Chapter Four & Five
Written by Coquette
I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
So I reread it, and my mouth fell open, aghast. Turning a heated glare on my husband, I closed the journal and lobbed it directly at his head.
Edward ducked at the last second, his vampire speed serving him well. The car swerved just a slight fraction on the highway as he turned astonished eyes upon me. “What was that for?” he demanded.
“Don’t act all innocent,” I seethed through clenched teeth. “You know what you did. Jerk.”
He raked his fingers through his disheveled hair, every bit the nervous wreck that he appeared to be. “Enlighten me, please. I think you dented the door paneling.”
“You broke up with me,” I all but shouted, pointing in the direction of the journal. “In the forest. And you just left me there to wallow!”
“Oh,” he said, his voice suddenly understanding. His hands relaxed on the steering wheel, though he still managed to hold onto his ever present at-the-end-of-his-rope demeanor. “We get back together, you know.”
“Obviously. You’re my husband, aren’t you?”
“Sorry,” was his quiet reply.
I stared at him, eyes narrowing into thin slivers as I scrutinized his face. He did sound apologetic. Heartsick, even. Well, just so long as he felt bad about it and didn’t plan on defending his actions, I wouldn’t throw anything else at his head.
“Give me my journal back,” I said, holding my hand out. Then, thinking perhaps I was a bit too demanding, I added a reluctant, “Please.”
He rolled his eyes and dug between the door of the car and his seat to retrieve the journal. It was a mess, dented in the middle with several pages dislodged from the binding. I carefully went about making it right. It was the last of the three handwritten journals. I knew the story continued from there on a laptop that was sitting in the backseat. That was a good thing. The handwriting in the journals was starting to become illegible. Whether that was due to Bella’s hand cramping from writing so much in such a short period of time or because it was an emotional subject for her, I couldn’t say. I suspected it was a bit of both.
“I really am, Bella,” said Edward in that same quiet voice.
“What?” I asked, smoothing the journal out with assiduous care, inwardly chiding myself for throwing it in the first place.
“Sorry,” he clarified. “I’ve never intentionally hurt you – even when I lied to you that day and said I didn’t love you, it was only meant to cause you less pain in the future. A quick, sharp pain to prevent more permanent damage. I sometimes get a bit crazy when it comes to you. I do things without thinking the consequences through. I think I’m being selfless, when really there’s a lot more hurt going on than I realize.”
“So I’ve heard.”
Edward glanced over at me, questions in his eyes.
“Alice told me,” I explained. “Back at the house. She said everyone’s been very worried about you since I was turned. They didn’t know what you were going to do. And Esme said something similar to me.”
“My family worries too much. It’s good we’ve left them behind for now.”
“Are you ever going to tell me what’s going on?”
“I really wish you would just finish the journals, Bella. It’s too much information to just take in all at once. We’ve got a long flight to Italy ahead of us as soon as we get to Seattle. You’ll have plenty of time to read.”
“I still don’t understand why we have to get to Italy.”
“You will. Just read.”
“Can you tell me the gist of it? I think that’s fair, especially considering what happened back at the house. Who was that strange vampire in your room?”
Edward sighed and again raked his fingers through his hair – I could see that was a nervous habit of his. “Carlisle thinks he’s the head of a secret mercenary group of vampires out of Old Prussia,” he told me with obvious reluctance. “Though where they’re centered now, no one knows. We don’t know for certain if he’s the leader of that group.” Edward glanced over at me, his face sober and fraught with worry. “He might actually be the sole member of it. Acting alone under the guise of greater numbers, taking on followers only when he finds use for the added muscle. I’m not sure which is worse.”
“He said something to me in the bedroom,” I said.
Edward’s hands tightened on the steering wheel, and the plastic moaned in protest.
“He said that he and I are old friends,” I continued. “What did he mean by that?”
“We were on our honeymoon in Europe,” said Edward in a very even tone. “I believe he was tailing us most of that time. He confronted us in Paris with a group of vampires who are now dead. You’ve only met him once before.”
I watched his drawn face carefully. He hadn’t really answered my question but had skirted around the issue. “You’re hiding things from me again.”
“Well, stop it.”
“I don’t want to frighten you.”
“I think I need to be frightened a little. I could have fought him off or even killed him if I had known he was an enemy.”
“You might be strong, Bella, but you haven’t been trained in combat. I would rather you just run the other way.”
“Just tell me ... why is he after us?”
Again, Edward’s words came slowly, as if he was editing and revising as he went, giving me a watered down version of events. “There are people in the world that had an interest in you becoming a vampire. A very keen interest – a potentially violent interest. You knew of the existence of vampires before you became one, and that’s forbidden for humans. That vampire was hired by a group called the Volturi to ensure that you become one of us. He gave us an ultimatum, which we disregarded.” Here Edward looked at me, his eyes fierce. “You made the decision to become a vampire, Bella. No one forced you. My family and I made sure of that.”
“But if I’m already a vampire, then what’s the problem? Why is he still after us?”
Edward shook his head unhappily. “There are people in the world, Bella – especially vampires that have become bored with this life – who turn to games to amuse themselves. This vampire is one of them. He’s playing with us because he thinks he can. It’s a game to him.”
“Does he have a name?”
“I doubt if it’s his real one, but Carlisle tells me he’s called Mikhail. Sometimes he’s referred to as the Großmeister. That’s German for Grandmaster – a reference to chess. But again, we don’t know for certain if it’s him. Let’s ... let’s just hope it isn’t, all right?” He sounded as though he wanted to be wrong about Mikhail’s identity, as if the possibility frightened him. He didn’t explain his reasoning to me.
I didn’t speak for a long moment. “Do you know other chess terms?” I asked hesitantly.
“Quite a few. Why?”
“What does en prise mean?”
Edward turned his head slowly in my direction. “Why? ” he repeated, his voice taking on a dangerous quality.
“He ... Mikhail said it last night. He told me to look it up and pass it onto you.”
Edward flinched visibly – his eyelashes fluttering shut for just a second before he forced an unreadable mask on his face, probably for my benefit. That frightened me more than any talk of Grandmasters.
“What does it mean, Edward?” I pressed, growing upset.
He didn’t answer me and instead shifted the gears of the car, pushing it faster along the wet stretch of highway.
A sign flew past us on the right-hand side at well over one hundred miles an hour: Seattle 74 miles. And getting closer by the second.
At the Seattle airport, Edward managed to get us last minute tickets to Florence, but the flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until the next morning. He didn’t seem very pleased about that; I felt a little sorry for the young airport employee behind the counter, who was obviously trying to figure out if she was attracted to or terrified of Edward.
He checked us into a hotel adjacent to the airport. It was a simple but comfortable room – just somewhere to pass the time with a little privacy, since neither of us required rest. He drew the curtains closed and began making calls to his family on his cell phone, explaining where we were and what flight we would be on.
I was left standing there, staring at the king-sized bed between us. It was the metaphorical equivalent of a giant elephant in the room, impossible to ignore the implications that came with it.
Thank God vampires didn’t require sleep. I didn’t know how I felt about lying my body down next to Edward’s. The idea wasn’t unpleasant by any means. Quite the opposite, really. But it still frightened me – the same way a first kiss might frighten someone who didn’t know what to expect. Though I had obviously kissed Edward before and done other things that husbands and wives were known to do, I couldn’t remember any of it. I was mentally still a virgin. His cautious embraces of the past day or so were all I knew of physical affection, and the gray area of the unknown was intimidating.
It wasn’t until I set down my bag that I realized there was nowhere else to sit besides the bed. Damn it. Edward was pacing by the window, spilling out words of frustration to Carlisle. They were talking about Italy again; something about a vampire named Aro. Neither sounded pleased.
I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I had wanted to work a little more on manipulating my mental shield – to see if I could access whatever was blocking my memories from returning to me – but Edward’s conversation was distracting. I knew I would never manage it if it wasn’t dead quiet. I had tried to work on it a bit in the car, but found it nearly impossible, what with the constant shifting of passing headlights and the beating of the windshield wipers against the rain. The concentration required to even try was exhausting. How had Mikhail torn down that mental wall with such ease? It was unbelievably frustrating.
Before we had even left for Seattle, I had explained what had happened to Edward. I gave him the details of my brief and fleeting flood of memories cautiously, fearful of his reaction – or rather his overreaction. He took it better than I anticipated.
“At least we know now why you can’t remember,” he had said thoughtfully. “And we can work to help you control it. Bella, this is very good news.”
I hadn’t been so sure. “But when he broke down my shield, there were all these base instincts ready to slip out. I wanted to kill something. I couldn’t think of anything else other than blood.”
I remembered Edward shrugging a little, indifferent or perhaps just resigned. “I already expected all of that when you turned. I’ll take it as an exchange if we can get your memories back. It will fade with time, and you’ll be just like the rest of us when it does.”
His words had made me angry. I didn’t want to become some sort of mindless monster, even briefly. There had to be a way to manipulate the shield, to let my memories flow through and keep the bloodlust under control at the same time.
But I would have to work on that at another time. Even thinking about it wore me out, like I was standing at the foot of Mount Everest without ever having climbed anything before.
There was only one thing to do while we waited to leave for the airport. I sighed and pulled out the laptop Edward had given me – the one with the continuation of Bella’s journals. I eyed Edward warily and sat down on the far side of the bed, stretching my legs out with the computer resting in my lap. I opened the lid and stared at the array of buttons for a long time. Edward was watching me out of the corner of his eye. He took pity on me and came to my side, pointing to a silver button at the top of the keyboard. I pressed it and smiled when the screen lit up.
The mechanics of using a computer came back to me with surprising ease, like remembering how to ride a bike when I didn’t even know I knew how to ride a bike. Bella’s journals were much easier to read in typed format. Her thoughts, while still burdened with obvious emotion, were clearer and better placed on the page now that her handwriting wasn’t a factor. I quickly became engrossed, not even noticing when Edward’s phone conversation ended. I did notice, however, when he came and lay down on the other end of the bed. He crossed his legs at the ankles and heaved a frustrated sigh, letting his eyes drift closed.
“Tired?” I asked, searching for conversation to battle the awkwardness I felt in his presence.
“No,” he muttered. “Just thinking. Don’t mind me.”
I stared at him for a minute or two before I returned to reading – bolder in my gaze than I normally would have been because he couldn’t see me looking at him. His arm was cast over his eyes, his long, tapered fingers curled naturally. His lips moved like he was rehearsing a conversation or trying to work out something in his head. My gaze focused on his lower lip, which was moist and almost swollen from biting it in nervousness. I had to fight the sudden urge to press my own lips against his to soothe them.
I felt like I should have been blushing at the very thought – that my body should have been engulfed in a fever the way Bella’s often was when she was faced with Edward’s natural sensuousness – but I suppose my new body wasn’t capable of that warm pooling of blood anymore. Still, I’m sure my face held an expression of stunned panic. The absolute power he held over my body without even trying was almost embarrassing.
I turned my attention back to the laptop before he could notice my stare and forced myself to read. The words came into focus eventually, and I was transported to another world. What I read that happened in Bella’s life – in my own life – during those months away from Edward disturbed me. Saddened me. I would like to say I wouldn’t have fallen into such a state of despair and depression if faced with the same situation – if Edward left me now as he had left her then. But really, he was all I knew. He was my cornerstone, my only friend. I didn’t know how I would react. I would like to say that I would be stronger than she was. Perhaps I would be, but then again, perhaps it would be worse. I hoped I would never have to find out.
Hours ticked by, and I all but forgot where I was as I read. Though I learned about new friends and about my father, who I had no memory of but already felt affection for, my eyes still sped across the screen in a panic until Edward was again part of the story. Then I was able to relax and read slower – taking particular care with that section because it contained names and places that I had heard in recent conversation. Italy, the Volturi, Aro.
What was happening now started to make a little more sense. And suddenly, I was filled with terror over the journey we were about to take. Surely it would be different now that I wasn’t human, but Bella remembered it all with such chilling detail, I couldn’t help but worry.
“What’s wrong?” asked Edward in a quiet voice.
I glanced over at him, surprised when he spoke. I’d forgotten for a little while that I wasn’t alone. He was lying on his side, staring at me, his eyes lined with deep purple shadows. He looked troubled, tired ... and absolutely beautiful. His hair was a mess, sticking up every which way except the way it was meant to, giving him a boyish look that was warm and alluring. The sudden desire to stretch my body out next to his washed over me.
“How long have you been staring at me?” I asked.
He shrugged a shoulder, pressing the hand that wasn’t supporting his head flat to the mattress – almost like an invitation. “A while,” was his simple reply. “My punishment, I suppose.”
“What do you mean?”
“You just read about our separation, didn’t you?” He paused, and I nodded in response to his question. “Your face,” he explained. “You looked so sad as you were reading. Like your heart had been ripped out. Watching it was my punishment.”
“Self-flagellation a hobby of yours or something?”
He smiled sadly, his eyes melting into something liquid and culpable. “You have a lot to forgive me for.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and said nothing in reply. I wasn’t going to encourage him to beat himself up even more, and nothing I could say would make him truly feel better. Best to just let it lie and hope the subject would shift to other topics.
“Are you all right?” he asked. “You don’t look sad anymore. You almost look frightened now.”
“Well ... I know now why we’re going to Italy. I guess I am a little frightened.”
“Don’t worry. Carlisle has already sent word. They’re expecting us. You’ll find they’re sugary-sweet to your face – but they’re spiders, the whole lot of them. They won’t harm you, but don’t let your guard down. And whatever you do, don’t give them any indication that you want to join them. Just refuse politely. If they persist, keep refusing until you’re blue in the face. Figuratively speaking, of course. They’ll back down.”
I nodded, the breath leaving my chest raggedly as I exhaled. “Do you think going there will do any good? This Mikhail... will he leave us alone?”
“I wish I knew. Try not to think about it.”
“How long until we leave for the airport?”
“Just another hour. When the sun comes up behind the clouds. You’ll feel it before you see it.”
My eyes widened. Had we really been in the room for so long? I had deeply lost myself in the story. I tried to start reading again – but now that I was aware of his eyes on me, I could barely concentrate. It wasn’t a creepy sort of stare. It was patient and kind with no hint of judgment. It was the sort of look you give someone when you know and trust them to the root of your being – when the mere sight of them comforted you, when there was nothing to hide behind the mirror of your eyes, so you laid it all out for the other to see.
And that was why I couldn’t meet his gaze in kind. I didn’t know him the way he knew me. I didn’t love him the way he loved me.
Though I was certainly starting to.
Time would remedy that. I had little doubt. I no longer was in possession of the memories Mikhail had given me a brief glimpse of, but I remember understanding just how much Bella truly loved Edward. I already knew our story from the journals. The details – the personal claim to that story that made it reality instead of just words on a page – that was what was lost when Mikhail let my shield fall back into place.
The next part of the journal was almost painful to read – not because it was unpleasant – but because it held the particulars of Bella’s reunion with Edward. The way they kissed and held each other, the details of his sweet ministrations, both physical and verbal ... it made me want to hide from the intensity of Edward’s gaze.
Of all the moments for him to be watching my face...
I felt a warmth spread through me with each word I read – so unlike the cruel burning that had gripped me during my change into a vampire. This warmth was lulling, sexual, petrifying.
I made the mistake of looking at him, and my stomach promptly twisted into knots. His gaze had deepened immeasurably as he watched my face, and once he caught me in that web, I couldn’t look away. Nervousness panged in my chest in place of a missing heartbeat.
He moved for the first time in hours, edging over in the bed toward me, lessening the distance between our bodies. He took the laptop from my numb fingers and leaned over me as he set it on the nightstand beside the bed. His arm brushed against mine as he did so, and my breath caught in my throat.
He coaxed me down onto the pillow using only the force of his eyes, like he had me in some sort of thrall. Then he laid his head down next to mine, on the same pillow, with his hand pressed down in the space between us. He let me grow comfortable before he began stroking my hair, smoothing it away from my face with the palm of his hand. The warmth in my body continued to spread as though his touch had brought me to life again. Our bodies were still separated by a small distance, but he was so close, I could somehow still feel him.
“I want to kiss you,” he whispered, his breath mingling with my own. “I can’t stop thinking about it.”
But he didn’t move to kiss me, and that was just cruel. I suppose he was waiting for me to react to his comment, to perhaps give him permission, but I wasn’t sure how to. To leave me floundering there under his thrall, when I had no experience with these sort of things ... well, it wasn’t very nice at all.
Perhaps he read the panic on my face because he smiled crookedly at me and slipped his arm under my neck, pushing himself up on his elbow so that he had my head nestled carefully in the crook on his arm. I shivered as our bodies came into contact and wondered if there would ever come a time when the feel of his skin didn’t affect me so deeply. I hoped not. It was intoxicating.
He began to stroke my face with the tips of his fingers, flitting carefully over my lower lip then down my chin and throat until he pressed his hand flat over my collarbone – just above my breasts, where my heart used to beat. I half expected it to start right up again.
“May I?” he finally whispered, his lips parted, soft and supple.
I didn’t trust myself to respond with words, so I angled my head up toward him, hoping he would catch my meaning. He did, but he smiled down at me before he did anything about it, pleased by my shy willingness.
Then he closed the small distance between our lips and kissed me full on the mouth, touching me lightly with his tongue before closing his lips against mine. The first kiss I had ever known.
Kissing Edward wasn’t anything like Bella had described it. I don’t know if it could be put into words, though bless her, she did try. No words could completely convey how special and perfect that simple physical exchange was. It was like we were having a conversation, whispering things to each other that no one else could possibly understand. Not one long kiss, but a never-ending series of gentle, brief kisses – growing deeper and hotter with every passing second. Our tentative connection solidified, as if we had somehow become one person in our minds, just by touching.
His lips weren’t hard and unyielding as Bella had described them. They were achingly soft against my own, surprisingly warm instead of ice cold. He worked his mouth against mine with increasing urgency – long kisses now – his lips parting again, his tongue tracing the contours of my lips. I parted my lips in kind and let his tongue slide into my mouth. The kiss deepened into something impossibly more sensuous.
I gripped his shirt, and he complied at once, moving his body over mine until his narrow hips were nestled between my thighs. He broke off the kiss, and his lips immediately found a sensitive place on my neck. Too sensitive. Like it was somehow connected to every nerve ending in my body, especially the ones that ended at the base of my thighs. I writhed beneath him in pleasure as he nipped and suckled me there carefully, focusing all his attention in that one delicious spot. I wondered if that had been the place where he had bitten me when he changed me into a vampire and fully claimed me as his own.
It felt too good to take more than a little stimulation there in a single session. Unable to stand that focused concentration, I gripped him by his hair and brought him back to my mouth. The mood had shifted into something more critical, more primal, from the second his lips at touched that spot on my neck. I knew he felt it just as much as I did.
His hands slid down my body as we kissed, grazing with intent across my breasts, slipping under the fabric of my shirt so that he could claim the bare skin of my waist between his hands. But when he began to move his hips, grinding his hardness into me ... that’s when I started to panic.
He sensed it immediately and stopped, lifting his head to stare down at me. His lips were red and swollen, his hair even more of a mess than it had be before. He looked guilty, like he had done something wrong. I touched his face to reassure him.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “Too much?” He said it like it was a question, but it wasn’t one. He pressed a kiss to my forehead and apologized again and again. “I lost myself there for a moment.”
I could relate. I pushed lightly against his chest, and he lifted off of me immediately. I got up from the bed, not looking at him. I smoothed my clothes back in place and tried to collect myself without much success. My lips were throbbing, my skin tingling like I had been electrocuted and had liked it.
All in all, I was a bit shell-shocked. But I had to stop. I had to walk away. I just had to.
“Sometimes I forget this is all so new to you,” he continued, babbling now in his apprehension. “Please don’t be angry.”
“I’m not angry,” I said, finally finding my voice. “I just ... can’t. It’s not right.”
He looked at me for a moment before answering. “What do you mean, it’s not right? You’re my wife, Bella. If you’re not ready to cross the line into sex, that’s one matter entirely. I would never pressure you. But if there’s another reason...”
“I can’t just sleep with you, Edward. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s not fair. You’re right there in front of me, all pretty and willing … but it’s not me you want.”
His gaze darkened. “Bella, we’ve talked about this.”
“Look,” I said, trying again. He really didn’t understand. “I know now that I really am Bella. Whatever that Mikhail guy did to me – I was able to see the truth for a second, and even though I don’t remember what I saw, I know it’s there somewhere inside of me. She’s there.”
“She’s right in front of me,” said Edward evenly.
“Maybe. But not all of her. Edward, you deserve to have all of her. It should be your wife that you’re making love to. Not just some willing participant. I can’t do that to you or to her.”
He was unearthly still as he stared at me, his jaw ticking in disapproval. “I’m not going to force anything on you, Bella. If you want to abstain until you get your memories back, that’s fine. I just wish you would reconsider the specifics of your argument. Because you’re dead wrong. You are my wife. You’re Bella, so stop referring to yourself in the third person. Now get back over here and lie down.”
My eyes flew to his face, wide and a little surprised at his commanding tone. He seemed almost angry with me.
“I just want to hold you,” he explained when I didn’t budge an inch. His tone was gentler, but his eyes were still bright and fierce upon my face. “Come here, Bella.”
I wasn’t made of stone. I went to him, though I was uncertain as I padded back across the carpet toward him. He caught my wrist and pulled me back onto the bed beside him, hiding me in the shelter of his arms. Once I felt the tender pressure of his hands on me, I settled against him willingly, letting my body relax. “I really am trying,” I whispered, burying my face in his neck. “I didn’t mean to make you angry.”
“I didn’t mean to get angry,” he said, his tone apologetic. “I’m sorry. I’m just trying to reassure you, but I’m afraid I’m doing a rather clumsy job of it. But please, Bella. No more of this third person nonsense. No more referring to Bella as if she’s someone else. Unless you really believe you’re her, you’re never going to be able to access those memories. You’re never going to be able to figure out exactly why they locked themselves away behind your shield in the first place. Will you try for me? Just try to believe.”
I sighed against his throat, letting my eyes drift shut. “I don’t even know where to start.”
His hands caressed the back of my head, his fingers tangling in my curls, and he pulled me away from his neck so that he could look me in the eyes. “Start here with me. Believe what I’m telling you. Believe that I love you and know you. Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” I said without hesitation.
The corner of his mouth tugged upwards into a teasing smile. “Then what’s the problem?”
He kissed me again, his lips just a whisper against my own, then let his eyes flutter open to gaze back at me again.
“I don’t remember anymore,” I admitted, aching to have his mouth against mine again.
I didn’t have to wait long. I’m not certain who moved first, but our lips met somewhere in the middle – quieter and gentler than the first time, a patient understanding cocooning us, all expectations cast aside. We stayed like that, hopelessly tangled up in one another, until the sun rose behind the clouds outside.
To be continued.
Author’s Note: Sorry about the lack of plot-driven action in this chapter. I felt it was high time for a little action of another kind. And just so everyone’s on the same page – no, they didn’t have sex at the very end. Just more kissing. (Nyah, cockblock’d lulz! But hey, I let the boy cop a feel, so don’t be hatin.) ;) Hope you enjoyed.