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Chapter 27 - Rachmaninoff

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1 Chapter 27 - Rachmaninoff on Sun Nov 28, 2010 8:29 pm

Mrs.KreszentiaBlack

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Instantly, my over-active imagination went into hyper drive. All I could envision was Bella's body, injured in some fashion that was irreparable. And the cell phone was at the bottom of the bay. What if she had broken a bone; a wrist, an ankle, a rib, her spine? Or worse, what if she had hit her head, causing a concussion or hemorrhaging of the brain? What if she snapped her delicate neck and lay dead above me, an injury that not even venom could heal?



The false sense of security from earlier had completely vanished. It was my reckless behavior that had brought this on, and I was reminded once more of how I could never afford to lose control, or forget how breakable Bella truly was. If I had not made the decision to give into my lecherous desires, Alice wouldn't have called, and Bella wouldn't have been motivated to retrieve the phone. I could see it all play out in my mind - Bella scrambling up the stairs before I had a chance to stop her, not noticing the slick, wet deck below her feet. What if she would have slipped and fallen overboard, then pulled under the boat by the storm-driven currents and powerful waves? My stomach lurched as more scenarios played out in my head - all resulting from my foolish decision to give in and let myself fully love her.



Through the unremitting, self-deprecating thoughts, I finally realized that I was still inside the cabin of the ketch. Why was I not rushing to her aid? What was wrong with me?



I literally flew up the stairs in a fraction of a second, hit at once with the pelting rain and wind, but paying both no mind as my eyes hastily scanned the deck for Bella. She lay on her side, but with her back to me, on the far side of the boat. Thankfully I could still hear her pulse and heartbeat, but she didn't appear to be breathing. No, no, no, NO!



Speeding over to her lifeless form in a state of absolute panic, I squatted down and leaned over, searching out her face. Surprisingly, she was conscious - her eyes were open, but blinking furiously against the rain and sea spray that flew into them. Her features were contorted in pain, and suddenly, she opened her mouth to suck in a deep breath. She was alive...that was all that mattered at the moment.



"Bella, are you hurt?" My hands reached out, wanting desperately to touch her, but I held back, waiting first for her to answer in fear of hurting her more. As my eyes traveled the length of her body, I couldn't see any obvious injuries - no blood, no compound fractures. Maybe she just had the wind knocked out of her. Hopefully that was all. But it still didn't alleviate my tortured remorse for allowing this all to happen.



She gasped, struggling to fill her lungs with air as she glanced up at me. After several tense seconds, she was finally able to speak.



"I slipped," she choked out, coughing a few times. "I'm such a klutz."



Unconsciously, she moved her legs, assuring me that her neck wasn't broken. I said a silent prayer of thanks to every God I knew of and pledged to never let such careless behavior occur again. Immediately, my hands went to touch her face, wiping back the rain that dripped from her brow. "The deck is wet, love. Anyone could have slipped."



"You wouldn't have."



I rolled my eyes as I bent down further, kissing her damp forehead. "Did you hurt yourself?"



Bella didn't answer at first; she was still trying to catch her breath. I let my lips drift down her nose to kiss both cheeks as I patiently waited for her reply. But I could faintly taste her salty tears, so I pulled away, studying her expression more closely. "What hurts, Bella? You're crying."



She shut her eyes and took another long breath. "I think I might have scuffed up my leg a little."



"How badly? Do you think you broke any bones?" I couldn't hide the anxiety creeping into my tone - she was very good at downplaying her pain in the past, physical and emotional, and I was positive she was doing it now as well. However, it was imperative she be absolutely honest about her injuries so I could treat them properly.



"No, I didn't break anything. Well, not bones at least." She actually chuckled as she started to move. I slid one hand underneath her arm, slowly helping her to turn over and sit up simultaneously. As she shifted her weight, I saw her bite her lip in pain, then look down at her leg.



"Alice is going to kill me."



I followed her gaze, finally seeing what she was referring to. The skin on the side of her right leg was raw from sliding across the wooden deck. Tiny drops of blood were forming on her thigh, but were quickly washed away from the pounding rain as soon as they appeared. Instinctively, I held my breath as I visibly analyzed the wound, mentally calculating the time it would take to heal, as well as the proper treatment for such an injury. Although it wasn't severe, I still flinched at the thought of her fragile skin scraping against the rough surface of the deck.



"I'm so sorry Edward - I know this has to be hard for you." Shocked by her words, I turned back to look at her worried expression. What was she thinking? That the diminutive drops of blood were assaulting my self-control?



I shook my head and smiled at her, sliding my other hand around her waist to pick her up. "Bella, don't worry about me. I'm fine. You should be worried about yourself. We need to get you inside, bandage that leg and get you warm and dry." She was at greater risk of catching pneumonia than suffering from her abrasions, and I chastised myself prematurely for any illness that might be brought on from her prolonged exposure to the elements.



As I lifted her up off the deck, she took in a sharp breath.



"What is it? What else hurts?" I tried to cradle her as gently as possible as I moved us back towards the stairs.



She hid her face against my wet chest. "I think I might have done some damage to my hip, too." I could feel her cheeks growing warmer as she blushed against my bare skin.



I shifted my hands so that they weren't pressing against her injured areas. "How bad is it?"



"Just sore. I'll probably have a nice bruise. Alice is going to kill me..."



"Shhh." I buried my face in her hair as I carefully stepped down into the warm, dry salon, debating whether to take her back into the stateroom. She was soaking wet, and I needed to get her warmed up immediately, but I didn't want to leave the only bed damp, thereby forcing her to sleep elsewhere later that evening. As my eyes fell on the aft head, I made a quick decision.



"Are you able to sit, love?" She nodded, finally pulling her face away from my chest.



I gingerly walked us into the bathroom where I slowly moved her onto the closed toilet seat. She favored her right side, but didn't appear to be in too much pain from the position. Pulling out the first aid kit in the cabinet above her, I quickly removed the antiseptic and some sterile gauze.



She leaned to her left, turning her leg so we could both get a better look at the wound. The abrasion was large, covering a third of her thigh from the knee to the hip. But the cuts weren't deep, and many looked to be scabbing already.



"It's not that bad," she said softly, reaching down to poke at the injury.



I snorted, shaking my head again as I began to treat the wound. "Any injury is dangerous, Bella. But thankfully you won't die from this one." I tried to keep my tone light for her sake, but in reality I was teetering on the brink of a complete panic-attack. What if the injuries would have been worse? How would I have contacted Carlisle, now that the phone was gone? No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't calm my frazzled nerves as I worked on her leg.



"I'm sorry."



"What are you sorry for?" I questioned, completely taken by surprise as I looked up to meet her sorrowful eyes.



She reached out to cup my chin in her palm. "For ruining the mood."



I rolled my eyes and chastely kissed her pouting lips. "Don't apologize."



"But I did, didn't I? Just when you were finally letting yourself go..."



Bella sat before me, injured, obviously in pain, and all she could think about was how she had spoiled our libidinous activities? The thought was so ridiculous that I actually laughed out loud.



"Why are you laughing, Edward?"



"Because here you sit, bleeding and bruised, yet you're more worried about getting me back into bed."



Her face fell, tears threatening to fall once more from her desperately pleading eyes. Instantly, I scanned back through my words, trying to figure out what I had said to provoke this reaction. I was missing something - but what?



I set down the bottle of antiseptic and pulled her into my arms, cradling her head against the crook of my neck. "What's wrong, love?"



She sniffled, trying to hold back the tears that started to spill onto my bare shoulder. "Just as you were finally realizing that you could be with me, that your fears of hurting me were unjustified, this had to happen." Bella let out a shuddering breath, then continued. "I thought if I got rid of the phone, then there'd be no more interruptions, and we could truly be alone and together and..."



I cut her off. "We still can, Bella."



"But not like before."



I closed my eyes, wishing for the millionth time that I could read her thoughts, because she most definitely appeared to be reading mine. With such a blatant reminder of her fragility, how could I even consider doing anything that might risk injuring her further, especially before the wedding? And honestly, how could I ever allow myself to be intimate in the way she wished after the wedding as well, when it would require me to relinquish all self-control, thereby potentially harming her?



As I slowly released her from my embrace, I lifted her chin up with one finger, staring intently into her distressed eyes. "You don't understand how badly I want to give you everything you want - and how utterly dangerous it is at the same time. I could never live with myself if I hurt you."



"But you didn't hurt me. And you won't hurt me. I'll tell you if you're doing anything that doesn't feel good. Edward, I just slipped. It happens to everyone. I just lost a little skin - nothing that won't heal."



Although her argument may have been valid to a point, I still couldn't bear to move forward in the way she wished, especially with her injured leg. "Your loss of skin, and the bruise I have yet to examine on your hip is exactly why I'm concerned right now."



Finally, comprehension began to dawn in her eyes, but it was quickly replaced by dejection a split second later. She reached down for my free hand and took it in hers.



"I still ruined our perfect getaway, though," she whispered in a meek tone.



My heart nearly broke upon hearing her words; I couldn't stand to let her think that our incredible excursion had been tainted by her accident. Or worse, by my own self-flagellation. It was the quintessential conundrum of our growing relationship - to make her truly happy, I'd have to risk hurting her, or possibly even killing her. But to keep her safe from harm, I would be taking away the one experience she wanted most as a human. There seemed to be no easy solution - or really, no solution, period.



Her shivering hand startled me from my melancholic, internal musings, and I realized she was still soaking wet, and likely freezing.



"Bella love, let me get your wound dressed and the furnace going, then get you changed into dry clothes." Maybe once she was physically comfortable again, the pain inside her eyes would lessen as well.



She nodded obediently, but the sorrow was clearly written across her face. It was nearly as gut-wrenching as the earlier thought of her battered body lying lifeless on the deck above. I needed to do something to fix this situation, but first I had to attend to her comfort.



I finished dressing the wound, then rushed out to the salon to light the furnace and close the hatch above the stairs. Before returning to the aft head, I paused in front of the stereo, my eyes falling on the one CD that I had been saving for last. I found it to be terribly romantic and passionate - it was my second favorite piano concerto after Schumann's, but as I ran through the piece in my mind, I realized something ironic - it had hauntingly somber undertones intertwined with the beautiful piano motifs that could easily sway the atmosphere of the room if listened to under the right circumstances. Rather appropriate, I thought dismally as I hesitated, holding the disc above the player, debating whether to insert it or not. How would it influence Bella's mood?



Sighing dejectedly, I conceded to my original plan and stuck it into the stereo, hoping it wasn't another mistake. All I wanted to do was rewind the evening back to just twenty minutes before, when Bella and I hadn't a care in the world other than the heated rapture between our souls. Was there any possible way to return to that place, safely, with no further bodily harm to Bella?



"Edward?"



Her pained tone spurred me into motion; I rushed back to the bathroom, lifting her into my arms and carrying her gently into the stateroom, where I lowered her to her feet next to the awaiting bed.



"We need to get you out of these wet clothes, love. Do you want me to...help?" I continued to hold her as my hand stroked her sodden hair.



She stared up at me longingly, yet a shadow of anguish still tainted her exquisite features. "Yes, but only if you want."



"Of course I want to." I kissed her softly on the lips, then went to retrieve several plush towels from the linen closet. Bella slowly finished unbuttoning her shirt while watching me warily as I returned to her side, keeping my eyes firmly locked with hers. The electricity in the air from earlier was slowly returning, but in a more subdued manner. Despite her fall and my constant fear of hurting her, the lascivious ache began to throb within me once again. Why was all of this so complicated? Why couldn't I relinquish my fears and just exist in the manner she craved so desperately?



Unhurriedly, she removed her soaked blouse, letting it drop unceremoniously to the floor while never taking her eyes off of mine. I swallowed back the venom that began to flood my mouth, and reached around her with one of the towels, draping it over her shivering shoulders.



"Hold this; I'll dry your hair," I instructed as I picked up a second towel and began working on her long locks.



Bella stood still for several seconds before she spoke.



"Sort of reminds me of San Francisco," she commented quietly.



I nodded. "Yes, it sort of does, doesn't it?" If only we could go back to that carefree night....



"But it's not Schumann this time." I chuckled at her out-of-the-blue comment, spinning her around so I could appraise her face and hopefully tell what she was really thinking.



"No, love."



She closed her eyes, reaching out with one hand from beneath the towel to stroke my cheek. "It's just as pretty, though. Who is it?"



"Rachmaninoff. I love this concerto nearly as much as Schumann's."



"It's beautiful." She continued to trace her fingertips across my face, yet kept her eyes closed, letting her hand explore at will.



I dropped the towel that had been drying her hair, and pulled her into my chest, hugging her tightly. "But not as beautiful as you."



Bella didn't reply; instead she snaked both arms around me and buried her face into my chest. I could feel her taking deep, somber breaths - her body still occasionally shivering, though the temperature throughout the cabin was steadily climbing.



"I'm sorry I've hurt you," I murmured into her hair. "I want so badly to make you happy...always happy..."



She pulled away and looked up. "I am always happy when I'm with you."



"But you could be happier."



Bella unlinked her arms from around my waist and took a step back. I frowned at the distance she put between us, already missing her warm body against mine. "Do you know what truly makes me happy, Edward? When you're as happy as I am. And right now you're not happy - you're blaming yourself for my own, clumsy nature." She reached up and pulled the towel off of her shoulders, standing before me in only her wet, khaki shorts and a bra. "I meant it before when I said I trusted you. I've always trusted you - you could never hurt me. Even unintentionally. Our love is too strong for that to happen."



I swallowed painfully, my body betraying me at the sight of her alluring form. Even with her bandaged leg, she was breathtaking, and so sure of herself. That self-confidence radiated outward, seductively calling to me like her mouth-watering scent. I tried to focus on her frailty, the scratches on her skin from the fall, anything that would steer my mind back to a sensible place. None of it worked.



"Edward, do you trust me?"



"Yes." I didn't recognize my own voice as I hastily replied.



She took a step backward towards the bed, extending her hand out to me. I stood rooted to the spot, terrified of giving in and putting myself into a position I'd most likely take reckless advantage of. She had to know my willpower was fractured and easily breakable - just like her body. I kept telling myself this wasn't a good idea, but once again, my body thought differently, and I took a step forward, reaching out to clasp her hand.



Bella gently tugged me towards her as she moved back, gradually climbing onto the bed but still facing me. I followed, feeling rivulet after rivulet of venom trickle down the back of my throat, preventing me from speaking.



Slowly, she lowered herself, lying down on her uninjured side, pulling me towards her. I suddenly became aware of the sultry notes of the piano concerto, and realized that although the piece seemed to be to Bella's liking, it was doing exactly what I was afraid of - stirring up wave after wave of heady emotions and guiding us down that dangerous path we had been carelessly forging earlier. I felt torn in two - my mind screamed at me to stop while I was still able and discourage any scenario where Bella could be injured again. But my heart cried out for her touch, her love...it wanted to believe her words - that I was truly incapable of hurting her.



As I climbed onto the bed and knelt above her, I closed my eyes, the battle within nearly destroying me. I felt Bella's weight shift as she sat up on an elbow, her right arm sliding around my waist.



"Please Edward? Please?"



She was begging me to lie down next to her. Begging. The one thing I couldn't resist. How could I ever tell her no?



An excruciating groan slipped from my lips as I felt my body and heart win the battle against my rational mind. I allowed her small hand to guide me down, settling next to her on my side, mirroring her position exactly. Very carefully, I brought my left hand up and rested it upon her hip. She inhaled sharply, and my eyes shot open.



"Did I hurt you?" Immediately, my mind roared in protest, demanding I leave the bed at once.



Bella moved her hand onto mine, sliding it down a few inches to just above the bandage. Then she pulled the hem of her shorts up. Both of us glanced down to assess her other injury that had been accidentally forgotten. There was a large, purplish bruise marring her otherwise flawless skin. I cringed, feeling her pain vicariously.



"It's just a bruise. I get them all the time." She gazed into my eyes while she slid her hand back to mine, guiding it up over her hip and to her waist. Then she slid closer to me, narrowing the gap between us. "It'll heal. They always do. Please, Edward..."



A loud crack of thunder resonated above us, lightning once again flickering through the stateroom windows. Bella shivered, and I moved to sit up and grab a blanket from the foot of the bed. But she grasped my arm, holding me down.



"I'm not cold." As if to emphasize the fact, she slid even closer to me, pressing her hot chest against mine. "You have to trust me Edward, just like I trust you." Then she leaned in and kissed me.



My body swelled with desire, urging my hand to pull her more tightly against me. The passion that ignited between us was unstoppable; Bella hitched her injured leg over mine, aligning our bodies in the most erotic of ways. Our kiss became urgent, almost wild in nature as she ran her tongue along my bottom lip, encouraging me to open my mouth. It was too much, too fast, and all I could think about was her remark - she bruised easily. Such an injury could be caused by my actions if I wasn't careful...



With every ounce of my control, I stilled my lips against hers and waited until she slowed as well.



"Not like this," I murmured against her trembling mouth.



Bella froze, every muscle in her body tensing as she pulled away, frantically searching out my eyes. "What?"



"Not like this, Bella. Not to just prove a point." The agony within threatened to burst out and thoroughly suffocate me, especially when I saw the frustration in her eyes.



"No, we're not doing that, Edward. This is about you and me, and how much we love each other, and our trust..."



"Exactly." I moved my hand from her waist up to her lips, stopping her rant. "Before it might have been about something else, but now it's all about proving that you trust me enough to take the chance. To disregard all of the ‘what ifs' and ‘maybes'. Neither of us truly know if I'm capable of making love to you without hurting you further." To emphasize my point, I swept my eyes down the length of her body, watching as my hand moved back to her hip, tracing one finger very faintly along the swollen flesh. "Your body is just so fragile."



I could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks without seeing it firsthand. She was upset, and it was totally my fault, I thought despondently. "You just said we don't know what will happen. You don't know any better than I. It's not just your choice - it's mine too."



Flinching at her words, I tucked my chin down, closing my eyes in defeat. "You're right. But you're hurt, Bella. And I don't think we should just because we can."



My words were met by silence; there were no retorts, no sobs, no angry sighs, just...silence. The storm above us was finally winding down, accompanied by the second, doleful movement of Rachmaninoff's concerto. I was terrified to look up, to see abhorrence and disgust and hurt written all across her exquisite face. But I couldn't cower away, either. I was doing exactly what I said I wouldn't - hurting her by denying her wishes, and compounding the pain by wallowing in my own misery. How did all of this come to be?



Finally, I found the strength to look up at her. She wasn't looking at me - her gaze was fixed on the ceiling, watching the last of the lightning dance across the wooden timbers.



"Bella?" My voice cracked when I said her name as it teemed with emotion. If I were capable of tears, they'd be streaming uncontrollably down my face. How could you hurt her again? But the only answer to that question was to hurt her in a different way - and I was so incredibly scared of her reaction. Would she finally see me for the monster I truly was?



I slid my hand up from her bruised hip, along her bare arm until I reached her chin. Very gently, I traced her lips with my thumb, marveling at their pliant, yet delicate form. Everything about her transfixed my attention, yet I still could not bring myself to return to the abandonment of our earlier actions.



Her lips began to move, and slowly, she kissed the tip of my finger while lowering her gaze to find my eyes. "Compromise?"



We stared at one another for what seemed like eternity until I became aware of her hand on the back of my neck, urging my head forward. I cupped her cheek, leaning in to brush my lips against hers. Languidly. Sweetly. Lovingly.



"Yes," I breathed into her mouth, knowing nothing more needed to be said as the befuddling dilemma magically disappeared. She always knew the best way to solve any differences between us, and reminded me yet again that it didn't have to be all or nothing. I would give her what I could of myself - extending as many physical boundaries as possible while maintaining control.



She kissed me again. "I won't push your limits." Her lips moved across my cheek delicately, causing me to shiver in pleasure. "But you're stronger than you give yourself credit for. Let me lead. Please?"



Something in her tone was different than before - Bella was always sure of herself, but now her voice soothed my agitated nerves in the same way as her placid touch. She wasn't begging either; she was stating a simple fact that I couldn't argue with. You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. I desperately wanted to believe her - and I knew she needed me to believe her.



Slowly, I shifted my weight, moving my free arm back around her waist to bring us more closely together as she continued to gently kiss my jaw line. The furnace had warmed the cabin thoroughly; in fact, Bella was starting to sweat from the excess heat. But she didn't seem to mind, especially once I pulled her tightly to me, cooling her flushed skin with my own. If she's warm enough, then my cold skin won't chill her, I thought, a plan forming in the back of my head as I started to think ahead to the honeymoon.



The electricity flowing between us had returned; however, now it was a steady stream, controllable, unlike before when both of our bodies threatened to combust from the untamed power that pervaded the cabin. Yet this new current was equally as enjoyable as the uninhibited fervor from earlier. It felt like time stood still as we carefully moved forward, kissing, caressing - falling slowly into the opium of our passion.



As I became perceptibly aware of the approaching dawn from the growing light through the windows, Bella left a trail of kisses up my chest as the ardent end of the concerto approached. Her heated lips crested the tip of my chin, and I opened my eyes to find her gazing tenderly at me.



"Florestan."



I smiled, tightening my grip around her back and carefully rolling us over until I hovered above. Bending down, I buried my face in her hair.



"Clara."



"Three more days," she whispered softly.



I nodded, kissing her ear and neck before pulling back to watch the fire in her eyes as I responded. "I can't wait."



As she reached up to brush away a lock of hair from my forehead, a prism holding a thousand different colors caught my eye. It was as if heaven had opened its reclusive doors to me - I had never seen anything so captivatingly beautiful. I reached up and captured her hand in mine, bringing it to lips.



"Marry me, Isabella." I kissed her engagement ring while peering up at her through my lashes.



She giggled, her face aglow in unadulterated happiness. "I already told you I would."



"Say it again. Please?"



"On one condition."



"Anything." I kissed her ring a second time, but this time let my lips linger on her sweet-tasting fingertips.



That adorable blush started to creep across her face, and she bit her bottom lip. At first, I thought her reaction was caused by shyness, but when she spoke I heard nothing but quiet determination in her voice. "You have to promise. Promise me we'll try."



A tiny thread of panic started to cultivate deep within me once more - what if I hurt her?



As if hearing my thoughts, she pulled my head down, cradling me against her warm breast. "Don't worry Edward - it'll all work out. It always does for us."



So incredibly brave. I struggled to fight back the fear, convincing myself that I had to trust her trust in me. My self-doubt was incredibly strong, but I simply had to overcome it - for her.



Reconciling that stark reality, I turned my focus back on my bride. She knew I couldn't deny her anything, and this time was no different. I would give her my word.



Pulling away from her embrace, I nodded once before releasing the full power of my stare. Her breathing became more rapid, her jaw lax, and I could feel her heart racing against my chest.



"I promise, Bella. I will give you everything you've asked for - and more."



She remained effectively frozen from my commanding gaze until I glanced down at her succulent lips. "Will you marry me?" Peeking back up, my breath hitched in my throat - her eyes were ablaze with every emotion I had stirring within myself. Adoration. Joy. Excitement. Anticipation. Desire. Trust. Love.



"Yes, Edward. I am yours forever."



I captured her face in my palms and kissed her with every ounce of passion I had. My body trembled in pure exultation as her words thoroughly set in. She is mine for eternity.



We remained locked together until Bella broke away for a much needed breath as I showered her bare skin with butterfly kisses, worshipping the heavenly angel that lay beneath me. My body continued to shake uncontrollably as I tried to comprehend the wondrous bliss that had thoroughly changed my dismal life. And it was all because of Bella. My Bella. My frozen heart soared every time the thought of our upcoming wedding crossed my mind. Never for one second of my existence did I ever think I could possibly be this happy.



Together, we lay intertwined as one as the ketch rocked softly beneath us and the sun rose in the east, both of us dreaming of our walk down the aisle, mere hours away.



Just as Bella was slowly drifting off to sleep, nestled safely in my arms, she pressed her lips to my ear and mumbled one last sentiment.



"At least we won the bet."

The End ... read the next chapter



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