"For those of us who believe in physics, this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion, however tenacious."
Prologue – Of Warm Skin and Wishful Thinking
I'd never really understood the phrase "my heart caught in my throat" until that moment.
For there he was.
And he looked exactly the same.
And he looked completely different.
I stood at the gate, my trembling hand resting on the painted wood, and took in the sight of him. His hair was the reddish-brown I remembered, but instead of wildly exploding around his head, he had tamed it with some sort of gel or pomade. Still, a few rebellious locks escaped, falling over his sweaty forehead as he worked.
He had removed his jacket and tie – I could see them tossed over the porch railing – and rolled up the sleeves of his crisp, white shirt. The corded muscles of his forearms tightened and released as he worked the shovel into the garden soil. My eyes wandered down his body, capturing flashes of images in the midst of my shock – the crisp pleats on the front of his trousers, the smudge of dirt above his knee, the scuffed brown shoe pushing forcefully on the blade of the shovel.
He paused, lifting a gloved hand to his forehead, wiping away the sweat on his brow, frowning at the stubborn stump before him. Suddenly he stiffened, as if realizing he was being watched.
And he turned in my direction.
And I gasped.
I had always loved his eyes – whether they were black with thirst or amber with satiation. But these eyes were neither of those things.
I knew they wouldn't be, that this wasn't the Edward I knew.
Yet it still surprised me to see it in person. To see, instead of topaz or amber or black, a rich, dark green.
Carlisle had told me they'd been green.
Right now they regarded me warily, then curiously.
Still he said nothing. He just stood there, watching me. His gaze dipped down briefly before meeting mine once again. He colored slightly, a sheepish smile lighting his features.
Damn. He was checking me out.
I tried to draw a breath, but the tightness in my chest made it impossible.
I couldn't even blame the damned corset this time.
He stood, loosely holding the shovel, and watched as I lifted the gate latch with a shaking hand, then slowly approached him. I drank him in thirstily, having been deprived of him for so long. With each step the hole in my heart constricted a little more and by the time I stood before him, it was like it never existed.
Without even realizing it, I reached out and his eyes widened in surprise. I hesitated only briefly before stroking my trembling fingers down his cheek.
His skin was not pale… not cold… not hard.
It was soft… and warm. Clean-shaven, yet his beard had started to grow back, tickling my fingers. My fingers trailed down his face to his full, pink lips.
I could feel his warm breath on my fingertips and my body burst into flames, as it always did when I was near him. Even after all this time, it remembered. Even though he was different, it remembered.
"Edward," I whispered.
He replied quietly, "I'm sorry," and my fingers tingled at the vibration of his mouth. Because although his voice missed the musical quality I'd come to know so well, the velvet tones still wrapped around his words in a familiar way.
His eyes locked on mine and my heart stopped again, my hand dropping to my side and a tear trickling down my cheeks at the next words to escape his lips.
"Do I know you?"