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Fic: "The Heart of Darkness" chapter 3

Title: The Heart of Darkness
Rating: NC-17
Genre: Romance, Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama
Word Count: Approx. 7,550
Characters/Pairings: Edward/Bella, canon couples
Summary: Set post-Eclipse. Getting married without tripping her way down the aisle was supposed to be Bella’s biggest worry before she and Edward began eternity together. But the Volturi, an unforeseen friend, and an unexpected enemy create more complications than even Alice could have predicted. Bella thought being dead would make things easier, but for once there’s more at stake than simply staying alive. And somehow, Forks is still at the heart of it all....
Warnings: Spoilers for Eclipse. Graphic sexual situations; graphic violence.
Disclaimer: If I was Stephenie, this would be the plot of Breaking Dawn. Since I’m not, this fanfic is being posted without profit, but with smut. ;)
Author's Note 1: A huge thank you to my exceptionally talented beta and friend, snuggle_muggle. Her support, suggestions, and constructive criticism have been invaluable to me, and this fic would not be the same without her amazing input. All remaining mistakes are mine alone. :)
Author's Note 2: A special thank you to jaceyevans, who provided details of Bella's wedding dress at the eleventh hour. Thanks so much!

Chapter 1

Chapter 2



Light filtered between the blinds, casting stripes over Edward’s skin. I thought it looked like a roll of film, black and white and decades old, reeling over the sheets.

I did not want to wake Edward, but my arm was falling asleep tucked under his pillow. I pulled my arm out slowly, watching the black and white lines ripple over my pale skin. The play of shadows made everything appear like it was moving in slow motion.

“Sleep,” Edward commanded, his words muffled as he turned his head into the pillow my arm had just vacated. “’S too early.”

I giggled, deciding that if Edward was coherent enough to demand a lie-in, he was awake enough to help with breakfast.

The springs creaked as I moved to straddle Edward’s sleeping form. The air conditioning cut through the thin cotton of my t-shirt and I shivered, leaning down to press my body against Edward’s side.

“Breakfast time,” I whispered into his ear. Edward groaned in response and shook his head a little, his unshaven jaw brushing against my cheek. I purposely nuzzled into his neck, loving the way his scratchy whiskers made my skin tingle, the rough hairs like softened sandpaper.

“Edward,” I whispered again, my breath ghosting along the underside of his jaw. I glanced up to see his face, and I giggled again. His eyes were squeezed shut and a lock of bronze hair stuck out from behind his ear, giving him a mischievous look that was at odds with the otherwise tranquil face.

“I’ll make pancakes,” I wheedled, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and squeezing him slightly. His arms flexed in response as he shifted, and I felt the play of muscles beneath his skin.

“I’m not awake, so your pancakes are of no use to me,” was Edward’s reply. He opened one eye and peered at me, his lips quirking in amusement at what he saw. I felt a blush beginning to stain my cheeks, knowing that the tangles in my long brown hair were putting on a much more amusing show than Edward’s tousled locks.

I tucked my face into his chest, wriggling until I was lying sideways facing him, arms still wrapped around his shoulders. Edward pressed a warm kiss to my forehead, and I sighed, flexing my calves as I stretched to give him an answering kiss to his stubbly cheek.

“What about a cold glass of milk?” I asked, my voice barely louder than the rustling of the sheets and the steady rise and fall of Edward’s chest. I could hear his heart beating, the steady rhythm threatening to pull me back down into slumber. “And we have blueberries…”

Edward was silent for a moment. “Blueberries?” he said finally, and his voice began to lose the sleepy edge.

“Blueberries,” I confirmed, and my lips curved into a smile.

I felt Edward turn his head towards the nightstand. “It is almost nine,” he said after consulting the alarm clock.

I sat up, almost sorry I had mentioned the blueberries. I looked into Edward’s green eyes and almost blushed again. I knew my face gave everything away—that when I looked at him, my head tilted to the side and my lips parted slightly, my wide brown eyes reflecting the strong lines of Edward’s face. I was an open book, and the words flitted across my face, more visible than the shadows.

Edward smiled at me again and reached towards the window, opening the blinds so that sunlight streamed in and all the dark lines disappeared. Edward’s bronze hair glinted with hints of gold in the yellow light, and his green eyes were a shade brighter, more jade than emerald. I wondered what insanity had taken hold of me to ever request that we leave our bed.

Edward ran a hand through my hair, cradling the base of my skull with his wide palm. He pulled me forward again and kissed me on the forehead once more, lingering for a few moments. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent, soap and linen and traces of ink.

“Good morning,” Edward murmured against my temple, and pulled away. I watched him get up from the bed, stumbling slightly as he pulled on a t-shirt. I smiled; it was impossible to disagree.

“Daddy! Mommy!” a voice yelled, and the pitter-patter of feet grew louder as our little girl scurried into the room.

Edward bent down and picked her up, swirling her in the air as she laughed. Her brown curls bobbed around her chin, and her smile revealed two missing front teeth.

“Want to help me and Daddy make pancakes?” I asked her. Edward set her down on the bed next to me and she crawled into my lap, still giggling. “They’re going to be blueberry,” I added, looking up from the top of my little girl’s head to smile at Edward. But he wasn’t there.

Instead, I was looking into a woman’s face—a woman I had never seen before. She had beautiful strawberry-blonde hair and the face of a Greek goddess. But her most striking feature was her honey-brown eyes, which stared at me hungrily. I pulled my daughter close to me, and opened my mouth to scream.

*


“EDWARD!” The sound of my voice sounded watery in my ears, even though I could feel my vocal cords straining as I forced all the air out of my lungs. My throat burned; I felt like my neck was going to snap. “EDWARD!” I screamed again, and this time I could hear myself more clearly. I screamed a third time, and thought that surely my vocal cords would break or my jaw would come unhinged.

“Bella! Bella, it’s all right! I’m right here!” someone answered me. I opened my eyes and saw the same honey-brown eyes from my dream staring back at me.

“Aaaaaaargh!” I screamed again, and tried to move away. I was lying down on something soft, and my arms felt shaky as they tried to find purchase in the cushiony material.

Ice-cold hands gripped my shoulders, rendering me immobile. “Bella, lie still!”

I turned my head to see the source of the voice, and immediately my panic began to subside; it was Edward’s warm amber eyes I now stared at, not the frightening woman’s from my dream.

“Edward,” I said hoarsely, reaching out my trembling arms to hold him. He embraced me, cradling me into his chest, like he had in the dream… only there was no beating heart or warm stubbly skin, just the rise and fall of a marble chest that did not need air.

I closed my eyes, trying to forget the dream I’d had… a dream so vivid, so real, that I felt physically ill realizing it wasn’t true. It was like I was now trapped in a nightmare, rather than waking up from one.

I pushed Edward away and was abruptly sick all over the Cullens’ living room floor.

The next half hour passed by in a haze. Edward carried me upstairs where Alice unclothed me and set me in a warm bathtub, gently running the warm water over my skin. After a while she pulled me out and wrapped me in a towel, holding me upright at the sink and gently helping me rinse my mouth. She then led me to Edward, who carried me to his room and laid me out across his bed before pulling the comforter over me. I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up a few hours later, still tucked beneath the covers wearing nothing more than a towel.

I glanced out the window and saw that it was dark outside. I sat up and groaned, pushing my damp hair away from my forehead. I had a terrible headache.

Edward must have heard me because moments later there was a knock on the door and he appeared, holding a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin.

“How do you feel?” he asked, crossing the room and sitting next to me on the bed before I could form my reply.

I took the glass and two aspirin from him silently, swallowing awkwardly. My throat felt sore, and the water was like a balm, its coolness bringing instant relief. I gulped down the rest of the water quickly, glad for the momentary excuse not to meet his gaze.

I set the empty glass down on the nightstand and shook my head when Edward asked if I wanted more. I felt confused and disoriented as the day’s events caught up with me. Why had I reacted so badly to the dream? Was it just the shock of the accident? Or was there something else at play here—was the dream somehow connected to Paul? Surely the timing wasn’t coincidence. Could the woman in my dream be another female werewolf, one I hadn’t met?

“Bella, please talk to me,” Edward pleaded, and I finally looked up, my arms clutching the towel more closely to my chest. Edward was worried, his eyebrows knit together in concern as he studied me carefully.

“I… I had a bad dream,” I said finally, though this wasn’t strictly true. It was a wonderful dream—it was realizing it wasn’t real that was bad. I felt so guilty about this that my cheeks burned in shame.

“I heard some of it,” Edward said, and his voice, while still worried, had a more cautious edge to it.

I closed my eyes, and was shocked to realize I was blinking back tears. But why was I crying? The girl from the dream wasn’t my daughter. I would never have a daughter… and Edward would never wake up next to me, and he would never kiss me with warm lips, or gaze at me with green eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Edward said, reaching out to hold me. I let his cool arms surround me, and his chilly body was a comfort for my overheated skin. I let a few tears escape before I pulled myself together. I was completely bewildered—where was this sadness coming from? I had never even thought of having children before, and the only man I had ever wanted was sitting here next to me.

That’s not completely true, a small voice said, reminding me of the future I could have had with Jacob—a future I had glimpsed, for a few seconds, before I shut the door on that future forever.

But as soon as I thought it, all the reasons why I had shut the door came rushing back, clearing my head completely for the first time since the accident that afternoon. I took a deep breath and looked Edward in the eye.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” I said, hoping I looked convincing despite my red eyes and tear-stained cheeks. My voice was level at least, the soreness and the headache nearly gone now.

“Bella… are you absolutely sure?” Edward asked. He looked at me solemnly, with the full force of his hundred years turning his gaze oddly hollow. He held even more unnaturally still than usual, as if bracing himself for my answer.

I didn’t know what to say; just as suddenly as the remnants of the dream had overwhelmed me, I was wholly myself again, sure in my decision, wanting nothing more than to be with Edward for eternity. As I gazed at him, I felt nothing but love and security and an awareness of his body that was more than just sexual—it was gravity, and I was inexorably pulled along in his wake.

In answer, I sat up fully, and my damp hair clung in wet curls to the skin of my back as I pulled back the blankets. The white towel was oversized and only my shoulders and my calves were exposed. I held his gaze as I reached for his palms. He let me take his hands and guide them by his wrists to my shoulders, where a bead of water left a wet trail down my collarbone to where it disappeared beneath my towel.

“I want to show you how sure I am,” I said softly, and a confidence I had not had before—a confidence born, perhaps, of my near-death experience and paralyzing moment of doubt—allowed me to meet his gaze as I let go of his wrists and unwrapped the towel.

The pressure from Edward’s grip on my shoulders increased. His eyes widened, though they did not look away from mine as I lay back down against the pillows, completely exposed.

Edward had stopped breathing, whereas my breath was coming faster than ever. I was aware of the way my breasts rose and fell as I looked up at Edward, who still hadn’t shifted his gaze from my eyes.

“I couldn’t do this if I wasn’t sure,” I whispered. I reached with my right hand to grasp his left, and led his cold hand down the same trail as the water droplet. His eyes burned into mine as I guided his hand over my breast, stopping so that his palm covered it entirely. I felt my nipple harden instantly at his touch, and my heart beat wildly against his fingertips.

“I love you,” I murmured, still holding his gaze. “Nothing is more important to me than being with you forever, Edward. Nothing.”

“Bella…” he said, and he closed his eyes.

“I want you to touch me,” I said, whispering so softly that I could barely hear the words over my racing heartbeat. I knew he could hear the words clearly, though, along with the thrumming of my blood rushing to the surface of my skin.

He opened his eyes and parted his lips, and the look on his face sent a chill through me that had nothing to do with his cool skin. I shivered as he finally turned his gaze to the rest of me, and in that moment I lay at the mercy of this dangerous creature. I wanted him to own me, to see me and claim me and leave me trembling beneath him, helpless at his touch and wanting nothing more than to remain helpless, offering my self for him to take.

The chilly pads of his fingertips circled my nipple before he left the curves of my breast in favor of my stomach, which grew slightly rounder around my hips. His fingers and eyes trailed over my skin, leaving goose bumps in their wake.

I had not felt so delicate since that day in the meadow when Edward had demonstrated his strength to me for the first time. But, unlike then, the awareness of my fragility excited me; I felt reckless knowing the only thing separating my body from Edward’s was his self-control. If for one second the temptation was too much to resist, he could take me, and I would not—could not—offer any resistance.

His hand had paused at the curve of my hip, and I gave an impatient moan. Edward bit his lower lip and flicked his eyes towards me once before he traced his fingertip down to my most intimate opening. I bucked involuntarily at the cold; it was like an ice cube against my skin, only without the relief of the ice melting.

Edward pulled away and looked at me again before raising his hand to my mouth. He was hovering over me, bracing himself with his left arm and using his right to brush his index finger against my lower lip. Finally, I understood.

I opened my mouth and took his finger in, sucking the smooth skin and laving my tongue against it. This time Edward bucked involuntarily, his hips settling against mine, the pressure from his erection more pronounced than ever against my naked skin.

Edward’s finger in my mouth was a pleasant pressure, smooth like marble and slightly sweet. I curled my tongue around him while lifting my hips, pushing as firmly as I could against him.

After a few moments Edward pulled his hand away from my mouth and, his eyes locked on mine, ran his warmed finger along my skin until he pushed inside me.

My muscles went completely still but my heart beat faster than ever, my breath leaving my lungs in shallow pants as I registered the fullness inside me. His finger pushed farther inside, and this time my muscles contracted, clenching around him.

Edward slowly pulled his finger out half-way, then pushed inside again. The sense of fullness became more pronounced as my muscles clenched tighter, restricting his finger from entering me all the way. “You’re so warm,” he whispered, then half-laughed at his words. “I—I’ve never felt anything like this.”

“What does it feel like?” I asked him, closing my eyes. I felt my eyelashes against my cheeks, my damp hair clinging in strands to my neck, and my heels digging into the cotton sheets. I was on sensory overload, and I found it impossible to imagine what it must be like for him when his senses were so much more acute than mine.

“It’s—warm, and so soft,” he said, continuing to thrust his finger in and out . “I have experienced men’s thoughts of this, but it doesn’t begin to compare.”

Despite the overwhelming fullness I felt, I could tell that he wasn’t pushing farther than an inch or so inside me. If it was this tight with just one finger, how could it possibly work on our wedding night? I had never seen Edward naked before, but I could feel his erection against my thigh, and I knew with certainty that it was at least three times the width of his finger, and much longer.

“Is—is it supposed to be this tight?” I asked, wondering if there was something wrong with me. Maybe I should start using tampons.

Edward immediately stopped. “Am I hurting you?”

“No! No, it feels… it feels amazing,” I said, and he smiled at me and resumed his gentle pace.

“I have never been so attracted to anyone in my entire life as I am to you in this moment,” Edward said, bending down to place a kiss at the dip where my stomach and hip bone met. “And if it’s this exciting with just one finger…” Edward broke off and gave a short laugh. “I may suffer from—what did you call it? Spontaneous combustion.”

I meant to laugh, but his finger had brushed against something inside me that turned my breathless giggle into a gasp.

“Edward—” I moaned helplessly, curling my hands into fists. “Please, don’t stop—”

But he didn’t need me to tell him not to change the angle of his thrusts; he could hear my pulse quicken, the blood flowing more rapidly through my vagina, the sharper intake of my breath. He sensed my response to his touch and he moved accordingly, quickening his pace to match my rocketing demand for more, harder, now.

“Edward, I’m going to—” but I was already climaxing before I could complete the sentence. I buried my face in the pillow, shaking as the blinding force of my orgasm subsided.

Edward pulled his hand away after a few more gentle thrusts, and I turned to face him, my flushed skin making me shiver as the heat quickly left my overheated body.

For the first time that night Edward kissed me, and I responded drunkenly, opening my mouth and sliding my lips across his marble-smooth ones.

He drew back, and I realized I had probably pushed him to the limits of his ability to resist my blood; I was naked and all my blood had rushed to the capillaries at the surface of my skin, making me an even more appetizing meal than usual.

“Sorry,” he whispered, and kissed me on my forehead instead. His lips lingered, hard and cold and utterly perfect.

“It’s my fault for being so tasty,” I murmured, and reached up to run my hands through his hair.

“No, it’s not that,” he said, laying down beside me and drawing the blankets over both of us. “I just didn’t want you to cut your tongue against my teeth.”

I smiled. “I can’t wait to have my first French kiss.”

Edward smiled back, and I knew he understood my meaning perfectly.

He lifted me up to pull the damp towel out from underneath me, tossing it on the floor beside the bed. He then lowered me onto the dry cotton sheets and I felt warmer instantly, especially since Edward had arranged the comforter so that it wrapped around me like a cocoon.

“You are so beautiful,” Edward said after a few still moments, and though I was no longer exposed, I began to feel the first pangs of embarrassment. My body wasn’t perfect—my skin was too pale and my muscles nonexistent—but when Edward looked at me, I could believe that he was telling the truth.

“I want to see you,” I whispered, curling into him and running a hand down his back. “I want to make you feel this way, too.”

“You will,” he said, tracing his fingertips in circular patterns across my collarbone. “But it’ll have to wait until the wedding if you want to wear white with any sincerity. I’m positive the boundaries of my self-control don’t extend quite that far.”

My skin tingled as he continued to run his fingers along my shoulders and neck, and I sighed, wishing he wasn’t right.

“You should sleep,” Edward said, and pulled his hand away. I frowned at him and he laughed, and compromised by turning me onto my side so that my back was to his chest. He reached his arm around my side so that he held me close, the blankets he’d wrapped around me protecting me from the chill that emanated from his skin. “If you don’t sleep Carlisle will blame me for your failure to make a complete recovery,” Edward warned. “I might not be able to use this unorthodox treatment again.”

His words made me jump; I had completely forgotten the reason I was laying naked in Edward’s bed in the first place.

“Edward,” I began, steeling myself for the worst. “What did Paul want today?”

Edward’s arm tightened and he was suddenly rigid. I regretted ruining the afterglow so thoroughly, but I had to know.

“It was only a warning,” Edward said finally.

“If it was only a warning, why have you turned into a statue?”

He sighed, and I felt him shift, loosening his hold on me and reverting to his relaxed pose. “This better?”

“No,” I said flatly. I tried to turn to face him, but his arm stilled me. The strength I found so arousing ten minutes ago was now annoying. “Edward,” I growled, and I felt my heart rate pick up again. I suddenly felt ridiculous for being naked and angry at the same time when the symptoms of my anger were so similar to other sorts of passion.

“It really was a warning,” Edward said, and his voice sounded tired. “Sam found out about our engagement, and he was going to give us a final warning about the terms of the treaty. Paul acted a little preemptively, without Sam’s permission.”

“How did Sam find out? Charlie hasn’t told Billy,” I said, but right after the words left my mouth I realized what had happened. Jessica and Lauren must have spread the word to La Push more quickly than I’d thought possible—it had only been four days since Alice, Rosalie and I had seen them at the spa.

“About that…” Edward hesitated, then sighed and continued in a stiff voice, “I told Jacob about the wedding.”

I didn’t breathe for a moment as I waited for his words to make sense. When they finally did I turned around to face him, and this time Edward did not attempt to hold me still. “You did what?

“I invited Jacob to the wedding. It wasn’t to gloat, Bella; I just thought he had the right to be there if that’s what he wanted.”

I wracked my brain for a response, and all that came to mind was “Why?”

“Because I knew you wouldn’t ask him, even though you still think of him as your best friend.”

“You didn’t have the right!” I said, and I wished I was wearing clothes; being naked while arguing with Edward made me even more flustered than I would have been otherwise. Too bad my nakedness didn’t seem to be having the same effect on him. Damn his self-control.

“Bella, are you mad at me because I sent Jacob an invitation, or are you just worried about what his answer will be?” Edward asked, looking intently into my eyes. “If you’re mad at me for sending the invitation, then I apologize. I thought that you would want him there, and I wanted him to have the choice. But if you’re just upset about what his decision might be, then I have to say that I think your anger is misplaced.”

I glared at him, even though I knew he was right.

“He’ll come, Bella,” he said, reading my expression correctly. “He loves you, and while he might be hurt right now, in the long run he’ll want to see you happy.”

“How do you know?” I asked in a tiny voice. I sounded pitiful. I turned my face into Edward’s chest, hiding from from the guilt I felt creeping up inside me.

“Because I would come,” Edward said finally, and his answer made me feel even worse.

*


“Bells!” Charlie said, stepping inside the Cullens’ house and giving me a one-armed hug. I hugged him back and looked over his shoulder to where the police cruiser was parked in the driveway. At least the lights weren’t flashing or the sirens blaring. Edward told me he called Charlie last night to tell him about the accident and that I was being looked after by Carlisle, but I didn’t yet trust Charlie not to jump to conclusions where Edward was concerned.

Charlie was a little disoriented as he followed me into the spacious living room where Carlisle and Esme sat on the sofa. The hardwood floors reflected the sunlight streaming in through the windows, and I flushed as I remembered what I’d done to their plush white carpeting.

“Thank you for coming, Chief Swan,” Carlisle said, standing up and extending his hand for Charlie to shake.

“Not at all,” Charlie said, gripping Carlisle’s hand before letting it drop. “And please, call me Charlie.”

Carlisle smiled at him and gestured to Esme. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of introducing you to my wife. Charlie, this is Esme.”

Esme also stood up and shook Charlie’s hand. “I’ve heard so much about you from Bella,” she said, smiling warmly.

Charlie looked a little surprised, though much more at ease. “I’m sorry to meet you folks under these circumstances,” Charlie said, sitting down next to me on the loveseat. Edward sat perched on the armchair next to the fireplace, looking serious. “I went to the scene of the accident last night and I’m sorry to say there’s no chance that your car can be repaired. The biggest bit left is the passenger-side door, which we found about fifty feet away from the crash site.”

The blood drained away from my face as I remembered Edward kicking out the door and flinging us both onto the pavement. Edward and Esme both threw me a worried glance; my heartbeat must have given me away.

Carlisle, however, was nodding while regarding Charlie with sober eyes. “The important thing is, of course, that Edward and Bella managed to survive relatively unscathed,” he said.

“Well sure, but I don’t understand how” Charlie said, sounding at once more like the town’s chief investigator. “I understand Edward was driving a Volvo, a car famous for its safety ratings. Judging by the amount of debris involved in the accident, the car would have to have been traveling over 70 miles per hour.” Charlie glanced at Edward, and I could clearly make out an accusing edge filtering through the cool detective persona.

“I was driving slightly above the speed limit,” Edward said, inclining his head. “I will, of course, pay for any road damage and clean-up services incurred, as well as a speeding ticket.”

“No!” I said. Edward shook his head, but Charlie’s attention was now focused on me so he missed Edward’s pained expression. “Dad, I was driving Edward’s car. He told me to slow down, and I just… sort of lost control.”

Charlie looked shocked. “You were speeding?” he said incredulously. “Bella, I thought you learned your lesson about driving recklessly! Look what happened to Jake on that damn motorcycle! And Edward,” Charlie said, turning to look at him with an equally incredulous stare. “You should know better than to let her drive your car! She’s never driven a fancy sports car before! And why didn’t you take better care of her?!”

“Dad! Edward doesn’t let me do anything,” I started, but Carlisle cut me off.

“Charlie, you’re absolutely right. Edward, your mother and I are very disappointed in you for your reckless behavior.”

“I cannot apologize enough for putting Bella in danger,” Edward said, bowing his head slightly. He looked like the picture of a remorseful son who had seen the error in his ways. I wanted to gag.

“It’s not Edward’s fault!” I said, and this time Charlie interrupted me, his brown eyes narrowed in anger.

“I agree,” he said. “Bella, I’m going to have to suspend your driver’s license for this.”

I wanted to protest, but what could I say? Dad, it wasn’t my fault, a werewolf jumped in the road and the only reason I’m not in as many pieces as the Volvo is thanks to Edward’s super-hero strength?

“Thank goodness both of you are alive,” Esme interjected suddenly, and turned her face into Carlisle’s shoulder, where she appeared to be crying softly. Charlie immediately looked ashamed of himself for losing his temper; he awkwardly put an arm around my shoulder and squeezed me.

“I just—Bells, I don’t know what I’d do without you,” he mumbled awkwardly.

All my anger vanished as I patted his arm. I didn’t know what to say. At that moment I hated myself for what I was planning to do to him.

“Everything will be okay, darling,” Carlisle said, helping Esme to her feet and leading her to the kitchen. “It’s been a rough couple of hours. Let’s make some coffee for Charlie and Bella and we can all relax.”

A few minutes later Charlie was sipping his steaming-hot coffee (no sugar, no cream), and looking much calmer. I held my cup (lots of cream and even more sugar) between my hands, taking comfort in the heat spreading through my fingertips.

“I won’t fine you for speeding since you weren’t operating the car,” Charlie said to Edward after he’d finished his coffee and stood up to leave. “But I’m afraid I’ll still have to suspend your license, Bella.” Charlie did not look at all unhappy about this, and neither did Edward. I scowled at both of them.

“Call me when you want to come home so I can pick you up,” Charlie said, and called goodbye to Carlisle and Esme before heading out the door. He nodded curtly at Edward—apparently, Edward was still not forgiven for allowing me to put myself in danger. I rolled my eyes as the police cruiser disappeared down the bend of the Cullens’ driveway.

“Don’t worry,” Edward said, kissing me on my temple. “I was planning on flying to our honeymoon anyway. Charlie won’t have to drive us anywhere… except maybe the airport.” Edward chuckled at his joke.

I cringed at the thought of my father driving us after our wedding night—and in the police cruiser. Ugh.

“Wait a second,” I said, going over Edward’s words in my head. “What do you mean ‘our honeymoon’?”

“I thought you’d want to go somewhere private where we could be together,” Edward said, twirling a lock of my hair with his fingers.

I considered this, and decided it probably wasn’t worth the fight. At least we’d be doing something I’d stipulated.

“You might want to call Renee,” Edward said, dropping his hand and his flippant tone. “Charlie wasn’t going to tell you until later, but he called her about the accident.”

“Oh no,” I groaned. “How upset is she?”

Edward’s silence was answer enough. I really, really hated Paul right then

“I would offer to call her for you, but I’m fairly certain that would only make things worse,” Edward said finally.

I sighed and held out my hand for the phone.

*


There was only one week left until the wedding, so naturally Alice had decided this would be the perfect time to let the shoe drop.

“You’re the bride,” Alice said incredulously. “You’re supposed to be the center of attention. What, you think all these people would show up to see Edward? Please,” she finished, rolling her eyes.

“Thanks, sis,” Edward said dryly.

“What do you mean, ‘all these people’?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.

“Well, it turns out we have one more guest than we thought,” Alice chirped. “You’ll meet her later—she’s out hunting with Rosalie right now.”

“Just one?” I said, still looking suspiciously at Alice’s wide, innocent eyes.

“Yes,” she said, then sighed impatiently. “Now come on, Bella, and try on the dress!”

I sighed, thinking of the dress upstairs and reluctantly admitting to myself that it really was perfect, and that I had Alice and her impeccable taste to blame for all this madness. “All right, all right, I’ll go try it on.” I turned to Edward, giving him a suspicious look. “And don’t try to listen in or see anything, got it?”

Edward smiled impishly. “I won’t,” he promised. When I continued to look at him skeptically, he kissed my forehead, then said, “I know it’s supposed to be bad luck if I see the dress before the big day, and you’ve already got enough bad luck without me acting as a saboteur. I’ll stay away.”

I tried to scowl at him, but finally gave a reluctant giggle as he continued to grin at me. Besides, as much as I hated to admit it, he really had a point about the bad luck. It’d be a miracle if I didn’t end up embarrassing myself horribly, like tripping over Charlie as he walked me down the aisle.

“See you later,” I said to Edward, suddenly anxious to go upstairs and try on the dress; I desperately needed to practice walking in heels.

“This should be the only fitting,” Alice said as we made our way up the stairs. “I don’t think I’ll need to make any changes, but I just wanted to be sure…”

We went upstairs to Alice’s room and there, sitting on the bed, was Renee.

“Mom!” I cried, launching myself through the air and throwing my arms around her. “Mom, you’re here early!”

“Surprise!” she said, hugging me back. I was so happy to see her, and so shocked, that I started to cry.

“Oh, honey, I’ve missed you so much,” Renee said in a small voice, and I realized she was crying, too. “I’m so happy to be here for you,” she whispered in a smaller voice still, and I pulled back to blow my nose on a tissue Alice handed me.

“This means so much to me, Mom,” I said after I’d gained some control over my dripping nose. “I know you don’t approve, but I’m just—I’m just so glad you’re here.”

Renee gave me a watery smile. “I’m happy for you, sweetie. I—I know I’ve made mistakes in life, but that doesn’t mean you’ll make the same ones.” She laughed and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “You were always the responsible one… and I trust your judgment.”

I hugged her again. “You’re not just saying this because of the car accident, are you?” I asked, only half-joking.

Renee stroked my hair and sighed. “No, but I won’t pretend that hasn’t had something to do with it. It made me realize how short life is. If you’re happy, then I’m happy. I just want you to make the most of the time you have here on earth.”

I smiled even as my heart twisted in my chest at the irony in her words.

“So, are you ready to see Bella in her wedding dress?” Alice asked, pointing to the closet. I turned and saw the dress, marveling again at Alice’s perfect taste. It was something right out of the early twentieth century, but with a slight modern flair. I loved it, and knew that Edward would, too.

Alice and Renee helped me put the gown on and I looked at myself in the mirror, hardly believing it was me in the reflection.

The gown cinched in satin folds at my waist, and the short sleeves grew into a lacy neckline that managed to give me a modest amount of cleavage (and that I had any cleavage at all was in itself a miracle). The lacy skirt hugged my hips, then filled out around my thighs, finally forming the lace train in the back.

“You look perfect,” Alice said.

“Absolutely stunning,” Renee said, her hushed voice echoing Alice’s sentiment.

“How did you want to do your hair, Bella?” Alice asked, walking around and inspecting the dress at all angles.

“Oh. I hadn’t really thought about it,” I said, still gazing in the mirror. It was hard to believe anyone would bother noticing my hair when I was wearing such an exquisite dress.

“It’d be a shame to wear it up, honey,” Renee said, joining Alice in her inspection of my dress.

“I think loose curls would be lovely,” Alice offered.

“That sounds nice,” I replied, thinking that wearing it long and loose would be less hassle than an updo.

“Great. I’ll call Maximilian—oops, I mean Max,” Alice said, giggling. “I’ll tell him to come early Saturday morning. I’ll do your makeup, so we won’t need to call a makeup artist.” Alice suddenly looked unsure of herself. “Unless you’d like a professional makeup artist, Bella?”

“You’re better than any professional.” I smiled at her, and she grinned back.

“Excellent! Now for the shoes.”

“Right,” I said, wondering how I was going to manage walking in the three-inch heels Alice had undoubtedly picked out.

But to my surprise she pulled out a pair of white satin ballet flats.

“You’ll wear these during the ceremony,” Alice said, placing them gently on the bed. “And for the reception you can wear these.”

She pulled a pair of white strappy heels from the closet.

“I thought it would be best to give you flat heels for your walk down the aisle,” Alice explained.

Renee laughed. “You really thought of everything!”

I grinned. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to practice dancing then.”

“I can help you with that,” Alice volunteered.

“What kind of band have you hired?” Renee asked.

I smiled, happily immersing myself in the wedding plans as I took off the wedding gown. Once I was back in my customary t-shirt and jeans I sat next to my mom and leaned against her shoulder, finally feeling like a bride-to-be, and happy that I hadn’t insisted on the drive-through wedding in Vegas.

*


Edward and I made love on the beach, the waves foaming around my legs as we moved with each other and against each other, keeping a steady rhythm with the waves. Afterwards, I licked along Edward’s neck, my tongue heavy with the taste of salt.

“I love you,” I said, smiling up at Edward. His chest and shoulders blocked out the sun, but when he smiled back at me I could see his white teeth, flashing in the late afternoon light.

“I love you more,” Edward said, still smiling. He rolled to my side and lay in the sand, and now I could see his eyes, a bright blue-green, more vibrant than the ocean or the sky.

“I don’t think that’s possible,” I decided, and placed my arm across his chest. His skin was already turning golden-brown, whereas my arms were slightly pink despite the layer of sunblock Edward had smoothed over me earlier.

“Oh, it’s possible,” Edward said, and suddenly jumped up and ran into the waves.

“How do I love thee?” Edward shouted, raising his arms over his head as he turned to face me, the waves crashing against the small of his back. “Let me count the ways!”

I sat propped up on the beach, laughing at his absurdity. I dug my toes into the wet sand and watched as, naked, Edward splashed around in the waist-high water, hollering at the top of his lungs.

“I love thee to the depth, and breadth, and height my soul can reach!” Edward cried, waving his arms around as he looked up to the sky.

I stopped laughing when he got to the final stanza of the poem. He waded towards me and settled down beside me again, water dripping steadily from a curl of bronze hair.

“I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life,” he recited, and reached out with a warm hand to cup my cheek. I felt grains of sand shift against my skin as he swept his thumb across my cheekbone.

“And, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death,” he finished, and punctuated the final line with a searing kiss.

I kissed him back, and felt his sun-warmed skin and wind-chapped lips move against mine. My breasts stuck to his chest, both of us sticky with salt water, and I wondered how so much sun-soaked happiness could be possible. The air in my lungs and my heart bursting in my chest were almost more than I could bear.

I rolled us over so that I was on top, and began kissing him in earnest.

“Ow!” he said and sat up gingerly, reaching with one hand behind him to grab a piece of sea glass that had been digging into his back.

“Oh,” I said, taking the green glass from his hand. “It’s so beautiful.” I kissed his wet curly hair and smiled. “Almost as beautiful as your eyes.”

“My eyes aren’t beautiful,” Edward said, giving me my favorite half-smile. “They’re manly. Your eyes are beautiful.”

I rolled my eyes. “They’re just brown.”

“They are not,” Edward said, sounding offended. “They’re rich, and warmer than the sand or the sun.”

I looked at the sea glass again, but this time, instead of being a beautiful bottle-green, it had turned into a regular mirror. I stared at it in confusion, then held it up to get a better look.

In the glass was my reflection, only my eyes were no longer brown—they were blood red.

I dropped the glass and screamed, cutting my hand in the process. I looked for Edward but he was no longer there; instead, the woman sat next to me, her unearthly face terrible in the bright sunshine.

“You will never have this,” she said, and her voice was like wood smoke. “You are giving this up forever.”

I screamed again and tried to back away, but the ground sunk around me like quicksand.

“EDWARD!” I screamed as the sand pressed around me, trapping me in the woman’s terrible gaze.

“You must reconsider,” the woman said again, and now it was her figure that blocked out the sun, throwing her face into shadow. “You will never hear the heart of a dead man, and a dead man has no soul to love you. You are not throwing your life away—you are throwing life away. You must not be bitten.”

“EDWARD! HELP ME!” I screamed again, my mouth filling with sand as I sank deeper into the ground, until finally I could see nothing but darkness.

*


“Bella! Bella, I’m here!”

I wondered if there was sand stuck in my ears, because the voice sounded so far away.

“Bella!”

Finally I opened my eyes, and I panicked: there was nothing around me but darkness. I groped around, trying to fight my way out of the sand, and felt a cold rock in my way.

“Rocks?” I mumbled, confused. I thought I was trapped in sand.

“Bella? Bella, can you hear me?”

“Edward?” A lamp flicked on and threw my bedroom into startling relief.

“Oh, Edward,” I said, hurling myself into his arms. “I’m so glad you’re here…”

But Edward returned my embrace guardedly, leaning slightly away from my body.

“Edward, what’s wrong?” I asked, suddenly terrified that I was still trapped in the nightmare.

Edward looked at me, then down at his shirt.

Streaked across his white shirt in bright red swaths was blood, and I let out a soft cry as the rust and salt smell hit me.

I glanced down at my palm and there was a jagged cut, right where I had been holding the glass.

*



Author's Note: I want to say thank you to all the lovely people who have been reading and reviewing! Your encouragement means so much to me, as does your feedback and concrit. :)

Tags: fic, the heart of darkness, twilight
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