Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 79)

“You are an idiot,” she agreed with a laugh, and I laughed with her. This whole situation was idiocy—and impossibility and magic.

“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb,” she murmured. The word was like another electric jolt to my system.

I tried to cover my reaction. “What a stupid lamb.”

She sighed. “What a sick, masochistic lion.”

She stared into the forest for a long time, and I wondered what she was thinking.

“Why…?” I began, but then paused, not sure how to continue.

She looked at me and smiled; sunlight shimmered off her face, her teeth. “Yes?”

“Tell me why you ran away from me before.”

Her smile faded. “You know why.”

“No, I mean, exactly what did I do wrong? I need to learn how to make this easier for you, what I should and shouldn’t do. This, for example”—I stroked my thumb across her wrist—“seems to be all right.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Beau. It was my fault.”

“But I want to help.”

“Well…” She thought for a moment. “It was just how close you were. Most humans instinctively shy away from us, are repelled by our alienness.… I wasn’t expecting you to come so close. And the smell of your throat—” She broke off, looking to see if she’d upset me.

“Okay.” I tucked my chin. “No throat exposure.”

She grinned. “No, really, it was more the surprise than anything else.”

She raised her free hand and placed it gently on the side of my neck. I held very still, recognizing that the chill of her touch was supposed to be a natural warning, and wondering why I couldn’t feel that. I felt something else entirely.

“You see?” she said. “Perfectly fine.”

My blood was racing, and I wished I could slow it down. It must make everything so much more difficult for her—the thudding pulse in my veins.

“I love that,” she murmured. She carefully freed her other hand. My hands fell limp into my lap. Softly she brushed her hand across the warm patch in my cheek, then held my face between her small, cold hands.

“Be very still,” she whispered.

I was paralyzed as she suddenly leaned into me, resting her cheek against my chest—listening to my heart. I could feel the ice of her skin through my thin shirt. With deliberate slowness her hands moved to my shoulders and her arms wrapped around my neck, holding me tight against her. I listened to the sound of her careful, even breathing, which seemed to be keeping time with my heartbeats. One breath in for every three beats, one breath out for another three.

“Ah,” she said.

I don’t know how long we sat without moving. It could have been hours. Eventually, the throb of my pulse quieted. I knew at any moment it could be too much, and my life could end—so quickly that I might not even notice. And I still wasn’t afraid. I couldn’t think of anything, except that she was touching me.

And then, too soon, she unwrapped her arms from around my neck and leaned away. Her eyes were peaceful again.

“It won’t be so hard again,” she said with satisfaction.

“Was that very hard for you?”

“Not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be. And you?”

“No, that wasn’t… bad for me.”

We smiled at each other.

“Here.” She picked up my hand—easily, like she didn’t even have to think about it—and placed it against her cheek. “Do you feel how warm you’ve made me?”

And it was almost warm, her usually icy skin. But I barely noticed, because I was touching her face, something I’d been dreaming and fantasizing about constantly since the first day I’d seen her.

“Don’t move,” I whispered.

No one could be still like a vampire. She closed her eyes and turned into a statue.

I moved even more slowly than she had, careful not to make one unexpected move. I stroked her cheek, let my fingertips graze across her lavender eyelids, the shadows in the hollows under her eyes. I traced the shape of her straight nose, and then, so carefully, her perfect lips. Her lips parted and I could feel her cool breath on my fingertips. I wanted to lean in, to inhale her scent, but I knew that might be too much. If she could control herself, so could I—if only on a much smaller scale.

I tried to move in slow motion so that she could guess everything I would do before I did it. I let my palms slide down the sides of her slender neck, let them rest on her shoulders while my thumbs followed the impossibly fragile curve of her collarbones.

She was much stronger than I was, in so many ways. I seemed to lose control of my hands as they skimmed over the points of her shoulders and down across her sharp shoulder blades. I couldn’t stop myself as my arms wrapped around her, pulling her against my chest again. My hands crossed behind her and wrapped around either side of her waist.

She leaned into me, but that was the only movement. She wasn’t breathing.

So that gave me a time limit.

I bent down to press my face into her hair for one long second, inhaling a deep lungful of her scent. Then I forced myself to peel my hands off her and move away. One of my hands wouldn’t obey completely; it trailed down her arm and settled on her wrist.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

She opened her eyes, and they were hungry. Not in a way to make me afraid, but in a way that made the muscles in the pit of my stomach tighten into knots and sent my pulse hammering through my veins again.

“I wish…,” she whispered, “I wish that you could feel the… complexity… the confusion… I feel. That you could understand.”


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