The freezing cold wind whipped at the canvas tent, but Edward was oblivious to the snowstorm raging outside his four oil-cloth walls. He was in his own personal Heaven. No sound but the hissing wind outside interrupted his reverie. He was finally at peace after months of turmoil. He craved silence like others craved companionship, and now he had it, finally.
He’d purposely lost track of time, not caring how many days he’d been sitting in this same spot, or that he was most likely the only sentient creature within a hundred miles. Not caring that his family thought he was losing his sanity. The only thing he cared about was silence, blessed quiet.
But sadly, Edward never seemed to get what he wanted, and if he did, he never kept it for very long. Why should now be any different? He exhaled a frustrated sigh as he slowly became aware of a sound that didn’t belong in his peaceful surroundings. Someone or something was stomping through the snow in his direction—a creature that had no concern for subterfuge, a very unintelligent creature, apparently. Edward began to wonder if the North Pole might have been a better choice for his self-imposed exile, instead of the barren wilderness of Alaska.
“Anybody in there?”
Great. The last thing Edward needed right now was the presence of that which he was trying to get the hell away from. A female was asking admittance into his domain of male tranquility. How dare she?
“’Cause if there is, I’m freaking cold and I’m going to be dead by morning if you don’t let me in!”
Edward sighed in defeat. He could pretend he didn’t hear her, but he had a feeling that strategy was doomed to failure. She seemed to be the persistent type.
“Come in.” He made no move to assist in her entrance. The flaps of the tent were not secured. If she couldn’t figure that out then good riddance. At least he’d be left in peace again.
A tall bundle of fur finally pushed its way into his previously calm sanctuary of silence. Two brown eyes peeked out through the holes in her wool face covering. Rosy lips poked out of another wider hole, all of which was surrounded by a furry hood clasped tightly at the neck. The effect was eerie and monster-like. Edward hoped what lay underneath the fuzzy wool covering wouldn’t turn out to be something out of a horror movie. If he was going to be forced to share the small confines of his temple with another creature, at least she should be an engaging sort who was easy on the eyes.
“Whew, thanks! Another hour out there and the wolves would be picking at my carcass.” She laughed uproariously as she settled herself down onto an unused sleeping bag.
An inside joke obviously, and one Edward didn’t understand. Of course, he could have plucked it—along with her whole life history—from her thoughts if he’d wished to, but he was sick to death of his gift. He’d shut the damned thing down as soon as he’d left his house. His mind was safe now behind a thick, impenetrable wall. The last thing he wanted was to hear anyone’s thoughts. There was no way he was letting this stranger’s mind touch his, not even for a moment.
“My name’s Leah Clearwater, by the way.”
His two-word abrupt introduction wasn’t very polite, but he wasn’t feeling very accommodating at the moment. He was pretty grumpy, actually, because his peaceful, solitary confinement was over. Regardless, he watched with interest as the lump of fur slowly evolved from a horror movie monster into a living, breathing being. First the hood came off, then the ugly wool face covering. Suddenly, Edward was assaulted with way too much stimuli for any one person to absorb.
Long waves of dark, almost black, hair flew in every direction as they escaped the static-y confines of the covering. Brown almond-shaped eyes swept over him and the rest of the tent. Her lips were full and he found it very stimulating to let his eyes linger over them. Her skin was dusky, so different from his paleness. The scent of her blood was nice, but failed to stir his thirst. Strange. He should have been able to process all of this, considering his brain was essentially a computer, but there was simply too much beauty to take in with just one glance. He knew he was going to need a lot more time to study all of the glittering facets of the jewel sitting before him.
Get a grip on yourself, Edward. Have you forgotten what the past months felt like? The last thing he needed was to get entangled with another demanding woman, and especially a human woman. He’d had enough of that to last him an eternity.
“There’s no fire. What’s up with that?”
Edward shrugged and answered her rather shortly. “Snowing too hard.”
Leah studied the slender man sitting before her. His knees were drawn up near his chest with his arms wrapped loosely around them. He was wearing jeans and a light jacket despite the fact it was freezing-ass cold in the tent. He was attractive in a strange sort of way. Very pale where she was dark-skinned, not the sun-loving sort, obviously. He had the most unusual bronze-colored hair she’d ever seen—so thick and wavy, the kind that just begged you to run your fingers through it. And shit, those eyes! They looked like golden orbs of light that seemed to be able to see straight down into her soul. But it was his voice that clenched the muscles deep down in Leah’s center. It was so velvety smooth, like cream flowing gently over her body, caressing her everywhere it touched. And she didn’t even want to think about his lips and what cliffs they could push her over if they really got to work.
Oh good lord, Leah. Just shut up with the mushy ‘he’s so dreamy’ shit. She’d had a very bad experience with just the sort of man who was sitting right in front of her staring a hole in her face: a tall, handsome man with a smooth voice who had jerked her emotions around like she’d been a ragdoll. No fucking way she was going to fall for another one of those again.
She wondered if God was having a big laugh up in Heaven right now. It would have been just as easy for Him to choose a girl to be her savior. They could have had a snowbound pajama party complete with ghost stories and a warm fire, and hours upon hours of girlie talk and male-bashing. Instead, Leah was stuck with this rude sex-god of a man and had no way to get away from him unless she was ready to end it all in the middle of a blizzard, which—as she’d just decided a few hours ago—she wasn’t.
“So, why are you here?”
Edward sighed. She would have to start a conversation. His hopes of having a peaceful holiday away from civilization, and especially women, were dashed. He sighed again and reluctantly formed a polite answer in his head, then quickly revised it to just the down-and-dirty, rude version.
“I wanted to be alone.”
He hoped his abruptness would stifle further conversation. All he wanted to do was stare at her anyway, just drink in her beauty while in a dreamy, meditative state of utter silence and tranquility, like a museum visitor who stares for hours at a work of art in complete awe. Was that too much to ask? Apparently it was, because she ignored his rudeness and continued on with her chatter.
“Yeah, well…I went on this really long…uhm…hike kind of thing…and then I sort of…uh…got lost on purpose.”
Edward’s eyebrows rose in curiosity. “On purpose?”
“Yeah. I was trying to get away from stuff. You know…personal stuff. Some really heavy personal stuff. I just wanted to get the hell away from everyone and everything. Know what I mean?”
“Actually, I do.”
Leah wondered who was responsible for turning on the faucet that was her big mouth. Was that God again, having his big laugh? What in hell had possessed her to just blurt out her personal biz to this guy? Good grief! She’d probably be crying on his shoulder in the next few minutes like a damned girl if she didn’t shut her mouth. Then she blushed as she pictured that scene in her head: his arms around her, his fingers threading their way through her hair as he attempted to quiet her tears, the feel of her body—especially her breasts—pressed up against his chest, his warm breath wafting over her skin as he leaned down to whisper in her ear. Oh crap, Leah. You need to stop, girlfriend. You just met him, for shit’s sake. Oh, and didn’t you just say you weren’t going to fall for any more tall, handsome men?
“I was trying to get away from personal stuff, as well.”
Leah’s interest perked up. “Oh? What kind of personal stuff?”
Edward pondered the wisdom of confiding in this total stranger, but chances were they’d never see each other again once the storm passed and they went their separate ways. And since it was obvious she wasn’t going to be quiet, he dropped the rudeness and decided to just be himself, and he decided to ignore her question for the moment.
“I’m concerned about your comfort, but I…uh…I forgot the heater.” Edward tried his best to look embarrassed and dismayed. He fervently hoped she didn’t see through his hastily constructed lie. Instead, he was surprised when she laughed.
“Don’t worry about me, Edward. I run a little on the hot side anyway. Actually, I’m quite comfortable in here, now that I’m out of the wind. But what about you? That light jacket can’t be very warm.”
He wanted to answer her, but Edward found his thoughts nothing but a jumble of alphabet letters. She’d said his name, and the sound of it on her tongue had sent a thrill though his entire body, especially in one particular area. He shifted his ass around on the ground to get some relief from the sudden pressure in his jeans. Where the hell had that surge of lust come from? Was it really from just hearing his name roll off of her tongue?? Then he had to force himself not to go off on a wild tangent at the thought of her tongue and the things she could do with it.
“So, you didn’t answer before. What kind of personal stuff?”
“Girl stuff.” Edward sneaked a look at her face to gauge her reaction to his confession. All he saw was one perfectly-arched eyebrow raised in question, so he continued. “I was involved with this girl, Bella. Our relationship was really great in the beginning, but then she decided there were some…things… about me she didn’t like, things I couldn’t change. After months of fighting, we finally went our separate ways, but it got really ugly there for awhile. I just wanted some peace and quiet. That’s why I came up here.”
“What…things…about you didn’t she like?” Leah couldn’t imagine how this idiot Bella chick could have rejected this beautiful, soft-spoken man. Now that he’d dropped the rudeness, he was quite charming. Whoever she was, she must have been born with a lot fewer brain cells than the rest of her kind. Leah knew it would have to be something pretty bad for her to turn her back on him.
“I…uhm…I don’t think I can tell you that, Leah.”
Oh holy fuck. A gush of warmth rushed out of Leah’s body and onto the cotton crotch of her panties when he said her name. It sounded so exotic coming out of his mouth. She could imagine him whispering it in her ear as he moved inside her. She blushed again as she wondered what he would feel like, sound like, and taste like, what words he would say to her as he loved her.
“You can tell me. There’s no one else here but us, no one to hear our secrets but the wind and the spirits of our ancestors.”
‘The spirits of our ancestors’? What a strange choice of words. Something about her made Edward feel comfortable, like he could tell her his deepest, darkest secrets and she would accept them. He decided to chance it. If she rejected him, or even ran from the tent screaming, it wouldn’t hurt his feelings. He’d suffered enough of that at Bella’s hands to make him totally numb to it now.
“We weren’t…compatible.” How else to put it without spelling it out in black and white? “I was too different from her, too alien for it to work.”
“Alien? You mean like ‘little green men’ alien?”
Edward knew he wasn’t making it easy for her to understand. Couching the truth in riddles would get them nowhere fast. It was best to just put it out there on the table for her to plainly see with those beautiful deep brown eyes.
“She was human and I was not," he stated bluntly.
A rush of strangeness moved through Leah’s body, a deep-seeded animalistic drive of the sort she hadn’t felt in a very long while—not since her pack had torn a group of vampires to shreds while out on patrol a couple of years ago. She raised her eyes to his and studied him very closely now. She pushed aside the curtain of female hormones that had been blocking the truth from her from the moment she’d walked into this tent. Pale skin. Comfortable in the freezing cold. Strange eyes, even though they were gold instead of the usual red. Oh my God.
“You’re a vampire.”
She didn’t even have to wait for him to confirm it. She knew it with every cell in her body. This beautiful man—this man whose very presence had sent her into a hormonal tailspin; this man whose smooth voice had the power to tear down all of her ‘no more men for me’ defenses; this kind and soft-spoken man—was her sworn enemy.
Boy, God was sure having a field day with Leah Clearwater’s life. She imagined Him in Heaven, propped up on a fat cloud, laughing His ass off at her predicament. Her ancestors were probably rolling over in their graves as well, especially after hearing the thoughts that had been running through her head the past half hour. It was all so hilariously funny, so Leah did the only thing she could do: she roared with laughter until her sides hurt. She fell over onto the floor of the tent and laughed some more and banged her feet on the ground while she did it. She knew Edward probably thought her insane, but she didn’t care in the least. This shit was funny as hell!
Edward was at a loss for words. Unbridled laughter was certainly not the response he’d expected. He wished he knew what was so damned funny. The only thing he could do was watch and wait her out. Finally she stopped. Mostly. A giggle or two still managed to slip out as she sat cross-legged and stared at him across the few feet that separated them.
“Would you care to share the humor in this situation with me?” He watched as she ran her hands through her hair, pushing it back and away from her face, and wishing it were his hands doing it. What would it feel like between his fingers?
“This is just so surreal. The truth is, I’m not completely human either. I’m a shape shifter. The members of my tribe, the Quileutes, shift into wolves for the sole purpose of killing vampires. In a nutshell, you’re my enemy.”
Nothing could have surprised Edward more. This beautiful woman was his enemy? Seriously?? “Should I be afraid of you?”
Leah stared back into his golden eyes and shivered at the sound of his soft voice. He sounded anything but afraid. In fact he sounded sexy as hell. Leah knew she was in deep shit. Being attracted to your enemy was so not right, but she couldn’t deny the fact that she was definitely crushing on this guy.
“No, you shouldn’t be. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but it takes two wolves working as a team to take down one vampire. And since there’s only one of me, you’re pretty safe.”
“This is so very interesting. Tell me more.” Edward’s natural curiosity was piqued. It had been a very long time since he’d encountered something new in this world. He wondered if Carlisle knew of the existence of shape shifters.
“Have you never heard of us?”
“No. I never knew such things as shape shifting wolves even existed until this moment. Tell me, can I hurt you? I mean, surely vampires aren’t defenseless against you.”
“Yes, you could hurt me. Actually, in a one-on-one fight, you could quite possibly kill me.”
“But why would I want to do that…Leah?”
Oh shit. He’d practically whispered that last question to her, hesitating just the right amount of time before adding her name at the end, which had started her pelvic muscles clenching like they had a life of their own. Leah wondered if it was possible to have an orgasm just from the sound of someone’s voice, because she was definitely on the verge of one.
“Because we’re enemies.”
“To me, you’re just Leah. You don’t feel like an enemy.”
Edward was trying desperately to make sense of her words. This woman sitting across from him certainly didn’t feel like an enemy, nor did she look like one either. He couldn’t imagine hurting her. Oh, he could imagine a lot of things with her, but pain wasn’t one of them. Neither could he imagine her killing anyone, let alone him. She was so feminine and alluring, beautiful and seductive. All the things a man longed for in a woman.
“You don’t feel like an enemy to me either, Edward.”
Leah! What the hell are you saying?? Of course he was her enemy. She’d been born and bred to kill the creature sitting in front of her. It just sucked for her that she wanted to throw him down on the floor and make mad, passionate love with his sexy ass.
All this talk of enemies and killing was very disconcerting, so Edward decided a change of subject was in order. Besides, he was curious to see her reaction to yet another confession he had to make.
“There was something else Bella didn’t like about me.”
“The fact that I can hear people’s thoughts.”
Leah’s mouth slowly dropped open. “You can hear what people think?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, Bella hated that about me. She said it made her feel violated and like she had no privacy. I tried to block them, but when I’m emotionally involved with someone it’s very difficult to turn it off. Almost impossible.”
The more Leah heard about this whiny Bella chick, the more she thought Edward was well rid of her. She obviously had no idea what she’d let slip through her fingers.
Leah snorted ironically. “If Bella thought that was a violation, she should try being part of a wolf pack. When we’re in our wolf form, we can hear every thought in everyone’s head in the entire pack simultaneously.”
Edward was stunned at her revelation. He’d never met a woman, outside of his family members, who even knew about thought-reading, let alone someone lived with it every day. “So basically your pack is like one big collective mind. That’s very intriguing. Can you hear each other’s thoughts when you’re in human form?”
“No, and I thank God every day for it, too. At least I have a little bit of privacy left.”
Edward had hoped he might get to know more about this interesting woman and she would, perhaps, accept his gift, but his hopes sank as he listened. She obviously hated the lack of mental privacy in her life. The last thing she would want would be another man intruding on her thoughts.
“Can you hear what I’m thinking right now?”
Edward shook his head. “I’m blocking. It’s the only way I can have any peace these days. Hearing other people’s thoughts is not very much fun sometimes.” Especially when the other person fought it with every ounce of strength they possessed, like Bella had. It had been a struggle just to be with her every day. He couldn’t imagine what his life would be like with a woman who would accept, and even embrace, his gift. He dreamed of finding such a woman.
Edward fully expected Leah to run out of the tent at any moment, considering all she’d said about the lack of privacy in her pack, but when he raised his eyes to hers, she was smiling, and he had no clue as to why.
“I think you are the most fascinating man I have met in a very long time, Edward Cullen.”
Leah was suddenly obsessed with the idea of this beautiful man entering her mind. She had a feeling he would never criticize her for the things he heard there, like Jacob, Paul and the rest of her pack brothers did. As she met his eyes, she intuitively knew he would accept her and embrace her thoughts with a tenderness she’d never experienced since this whole shifting mess had completely taken over her life.
“I don’t understand why you find me fascinating. I would think you’d want nothing to do with another man who could intrude on your private thoughts.”
Oh, but he was so wrong. Leah was beside herself with joy. The man she’d been looking for all of her life was sitting right in front of her, a man who could understand everything about her without playing stupid relationship games that were such a waste of time, a man she didn’t have to play coy with. He’d know her true feelings, her true desires, and even her unhappiness, and he’d be the only one who could hear her thoughts. She imagined how it would be with him: an intensely intimate touching of her mind, so different from the public sharing of her deepest feelings and emotions with every single male in her pack, whether they cared about her or not. And so fucking what if he was her enemy?
“Let me explain it then. That personal stuff I was running from was Sam Uley. He told me he loved me, and swore I was the only one for him. We were engaged and making wedding plans when he fell in love with someone else. He left me and married her. So yeah, I’m a little bitter and I don’t hide that fact. Plus, everyone acts like I don’t even have a right to feel any pain over it.
“The reason I hate the lack of privacy in my pack is that I suffer nothing but derision from Sam and the rest of them when I think about what’s been done to me. I’m so tired of a bunch of guys eavesdropping on my private thoughts and criticizing me for them. You see, they all hear me, but they don’t listen to me. There’s no attempt at understanding in this “collective mind” crap we’ve got going on. I long for a man who would truly listen to me for once, and I have to say Bella was stupid to let a man like you slip through her fingers.”
Leah was suddenly embarrassed at her own bitchiness, and for airing her dirty laundry in front of him, and especially for adding that last bit about Bella. It had slipped out before she could stop it. But on second thought, she wasn’t sure she regretted saying it. The girl was a first-class idiot for throwing this one back.
“You really think being able to know every thought that goes though another person’s mind is an attractive quality? There’s no filter. I hear everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s no different from the eavesdropping you speak of in your pack. It takes a mentally strong woman to be in a relationship with me. Bella wasn’t. Not many women are. They think they like the idea of someone knowing their every thought, but experiencing it first-hand usually changes their mind pretty quickly.”
Leah couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to have a man like Edward in her life, a man who would completely understand her, and who would be the only one with access to her mind. That would be like heaven to her. “You just haven’t found the right woman.”
Chill bumps raced across Edward’s skin at the huskiness of her voice. Leah’s deep brown eyes were focused squarely on his face. Electricity charged the cold air between them. He knew instinctively she wanted him to drop his control and let her thoughts flood his mind. And he wanted, more than anything, to oblige her. It had been such a long time since a woman had affected him this way. He wanted Leah’s thoughts as much as he wanted her body, preferably both at the same time.
He’d never experienced that complete pleasure he craved. Too many times the vampire women he'd gotten involved with had closed themselves off to him, refusing him access to their innermost feelings, even while they’d been having sex. He'd thought perhaps things might be different with a human woman. He'd been wrong. After the fiasco with Bella, he'd finally come to the realization that he needed both the mental and the physical in order to be completely happy in a relationship. Could it be possible that this woman, who claimed she was his enemy, might possess the mental strength he’d been searching for?
“Would you mind if I moved closer?” Leah figured that on the off-chance he decided to stop blocking, he could read her thoughts from four feet away and probably farther than that, but a little closeness couldn’t hurt, could it? Why don’t you be honest with yourself for once? You just want an excuse to be nearer to him.
When he murmured softly that he ‘didn’t mind that at all’, Leah crawled forward on her hands and knees until she was sitting and facing him. Being so near to him was unsettling in more ways than one. Her wolf instincts were kicking in, along with her raging hormones. She was surprised at his scent. It was very pleasant, not at all like the vampire stench she was used to.
“You smell very nice.”
Edward smiled. “It’s Axe. Dark Temptations.”
Leah thought that was most fitting. Absolutely perfect in fact, because no man in her recent memory had been more dark and tempting to her than Edward Cullen.
“You smell nice as well.” Edward was frantically trying to identify all the varied aromas assaulting his senses: rose, jasmine, and iris, along with amber, musk, sandalwood and maybe even some vanilla thrown into the mix.
Leah smiled back. “It’s Enigma, by Alexandra De Markoff.”
They both laughed. Edward thought Enigma was the perfect fragrance for this stunning woman who was practically sitting on top of him, because she was certainly that—an enigma. A woman who claimed she was his enemy but who was throwing off an astonishing amount of female hormones aimed directly at him; a woman whose scent failed to stir his thirst; a woman who apparently shifted from this alluring feminine body into that of a wolf; a woman completely unbothered by his vampire nature or his gift. She was truly a mystery.
“May I touch you?”
Her fingers were poised mere centimeters from his face. Edward nodded silently and steeled himself for whatever effect her touch was going to have on his body. He sucked in a short shocked breath at the heat in her fingertips as they glided along the side of his jaw, then followed with a long, soft sigh. If he’d harbored any doubts about her story, she’d cleared that right up. Her body temperature was much hotter than the average human woman’s. He murmured to her to ‘please continue’. He wanted to luxuriate in her warmth for as long as possible. He closed his eyes and surrendered to it. Her fingers explored his entire face, neck and even threaded their way through his hair. Then it all coalesced into a huge explosion of sensory overload when their lips finally met.
The wolf in Leah was fighting to get out as she pressed her mouth against his. His skin and lips were cold, but instead of causing her discomfort, he felt like a cool refreshing breeze blowing across her superheated skin. As she played at his mouth, the animal in her was pushing to break free, but she slammed back the urge to phase. There was no way her DNA was going to stop her from enjoying this beautiful man. She didn’t want to hurt him. On the contrary, she wanted to pull long, deep-throated moans of pleasure from him for the rest of the night.
Then Leah felt his cool fingers gently brushing across her neck. He pulled away from her mouth and grazed his nose across her cheek, to her ear and down the side of her neck. She shivered when he touched his lips gently to her skin. He moved slowly back up her neck to her ear, then back across her cheek to the corner of her mouth. She knew what he was doing: he was catching her scent, and breathing her into his lungs to savor.
During all of this, she wondered what she was doing. Thinking outside the box? Breaking the species barrier? Living life in the moment? Busting out of her Quileute shell? All of the above? The answer was none of the above. Leah was finally taking control of her life and chasing happiness, and for once, it wasn’t running away from her. It was hurtling straight at her in the form of Edward Cullen.
Edward’s nose lay lightly against her cheek. His mouth hovered over hers, so close he could feel the warm air from her lungs caressing his lips with each quivering breath, yet not quite close enough to touch. The rational part of his mind was holding him back with its incessant chorus of questions: Haven’t you had enough torment the past few months? Do you really want to risk getting hurt yet again? Do you trust this stranger with your heart? For once, Edward decided to completely ignore that voice. Over-analyzing everything had been yet another thing about him that Bella hadn’t liked. It was time to just live life in the moment and step outside of his usual comfort zones.
He breathed her name into her mouth, a soft whisper of cool breath, just before his lips delicately touched hers. And then, that slow inexorable push toward the edge of the cliff began. Leah could do nothing but whimper with pleasure as he pushed her closer and closer. She clawed at the sleeves of his jacket, holding on for dear life as he methodically devoured her mouth with his cool lips and tongue.
After awhile, she noticed her parka was gone. When the hell had that happened? The top snap on her jeans had been loosed and the zipper lowered. And now, cool hands were exploring underneath her sweater and unclasping her bra. You’d better pay attention, girl. This man is way ahead of you.
When his fingers pushed their way beneath her Victoria’s Secret and found her hard peaks, he got her attention. The wolf inside of Leah roared to life, but not with the desire to kill. She didn’t want to hurt this beautiful man who had stretched out his long legs and was now dipping his head to her chest and suckling her breasts into his mouth. She wanted to draw him into her body and completely consume him with her sex. And she wanted him inside of her mind.
Edward was busy fighting a battle of his own—a battle for control. South of his belt loops his body was on the verge of exploding outward in every direction, like a star about to go supernova. He’d been forced to unfold his legs to get some relief from the ache in his jeans, but it was his gift that concerned him most. The wall holding it back was getting shakier by the minute. He desperately wanted to touch her mind while he touched her body, but he held back, waiting and hoping she’d give her permission first.
Then he was shocked to suddenly find himself flat on his back with Leah straddling him at the tops of his thighs. Damn, she’s strong! The thought of having a woman whose strength very nearly matched his own shot his libido straight through the roof. No holding back. No having to be careful like with Bella. Heaven.
Leah growled softly, surprised at the animal sounds coming out of her own throat. Her fingers flew at the buttons of his shirt, then moved lower to his jeans. His soft, sexy hiss sent shivers down her spine when she accidentally brushed the bulge in his pants with her fingers.
For the next few minutes, their bodies arched and shifted position as they each frantically pulled at their clothes. When there was nothing left between them but skin, Leah stretched her body out on top of his, dug her fingers into his hair and latched onto those warm golden eyes that were staring straight down into her heart.
Suddenly, she became hyper-aware of everything about this exquisite man lying beneath her. He was holding her gaze with an unearthly silence, not breathing and his body eerily still. Yet she sensed tension in his hard muscles. One of his cool hands was lightly resting on her back, and the other tenderly cupped the fullness of her ass. She wished he would squeeze her there, just once, with those long and lovely fingers. She ached for him to arch his hips up against hers and grind his hardness into her body, but time ticked by without even the slightest movement from him. I guess my vampire needs a little coaxing.
My vampire?? Leah couldn’t believe what she’d just thought, but she brushed her shock aside and decided now was not the time for thinking. It was a time for action. She moved her hips seductively over his, and boy, did she get action. In a split second she was no longer on top, but was now splayed out flat on her back. Edward loomed over her, propped up on his hands, his hips wedged between her wide-open thighs. A soft unearthly growl, like nothing she’d ever heard before, flowed from his mouth. Leah felt the hard tip of his arousal at her opening and very nearly lost what little control she had left.
“I want you to hear me,” Leah whispered huskily.
Edward smiled. This was what he’d been waiting for. “No. I don’t want to hear you. I want to listen to you.”
He relaxed his control and swung open the door to his mind. He slid his hand along the side of her neck and back underneath her hair, entwining his fingers into her dark waves.
“Do you need to touch me to listen?”
Edward sighed. “No. I just wanted to feel your hair between my fingers.”
Then he heard her, and her thoughts were so well organized, so smooth-flowing like water gliding over a moss-covered rock—none of the confusing stream-of-consciousness type of thoughts he usually heard in people’s heads. He was pleased to discover that her mind was as beautiful as her body.
Fluids were leaking out of Leah’s body again and bathing her inner thighs. That small nagging voice inside of her head suddenly grew exponentially larger. It screamed at her that what she was about to do was soooo not right. Was she really going to have sex with a Cold One, the enemy of her ancestors and her enemy now?!
“I’m not your enemy. We’re peaceful and only kill animals. You have nothing to fear from me,” Edward said softly, responding to the sudden panic he heard in her thoughts. Then he smiled down at her and stroked her cheek with his thumb. “And we’re not going to have sex. We’re going to make love.”
Leah gulped in nervous anticipation. “Uhm…what about protection?”
“Vampires can’t procreate,” he assured her.
Before she could respond he slid slowly and smoothly inside her until he filled her completely. Her body arched up against his as their loud moans filled the cold air in the tent. She shivered underneath him, but Edward knew it wasn’t because she was cold. He heard her silent exclamations of joy as he began slowly pushing them to the summit.
She is my sun. It was the only way Edward could describe the woman lying beneath him, clawing his back with her nails and screaming erotic obscenities at him in her head. She was hot, blindingly so: her skin, her breath, her touch, and especially the part of her that was clamped tightly around his aching arousal. His sun.
Leah never imagined in a million years that making love to a vampire could feel like this. She’d expected discomfort when he’d entered her, but it hadn’t been like that at all. Only a brief burst of cold when he’d made contact with her body, then soothing warmth. Her 108 degree fire had heated him up quite nicely. After all, when you stick your finger inside a flame, does it not burn?
“Perfect analogy.” Edward chuckled breathlessly into her ear without breaking his rhythm.
Leah laughed with him and fisted both of her hands in his hair. Warmth began to spread throughout her limbs as Edward stroked her over and over again. Her body felt like a fiery furnace burning her up from the inside. Nothing in her rec-...Oh fuck yes! Do that again!
"You like that?" In answer, Leah hit him with the most profane thoughts he'd ever heard, and he loved every single syllable. So, he pushed harder and gave her even more of what she wanted.
Leah lost all train of thought. Coherency was beyond her now. Her body was in this man's complete control and he was using her relentlessly. It was beautiful and wild and violent, tender and loving and passionate all at the same time. The sounds coming out of him, as he drove into her, echoed inside of her head and called out to her wolf. Her primitive nature rose up in answer and words from the Old Language flowed out of her like a river.
That was when everything changed for Edward. At that very moment, he knew he was falling hard for her. Her voice broke through the thick haze of blinding lust that had been propelling him so quickly toward the end. He fell silent and simply listened while still continuing his steady rhythm. She was whispering softly to him in a language he didn't understand, and it was the most erotic thing he'd ever experienced. He had no idea what she was saying, but every single word was incredibly beautiful. Her eyes were open and focused on his face as she spoke. Her hot hands glided over his chest and down his arms as she whispered breathlessly in that strange tongue.
This is incredible. Edward's control was slipping through his fingers. The soft phrases coming out of her mouth grew louder and more urgent as he plunged deep inside of her. He didn't even recognize the sounds coming out of his own throat.
Leah had never experienced anything even remotely like this in her entire life. An image flashed through her mind of a stuntman running across a movie screen, his body completely engulfed in flames. That was her. She was on fire and this gorgeous vampire was the only one capable of extinguishing her searing heat.
An uncontrollable burn began to blossom and spread outward from her center. Oh fuck yes, this is it! This wasn't going to be an average run-of-the-mill orgasm. Hell no. This was going to be--
the most incredible thing…
Oh fuck yesssss!
…that Leah had ever felt in her entire…
She screamed his name aloud and inside her mind. Then her thoughts exploded and scattered in every direction at the exact same moment Edward’s body crashed head-on into the sun.
"You’re not cold, are you?" Edward asked. "Because I really don’t want to move. Lying next to you is like snuggling up to the sun. You’re so warm."
"Mmmm, I’m not cold at all." Leah turned on her side to face him. "If I was in this sleeping bag by myself I'd be roasting alive right now, but not with you here. You're like a long, tall glass of ice tea you lay against your neck on a hot summer day."
Edward laughed. He'd been called a lot of things, but never a 'long, tall glass of ice tea'. "This enemy stuff makes no sense to me at all. Does it to you?"
"It used to, but not anymore." Leah didn't want to think too deeply about what had just happened. It only confused her, and right now all she wanted to do was bask in this wonderful Kodak moment with her scrumptious vampire.
"There's nothing confusing about it. Not the way I see it," Edward insisted. "Oh, and no one’s ever called me scrumptious before. That’s kind of nice.” Edward chuckled, then continued. “Anyway, think about it. Number one: I'm a vampire and we’re supposed to crave human blood worse than anything else, but your blood might as well be water because I have absolutely no desire for it. Number two: you love my coolness and I love your warmth. Number three: I've been looking for a woman strong enough to handle my gift, and it doesn't bother you at all. In fact, you love that I can read your thoughts. Number four: you're physically strong. I don't have to be careful with you like I do with other human women. That doesn't sound like two people who should be enemies."
"You forgot a couple of things." Leah grinned mischievously. "If you like dogs, you get a girlfriend and a pet all rolled up into one, and we can hunt together. I’m excellent at running down game.”
“My kind of woman.” Edward growled softly, then laughed. He pulled her warm body against his and hugged her tight. He wanted more than anything to keep her in his life, but there was one thing he wasn’t sure they could get past. Best to get it out in the open now. “There’s one drawback to all of this”
“What?” She pulled back out of his arms and frowned. Frankly, she couldn’t see anything bad about hooking up with this gorgeous and loving man.
“I’m immortal and you’re not.”
Leah propped herself up onto one elbow and glared down at him. “Hey! Who says I’m not immortal?” She laughed at his dumbfounded expression. “There’s something you don’t know about me. Whenever Quileutes are around vampires for a prolonged period of time, we phase fairly often. As long as we’re phasing our aging process slows down to practically a crawl. So, if we get together, then I’ll basically stop aging.”
Edward’s astonishment turned into a smile and then into laughter. He couldn’t believe his luck. No, this wasn’t luck. This had to have been written in the cards. There was no way he could have accidentally stumbled upon a woman so incredibly perfect for him.
“When the storm passes and we have to leave, I’d like for you to come and spend some time with me and my family. You didn’t sound like you were at all happy with your home situation, so maybe you could just think of it as a vacation.”
Leah wanted to say yes, yes, yes, but she was suddenly nervous at the thought of meeting a houseful of vampires. Would they accept her? Would she be able to control her urge to phase?
“Yes, they’ll accept you. Well, most of them anyway. Rose never approves of anyone I bring home. It’s nothing personal, that’s just Rose. And you didn’t hurt me, so I feel sure you wouldn’t hurt any of my family.”
“I’d love to meet your family.”
Leah snuggled underneath his arm and listened raptly while he described them: his dedicated and caring physician father, Carlisle; his mother Esme, who loved interior design and remodeling old houses; his siblings, Jasper and Alice along with Emmett and Rose.
“Alice has premonitions of the future. She’s probably already told my whole family about you by now, and is at this very moment planning a gargantuan party in celebration.”
“Oooh, I love parties, and how cool that she can see the future.”
Leah told him about the Clearwaters: her parents Harry and Sue, and her adorable little brother, Seth. She described for him their simple lives on the reservation at La Push, simple at least, until they’d all started phasing.
Then they made love again. This time, Edward went much slower. He explored every facet of the beautiful glittering jewel in his arms. He’d never felt such joy, such completeness with another person, and by listening to Leah’s thoughts, he discovered she felt the same way about him.
He continued to hold her as she slept through the night, occasionally brushing a wisp of hair from her face, or running a finger lightly down her cheek. Leah Clearwater: his sun and the center of his universe. He was never letting her go.
“Wow. That was some storm.” Leah stood in snow that reached nearly to her knees and stared at the bleak white landscape before her. Edward stood beside her, their tent packed into a neat square and stowed on his back. Then a deliciously mischievous idea popped into her head, and before Edward could detect it, she leapt into action. She yanked her clothes from her body as fast as she could until she was left standing completely nude in the cold, early morning air.
Edward’s mouth fell open in shock. “Uh…Leah…didn’t we just do that an hour ago?”
She turned to him and smiled, tossing him her wad of clothes at the same time. “Hold these for me, please.” She yanked off her boots and socks, then loped off barefoot into a stand of snow-covered pines, leaving Edward staring after her in utter bewilderment. When she reached the trees, she stopped, closed her eyes, and called upon her wolf. Her body began to heat up, her muscles tensed with anticipation. She took off running and in mid-stride, only a few feet from Edward, she phased.
“HOLY SHIT!” Edward yelled in shock and actually stumbled backward in the deep snow, dropping her clothes along the way. Standing before him was the largest gray wolf he’d ever seen in his life! His vampire instincts went on instant alert until it suddenly dawned on him that this was Leah.
Edward! Did you just curse?
Edward ignored her question and slowly approached her. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was all true. She really was a shape shifter. He touched a finger to her muzzle. She dipped her head, then sniffed his hand.
Ewww. My wolf nose doesn’t like Axe.
Edward smiled, and he could have sworn she smiled in return, even though he knew it was physically impossible. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered. He sank his hand into the long, thick fur of her neck. “Your fur is so soft, and I can hear your thoughts and you’re so….my god, you’re HUGE!” Edward laughed. “Maybe I should be afraid!”
No, my beloved enemy. Don’t be afraid.
Then she kissed him. Well, actually it was a long, gigantic tongue lick up the side of his face, but Edward liked it, nonetheless.
Bet I can beat you to the bottom of this mountain.
Edward back away and narrowed his eyes at her challenge. Did she really think she was faster than him? “I’m not sure that would be a fair competition. I have a reputation for being very fast.”
So do I, hotshot. Let’s do this!
Edward grinned. “You’re not going to go all girlie on me and cry when you lose, are you?”
She lowered her head and glared at him with her deep brown eyes. A low growl rumbled from her throat. We’ll see who’s crying when we get to the bottom.
“Hold on. Let me gather up your clothes.” Edward chuckled to himself as he grabbed everything, quickly folded it into a bundle, and stuffed it into the top of the tent square on his back. This is going to be fun.
If you need it, I can give you a few minutes to do some warm-up exercises.
Now it was Edward’s turn to glare at her and growl. Warm-up exercises? Yeah, right.
“On your mark, get set….GO!”
Edward took off into the dense snow-covered forest in a blur of unearthly speed. Leah didn’t stand a chance. Running was his life. He could do this for hours. His family had learned not to worry when he disappeared for days a time to run. Edward glanced to his right. She was speeding beside him, less than fifty feet away. They were nose-to-nose, neither one of them gaining ground on the other, but Edward wasn’t worried. He could do this forever and never tire. He hoped she wasn’t a sore loser.
Leah bounded through the woods, keeping Edward in her peripheral vision. Poor Edward. He didn’t stand a chance. Speed was her life, and the only thing that distinguished her from all the males in her pack. She was damned proud of that, too. And little did he know her wolf instincts were essentially an auto-pilot button. She barely even had to concentrate as she raced through the newly-fallen snow, kicking up piles of the fluffy stuff in her wake. She hoped Edward was man enough to take his loss gracefully. Male egos could be so fragile.
The forest started to thin out as they neared the bottom of the mountain. Edward glanced to his right again, and damn it, she was still with him! You need to kick it up a notch! He laughed aloud triumphantly as his body surged forward with that final burst of speed that would shoot him ahead of her and to the finish line.
Oh, no you don’t! You are NOT going to win, Edward Cullen! I can do this shit all day long! Leah focused and pumped a burst of adrenaline all through her body as she flew through the snow. The bottom of the mountain was just ahead. She could see the white expanse of barren flatland through a break in the trees. Just a few feet more…
Edward skidded to a stop at the bottom the same time Leah did. They stared at each other in silence before he grinned at her and winked. “I do believe it’s a tie.” He was surprised he’d lost, but he couldn’t find it in himself to be upset.
I do believe you’re right, damn it. But, I almost had you. Just wait. Next time, you’re going to be eating my dust, vampire!
Edward walked over to her and stroked her muzzle. "We’ve just discovered two more reasons why we're perfect for each other. We both like speed and we both like to win."
She drew her tongue up the side of his cheek again.
Edward smirked. "Oh, and next time? You're going down, wolf girl!"
Alaska – One year later
“We couldn’t have picked a better time to do this. It’s so beautiful.” Leah sighed, smiling to herself.
Edward glanced at her profile as she stared out the thermal-paned windows of the solarium. He was basking in the silence, ecstatic they’d finally managed to find some quiet time together. They held hands and watched in awe as the Northern Lights danced across the dark, early evening sky, sending veils of green, yellow, orange and dark red cascading to the ground.
“But not nearly as beautiful as you,” he said.
Leah laughed softly. Edward was the most romantic man she’d ever known. He always said the sweetest things to her and made her feel like the most attractive woman in the world, even when her morning hair was a tangled mess and her breath smelled like the ass-end of a dog.
He laughed and shook his head in hopeless resignation. “Even though I’ve never actually been that close to a dog to make an accurate comparison, I’m fairly sure you’re exaggerating. You always smell wonderful to me, and you look nice, as well. I love that dress, by the way. That color becomes you.”
Leah brushed her hand across the sleek golden silk draping her thighs. “Alice picked it out. The shopping trip. Remember?”
Edward snickered. “You mean the one that had me contemplating putting out an Amber Alert for the both of you?”
“That’s the one.” She laughed at the memory. “That was the most fun I'd had in a very, very long time.”
Leah ran her eyes down Edward’s slender torso. “You don’t look so bad yourself. You’re very handsome and debonair in that black suit and gold tie. It’s the same color as your eyes and my dress. Hmmmm, how did you manage that?”
“Alice!” they exclaimed together, then broke out into laughter.
They watched the Aurora Borealis give its final performance and fade to stage left. It saddened Leah to see the night sky suddenly empty of color. She wished it could have lingered at least until the end of the evening.
“Are you having second thoughts about this?” She was suddenly nervous, even though Edward had reassured her many, many times the past few weeks.
“Not a one. I want to marry you, Leah. There’s no one else I want to spend forever with. No one.”
“Me either.” Leah raised his hand to her lips and kissed their clasped fingers. A year ago she would have never known such happiness could exist. Not in the world she’d been living in then.
Suddenly, a chorus of high-pitched wails echoed throughout the house and filtered out into the solarium.
“Lee-Lee!” Alice screeched over the deafening noise. “Help!” The wailing got closer until it finally arrived at their door.
Edward sighed, good-naturedly, of course. Their few stolen moments of solitude were over. Alice was standing in the doorway of the solarium clutching their crying daughter to her chest with a look of utter desperation on her porcelain face.
“Lee-Lee, she won’t stop! I’ve tried everything! Here.”
Alice offered the weeping bundle to Leah, but she laughed, shook her head and waved her away. “Oh no. Give her to Edward. It’s her daddy she’s wanting anyway. She always wants him when she’s fussy.” Leah grinned crookedly at Edward as Alice placed his daughter tenderly into his arms and then high-tailed it back into the house. Leah chuckled. “She’s all yours, Mister Vampires Can’t Procreate.”
Edward grinned back and shook his head. “You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?”
Edward stuck his finger into his little girl’s mouth. She clamped down on it and immediately went to work, sucking and gnawing for all she was worth.
“You’re going to save us a ton of money in teething rings. But, you might not have any fingers left by the time she cuts all of her teeth, and she hasn’t even really started yet.”
“Not a problem. They’re reattach-able.” Edward smiled down at his daughter, Susan Elizabeth Clearwater, soon to be Cullen. Leah and the rest of his family called her Lizzie, but to him, she would always be Elizabeth. They’d named her after both of their mothers, but it was mostly Leah he saw whenever he looked at her: that same dusky skin and those huge brown eyes that stared up at him with complete trust. Only the thick shock of bronze, unruly hair that was now gathered into a tiny waterfall on top of her head came from him. But it was her innocent thoughts of sleep, milk and her family he cherished most. Her simple childish mind was a constant source of peace for him in times of stress.
“Alice picked the christening gown, too. It looks beautiful on her, doesn’t it?”
Leah fingered the soft lace of the white gown draping her daughter’s tiny socked feet. Both of them had been shocked to discover their one night of passion had produced a child. Since she hadn't phased all that often in the last two years, her periods had returned, but had been very sporadic, but not sporadic enough to protect her, apparently. Their shock hadn't lasted very long, though. Edward had become a doting father literally overnight.
Leah looked back on those nine months with nothing but fondness. Edward had been there for her every step of the way, through the sickness, the aches and pains, and the fear and labor of childbirth. Her every need had been fulfilled even before she’d spoken it. She’d sometimes had to remind him that she was an able-bodied adult fully capable of taking care of herself, but secretly she adored Edward’s over protectiveness. He made her feel loved even when she herself didn’t feel very loveable.
Leah’s cell phone suddenly vibrated in her sweater pocket. She pulled it out and quickly read over the new text message. Oh hell no! He wouldn’t! Her father and mother, along with Seth, were due to arrive any minute now to witness their marriage and Lizzie’s christening. Nobody had mentioned Jacob tagging along! He hadn’t even been invited! Leah fumed silently as she thought about the many things Jacob Black could do to ruin a perfectly good evening.
“Aaah, I finally get to meet the infamous Jacob Black. Am I going to like him?” Edward waited for Leah’s answer with one eyebrow raised in question. Throughout their year together, he’d occasionally heard thoughts of him running through her mind, and they were rarely ever good.
Leah sighed. “I don’t think so, but you can handle him. Just do the same thing I did with Rose: charm the pants off of him.”
Right then, a jeep came bouncing up the short driveway and skidded to an abrupt halt. Leah took a deep breath for courage and stood, stuffing her fists deep into the pockets of her sweater.
Edward gathered Elizabeth up against his chest and took his place alongside his wife-to-be and waited for her family to come through the door.
“It’ll be fine.” Edward tried to calm the growing panic he heard in her thoughts. “If he gets too much out of line I’ll just kick his ass and ask questions later.”
She stared up at him and grinned, some of her panic fading away with her smile. “My beloved enemy. I love you so much,” Leah whispered.
“And I love you, my beautiful wolf girl.” Edward smiled and winked.
Leah smiled back and then took another deep breath. “Let’s do this,” she murmured as the door to the solarium swung open.