Sunday, November 4, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 16

Chapter 16
BELLA
The radio was playing softly in the car as my gaze took in our surroundings. Edward was quiet, but I couldn't look his way for fear of crawling into his lap, despite the fact that he was driving. There was something comforting in the silence, something that didn't require work. And shielding my thoughts from him only helped, because I couldn't imagine the things he'd heard all night long.
Trees were everywhere, and it was so similar to Forks that my heart felt a little homesick for a split second. The snow we'd had a few days prior was almost melted, but small drifts of it were still here and there along the side of the road that seemed to be leading into the mountains.
"Um, Bella?" Edward said softly, and I turned to look at him. He looked nervous for some strange reason. "I sort of lied."
I raised an eyebrow at him, but he simply chuckled, his hand clawing at his hair.
"Well, I said no woods, but..." He pointed out the windshield as we drove deeper and deeper into the forest.
I snorted, smirking over at him. "And I said I didn't care. Besides, I'm sure it wasn't a lie, Edward. More of a spoke too soon thing?"
He grinned. "I suppose it was."
We drove through a gate for what looked like a ski resort. We bypassed the main office but followed the primary road. Taking what looked like the last right, we pulled up in front of a small but extremely well taken care of cabin. It was partially white-washed wood, partially stone, and utterly beautiful. And I could see it was bigger than what the little front porch made it look to be.
The lights were already on, and a stream of light gray smoke was billowing out of the chimney, which made me glance over at Edward.
"You were here already?" I asked him with a chuckle.
"No." He laughed softly. "Carlisle did this for me. For us. He checked us in and brought me the key, but it was the caretakers that started the fire. You like it." The last three words came out as a statement rather than a question, because I was damn sure my emotions were written all over my face.
"Yeah..." I nodded and giggled. "A lot."
"Good," he said with a happy smile, getting out and appearing at my door in the blink of an eye.
His eyes were only on me as he helped me out of the car. I wanted to tease him about leaving the gentleman behind, but there were just some things about my Edward that would never change. Opening doors was one of them. His brow furrowed a little as he gazed around, finally looking straight up out of the break in the trees. Every star was shining brightly, the cloud cover from earlier having completely gone away.
"It's quieter than I expected," he murmured softly, tilting his head a little and smiling. "There are a few cabins east and west of us, but most are empty."
"No snow," I whispered, completely mesmerized by the beauty of Edward's relaxed face. "Not yet anyway."
"You're quiet, too," he pointed out with a smirk.
"Just giving you a break, Edward," I said with a laugh, but I squealed when he suddenly scooped me up bridal-style into his arms.
"I never, ever need a break from you, sweet girl," he practically growled as his darkening yet sincere eyes locked with mine. Once we were across the porch and into the cabin, he stopped, saying, "Of all the minds I've heard, yours is the one I want to hear. Understand?"
Smiling, I cupped his face, only to lean in to kiss him briefly. "Yes, but you'd have wrecked the car with my thoughts on the way here."
He smiled and kissed my forehead, only to set me on my feet. "I packed us a few things for tomorrow," he said softly. "Go ahead and look around. I'll be right back."
Something about that sounded so much like our honeymoon night that I just about pressed him into the door to kiss him senseless. Once he stepped outside, I gave the main room a glance.
There was a small kitchen off to the right, but it was the cozy little living room area that made me smile. It was modern, but had a rustic warmth to it. Quilts and throws were draped over the small loveseat and chair that were situated in front of a stone fireplace. Walking down a small hallway, the only door led to a bedroom that made my breath catch. The bed was the centerpiece of the room, with thick round posters, an endless amount of pillows, and another quilt that seemed handmade. Against the far stone wall was a small dresser, a chair, and standing mirror. The bathroom was the most modern thing in the whole place, because it contained a sunken bath surrounded by natural stone, shiny fixtures, and another fireplace.
I smelled Edward before I heard him set the small bag down on the bed. Smiling, I leaned in the doorway, saying, "You really spoil me, did you know?"
He'd removed his jackets and loosened his tie, so he stood there looking like my young Edward again, instead of some hardened criminal. His white suspenders stood out against his black button down shirt, making me want to grab them in order to pull him to me.
He laughed, shrugging a shoulder. "There are worse goals I could set for myself other than to see that smile, Bella."
What he wasn't saying, and what Esme had explained to me time and time again, was that Edward had waited a very long time for me. He'd do anything I asked of him, even the smallest of requests. It was something I'd had issues with when we'd first met because it seemed excessive, but really, it was just Edward's way of showing his love. From picking a simple wildflower, to buying cars and homes, it was merely...him.
I smiled again. "A simple hotel room would've been okay..." His nose wrinkled a little, which caused me to laugh and point to him. "There's the snob I know and love."
"Boring," he scoffed, rolling his eyes at me.
He chuckled when I walked to him, forcing him to sit on the edge of the bed. Standing between his legs, I toyed with his suspenders at his shoulders, only to finally reach for his loose tie. I tugged it until the knot came undone, slipping it silently through his collar. I draped it over the footboard of the bed, gliding my hands back underneath the suspenders in order to push them over his broad shoulders at the same time he reached for his hat atop my head so he could drop it on the bedpost.
"I added to the playlist," he whispered, his hands splaying on my waist, but his eyes were focused on my mouth.
"I have present for you," I countered with a grin. "And I should go first...because I know what happens when the music starts. I need your concentration for a moment," I told him, smirking when his sweet face scrunched up in confusion because I'd yet to open my mind to him.
"Should I be scared?" he asked.
"No," I snorted. "Never. However, this is one of those gifts you have to...earn."
To say watching Edward's eyes darken was sexy would be an understatement. Because along with the dark eyes came a quirky little smile, a lick to his lips, and a heavy swallow in his throat. It also came with my favorite: the raised eyebrow, which always went hand in hand with his curiosity. He knew exactly what I meant. A gift that Edward had to earn meant I had new lingerie on, but in order to see it, he had to tell me a story – something from his past, or something I didn't know about.
"There's not much left you haven't heard, my beautiful girl," he purred, his voice raspy and thick with want already. This was going to be a really fast story, I was afraid. "What could you possibly want to know?"
Avoiding his heated gaze – I wouldn't last long if I looked – I started unbuttoning his shirt. "Well, I was going to ask for something else, but you mentioned something in the car that intrigued me. What would you have done had we met back in this time?" I asked, gesturing to my dress.
"You're playing on my imagination, Bella?" he asked with a chuckle, shirking out of his shirt now that it was completely undone. "The reality of that question would not be so romantic, my sweet girl. I would've been a young vampire...deadly. You wouldn't have survived our first meeting, I'm afraid."
I knew all of that, really, so I waved his dark explanation away with a wave of my hand and a smirk. "I know that. You said that your gentlemanly upbringing would've been shot to hell. I want to know why. Say...we're both human. How?"
Grinning, he gazed up at me. "It would depend on how we met. Are we creating a fictional scenario, my little writer?"
"Maybe," I said with a grin, dragging the word out. "What would you have done, Edward?"
He nodded, fighting his ever-growing smile, but I could see that he was determined to play along. His brow furrowed a little, and his fingers toyed with the long tassels of my dress.
"You're dressed as a flapper, did you know?" he started, and I nodded because Alice had explained it to me. "So..." he huffed dramatically, causing me to giggle. "If we take our attire, then obviously, we're not exactly on the proper side of things. I, being in organized crime, meet you, who is obviously out for dancing... Which means," he said, leaning on the last word, "we had to have met in a speak-easy."
Falling in love with him just a touch more, I nodded, if only to encourage him to tell me more.
Smirking, he trailed the tips of his fingers along the side of my face to my chin, only to trace the edge of my dress along my chest. Had I been human, that simple, gentle touch would've given me goosebumps. As it was, I shivered a little.
After a moment, he inhaled, locking eyes with me. "Who knows what or who would've brought you into such an illegal establishment," he continued haughtily, smiling as I snickered softly, "but being as I would be untouchable as a member of the mafia, I would ask you to dance, no matter what. You're so beautiful that I wouldn't have been able to stop myself." His lips pursed a little, but his eyes sparkled. "You should try to resist me, due to what I do for a living, but knowing you the way that I do, you probably wouldn't."
"How could I?" I gasped dramatically, placing a hand over my heart. "You're hardly resistible, baby. Knowing you the way that I do, you would've charmed your way in anyway."
He laughed, shaking his head a little. "Perhaps," he allowed, shrugging a shoulder. "I would've wanted every bit of your attention. Every dance. I would've claimed you in front of them all and dared them to touch you. And I wouldn't have wanted you drunk. I would've made sure the attention on me was sober attention."
"Of course. Mobster or not, you still have morals, I see."
"Absolutely," he said in a huff. "When it came time to leave, that's when I'd have difficulty letting you go. I would've protected you all night from every predator in the place, so I would insist on walking you home."
Taking his hand in mine, I positioned his fingers on the zipper of my dress, but I leaned in to kiss his lips. "Would you have kissed me at the door?" I whispered, locking gazes with heated and sweet.
"Yes. I would want to, anyway," he whispered back, his eyes betraying him as he slowly lowered the zipper.
"Would you have wanted me to ask you into my place?" I asked, smiling when a small rumbling growl vibrated around me. I wasn't even sure if he was aware that he was doing it.
"Do you live alone?"
"Does it matter?"
"No." He chuckled darkly. "Not if we're human, I suppose."
"We are," I confirmed for him as my dressed slipped silently down to the floor, pooling at my feet.
"Oh, God, then yes," Edward barely breathed, his eyes raking over every inch of me. "Damn, baby... I really, really like this..." he gushed as fingers trailed over white satin that was trimmed in black lace.
With an almost reverent touch, he followed the edge of my bra, only to do the same to the thong I was wearing. When he reached the small of my back, fingertips turned into flat, open hands, palming both bare cheeks.
Pulling me closer, squeezing, groping, touching, he gazed up at me. "Jesus, love... I...I really don't think it matters when or where we met. There's no way on this Earth that I'd be able to resist you. Fiction, non-fiction, human, immortal, in every fantasy I've ever had...it's always going to be you, my sweet girl."
Cupping either side of his face, I just kissed him. It had been building all night, but there was no way I could stop now. Placing a hand in the middle of my back, Edward turned us, setting me down into the middle of the bed and looming over me. Throughout, the kiss never broke.
Settling between my legs, Edward hadn't even attempted to remove the last of our clothes. With my hands flat, I reveled in every dip, rib, and muscle of his upper torso, pulling at him to come closer, but he was holding back. We smiled when my foot caught in one of his suspenders, almost snapping the damn thing apart.
Edward grinned down at me, his hands braced on either side of my head. His eyes never left my face, but my own were watching my hands glide up his arms, across his shoulders, and down his back. I couldn't get enough of his skin. And finally, the last question I'd been holding inside burst out of me.
"Do you think... Would you have fallen in love with me then, too?" I asked softly, not meeting his heated gaze.
"Instantly," he responded. "I can't imagine not loving you. Ever."
I nodded in acknowledgment but stayed quiet.
Bracing on one arm, he forced my gaze to his, where he studied my eyes. "Let me in, love. There's more than that question in there," he stated, his voice filled with concern as his brow furrowed while his fingers slid through my hair over and over.
Maybe it was the edgy feelings from our earlier conversation with Archie about our past. Maybe it was seeing Edward dressed like he might have dressed over a hundred years ago. Or maybe it was neither of those things and all of those things, and I was just lost in my love for him. But whatever it was, he saw it all once my mind opened.
He said nothing as he just...listened. His eyes were warm, sweet, but no less heated than they were before as he finally leaned down to place a long, slow, reverent kiss to my – his – immortal scar just over my heart.
"Don't you dare move from this spot, Isabella," he whispered against that sensitive skin.
I narrowed my eyes at him at the use of my full name, but he merely smiled sexily at me before slipping from the bed. I didn't move, and he wasn't gone long. He returned quickly, having removed his socks and shoes, but it was the sound of a slow, soft, sensual song coming from the other room that caught my attention.
I know there's something here
There's more than meets the eye
More strange more beautiful
Than these words can describe
Edward kicked out of his pants before joining me back on the bed, only this time, he was along my side, pulling me closer.
Don't know how I got here
The past has come and gone
I just know I have found
The place my heart belongs.
Touches turned into caresses, nuzzles to my neck turned into open-mouthed kisses, and whispers of beauty turned into proclamations of never-ending love.
And I want to stay
I feel safe here in your light
This must be what heaven's like
Must be angels in the room tonight
The song had a slightly vulnerable tone to it for Edward, but it was just as beautiful as anything else he'd ever played for me. It was his way of telling me that he wouldn't change a thing, that the force behind our love was so very strong. We'd never stood a chance against it. Fighting it had been and always would be futile.
All the mistakes I've made
The wrong turns on this road
Have only led me to your arms
And all I know
I want to stay
I feel safe in your light
This must be what heaven's like
Must be angels in the room tonight
Oh can you feel it too
Must be angels in the room tonight
Small snapping sounds echoed out into the room, and my beautiful lingerie set was no more. Edward's apologetic gaze met mine, but I simply pulled him to me now that there were no barriers between us. Sweeping a thumb across one of my nipples, he smiled at the arched-back response he received from me, only to slip that hand down my side, to the place I was aching for him.
Dipping his fingers in at a teasing depth and pace, his forehead fell to mine. "When you come for me, love, I want it on me, around me. I want to feel every bit of it. Okay?" As I nodded weakly, he kissed me with heat and fire, love and need. "The only thing I want you to feel...is me," he stated, positioning himself at my entrance. Linking our fingers together and pressing them into the bed above my head, he crooned, "Give into it, sweet girl." He brushed his lips across mine. "Just...feel," he purred as he slipped slowly inside of me.
~oOo~
EDWARD
The fire beside us popped, crackled, and continued to flicker; it was the only light in the room as evening slowly ebbed into morning. I'd kept it burning all night, especially when we moved into the living room area of the cottage. I wasn't sure there was a better place to be on the whole planet. I was surrounded by pillows, blankets, soft rugs, and Bella, not to mention the warmth of the fire.
Her mind was calmer, sweeter, much less frantic than it had been the night before. I wasn't even sure she'd known what was wrong, but I had. I'd heard it in her final question, seen it in her mind when she finally opened up to me. My sweet, beautiful girl had needed simple reassurance. And I gave it...all of it – my touch, my voice, my soul, my body – anything to let her know that she had me, that I wasn't going anywhere, that my love was permanent and all-consuming.
The fingers of one hand trailed up and down her spine while the other twirled a lock of her hair. Her breathing matched my own, with deep inhales and slow exhales. It was as if we were sleeping – or at least, as close to it as we could ever get. She was draped over me, straddling me, her face burrowing deeper into my neck – a movement that made me smile and kiss her forehead.
"Any closer, love, and you'll have to crawl inside my skin," I teased her, giving her bottom a light pat.
She giggled softly, only to nuzzle in again. "Is that possible?"
Wrapping my arms all the way around her, I chuckled. "No, I'm afraid not."
"Damn," she whispered, giggling again, only this time, she shifted to brace herself over me, causing my never-quite-sated arousal to twitch between us and the blankets to fall away. Her eyes darkened at the feel of it, but she made no mention of it. Instead, she said, "Thank you for doing this," as she leaned down to kiss me, her hair falling around my face like a dark curtain.
She didn't need to thank me, but she always did. I didn't want it. It was simply a way for me to spoil her, give her something for which she so rarely asked. She never wanted for anything because she'd gotten used to buying the little things for herself. Money was never an issue. We occasionally splurged, but we gave back, too. No, what Bella usually wanted most was time alone. Just the two of us. It was a rare commodity while living with the family. And now that there were more of us, time alone was practically scarce.
Gliding my fingers up her back, I finally slid them into her hair on either side of her beautiful face. "I know you miss having our own place, sweet girl. I'm not oblivious to that fact. I do, too, and I'll steal you away any time you want."
"But..." she started, her face filled with needless guilt.
"And I know you love the family, too, baby," I said with a chuckle. "It's always been hard for you to reconcile that part of this life. Believe me, you're not the only family member that feels that way. We drive each other crazy, but then we feel selfish when we run away."
She grinned and nodded, biting down on that bottom lip. "You make us sound like spoiled teenagers."
"Aren't we?" I laughed, grunting when small fingers dug into my sides.
"No, I'm forever twenty. You are the spoiled teenager, remember?"
Grinning as she sat up, her legs still straddling my stomach, I said, "Oh, yeah..."
My hands rested on her hips, but she picked up my left hand, only to turn my wedding band several times. Her smile, the spark in those deep brown eyes, and her light, playful laugh was a heady, sexy combination on her, because she sat atop of me like an ethereal being, perfectly bare for my eyes to drink in, for my hands to touch.
She looked sated, happy, yet she was slowly turning into wanton and needy. I could sense it, smell it hit the air like a tangy, earthy fruit. It was the change in her breathing, the greediness of her eyes as they raked over me, and it was in her mind, because she really liked how I looked beneath her.
I'd heard every crass thought women had ever thought about me, but coming from her, it wasn't crass; it was flattering. It made me want whatever it was that crawled through her mind. At that moment, I really wanted what she did.
"Tell me, Bella," I whispered, feeling my eyes go black as her hand snaked behind her to grasp my cock.
"I want you again," she stated softly, shifting off me, only to bend slowly where her hand was gripping. "Like this..." she barely said, before giving my cock a long, slow lick.
"Fuck," I growled through gritted teeth, my head falling back to the pile of pillows. I hadn't been expecting her sweet mouth to engulf me so quickly, but damn, if it didn't feel so good.
The scent of her arousal increased around me to the point of madness at the sound of that one word escaping me. I could barely concentrate enough as it was, but she was calling me like the siren she'd always been.
Grasping at her, I shifted her little body back to mine – only this time, I was inhaling her arousal from its gorgeous source. When her knees fell on either side of my head, her sweet pussy was spread right in front of my face, making me lick my lips, palm her ass, and growl low at the scent of myself covering every stunning inch of her.
"That feels so fucking good, baby," I told her, leaving nipping kisses along the back of her thighs and each cheek. Placing my palm flat against her sex and rubbing gently, my thumb brushed across her needy clit. "But I want to make you feel good, too," I told her, smiling when my touch caused her to purr around my cock. It twitched in her mouth.
Flattening my tongue against her, I dragged it heavily up, swirling around her other entrance. My breathing stopped momentarily when her own tongue swirled around the sensitive rim of my dick. She tasted like the two of us combined, which only caused a feeling of feral possessiveness to kick in.
Spreading her open, I kissed her sex like I'd kiss her mouth – long, sucking licks, claiming tongue at the source of her flavor, and just enough teeth to drive her crazy. We worked in rhythm, taking, giving, and savoring. It wasn't a race, but our movements became frenzied, trying to drive the other over the edge as soon as possible. I could see it in Bella's mind that she wanted me to fall apart, and she was damned close to making that a reality.
Gliding my hand up her back to push her, make her move faster, I worked her bundle of nerves with the tip of my tongue, knowing that she was just as close to falling with me.
She came first. Hard. And before she could pull back on my cock for one more suckling draw, I came down her throat with a harsh growl and a bite to her ass.
"Christ," I panted, feeling her scramble off me, only to straddle me again.
Just the feel of her wetness grinding against my dick caused my already-impressive recovery time to become nil. She rolled her hips again, gliding over me, which only caused my hands to grasp her hips to make her do it again.
"Again?" she asked, bracing herself on my chest to kiss me. We were a thick, delicious combination, tasting of each other, and it only made us seek friction all the more.
"God, yes," I growled low, grasping at her waist. "Just like this...I want to watch you fuck me."
The smirk my language caused was carnal, evil, and so damned sexy that I could barely look at her, but her voice made me snap my eyes to hers as she positioned herself over me.
"Oh, Edward...let him out... I need him," she practically crooned, her mind thinking we wouldn't get another chance to let loose any time soon. In her mind, Dirty Edward had just waltzed into the room wearing a deadly smile. "I want him."
Grinning and biting down on my bottom lip, I eased her down over me. Once she was flush and I was as deep inside of her as I could go, I gave her what she wanted.
"That sweet pussy feels and looks so good riding my cock, love," I told her, linking our fingers together in order to give her better leverage. "Use me to make yourself feel so fucking good... That's it..."
I wasn't sure there was a more amazing and sensual sight as watching her take from me. Just simply take. Her body was fluid, rolling in graceful waves as she rose up and down over me. She was so wet, her insides tight and warm around me. Strong legs flexed against mine, the sounds of immortal flesh smacked together, and her own whimpers made me break my hands from hers. I grabbed her hips, helping her to a better rhythm, a faster pace, and a deeper thrust as I met her every time she came back down.
She fell forward, her lips meeting mine in a messy, awkward kiss, but I cupped her ass, squeezing as I thrust into her over and over. Dragging my lips to her neck, I gave her skin a swift, teasing bite.
"You're close again, baby. Come. Let go. I'm far from being done with you," I whispered in her ear. "You're way too wet for me to let it go to waste. We'll do this until you can't take another fucking second."
Smiling smugly against her throat, I felt her orgasm start to unravel. Her body arched, her head was thrown back, and the shivering began in her hands, continuing all the way down to her toes. I gripped the cheeks of her ass, slowing my movements down in order for her to calm down from her high.
"Oh, my sweet girl," I crooned along the skin beneath her chin as she stayed arched over me. "I could watch you do that every day for a century. It would never get old."
Her forehead fell to mine, her eyes closing as she just...felt. I was still moving slowly inside of her, but it was the feel of everything – my breath against her skin, my hands that were groping, gripping, and my cock that was filling her, making her feel whole. It was the ease of not having to worry about anyone hearing us, and the way that I could relax and say what I wanted, if only because it drove her crazy.
I sat up, keeping her wrapped around me, but I slid my fingers into her hair at the base of her neck, forcing her to look at me. "That's it, Bella...just feel... Do you see what you do to me? Can you feel it?"
She nodded fervently, silently begging me not to make her talk because she was nearing incoherency. Had she been my fragile little human, her brow and her hair would've been drenched in sweat – something I remembered used to make me feel like the king of the damn world because I'd done that to her. Now, it was her inability to formulate words, her clutching hands at my shoulders, my arms, my hair, and her open mouth as she tried to breathe. It all made me feel very powerful and, at the same time, weak in the knees.
Arching her back with my hand holding her, I bent her body in order to kiss each breast, suckle each nipple, but before my lips met the scar that made her mine, my eyes drank in the sight of her. Her hips rolled over mine, her hands grasped at my shoulders, and her eyes closed as her mouth fell open.
"Look at me, baby," I commanded, and her eyes snapped to mine – onyx meeting onyx. "What is this?" I asked, my tongue snaking out to trace my own bite mark.
"Your scar, Edward..."
"Mmm, yes," I purred in praise. "What's it mean?"
"It... It's..."
I sucked hard on that scar, just like I had when she was human. Her scar had replaced a love bite that I couldn't help but keep forever.
"Come on, love. Tell me," I begged, arching her even more and pulling her to me over and over as her shoulders rested between my knees.
"That I'm...yours," she finally sputtered, her insides giving a heavy clench. She was close again.
"For how fucking long, Bella?" I asked, my thumb meeting her most sensitive bundle of nerves in order to push her over the edge one more time.
"Edward," she panted, her whole body shaking. Her legs squeezed my sides, her hands gripped my forearms, but her mouth couldn't form the word, so her mind screamed it for me. Always!
Her climax triggered my own; the clenching around me was just too much to push past. Pulling her hips flush to mine, I spilled deep within her, a string of curses leaving my mouth like a prayer.
Bending over her, my lips met her stomach, and I left a long, slow kiss just above her navel. "That's right, my sweet love... Mine, always."
~oOo~
"Be still, Edward," Bella said with a giggle, rolling her eyes. "Turn around. Now, bend your head back," she ordered sweetly so that she could rinse my hair.
Had we been human, we'd have been wrinkled and water-logged from being in the bath so long, but we simply were drawing out our last few hours alone. As soon as we were out and dressed, we'd need to leave. Neither of us were ready, but it was unavoidable.
Warm, clean water cascaded over my head from the detachable shower head. I leaned back against smooth, strong legs, bending my head back so far that I could see my girl upside down. She grinned, kissed my forehead, and continued to rinse my hair. When she was done, she pulled me back to her chest, wrapping arms and legs around me.
"Do you need to hunt before we go home, sweet girl?" I asked, playing with her toes and causing them to wriggle a little in my grasp.
"No," she said softly in my ear. "I thought I'd wait...maybe see what Carlisle wanted to do with Archie. What about you?"
"I'm okay," I sighed in contentment, laying my head back on her shoulder.
I was more than okay. I was practically "blissed out," as the girls would've said. I hadn't realized how long it had truly been since Bella and I had been alone. And not just a few hours when everyone left the house. Truly and utterly alone. While I was damn sure it would never be enough, it was just the right amount of time for us to reconnect, settle our hearts, and talk while no one could hear. We could solve the world's problems in the bath, I was sure of it.
Bella's mind was a calm, open book, though her thoughts were drifting toward Archie and his problems.
"This won't be easy, sweet girl. You know that, right?" I asked her, feeling her nod against my jaw. "He's extraordinarily damaged. He can't be...fixed overnight."
"I know."
"If at any point, something bothers you, I want you to step away..." I sat up, turning around to face her.
Her eyes gazed up at me, wide and trusting, and she nodded. "I was planning on it. Plus, I figured Carlisle would take the lead with him." She wrinkled her nose a little. "Archie's going to want you there, Edward."
I nodded and sighed. "Yes, I know. I help him understand things better..."
She grinned. "A walking, talking...really sexy...encyclopedia. Nice."
I snorted. "The walking, talking part...yes. I sincerely doubt Archie sees me as sexy, though."
"That's a shame," she scoffed dramatically. "He should really pay attention. When he's finally faced all his fears, no girl will stand a chance with that baby face of his. Add in a few sexy lessons from you, and it'll be anarchy."
"I'm not giving...what? Sexy lessons, Bella," I said with a laugh. "Not ever. I don't even know what you're talking about."
Bella's laugh was contagious and so very damn happy. She squeaked when I pulled her to my lap, the water splashing just a little over the edge of the sunken tub.
"He'll have groupies, too!" she guffawed into my neck.
I shook my head and sighed, fighting my smile. "That's it. We're done. The water's gone to your brain. Or maybe it's the steam."
I stood up, keeping her in my arms as the water sloughed off of us. I utterly adored her like this – all silly, sweet, giggly, without a care in the world. She was the absolute antithesis of what this dark life could be. My whole existence, I'd hated what I was, but she embraced it, loved it, if only because she was surrounded by endless, unconditional love every day. It took meeting her, mating with her to show me I'd been wrong all along.
Unfortunately, we'd have to put a damper on it once we went home. I'd seen Carlisle's plan for Archie. It wasn't unlike what he'd done with Bella. It was talking through the past, working with his talent, and for Archie, learning to be what he was without feeling like a monster. It was absolutely imperative that he learn to hunt. Otherwise, he'd be stuck in that house forever. He'd never be free of it. It would be like taking a domesticated wild animal and setting it back into its natural environment after having been hand fed its whole life. He'd be useless, weak, and a target.
I set her feet down onto the fluffy bathmat, wrapping a towel around her and rolling my eyes at her still-giggling self.
"You think you're funny," I told her teasingly.
"No, I think you're sexy, and others could benefit," she said with a grin. But then she sighed, taking another towel from the stack in order to roughly dry my hair. "Perhaps you're right. You don't even know how sexy you are, so how are you to teach anyone?"
"Bella..." I laughed, shaking my head at her once she pulled the towel away. "Enough about my sexiness level."
"It's pretty high, Edward," she countered seriously. "Like in the red..."
"I'm glad you think so," I chortled, scooping her back up into my arms and depositing her on the bed. Looming over her, I growled, "We have to go."
As if to prove my point, both our phones went off at the same time. I didn't even have to look. I was damn certain it was Alice. Bella's face scrunched up adorably, and she groaned.
"I know," I told her, kissing her lips. "Me, too, love."
If I thought I'd get away with it, I'd have considered keeping us locked away for one more day, which only caused my phone to go off again, only Alice wasn't texting this time...she was calling. It wasn't feasible, nor would Bella have allowed it. We'd promised Archie we'd be there for him.
Bella studied my face, and I watched as the silliness faded a little. "What did you just decide?"
I grinned, but shrugged a shoulder. "I thought about keeping you here...happy..."
She was shaking her head before I even finished. "Edward, I'm always happy with you. But we promised."
"I know... I know all of that," I said with a small smile. "It was an errant thought that apparently, my sister took too seriously." I grunted, giving my still-ringing phone a scathing look. It stopped ringing.
Bella grinned. "Strange-ass talents," she murmured teasingly, but sat up. "Come on, baby. We're going."
~oOo~
BELLA
"Trust me, you want Edward and Bella out of the house in times like last night," Emmett guffawed.
I rolled my eyes up to Edward once we made it to the front door. He simply huffed a laugh through his nose and shook his head. Though, the prideful, smug smile that graced his gorgeous face made me laugh.
"Hypocrite," we muttered together, smiling at the laughter that came wafting out the door when we opened it.
We found everyone hanging out in the library, except for the parents. They were all sitting around the room, but it was Archie my eyes fell to. He was planted on the sofa with Emmett next to him in front of what looked like Jasper's laptop. His confused face broke away from whatever he was reading to look at us.
"They driving you crazy, Archie?" I asked, ducking a thrown book and several insults tossed my way.
"No," he said slowly with a small smile.
"Of course not," Emmett scoffed, rolling his eyes. "We're teaching him."
Edward chuckled, so he must have seen what they'd been going over. "No one expects you to know...or even care...about fashion from the last hundred years, Archie."
"Oh, hell no," I groaned, glaring at my sisters and Kevin. "You didn't force him through Vogue 101, did you?" When Alice simply shrugged innocently, I snorted and shook my head. "Unbelievable...of all the things... You know there are presidents, wars, and other stuff you could've gone over..."
"We did, baby girl," Jasper said with a chuckle. "Alice simply wanted him to see what had changed in...looks."
"No, you just couldn't stop her," I countered, pointing a finger his way.
"Well, there's that, too," he muttered, looking back down at the guitar in his hands.
"Aw, hell," Emmett started, standing up from the sofa. "YouTube has been ever-so-helpful. Not to mention National Geographic... A few quick videos, and he's all caught up."
Edward sighed, fighting his smile. "Where are Carlisle and Esme?"
"They'll be back," Kevin piped up from his spot on the loveseat next to Adrian, who was slowly flipping through a magazine.
"Yeah, they came home last night, but we stayed out," Rose explained. "Once we all came in, they left to head to Portland to grab more blood for Archie."
Archie's brow wrinkled, but he nodded. "Just in case," he simply said.
Edward tilted his head a little as he listened to Archie's thoughts. My husband straddled his piano bench, pulling me down to sit between his legs.
"It's not...setting yourself up for failure," he said to him. "It's taking precautions. And no one here expects you to not have setbacks."
"Bella did," Jasper added, shrugging a shoulder. It wasn't accusatory, just simply fact, and I nodded in agreement. "And she was a newborn when she was dealing with some hefty stuff. You're more in control than you give yourself credit, man."
"That's very true," Edward said slowly, patting my leg.
"So what's next?" I asked with a grin, and Archie looked wide-eyed up at Emmett and then Edward.
"We were gonna do books," Adrian said, holding up his magazine.
"Well, we were leaving literature for you," Rose stated. "Plus, we've ordered him an e-reader. Should be here by Monday."
"Oh, okay," I said, surprised. "I'll have to make a list for you, Archie. We'll go over it later."
My mind swirled around a hundred years of reading material, trying to find a starting point for poor Archie. There were too many to even consider. There were definitely books that everyone should read, and then there were my favorites, not to mention things that he might be interested in on his own. He might even have books he'd read as a human and would want to read again now that his mind could absorb so much more. Thousands of titles piled up in a list.
"Easy, love." Edward chuckled, kissing the back of my head. "I felt like I just ran through Amazon dot com."
My siblings laughed, but I simply grinned and shrugged, leaning into Edward's strong hug from behind.
Emmett sat back down next to Archie. "And we were waiting on Ed here to even attempt discussing music."
Edward was quiet, and I turned to look at him. His brow furrowed, and his finger rubbed his bottom lip slowly. His eyes flickered from Jasper, to Emmett, and then finally to Archie.
"That's a lot to take in," he mused softly.
"If Bells's mind looks like Amazon, then Heavy E's has got to look like iTunes," Kevin snarked, shooting us a wink.
Edward laughed with the rest of us, but it was probably true. My iPod alone was filled to the max with hundreds of songs – mostly his doing. Edward's? Thousands. There were a lot he'd downloaded from online, but most had been ripped from CDs he'd bought throughout the last several years. It was various decades, every genre, and albums that could no longer be found, not to mention his collection of classical. That alone was overwhelming.
My handsome thing stared down at me in thought, saying, "We should start there, actually. The evolution of how we listen to music is important. The history of music through the decades will take...time." He glanced up at Emmett. "What have you shown him technology-wise?"
"A lot. Not everything," Emmett responded seriously. "I mean, he's not ready for Call of Duty online, if that's what you're asking. But since we had to show him videos, we started with computers." He tapped the top of the laptop on the coffee table. "He picked it up really well, because PBS had this whole series..."
Edward nodded, took a deep breath, and gently turned my wedding ring. He turned to Archie. "No...no video. I don't think we'll need it. Everyone here knows this stuff..." He dropped a heavy kiss to my temple before standing up.
He walked over to the family stereo, the most complicated thing in the house. It had the capability to play just about any form of music out there, and the speakers were insane. They were placed high on each end of the bookcase.
"You'll remember phonograph records the most, I think," Edward started, giving Archie a quick glance before running a finger down a very, very large collection of albums. "These are very similar," he went on, pulling out a brightly colored LP. "In the 1950s, they changed the material they made them with to vinyl. They were more flexible, not so easily broken or scratched, and people still collect them to this day. In fact, this whole collection belongs to Carlisle," he stated, gesturing to the bookshelves.
"There is something nostalgic about the sound," Rose stated, wearing a small smile up at her brother as he set the needle on the record.
"And that's why people still keep them," Jasper added. "It's the pops and the crackles, the artwork on the covers, and the value of them that continues to rise as time goes on. Music artists of today will never know how...perfect those were."
My Edward smiled, allowing the sound to filter through the room. He'd picked something easy, something classical, just to give Archie an example.
"These were the way everyone listened to music for the longest time," he told Archie. "In fact, it didn't change, really, until the 70s. Oh, they came in different sizes, because you could get a whole album or just a single song, but essentially, they were the same. Okay? With me so far?"
Archie nodded. "Yes. So what changed?"
"Ugh... Eight-tracks!" Jasper and Edward groaned at the same time, both wearing adorable looks of disgust.
The girls and I couldn't help but laugh.
"Don't hate the eight-track!" Emmett guffawed, disappearing from the room and returning just as quickly with two square items in his hands. He tossed them at Edward, who caught them deftly. "They were the coolest at the time!"
Edward grinned holding them up. "John Denver and Abba..." He barked a laugh, but it was drowned out by Alice and Rose belting out "Dancing Queen." He gave his brother a withering glance. "Seriously, where did you—"
"They were only fifty cents at this little retro store I saw last night. I thought we could show Archie." Emmett grinned, all proud and smug.
"You paid too much," Edward muttered, chuckling and shooting a wink my way at my giggle.
I pulled my knees up to my chin, wrapping my arms around my legs. It was too fun to watch them. Their history was long and intertwined together, and the sibling feel to the room was undeniable. I could listen to them talk about anything and everything they'd witnessed without ever growing tired of it.
"Are they that bad?" Archie asked, clearly amused at us all.
"Not bad, no," Edward told him, carefully removing the needle from the record and replacing it back into its sleeve. Once it was on the shelf, he snorted, rolled his eyes, and popped the eight-track into the player. "It had its positives. Emmett's right; they were advanced for the time because you could essentially search for a song."
He punched a button or two, and the song that Alice and Rose had been singing came to life in perfect stereo. I laughed when Kevin pulled a reluctant Adrian up from the loveseat to dance. Alice and Rose followed suit. There were dramatic dips and twirls, but when Emmett did his best John Travolta impression with fingers pointing and hips swaying, Edward stopped the music. I hid my smile when several groans hit the air.
"Next," Edward said forcefully, giving his complaining siblings a side glance. "The cassette." He rummaged around in one of Esme's decorative boxes, pulling out a small rectangle. "The ability to record on magnetic tape had been around for decades, but it didn't really start being mass produced until the late 70s or early 80s. What was interesting, or at least convenient, was that you could buy blank tapes and record anything you wanted, even off the radio."
Watching my Edward teach was fascinating. He was calm, easy to listen to, and certainly knowledgeable about the subject. I could well imagine he'd had to have the latest thing out whenever feasible. He shot me a grin.
"Yes, most of the time," he said to me, but he turned back to Archie, who was listening with rapt attention. "These," Edward continued, shaking the small tape in his hand. "These would stay fairly popular until the late 1980s or early 1990s. They work similarly to the eight-track – their only downfall being that occasionally the player would eat the small ribbon of tape."
"No kidding," Alice huffed, folding her arms across her chest. "I don't know how many times I'd have to have Edward come pull one out of my stereo and then rewind it back in using a pencil."
"Plenty," Edward told her with a grin, tossing the cassette back into the box.
Emmett stood up and grabbed a CD case off the end table. "If anything looks like the future, buddy, it's these," he told him, taking out the mirror-like circle.
Archie took it gently and smiled, turning it so that the light in the room could catch the rainbows on the bottom of the disc. Edward walked over and asked for it, and Archie gave it to him.
"With CDs – or compact disc – came a new era in music," Edward explained, walking over to insert the CD into player. "As computer technology improved, so did music. These are played by using a laser; it's precise, no flaws. It took away the tape-eating situation, erased the pops of records, leaving only perfect sound. They could still be scratched or broken, but the clarity was unlike anything I'd ever heard...even live."
Archie's eyebrows shot up at that statement. But the music Edward was playing spoke for itself. Again, it was classical, something that had a large build up to it. The window panes rattled with the bass, the stringed instruments sounded sad and heartbroken, and the brass was almost ear-piercing.
Edward again stopped the music, pulling the disc back out. He walked over to Archie and sat beside him, turning the disc in the light.
"On these are every song on that album. And every song is a computer file. Okay?" Edward asked.
"Like pictures," Archie verified, and Edward nodded.
"Right, like each photograph is a file. Exactly," Edward praised. "Each song file is called an MP3. And while CDs are still produced now, the most popular form are just simply those files...those MP3s. They are quicker to acquire, easier to store, and once again, flawless in quality. They are easily removed from this," he said, holding up the CD, "to this." He tapped the computer. "You don't have to leave home to get the newest album; you can instantly download it. Environmentally, it's better. No plastics that can't biodegrade, but at this point, it's whatever the consumer prefers."
"So..." Archie started, and despite the fact that Edward could hear his question, my husband let him ask it aloud. "What Bella put in my room...that thing plays just those...files?"
"Yes," we all answered him.
He grinned, and for the first time, he looked proud of himself. Edward chuckled, giving his shoulder a squeeze. It was a gesture not unlike what Carlisle would've done.
We all glanced up when the front doors opened, and we heard Carlisle deposit the blood into the fridge before joining us. He leaned against the piano as Esme sat down beside me, giving me sweet kiss to the side of my head.
"How's it going?" she asked me.
"Poor Archie is on history overload," I teased, giving Carlisle a grin. "However, I'm sure by now, he knows why leisure suits are bad, why polyester is from the devil, and how Prada should have it's own church."
Carlisle laughed, looking over to my sisters. "You didn't..."
"What?!" Alice squawked, holding up her hands. "Seriously. He'll need to know how to dress!"
Archie snorted but said nothing as he shook his head.
"Why? You dress us all, Alice," I argued.
She pursed her lips and shrugged. "He should know why..."
"Believe me, a powder blue polyester suit screams why," Kevin told her.
"Actually," Edward urged, looking up at Carlisle, "they've shown him a great deal. He's getting the benefit of several sources."
"Including Edward. We just went through Music 101, and Music 102 will be saved for later," Jasper taunted with a grin.
"I'm going to tell you this again, Archie. If they drive you nuts, tell them," Esme said. "They'll hardly be offended."
I chuckled. "Yeah... Fortunately, we know we're obnoxious."
Edward grinned and stood up from the sofa to allow Carlisle to take his place next to Archie.
"No, no... I appreciate everything, really," Archie said politely, but he looked like he was preparing for whatever Carlisle was about to suggest. He locked gazes warily. "You... You want me to try going outside again, don't you?"
"I want you to do what you're ready to do, son," Carlisle countered gently. "We can approach it however you'd like."
Archie's brow furrowed as he nodded and swallowed nervously, but his eyes shot to me. "Will you?"
I smiled. "Absolutely." I stood up from the piano bench and walked to him, offering him my hand. "We'll all help, you know," I told him.
Archie nodded silently, taking my hand and standing up. We walked down the stairs, through his room, only to come out through the hidden stone wall door. Most of the family stayed behind, but Jasper and Emmett trotted out into the backyard through the kitchen, and Edward and Carlisle were behind us. I pushed open the cellar doors, letting in the dreary afternoon light. He froze at the top of the steps, the dirt of the backyard mere inches away.
A shiver wracked his frame, and his face was filled with fear. I looked to Carlisle and minutely shook my head.
"Son, close your eyes," Carlisle instructed, and Archie did what he was told. "Now, tell me what you see, what you're scared of."
Carlisle shot Edward a silent look, but my husband only nodded.
"No, Archie," Edward said softly, gently. "Carlisle would like to hear it from you. Just say that out loud."
"Bad things..." Archie barely whispered. "Bad things happen out there."
"That's very true," Carlisle agreed, causing Archie's eyes to snap open. "But good things do, too. You need to remember that you're ever so much stronger than you were the last time you set foot out of this house, Archie. You're not human. You're not fragile. And there's not much that can harm you."
Edward's gaze shot to Jasper. "No. If you hit him with determination, it'll only go away too quickly once Bella has her shield on him." He grinned. "Fine. Just a boost."
Archie visibly relaxed with the help of my brother.
"Better, man?" Jasper asked.
"Yes, actually." Archie nodded, turning to me. "What were most scared of?"
"Losing Edward, losing my family," I answered immediately and honestly. "That was when I was human, and a lot of things carried over into my change. My talent was hard to get under control, though it helped with my bloodlust. I was upset that I was losing my human friends and my parents."
He nodded that he'd heard me, but he studied the ground just in front of his feet. His breathing was heavy, but his hand stayed in mine.
I glanced up to Edward, whose face was stoic as I mentally asked if Archie was okay. He gave a slight wince but nodded encouragingly at Carlisle and me.
Carlisle placed a hand on Archie's shoulder. "The best revenge against Victoria," he started, which truly got Archie's attention. "You need to prove she didn't beat you. If only to yourself, son."
Archie blew out a rough breath and nodded.
"One step...sixty seconds. Just...try," Edward urged from behind. "There's no one alive now that could hurt you. Victoria's gone...and your father has no power over you anymore. All his rules are null and void."
I nodded, agreeing with him, because he'd said the same thing to me about Jake once, even when I was human. Edward took away the power that I'd given to Jake for two years, replacing it with the strongest shield of love and protection I'd ever felt. And I still felt it...every day.
Edward's eyes softened, and he mouthed, "Love you."
Grinning, I turned to Archie. "With my shield. With me. What do you say?"
Archie nodded, and before he could change his mind, I wrapped my shield gently around him.
"Feel it?" I asked, and he nodded. "Good. Now, watch. Carlisle, touch us."
"Can't, little one," he said with a chuckle, poking at my shield.
"Now you're safe. Step with me," I told Archie, tugging his hand.
It was going to be a long, full minute. The very second Archie's foot crossed the threshold of the cellar doors, he began to shake. His breathing picked up, and he squeezed his eyes closed.
"Open your eyes, buddy," Emmett called encouragingly from the yard. "Nothin' can get you, man. Look."
Archie cracked open one eye, and I smiled, but he shook his head profusely. "I can't, I can't..."
"You can. Thirty seconds, son," Carlisle urged. "You're halfway there."
"I can't...I'll mess up," he whispered to me, his big, deep red eyes pleading. "Please, Bella, let me go," he begged, struggling against my shield and pulling on my hand. "Please, Bella..."
It was heartbreaking to watch, really, but I put a hand on his shoulder. "There is no messing up, sweetie. You're almost there. The only person you'll disappoint is yourself. Forget everything that anyone ever told you, okay?"
He nodded, his hands gripping the sleeves of my shirt. "Please..." he simply whispered.
I sighed, giving Carlisle a glance, and he tapped his watch. Looking back to Archie, I squeezed his hand to get his attention. "Look at me." His frightened gaze snapped to mine. "You did this. You're way past a minute. I want you to acknowledge that before I let you out from my shield."
He swallowed thickly and nodded. "Okay... Please?!"
"Archie," Carlisle called, and his head spun to look at him. "You did amazingly well. We're all very proud of you."
I could see that the nervous boy in front of me had no idea how to take that, so I let him go. He was inside, down the stairs, and into his room before I'd taken my next breath.
Carlisle sighed, shaking his head, but his face was filled with sadness. "Well, that was...unexpected."
Edward shot a glance inside the house before stepping closer. "He's...only angry at himself; though, right now, he blames his father for making him feel weak. He's been told way too many times what a grand disappointment he was, not only by his father, but by Victoria, as well."
Jasper and Emmett joined us at the door, their faces crestfallen.
"It was a good attempt," Carlisle told us all. "We'll try again later. Positive reinforcement may be the key with him. But for now, let's give him some space."
Edward reached for my hand, and we all filed back down into the cellar. Jasper shut the door behind us. Just as we turned around, we watched the stone doorway slam shut.
"Okay, honey..." Kevin drawled from the other side, and Edward chuckled before Kev finally finished with, "Let's talk about dads, shall we?"

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