Knees apart with her body pressed against his side, she waits and she wants.
“Please,” she whispers.
He isn’t sure if she’s begging for her life, for a pleasure unto death, or for death itself. Like most vampires, Edward has a bit of a god complex, so he feels entitled to decide on her behalf. Determining the answer is pleasure, he drags his fingertips across the smooth skin of her thigh, testing both his willpower and her arousal. She breathes deeply as she buries her face into his neck, and he realizes both are substantial.
The idea that she will let him touch her intimately but hide her face as he does so presents a fascinating contradiction that is not lost on him. Her willingness to welcome whatever sensations he may bring her while remaining self-conscious at the way her body will respond to the ensuing ecstasy only increases the extent to which she appeals to him, even if it does present him with a bit of a problem. He doesn’t know how sensitive she is or how easily she reaches orgasm, nor does he trust that a girl of her inexperience could have any control over her responses. There’s one thing he does know—if she climaxes, she’ll die.
It will probably prove to be an exercise in futility, but he cares about her life enough to warn her.
“Whatever you do—no matter how good it feels—you musn’t come. Do you understand me?”
It doesn’t seem like a strange request to her. They are in public, after all, and Edward has no way of knowing the extent to which she verbalizes pleasure. If she’s loud, she’ll call attention to what they are doing. She doesn’t want that any more than he does, so she nods her consent.
The fact that she has no real comprehension to what she’s consenting is of little consequence to him. As far as he is concerned, she’s granted him permission to do as he pleases to her—at least for as long as the Ferris wheel continues to turn.
So he does. His thumb brushes over her mons, seeking the slippery pink skin of her inner labia. He begins to stroke her with a light touch that intentionally lacks rhythm; he has no goal other than to acclimate himself to her softness, her responsiveness, and her heat.
“Please,” she says again.
His shifts his thumb downward into her vestibule, then slowly presses it inside her. She rolls her head across his shoulder, gasping. He feels her breath against his neck and her lips on his throat, and for a moment, he wonders if she is even aware of what she’s doing. Then he feels the moisture of her mouth, and he no longer doubts that she’s kissing him intentionally.
It’s the first gesture of affection he’s received in decades, and it awakens yet another long-dormant desire—he finds himself wanting to be normal. It’s something he’s never done well, not even when he was human. He isn’t even sure how he’d go about it, but he knows this much: Under normal circumstances, a man would attempt to kiss his virgin sweetheart before finger-fucking her on a carnival ride.
Just as the ride begins to slow, he slips his thumb out of her and pulls her panties back into place. The timing works in his favor; she doesn’t question why he’s stopped touching her. Instead, she shifts in her seat, unable to believe what just transpired.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“For what?” There’s a hint of panic in her voice. She doesn’t regret what they’ve done, and doesn’t know how she’ll feel if she finds out he does.
“Taking certain liberties with you.” His choice of words is deliberate—they’re the same ones she used earlier to describe what male casino patrons do to her when she is in uniform.
He doesn’t have time to elaborate. The Ferris wheel comes to a stop, and as he helps Bella get off, he thinks about helping Bella get off. His ability to resist draining her blood the previous evening as he watched her bring herself to climax from the bushes outside her trailer notwithstanding, he has no doubt that had she been in his arms while she did so, it would have been the last moment of her life.
He offers Bella his hand and she takes it, smiling nervously.
“I didn’t mind,” she says after they begin to walk along the pier again.
He’s impressed that she remembers the exact point in the conversation at which they were interrupted. Then he realizes that more than likely, she remembers because she feels awkward with where they left things.
“You deserve more than that. Meanwhile, I treated you no better than one of the intoxicated casino patrons to whom you serve drinks.”
“Maybe, but I would argue there is one major difference between you and the guys who come on to me at work.”
“Obviously.” He doesn’t elaborate.
“Is it, though? You probably won’t believe me given the way I behaved earlier, but what just happened between us isn’t something I do.”
“You’re not in the habit of letting strangers put their fingers inside you in public?”
“No. I mean, I know that technically I just did, but it’s not something I’d ever done before. ”
“Ah, so you make your suitors earn your affection.”
“You’re operating on the assumption that I have suitors; I don’t.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“It’s true. I don’t want you to think this is a poor, pitiful me rant about how hard it is find a decent man. I’ve just never tried. Between work and school, I don’t have much free time. So no, I’ve never done that before. I just didn’t want you to think…” She stops speaking, unsure of how much she should tell him.
“You don’t want me to think you’re a slut.”
She drops his hand and faces him. “Do you?”
“Do I what?” he asks.
“Think I’m a slut?”
She misinterprets his ensuing laughter as mockery. In reality, he isn’t amused by her apparent anger as much as he is entertained by the notion that he’d judge her for her participation in an act which he instigated. Then he realizes her feelings are hurt.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m not laughing at you. It would be incredibly hypocritical of me if I thought less of you for letting me touch you.” His face becomes serious, and he closes the distance between them. After wrapping an arm around her waist, he speaks directly into her ear. “I know promiscuity, and I know perversion. I’ve photographed things you can’t begin to imagine. Sometimes, I’ve even participated. Every experience I’ve had pales in comparison to how it felt to have something of mine inside that part of you. Any man who would think less of you for parting your legs for him doesn’t deserve you.”
He takes a step back and a superfluous breath, and as he inhales her scent, he realizes that it doesn’t sing to him the way it did initially, that he has a measure of control over it. Then again, for as long as he’s been a vampire, he’s satisfied all of his baser needs at once. He watches. He becomes aroused. He takes pictures. He drinks. He comes. He rarely deviates from the process, so the fact Bella’s still alive is not indicative of any progress on his part.
She shifts back slightly and looks at his face. “Do you deserve me?”
“No,” he admits, “but not because I begrudge you the right to give your body to whomever you choose.”
He pauses, trying to think of a polite way to phrase that as long as she is in his company, her life is at stake.
“I doubt my ability to give you what you need.”
She laughs. “Way to set a girl’s expectations low so you can exceed them.”
They start to walk again, and the conversation is lighter. This time when they clasp hands, she feels enough at ease with him to comment on his temperature.
“Poor circulation,” he says, shrugging.
He asks if it bothers her; she says it doesn’t, that she only mentioned it because she was concerned that he wasn’t comfortable. They descend the steps from the boardwalk to the beach. With the glow of the casinos behind them, it’s impossible to see where the sky ends and the ocean begins and besides the white foam capping the incoming tide, there’s nothing in front of them but indiscernible night.
Until this evening, Bella’s never done anything that could be construed as irresponsible, let alone reckless. Yet as she walks along the desolate beach with a man she doesn’t really know, she doesn’t feel fear. She feels free, and it’s because of him.
She stops moving, and as her feet sink into the sand, she studies him in the darkness. He’s so pale that his skin has taken on an almost bluish hue, and his eyes are once again black. She’s always heard that the first time should be unforgettable, and she already knows he is someone she’ll remember. She feels ready, so she presses her body against his and brushes her fingers through his hair.
“I want you,” she whispers.
Edward considers her request. He’s increasingly confident that he could make love to her and resist the call of her blood, assuming she doesn’t orgasm. Taking her virginity shouldn’t present a risk. Very few women climax during their first experiences with intercourse, and Edward’s read enough minds to know that the majority of married women aren’t satisfied physically by their husbands. What bitter irony that despite his fetish-driven sexual and dietary preferences, he and Bella could have what many would consider a normal sex life. The problem is that he suspects she’d prefer death.
Though he wants nothing more than to do as she asks, he finds himself doing what he believes to be right.
“As much as I want you, I won’t put you at risk.”
She assumes he wants to be tested for STDs or something first, so although she is disappointed, she understands.
They walk along the beach a bit more, and though Edward loves her company, he doesn’t want to risk daylight. He drives her home, walks her to her door, and asks if he can see her tomorrow. Her answer is a little too enthusiastic, but he finds it endearing.
He walks back to his car with a spring in his step, pretending he doesn’t know that one way or the other, this won’t end well.