I'm sorry. I don't want her to cry. It smelled too good, and I thought... Don't know why...
"Hey, Archie didn't mean to upset you, love. He's saying he's sorry," I repeated for her. "He said it smelled like you...and he's not sure why he took it, but he is rather remorseful."
"I'm not mad," she sighed deeply, smiling as she traced each carved heart and note and, finally, the Cullen name. "I'm just glad they're back."
I kissed her lips roughly, grasping either side of her face. "You're okay?"
She nodded, hugging the box once again, but stood up. "I'm fine," she said to me and then walked toward the open doorway to the basement. "Archie, I'd like to come down. Is that okay?"
She's mad... I'm in trouble.
"No, Archie, she's fine. She just wants to check on you, I think," I told him with a laugh, thinking we'd all know if she was pissed, but I didn't say that out loud.
Okay.
I nodded to her, but just to be safe, I followed her, staying at the top of the stairs. At first glance, the room looked empty, save for the pile of blankets Esme had brought him, and they were placed right where his last pile had been – right over the top of the wooden trap door.
"I know you're nervous, but we'd like to see you," Bella told him, taking a seat on the bottom step. "Please?"
I hid my smile at his mental self-berating over his manners and remembering that she'd protected him first and foremost. He was starting to remind me a bit of Adrian – shy, nervous, and quiet. But he was fidgety like Emmett and Bella. The blood he'd consumed had allowed a bit of his real personality to come out, even if he hadn't spoken a single word out loud.
A gray blur stretched across the room, but Archie appeared in his usual spot, curled up against the wall straight across from the library entry, his arms wrapped around his drawn-up knees.
Bella giggled because he was healed, looking like the rest of us, though he could really use some cleaning up and some clothes. His pants were filthy and tattered, but his skin was smooth, his face no longer drawn, and his eyes were a deep red. Even though I'd never seen him stand up fully, I couldn't imagine he was taller than about five-foot-ten, lean, and according to Bella's mind, he was "adorable." I rolled my eyes, but I supposed he carried what the girls considered to be a "baby face."
"Lookin' good, Archie," she sang.
He fought a smile, hiding his face in his knees. I laughed then; I just couldn't help it because the compliment embarrassed him and made him even more nervous. Though I shut the hell up when Bella shot me a scathing look.
"Sorry," I said, forcing my expression into something passive.
"Hey," she called to him softly, "I'm not mad. I was, but I'm not anymore. And I wanted to thank you." She nodded once when he locked gazes with her, tapping the top of the box in her lap. "They mean so much to me."
He nodded but said nothing, his mind reeling with her thanks. In all reality, he thought she'd be angry with him, but she was being honest when she said that she was just happy to have them back. The thought of never seeing them again had hurt her.
Getting up, I joined her on the bottom step. Since he was being so cooperative, I had a question.
"Archie," I said softly, meeting his wary gaze. "The music...is that your mother's?"
He nodded again, his mind showing me that she used to play when he was young. Seeing the house through his mind, despite the blurry human memory, was interesting. The d├ęcor was so similar to how my home in Chicago had looked – elaborate fabrics, ornately-carved furniture, and a stunning cherry wood piano sat in almost the exact same place as my own did now. Elaine Varner was a thicker woman, but with a calm, patient smile, especially for her son. She had laughing hazel eyes, dark wavy hair, and a very pleasant demeanor.
"And you want me to play it?" I asked.
He nodded again. It's been so long.
"I understand," I sighed, giving him a small smile and placing a hand on my girl's shoulder. "I'll see what I can do, okay?"
He nodded, his eyes widening at that promise.
"You should know that the peace and quiet you have now won't last," Bella said with a chuckle. "They'll all be back by morning."
Yes, ma'am, he answered her in his mind, grimacing that he couldn't say it aloud. He had the capability, but he just didn't feel brave enough. He wanted to tell us that he liked our laughter, our music, our teasing of one another, but he simply sighed in defeat.
"You have time, Archie," I told him, standing up and offering a hand to Bella, who took it. "No one's rushing you on anything. You needed to feed. After that, you can work on other things." I started up the steps, but turned to face him. "I'm sure Carlisle told you that he's bringing you more blood. You'll start to feel a little thirsty in the next day or so. It's normal, considering you've gone without for so long."
My brow furrowed when he worried just where the blood was coming from...or more importantly, who it was coming from.
"It's donated blood," I told him. "No lives were lost. We've told you before...we don't feed from humans."
He nodded fervently. He knew. He just wasn't sure where his meals were coming from. He was well aware of the taste difference, but he saw us as a goal to reach.
"You're a long way from acquiring animal blood," I warned him because he'd have to hunt that on his own.
I know.
Bella had watched the exchange with warm, sweet brown eyes, her mind quiet. With a small smile, she tapped her box of letters one more time. "Thank you again, Archie. And we'll leave the door open so you can hear Edward play."
She took my hand and guided me out. Just as we reached the library, I heard him sigh in relief, and then his thoughts vanished. He was ultimately much more comfortable hidden, something that would simply take time. His change since feeding was promising. As I helped Bella clear off the piano and sat down on the bench, I just hoped that he continued to improve.

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