Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Reluctant Love Ch 9

 
Chapter 9: Throw Back Thursday.


"How many nights have you woken up crying, Emily?" Anton suddenly asked, his voice sad. "I stopped counting myself after the first couple of months."

It was a week since they'd returned to Spain. Anton must have seen something in Dorian that had made him believe that Emily's secret was safe. He had decided against taking her away and trying to find somewhere else to hide her.

Emily didn't answer him, just kept staring at the blurring text on the page of the book she was trying to read at the poolside,
.
"You have such a beautiful smile, Em," he continued. "I miss seeing it. I don't think I've seen one genuine, heartfelt smile on your face since you've been here. Are you even aware of how haunted your expression is when you think no one is looking? It breaks my heart every time I see it."

"Anton, don't," she whispered, brokenly brushing at the tears that suddenly fell on her cheeks.

"Don't tell you the truth?" he asked softly. "I can't do that, baby girl. And I can't sit back any longer and watch you wilt more and more as each day goes by. You walk and talk and eat and drink but you're not really living, Emily. You're just pretending."

"There's no future with Cullen," she cried in anguish, jumping up from the lounger. "It's complicated and messed up and I can't deal with it!"

"Emily Swan Mackenzie, you couldn't run away from a problem if you tried," Anton said with a fond smile. "You're just too damned stubborn to do it. You used to drive me and Dad nuts when you were little, always wanting to know why or how? No answer was ever good enough for you. That's why you're wilting here in this beautiful Spanish sunshine. You have a problem you need to fix and you're trying to hide from it."

"He hurt me so badly," Emily whimpered, her eyes full of agony.

"And I dare say you leaving him hurt him just as badly as he hurt you. From what Dorian said the man is miserable without you," Anton said. "Hasn't he suffered enough, Emily? Haven't you both suffered enough?"

She stared at him and saw his eyes shining with love and support for her.

"It's time to start living again, baby girl," he smiled crookedly. "I'm going to miss you so much but you need to go fix your problem."

Emily sniffled. "Are you throwing me out?" she asked.

"If that's what it takes," he smiled. He pulled her into his arms and gave her a big hug. "You always could fix anything when you set your mind to it, Emily. You can fix this too, I know you can."

Emily gave a little laugh at the conviction in his voice. "When did you get to be so smart, big brother?"

"You're not the only one in the family with brains," he laughed. "Now go fix your face, it's all snotty!"

"It is not!" Emily said indignantly and then laughed when he winked at her.

"Just don't leave it so long to come home next time," Anton said, smiling.

"I won't," Emily promised. "I love you, Anton. Thanks for putting up with me."

"Any time," he smiled. "You're my baby sister and I'll always be here for you."

Less than twenty four hours later, Emily was standing outside the building of Cullen and Cross. She sucked in a deep breath and walked through the glass doors.

Dave, the security guard, looked up and his face broke into a big smile. "Miss Swan," he said delightedly. "So good to see you back."

He opened up a desk drawer and pulled out her security pass and elevator key. He pushed them across to her as she signed in. "Mr Cullen said to keep these available at all times," he told her.

Emily stared at them in surprise and then took them from the desk. "Thanks, Dave," she smiled and headed to the elevator. Her heart thumped in her chest as she got in the elevator. Cullen seemed to have been certain that she would come back.

The elevator pinged open on the top floor and Emily stepped out nervously. The office looked just the same as it had been when she left. She saw Beth's stunned face break into a big smile.

"Emily, it's so fantastic to see you back," she beamed happily. "Cullen and Dorian are in a meeting in the Boardroom. I'll just ring through."

"Beth, can you give me a minute first please?" Emily said, her hands feeling sweaty as her nerves increased.

Beth's face fell. "Cullen gave us strict instructions that if you called or came here he was to be notified straight away."

"I'll sort it if he gets annoyed," Emily promised with a smile. "I was hoping to speak to Alice first. Is she here?"

"She's in her office," Beth said.

Emily headed down to her old office. Alice's office was straight across from hers. She smiled as she saw her friend staring intently at her laptop screen.

"Can I come in?" she called softly.

Alice's head snapped round and her eyes grew big as she stared at Emily. Then she started to cry as she jumped up and threw herself into her arms.

"Oh, Emily, I've missed you so much," she cried.

Emily hugged the little woman, feeling her own emotions starting to overwhelm her. "I'm so glad you're safe, Alice," she whispered. "I was so afraid for so long."

"I'm fine, really I am," Alice reassured her. "It was really scary, Emily. But Cullen, he stood in front of me and said that no one was going to hurt me and if they wanted to try then they would have to go through him first. And then Dorian joined him and Liam. I didn't feel scared after that. I knew I was going to be okay."

"Why didn't you tell me, Alice?" Emily groaned. "I would have helped you find your brother."

"I didn't know you knew about them," she whispered. "I thought I was the only one. I did a really silly thing and I nearly paid a heavy price for it. But it all worked out in the end. For me anyway. I just wish you and Cullen weren't so hurt by it all."

"That doesn't matter, Alice. If Cullen and I shedding a few tears was the price to pay for your safety then I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, love." Emily hugged her close and smiled her first genuine smile in a long time.

"Cullen's taken care of me since you've been gone," Alice said softly. "Emily, please make him smile again. A proper one that makes his face light up as if all his Christmas' have come at once. The kind he has when he sees you."

"We have to do a lot of hard talking first. It may not be that simple, Alice. But I'm here and I'm willing to give it try. I'd better go before he scents me here and gives Beth a hard time because she didn't alert him right away."

She kissed Alice lightly on the cheek and then turned for the Boardroom. She froze when she saw both Cullen and Dorian standing at Beth's desk. Cullen's head snapped round and she saw his beautiful face for the first time in so long.

He looked tired and dejected. His eyes were dark and unfathomable as he stared at her as if seeing a ghost. His luscious hair was loose and hanging round his shoulders. He seemed rooted to the spot, as if he didn't quite believe what he was seeing.

Emily began to walk towards them just as Dorian turned and saw her too. The smile on his face was ecstatic and he strode down the hallway to capture her in a big bear hug. "I'm so glad you came back, love," he whispered against her hair.

"You can show that by letting me breath, Dorian," she laughed.

"Sorry," he groaned and released her, stepping back and grinning broadly.

"You're in my way, Dorian," Emily said with a smile.

He groaned again and stepped to the side so she could see Cullen again. She walked slowly towards him and then stepped passed him into the Boardroom. He followed and closed the door behind them.

"Hello, Cullen," she said softly, turning to face him. His eyes roamed over her face, taking in the deep circles under her eyes, the sadness that seemed to permeate her skin.

"Emily," he breathed. "Are you really here?"

"In the flesh," she said. "I'm not a figment of your imagination, Cullen."

She walked to the table and sat down. He followed and sat down facing her.

"Did you see Alice?" he asked, his eyes trying to peer into her soul.

"I just spoke to her," she answered. "She said you took good care of her."

"It was the least I could do," he muttered, a frown on his face. He looked at her again. "Have you come home, Emily?" he whispered.

She looked down at her clasped hands. "We need to talk, Cullen," she finally said. "There has been a lot of hurt on both sides. It's not a simple case of walking in here and everything goes back to the way it was."

She looked up and saw raw pain on his face.

"But you know me," she said with a small smile. "Never happy unless I'm trying to fix things. So here I am. Willing to try and fix us, if you're prepared to meet me half way."

She saw uncertainty in his eyes as well as a small bit of hope.

"You really want to try?" he asked, his voice low and strained.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't willing to, Cullen," she whispered. "I'm tired of running away. I'm tired of pretending that I'm living my life when really I'm just existing from one day to the next."

She sighed and unclasped her hands only to re-clasp them again a second later. She looked at him.

"Meeting Dorian in Brussels brought everything back and I found it just as painful then as I did when I was last here. So I guess all the moving on I thought I had done was just a lie. I could run to the ends of the Earth and I still wouldn't be able to put enough distance between us, Cullen."

He closed his eyes as if trying to escape from the raw emotion in hers.

"I thought you were dead," he said, his voice breaking. "When I couldn't find you, I thought I would go mad with grief. And then Dorian saw you in Brussels. I was happy, Emily. Happy that you were safe and well, even if you didn't want to be with me. Knowing you were safe was all I could ever really hope for. I never expected you to come back. I hoped for it. I prayed for it. But I never expected it."

He opened his eyes and they were bright with tears. "Tell me what you need from me." he whispered. "Name it, anything you want and I'll give it to you, no matter what it is."

"I want my heart back, Cullen," she whispered, her voice raw. "I gave it to you and you ripped it to shreds. When you stood with the others against me, I thought I would die from the pain it hurt so bad. How could you do that, Cullen? I gave you everything. I loved you. I trusted in you. And you threw it all back in my face when you were willing to kill my best friend even as I begged you for mercy."

Emily took a deep breath, trying to reel in the raw emotions coursing through her. "I know you argued against me helping that day but I loved you. I needed to protect you and I was left in the middle of the man I loved and the best friend I loved. I trusted in you never to hurt me. That included you not wanting to kill someone I loved to protect yourself."

"I know," he groaned, his cheeks wet with tears. "I know I let you down, Emily. It killed me to do so. For a brief moment of time the monster inside me was in control and it was determined to shatter whatever happiness I had. But it was only for a moment. And then I came to my senses. But by then it was too late. You had gone and I couldn't find you to beg your forgiveness. I'm sorry, Emily. You have no idea how sorry I am."

They stared at each other, their faces mirroring the pain they both felt.

"If you ever do anything like that to me again there will be no going back, Cullen," Emily finally said brushing the tears from her face. "I can't go through that again, not ever."

"I swear I'll never let you down again," he answered his hand reaching tentatively across the table. He slowly touched her hand lying on the table. Her heart raced at his touch but she held herself still, afraid to trust in him again.

"Emily, if you can't forgive me, I'll understand," he said softly. "If friendship is all that you can offer then I'll accept it gladly just as long as you don't hate me and I can be a part of your life, no matter how small a part."

Emily felt more tears roll down her cheeks. She hated to see Cullen so dejected, so humbled. His pain hurt her almost as much as her own pain did. She had to make a decision and she had to make it now. She couldn't drag this out any longer, hurting them both with her indecision.

She closed her eyes and more tears fell. What were her instincts telling her? Where was her infamous intuition that always seemed to lead to the correct answer from insufficient data? Could she trust him? Was Anton right in asking if he had suffered enough by losing her for so long?

"Cullen," she whispered brokenly, opening her eyes slowly. "I forgive you."

The flare of joy in his eyes and the tears that spilled over both elated and saddened her.

He flew round the table and fell to his knees beside her. He hesitantly reached out and buried his head against her stomach and wrapped his arms around her tightly. She cradled his head in her arms and cried with him as months of pain sought release.
"I'm so sorry, Emily," he wept over and over, his body shaking.

She stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head, soothing him, telling him everything was going to be all right. As his tears ebbed she tilted his head up and tenderly brushed his wet cheeks. "Forgive yourself," she whispered against his mouth. "And forgive me for the pain I've caused you too."

She kissed him, slowly and softly, feeling her heart race as she felt the sweet pleasure she had longed for so much but had been denied. Cullen's lips trembled against hers and he groaned and took over the kiss, parting her lips and tasting her with his tongue.

His hands cradled her face as his fingers traced her features gently. He kissed her again, pulling her from the chair until she was sitting in his lap and he was holding her tightly to him. "Emily, sweet Emily," he whispered. "How I've missed you. How I've long to see you beautiful face, to see your sweet smile, to hear you say my name the way you used to, so full of love."

"I meant what I said the night we first made love," she sighed softly. "I will love you forever, Cullen. Even when I told myself I hated you I knew I was lying to myself. I've loved you every moment we've been apart. I've longed for you every night. I tried to pretend I didn't care after I saw Dorian. But Anton made me see sense when he asked me how many nights had I cried in my sleep as he had stopped counting after the first couple of months."

Cullen tensed slightly, the hand stroking her face stilled and he swallowed hard.

"Who's Anton?" he asked softly, as he closed his eyes and began stroking her face again. "I'll understand If you sought comfort elsewhere, love."

Emily giggled as she realised how what she had said sounded. "I think Anton would be very shocked at the interpretation you've taken from my words."

He looked at her, his expression confused.

"He's my brother."

Cullen stared at her stunned. "I didn't know you had a brother," he gasped.

"There was a lot of things you never asked about me, Cullen," she said gravely.

"A mistake I intend to rectify," he promised, his eyes glowing with love. "When can I meet Anton? I want to thank him for taking such good care of you, love, and for giving you such good advice that you came home to me."

"I'll invite him over soon," she said, smiling. "I've spent far too much time away from him over the last few years. A mistake I intend to rectify," she laughed, echoing his words.

"Oh God, I love you so much, Emily," Cullen groaned, stealing her breath away in a glorious kiss that seemed to last forever.
"I love you too, Cullen," she said breathlessly when he finally freed her mouth from his.

She suddenly giggled and he smiled at her. "What?"

"We're sitting on the Boardroom floor," she laughed. "They're probably all outside with glasses against the wall trying to figure out what's going on in here."

"Now we're lying on the Boardroom floor," he laughed, moving so she was lying against the carpet and he was lying beside her

"Do you want to go out there?" he asked his eyes running slowly over her body.

"Not just yet," she smiled. "I want to phone Anton first."

Cullen sat up and grabbed her bag and handed it to her. She rolled onto her stomach as she dug out her cell phone.

"I have your other phone," Cullen said quietly. "I found it in a trashcan when I was looking for you."

"Throw it away," she said. "Leave it in the past where it belongs."

She dialled Anton and put the phone on speaker so she could twist round and kiss Cullen as it connected.

"This better be a bloody emergency, Em!" Anton growled in Spanish when he answered.

"No emergency. I just wanted to let you know that I arrived safely. And that I took your advice and fixed things. Oh and I have you on speaker phone," she laughed, answering in Spanish.

Anton swore at her in Spanish but she just laughed harder.

"I'm overjoyed," Anton said reverting to English. "I assume your beloved is with you, hence the speaker phone?"

"Yes, Cullen is here," she smiled.

"I'm glad you two have made up and as much as I love you to death, baby girl, right now all I want to do is sleep. Call me at a decent hour next time," he said grumpily.

"Love you too, Anton. Cullen wants to meet you so get your backside out here soon."

"I don't play happy families, you know that," he grouched, tiredly. "The last few months was more than enough happy families I can cope with for a lifetime."

"You're such a terrible liar, Anton," Emily said affectionately. "You loved every minute of it. Call me and let me know when you're coming over."

"I'm hanging up now," he warned.

"Okay, Anton. Talk to you soon."

"It's good to hear you laugh again, baby sister," he said. And she could hear the smile in his voice before he hung up.

She smiled as she disconnected and turned to see Cullen looking at her, his expression fascinated.

"You speak fluent Spanish," he said in amazement.

She nodded. "And fluent French, German and Italian."

He shook his head in shock. "How did I not know this?" he said quietly. "You were so right when you said there were many things about you that I didn't know."

Another thought seemed to strike him suddenly.

"Emily, who exactly is your brother?" he asked.

She blushed and looked sheepish. "The reason you couldn't find me was because I was living and working under my real name, my father's name rather than my mother's, which I've gone by my whole life," she admitted. "Your friend Carter Long almost found me."

"Your brother is Anton Mackenzie of Mackenzie Petrochemicals?" he exclaimed shocked.

She nodded.

"So when Carter thought he had a lead on a girl called Emily working there, it was really you?"

She nodded again. "I saw him and knew what he was straight away. I persuaded Anton not to do any business with him. I knew if he hung around long enough he would have realised that Emily Mackenzie was in fact Emily Swan."

"So you own half of Mackenzie Petrochemicals?" he said.

"Technically," she answered. "Up until recently, I've not had much to do with the company. I preferred to follow my own path and Anton was happy to take on running the place when Dad died. I was happy to let him. It worked out fine for both of us."

Cullen sat up and laughed. Emily sat up too and smiled at him. "What?" she asked.

"I just found it suddenly funny that I was paying 250K a year to a billionaire," he laughed.

"You don't have to pay me, Cullen, it's not as if I need the money" she said quietly. "I don't work for money. I work because it's what I love doing. Finding and fixing problems."

"Oh, Emily, you are so priceless," he laughed softly. "You have no idea how much we all need you to teach us what being human is all about."

"Dorian said that in Brussels," she said, her voice tense. "Cullen, I can't begin to describe how non human you all appeared to me that day. It was as if I had been looking at carefully constructed masks all the other times I'd been at the club. That day you were all stripped bare to your very cores and I was terrified of what I saw." She shuddered as she spoke and he pulled her close.

"You felt so scared yet you still stood up against us," he said, his voice full of admiration. "And we needed that, Emily. We needed your capacity for mercy and compassion to make us see that what we intended to do was so very wrong. Liam told me what happened between you in the Boardroom. He so admired your bravery, Emily. It was that bravery which made him stand with us later on that day. Don't you see, Emily? You're doing it and you don't even know that you are."

"Doing what?" she asked perplexed.

"You're fixing us, Emily," Cullen smiled, his beautiful golden brown eyes shining with love. "Subconsciously, your wonderfully unique mind recognised a problem with us and you started to automatically work on solving the problem. First with me and Dorian and then with Liam. I am constantly asked if I have found you when I go to Karpathia's, even by vampires who have never spoken to you but have just sensed your innate goodness when you've been there. We need you, love. You are our one hope of remembering what being human truly is."

Emily stared at him in shock. "Cullen, I don't know if I can do that," she whispered.

"You don't need to do anything but be yourself, love," he smiled and kissed her long and slow until she was breathless.

A knock sounded on the Boardroom door and Dorian hollered, "When you two are ready there's a welcome home party going on out here for Emily."

Emily and Cullen laughed. He jumped up and pulled her up beside him and they headed out to the party.

Emily practically glowed as she laughed and hugged all the friends she had missed so much. She pulled Alice close to her and held onto the little woman for a long time. She looked across the room to see Cullen watching her intently. His beautiful face seemed less tired than when she'd first saw him. His eyes shone as he watched her and his lips curved upwards in a heart stopping smile.

"That was the smile I was talking about," Alice sighed, her head resting against Emily's shoulder.

Emily laughed. "It is pretty spectacular," she agreed wholeheartedly.

She pulled Alice with her over to Dorian and Cullen.

"You have been sorely missed, Emily," Dorian said fondly giving her a warm hug.

"I've missed you all too," she smiled happily. "It's so good to be home."

"Your apartment is still there for you," Dorian told her. "All your things are still there, just waiting for you to return. I had a cleaning company go in once a week to keep it ready for you."

"Didn't the company need it?" she asked surprised.

"Cullen bought another apartment for the company," Dorian chuckled. "Wouldn't let anyone else stay in yours, except himself."

"It's not mine," Emily laughed, shaking her head at Cullen who had looked away, embarrassed by Dorian's revelation.

"It is now, " Dorian said. "By order of Sebastian Cullen, the deeds were transferred into your name months ago."

"Cullen," Emily groaned, her face flushing red. "You can't just give me an apartment. I'm paying you full market value for it."

"I won't cash your cheque," he said stubbornly, his beautiful face set obstinately.

"Are you really going to fight with me so soon, Emily?" he grinned, his eyes sparkling, when she glared at him.

"We'll talk about this later," she warned but her lips twitched upwards and she ended up laughing at his hopeful expression.

Dorian and Alice laughed with them.

A while later, Cullen cornered Emily in a quiet corner and kissed her thoroughly.

"Did you really stay at my apartment?" she asked when he let her breathe.

"Most nights," he said softly, hugging her close. "Your scent was there and I needed to be around you so badly."

"Oh, Cullen," she sighed and hugged him hard.

He kissed the top of her head and ran his hands through her long curls.

"About the apartment, if you really feel strongly about it, I will let you pay me back," he said. "But I would prefer if you accepted it as a welcome home gift from me. I know you don't need me to buy it for you. It would give me great pleasure if you would let me, though."

"This one time, Cullen," she smiled. "If it brings you pleasure."

"It does, love," he smiled and kissed her again. "Will you come to Karpathia's tonight, Emily?"

She tensed, automatically remembering the last time she was there.

"I don't know if I'm ready for that yet, Cullen," she whispered.

"You would be safe with me, Emily," he sighed. "Don't you think the sooner you go, the easier it will be? You need to lay the bad memories to rest."

"I can't really argue with your logic," she said and then nodded her agreement.

Cullen left her side to tell Dorian that they were leaving.

Emily met him at the elevator and was surprised to see Alice and Dorian waiting with him.

"Are you coming too?" she asked, surprised.

"Of course we are," Alice said taking her hand. "My brother Christopher will be there. I want to introduce you to him. He thinks you're great even though he's only ever heard about you."

"Why on Earth would he think that?" Emily said stunned.

"Because you saved his little sister and he loves me very much," Alice laughed, as if it was obvious.

Cullen slipped an arm around Emily and Alice walked between Emily and Dorian, holding a hand each.

Emily noticed Dorian look down fondly at the little woman between them. She smiled slowly as she recognised the feelings in his eyes. He caught her eye and silently shook his head at her raised eyebrow. So Alice had no clue that Dorian was head over heels in love with her. She could fix that.

Surrounded by the people she loved, Emily walked into Karpathia's with only a slight hesitation. Her step almost faltered when the room went deathly silent when they entered. She felt Cullen and Dorian tense and Alice grip her hand tightly.

Then the oddest thing happened. As they passed towards the back of the room, a large number of the vampires present inclined their heads in what she could only discern as being a respectful gesture.

Liam jumped up from his customary seat on the big sofa at the back of the room.

"Little Emily," he cried loudly, his beautiful face grinning broadly as held his arms out wide to her.

Emily ran the last few steps and threw herself into his arms, feeling overcome with emotion at his exuberant greeting.
"Liam, it's so good to see you again," she said breathlessly.

"It gladdens my heart to see you safe and well, little one," he said, sounding slightly choked. "Thank you for coming, Emily. For your generous, forgiving heart."

He called loudly for drinks for everyone and handed her back into Cullen's waiting arms. Alice had vanished somewhere so Emily sat between Cullen and Dorian on the sofa. She looked around the room and then turned to Liam.

"Not wishing to sound disrespectful, but how old are you, Liam?"

He looked surprised at her question. "I am somewhere in my nineteen hundredth year. Why do you ask, Emily?"

"Patterns," she said with a smile. "I just noticed the pattern of the room. I don't know why I didn't notice it before."

"What pattern?" Cullen asked laughing. "What has your mind cooked up now?"

"The younger the vampire, the nearer to the door he or she sits," Emily elaborated. "Your culture seems to associate age with wisdom and therefore the further into the room you sit, the older and more respected you are. It's why a larger number of vampires at the front of the room inclined their heads as we passed. They're more likely to remember being human therefore they are more accepting of the havoc I've inadvertently caused here. The older vampires feel differently."

Cullen, Dorian and Liam stared at her open mouthed. Liam suddenly laughed.

"Your little Emily is a treasure, Cullen," he said smiling. " I have spent the last three months trying to work out where the resistance to change was coming from and she solves the problem with a quick glance around the room and a few sentences."

Emily blushed. "To be honest, Liam, if the vampires hadn't inclined their heads as they did, I probably wouldn't have noticed the pattern."

"But you did, Emily," Liam said. "Thank you for once again coming to our rescue."

Emily cuddled into Cullen and smiled as his arms wrapped around her and he kissed the top of her head. "You constantly amaze me, love," he said softly, his voice glowing with approval.

Dorian smiled fondly at her and patted her hand. "We do so need you, sweet Emily," he smiled.

Emily saw Alice on a sofa near the door with a young vampire. His shock of dark hair and the resemblance to Alice marked him as her brother.

"Oh there's Alice," she said with a smile. "Looks like she's with her brother. I'm going to go say hi, Cullen."

"Hurry back," he smiled. "I've been without you too long already."

She kissed him on the tip of his nose as she stood up.

She reached Alice after some more head inclining, which she found embarrassing but made a point of nodding back so as not to offend anyone.

"Alice, there you are," she called as she approached her. "I wondered where you disappeared to."

"Emily, come and say hi to Chris," the little woman smiled.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Emily," Chris said, standing and inclining his head slightly. "Alice had told me so much about you."

"Lovely to meet you, Chris," Emily smiled., sitting down beside Alice. "I'm so glad you two managed to find each other again."

He smiled at Alice, his eyes warm with affection. "I am too, Emily."

He chatted for a moment and then he said he'd be back shortly and left.

"He's going for some blood," Alice smiled. "He keeps telling me he's off to talk to a friend. Like I don't know what he's doing," she laughed.

"I'm glad you're handling all this so well, Alice," Emily said. "It must have been an incredible shock to find out that not only your brother was a vampire but also Cullen and Dorian."

The little woman regarded her solemnly.

"I wasn't that surprised to find out about Cullen and Dorian," she finally said. "What did surprise me was that you knew about it."

"It surprised the hell out of me when I found out," Emily laughed. "Remember when I took time off sick when I first started at the company? That was when I found out."

Alice eyes were shining with curiosity. "So that was what was wrong with you," she exclaimed. "I always wondered what was going on around that time. Cullen and Dorian were so tense that week."

"You weren't surprised to learn about them?" Emily prodded.

"I'd seen Chris by then. The beautiful appearance," Alice sighed. "I looked at Cullen and Dorian and saw the exact same beauty. I think I knew though I never verbalised to myself."

Emily smiled. "So you think they're beautiful, do you?" she teased lightly.

Alice rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on, Emily," she laughed. "You can't take your eyes off Cullen when he's in the same room as you. His beauty draws your eyes to him. Dorian is just the same."

"I find I can avoid looking at Dorian quite easily," Emily smiled, her eyes speculative. "What about you, Alice?"

Alice blushed and looked away.

"You can tell me," Emily coaxed. "You like him, don't you?"

"Shhhh Emily," Alice groaned. "It's so embarrassing."

" Tell me," Emily smiled encouragingly.

Alice blushed deeper and groaned. "I find myself thinking about him at the oddest times," she finally said. "I have to resist the urge to run my fingers through his gorgeous blond hair. Sometimes I can barely speak if he's in the room."

Emily's smile widened. "Have you ever seen him look at you in a similar way?" she asked quietly.

"God, no," Alice groaned. "He treats me as if I'm his erratic niece or something. Always politely amused by what I say or do."

"Take a chance, Alice," Emily said, her voice low. "The next time you want to run your fingers through his hair, do it. You'll be surprised by his reaction."

Alice's face flamed hotter. "I couldn't do that, Emily," she whispered.

"Trust me, Alice," Emily laughed. "You know how I can't help fixing things. The look Dorian gave you tonight when we left the office was most definitely not the look of a fond Uncle."

Alice's eyes flew to her, confused.

"I don't know how long he's been in love with you, Alice," Emily sighed softly. "But I saw it in his eyes tonight. So if you have feelings for him, take the risk and go for it. It's scary and exciting, and sometimes incredibly painful, loving a vampire but so worth the risk."

Alice looked as if she had just been slapped across the face.

"He's in love with me?" she whispered, shocked. "He's never once even hinted that he thought about me like that. Maybe you only saw that you wanted to see, Emily."

"Oh, Alice," Emily laughed and stroked her cheek gently. "Another thing about vampires is they're monumentally overprotective of the ones they love. You've been through so much these last few months. Dorian will be afraid of doing anything to frighten you further. He'll keep his distance as long as he feels that you're still fragile."

Emily smiled as she saw a flash of hope in the little woman's eyes. "You really think he loves me?" she asked breathlessly.

"I'm certain of it, Alice," Emily smiled. "Take a chance and find out for yourself."

Satisfied that she'd done her work for the day, Emily waited until Chris returned then she made her way back to Cullen who was watching her approach with a beautiful smile on his face.

She sank onto the sofa and pulled his arms around her body, feeling happy and content. She smiled up at Dorian and his eyes narrowed slightly.

"What are you so smug about?" Dorian asked, a smile tugging at his lips. "You look like you've been up to something."

"Just fixing things," she laughed breezily as Cullen kissed the top of her head and laughed.

"Liam off to indulge himself?" Emily asked, seeing the other vampire gone.

Dorian nodded and sipped from the glass in his hand.

"Not drinking from source tonight, Dorian?" Emily asked and laughed when she saw his eye narrow further.

"I thought you'd noticed earlier that Dorian is a little preoccupied at the moment," Cullen grinned.

"I see the pattern clearly," she answered smiling.

"Will you two cut it out," Dorian said with a groan. "Nothing worse than two smug people taking the piss just because they're lives are finally back on track."

"Taking the piss?" Alice laughed coming to join them and hearing the end of the conversation. "You swore, Dorian!" she said, feigning shock and disapproval as she sat down on the other side of him.

Emily saw Dorian tense slightly as Alice's leg appeared to innocently brush his as she sat down. She stifled a giggle and Cullen looked at her, a question in his eyes as he felt her body shake against his.

"Dorian would you mind if I touched your hair?" Alice asked innocently. "I've always wondered what it felt like. It looks so soft and silky. It's so unfair that you and Cullen have hair a woman would give her right arm for."

Dorian froze and looked at Alice, his expression unreadable. "That might not be wise, Alice," he finally said, his voice low and strained.

"Why not?" Alice asked, her voice catching slightly as she tried to maintain her innocent act.

Dorian exhaled slowly. "A brief touch," he finally said.

Alice's eyes shone with excitement as she reached one small hand up and gently threaded her fingers underneath the hair at the side of his face. She watched in fascination as the blonde silky locks flowed gently through her fingers to come to rest back against his cheek.

"It's even softer than it looks," she smiled delightedly. She had risen to her knees on the sofa, bringing her face so close to Dorian's that her breath fanned his cheekbone as she spoke.

"Sit back, Alice," Dorian said sharply, his body rigid.

Alice turned her face to his and seemed almost as surprised as he was to find their faces so close.

"Did I do something wrong, Dorian?" she asked softly, a slight frown on her lovely face.

"No," he said through clenched teeth, "but I'm about to if you don't sit back right now."

"About to do what?" she asked breathlessly and then gave a startled squeak as he moved suddenly, taking her face gently in his hands and closing the gap between them until his mouth was on hers.

Emily sighed happily and cuddled against Cullen as Dorian kissed Alice with months worth of pent up hunger and desire. Her friend's arms circled his neck and she was kissing him back with just as much passion, her tiny hands threading into his hair.

"You just can't help yourself, can you?" Cullen laughed kissing the top of her head, his eyes sparkling with amusement.

Emily twisted around until she could reach his lips with hers. "Would you have me any other way?" she teased against his lips.
"I love you just the way you are, my Emily," he breathed softly and then kissed her deeply.

When they stopped kissing, Emily turned back to Dorian and Alice. Dorian was holding the little woman close to his chest, his eyes bright with joy. He looked at Emily and smiled ruefully and she laughed and then stood up, tugging Cullen with her.

"Come on," she smiled. "I think it's about time you took me home."

Cullen's golden brown eyes glowed as he hugged her to his side.

"See you two tomorrow," he called over his shoulder as they made their way from Karpathia's.

Emily wasn't surprised when he took her to the apartment. He had said he'd been spending most night's there anyway.

Cullen closed the door behind them and then leaned against it and watched her walk around the room, re-familiarising herself with the apartment.

Emily smiled gently at him and held out her hand. "Come and welcome me home properly, Cullen," she said softly.

He groaned and the emotions in his eyes deepened as he walked slowly towards her. He picked her up when he reached her and walked through to the bedroom, laying her gently on the bed.

"I've missed you so much, Emily," he whispered, his hands shaking as he slowly undressed her and then himself.

"I've longed for you so much, Cullen," she moaned softly, taking his hands and placing them against her breasts.

His mouth found hers and his tongue parted her lips gently and dipped inside her mouth, searching for hers. His hands massaged her aching breasts softly as he kissed her.

Her own hands were stroking against his skin, tracing his jaw line, the broadness of his shoulders, the hard plains of his chest.

Cullen's hands slid to her hips, stroking rhythmically as his mouth trailed kisses of fire down her throat and to her breasts, suckling gently against the hardened peaks.

His hand gently parted her thighs and then his fingers were against her hot flesh, teasing her open with gentle little touches. He began to stroke her rhythmically, dipping his fingers inside her body as she moaned and her hips rose to meet his clever hand.

Cullen pushed her higher and higher as his fangs elongated and pierced the flesh of her breast, drinking deeply of her sweet essence as she shook in his arms as she achieved her pleasure from his fingers.

He finished feeding and closed the puncture marks with his rough tongue. He moved his hand from between her thighs and she felt his hardness replace it. He groaned and slid deep inside her with one hard thrust.

She felt so full with him inside her body. Her breathing was ragged as he sat back on his heels and pulled her body up until she was sitting in his lap, impaled by this throbbing hardness.

Cullen gently smoothed the curls back from her face with one hand, the other wrapped tightly around her lower back. His lips kissed her arched throat and then travelled back to her breasts to suckle her taut nipples.

"My Emily," he breathed softly as he strove to taste every inch of her sweat slickened skin.

He began to move inside her and she moaned and held onto his shoulders as she felt pleasure coil inside her stomach as he set a slow, deep rhythm.

Emily moved her hands to his neck and pulled her body closer to his as they moved in unison. She licked at his lips and they parted, his tongue coming out to lick against hers erotically as his movements began to become faster.

His golden brown eyes were fierce with desire when she looked at him, his beautiful face flushed with passion as their movements became more frantic.

"Emily," he groaned. "You feel so good. I can't get enough of you."

She kissed him wildly and moved faster, pushing her body down against his upwards thrusts.

"Take me, Cullen," she moaned against his lips. "Take me to heaven and back again."

He groaned deeply and laid her down on her back. He rose over her, resting his hands on his elbows so as not to put his full weight on her. His fingers threaded into her curls and he began thrusting hard and deep into her tight body.

Emily moaned and thrust against him, her need spiralling higher as he relentlessly pushed her body towards the wonderful pleasure that waited for them. She didn't want it end, the feel of him inside her so intoxicating after so many months apart.

But he stoked a fire deep inside her. A fire that threaten to consume her. She moaned and pulled his mouth to hers. "Cullen," she groaned, her voice thick with need.

His own need matched hers and suddenly his movements became more frantic. He thrust harder and faster into her, his kisses wild as the breath rasped from his throat.

"Emily," he groaned hoarsely. "Now, Emily. Take your pleasure."

Emily cried out in ecstasy as white hot flames of passion erupted deep inside her. Her body shook wildly as she felt Cullen's own need spill deep inside her as he growled his pleasure loudly against her ear.

Hearts thundering and breaths rasping, Cullen rolled onto his side, taking her with him, their bodies still joined. His hand lay against her lower back, pulling her tight against him.

"I don't want to leave your beautiful body," he said with a groan. "I've missed this so much, Emily. I'm afraid if I leave, I'll never be able to feel this sweet pleasure again."

"I've missed this too," she said shakily. "I dreamed of this every night we were apart. I would wake crying because I thought I would never know this sweet bliss ever again."

"Stay with me always, Emily," he pleaded, his eyes haunted. "Life is unbearable without you at my side."

"No more running away," she whispered softly. "If we have another problem, I'll stay and try to fix it. I promise you that, Cullen."

She kissed him gently and soothed away the last remnants of hurt from his beautiful eyes.

"I want to marry you," he sighed softly.

Emily stared at him in shock. "Don't you need all manner of legal documents for that?" she asked with a nervous giggle.

"Semantics," he shrugged with a smile. "I know a man who can supply all manner of things. It's a requirement of living this life. Until someone scrutinises too closely," he added with a laugh, looking pointedly at her.

"What can I say? I hate mysteries," she laughed with a blush.

"So, what do you think?" he asked softly. "Will you marry me, Emily?" His voice wavered uncertainly, his eyes intense as he stared at her, holding his breath.

"Yes, Cullen," she breathed softly, her eyes shining with love for him. "I'd marry you in a heartbeat."

The look of joy that crossed his beautiful face caused her heart to miss a beat. He hugged her close and then kissed her gently on the lips, his smile radiant.

"I love you Emily Swan Mackenzie," he laughed happily.

Emily laughed and kissed him. "Soon to be Emily Swan Mackenzie Cullen," she giggled.

"That sounds so good," he whispered, his hand trembling as he stroked her cheek lightly. "Soon, Emily?"

"As soon as we can arrange it properly," she smiled. "I don't want to wait a moment longer than you do."

They lay quietly, arms wrapped around them. Emily couldn't remember a time when she had felt happier. She knew Cullen was thinking hard. There was always a stillness about him when he was deep in thought. She smiled and kissed his chest lightly

"Yes," she whispered, softly.

"Yes?" he asked, his voice tight.

"It is the next question, isn't it?" she said quietly, raising her head so she could look deeply into his eyes.

He was so tense, his eyes deep with emotion. She felt him tremble against her and he swallowed hard.

"Not right now, Cullen," she smiled serenely at him. "But later, when I've fixed things at Karpathia's. Then I'll join with you completely."

"Are you sure?" he asked hoarsely. "You don't have to, love. I am happy to live your lifetime with you, Emily. Even a brief moment of glorious love with you would sustain me for eternity."

"I want to love you forever, Cullen," she whispered. "Not just for my lifetime, but for all time. I'm sure, my love."

A tear of joy spilled over from his eye and she wiped it gently away and kissed him.

Cullen pulled the covers over them and Emily slipped into a deep, contented sleep.

To be continued....