Chapter Eighteen: It's Complicated

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Well, here's Chapter Eighteen. Please let me know what you think!!

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I have to warn you: This chapter is a bit of a heart-breaker. :(

Chapter Eighteen: It's Complicated

The elevator doors slid open, and my hand was again at the small of Bella's back as I guided her to the door of our suite. I brushed the card key through the reader, and the door clicked open. Pushing the handle down, I opened the door, stepping aside to allow her to enter the dimly-lit living area before me.

Alice was gone, and the room was silent. The only sounds my powerful hearing picked up was the soft hissing of the five pillar candles still burning inside the stone fireplace. I felt myself relaxing, despite the immense number of people within my hearing. Somehow being with Bella allowed me all too easily to block out the hundreds, no thousands, of minds that were within my normal range-the minds that gave me little peace.

No, my every sense was fixed upon Bella: the center of my existence. And I felt a strange peace stealing over me...peace and something else. Something more pressing--something that would have made my silent heart beat rapidly if it were possible....

She turned toward me, looking at me over her shoulder, and smiled nervously. And I sighed, both with anticipation and with trepidation.

Was our evening over? Or had it just begun?

I walked to the cream sofa directly in front of the fireplace, seating myself and beckoning for her to join me. She moved toward me with alacrity, stumbling a little as the stilettos afforded her little help in the balance department. I laughed softly, my eyes warm, as she groaned in frustration.

"What was Alice thinking?" Bella muttered under her breath as she grasped the arm of the sofa with one hand and hooked her thumb behind the heel straps to remove first one, then the other, silver stiletto before seating herself next to me. She tucked her bare feet under her voluminous midnight-blue skirt, and curled herself into my shoulder.

I hated to speak at this moment, to ruin the peace and contentment that suffused me in this moment. But I needed to know the next step...if there was going to even be a next step....

Turning to face her, I leaned my elbow against the high back of the sofa, supporting the side of my head in my palm. "Did you enjoy this evening, love?" I asked, my voice huskier than I was expecting.

Bella nodded, her position mirroring mine with her head resting in her hand, her elbow on the sofa back, facing me. She raised her hand, tracing my cheekbones, my nose, my lips with with her warm index finger. "Yes, very much," she breathed.

I gazed into her beautiful eyes, seeing in them all I would ever want. All I would ever need.

Bella blushed under my intensity but did not break our gaze. I was sure that all the love I felt for her was reflected in my eyes, just as I saw her love for me in her beautiful, warm brown eyes.

Her gentle finger moved from my lips, along my jaw, around my ear, down the side of my neck to my collar. She slipped her finger under the edge of the tie I had loosened slightly in the elevator; our gaze didn't break as she drew me toward her until our lips tentatively touched.

My hands were at Bella's waist in an instant, and I pulled her toward me, our lips whispering as we brushed against one another, lips barely touching. She surprised me by straddling my lap, one leg on either side of my body. Leaning over me, she wrapped both arms tightly around my neck, deepening our gentle kiss into a passionate one.

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