- “Aspen Dawn” by Ansel Adams
During the months we were apart, I often wondered how it would feel to wake up in Edward’s arms. Every scenario I’d imagined involved intense passion or the blissful afterglow thereof, not the quiet feelings of home and comfort I experienced as I opened my eyes to find the man I loved sleeping beside me. I rested my face against his chest and reveled in his warmth, causing him to sigh and pull me tightly against him.
Well, hello there.
His blush may have been a thing of the past, but the hardness currently nestled against my thigh would indicate that he still began each day with an erection.
“Good morning,” he whispered.
“Apparently.” I gently rocked my hips against his.
He smiled as his fingers played in my hair. “Yes, well, that was to be expected. It just wants you to know that it misses you.”
“Does it not have a head?”
I shook my head in disbelief. “So much for your promise to be a gentleman.”
“It’s there, and it’s hard. It’s not a big deal. Actually, that was a bad choice of words. It kind of is a big deal, if I do say so myself, but then again you already knew that.”
I smacked him on the shoulder.
“What? So the cock made its presence known. It’s not like I’ve asked you to do anything about it.”
I wiggled out of his embrace.
“Wait, are you actually offended?” He propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at me. “You realize that erections are involuntary reactions, right? I couldn’t control it if I wanted to.”
Here I had dared to think that maybe he still found me arousing.
“Do you want to?”
“Do I want to what?”
“Honestly?” He shook his head. “No.”
I looked into his eyes and tried to decipher his intentions. “Edward, I…”
Before I could even ascertain what was happening, his lips pressed against mine and his tongue swept inside my mouth. Seconds later, he rolled on top of me. I felt his erection press against the juncture of my thighs and gasped, at which point he deepened the kiss.
It was full of passion and longing. Somehow, it managed to convey to me a need which he’d left unspoken.
He traced my lower lip with his tongue before pulling away. As he looked down at me, his lips slowly formed a smile. He stroked my cheeks lazily with his thumbs.
“I’m sorry, were you saying something?”
Fuck if I could remember.
“What was that?” I whispered breathlessly.
“That was a kiss.”
“I know it was a kiss, but it seemed to just come out of nowhere.”
He was impossible.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“Immensely,” he answered, laughing. “Come on, are you honestly surprised that I kissed you? I mean, the past seven months have been leading to this.”
“No, I never thought you would…that we’d…” I stuttered nervously. “You said you weren’t available to me that way.”
“Then why did you…gah!” I grunted in frustration. “I’m so incredibly confused right now.”
“I meant that I don’t want to be your sexual plaything.”
“I don’t see you that way.”
“You don’t now, but we both know you did.”
The truth made me cringe.
“It doesn’t bother me anymore. Besides, in all fairness to you, I’m equally culpable. I wanted you so badly I was willing to take you any way I could have you, even if it meant my own objectification and detriment.”
I moved my face to the side to avoid his gaze.
“Wanted,” I repeated, muttering into my pillow. “You’re speaking in the past tense.”
“Bella, look at me.”
I slowly turned to look at him.
“I still love you. I still want you more than I can express, but I think it’s fairly obvious that our relationship in its previous incarnation was destined to fail. It was intense and passionate and whereas both of those things are integral, it takes so much more than that to make a relationship last. I know better now. I sacrificed so many of my ideals thinking that I could change you, that my love could somehow heal you and make you whole. It was incredibly naïve of me. When you broke up with me, you told me you weren’t capable of love. Despite your subsequent insistence to the contrary, I think that was in fact true.”
“It may have been at the time, but it isn’t anymore. The past week has shown me that. At the funeral, when you were talking about your favorite memories of your father…”
I stopped, unsure if this was something he was able to talk about. He nodded, and I continued.
“I can’t remember a word you said. It didn’t register. I was too emotionally connected to you. Edward, I felt actual physical pain for you. There was a tight ache in my chest and it became hard for me to breathe.” My eyes began to fill at the memory.
“I noticed you were crying.”
“I was? That didn’t even register to me. I did notice that you weren’t, that somehow you managed to retain your composure. I knew on the inside you were screaming. I realized at that moment how much my feelings for you had changed. Self-preservation be damned. I would have sacrificed myself to ease your pain, even if only for a moment.”
He clenched his eyes shut. “I know, Bella. I know.”
“I am capable of love. I just didn’t always know what it was.”
I reached up ran my fingers through his hair. He shimmied his body a bit closer to the foot of the bed and laid his head against my cotton-covered breast.
“I can hear your heart.” He tapped his fingers against my shoulder replicating its rhythm. “My father used to always tell me life was a gift. I just never realized how quickly it could end. I spoke to him on the phone earlier that day…the day of the accident. The last words I said to him were ‘I love you.’” He let out a small, humorless laugh. “Mike was in the room at the time and called me a pussy.”
I rolled my eyes. “Mike would.”
“Yes, well, he later apologized. I told my dad I loved him nearly every time I spoke with him. So did my mom. Growing up, I’d never thought there was anything unique about it. We were just always like that as a family…very demonstrative when it came to affection. I asked my dad about it once when I realized that not every family was like ours. He said that from the time they were dating, he and my mom never ended a conversation without an ‘I love you,’ and this didn’t change when I entered the equation. They did this consistently even in the midst of intense arguments.”
“I can’t imagine your parents fighting.”
“Are you kidding?” This time his laugh was genuine. “You’re talking about two very passionate people, one of whom is incredibly stubborn.”
“I never thought of your father as stubborn.”
“He wasn’t. My mother, on the other hand…you can’t imagine.”
“Oh, I have a fairly decent idea. So let’s see. You got your mother’s hair, eyes, and disposition.” I feigned a moment of realization. “It all makes sense now.”
“Go ahead. Mock me while I’m bereaved.”
His laughter indicated he wasn’t serious.
“I was partially joking.”
“Sure you were. Anyway, they had their share of arguments. All marriages do. My mom would end phone conversations with my dad by saying things like, ‘I’m furious and would smack the shit out of you if you were standing in front of me right now, but I still love you more than life itself.’”
“Somehow, I have no problem visualizing your mother saying this.”
“Well, you’ve seen how intense she can be. My point is that they never took the other one for granted, never stopped telling each other how much they were cherished. My mom has said repeatedly that this is her only source of comfort right now, besides the fact that my brother is no longer alone. At least my father never doubted how much we loved him.”
There was so much I wanted to ask Edward —about the brother he’d never mentioned until now, about his mother and how she was really holding up, and if Carlisle died hating me. One question, however, eclipsed all others.
“Why did you kiss me earlier?”
“I’m tired of pretending that I’m not still in love with you.” He lifted his head off my chest and rolled away from me. I turned onto my side and faced him, and he propped himself up on one elbow. “Our first attempt at a romantic relationship didn’t work because it wasn’t a joining of equals based on mutual admiration and respect. I thought it was in the beginning. I’ve since realized that it only seemed as if you were treating me as your equal because I was comparing it to how other teachers addressed me. Unlike most other adults, you didn’t immediately disregard my intellect because of my age. Still, the moment I declared my love for you, you began to trivialize my feelings.”
“I did trivialize you, but it wasn’t because of your age.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying. Obviously, it was partially to do with your age. Though since I’ve spent nearly two years in therapy, I know there were other issues at work. Mainly, I was incapable of believing that you loved me because I didn’t love myself.”
His lips formed a small smile. “You’re speaking in the past tense.”
“I am, indeed.”
Edward reached up and tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
As much as we’d said, we’d still yet to redefine ourselves.
“So what now?” I asked.
“I’d like to kiss you again.”
“I won’t object, but I would like to know what to expect when we come up for air.”
“I suppose we should get showered and dressed and check on my mom. As much as I’d like to spend all day in bed with you, it’s just not practical.”
“No, I meant with regard to us.”
“I told you I didn’t want a reconciliation, and that remains true. It just wouldn’t work. We’re both too different from who we were. However, if you are so inclined, I would like to date you, but this time proceed very slowly.”
An idiotic grin formed on my face. “I’m fine with slow.”
“Are you sure you aren’t going to drop your dress after our first date? Because if you did that to me now, I don’t think I’d be able to resist the urge to fuck you senseless. As much as we’d both enjoy that, moving too fast physically isn’t in our best interest.”
“I promise to keep my clothes on. Though speaking of nudity, last night you did see me in my underwear and somehow managed to restrain yourself.”
“You have no idea what that did to me. It’s been so long since I had your nipples. I wanted to taste them…” His gaze trailed down my torso and settled on my hardened nipples, barely concealed by my white tank top. “I’m willing to wait though.” His eyes met mine as he sighed. “May I kiss you?”
I nodded, and seconds later his lips pressed against mine. Just as they had earlier, as his lips moved against mine, they spoke silently of passion and longing.
This time, they also spoke of hope.