"Urn... carefully, Bella. Ow."
I yanked my arms away, folding them behind my back as soon as I understood.
I was too strong.
"Oops," I mouthed.
He smiled the kind of smile that would have stopped my heart if it were still beating.
"Don't panic, love," he said, lifting his hand to touch my lips, parted in horror. "You're just a bit stronger than I am for the moment."
My eyebrows pushed together. I'd known this, too, but it felt more surreal than any other part of this ultimately surreal moment. I was stronger than Edward. I'd made him say ow.
His hand stroked my cheek again, and I all but forgot my distress as another wave of desire rippled through my motionless body.
These emotions were so much stronger than I was used to that it was hard to stick to one train of thought despite the extra room in my head. Each new sensation overwhelmed me. I remembered Edward saying once - his voice in my head a weak shadow compared to the crystal, musical clarity I was hearing now - that his kind, our kind, were easily distracted. I could see why.
I made a concerted effort to focus. There was something I needed to say. The most important thing.
Very carefully, so carefully that the movement was actually discernible, I brought my right arm out from behind my back and raised my hand to touch his cheek. I refused to let myself be sidetracked by the pearly color of my hand or by the smooth silk of his skin or by the charge that zinged in my fingertips.
I stared into his eyes and heard my own voice for the first time.
"I love you," I said, but it sounded like singing. My voice rang and shimmered like a bell.
His answering smile dazzled me more than it ever had when I was human; I could really see it now.
"As I love you," he told me.
He took my face between his hands and leaned his face to mine - slow enough to remind me to be careful. He
kissed me, soft as a whisper at first, and then suddenly stronger, fiercer. I tried to remember to be gentle with him, but it was hard work to remember anything in the onslaught of sensation, hard to hold on to any coherent thoughts.
It was like he'd never kissed me - like this was our first kiss. And, in truth, he'd never kissed me this way before.
It almost made me feel guilty. Surely I was in breach of the contract. I couldn't be allowed to have this, too.
Though I didn't need oxygen, my breathing sped, raced as fast as it had when I was burning. This was a different kind of fire.
Someone cleared his throat. Emmett. I recognized the deep sound at once, joking and annoyed at the same time.
I'd forgotten we weren't alone. And then I realized that the way I was curved around Edward now was not exactly polite for company.
Embarrassed, I half-stepped away in another instantaneous movement.
Edward chuckled and stepped with me, keeping his arms tight around my waist. His face was glowing - like a white flame burned from behind his diamond skin.
I took an unnecessary breath to settle myself.
How different this kissing was! I read his expression as I compared the indistinct human memories to this clear, intense feeling. He looked... a little smug.
"You've been holding out on me," I accused in my singing voice, my eyes narrowing a tiny bit.
He laughed, radiant with relief that it was all over - the fear, the pain, the uncertainties, the waiting, all of it behind us now. "It was sort of necessary at the time," he reminded me. "Now it's your turn to not break me." He laughed again.
I frowned as I considered that, and then Edward was not the only one laughing.
Carlisle stepped around Emmett and walked toward me swiftly; his eyes were only slightly wary, but Jasper shadowed his footsteps. I'd never seen Carlisle's face before either, not really. I had an odd urge to blink - like I was staring at the sun.
"How do you feel, Bella?" Carlisle asked.
I considered that for a sixty-fourth of a second.
"Overwhelmed. There's so much. ..." I trailed off, listening to the bell-tone of my voice again.
"Yes, it can be quite confusing."
I nodded one fast, jerky bob. "But I feel like me. Sort of. I didn't expect that."
Edward's arms squeezed lightly around my waist. "I told you so," he whispered.
"You are quite controlled," Carlisle mused. "More so than expected, even with the time you had to prepare yourself mentally for this."
I thought about the wild mood swings, the difficulty concentrating, and whispered, "I'm not sure about that."
He nodded seriously, and then his jeweled eyes glittered with interest. "It seems like we did something right with the morphine this time. Tell me, what do you remember of the transformation process?"
I hesitated, intensely aware of Edward's breath brushing against my cheek, sending whispers of electricity through my skin.
"Everything was... very dim before. I remember the baby couldn't breathe___"
I looked at Edward, momentarily frightened by the memory.
"Renesmee is healthy and well," he promised, a gleam I'd never seen before in his eyes. He said her name with an understated fervor. A reverence. The way devout people talked about their gods. "What do you remember after that?"
I focused on my poker face. I'd never been much of a liar. "It's hard to remember. It was so dark before. And then... I opened my eyes and I could see everything"
"Amazing," Carlisle breathed, his eyes alight.
Chagrin washed through me, and I waited for the heat to burn in my cheeks and give me away. And then I remembered that I would never blush again. Maybe that would protect Edward from the truth.
I'd have to find a way to tip off Carlisle, though. Someday. If he ever needed to create another vampire. That possibility seemed very unlikely, which made me feel better about lying.