Bella doesn’t hear Edward approach and he doesn’t announce his presence—the last thing he wants is to miss out on a chance to watch her undetected. So he stares at her from behind as she stares out the window, standing close enough that when she turns to leave, she slams right into him.
“Ow, fuck!” She stumbles backwards, wondering why it feels as if she just walked into a wall.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “You looked so lovely; I didn’t want to disturb you. You aren’t injured, are you? Do you think anything is broken?”
“No, but I’ll be all kinds of purple tomorrow. Look, I don’t know what you do to keep in shape, but I think you can afford to lay off it for a while. You already have abs of steel.”
“Steel?” He thinks for a moment, then shrugs. “I’ve always thought they felt more like marble.”
Laughing, she raises her hand, thinking she’ll hit him playfully on the arm. Right before she touches him, she decides against it. Come tomorrow, she’ll be sore enough as it is. Instead, she brushes her finger lightly against his wet hair.
“You went out in this weather?” she asks.
“I only go out in the daytime when it’s storming. It’s the only time sunlight is safe for me.”
She gives him a knowing nod. Though she’s not nearly as pale as he is, she still burns quite easily in the sun.
“When I was little,” she says, “I used to love to go outside and play just as a storm was moving out—you know, just when the rain was starting to let up. I’d run around barefoot and jump in puddles. Did you ever do that?”
She looks at her betrothed. His white shirt is crisp, his dark trousers perfectly pressed, and there’s enough of a shine to his shoes she can clearly make out her reflection in them.
“Never mind,” she says. “It was a stupid question.”
“Not at all. I know my childhood happened long before yours–”
“You’re not that old,” she says, rolling her eyes.
He thinks back to his time in Europe after the Great War. The vampire who changed him was nearly a thousand years old. Perhaps she has a point.
“No. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, I’m not. Age is somewhat relative. Anyway, I might have jumped in puddles. I don’t remember my childhood well—just that everything was simpler back then.”
She laughs. “Ain’t that the truth.”
“Come.” He takes her hand in his and pulls her away from the window toward to the center of the room.
“What, are you taking me puddle-jumping?”
He pauses. “Would that please you?”
“It would,” she says, smiling.
“Very well then. But there’s something I’d like to do first.” For the second time in as many days, he drops down to one knee.
“You already asked,” she tells him. “I said yes, remember?”
“Indeed.” He pulls a small black box from the pocket of his trousers. “But this makes it official.” He flips open the box with his thumb, revealing a delicate platinum band encrusted with tiny diamonds which wrap around a small, round center stone like a ribbon.
She suspected this was coming. Edward is far too traditional not to present her with an engagement ring. But the vision before her—Edward on one knee presenting her with a token of eternity—takes her breath away.
Old-fashioned and understated; she’s never seen anything like it. Bella doubts a more beautiful ring—or man—exists.
She thinks both and the ring are perfect, until she notices the name of the jeweler etched in gold in the box’s satin lining. Though she knows nothing about the cost of diamonds, let alone the cost of diamonds purchased from a world-renowned Fifth Avenue jeweler, she knows it couldn’t have been cheap, and that makes her uncomfortable.
“Please tell me this is a hand-me-down,” she says.
“Of course not!” He looks offended. “I went into town this morning while you were sleeping. I wanted you to have something new, that’s yours and yours alone.”
She looks down at the ring; her happy sigh comes on its own.
“Is it not to your liking?” he asks.
“Are you kidding? I love it.”
He reaches for her hand. “May I?”
“Please!” She bounces on her heels excitedly.
It isn’t until he slides it onto her finger that it hits her: This is real. I’m actually going to marry a man I hardly know.
A voice in her head tells her she’s out of her mind, but she’s far too elated to give it any credence.
He kisses her hand then rises to his feet.
“If you’d do me the honor,” he says, offering her his arm. “I believe there are puddles that require our attention.”
Edward accompanies Bella on her sojourn, but when it comes time to actually jump in puddles, he doesn’t participate. True to his nature, he knows he’ll get far more pleasure watching her. She hops from puddle to puddle, her dress soaked through and her head thrown back in laughter. She’s delightfully alive, and after a while, he starts to think he might be, too.
“What’s the matter?” she asks, taunting him. “Doesn’t the pretty boy like getting dirty?”
“Believe me. I have no problem being dirty.”
She stops laughing.
When they return to the house, their clothes are soaked and her feet are muddy. Bella starts up the driveway, but Edward catches her hand.
“What did I tell you about the back door?” he asks. “It’s not for you.”
He leads her up porch steps and through the front door. Shivering, she heads for the staircase.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
She freezes in place. “To get cleaned up.”
“And drag water all over my house?”
“Wait a second.” She turns slowly to face him. “I thought you said what’s your is mine.”
“I did, indeed. Surely you wouldn’t be so careless in your own home.”
“That’s different,” she says. “Then I’d be by myself and I could strip down by the door.”
He smiles. “By all means, make yourself at home.”
She may have only known him for three days, but she knows exactly what he’s asking. She shouldn’t be nervous. He’s seen her before. Besides, she wants this; she wants him. Hell, she’s going to marry him.
Ever so slowly, she reaches around and drags her zipper down her back. With her eyes glued to his, she pushes her straps over her shoulders and peels the wet cotton from her skin. It falls to the floor with a splat, and she stands before him in just her underwear.
“Those, too.” He points to her panties. “We can’t have you catching cold.”
“I won’t; they’re no wetter than they’ve been–”
She stops when he reaches forward to touch her. He drags his fingertips from her upper arm to her collarbone, then down to her breast where he circles her nipple.
“As you were saying?” His hand moves lower, from her ribcage to the soft skin of her belly, eventually disappearing under the soaked white cotton of her panties. “Ah, yes,” he says, letting her wetness coat his fingers.
She doesn’t tell him to stop, so he continues to tease her vestibule. Her breath quickens; he adds a second finger.
“You’re a good girl,” he whispers.
She tries to speak, but the word comes out sounding more like a moan. “You know I am.”
“Good girls don’t come without permission.” He doesn’t trust himself around her orgasm.
“I…I won’t.” She isn’t sure what she’s asking if not for him to make her come, but she finds herself begging anyway. “Please…just…please.”
Without moving his finger from its place inside her commodity, he walks her toward the staircase.
“I want to see it,” he tells her.
His one hand remains on her Venus mound as the other tugs her panties over the curve of her hips and down her legs. Once he discards them, he nudges her to sit on a step.
“Show me.” He withdraws his finger from her heat, spreading her juices around the soft skin of her inner thigh.
She’s not sure what he’s asking; she just knows she’ll die if she doesn’t give it him.
“I want to,” she says. “I just don’t know what–”
“Open your legs.”
Her body complies on its own.
“Now open your cunt.”
She spreads her labia with her left hand; the platinum band of her ring feels cool against her heated flesh.
As hard as Edward is, as much as he wants to claim her, there’s one thing he wants more.
“Give me a moment,” he says. “I’m going to get my camera.”
Though yesterday she told him she wasn’t ready for this, so much has changed since then. She’s no longer worried they’re moving too fast. After all, she knows she’s different from the others.