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capitolo quindici

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 06 Mar 2011, 02:32

Chapter Fifteen
When Bella awoke, she yawned and stretched and reached her hand out and ... nothing. Edward was gone and his side of the bed was cold. He‘d been gone for a while.
A feeling of unease washed over her. The feeling was old; she‘d felt it before. It made her momentarily nauseated.
She swung her legs to the floor and saw a small note on the bedside table propped up against a wine goblet, which was filled with water floating with lemon slices. The note was written in an old-fashioned hand with a fountain pen and said the following:
Lovely Isabella,
I‘ve gone to pick up something special for breakfast.
Please use the washroom in the master bedroom, it‘s better.
I‘ve laid out some personal items for you there.
You can also choose whatever you need from my dresser and my closet.
Please stay.
Yours,
Edward.
P.S. Forgive my boldness, but the sight of you asleep in my arms this morning was by far the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
W-O-W. How does he do that?!
Bella flushed scarlet. The Professor certainly had a way with words ... and flowers, and music, and chocolate cake ...
She placed a hand to her forehead as she tried to collect herself. Chocolate cake was her new favourite dessert. And the memory of her fingertips in his warm mouth and the way that his tongue artfully...
Focus, Bella. You need to have a shower. Preferably, a cold one.
She quickly drank the water he left for her, and then she tapped the note against her teeth while she anticipated which Edward awaited her in the kitchen.
She was wary. The last time she had slept with him in his bed she had a very rude awakening in his living room. Although he‘d been tender with her last night, she was worried he might snap at her this morning.
She opened the door to the guest room and stuck her head out into the hallway, eager to discern any sounds of life. When she was satisfied that she was alone, she padded quietly to the master bedroom and closed the door behind her. She retrieved her clothes and then entered his large bathroom, making sure to lock the door.
Edward had left another note, which was propped up against a wine goblet filled with orange juice. It was garnished with an orange slice.
Edward has a thing for garnishes.
On the note, Bella read the following:
Isabella,
I hope you‘ll find everything you need here.
If not, Alice stocked the vanity in the guest washroom with a number of different items. Please help yourself.
My clothes are at your disposal.
Please choose a sweater as the weather has turned cold today.
Yours,
Edward.
Bella sipped the orange juice as she examined the items before her.
Laid out on the vanity with military precision was a new toothbrush in its packaging, toothpaste, a new disposable razor, (which she examined with an arched eyebrow), various feminine looking toiletries from a company called Bliss, which were all scented with vanilla and bergamot, and a lavender coloured mesh shower sponge that was commonly referred to as a poof.
Had Edward asked Alice to purchase these items for his guests? Or was Edward the kind of man who kept random unused mesh shower poofs on hand for just such occasions? Perhaps he followed a colour-code: lavender for virgins, red for Tanya, black for Professor Singer, green for the Masen whores ... Bella doubted the lavender one had ever been used before.
A virgin poof for a virgin ... poof.
Bella stopped herself. Edward had asked for forgiveness and had tried, gently, to suggest that she refrain from jumping to conclusions about him. And here she was, jumping to conclusions over a shower poof.
Looking around, she found a white Turkish cotton bathrobe hanging on the back of the door and a pair of ladies‘ bedroom slippers by the bathtub. They were far too large for her tiny feet, and would have been far too large for Alice‘s feet, too.
This time Bella limited her negative reaction to a roll of the eyes.
She removed his t-shirt and boxer shorts, and her black thong and prepared to take a shower.
It took more than a few minutes for her to figure out how to operate his very fancy shower, for it had multiple body sprays, water pressures and temperatures, and was extremely complicated. Bella was only interested in the large and central tropical rain shower, which was, of course, controlled by the last lever she pulled.
While she surrounded herself in vanilla and bergamot and tried not to think of Cream Earl Grey tea, Bella began asking herself some very serious questions. She suspected that Edward would want to have their conversation as soon as possible. It was going to be painful. And what was she going to do afterwards? Try to be friends with him? For what purpose?
Bella soon realized that if she focused on the future, she‘d never be able to address the past, at least not adequately. So she was determined to focus solely on their past interactions, including his rudeness and condescension this past semester. He needed to explain himself and she needed to listen to him without jumping to conclusions. And then she would tell him exactly what she thought about his actions.
Yes, it was going to be painful. For both of them.
It saddened her to realize that she had never had a healthy romantic relationship, when one of the things she wanted most in life was to enjoy affection and love. And Edward, despite the fact that he came from a good family and was intelligent, beautiful, and wealthy, was probably incapable of having a healthy romantic relationship at all.
Renée‘s relationships were far from healthy or normal, and Bella had seen too many of them from an early age, an endless parade of myriad dysfunctions. In contrast, Charlie‘s relationship with Sue Clearwater was normal enough, if not a little on the casual side. They cared for one another, Bella thought, but their care was cool and small, like a distant star.
Edward‟s love would burn hot like the sun, if he was even capable of loving someone. It‟s obvious he prefers sex to love; or maybe he just conflates the two. What‟s worse – thinking sex is love, or thinking that the two can be separated from one another and favouring only sex?
Bella allowed the warm water of the shower to pour over her, trying to allow it to take her mind away from the inexplicable draw she felt towards him.
What I would not give to have even a part of the happiness that Esme and Carlisle had. They had the ideal marriage. They always spoke kindly to one another. And they were equals ...
Bella exited the shower and was soon clad only in Edward‘s bathrobe with a thick, white towel wrapped around her curly hair. At least, she thought it was Edward‘s bathrobe. But it didn‘t smell like him.
She pulled on the bedroom slippers and then went hunting in Edward‘s bedroom for some clothes.
She found a pair of socks, a white undershirt and a pair of Dartmouth boxer shorts in his dresser, all of which looked like they would fit her somewhat.
And then she walked over to Edward‘s large and immaculate walk-in closet and flipped on the light switch. Rows upon rows of meticulously organized clothes met her on three sides.
She walked to the far wall and began going through a pile of sweaters and cardigans, almost all cashmere by Loro Piana, which were neatly arranged between wooden dividers on a shelf. She quickly found the British racing green sweater that she had borrowed before and noticed with satisfaction that it had apparently been returned to its formerly pristine condition. She boldly held the sweater to her nose and inhaled slightly, smiling with pleasure as she realized that it smelled of Aramis and Edward. He must have worn it after it had been returned from the drycleaner.
Just then, something shiny caught her eye. Leaning up against the wall to her left and half hidden behind the hangers of sports coats and suit jackets were Edward‘s black and white framed photographs.
She recognized the top photograph as the fifth one, the one that had been over the bed. It was gently erotic and almost tender. It reminded her of Rodin‘s sculpture The Angel‟s Kiss.
He shouldn‟t have been ashamed of the fifth one; it‟s so beautiful.
Bella wished her back was that beautiful.
And then part of her wished that Edward would look at her the way the man in the photograph looked at the woman. Just once.
She flipped the light switch and exited the closet, almost tripping over her shoes and socks as she entered the bedroom. She gathered them in her arms with the sweater and went back into the washroom to dress herself.
As she brushed her teeth and towel dried her hair, she regarded her face in the mirror.
She looked tired. She was pale, as usual, with dark circles under her eyes. Her eyes looked slightly glassy and her veins were showing at her neck. She looked ill, actually, after a couple of weeks of drama and lack of sleep and the contrast between her pale skin and her dark hair wasn‘t helping matters. Nor was the fact that Alice
had not thought to leave cosmetics behind for Edward‘s overnight guests. It was clearly an oversight on her part.
After dressing quickly, Bella ventured into the kitchen.
Edward was nowhere to be found.
She stuffed her dirty clothes into her blue L.L. Bean knapsack, which was propped up near the breakfast bar, and pulled out her phone and the padded envelope.
Plopping herself on one of the bar stools she quickly checked her voice mail. Five messages from Peter were waiting for her each more urgent than the last, culminating with a message in which he said he was standing outside her building on Madison Avenue and ringing her doorbell.
Scheisse.
There was no way she could explain what had happened. But she couldn‘t ignore Peter either, so she quickly manufactured an excuse and texted it to him.
Peter, hi. Sorry. Didn‟t hear doorbell. Broken? Masen scolded me but won‟t have to drop class. (phew) Have to find new advisor. Working on it. Chat later & thanks, B.
She hoped her message would be enough to occupy him until she constructed a better explanation. She supposed she would have to speak to Edward about that so that they could get their story straight.
Something Edward had said yesterday made her curious about the contents of the padded envelope he left for her in her mailbox. And when she checked it, in addition to her black lace bra she found her iPod. She pulled it out, placed the earphones in her ears and scrolled through the music to the Recently Added Song section, where she discovered that Edward had made two additions.
The first song was Prospero‟s Speech by Loreena McKennitt. With surprise, Bella listened to the haunting female voice sing the following words from Shakespeare,
―And now my charms are all o'erthrown, And what strength I have's mine own; Which is most faint; now t'is true, I must here be confined by you.
But release me from my bands With the help of your good hands. Gentle breath of yours my sails Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant; And my ending is despair, Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself and frees all faults. As you from your crimes would pardon'd be, Let your indulgence set me free.”
Bella listened to the song twice more, stunned by both the language and the music.
She had known long ago that Edward was intense; Esme had said so. And Bella had experienced his intensity during their first encounter, when he had gazed into her eyes as if she was the first woman he had ever seen. As if she were Eve.
―Isabella?‖
She let out a small cry and clapped a hand over her mouth.
Edward was standing in front of her with three small bags in one hand and a bouquet of purple irises in the other.
Startled, she removed the earphones from her ears.
He eyed her iPod curiously and then smiled somewhat stiffly.
Bella smiled back.
In response, he leaned towards her, his eyes locked on hers and lightly pressed his lips to her left cheek and then to her right.
Bella had thought he was approaching her mouth, so when he touched her cheek she felt disappointed. Nevertheless, a spark surged through her from his lips, causing her heart to speed.
She blushed and looked down at her hands.
―Good morning, Isabella. I‘m glad you stayed. How did you sleep?‖ Edward‘s voice was gentle.
―I slept well – later on.‖
Edward reached behind her to place the groceries and the flowers on the breakfast bar.
―As did I.‖
He made no move to touch her, but followed her gaze to her fingers.
Bella shivered slightly as she thought of what he had done to her fingers the night before.
―Are you cold?‖
―No.‖
―You‘re quivering.‖
Edward‘s eyebrows knit together, creating a furrow in between them.
―Am I making you nervous?‖
―A little.‖
Edward withdrew to the kitchen and began unpacking his groceries.
―What did you buy?‖ she asked, gesturing to the bags.
―Pastries and a baguette. There is a French bakery around the corner that makes the best pain au chocolat in the city. Also, some cheese from the cheese shop downstairs, fruit, and a surprise.‖
―A surprise?‖
―Yes.‖ He smiled, and then waited.
She wrinkled her nose. ―Will you tell me what the surprise is?‖
―If I tell you, then it won‘t be a surprise.‖
She rolled her eyes and he laughed at her.
―Baci,‖ he said.
Bella paused.
Kisses?
Edward saw her reaction and realized the double entendre had not been understood correctly. He pulled something from one of the grocery bags and placed it in the centre of his right palm, holding it out to her as one might hold out an apple to tempt a horse.
The similarity was not lost on Bella, who looked at the small, foil wrapped chocolate with an upturned nose.
―I thought you liked them,‖ he said, a tinge of hurt colouring his velvet voice. ―When Antonio gave you one, you said they were your favourite.‖
―They are. But I‘m not supposed to take chocolates from men, remember? I think you gave me an order to that effect when we were at Lobby with Alice.‖
Bella took the proffered chocolate and eagerly unwrapped it, popping it into her mouth.
―I don‘t order you around.‖
Bella gaped at him. And then she chewed and swallowed her chocolate.
―Are you kidding?‖
―No.‖
―What planet are you from? ‗Hello, my name is Edward and I‘m from the planet of bossy no self-awareness.‘‖
Edward frowned. ―Very amusing, Isabella.‖
He cleared his throat and searched her eyes.
―Be serious for a moment. You think I order you around?‖
―Edward, you do nothing but. You only have one form of direct address and it‘s the imperative; do this, do that, come here. On top of all that, like Peter, you seem to think I belong in a zoo. Or a children‘s book.‖
At the mere mention of Peter‘s name Edward‘s frown deepened into a scowl.
―Someone had to attend to our situation yesterday. I was trying to protect both of us. And I asked you to talk to me, Isabella. I tried to talk to you for days, but you spurned me.‖
Bella felt her annoyance beginning to rise.
―What was I supposed to do, Edward? You‘re an emotional rollercoaster and I wanted to climb off. I never know whether you‘re going to be sweet and whisper something that takes my breath away or say something so fucking mean it breaks my ...‖ She stopped herself.
Edward cleared his throat.
―I apologize for being mean to you. There‘s no excuse for that.‖
Bella muttered something under her breath.
―I find you – difficult to talk to sometimes. I never know what you‘re thinking and you‘re only forthcoming when you‘re furious. Like now.‖
She sniffed. ―I‘m not furious.‖
―Then I need you to talk to me a little.‖ His voice was soft again.
Edward took a risk and began running his fingers through her long, damp curls.
―You smell like vanilla,‖ he whispered.
―It‘s your shampoo.‖
―So you think I‘m bossy?‖
―Yes.‖
Edward sighed.
―It‘s habit, I suppose. Years of living alone have made me boorish and I‘m out of practice with being considerate. But I‘ll try to watch how I speak to you in future. As for Peter and the pet names, it‘s insulting that he refers to you as a rabbit. Rabbits are entrées. So that needs to stop. But what about Kitten? I thought that was rather – sweet.‖
―Not when you‘re twenty-three and petite and trying to be taken seriously in academia.‖
―What about when you‘re twenty-three and petitely beautiful and someone who‘s thirty-three and a professional academic says it to you because actually, they think you‘re seriously sexy?‖
Bella pulled away. ―Don‘t make fun of me, Edward. That‘s mean.‖
―I would never make fun of you.‖
Edward gave her a serious look.
―Isabella, look at me.‖
Bella kept her eyes on the floor.
Edward waited until she met his gaze again.
―I would never make fun of you. And certainly not about something like that.‖
She grimaced and looked away.
―But perhaps Kitten is a lover‘s word.‖
Bella reddened as Edward continued unpacking the groceries.
At length, he turned to her.
―It meant a great deal to me to fall asleep with you in my arms last night. Thank you.‖
Her blush deepened and she avoided his eyes.
―Look at me, please,‖ he breathed.
Their eyes met and Bella was surprised at Edward‘s expression. He looked worried.
―Are you ashamed of coming to my bed?‖
Bella shook her head.
―It reminded me of our first night together.‖
―Me too,‖ she whispered.
―I‘m sorry I wasn‘t there when you woke up this morning. I was awake at dawn. The sight of you sound asleep reminded me of da Vinci‘s La Scapigliata. You looked very serene with your head resting on my shoulder. And very, very beautiful.‖
He reached across the breakfast bar and tenderly pressed a kiss to her forehead.
―So you slept – well?‖
―Too well. Edward, why did you light candles in your bedroom?‖
Edward sighed and ran his thumb across one of her eyebrows.
―You‘d already told me what you thought about the darkness. I wanted you to see Holiday‘s painting and me. I didn‘t know how you‘d feel about staying the night. I was worried you‘d run - screaming.‖
―That was, um, considerate of you. Thank you.‖
Edward‘s hand stilled against her cheek as his green eyes pierced into hers, scorching her.
―I am a good lover, Isabella, in all senses of the word.‖
When he withdrew, Bella tried, almost in vain, to catch her breath.
―Tell me why you hated me so much in your first class.‖
―I didn‘t hate you. I was distracted and short-tempered when I gave that seminar. You seemed familiar to me so I asked you a question so you‘d show me your face. And when you ignored me, I lost my temper. I‘m not used to being ignored.‖
She chewed her lip slightly.
―I realize that isn‘t an excuse; I‘m just offering an explanation. Simply looking at you elicited very strong feelings. I didn‘t know where they were coming from and I resented them. And my resentment quickly spiralled into something monstrous. But my rudeness to you was absolutely inexcusable.‖
Edward sighed and raked his fingers through his hair.
―I was punished for it after the seminar. Emmett telephoned to tell me Esme had died and that she died whispering my name because I wasn‘t there. He told me her deathbed distress was all my fault ...‖
Bella reached over to take his hand in hers and without thinking about it, kissed it.
―I‘m so sorry, Edward.‖
Now he brought his lips to hers and pressed them tightly before withdrawing.
They remained still for a few moments until Edward began shifting his weight from foot to foot.
―I‘m hungry,‖ she murmured, interpreting his signal.
―Shall I feed you?‖
Bella nodded, growing a good deal too warm as she recalled how he had fed her the night before.
―Latté or espresso?‖ He turned to the espresso machine.
―Latté, please.‖
She stood for a moment, watching him, and then she took a closer look at the irises he had purchased.
―Could you put those in water, please? There‘s a crystal vase on top of the piano.‖
Bella walked over to the grand piano, admiring its ebony beauty once again, and fetched the vase.
―I heard you playing last night. It was beautiful.‖
―I rarely play anymore. I hope I didn‘t disturb you.‖
―You didn‘t.‖
She filled the vase with water and then she trimmed the stems of the irises and the greenery that accompanied them, silently arranging everything in the vase.
―Why did you choose irises?‖
―Fleur-de-lis,‖ he said simply, placing her latté, which he had poured into a bowl in the Parisian style, in front of her. ―And I know your favourite colour is purple.‖
―They‘re my favourite flower,‖ she remarked shyly, more to herself than to him.
―Mine too, probably because they symbolize Florence. But for you, I think the association has a deeper meaning.‖
He winked at her impertinently and began preparing breakfast.
Bella huffed slightly. She knew what he was referring to; the iris was a symbol of Mary in the Middle Ages and so it became associated with virginity. In giving her irises, Edward was saluting her purity. Which was a strange thing for a would-be lover to do, she had to admit.
Maybe he was serious about being friends, after all.
Bella took the vase into the dining room and placed it on the centre of the table, removing the purple hyacinths to the kitchen. She retrieved her latté and sat down on the chair she had occupied the night before, sipping her coffee and trying to plan out what to say.
Edward joined her shortly thereafter, placing her breakfast in front of her and then seating himself in the chair next to her at the head of the table.
―Buon appetito.‖
Bella quickly concluded that she was eating better at Edward‘s than she had ever eaten outside of Italy. In front of her sat a plate of fresh fruit, pain au chocolat, and sliced baguette and cheese, most notably brie, Mimolette, and Gorgonzola. He‘d even decorated their plates with parsley and orange sections.
He held up his champagne flute and waited until she did the same.
―These are Bellinis, not Mimosas. I thought you‘d prefer it.‖
They clinked their glasses together and Bella took a sip.
It tastes like a sparkling peach, she thought. It was so much better than orange juice.
Although Bella wondered why he was drinking again.
―You‘re very good at this,‖ she said.
―Good at what?‖
―Entertaining. I‘m sure your overnight guests don‘t want to leave.‖
Edward placed his fork down somewhat roughly on his plate and wiped his lips with his linen napkin.
―I am not in the habit of entertaining overnight guests. And certainly never like this.‖ He glared at her slightly. ―I thought it would be obvious that you are different; that I‘m treating you differently.‖
He shook his head. ―Perhaps not.‖
―You said we‘d talk,‖ she changed the subject quickly.
―Yes.‖ He gazed at her for a moment. ―I have some questions I would like to ask first, and then I have some things to say.‖
―I didn‘t agree to an inquisition.‖
―This is hardly an inquisition, Isabella. A few questions, primarily because when I first met you I was not entirely lucid. So forgive me if I wish to have a clearer idea of what actually happened.‖ Edward‘s tone was slightly sarcastic.
Bella speared a strawberry with her fork and bolted it.
Fine. Let him ask questions. I have a few to ask as well, and they won‟t be pretty.
―But before we begin, I think we should agree to some ground rules. I‘d like to speak to you about the past before we discuss the present or the future. Is that alright?‖
―Alright.‖
―And I promise that what you say to me will be kept strictly confidential. And I hope that you will extend the same courtesy to me.‖
―Of course.‖
―Are there any ground rules you‘d like to establish?‖
―Um, just that we tell one another the truth.‖
―Absolutely. Now, how old were you when we first met?‖
―I‘m the same age as Alice,‖ she began, evasively, and then when he looked at her sharply she added, ―Seventeen.‖
―Seventeen?‖
Edward cursed several times and then took a lengthy draught of his Bellini. He was clearly rattled by her revelation, which more than surprised Bella.
―Why did you come to see me that night?‖
―I didn‘t. I was invited to dinner but when I arrived, Alice and Jasper were flying out the door and everyone else was gone. I heard a noise and found you on the porch.‖
Edward seemed to think about this for a moment.
―You knew who I was?‖
―Of course. They talked about you all the time. Alice was my best friend in high school, Edward.‖
―Did you know how fucked up I was?‖
―No. No one ever said anything bad about you, at least not in front of me. Even afterwards. They only said nice things, or they didn‘t discuss you at all.‖
―What happened the next morning?‖
This was the part that Bella didn‘t want to talk about. She ignored his question and began eating her pastry, knowing he wouldn‘t expect her to answer when her mouth was full.
―This is important to me, Isabella. I want to know what happened afterwards. My memory of the next morning is a little fuzzy.‖
Her eyes flashed to his and she swallowed hard.
―Really? Well, let me enlighten you. I woke up before sunrise, alone, in the middle of the woods. You left me there. I was terrified, so I grabbed the blanket and took off. But I couldn‘t remember the path we took and it was still dark. So I wandered around in hysterics for almost two hours until I finally found my way back to your parents‘ house.‖
Bella started to shake. ―I didn‘t think I‘d ever find my way back.‖
―That‘s where you went,‖ he breathed.
―What are you talking about?‖
―I didn‘t leave you.‖
―Well, what do you call it then?‖
―I must have woken up shortly before you did. You were asleep in my arms and I didn‘t want to wake you, but I had to – relieve myself. I found an obliging tree, did what I needed to do, and when I came back to the meadow, you were gone. I returned to the house to look for you but you weren‘t there. I assumed you‘d left and I went upstairs to crash in my old bedroom.‖
―You assumed I‘d left?‖
―Yes.‖ He gazed at her steadily.
―Why didn‘t you try to find me?‖
Edward looked away, guilt darkening his eyes.
―My family woke me up later that morning demanding that I deal with the aftermath of the night before. And when I asked where Beatrice was, Carlisle told me I was delusional.‖
―What about Alice?‖
―Alice stayed with Jasper until I was long gone. She refused to speak to me for months.‖
―Don‘t lie to me, Edward. I brought your jacket back. I folded it and put it on top of the blanket and set it on the porch before I left. That was a clue. And didn‘t someone see my truck?‖
―I don‘t know what they saw. Esme brought me my jacket before I left. And no one mentioned you or your name, not that I would have recognized it. It was as if you were a ghost.‖
―How could you have thought it was all a dream, Edward? You weren‘t that drunk.‖
Edward closed his eyes and clenched his fists.
Bella watched the tendons stand out on his arms, rippling up and down.
Then Edward opened his eyes, but kept them fixed on the table.
―Because I was hung over and confused and I was strung out on coke.‖
Slam.
That was the sound of Bella‘s fairy tale crashing into the unyielding wall of reality.
Her eyes widened and she inhaled sharply.
―Didn‘t Alice tell you what precipitated the fight? Carlisle knew when he picked me up at the airport that I was on something. He searched my room before dinner and found my stash. And when he confronted me, I snapped.‖
Bella closed her eyes and put her head in her hands.
Edward sat very still, waiting for her to recover.
―Cocaine,‖ she whispered.
Edward squirmed in his chair.
―Yes.‖
―I spent the night in a meadow, alone, with a twenty-seven year old coke head who was strung out and drunk. What a stupid, stupid girl.‖
He could have done anything to me. And no one would have ever known..
Edward inhaled quickly and clenched his teeth.
―Isabella, you are not stupid. I‘m the fuck up. And I should have known better than to lead you out to the meadow.‖
She inhaled deeply and her shoulders began to shudder.
―Look at me, Isabella.‖
She shook her head.
―Did Charlie ever tell you that he came to my parents‘ house that morning?‖
Bella peered over at him. ―No.‖
―Well, he did. The gossip started when Carlisle brought Emmett to the hospital and neither one of them would explain how he got hurt. Charlie caught wind of it and came over, unofficially, to check things out.‖
―I never knew.‖
―Our parents were too busy keeping secrets – protecting Carlisle and Esme from small town gossip. And since no one but you and I knew what happened ...‖ His voice trailed off and he shook his head. ―Why didn‘t you tell Alice?‖
―I was traumatized. And humiliated.‖
Edward winced and closed his eyes. He reached over to take her hand in his, and then his eyes burned into hers.
―Don‘t you remember what happened between us that night?‖
Bella threw his hand back.
―Of course I remember, Edward! That‘s the reason I‘ve been screwed up for so long. Sometimes I‘d think back to that night and I‘d believe what you said. And I‘d try to convince myself that you must have had a reason for
leaving. Other times, all I could think about was how you abandoned me and I‘d have nightmares about being lost in the woods. But do you know what the sickest thing is? I hoped that you would come back. For years I hoped you‘d show up on my doorstep and tell me you wanted me. How pathetic is that?‖
―That is not pathetic. I agree that it looked like I abandoned you, but I swear I didn‘t. And believe me, if I had thought for one moment that you were real and living in Forks, I would have shown up on your doorstep.‖
He cleared his throat and Bella felt the reverberation of his knee bouncing up and down underneath the table.
―I am an addict. This is who I am. I have certain thirsts that I struggle to control and certain cravings that never go away.‖
―Are you on something now?‖
―Of course not! You think I‘d do that do you?‖
―If you‘re an addict, you‘re an addict. Whether I‘m here or not makes no difference.‖
―It makes a difference to me.‖
―Addictive personalities can latch on to anything; drugs, alcohol, sex, people ... what if you become addicted to me?‖
―I am already addicted to you, Beatrice. Only you‘re far more dangerous than cocaine.‖
Bella‘s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
―You‘re closer to heroin, I think, which was a drug I studiously avoided because I didn‘t want to end up dead.‖
She ducked her head to avoid his eyes.
He reached over to take her hand again, stroking the veins that stood out against her thin little wrist.
―I‘m confessing to you now, Beatrice. I‘m destructive. I‘m moody. I have a bad temper. Some of that has to do with my addiction and some of that has to do with my - past. But I can‘t stay away from you anymore. Was it wrong of me to think so highly of you that my only explanation for your existence was that you were either the product of a desperate mind or the crown of God‘s creation?‖
His words and his face were so intense that Bella had to pull away. The combination of his voice and the feel of his long cool fingers stroking her veins ... Bella was worried her skin would catch fire and she would disintegrate into a pile of ash.
―Are you still doing drugs?‖
―No.‖
―Recreationally?‖
―No. After my disgusting behaviour in Forks, Esme convinced me to get help. I was planning to kill myself – I just needed some money to settle my affairs. But my night with you changed all that. When they told me there was no one called Beatrice, I assumed you were a hallucination or an angel. And in either case, I thought someone, God perhaps, had had mercy on me and sent you to save me. ‗Lo seme di felicità messo de Dio nell‟ anima ben posta.‘
―Emmett agreed not to press charges if I went into treatment immediately. So Carlisle drove me to Seattle and checked me into the hospital. After I went through my initial detox, he took me back to Boston and put me in rehab so that I would be close to my ... job.‖ He shifted in his chair.
Bella sighed deeply.
―Why did you want to kill yourself, Edward?‖
―I can‘t tell you.‖
―Why not?‖
―I don‘t know what would happen if I brought those old demons back, Beatrice. I‘m not ready.‖
―Are you still suicidal?‖
Edward cleared his throat. ―No. Part of my depression was caused by the drugs. Part of it was caused by - other factors in my life that I have tried to deal with.‖
―Your mother was an alcoholic?‖
―Yes.‖
―What about your father?‖
―I don‘t speak of him.‖
―Alice told me about the money.‖
―That‘s the only good thing that ever came out of him.‖ Edward spoke through clenched teeth.
―That‘s not true, Edward,‖ Bella said quietly.
―Why not?‖
―Because he made you, that‘s why.‖
Edward‘s face immediately softened and he pressed his lips to the back of her hand.
―Was your father an alcoholic?‖
―I don‘t know. He was the CEO of a company in Chicago and died of a heart attack. I never knew him.‖
―Are you an alcoholic, Edward?‖
―No.‖
Bella carefully folded her linen napkin with shaking fingers and pushed her chair back from the table.
―I‘m glad you‘re not doing drugs and I‘m glad you‘re in recovery. But I won‘t get involved with an alcoholic. Life is too short to be bound to that kind of misery.‖
Edward stared at her steadily, searching her eyes.
―I agree. But if you were to spend time with me, you would realize that I am not an alcoholic. And I pledge not to get drunk anymore. It‘s unfortunate that I‘ve only gotten drunk once in the past six months and you happened to witness it.‖
―My mother went in and out of recovery several times and she never stuck with it. What happens if you start doing drugs again? Not to mention the fact that you have this delusional vision of Beatrice. I‘m not her, Edward. You want an ideal, or a drug-induced misperception, not me.‖
―I‘ve been clean for six years, Isabella. I didn‘t just get out of recovery. Nevertheless, I know that I am deeply, deeply flawed. But you don‘t see yourself very clearly. I want to know you, just you, as you are. I want you to be yourself and yes, Isabella, I know you‘re more than just a dream. Your reality is far more beautiful and alluring than any dream. I‘d choose you over the dream any time.‖
―Except that you don‘t know me as I am. And you first met me when I was seventeen and starry-eyed and you were high.‖
Edward shook his head. ―What I felt was real. What I did was real.‖
―Impossible.‖
―It was real, Bella. It was everything. As soon as I touched you I knew ... and then when I touched you again, here ... I remembered you. My soul and my body remembered you. It was only my conscious mind that had forgotten.‖
―I‘m not that little girl anymore. And the woman I am you clearly despised on sight.‖
―That is not true. You‘ve grown up into a lovely young woman.‖
―You want a pet kitten or a Barbie blow up doll.‖
―No, Beatrice.‖
Bella shook her head. ―Stop calling me that.‖
―I‘m sorry, Isabella. I know that I hurt you. I know I have a dark side. Will you let me show you that I can be good to you? Very, very good?‖
―It‘s too late, Edward. I can‘t.‖ Though it pained her to do so, she walked towards the front door, grabbing her knapsack and her coat on the way.
―What about last night?‖ He asked, striding after her. ―Did that mean nothing to you?‖
―What should it have meant, Edward? Tell me!‖ She hugged her knapsack close to her chest and backed up against the wall.
He placed his hands on either side of her shoulders and leaned closer. ―Do I have to explain it? Didn‘t you feel it?‖
He brought his face to hers, his lips inches from her mouth.
She could feel his warm breath on her skin.
She shivered.
―Feel what?‖
―Your body and mine together. You came to me last night, Isabella. You came to my bed. Why did you do that? Why did you tell me you couldn‘t stay away? Because we‘re soulmates, just like Aristophanes described – one soul in two bodies. You‘re my missing half. You‘re my bashert.‖
―Bashert? Do you even know what that means? Bashert is bashert, Edward; destiny is destiny. It can mean anything you want and it doesn‘t have to mean me.‖
He smiled at her widely. ―Your linguistic knowledge constantly surprises me.‖
―I know that word.‖
―Of course, my lovely. Because you‘re smart.‖ He brought his fingertips lightly to her neck, stroking up and down.
―Edward – stop it.‖ She pushed him away so she could think clearly.
―You‘re clean, but you‘re still an addict. I am the child of an alcoholic. This isn‘t going to happen.‖
―I don‘t deserve you. I know that. Conosco i segni dell‟antica fiamma. I felt it the first time I took your hand. The first time I kissed you. And it was all there last night; every feeling, every memory, every sensation I had before was there. It was real. Look at me and tell me it meant nothing to you, and I will let you go.‖
She closed her eyes to block out his pleadings.
―You can‘t do it, can you. Your skin remembers me, and so does your heart. You told them to forget, but they can‘t. Remember me, Beatrice. Remember your first.‖
His lips met her neck and she felt her pulse begin to race under his touch. Her body was a traitor; it would not lie. It would not listen to reason. He could have asked her anything in this position and she would have agreed to it. And the thought made her desperate.
―Please, Edward.‖
―Please, what?‖ He whispered against her neck, trailing angel soft kisses up and down and finally pausing so he could feel her lifeblood flow under his mouth.
―Please let me go.‖
―I can‘t.‖ He tugged her knapsack and her coat out of her hands and dropped them to the floor.
―I don‘t trust you.‖
―I know.‖
―You‘ll shatter me, Edward, and that will be the end of me.‖
―Never.‖
He brought his hands to cup her face and then just as she closed her eyes, he paused.
Bella waited, expecting the smooth wetness of his lips to connect with hers, but they didn‘t.
She waited.
And then she opened her eyes.
Edward‘s green eyes were large and soft and warm and staring down at her.
He smiled.
He began by stroking her face, gentle caresses here and there, exploring every curve, every line as if he was memorizing it.
And then he moved to her neck, using a single fingertip from his right hand to travel back and forth.
Bella shivered.
He brought his lips to her ear. ―Relax, sweetheart.‖
He nibbled her earlobe and then nuzzled her neck enticingly.
―Let me show you what I can do when I take it slow.‖
Holding her face in his hands, he brushed his lips to her forehead, her nose, her cheeks, her chin.
And then only when she closed her eyes a second time, did he cover her mouth with his lips.
But by this time, Bella was already breathless.
As soon as their lips met, there was a rush of blood and heat and energy.
But Edward was careful and would not speed.
His lips matched hers, moving back and forth, their skin humming with the soft friction. But he did not open his mouth.
His hands moved to her hair, tangling gently, massaging her scalp and then floating down.
Bella was less gentle as she grabbed at the back of his head, tugging and twining his hair around her fingers.
Their mouths continued to press together, smoothing over every inch. His tongue peeked out and he drew it languorously across her upper lip, tasting her tentatively before sucking her lower lip between his.
It was tempting.
It was teasing.
It was the slowest kiss he‘d ever given. And it made his heart beat quickly.
When she moaned against his mouth, he lightly tilted her head back so that she would open for him.
But he would not rush.
He waited for her jaw to soften, and then when she could wait no more and her own tongue hesitantly came out to meet his, only then did he allow himself to accept her invitation.
Stroking, laving, twisting, turning.
She would have kissed him at a fevered pace, but Edward controlled the kiss. And he wished to kiss her softly. Gently. Leisurely.
It took half an age for his hands to travel from her face down the sides of her neck so that they were kneading her shoulders.
And then another half an age for those same hands to slide down her spine and under his shirt and his sweater to find her bare skin.
And all this time he was slowly exploring her mouth as if he‘d never have a second chance.
He gasped and groaned when his hands slipped to her lower back and found the dimples he‘d discovered the night before. He already thought of them as uncharted territory, found first by his explorations. Even though he had no right, no right at all to claim her.
The sound of Edward groaning in her mouth almost undid her.
Almost, but not quite.
His fingers glided across her skin as Bella whimpered and clung to him tightly.
Her whimper was more erotic than any wanton moan that had ever filled his ears. It pierced and enflamed him.
And then he was pressing up against her, returning soft, delicate curves with sinew and steel, gently switching places so it was his back that flattened against the wall. For he was unwilling to trap her, to make her feel like she had been cornered.
Instead, he let her corner him.
Bella was breathing his breath; hot and wet inside her mouth. He was her oxygen.
She couldn‘t stop kissing long enough to truly inhale and her head began to float. She felt dizzy and it made the feel of his lips more intense, so she didn‘t fight it. She just gave in and in, licking and sucking and moving ... until Edward broke the kiss.
―Breathe, darling.‖ He let his thumbs trace the curve of the naked skin at her waist, underneath her clothes.
She hyperventilated slightly and he hugged her close, wrapping his arms around her and feeling her breasts pressed up against him.
―You need to remember to breathe when I kiss you, Isabella. Because I intend to kiss you a lot. And we can‘t have you fainting all the time.‖ He kissed her hair and smiled down at her, looking truly happy.
When Bella eventually found her voice, it shook. ―Edward, I make no promises. I agree to nothing. One kiss doesn‘t change that.‖
His smile disappeared, but he continued to hold her closely. He tentatively reached out a finger and pushed some of the hair back from her face.
―Just give me a chance, Bella. We can take it slowly and try to heal one another.‖
―Last night you spoke of being friends. Friends don‘t kiss like that.‖
He chuckled. ―We can be friends. We can follow the model of courtly love, if you wish. I‘ll just have to remember that the next time I kiss you. And so will you.‖
Bella blushed a deep crimson and looked away.
―I don‘t trust you enough to be anything else. And even if I did, you‘ve got the wrong girl. You will be sorely disappointed with me.‖
Edward took her hands in his.
―What are you talking about?‖
―You will never be satisfied only with me and you will leave once you realize that. So have mercy on me and choose someone more sexually compatible before one of us ends up hurt.‖
Bella watched as the colour in his face deepened and his eyes began to blaze.
She waited for him to explode.
―What did he do to you?‖
She inhaled sharply at his question. ―I don‘t know what you‘re talking about.‖
Edward looked at her carefully, measuring her expression. He stood away from the wall and drew himself up to his full height, straightening his shoulders.
―I don‘t know what he did to make you think so little of yourself, but I am not him. Didn‘t our night in the meadow demonstrate that our connection is not based on sex?‖
He stroked her hair for a moment.
―I could kill him for doing this to you,‖ he whispered, ―For crushing your soul.
―I won‘t deny that I‘ve over-indulged myself and been far from monogamous. But I want something more, something real. And I know you want that, too.
―What are the chances that your next boyfriend will be a virgin? Almost nil. Your self-esteem will be an issue with anyone you date, not just me. Everyone has a past of one sort or another. And any man who would leave you because you were sexually inexperienced is not worth missing.
―You have to have faith, Bella, and you have to have hope. Even if you don‘t have any hope for us, you have to have hope for yourself. Otherwise, you will never let anyone get close enough to love you.‖
―You don‘t even know me.‖
―I know more about you than you think and the rest I wish to learn. Teach me, Beatrice. I‘ll enroll in your university as your student. Teach me how to care for you.‖
―Please, Edward. Be serious!‖
―I am serious. There are a lot of things that we don‘t know about each other. Things I am looking forward to finding out and exploring.‖
―I won‘t be shared.‖
Edward growled.
―I am not in the habit of sharing what‘s precious to me. I‘m not going to allow another man to put his hands on you, and that includes Peter and any other Angelfucker out there.‖
―I won‘t share you, either.‖
―Me?‖
―Yes.‖
―Well, that goes without saying.‖
―No, it doesn‘t.‖
―What‘s that supposed to mean?‖
―I would expect you not to sleep with anyone else, even while I‘m still – deciding. As a demonstration of good faith.‖
―Done.‖
Bella laughed at him.
―You say it as if it was easy! You‘re willing to give up all of your female companions just like that in order to pursue the possibility of something with me? I don‘t believe you.‖
―I‘m gaining more, much more, than I am losing, believe me. And I intend to make you see that, over and over and over again.‖
He leaned over and kissed her cheek.
―Tanya,‖ she whispered.
Edward continued kissing her, moving down to where her neck curved into her shoulder.
―Don‘t worry about her.‖
―I won‘t share you with her.‖
―You won‘t have to.‖ He sounded impatient.
―Is Tanya your wife?‖
Edward pulled back and fixed her with a stony look.
―Of course not. What do you take me for?‖
―Ex-wife?‖
―Isabella, stop it. No, she is not my ex-wife. End of conversation.‖
―I want to know about her.‖
―No. Tanya is off limits.‖
―Why Edward?‖
―For reasons I‘d rather not discuss. I told you I‘m not sleeping with her and I won‘t. That should be enough for you.‖
―Then what about M.A.I.A.?‖
His face grew harsh. ―What are you talking about?‖
―I saw the tattoo on your chest, Edward. I saw the letters.‖
He crossed his arms. ―I can‘t.‖
―Then I can‘t, either.‖
She reached down to pick up her knapsack and coat.
But Edward stopped her.
―Isabella, tell me who made you feel so insecure about yourself and your sexual abilities. Was it Jacob?‖
She cringed.
―Tell me, Isabella.‖
―Don‘t say his name around me.‖
―You said it. You said his name more than once last night in your sleep, and every time you said it you sounded more and more upset. Tell me.‖
―No.‖
―Why not?‖
―Because it makes me sick,‖ she whispered, silently pleading with him to change the subject.
An insight, dark and disturbing, slowly took hold of Edward‘s mind. And once it took hold, he could not rid himself of it.
Oh no. Not her.
―Isabella, he didn‘t – force you in any way, did he?‖
She hung her head.
―No, Edward. I‘m a virgin.‖
―You would be a virgin even if he had forced you. You would be a virgin to me, Isabella.‖
Edward‘s voice was so pained and so sincere, Bella‘s heart almost snapped under the weight of it.
―That‘s very noble of you. But I wasn‘t raped, Edward.‖
Edward closed his eyes for a second and sighed deeply.
―We both have secrets we don‘t want to tell. I won‘t lie to you, but I can‘t tell you everything. Not today. And based on the look in your eyes I know you‘re keeping some very painful secrets from me, too. But I accept that. And I‘m not going to pressure you to talk about them.‖
He put his arm around her waist and pulled her flush against him.
―So we‘re going to keep secrets from each other?‖
―For now, yes.‖
―There‘s still the fact that I am your student.‖
He kissed her again to prevent her from saying anything further.
―That‘s another secret we‘ll have to keep. But darling, I don‘t want to have the rest of our conversation in this damned hallway. Please come back to the table and finish your breakfast. We can talk over coffee or we can just eat in silence. But please don‘t leave yet. Please.‖
Bella‘s eyes darted towards the door.
―I need to know how you feel about me, Edward,‖ she began uncertainly in a small voice. ―I need to know that this isn‘t a game for you. Do you even like me at all?‖
Edward gave her a puzzled look.
―Of course I like you, Beatrice. And I would like to win your affection. Where we go from there is up to you.‖
Bella reached uncertain fingers to stroke his hair.
He closed his eyes and relaxed into her touch, inhaling and exhaling deeply.
When she was finished, Edward opened his eyes and Bella saw hunger in them. But then he smiled and the hunger was replaced by something else.
Hope.
The sight of hope on Edward‘s face made the tears come.
―This isn‘t how I imagined it,‖ she wept, wiping the tears that fell from her eyes with the back of her hand. ―You aren‘t who I thought you were.‖
―I know.‖ He wrapped himself around her and softly kissed her forehead.
―I had a crush on you when I was seventeen, Edward. My first real crush. And it wasn‘t even you. I‘ve wasted my whole life on a delusion.‖
―I‘m sorry I disappointed you, Isabella. I wish I was the knight rather than the dragon. But I‘m not.‖
He pulled back to stare deeply into her eyes.
―Everything is up to you, Beatrice. You can rescue me or banish me with a single word.‖
Bella pressed her face against his chest and wondered if she even had a choice.
-
Author‘s Note:
Edward‘s Italian: ‗Lo seme di felicità messo de Dio nell‟ anima ben posta‘ translates to ―The seed of felicity sent by God into a well-disposed soul.‖ This is a quotation from Dante‘s Convivio, book IV, ch. XX.
―Conosco i segni dell‟antica fiamma” translates to ―I know the signs of the ancient flame.‖ This is a quotation from Dante‘s Purgatorio, XXX, 48.

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