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I do not own twilight, all characters and rights etc belong to Stephenie Meyer.
I ushered Bella through the crowds of Sea -Tac airport, one arm wound around her waist, the other grasping the cases. It registered dimly that I should have used a luggage trolley, but I was past caring about the human façade now. We had spent the flights home in uncomfortable silence as I tried to r ead her face for any signs as to how she felt, but she had determinedly avoided my gaze. I assumed she was beyond fear for her life and beyond fury at me for endangering her in this way. I was stuck in a pit of despair; angry at my ignorance, angry at my selfishness and worst of all, utterly terrified for the woman I loved beyond all else in this world. I heard them before I saw them; our family waiting anxiously for our arrival. My father was running over his plan for immediate action in his head, my mothe r s nerves were stretched taut. Poor, poor dears. They must be so afraid, she worried. Alice was screaming internally. I just can t see!! However, it was Rosalie s thoughts which were the loudest. There was both a flavour of excitement and anxiety to them as we came into view, and an image swam before her eyes of her cooing over a cherubic baby in her arms. Even then, nothing clicked into place. Bella turned to me and finally met my gaze. I had become so used to reading her expressions, but I could still n ot believe what I saw. In her soft, chocolate eyes there was fear but there something else; a look that seemed to plead with me for understanding. With a squeeze of my hand she released herself from my grasp and ran straight into Rosalie s outstretched arms. Rosalie s. We all stood like statues. In that second I realized I had been totally and utterly wrong. Bella wasn t scared for her life; she was scared for whatever was growing inside of her, and she had turned to the one person who would be guaranteed t o support her. Driving home from the airport was like déjà vu from last spring after our perilous visit to Volterra. Except there were two key differences. Last spring I had held a sleeping Bella in my arms in the backseat; now it was Rosalie s arms around my wife. And last spring we had just escaped our encounter with death; now we were heading towards it. We all sat in silence; Rosalie s eyes boring into the back of my head and thinking menacing thoughts. Emmett s face was serious for once, as he recited the stats of every baseball team he knew in his head. My mood swung from agony to anger. Not angry with Bella. Never with
Bella. But at my... my sister. If you could still call her that, what with her trying to destroy my reason for existing just so she co uld fulfil her dreams of motherhood. When we got home, Emmett took the cases out of the trunk of Carlisle s Mercedes. I walked, in a stupor, behind Rosalie who was cradling Bella like a child in her arms, gazing down at her affectionately. She took Bella immediately upstairs to change from her pastel blue cotton dress that was taut from her expanding torso, into a baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants. When we were all inside, sat and stood around Bella who lay on the couch , Rosalie hovering defensively, Carlisle finally broke the tense silence. He knew what Bella was doing but he had to try. Bella, we need to get the...fetus out of you. I m sorry, it s far, far too dangerous... he attempted to reason with her. She clutched her bloated, mottled stomach as if protecting it from hearing such words. N o! I won t let you! she gasped, glancing desperately for Rose... Rosalie growled loudly, her lips pulling back to reveal her gleaming, razor -sharp teeth. You dare come anywhere near us, Carlisle! she hissed at him. He raised his hands like a negotiator saying he wasn t armed. Rosalie turned to Bella and her features transformed into a severe but affectionate visage. Don t listen to them, Bella, she whispered, urging her with her eyes. Everything will be fine. Bella, you can t survive this! I cried, my voice breaking. I can! She gritted her teeth, eyes flitting from me to Carlisle. Of course, I don t expect to survive human...But I m strong enough to tough it out un til he s ready, she added in a low murmur. Of course you are, Bella, Rosalie said warmly, but her thoughts gave her away. It didn t really matter one way or another to her if Bella was strong enough, as long as the fetus was. We ve got to get it out! No! she tried to shout, still protecting her stomach. Esme put her arms around my shoulders as I slumped forward. I felt truly weak for once, like I was about to crumble into pieces. A whimper of pain escaped my lips as Carlisle s further attempts to persuade her fell on stony ground.
The next week passed in a blur, sky oscillating between dreary gray and midnight indigo. Bella remained firm in her mindset, but her condition was accelerating fast and I knew time was running out. Carlisle couldn t get an ultrasound so the only way to possibly know when the fetus was fully grown was by measuring her stomach down the middle. Today she d been twenty six centimetres; that meant just six days... My senses seemed numb as the grief and pain sunk in deeper and deeper. My usually sharp eyes became hazy and unfocused, my acute hearing muffled. When I smelt or tasted the air the flavours were insipid and indistinguishab le. My sensitive touch was deadened to the point that even Bella s warm skin felt alien. I was watching my true love die and, piece by piece, it was killing me too. I didn t register conversations, or even thoughts; though I was sure there was an abundance of both somewhere in the background. I tried to block everything I saw and heard, sitting on the spiral staircase with my head resting in my hands. Rosalie sat protectively with Bella, who still lay on the pale-coloured sofa in the centre of the open lounge drifting in and out of sleep between being violently sick, and attempting to comfort me. It s going to be okay, Edward, she d whispered. But the stress was making her sicker by the day, especially my pain and the lie we told Charlie to keep him away; he believed she was sick with a South American disease and there was to be strictly no access. I had always tried to give Bella exactly what she wanted. Anytime. Anything . But now I was lost. How could I let her have what she wanted? I d lose her. I knew what it was like to live without her; my wife, my soul mate, my whole world. And now that crushing grief, that unendurable agony, seemed to hover on the horizon mockingly once again. Edward? Son? My father s hand touched my shoulder and my head snapped up. Edward, I need to talk to you. In my study. Son , I m doing all I can, I promise. I nodded and followed, pausing only to kiss Bella s forehead; Rosalie snarled at my proximity. Carlisle, we have to do something, I said urgently as I shut the door behind me, We ve got to get it out of her . You know Rosalie would never- he started, but I interrupted. I don t care what we have to do to Rosalie first! I snarled, my hands curling into fists. Let s take care of her then anaesthetise Bella. My Bella... Carlisle looked at me with his golden eyes full of sympathy. I would have done... He winced at the thought of using such tactics. But your mother s siding with Rosalie and Bella, and you know Emmett would never allow us to hurt Rose. Besides, don t you think we have to respect Bella s view on this? She s wrong though... My voice started to break at the blasphemy I felt in saying my wife was mistaken. It s not a baby in there... It s a monster. Like me.
Son, you re not a monster. You could never have anticipated such a thing... But I didn t want to be comforted. The self-loathing that ripped through me was excruciating and all I could think of was escaping. The uncertainty and anxiety that hung around the house like dense fog suffocated and choked me. I spun on my heel, flung the door open and flew down the stairs. Rosalie s thoughts came at me incessantly. You re not getting anywhere near this baby, do you understand me? A growl built up in her chest. Suddenly her mind became clouded, which made me pause. Rosalie had never been able to hide her thoughts from me as well as the others and this time was no different. Despite h er best efforts, her focus slipped and the image of her cooing over an angelic baby came into my mind again. But this time there was a difference. This time, Bella s lifeless body lay in the background. I moaned in agony as my knees buckled beneath me. Bella, oblivious to my entrance to the room, lifted her head. Rosalie s mental image swam before me, branding itself like a searing hot iron into my accursed, infallible mind. I shut my eyes and envisaged a healthy, radiant Bella staring back at me; her creamy skin blushing rose, her deep, chocolate eyes set off by her lustrous brown tresses. I opened my eyes and stared at my wife. Bella s face was in stark contrast to the one I d seen behind my eyelids. Her skin was even paler than usual, her heart-shaped face covered in a light sheen of sweat, and her bones protruding from her che eks. Bella, love please- I begged. Rosalie hovered over the back of the sofa, eyeing me warily. Don t you dare come any closer, Edward Cullen, or you ll be reattaching your own arms , she thought menacingly. I went back to the stair I had occupied and sank down. Alice came to sit next to me, her pixie like face full of concern, and tried desperately to see something, but the lines were hazy and covered in crackly grey mist. Jasper was trying to emit feelings of calm over the anxious room, but for once, it had no effect on me. The tense atmosphere was taking its toll on Jasper and he paced up and down nervously. Bella s eyes flickered shut once again. Emmett turned the TV down until it was barely audible, determined to keep quiet as to not wake Bella. How is she, really? I began in a hushed voice, wondering just how much I d missed in my week-long trance, but I stopped myself short. It was a stupid question. She s not keeping anything down, Edward, you know that, Carlisle thought apologetically as he appeared at the top of the stairs. I nodded curtly; her protruding cheekbones were testament to that. Watching my Bella sleep from a distance, I detested myself and the creation growing inside her for causing her pain, and I was furious with Rosalie for her one track mind. The baby, the baby, the baby. She didn t care about my Bella; she wouldn t care if she died... I wasn t the
only one who felt ready to literally rip Rosalie s head off; Alice was fast running out of patience with her least favourite sister. All the time, a conflict was raging inside of me; I couldn t reconcile my feelings of anger with my feelings of helplessness. I d always sworn I d be her protector; now her life was endangered by something I d created, and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn t sit back and do nothing; I felt utterly useless. There must be a way to save her... I d sworn to always put her needs first. What if a baby was what she needed? My ang el, my midnight sun, the one to wake me from my slumber in the depths of inhumanity and bring me to life again. She should be able to have everything she wanted and needed. It was a mistake for her to have chosen me; she should have chosen Jacob instead. ...Considering all the things I could do with her that you can t. At least, not without killing her, that is. His words rang through my head at a deafening volume and with crystal clear clarity. Maybe Jacob was the answer... maybe Bella would accept something less drastic than this to have a baby... After an hour or so, Bella started to stir. Bella, love- I began, but Rosalie growled to cut me off. How do you feel, sweetie? She asked in a sugar -coated voice. It made me want to retch. Before Bella could answer, she tried to pull herself upright, with a hand over her mouth. Rosalie swiftly passed her the bowl into which Bella vomited. I m fine, she said weakly, slumping back. I groaned in agony at seeing my Bella suffer. My frozen heart felt like it was shattering into a million pieces, the shards being crushed into powder. Bella, Carlisle began softly, I need you to tell me exactly how you feel. Don t downplay anything; it doesn t help me treat you. Well, I feel nauseous... but you probably all gathered that, she grinned weakly, her cheeks turning slightly pink in her blush, curling up in a loose fetal p osition, arms around her knees. Dark circles had formed under her eyes, her cheekbones jutted out from her heart -shaped face, her wedding band was loose, and her stomach was expansive. I was speared to the spot in pain. I couldn t lose her again. I wouldn t. There must be a way to save her ... I got up and turned to stare out the window. The figure staring back at me was a stranger; his features were contorted in grief and sheer agony, his mouth open as if he were about to scream. His onyx eyes were burning furiously with d ark, purple shadows beneath them. The thirst didn t register; no physical urge was strong enough for me to leave Bella s side. I suddenly heard a motorcycle pulling off the freeway and a loud, internal monologue that emanated from no-one in the room, and yet I was familiar with the voice. Bloodsucker can probably hear me now. He ll want to fight me alone. I ll challenge him to a due l; he d probably get a kick out of the theatrics. Jacob s on his way in, everyone, I stated, half-
relieved he d come to find me. If anyone could make Bella see sense, it was Jacob. Of course, I knew he was coming with the intention of killing me. Part of me jumped at the idea; but I wouldn t leave my Bella here alone. The already stressed atmosphere in the room increased as we all gathered around the sofa where Bella lay, and heard the engine stop abruptly. Filthy mutt, what does he want? Rosalie muttered angrily. I pointedly ignored her. Shall we pretend we re not in? Carlisle asked me. Too late, he knows we re here. I replied swiftly. Carlisle nodded and proceeded to open the door, standing in the frame as Jacob reached him. Hello, Jacob, he greeted him calmly, How are you? Jacob paused to take a deep breath. I heard Bella made it back alive, he stated sceptically. Carlisle paused. Er, Jacob, it s not really the best time...Could we do this later? Jacob stared at him, taken aback. He wants to postpone the death match for a more convenient time? Rosalie was glaring daggers in Jacob s direction. We should not tell that dog anything! Bella tried to straighten up, but she was too weak. Why not? she asked in a hoarse, cracked voice. Are we keeping secrets from Jacob, too? What s the point? I sighed, half relieved, half exasperated. Come in, please, Jacob, Bella invited more loudly. Jacob looked in the direction of Bella s voice. Excuse me, he said, stepping around Carlisle and moving with his back to the wall, casting a cautious glance over the room. I didn t bother looking up at him. I kept my eyes firmly on Bella s weak form, the immense pain searing through me worse than a white hot poker , my hands curled into tight claws. I felt Jacob s eyes move from me to Bella. What the-? She really is sick! As Rosalie hovered protectively over Bella, Jacob s face turned from shock to confusion as he slowly processed this. But she doesn t like Rosalie... No, more than that, she s afraid of Rosalie...Or she was. Bella turned a light shade green and Rosalie grabbed the bowl for Bella to throw up in. I fell to my knees at her side, Rosalie pushing her hand out to hold me back. Don t you dare, she warned. I was beyond furious with Rosalie; Bel la was my wife. Bella smiled weakly at Jacob and whispered, Sorry about that. Always apologising for things that weren t her fault. I moaned in pain, slumping my head to Bella s knees, and she placed a hand gently against my cheek in comfort. Jacob moved towards Bella in a stupor. A hiss escaped Rosalie s teeth and she moved between him and Bella. Rose, don t, Bella whispered pleadingly. It s fine. Rosalie was reluctant, but moved to Bella s head, coiled ready to pounce should the need arise.
Bella, what s wrong? Jacob asked softly, kneeling opposite me and seizing Bella s other hand in both of hi s. I kept my eyes locked on Bella. Are you all right? he asked, but she didn t answer. I m so glad you came to see me today, Jacob, she said lightly. I didn t need to hear her thoughts to finish that sentence off... because I won t be here for much longer. I groaned into the blanket covering her body. What is it, Bella? Jacob asked. She was silent, and then glanced around the room until her eyes found Rosalie. Help me up, Rose? Rosalie s lips pulled back in a snarl. I want to kill that mutt. If he does anything, I ll tear his throat out. Please, Rose, Bella pleaded. I was as still as a statue as Rosalie moved her arm behind my Bella s shoulders, preparing to lift her up. No. Don t get up... Jacob whispered, scared for the frail form before him. I m answering your question, she retorted with a snap. Rosalie pulled Bella off the sofa, the blanket falling down to reveal her swollen torso contrasting with her painfully thin limbs. Bella placed a tender hand on top and below her ballooning stomach maternally. Jacob s internal monologue was one of utter horror. No. She can t be pregnant. Not that pregnant... But she is. I don t want to see this... Him inside her... Ugh no! This is sick. Whatever s inside her is feeding from Bella... Because it s a monster. Just like it s father. I always knew he d kill her. My head snapped up. He was right, completely right, of course. It was all my fault. Selfloathing raged inside me with such a force it threatened to crush me completely. I stood up and snarled at him, Outside, Jacob. He rose to his feet. Excellent. This is why I m here. Let s do this, he agreed. Emmett and Jasper immediately flanked me. Yes! Let s take him, Emmett thought eagerly. Got your back, bro. No, Bella gasped, falling forward to clutch my arm, Rosalie moving with her in synchronisation. I just need to talk to him Bella, I explained to her, reaching to stroke her worried face . Damn, Emmett s mood sank, but he didn t move. Jacob s anger rose, but I ignored it all. I focused solely on my wife. Don t strain yourself, I pleaded. Please rest. We ll both be back in just a few minutes. Bella stared at me, carefully reading my face as I stroked hers. Finally she nodded, and sank back down on the sofa with Rosalie s aid.
Bella turned her face to Jacob. Behave, she ordered, And then come back. He stayed silent. I m promising nothing. I walked out the front door, sensing Jacob following me. I knew distantly that I shouldn t turn my back on my enemy, but I didn t react to the instinct. Well, separating him from his coven was easy, Jacob thought. I ll have to decide very quickly when to a ttack. I m not ready for you to kill me yet, Jacob Black, I whispered as I strode away from the house. You ll have to have a little patience. Like I care about your schedule, bloodsucker. Patience isn t my speciality, he growled. I could sense Jacob tremble and the waves of heat roll off him; he was preparing to phase at a second s notice. I stopped abruptly and turned to face him . I could see myself through his eyes; he froze at the apparent agony contorting my features, my eyes out of focus. In tha t instant I wished I could pull my own thick, icy skin away, tear myself to pieces; anything to escape this torture. It s killing her, right? She s dying? Jacob s face became a mask of horror that weakly resembled my own and I vaguely picked up the train of his thoughts. This isn t happening. I can t get my head around it. Not again...I ve already lost her so many times in my head... But she s never been mine to lose. And this isn t my fault. My fault, I murmured, and I sank to my knees. I stared at the dirt beneath me as the torturing words escaped my lips. Yes, yes it s killing her. Damn, he s the easiest target. I want a fight not an execution. Where s his smug superiority now? So why hasn t Carlisle done anything? Jacob growled. He s a doctor, right? Get it out of her. So Jacob shared my sentiments. She won t let us, I explained wearily. Jeez, she s running true to form. Of course, die for the monster spawn. It s so Bella. You know her well, I observed. How quickly you see... I didn t see. Not in time. She wouldn t talk to me on the way home. Not really. I thought she was frightened, that would be natural. I thought she was angry with me for putting her through this, for e ndangering her life. Again. I never imagined what she was really thinking, what she was resolving. Not until my family met us at the airport and she ran right into Rosalie s arms. Rosalie s! And then I heard what Rosalie was thinking. I didn t understand until I heard that. Yet you understand after one second... I sighed. Just back up a second. She won t let you, he spat sarcastically. Did you ever notice that she s exactly as strong as a normal hundred-and-ten-pound human girl? How stupid are you vamps? Hold her down and knock her out with drugs. I wanted to, I replied. Carlisle would have... Too noble?
No. Not noble. Her bodyguard complicated things. I stated bitterly. Oh. The blonde. What s in it for her? Does the beauty queen want Bella to d ie so badly? Maybe, I said, pain tearing through me at the thought. Rosalie doesn t look at it quite that way. I suppose that was one way of putting it. So take the blonde out first. Your kind can be put back together, right? Turn her into a jigsaw then take care of Bella. Emmett and Esme are backing her up. Emmett would never let us...and Carlisle won t help me with Esme against it... My voice disappeared. You should have left Bella with me, Jacob stated. Yes, I agreed, confirming my earlier thoughts. Bit late. Should have thought of that before you knocked her up with the life-sucking monster. I couldn t disagree with him. I just stared as his words ran through me like sharp blades. We didn t know, I tried to explain in a hushed tone. I ne ver dreamed. There s never been anything like Bella and I before. How could we know that a human was able to conceive a child with one of us When the human should get ripped to shreds in the process? Jacob snapped. Yes. They re out there, the sadistic ones, the incubus, the succubus. They exist. But the seduction is merely a prelude to the feast. No -one survives, I shook my head, disgusted. Like you re any different. I didn t realize they had a special name for what you are, he spat. I simply stared back out of my unfocused, burning eyes full of self-hatred. Even you, Jacob Black, cannot hate me as much as I hate myself. Wrong, he thought in his rage. Killing me now doesn t save her, I whispered. So what does? Jacob, you have to do something for me, I pleaded. The hell I do, parasite! For her? I begged again. He clenched his teeth together. I did everything I could to keep her away from you. Every single thing. It s too late. You know her, Jacob. You connect with her on a level that I d on t even understand. You are part of her, and she is part of you. She won t listen to me, because she thinks I m
underestimating her. She thinks she s strong enough for this... I choked. She might listen to you. Why would she? I staggered to my feet. I saw my eyes through Jacob s mind; they were wild now. Can vampires lose their minds? He thought rhetorically. Maybe, I answered. I don t know. It feels like it. I have to try to hide this in front of her because stress makes her more ill. She can t keep anything down as it is. I have to be composed; I can t make it harder. But that doesn t matter now. She has to listen to you! I can t tell her anything you haven t. What do you want me to do? Tell her she s stupid? She probably already knows that. Tell her that she s going to die? I bet she knows that, too. You can offer her what she wants. I replied, voicing my earlier idea. What?! Part of the crazy? He asked himself. I focused, knowing exactly what I wanted more than anything else in the world. I don t care about anything but keeping her alive. If it s a child she wants, she can have it. She can have half a dozen babies. Anything she wants, I paused getting ready to say the next words, knowing the agony they would cause me but prepared to do a nything to keep Bella alive. She can have puppies, if that s what it takes. I stared at him watching as my words dawned on him. His jaw dropped in shock. But not this way! I hissed, Not this thing that s sucking the life from her while I stand there h elpless! Watching her sicken and waste away. Seeing it hurting her. I felt like I d been punched in the stomach. You have to make her see reason, Jacob. She won t listen to me anymore. Rosalie s always there, feeding her insanity- encouraging her. Protecting her. No, protecting it. Bella s life means nothing to her. I felt another surge of hatred towards my sister. What?! Bella should have a baby? With me? Is he giving her up? Or does he think she wouldn t mind being shared? Whichever. Whatever keeps her alive, I stated honestly. That s the craziest thing you ve said yet. She loves you, I said, feeling the tear in my heart. Not enough. She s ready to die to have a child. Maybe she d accept something less extreme. Don t you know her at all? I know, I know. It s going to take a lot of convincing. That s why I need you. You know how she thinks. Make her see sense. I caught flickers of Jacob s thoughts. Wrong. Sick. Mental images of him and Bella flowed... I flinched. Bella in his arms, sighing his name...Bella round
with his child, not distorted like she was with mine. The self -disgust roared loudly inside me as he cut off his thoughts. Make Bella see sense? What universe do you live in? At least try, I pleaded. He shook his head, but I heard the conflict raging inside. Where is this psycho crap coming from? Are you making this up as you go? I sighed. I ve been thinking of nothing but ways to save her since I realized what I was planning to do. What she would die to do. But I didn t know how to contact you. I knew you wouldn t listen if I called. I would have come to find you soon, if you hadn t come today. But it s hard to leave her, even for a few minutes. Her condition...it changes so fast. The thing is...growing. Swiftly. I can t be a way from her now. What is it? None of us have any idea. But it is stronger than she is. Already. Help me stop it, I whispered. Help me stop this from happening. How? By offering my stud services? He flinched at his words, but I was past caring. Y ou re really sick. She ll never listen to this. Try. There s nothing to lose now. How will it hurt? It ll hurt me. Haven t I taken enough rejection from Bella without this? , Jacob thought. A little pain to save her? Is it such a high cost? But it won t work, he sighed. Maybe not. Maybe it will confuse her, though. Maybe she ll falter in her resolve. One moment of doubt is all I need. Yes, just a moment... I had to believe that. And then you pull the rug out from under the offer? Just kidding Bell a ? If she wants a child, that s what she gets. I won t rescind, I said honestly. Just as long as she s alive... I should just kill him now. Not now, I whispered. Not yet. Right or wrong, it would destroy her, and you know it. No need to be hasty. If she won t listen to you, you ll get your chance. The moment Bella s heart stops beating, I will be begging for you to kill me. You won t have to beg long, he retorted.
My mouth twitched into the hint of a tired smile. I m very much counting on that. Then we have a deal, I said, stretching my cold, white hand out in offer. His russet-coloured fingers closed around mine. We have a deal.
I strolled back to the white house, Jacob following close behind. I won t do it. I ll just talk to her that s all...His conflicted mind was racing, but I didn t comment on his thoughts. I wanted to get back to Bella. I d made sure we were out of earshot from my family, and their eyes were wary and confused as we walked through the front door, casting furtive glances across us both as if checking for signs of a fight. I walked to the middle of the group, Bella s eyes anxiously on my face. They flickered to Jacob then back to me; I watched in angst as her face grew grayish pale with the stress. We re going to let Jacob and Bella speak privately, I stated robotically. Over my pile of ashes, Rosalie hissed at me. Now that would be a delight, Alice thought scathingly, shooting her sister a murderous glare. I paid Rosalie no attention, and looked into Bella s eyes. Bella, Jacob wants to talk to you. Are you afraid to be alone with him? I asked flatly. She looked at Jacob, confused, and then turned to Rosalie. Rose, it s fine. Jake s not going to hurt us. Go with Edward . It might be a trick, Rosalie said warily, eyes flicking from side to side as she leaned in to Bella conspiratorially. I don t see how. I turned to face Rosalie. Carlisle and I will always be in your sight, Rosalie, my voice cracking with my fury. We re the ones she s afraid of. No, Bella murmured, her eyes swimming with tears, glistening on the ends of her long lashes. No, Edward. I m not... I shook my head, turning the corners of my mouth up ever so slightly for Bella s sake. It was painful. I didn t mean it that way, Bella. I m fine. Don t worry about me. I gestured toward the door. Everyone, please. I could see the pity in their eyes as the cracks in my façade started to appear. Esme rubbed my arm as they departed; only Rosalie hesitated. Rose, I want you to go, Bella whispered. Rosalie glowered at me, gesturing for me to leave first. I sighed at her obstinacy, and exited the house with Rosalie at my heels. We joined the rest of our family in the shadows of the forest, where we would be unable to hear Jacob and Bella s conversation. It needed to be private.
I don t like this. I don t like this one bit! Rosalie snarled at me, her fingers twitching into claws. Alice hissed in her direction. Carlisle tried to redirect the conversation. monitors to Bella. What s your view? You re not sticking any needles in that girl! Rose, the baby and Bella are lacking sustenance. They won t survive much longer if I can t get some fluids into her. We all stood in silence for several minutes; Esme muffling sobs with her hands. She was terrified at the prospect of losing her daughter and her grandchild. Rosalie pursed her lips like she would very much like to argue, but said nothing. If it helps the baby...she thought. A growl ripped out of my chest. I m going back in, Rosalie announced. He might hurt the- he might hurt Bella, she amended, but she was fooling no one. Oh give it a rest, Rose! Alice snapped, throwing her arms up in the air. We all know why you re doing this! Give it up! Hey, don t get at her- Emmett started moving forward; Jasper growled at him, curling protectively around Alice s tiny form. I ll say whatever I like to that- that murderer, Alice spat; it sounded odd in her trill. She was voicing my thoughts so exactly it was as if she could read my mind, and I d never seen her so irate. In her eyes, and mine, that was exactly what Rosalie was; Bella s life counted for nothing to her as long as the baby survived. Rosalie and Emmett growled, squaring off against Alice, Jasper and I, all of us tensed ready to pounce, air hissing through our gritted teeth and eyes narrowed as tensions soared. Esme whimpered as she saw her beloved family falling apart around her. How had we come to this? That s enough! Carlisle shouted and everyone relaxed their positions slightly , Alice folding her arms across her chest, eyes flaming. Jasper stood in front of her still, eyeing Emmett and reading the mood around us. The only sound was Esme s hitched breathing. Carlisle shook his head; he hated raising his voice. Now this is a very tough time for everyone, bu t we ve got to focus on Bella, and not start tearing into each other. He sighed and rubbed his temple. Everyone nodded in agreement with that, but averted their eyes from each other. Sorry about that, Edward. You know how much we love Bella, I just had t o defend Rose...you know... Rose, I m going to suggest an IV drip and
Just then we saw Jacob storm out of the house and take off into the woods in the opposite direction. I knew that his attempt to reason with Bella had been fruitless, as I had expected, but I had still hoped. I ran back at full speed. Rosalie was trying to beat me there but she stood no chance; I was the fastest in our fa mily. I found Bella lying ashen -faced on the sofa, silent tears trickling down her cheek. I knelt down and wiped them away with my cold fingertips. Rosalie wasn t far behind. What the hell did that dog say?! She asked, outraged to see Bella crying, worrying what damage the stress could do to the baby. She tried to push me out the way but I didn t move. Bella, love, please don t stress yourself- I pleaded. Edward, I m so sorry! she cried. I was shocked. I should have stopped trying to predict her reactions long ago. She wasn t even mad at me for my suggestion to Jacob; she was scared for what this was doing to me. My heart was plunging that my last hope had failed, but I wouldn t show her. What would I do now? Sit around and watch her die? Shh, I soothed, and she nestled her thin face into my palm. What did you tell that mu tt to say, Edward?! Rosalie glared at me murderously. As was fast becoming a habit, I ignored her. It s not about a baby, Bella continued, It s this baby. I love him. I can t hurt him. When would she realise this wasn t a sweet child worth cooing over and protecting? Th at it was a monster, just like me? I didn t want to argue and stress her more; so I just stayed silent. I listened to her heartbeat, the most vital, unique sound in the world to me; it was definitely growing weaker. Carlisle seemed to have noticed as well. Bella, I need to monitor you more carefully. You re getting dangerously dehydrated and malnourished. Am I allowed to attach some tubes and an IV to you? I won t do anything you re not happy with. She looked to Rosalie, who still didn t seem impressed with the idea, but gave Bella a weak smile of approval. Finally, Bella nodded. The close stand-off in the forest was long buried between Emmett and Jasper that afternoon, though Alice and I still harboured animosity toward Rosalie, and her likewise. Jasper, Emmett, Esme and Alice dragged the furniture out of the wa y to make room for the equipment that Carlisle acquired from the hospital, including a vast blood supply, should she need a transfusion. I stayed next to Bella, holding her hand and staring at the pale lavender of her closed, delicate eyelids, brushing her limp hair from her face. Rosalie refused to relax
her protective stance. When Carlisle returned, he set up the equipment quickly and he attached an IV full of viscous, white liquid into Bella s arm. I couldn t believe that less than a month ago we had celebrated our fairytale wedding in this very room, and now my bride lay dying in front of me. Bella always looked stunning to me but that day... she was an absolute vision as she came down the aisle dressed in white lace and satin, her mahogany hair braided and gathered up in a crown with sapphire encrusted hair slides. Her skin was cream and roses, her chocolate eyes wide with excitement, framed by thick, long lashes. And now... she lay on a hospital bed, her pallor chalky, and her skin almost waxy. The only sounds were the beeping monitors, the dripping of the IV as fluid flowed into her system, her shallow breaths and her irregular heartbeat. When Carlisle had done all he could for the time being, he and Esme left to hunt; and I was left to my misery.
I was leaning over the rail on Bella s left, watching her in an uneasy sleep, when I heard two minds that didn t belong to anyone in the house ; yet were, again, familiar to me. Edward? Edward, you there? Okay, now I feel kinda stupid . You sound stupid, too. Think he can hear us? I think so. Hey, Edward. If you can hear me- circle the wagons, bloodsucker. You ve got a problem. I instantly jumped up and dashed out onto the porch, with Jasper and Emmett flanking me. Looking out into the darkness, I saw two wolves, one russet, the other sandy, break through the trees onto the lawn. Jacob? Seth? What s going on? They let their minds run over the confrontation with Sam... Bella s dappled stomach... my face twisted in agony... Rosalie hovering protectively... Not safe. Not right. Dangerous. Unnatural. Monstrous. An abomination. I hissed in fury and jumped off the porch. They want to kill Bella? I snarled. Jasper and Emmett, having missed the first part of the conversation leapt down next to me, moving on Jacob and Seth with their lips pulled back over their teeth. Seth backed away. Em, Jazz- not them! The others. The pack is coming. Jasper didn t move his eyes from the two wolves. Emmett turned to me. What s their problem? he demanded. The same one as mine, I hissed. But they have their own plan to handle it. Get the others. Call Carlisle! He and Esme have to get back here now. Emmett pulled his cell from his pocket and dialled. Damn, they are separated, Jacob whined. They aren t far, I assured him. I m going to take a look , Seth thought. Run the western perimeter. Will you be in danger, Seth? Don t think so... But maybe I should go. Just in case... Jacob thought. They ll be less likely to challenge me, Seth pointed out, I m just a kid to them. You re just a kid to me, kid.
I m outta here. You need to coordinate with the Cullens. Seth darted into the trees. I stood facing Jacob, Emmett speaking rapidly to Carlisle on the phone. Alice came out to the porch. Is everything okay, Edward? I shook my head infinitesimally but gave no further explanation. This isn t the first time I ve owed y ou my gratitude, Jacob, I whispered. I would never have asked for this from you. Yeah, you would. I thought about what I d asked of him earlier, and then nodded. I suppose you re right about that. Jacob sighed. Well, this isn t the first time that I didn t do it for you. Right. Sorry I didn t do any good today. Told you she wouldn t listen to me. I know. I never really believed she would. But... You had to try. I get it. She any better? I shut my eyes and took a breath through the pain. Worse. Alice, irked now by the one -sided conversation, stepped in. Jacob, would you mind switching forms? I want to know what s going on. I shook my head. He needs to stay linked to Seth. Then would you be so kind as to tell me what s happening? She asked, hands on her hips. The pack thinks Bella s become a problem, I started in an empty voice. They foresee potential danger from the...from what she s carrying. They feel it s their duty to remove the danger. Jacob and Seth disbanded from the pack to warn us. The rest are planning on attacking tonight. Alice hissed furiously as Emmett and Jasper cast furtive glances into the trees. Emmett pressed the end button on his cell, and said, Carlisle and Es me are on their way. Twenty minutes, tops. We should take up a defensive position, said Jasper, ever the strategist. Let s get inside, I agreed. I ll run perimeter with Seth. If I get too far for you to hear my head, listen for my howl , Jacob said.
I will, I nodded. Alice, Jasper, Emmett and I backed into the house casting furtive glances all around us. Jasper began pacing up and down between the window and the spiral stair case, and Emmett went to tell Rosalie the news; she hissed so loudly she almo st woke Bella up. Alice, while grateful for Jacob and Seth s warning, sported a slight pout on her elfin features as our future mingled with that of the wolves and promptly disappeared, which disconcerted her momentarily. I sat holding Bella s hand, which no longer radiated its usual warmth. I was watching her slipping away before my very eyes. I was able to keep the grief from crushing me completely when I was doing something proactive, so I rubbed my temple and concentrated on Jacob and Seth s thoughts. Why re you so down, Jake? Seth asked. I ll bet Sam won t bring the pack tonight. He s not going to launch a suicide mission. Oh. This isn t so much about Sam, is it? You think Bella s going to die anyway. Yeah, she is. I drew in a sharp intake of breath. It was different from me thinking it, to hearing the words in another s thoughts. Suddenly, Carlisle and Esme came bursting through the door, my father resting a reassuring hand on my shoulder. We saw Seth. He said he and Jacob were running patrols? Carlisle asked. I nodded in confirmation, and proceeded to explain the situation thoroughly to him. Carlisle detested violence more than anyone, so it was with a resigned sigh and a grimace that he turned to Jasper and said, What do we do? The bad news, Jasper began, still pacing, is that the wolves know our fighting tactics. He cracked his knuckles against his palm in frustration. Fortunately, however, we now outweigh them in numbers. Just. A delighted grin lit up E mmett s face at the thought of an imminent fight with werewolves. We can t ask Jacob and Seth to fight against their brothers, Jasper! exasperatedly. Carlisle said
Excellent, thought Emmett, all the more for us. Grizzlies are getting pretty predictable. His grin grew wider, excitement leaping in his eyes. Well, we still have a great deal more skill and experience, Jasper continued, But I don t like it, Carlisle. He walked over to put his arms protectively on Alice s shoulders, looking into her eyes. I won t have Alice in danger like that... Reading his expression she spoke out, looking him seriously in the eyes. Jazz, I ll be fine. She was right; even without her vision, Alice was as dangerous as the rest of us. Can we run? Jasper asked, torn; it wasn t his nature to back down from a fight, but he didn t want Alice in peril.
No, Carlisle shook his head. Bella is far too delicate. Besides, I need the medical access I have here. Jasper nodded and went back to pacing, head resting on t he tips of his fingers. A deafening howl suddenly pierced the air. I darted back to the window. False alarm, false alarm, Jacob thought. Sorry. Seth is young. He forgets things. No one s attacking. False alarm. He emerged out of the thick trees onto the lawn. There s nothing out there-you got that? I nodded once and turned to look over my shoulder at Bella. Her heart faltered for a beat; I shuddered. I waved Jacob away absentmindedly and returned to her side. Th e others looked up at me, their faces tense and questioning, eyes raking the forest through the window. It was a false alarm, I explained. Seth was upset about something else, and he forgot we were listening for a signal. He s very young. Nice to have toddlers guarding the fort, Emmett grumbled. They ve done us a great service tonight, Emmett, Carlisle said, At great personal sacrifice. Yeah, I know, I m just jealous. Wish I was out there. He punched a fist into his palm. Seth doesn t think Sam will attack now, I interjected robotically. Not with us forewarned, and lacking two members of the pack. What does Jacob think ? Carlisle asked. He s not as optimistic, I replied. Carlisle nodded and walked over to us to observe Bella more closely. He tapped the IV with his finger. She s just not absorbing anything... He reached down to feel her forehead. Don t touch her! Rosalie whispered. You ll wake her up! He sighed. How do they expect me to help if I can t get near her ? Rosalie, he murmured. Don t start with me, Carlisle, she snarled. We let you have your way earlier, but that s all we re allowing. Bella choked in her sleep and Rosalie and I rose to hover over her. Rosalie stroked her hand across Bella s forehead. I stiffened as I watched. I was incensed, and my face contorted with all the grief, agony and pure anger coursing through my dried-up veins. Emmett jumped between Rosalie and me, holding his hands up. Not tonight, Edward. We ve got other things to worry about. I turned away and met Jacob s wide eyes peering through the glass at the scene of horror before him. Yes, I thought, we certainly do.
Dawn soon came bringing with it wispy, pale clouds of violet. No attack materialised, but none of us relaxed either. After discussing it with Carlisle, I had managed to find a softer, more tactful way to explain to Bella that a pack of murderous wolves were intent on killing her and the new life growing in her womb. I had explained about Jacob and Seth disbanding from the pack, and promised her that we would keep her safe. From the wolves, at least, I thought, wishing I could promise more. She was deteriorating. Fast. I watched her pant for breath, listened to her increasingly uneven heart, and saw her stomach turn an increasingly mottled black with bruising from the forceful kicks of the creation inside her. I forced myself not to scream, just like I had done in Volterra under Jane s fiery glare, because I knew it would cause Bella pain. I d gladly take that agony for all eternity just so Bella wouldn t suffer. Jasper, Emmett and I had gathered in Carlisle s study; dusty, thick tomes were piled high on his desk with titles such as South American Tribes and Myths and Legends . Boys, I need your help, he began. They nodded. Edward, understandably, needs to be with Bella, but I need some help with research, and quickly. Anything we can find out could be vital in keeping Bella alive. The more we know, the better I can treat them both. We ll start with the Libishomen and the Ticuna IndiansHe was interrupted by another howl piercing the air. I flew down the stairs with my father and brothers behind me, to see Seth waiting outside the window. Another false alarm. Sorry guys. It s just Leah. She s come to help. I nodded. Wow, you look bad, man. I didn t acknowledge the thought; I just stared back without seeing, and returned to sit beside Bella, opposite Rosalie. Alice, Jasper and Emmett started discussing the research task in serious, hushed tones while Esme hummed tunelessly to herself upstairs, trying to keep busy. I heard Jacob phase into his human form and walk towards the house; Carlisle went to greet him. Whispers of their conversation started to trickle through my trance-like state from the porch steps where they both sat. I didn t get a chance to thank you last night, Jacob. You don t know how much I appreciate your... compassion. I know your goal was to protect Bella, but I owe you the safety of the rest of my family as well. Edward told me what you had to do... Don t mention it, Jacob muttered. If you prefer. After several minutes of silence, Jacob spoke again. She s family to you? Yes. Bella is already a daughter to me. A beloved daughter. But you re going to let her die.
Carlisle was quiet for a long moment. I can imagine what you think of me for that. But i can t ignore her will. It wouldn t be right to make such a choice for her, to force her. I knew he was right; but it didn t make the pill any easier to swallow. Do you think there s any chance she ll make it? Jacob asked. I mean as a vampire and all that. She told me about...about Esme. I d say there s an even chance at this point. I've seen vampire venom work miracles, but there are conditions that even venom cannot overcome. Her heart is working too hard now; if it should fail...there won t be anything for me to do. Carlisle told Jacob. My hands clenched into tight fists. ...I m watching her - and not just her, but the fetus as well - starve to death by the hour. I can t stop it and I can t slow it down. I can t figure out what it wants. Probably just looking for something to sink its teeth into - a throat to suck dry. I can tell them exactly what it wants: death and blood, blood and death, Jacob thought painfully. Of course, I thought as I took in Jacob s words. It s thirsty... Why has this not occurred to me before? It seemed so obvious now. I felt the tiniest flicker of hope inside me, which felt alien in my despair. The rest of their conversation faded as I considered the idea, the possibilities and the implications. I smoothed Bella s hair that clung to her waxy, sallow face, and got to my feet. She stared into my eyes in confusion and weakly squeezed my hand. I ll be right back, Bella, I promised. I want to speak to Carlisle for a moment. Actually, Rosalie, would you mind accompanying me? What is it, Edward? Bella croaked. Nothing you need worry about, love. It will just take a second. Please, Rose? Esme? Can you mind Bella for me? Esme flew down the stairs. Of course, she said and went to sit next to Bella, tenderly kissing her forehead. Rosalie followed me out to the porch step where Carlisle and Jacob were sitting. Her eyes were narrowed in suspicion as I shut the door behind us. Carlisle, I w hispered. What is it, Edward? Perhaps we ve been going about this the wrong way. I was listening to you and Jacob just now, and when you were speaking of what the...fetus wants, Jacob had an interesting thought. I did?
We haven t actually addressed that angle, I continued. We ve been trying to get Bella what she needs. And her body is accepting it about as well as one of ours would. Perhaps we should address the needs of the... fetus first. Maybe if we can satisfy it, we ll be able to help her more effectively. I m not following you , Edward, Carlisle said. Think about it, Carlisle. If that creature is more vampire than human, can t you guess what it craves- what it s not getting? Jacob did. I did? Oh, he said, as realization dawned on him. Y ou think it is...thirsty? Rosalie hissed under her breath, her face lighting up like a child s on Christmas morning . Of course, she murmured. Carlisle, we have all that type O negative laid aside for Bella. It s a good idea. Hmm. Carlisle raised his hand to his chin, his thoughts racing. I wonder... And then what would be the best way to administer... We don t have time to be creative, Rosalie snapped. I d say we should start with the traditional way. Wait a minute, Jacob interrupted. Just hold on. Are you- are you talking about making Bella drink blood? It was your idea, dog. Rosalie scowled at him. I watched Carlisle s face. I could see the faint flicker of hope that had been lit inside me, appear in his eyes. He pursed his lips. That s just... Jacob trailed off. Monstrous? I offered. Repulsive? Pretty much. But what if it helps her? I whispered. What are you gonna do, shove a tube down her throat? he said angrily. I plan to ask her what she thinks. I just wanted to run it pa st Carlisle first. Rosalie nodded with excitement. If you tell her it might help the baby, she ll be willing to do anything. Even if we do have to feed them through a tube.
Blondie would be in line with anything that helped the little life -sucking monster. Is that what s going on? Is she after the kid? Jacob questioned. I nodded infinitesimally, answering Jacob s thoughts. Fury swelled within me towards my sister. Huh. Wouldn t have thought ice -cold Barbie had a maternal side. So much for protecting Bella- Rosalie d probably jam the tube down Bella s throat herself. I pressed my lips into a hard line, again a nswering the affirmative. Well, we don t have time to sit around discussing thi s, Rosalie said impatiently. What do you think Carlisle? Can we try? Carlisle took a deep breath and stood up. We ll ask Bella. Rosalie s face was plastered with a smug smile, convinced she was about to get her way. We went back into the house, Bella eyeing us suspiciously as we flitted to her side. What s going on? she whispered in a painfully frail voi ce. She tried to place her hand over her expansive stomach. Jacob had an idea that might help you, Carlisle said. Leave me out of it, Jacob thought. Give the credit to her blood-sucking husband, where it belongs. It won t be...pleasant, butBut it will help the baby, Rose interrupted fervently, her eyes lit up and head bobbing. We ve thought of a better way to feed him. Maybe. Bella s eyes fluttered gently and she gave a faint chortle. Not pleasant? she murmured, glancing at the tube in her arm. Gosh, that ll be such a change. Rosalie laughed with her sycophantically. I had no inclination to laugh. I moved around Rosalie, taking Bella s free hand in mine and looking her deep in the eyes. Bella, love, we re going to ask you to do something monstrous, I started. Repulsive. How bad? she asked warily. We think the fetus might have an appeti te closer to ours than to yours, Carlisle explained. We think it s thirsty. She blinked for a second, and then understood. Oh. Oh. Your condition-both your conditions- are deteriorating rapidly. We don t have time to waste, to come up with more palatable ways to do this. The fastest way to test the theory I ve got to drink it, she murmured, bobbing her head slightly in agreement. I can do that. Practice for the future, right? She looked at me, her pallid lips pulling up at the corners into
a slight grin, but no humour touched me. Rosalie was growing impatient, tapping her designer shoe against the pale wooden floor rhythmically. I wonder what she d do if I threw her against a wall, thought Jacob angrily. I d be only too delighted to help him. So, who s going to catch me a grizzly bear? Bella whispered with as much enthusiasm as she could. Carlisle and I glanced at each other conspiratorially. What? Bella asked, noticing our quick exchange. It will be a more effective test if we don t cut corners, Bella, Carlisle said. I explained further; If the fetus is craving blood, it s not craving animal blo od. It won t make a difference to you Bella. Don t think about it, Rosalie enthused. As she took in what we were saying, Bella s eyes grew wide with fear. Who? she breathed, her eyes flashing to Jacob. I m not here as a donor, Bells, Jacob said, raising his hands out in front of him. Side s it s human blood that thing s after, and I don t think mine applies We have blood on hand, Rosalie spoke over Jacob. For you- just in case. Don t worry about anything at all. It s going to be fine. I have a good feeling about this, Bella. I think the baby will be so much better. Bella stroked her stomach delicately. Well, she started; her voice scratchy and low. I m starving, so I ll bet he is too. Let s go for it. My first vampire act.
At Bella s words, Carlisle and Rosalie flew upstairs, wondering whether or not the blood should be warmed up first. I stayed by Bella s side, holding her hand and gazing into her exhausted eyes conveying my love for her. I love you so much. I could tell she was thinking the same. As I stared at my wife s painfully frail form, the flicker of hope I had felt was extinguished inside me as Kaure s last word echoed endlessly through my head; morte . Rosalie darted down the stairs into the kitchen, opening a cupboard door on the right, reaching for a transparent cup. Not clear, Rosalie, I whispered, rolling my eyes. I didn t want Bella to have to think about what she was doing any more than was necessary. Bella looked at me curiously, but I just shook my head as Rosalie flitted back upstairs. Bella turned her gaze to Jacob. This was your idea? Don t blame me for this one. Your vampire was just picking snide comments out of my head. She managed a faint smile. I didn t expect to see you again. Yeah, me, either. How have I got drawn back into this? Edward told me what you had to do . I m sorry. S okay. It was probably only a matter of time till I snapped over something Sam wanted me to do, he lied. And Seth, she murmured. He s actually happy to help. I hate causing you trouble. Jacob barked a chuckle. Bella sighed. I guess that s nothing new, is it? No, not really. You don t have to stay and watch this, she offered. I don t really have anywhere else to go. The whole wolf thing is a lot less appealing since Leah joined up. Leah? she breathed in surprise. You didn t tell her? he asked of me. I shrugged, keeping my eyes on Bella s face. I hadn t thought, in the scheme of things, that it was altogether important at the moment. Why? she gasped.
To keep an eye on Seth, Jacob explained, keeping to the simplest version . But Leah hates us, Bella croaked. Leah s not going to bug anyone. But me, he amended. She s in my pack, so she follows my lead. He grimaced at the words; Jacob was uncomfortable with his new role as Alpha. Bella still looked at him sceptically. You re scared of Leah, he continued, but your best buds with the psychopath blonde? Rosalie hissed from upstairs. I ll gladly show him a psychopath if he wants one , Rose thought. Don t. Bella frowned. Rose...understands. Yeah, Jacob grumbled. She understands that you re gonna die and she doesn t care, s long as she gets her mutant spawn out of the deal. Stop being a jerk, Jacob, she muttered. You say that like it s possible. I could see Bella fighting back a smile, but her colourless li ps twitched. Rosalie and Carlisle came back down the stairs, Carlisle clutching a white plastic cup with a lid and bendy straw. Carlisle started to reach towards Bella, and then paused. She was eyeing the cup warily. We could try another method, Carlisle said softly. No, Bella rasped. No, I ll try this first. We don t have time... She reached for the cup and took it in her hand, shaking a little. She tried to haul herself up and rest on her elbow, but it was too much effort for her in her frail condition. Rosalie put her arm beneath Bella s shoulders and supported her head. Thanks, Bella whispered. Her eyes cast glances at all of us, feeling self-conscious about what she was about to do. Her cheeks remained ashen, though they would normally have been bright scarlet with the attention. Don t mind them, Rosalie said. I could sense a tenor of awkwardness from Jacob s thoughts. This must have been incredibly difficult to watch and it was a sign of the love he felt for Bella that he stayed. Bella raised the cup to her nose and inhaled. She flinched at the smell and winced. Bella, sweetheart, we can find an easier way, I said, holding my hand up to remove the cup. Plug your nose, Rosalie advised, staring at my outstretched hand like she would snap it off. No, that s not it. It s just that it - Bella breathed in deeply. It smells good, she confessed. That s a good thing, Rosalie encouraged. That means we re on the right track. Give it a try. Her face was the definition of excitement itself. She looked like she was about to jump up and down and clap with glee.
Bella placed her mouth over the straw; her eyes shut tight and wrinkling her nose. She took a tentative sip and moaned. Bella, loveI m okay, she insisted, opening her eyes to stare up at me, a pleading tone in her voice. It tastes good, too. That s good, Rosalie enthused again. A good sign. I pressed my hand to her now hollow cheek, curving my fingers gently around the protruding bones. She nestled into my touch and sucked in a deep sip of blood. How s your stomach? Do you feel nauseated? Carlisle enquired. No, I don t feel sick, Bella murmured, shaking her head. That s a first, eh? Excellent, Rosalie smiled, revealing her gleaming white teeth. I think it s a bit early for that, Rose, Carlisle cautioned. Bella was swigging the blood down now. Suddenly she looked up at me. Does this screw my total? she asked. Or do we start counting after I m a vampire? No one is counting, Bella. In any case, no one died for this. Your record is still clean. Huh? Thought Jacob. I ll explain later, I said under my breath. What? Bella murmured. Just talking to myself, I lied. Seriously, if Bella lives, he s not gonna get away with so much when her senses are as sharp as his. He ll definitely have to work on the honesty thing. My lips tugged up at the corners. Bella turned her attention to stare absentmindedly out the window. Probably pretending I m not here. No one else is disgusted. Just the opposite - they re probably having a hard time not ripping the cup away from her. I rolled my eyes. Jeez, how does anyone stand living with him? It s too bad he can t hear Bella s thoughts. Then he d annoy the crap out of her, too, and she d get tired of him. I chuckled once. It felt strange, alien and painful on my face. Bella s eyes fell on me and managed a weak smile at what she saw. After all, I hadn t felt or shown any humour since Isle Esme... Something funny? Bella asked. Jacob, I replied. She turned her gaze to him. Jake s a crack-up, she agreed.
Bada bing, he muttered. Great, now I m the court jester. Bella took the final gulp from the cup until she was sucking at air. I did it, she said. Everyone could hear the slight difference in her voice; it was stronger, still cracked, but louder. If I keep this down, Carlisle, will you take the needles out of me? As soon as possible, he swore. Honestly, they aren t doing that much good where they are. Rosalie stroked Bella s forehead while they glanced at each other hopefully. The first effects of the blood were immediate; her otherwise sallow cheeks had just a hint of pink returning to them, her breathing less laboured and her heartbeat more even. She wasn t relying on Rosalie s support as much as before; she was ever so slightly stronger. The flicker of hope that had been extinguished in me reignited into a full-blown flame. Would you like more? Rosalie asked. Bella s shoulders fell, and I shot a furious glare at Rose for pushing Bella on this. You don t have to drink more right away, I told her. Yeah, I know. But...I want to, she declared. Rosalie combed her perfect fingers through Bella s flaccid hair. You don t need to be embarrassed about that, Bella. Your body has cravings. We all understand that, she soothed. Anyone who doesn t understand shouldn t be here, she amended severely, obviously aimed at Jacob. He didn t care. She really does look better, Edward, thought Carlisle. He reached for Bella s cup. I ll be right back. Bella stared at Jacob, taking in his exhausted appearance. Jake, you look awful, she observed. Look who s talking. Seriously- when s the last time you slept? Huh. I m not actually sure. Aw, Jake. Now I m messing with your heath too. Don t be stupid. I heard him clench his teeth together. She s allowed to kill herself for a monster, but I m not allowed to miss a few nights sleep to watch her do it? Get some rest, please, she pleaded. There re a few beds upstairs- you re welcome to any of them. No, you most certainly are not, thought Rosalie, but she didn t say anything; she didn t want to upset Bella. Thanks, Bells, but I d rather sleep on the ground. Away from the stench, you know.
Right. Carlisle came flying down the stairs, a fresh cup of blood in his hand. Bella reached out for it, seemingly unconsciously, and started gulping it down. She was improving i n front of our eyes. She moved into a sitting position, her legs crossed and continued to stare out the window. Rosalie kept her hands in place should Bella slump but it was unnecessary. Soon , Bella had finished the second cup. How do you feel now? Carlisle asked. Not sick. Sort of hungry...only I m not sure if I m hungry or thirsty, you know? Carlisle, just look at her, Rosalie glowed. This is obviously what her body wants. She should drink more. She s still human, Rosalie. She needs food, too. L et s give her a little while to see how this affects her, and then maybe we can try some food again. Does anything sound particularly good to you, Bella? Eggs, she said without hesitation. We exchanged a knowing smile. I noticed Jacob s eyes growing heavier. Jacob, you really should sleep. As Bella said, you re certainly welcome to the accommodations here, though you d probably be more comfortable outside. Don t worry about anything - I promise I ll find you if there s a need. Sure, sure, he muttered whilst stifling a yawn. Now she looks a bit better, I can escape. Go curl up under a tree somewhere...Far enough away that the smell can t reach me. The bloodsucker will wake me if something goes wrong. He owes me. I do, I concurred. He put his hand on Bella s. Feel better, he wished her. Thanks, Jacob. Get her a blanket or something, he said as he turned for the door. Two howls su ddenly cut the air. Dammit, Jacob growled, pulling the door open and throwing himself off the porch, phasing in midair and destroying his shorts in the process. I made a mental note to get him some more; Emmett s would probably fit around him. What is it? Incoming, at least three, Seth answered. Em, Jazz! I called softly so as not to alarm Bella. They d hear me. I heard the door of Carlisle s study open upstairs and they appeared beside me.
Bella looked up at me with anxious eyes. What s happening, Edward? Nothing you need to worry about, sweetheart. I reassured. While Emmett and Jasper stayed on alert, I tried to hear as much of the wolves conversation as possible. It transpired it was a peaceful visit by Jared, Quil, Paul and Collin to try and get Jacob, Seth and Leah to go home to La Push; something they weren t prepared to do. I relayed the majority of the conversation to my family, surprised at how much I picked up. Esme was particularly upset when I relayed the wolves saying Homeless at the moment . When it was evident the blood was staying down, Bella pleaded with Carlisle to remove the tubes once again. Please, Carlisle? This has made me feel so much bet ter. Can I move back to the couch? He checked the monitors one more time and rubbed his chin. Pulse is more even. Breathing improved... Okay, Bella. I ll take out the tubes, take you off the monitors, and you can go back to the sofa as long as you keep the IV in for now. You still need more fluids. And if you start to feel even the slightest bit worse, I need to know right away. Do we have a deal? She bobbed her head, a grin on her face; sh e hated the hospital set-up. Alice appeared from upstairs to help put the furniture back into position. She was delighted that Bella looked better, but her face was puckered, her lips mashed together in a hard line. I cocked an eyebrow at the unusual expre ssion. Headache, was all she thought in response. Esme approached me as I refilled Bella s cup, her face full of sadness. Son, would you tell Jacob they re welcome to any facilities here? You said Leah doesn t like to eat in her wolf form... And I just can t bear to think of them as...homeless, she choked. Here are some clothes for Jacob. She passed me a white-button down shirt and tan pants which I dutifully put on the porch. Thank you, Edward, she thought as I pecked her cheek. Once it was clear the danger of an attack had passed for now, Jasper, Emmett and Alice disappeared back upstairs and I went to sit on the end of the white sofa with Bella s feet, wrapped in a blanket, in my lap. For the first time, I felt the crushing burden upon me decrease fractionally and I exhaled in slight relief.
Everything s cool, thought Jacob as he approached, exhausted. He disappeared into the trees holding the change of clothes tentatively between his teeth. I felt a twinge of sympathy; I could imagine the sheer discomfort if I were forced to wear garments that exuded werewolf stench. As Jacob returned and entered the house, he took in the changes from the hospital scene of just twenty minutes ago. To anyone none the wiser to the ticking time-bomb in the room, I supposed the situation did, at least, look better. The obvious improvement in Bella s condition had dissipated a tiny portion of the tension hanging over the house like a dark thunder cloud. She held another cup of blood in her hands, with Rosal ie sitting cross-legged by her head, switching the TV to a chick -flick, though nobody was really watching or listening. It was just one of the many aspects of the human fa çade we had perfected and now did automatically. Carlisle and Esme stood at the back windows, with the doors open to the river which I could hear flowing soothingly. The corners of my mouth pulled up slightly into the trace of a smile as Jacob walked in; whether because I knew Bella would be happy, or because of the gratitude I felt, inexplicably I was pleased to see him. Bella looked up when she saw my half-smile and she beamed at Jacob, the way I knew she would. I couldn t help but frown. Despite myself, despite the fact I knew she loved me irrevocably and had given herself to me heart, mind, body and soul, I couldn t hel p the pang of jealousy I felt. Jacob seemed to be in line with my thinking. To him it was clear she was, to use his silent words, in love with me past the bounds of sanity . To him it would be so much easier if she didn t care or really not want him aroun d. I knew though, that they shared a special connection and that they always would. Besides, I had more important things to worry about; like keeping my beloved alive. They just wanted to talk, Jacob explained, breaking me from my reverie, his voice now heavy with fatigue and shoulders slumping. Yes, I replied. I heard most of it. How? he asked, slightly incredulous. I m hearing you more clearly- it s a matter of familiarity and concentration. Also, your thoughts are slightly easier to pick up when you re in your human form. So I caught most of what passed out there. This seemed to bother Jacob for a second, but he let it go. Good. I hate repeating myself. His eyes closed; his lids were now so heavy it took him a second to work out how to reopen them. The circles under his eyes were nearly as dark as mine. It didn t escape Bella s notice. I d tell you to get some sleep, she said, but my guess is that you re going to pass out on the floor in about six seconds, so there s probably no point. The clarity in her voice
registered with Jacob; he was pleased with how much better she sounded, even if the means of achieving such an end did disgust him. Jacob turned and walked to the door counting the seconds that Bella had predicted he would last. One Mississippi...two Mississippi... Where s the flood, mutt? Rosalie grumbled. Seriously, Edward, do we have to put up with him in the house? You know how to drown a blonde, Rosalie? Jacob retorted sleepily. Glue a mirror to the bottom of a pool. Shame vampires don t need air... I couldn t help chuckling, knowing all too well how spot -on Jacob was in regards to her vanity; Rosalie couldn t resist admiring her reflection in anything remotely shiny. Personally, I didn t know how Emmett could stand it. I ve already heard that one, Rosalie shouted after him. That relationship was certainly going to be interesting; I couldn t see anything developing other than their mutual antagonism. Jacob resented Rosalie for her protection of the life sucking monster as he had named it, and Rosalie resented Jacob for... well, being Jacob. It hit me how much my previous prejudice against the wolves had fast evaporated over the summer, and had now been replaced by empathy and understanding. I quickly remembered the promise I d made Esme regarding the wolves homeless situation and found I shared the same sentiment. I carefully lifted Bella s feet off my lap and stood up, to find Jacob before he fell asleep. Where are you going? Bella asked, a little crease between her brows appearing. There was something I forgot to say to him. Let Jacob sleep- it can wait. Yes, please let Jacob sleep, he thought. Despite myself I left the house, feeling guilty for keeping him from his much needed slumber. I descended the porch steps and followed Jacob s scent across the lawn into the emeraldstrewn shadows where Jacob was waiting on the fringes of the vibrant forest. I m sorry, I started, then paused. I didn t know how best to present the offer; I knew Esme desperately wanted them to accept and I felt it was my duty to pass it on in such a way that they would consider it. What s on your mind, mind reader? When you were speaking to Sam s delegates earlier, I was giving a play-by-play for Carlisle and Esme and the rest. They were concerned-
Look, we re not dropping our guard. You don t have to believe Sam like we do. We re keeping our eyes open regardless. No, no, Jacob. Not about that. We trust your judgement. Rather, Esme was troubled by the hardships this is putting your p ack through. She asked me to speak to you privately about it. He seemed taken aback. I couldn t help but smile as I thought of my mother s tender devotion. Hardships? He repeated, his shaggy, black brows pulling together. The homeless part, particularly. She s very upset that you are all so...bereft. Yes, that was the correct word. He snorted. Vampire mother hen- bizarre. We re tough. Tell her not to worry. I felt the need to press my point further. She d still like to do what she can. I got the impression that Leah doesn t like to eat in her wolf form? And? he asked. Well, we do have normal human food here, Jacob. Keeping up appearances, and, of course, for Bella. Leah is welcome to anything she d like. All of you are. I ll pass that along. Leah hates us. I stated. So? So try to pass it along in such a way as to make her consider it, if you don t mind. The chances of Leah entering our house in her human form to eat were very remote indeed. It was hard to believe Seth and her were siblings; their attitudes and outlooks were polar opposites on all things vampire. I ll do what I can. And then there s the matter of clothes. He looked down at the clothes he was now wearing. Oh yeah. Thanks. They reek but probably not good manners to m ention it. The corners of mouth twitched into a tiny smile. Well, we re easily able to help out with any needs there. Alice rarely allows us to wear the same thing twice. We ve got piles of brand new clothes that are destined for Goodwill, and I d imagine that Leah is fairly close to Esme s size... Not sure how she ll feel about bloodsucker cast offs. She s not as practical as I am, he said, gesturing to the rolled up cuffs.
I trust that you can present the offer in the best possible light. As well as the offer of any other physical object you might need, or transportation, or anything else at all. And showers, too, since you prefer to sleep outdoors. Please... don t consider yourselves without the benefits of a home. I felt an emotion I couldn t quite lay my finger on as I said the last sentence. I was surprised to find that the wolves seemed to belong somehow in our home. Well, Jacob and Seth certainly. Perhaps because they d chosen to help protect us over supporting their previous pack, turning their backs on their homes and their families. I would be eternally grateful. Jacob stared at me. That s, er, nice of you. Tell Esme we appreciate the, uh, thought. But the perimeter cuts through the river in a few places, so we stay pretty clean, thanks. If you would pass the offer on, regardless. Sure, sure. Thank you, I said sincerely. Suddenly a low, agonised cry coming from the house pierced straight through me. I spun on my heel and fled back inside so fast it would have been invisible to human ey es. Bella was panting; her eyes shut tight, her face bone white, and curled over her severely swollen stomach. The sight of her in so much pain froze me to the spot. Rosalie was holding her, supporting her from behind, while Carlisle and Esme stood over he r, worry etched into their faces. Give me a second, Carlisle, Bella gasped. Bella, he said fretfully, I heard something crack. I need to take a look. Pretty sure...it was a rib, she panted. Ow. Yep. Right here. She carefully pointed to her side. I d seen Bella in physical pain before, the worst being in Phoenix in the ballet studio, her leg snapped, head bleeding, and her hand bitten by James. That had been... excruciating. But knowing that something that I had created was breaking her bones was as if I was standing there crushing her with my bare hands, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It was the worst torture possible. I need to take an X-ray. There might be splinters. We don t want it to puncture anything, Carlisle continued. Before I could scoop Bella up into my arms, Rosalie lifted her. She pulled her lips back over her teeth, growling, I ve already got her. I didn t have time or the strength to argue with Rosalie now; Bella was far more important, but there was no way I was letting this go. As Alice had said, we all knew why Rosalie was doing this, and her possessiveness of Bella was
as superficial as Rose herself. I flew up the stairs after them into Carlisle s study that now conveniently doubled as a hospital for Bella, complete with a blood supply and X -ray equipment. The normally subdued lamps had been replaced with brilliant spotlights. An entire shelf of books had been completely cleared leaving an edge of dust. I stared in agonised silence as Carlisle examined Bella, feeling a wave of relief as he announced nothing had been punctured. I held her hand gently, tracing small circles on the back of it, as he taped up the rib, with her squeezing my cold, stone fingers intermittently with all the strength she could muster to cope with the pain. I barged Rosalie out the way when Carlisle had finished so I could carry Bella back downstairs; as much as I tried not to jostle her, she still winced, but remained silent. Always so brave. When Rose went to fetch Bella some more blood, I couldn t even find the words to tell her how sorry I was for what the fetus was doing to her. What, effectively, I was doing to her. I tried to convey it with my eyes, and she just gazed back with the same depth of love, affection and devotion that stun ned me. Not only did she still regard herself as the winner rather than the prize, a completely ridiculous notion in every way, she regarded the life inside her as a gift from me rather than an abomination, as Sam had called it. She loved it and would be h appy for it to break her apart piece by piece as long as it was safe and well. Jacob had now fallen asleep with his head resting against the doorjamb, snoring heavily, much to Rosalie s intense annoyance. One look at him had Esme flitting upstairs and comi ng back down with a wide feather pillow in her hands, which she placed tenderly under his head. I was going to protest as I knew he would not appreciate the smell, but I couldn t bring myself to hurt Esme s feelings. Besides, it didn t wake him up so it must have been bearable. To my surprise, Alice was sitting next to him, looking the most at peace she had since Bella had disappeared from her sight back on Isle Esme. When I raised an eyebrow in question, she silently explained, takes the headache away- Bella s so blurry in my vision, Jacob makes me go totally blind. She smiled her pixie-like grin. It was the first time she d ever been happy that she couldn t see. Carlisle had come to unhook the IV from Bella s arm as it was proving pointless when I suddenly noticed her cheeks growing flushed. Not the natural, rose blush I was used to. They were a fiery red and her face was covered in a light sheen of sweat again. Bella, love, are you okay? I asked frantically. I m... I m a bit hot actually, she said timidly. I pressed my icy fingers lightly to her forehead and she exhaled in relief. The temperature of her skin was scorching. I took the blankets off her and moved to sit behind her, gathering her as gently and carefully as possible to my cold chest.
Thank you, she sighed. I kissed the crown of her head and inhaled her luscious scent. Despite the fact I hadn t hunted in well over a week, the barely felt the burn. The overwhelming need to protect my mate was all encompassing. After a few hours of sitting in companionable silence, punctuated by Jacob s heaving snores, Bella s breathing grew more rhythmical as she too drifted off to sleep. I wished I could join them in their escape, just for a few hours and forget the living nightmare I was in. The evening soon turned the sky from a dreary gray into a deep inky purple, as I sat lost in thought. What if transformation didn t save her? I already knew I couldn t live without her. That much was certain. Although I didn t yet know what the birth would entail ( Jasper and Emmett were on that), I was sure it wouldn t be simple. What if I could only save one of them? Bella would want me to save the baby. I would want to save her. Could I be that selfish and deny her what she wanted? What would the cost be? A wife b ut no baby...Surely she would hate me forever? But what if I had a baby but no wife? She d want me to stay and be a father... But how could I not hate the child if it killed my Bella? So many questions. And I truly did not know what to do. In my peripheral vision, I noticed Rosalie slyly tapping away on her laptop. I twisted infinitesimally to glance at the screen. She was looking at baby equipment, baby furniture, toys; the list was endless. I was almost unable to contain the fury I felt and a growl was building up in my chest, when I heard an oddly cheerful internal whistling. I looked up to see Seth Clearwater walking up to the door, his hair black hair dishevelled and his sweats covered in dust and dirt. He carefully stepped over the sleeping Jacob. Hey , guys! Hey, Seth, we greeted in unison, bar Rosalie, whose mouth turned down in distaste. One werewolf in the house was more than enough, in her opinion. Seth beamed back at us, nonetheless. Just came to check on Jake. Leah was going frantic. I ll let him sleep a bit more; he must be whacked. Esme offered him some new clothes of mine which he promptly went to change into without even complaining in his thoughts about the smell. Please, sit down, Seth, Carlisle invited. He sagged into an armchair, linking his hands together and stretching forward, his knuckles cracking like he was trying to iron out the kinks in his body. Edward, can I ask you somethi ng? Sure. Everyone looked up, trying to guess whose silent question I had just answered.
Why haven t you guys taken off? You know, gone up to see Tanya or something. Not that I want you to leave, but wouldn t it be safer with no angry pack of wolves after you ? He chortled. I chuckled with him, and then my tone turned serious. It s not really an option . It takes time to build up the kind of medical access that Carlisle has here, and he can get more if need be. Blood, for example. Bella s using up our supply quickly and he doesn t like to deplete the stockpile. He s going to buy more. Besides, I don t think Bella would...cope with being moved. She s too delicate... He nodded and, sensing I couldn t carry on speaking, went back to whistling in his head. Bella began to stir then, her complexion no longer flaming but ghostly pale. She shivered, so I moved away gently and tucked the blankets tightly around her and her mountainous belly. How do you feel, Bella, love? I feel okay. A bit cold. She shivered again. Carlisle wandered over to us. I m not really sure what to make of these sweats and chills, Bella, he said anxiously. I ll monitor you both closely. He rested a calming hand on her shoulder before taking his seat. Seth, I started, would you mind sitting with Bella to warm her up? No probs, he said, smiling, and went to sit down on the floor next to her. Rosalie glared at him out of the corner of her eyes and promptly snapped her laptop shut, flipped her golden hair over her shoulder and moved to a free armchair, purposely avoiding the one Seth had just vacated. But nothing fazed Seth. Alice d anced over from Jacob and sat next to her latest painkiller , not even wrinkling her nose at the smell. Bella was lying there, absentmindedly caressing her bulging stomach, when a loud crack broke the silence and she let out another low cry of pain, screwing her eyes up tight and curving over. Bella?! I asked anxiously. Rib, she said simply, her face still contorted in pain, mine with her. Carlisle, Rosalie and I flew up the stairs with Bella in my arms. Right side, second rib from the bottom this time, Carlisle said, pointing to the X-ray on the light box. When he had made sure there were no splinters and had taped it up, Rosalie carried Bella back down and put her on the sofa, sitting upright this time. Seth moved to sit beside her, with Rose on t he floor resting her head on Bella s knees. You know, Rosalie said casually, it s not uncommon in normal pregnancies for babies to break ribs. I wanted to rip her head off right there and then for her complete indifference
to the fetus breaking apart my Bella bone by bone. She saw as much in my glare. Just saying, she shrugged. Rosalie and I had never gotten along as such; we were very different beings and annoyed each other much more than we cared for one another. That said, I d never personally wished her any misfortune. Until now. Guys, Alice trilled in her wind -chime voice, Charlie will call in... she screwed her eyes up tight, four hours, eleven minutes. Bella looked up at me with pleading eyes that betrayed a hint of guilt. I ve been think ing... she began. I really think I m going to get through this, and when I m changed I d like to...to see Charlie again. I was about to protest, when she cut in, I know I won t be able to see him for a while, we ll come up with some excuse- like having to go round the world to a special treatment centre. I can phone him, he can phone me... Bella, love, I started gently, you ll be too different. I know; that s the second part of my plan. See, when Jake went through his transformation he couldn t tell me; so he made me guess. I reckon if Charlie saw me, he d come up with some idea, and he ll probably get it wrong - remember like I did with my radioactive spider theory? She grinned and I smiled back weakly. What d you think? I couldn t tell her what I really thought; that it was wrong and that it was too dangerous. I just nodded. I knew we should have been preparing Charlie for the worst even if Bella survived; this plan was fraught with peril for him and for us. But how cou ld I deny Bella of this when she was potentially dying from carrying my child? Anything that made her happy, I would do. If these were the last few days of her life, I would make her as happy as possible and deal with the consequences later. Seth stood up after an hour or so, stretching, thinking it was time to get some more work done. He was getting ready to leave when Esme spoke. Seth, would you like to stay for breakfast? I don t want to put you out, Esme, he said, his stomach growling. It s no trouble. Please, stay. Such a sweet boy, his mother must be frantic, she added. In that case, thank you, that would be great! he said enthusiastically, grinning his brilliant white smile. I flew to the kitchen, anxious for every second I was away from Bella, with Seth following me. I quickly cooked up some cinnamon rolls and some omelettes, trying to ignore the unappetizing odour that permeated the room, but hoping childishly that it would spread far
enough to irk Rosalie. I flitted upstairs to Carlisle s study and also refilled Bella s cup. We were fast running out of blood and Carlisle planned on travelling to acquire more soon , the only problem being the Quileutes, as our previous truce was no longer in effect. Bella beamed up at me in thanks as I sat do wn, wedging the cup of blood between our legs and taking her hand in mine. Seth went to take some of the food to Leah before eating. Somehow, I didn t see her accepting his offer. When he returned he sank down next to Bella, threw his hot arm around her shoulders and began eating in earnest. His cheery attitude was infectious; he seemed to emit a warm glow from his very core. Only fifteen yet so grounded, so balanced, and with a strong moral fibre. I was fiercely proud to call him my friend. Dawn was breaking now, and the rising sun was visible through the gaps in the clouds, bathing us in rays of glorious gold and vivid pink , casting prisms off our skin as we sparkled; the vampires, that is. The forest was now teeming with sounds of the waking wildlife and the river trickled and flowed calmly. It was a morning when I should have felt truly blessed to be surrounded by my loving wife, family and friends. Instead, I felt life was playing a huge practical joke on me, threatening the very core of my existence just when the pieces had fallen so perfectly into place. The racking snores that emanated from the sleeping Jacob suddenly stopped. About time, Rosalie muttered, shooting him a murderous glare. impersonation was getting a little tired. Hey, Jake s coming round! Seth called. What the hell? Jacob thought, taking in the sight of Seth with his arm around Bella. He came to find you, I explained. And Esme convinced him to stay for breakfast. Yeah, Jake, Seth said hurriedly, I was just checking to see if you were okay cause you didn t phase back. Leah got worried. I told her you probably just crashed human, but you know how she is. Anyway, they had all this food and dang, - he turned to face me- man, you can cook. Thank you, I whispered. Food network was obviously paying off. I could feel Jacob s anger at the way Seth touched Bella, the heat rolling off him in waves. Bella got cold, I murmured by means of explanation. Right. Breathe. She doesn t belong to me, he thought. Seth took in my comment and Jacob s expression and swiftly removed his arm from Bella. Leah running patrol? Jacob asked, walking closer to the sofa, trying to shake off his sleepiness by stretching his russet arms high above him. The chainsaw
Yeah. She s on it. No worries. She ll howl if there s anything. We traded off around midnight. I ran twelve hours, Seth said proudly. It moment arily stunned me, realizing just how hard the wolves were working to protect Bella. She unknowingly weaved a certain magic around people. She had both vampires and werewolves, mortal enemies by all accounts, working together, prepared to fight and, perhaps with the exception of Leah, to die to protect her. Bella truly was remarkable. Midnight? Jacob asked, confused, as he ran his hand through his sha ggy, black hair. Wait a minute- what time is it now? Seth looked out the window at the sky, clouds of pale lavender now building over the rising pink orb. Bout dawn. Well, damn. Really dropped the ball. Crap. Sorry about that, Seth. Really. You shoulda kicked me awake. Naw, man, you needed some serious sleep. You haven t taken a break since when? Night before your last patrol for Sam? Like forty hours? Fifty? You re not a machine, Jake. Sides, you didn t miss anything at all. Jacob took in Bella s much improved appearance. Nothing at all? How s the rib? Taped up nice and tight. I don t even feel it. Bella grinned. I gritted my teeth, vexed by Bella s nonchalance to being smashed apart like glass. What s for breakfast? Jacob asked sarcastically. O negative or AB positive? Bella poked her tongue out. Omelets. Go get some breakfast, Jake, Seth said. There s a bunch in the kitchen. You ve got to be empty. Jacob raised his black brows. What s Leah having for breakfast? Hey, I took food to her before I ate anything, Seth said defensively. She said she d rather eat roadkill, but I bet she caves. These cinnamon rolls... He trailed off, lost for words. I ll go hunt with her, then. Seth sighed at Jacob s obstinacy. A moment, Jacob? Carlisle asked. Yeah? Carlisle stood back a respectful distance, which Jacob seemed to appreciate. Speaking of hunting, Carlisle began seriously, That s going to be an issue for my family. I understand
that our previous truce is inopera tive at the moment, so I wanted your advice. Will Sam be hunting for us outside of the perimeter you ve created? We don t want to take a chance with hurting any of your family- or losing any of ours. If you were in our shoes, how would you proceed? Jacob folded his arms and rested back against the doorjamb, his brow furrowed. What would I know about being in a bloodsucker s expensive shoes? But, I do know Sam... It s a risk, Jacob said after a brief pause. Sam s calmed down some, but I m pretty sure that in his head, the treaty is void. As long as he thinks the tribe, or any other humans, is in real danger, he s not going to ask questions first, if you know what I mean. But with all that, his priority is going to be La Push. There really aren t enough of them to keep a decent watch on the people while putting out hunting parties big enough to do much damage. I d bet he s keeping it close to home. Carlisle nodded, taking in Jacob s words. So, I guess I d say, go out together, just in case, he continued, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. And probably you should go in the day, cause we d be expecting night. Traditional vampire stuff. You re fast- go over the mountains and hunt far enough away that there s no chance he d send anyone that far from home. And leave Bella behind, unprotected? Jacob snorted. What are we, chopped liver? Carlisle chuckled, and then resumed his sombre tone. Jacob, you can t fight against your brothers. I m not saying it wouldn t be hard, he said, wincing, but if they were really coming to kill her- I would be able to stop them. No, I didn t mean that you would be...incapable, Carlisle replied fretfully. But that it would be very wrong. I can t have that on my conscience. He shook his head. It wouldn t be on yours, Doc . It would be on mine. And I can take it. No, Jacob. We will make sure that our actions don t make that a necessity. Carlisle paused to consider the optimum plan. We ll go three at a time. That s probably the best we can do. I don t know, Doc. Dividi ng down the middle isn t the best strategy. We ve got some extra abilities that will even it up. If Edward is one of the three, he ll be able to give us a few miles radius of safety.
I shot him a ferocious glare. There was no way I was ferrying hunting parties while my wife clung to the last few days of her life. I m sure there are other ways, too, Carlisle said after witnessing my expression. Alice, I would imagine you could see which routes would be a mistake? The ones that disappear, Alice chirped, bobbing her head. Easy. I relaxed my set shoulders. Bella was staring at Alice uneasily, most probably worrying about the danger posed by potential rogue werewolves. I brushed my fingers in a feather soft touch across the crease in her brow to smo oth away her worried expression. Okay, then, Jacob said. That s settled. I ll just be on my way. Seth, I ll expect you back on at dusk, so get a nap in there somewhere, all right? Sure, Jake. I ll phase back soon as I m done. Unless... he paused and looked at Bella. Do you need me? She s got blankets, Jacob snapped. I m fine, Seth, thanks, Bella hurried. Esme appeared timidly from the kitchen holding out a dish in front of her. Jacob, she spoke softly. I know it s unappetizing to you, the idea of eating here, where it smells so unpleasant. But I would feel so much better if you would take some food with you when you go. I know you can t go home and that s because of us. Please - ease some of my remorse. Take something to eat. She extended the dish a little further, a tentative smile on her stone-like features. Uh, sure, sure. I guess. Maybe Leah s still hungry or something. He took the food gingerly and held it as far away as possible. I ll go dump in under a tree or something. Don t want her to feel bad... Damn, I forgot about Edward. Don t you say anything to her! Let her think I ate it. I gave an imperceptive nod, but he didn t notice. Of course, I would never hurt my mother s feelings by telling her that, but I was not expecting Jacob to be so thoughtful. Thank you, Jacob, Esme said, smiling warmly at him. They ve given so much to us, it s the least I can do. Um, thank you, Jacob replied, embarrassed. Will you come back later, Jake? Bella asked in between sips of blood. Uh, I don t know. Please? I might get cold.
Maybe. Jacob? Esme asked. I left a basket of clothes on the porch. They re for Leah. They re freshly washed- I tried to touch them as little as possible. Do you mind taking them to her? On it, he said backing out of the house as quickly as possible. Before they can guilt me into anything else, he d thought. Seth stayed with us during the morning, talking, laughing and generally making the atmosphere perceptively lighter, as if he possessed Jasper s gift for influencing the emotional climate. We traded off several times accordingly with Bella s frequently changing temperature. When Charlie rang, dead on the dot, I passed the phone to Bella as usual and played with her hair, wincing when she told him she w as on the mend, smiling when she laughed. It was nice to hear the sound; I so desperately wanted her to me happy. Charlie was much happier now that Bella was getting better , and agreed easily enough when she told him it was still too soon for him to see her. He had his customary chat with Carlisle to check on her progress, said a brief hello to me, and then hung up. Bella grinned up at me and I lost myself in the deep, chocolate pools of her eyes. I delicately stroked her cheekbone with my icy finger, eliciting a shiver that wasn t due to temperature this time. At about midday Seth got up with a long yawn, the whites of his eyes now slightly bloodshot from lack of sleep. Right, guys, I d better go crash. Gotta be back up at dusk. Thanks so much for the food and the clothes. Seth, Bella murmured, could you ask Jacob to stop by, please? Yeah, I need him too, Alice trilled, a pout on her elfin face again; a result of the reappearing headache, no doubt. I m tired of hanging out in the attic like a vamp ire bat in the belfry. Sure, Bella, Alice, he ll be here, he said chuckling. See ya! He punched my shoulder and walked out the door humming under his breath, bouncing on the balls of his feet despite his exhaustion. Bella stared up at me. D you think Jacob will come? she asked timidly, knowing I wouldn t appreciate the question but feeling compelled to ask it. I sighed under my breath, but reminded myself there was no point in such an irrational jealousy. Bella had pledged herself to me for eternity. She was my soul mate and my wife; that was what mattered. Yes, love, of course he will. I smiled down at her and she nestled her head onto my shoulder, closing her eyes as I enveloped her into my arms.
Chapter 15 Soon, too soon in fact, day turn ed once more to night. I could see perfectly, of course, but something about the darkness touched me in a way it never had before. It was sinister and oppressive, and it felt like it was saturating my very being. All the hope I d harboured seemed to seep out of me, replaced by fear, agony, and anger at the monster turning my life into the black hole where the stars escaped me. Suddenly a hand was on my shoulder. Edward, can we go talk in my study? Carlisle called me silently. I gave a minute nod and told Bella I d be right back. Where normally I flew, this time I trudged up the stairs. I d been a living stone for ninety years and this was the first time I d felt truly heavy. Weighed down by a pain so acute I felt I was being crushed into powd er and ash. I wasn t sure exactly what Carlisle had to tell me, but I could tell it wouldn t be good news. When I followed Carlisle in, Emmett was poring over a thick volume, Jasper leaning over the laptop on Carlisle s desk. They stopped what they were do ing as I entered. Emmett didn t try to make a joke; it was testament to the severity of the situation we found ourselves in. I sank into a leather chair. Edward, it s not all bad news, Carlisle started. I sighed, looking from my brothers to my father. Let s start with the bad then. My voice was a lifeless monotone as I put my head in my hands, rubbing my eyes with my palms. It s about the birth, Jasper began, trying to emit a sense of calm, but the depth of my pain seemed too strong a force to be influenced. From what we ve been able to gather... He paused, glancing at Carlisle, who nodded for him to continue. I reminded myself to keep calm; I couldn t have Bella know how upset I was. The creatures...use their teeth to escape the womb. The words took a minute to fully sink into my usually fast mind. I felt physically and mentally sick. I was disgusted. This creature was pummelling my wife s insides black and blue, breaking her bones, and now it wanted to chew its way through the womb in which she wa s so lovingly protecting it? I wanted to be able to cry, to shout, and to scream, but I had to protect Bella from my pain.
Carlisle crouched down to look me in the eyes. Son, I ve been thinking more about the transformation. Beginning it the second the baby s out of her, I really think that might work. Might. I scoffed. My reason for existing was hanging on the word might . I ve got a plan to deliver the baby. When we think it s time, we ll give Bella plenty of morphine before we begin the, er, proced ure. What is the procedure? Well, after the morphine has spread we ll need to do a C-section. I flinched at the thought of Bella s delicate skin being sliced open, but nodded for him to continue. Cutting through the amniotic sac will then require...vampire teeth. And as soon as the baby is safely out, you ll begin the transformation. Have faith, son. Emmett leant forward in his chair. We ll keep searching, Edward. Thank you, I said, my voice low and gruff. Carlisle then followed me downstairs to explain his plan to deliver the baby to Bella and Rosalie. A little crease appeared in Bella s brow while he talked them through it but if she felt any fear she showed no other signs. Well, isn t that wonderful, Bella? Rosalie began once Carlisle had f inished. This little one is going to be so well cared for. She gestured affectionately to the mountainous bulge under Bella s stretched-out sweater. The tendons stood out on my hand as I made a fist, shooting daggers at her and growling under my breath. She glared back; Jeez, Edward stop being so melodramatic. This only served to infuriate me more; if Rosalie wanted to lose a limb, she was going the right way about it. When Rosalie took Bella to the bathroom and I sank down onto the sofa, head in hands again. Esme sat next to me and placed her arms tightly around my shoulders. Son, I hate to see you in so much pain. I didn t respond; what could I say? What did she expect? Death was stealing my true love, slowly and tortuously snuffing out the light from within her. Esme seemed to sense where my thoughts were taking me and gave my shoulders a squeeze, but made no further comments. Jacob came through the front door and I heard his heart quicke n at the sight of Bella missing from the scene. She s all right, I murmured without looking up. Or the same, I should say. I couldn t shake the mental image of my Bella being viciously mangled from the inside out by the... thing. She would be left broken, bled out and torn apart. And I would be left here all alone, in my eternal midnight.
Hello, Jacob. Esme smiled up at him. I m so glad you came back. Me, too, Alice sighed in relief, gliding down the stairs to take a seat behind the sofa. Uh, hey, he said, slightly awkward at the enthusiastic welcome. Where s Bella? Bathroom, Alice sang. Mostly fluid diet, you know. Plus, the whole pregnancy thing does that to you, I hear. Ah. Rosalie emerged from the hall behind the stairs cradling Bella in her arms. Oh, wonderful, she sneered. I knew I smelled something nasty. Bella beamed as she saw Jacob. Jacob, you came. Hi, Bells. Esme and I stood up to make room for Bella on the sofa. Her face turned bone white and she inhaled sharply through the pain as Rosalie gently laid her down, remaining silent to try to shield us all from it. Rose plumped the cushion behind Bella s head to prop her up. I swept my hand across her forehead and down her neck. Are you cold? I whispered. I m fine. Bella, you know what Carlisle told you, Rosalie reminded her. Don t downplay anything. It doesn t help us take care of either of you. Okay, I m a little cold. Edward, can you hand me that blanket? She asked, gesturing to the cover hanging over the arm of the armchair nearest me. Isn t that the point of me being here? Jacob asked, rolling his eyes. You just walked in, Bella countered. After running all day, I d bet. Put your feet up for a minute. I ll probably warm up again in no time. Jacob took no notice and went to sit on the floor stretching his arm along her side and holding her hand. Thanks, Jake. I sat on the arm of the sofa by her feet, never taking my eyes from Bella s face. The silence was broken by Jacob s stomach growling. You ll like this Edward, Alice thought, laughing in her head. Rosalie, why don t you get Jacob something from the kitchen? she piped up, killing two birds with one stone; being polite to Jacob and annoying the hell out of Rose, which she seemed to enjoy tremendous ly. Rosalie stared at the spot from which Alice s voice emanated with incredulity. Thanks, anyway Alice, but I don t want to eat something Blondie s spit in. I d bet my system wouldn t take too kindly to venom, Jacob replied.
Rosalie would never embarrass Esme by displaying such a lack of hospitality, Alice trilled. Of course not, Rose said, her golden wind chime voice sickly sweet, as she went to the kitchen. He wants a dog s dinner, that s what he s getting... I sighed at her childish plan. You d tell me if she poisoned it, right? Jacob asked me. Yes, I promised. I sighed again at the sound of metal being bent into a dog dish. It was a good job Rosalie had been in the room when I d being watching cooking programmes, averse as she was to the raw ingredients. I wondered how she would try and pay Alice back for this. Not that it would matter; Alice would see her decision as soon as she made it. Rosalie was back in no time with a steak and baked potato in her hand-crafted dog dish, inscribed with the word Fido. Enjoy, mongrel, she said, placing it on the floor in front of Jacob. Thanks, Blondie. Jacob seemed impressed at her quick handiwork and attention to detail. Hey, do you know what they call a blonde with a brain? A golden retriever. I ve heard that one, too, Rosalie sneered. I ll keep trying, Jacob said and he tucked in to his meal. Rosalie sank into one of the armchairs with a disgusted look on her face, flicked on the TV and started channel hopping at the speed of light, venting some of her frustration with Jacob. Stupid mutt, comes into my home and I have to make him food... I tuned out Rosalie s internal rant, sure that she would be at it for a long time. Bella pulled her fingers through Jacob s unkempt hair , flattening it down on the back of his neck. Time for a haircut, huh? he asked. You re getting a little shaggy, she replied. MaybeLet me guess, someone around here used to cut hair in salon in Paris? Probably, she laughed. No thanks, I m good for a few more weeks. He paused. So...um...what s the, er, date? You know the due date for the little monster. My insides froze; hearing the words made everything so much more real. Bella hit the back of his head, but said nothing. I m serious, Jacob pressed. I want to know how long I m gonna have to be here. How long you re gonna be here, he amended mentally. I flinched. I don t know, she muttered, idly rubbing tiny circles over her bump. Not exactly. Obviously we re not going with the nine -month model here, and we can t get an ultrasound,
so Carlisle is guesstimating from how big I am. Normal people are supposed to be forty centimetres here - she ran her finger down the centre of her stomach- when the baby is fully grown. One centimetre for every week. I was thirty this morning, and I ve been gaining about two centimetres a day, sometimes more... I turned my head away sharply, staring out of window so Bella couldn t see the pain in my onyx eyes. My insides were burning as if drenched in acid. We were down to four days now. Did I have just four days left with the most amazing creature in the universe? Jacob did the math. Four days?! You okay? Bella asked. He nodded, but his eyes shined with tears that spilt over onto his cheek. Bella wiped them away with her fingertips. It s going to be okay, she soothed, just like she d told me. But neither of us believed it. Right, Jacob mumbled sceptically. I didn t think you would come. Seth said you would, and so did Ed ward, but I didn t believe them, Bella murmured softly, not looking at him. Why not? he asked, his voice still rough from the tears. You re not happy here. But you came anyway, she explained. You wanted me here. And whatever you want, I ll do. I know. But you didn t have to come, because it s not fair for me to want you here. I would have understood. I tried to focus on the TV, but to no avail ; this conversation was stirring the jealousy within me. Thank you for coming. Can I ask you something? Jacob asked. I groaned mentally at his impending question. Did I really want to know the answer? Maybe not, but I had to. Of course. Why do you want me here? Seth could keep you warm, and he s probably easier to be around, happy little punk. But when I walk in the door, you smile lik e I m your favourite person in the world. You re one of them. That sucks, you know. Yeah. She sighed. Sorry.
Why, though? You didn t answer that. I stared out of the windows, watching Bella through Jacob s eyes. I was as curious as he was, but tried to appear to give them privacy. It feels... complete when you re here, Jacob. Like all my family is together. I mean, I guess that s what it s like. I ve never had a big family before now. It s nice. She smiled. But it s just not whole unless you r e here. To my surprise, my jealousy subsided somewhat. Her words painted a nice image; there were so many people she loved. How cruel that Bella would get what she wanted only for it to be promptly swept from beneath her. I ll never be part of your family, Bella, Jacob said slightly bitterly. I could have been. I would have been good there. You ve always been part of my family, Bella opposed. That s a crap answer, Jacob said, grinding his teeth as he drew patterns on the wooden floor with his free hand. What s a good one? How about Jacob, I get a kick out of your pain. Bella flinched. You d like that better? It s easier, at least. I could wrap my head around it. I could deal with it. Bella frowned and closed her eyes. We got off track, Jake. Out of balance. You re supposed to be part of my life- I can feel that, and so can you. She patted his arm. But not like this. We did something wrong. No. I did. I did something wrong and we got off track... She trailed off, her breathing growing rhythmical until she was softly snoring. She s exhausted, I said. It s been a long day. A hard day. That didn t even begin to cover it. I think she would have gone to sleep earlier, but she was waiting for you. Seth said it broke another of her ribs. He didn t look at me, or I him. Somehow it was easier that way to sit here talking about the torturous death sentence seemingly hanging over the woman we both loved. Yes. It s making it hard for her to breathe. How much more would my Bella suffer? First starved of sustenance, now starved of oxygen; it was as if someone was very slowly cutting each string that tied her to this life. Great, he muttered sarcastically. Let me know when she gets hot again.
Yeah. She needs a blanket... he thought. I reached out and softly draped it over my wife s sleeping form. Okay, sometimes the mind reading thing saves time. Oh, like that whole mess with Charlie Yes. It s not a good idea, I agreed. Then, why? She can t bear his anxiety, I stated. So it s betterNo. It s not better. But I m not going to do anything that makes her unhappy now. Whatever happens, this makes her feel better. I ll deal with the rest afterward. How? I thought. How could I deal with anything if Bella didn t survive? Doesn t sound right... Bella wouldn t shuffle off Charlie s pain to some later date f or someone else to have to face... she must have a plan. She s very sure she s going to live, I said. If only I could harbour the same certainty... But not human. No, not human. But she hopes to see Charlie again anyway. Oh this just gets better and better. See. Charlie, he emphasised. Afterwards. See Charlie when she s all sparkly white with the bright red eyes. I m not a bloodsucker, so maybe I m missing something, but Charlie seems like kind of a strange choice for her first meal. She knows she won t be able to be near him for at least a year. She thinks she can stall. Tell Charlie she has to go to a special hospital on the other side of the world. Keep in contact through phone calls... That s insane. Yes. I agreed. Charlie s not stupid. Even if she doesn t kill him, he s going to notice a difference. She s sort of banking on that. Jacob stared at me for the first time in our conversation, looking for more explanation. She wouldn t be aging of course, so that would set a time limit, even if Charlie accepted whatever excuse she come up with for the changes. I smiled weakly. This plan had so many pitfalls. Do you remember when you tried to tell her about your transformation? How you made her guess? She told you about that? Jacob asked, clenching his free hand into a tight fist.
Yes. She was explaining her...idea. You see, she s not allowed to tell Charlie the truth - it would be very dangerous for him. But he s a smart, practical man. She thinks he ll come up with his own explanation. She assumes he ll get it wrong. After all, we hardly adhere to vampire canon. He ll make some wrong assumption about us, like she did in the beginning, and we ll go along with it. She thinks she ll be able to see him...from time to time. Insane, he declared again. Yes. He obviously doesn t think she s gonna make it. Why else would he go along with this crazy plan? Placating her, so she can be happy a little while longer. Like f our more days... Jacob thought. I ll deal with whatever comes, I said; the healed hole in my heart threatening to burst open again at the very thought of losing her. I won t cause her pain now. Four days? he asked. Approximately. Then what? What do you mean, exactly? You know, the thing being wrapped in something like vampire skin. So how does that work? How does it get out? From what little research we ve been able to do, it would appear the creatures use their teeth to escape the womb, I explained. I heard Jacob swallow loudly. Research? That s why you haven t seen Jasper and Emmett around. That s what Carlisle is doing now. Trying to decipher ancient stories and myths, as much as we can with what we have to work with here, looking for anything that might help us predict the creature s behaviour. If there are myths then... Then is this thing not the first of its kind? I finished his question. Maybe. It s all very sketchy. They myths could easily be the products of fear and imagination. Though...your myths are true, are they not? Perhaps these are, too. They do seem to be localized, linked... How did you find...?
There was a woman we encountered in South America. She d been raised in the traditions of her people. She d heard warnin gs about such creatures, old stories that had been passed down. What were the warnings? Jacob asked. That the creature must be killed immediately. Before it could gain too much strength. Was Sam right? Of course, their legends say the same of us. That we must be destroyed. That we are soulless murderers. Two for two. I gave a low chortle. What did their stories say about the...mothers? Agony tore through me like a raging inferno, a rampant storm ripping up everything in its path. I could not speak to answer Jacob s question, but he knew. Morte. Of course there were no survivors, Rosalie chimed in casually. Giving birth in the middle of a disease-infested swamp with a medicine man smearing sloth spit across your face to drive out the evil spirits was never the safest method. Even the normal births went badly half the time. None of them had what this baby has- caregivers with an idea of what the baby needs, who try to meet those needs. A doctor with a totally unique knowledge of vampire nature. A plan to deliver the baby as safely as possible. Venom that will repair anything that goes wrong. The baby will be fine. And those mothers would have probably survived if they d had that- if they even existed in the first place. Something I am not convinced of, she said scornfully. All the anger that had been bubbling up inside me suddenly came racing to the surface. I was incensed and outraged at her casual indifference, her lack of concern for Bella s life. In that moment she was no longer my sister; she was the enemy. So egocentric and selfassured, she had made the mistake of turning her back on me. I wanted to tear her limb from limb, painfully. My hands were rigid claws and I tensed into a low crouch. Allow me...suggested Jacob, who was as irate as I was. I cocked an eyebrow questioningly. He lifted his dog dish and flicked it across the room into Rosalie s stone head so hard it flattened out of its shape with a deafening clatter, rebounding off her and snapping off the top of the newel post at the bot tom of the stairs. Dumb blonde, he muttered disdainfully.
Rosalie slowly turned her head, her dark gold eyes dancing with flames of fury. You. Got. Food. In. My. Hair. Jacob burst out laughing so hard he was shaking and had tears running down his face . Alice joined in with her pealing giggle. I couldn t resist chuckling along; Rose s face was priceless. I was still incredulous and furious with her callousness, but at least I was no longer murderous. Rose was probably more upset about her hair than if I had attacked her. I d have to remember that for next time. And I was certain there would be a next time. What s so funny? Bella mumbled sleepily; the laughter had woken her up. I got food in her hair, Jacob explained, chortling again as he relived it. I m not going to forget this, dog, Rosalie hissed. S not so hard to erase a blonde s memory. Just blow in her ear. Get some new jokes, she retorted. C mon, Jake, leave Rose alo- Bella started, but couldn t finish her sentence. She went white as snow and her back arched off the sofa while she panted for breath through the pain. He s just, she gasped, stretching. Carlisle? I murmured. Right here, he said, appearing at my side. Okay, Bella breathed. Think it s over. Poor kid doesn t have enough room, that s all. He s getting so big. Her tone was so tender, as if the fetus kicking her apart meant nothing. She simply felt sympathy for it. You know, he reminds me of you, Jake, she said softly. Do not compare me to that thing, he spat. I just meant your growth spurt, she explained, hurt by his scathing tone. You shot right up. I could watch you getting taller by the minute. He s like that, too. Growing so fast. Her body finally relaxed. Hmm, Carlisle murmured. What? Jacob asked. I wonder if the similarities are due to the chromosomal count... Carlisle thought. I cocked my head to one side as I considered the possibility. You know that I was wondering about the fetus s genetic makeup, Jacob. About his chromosomes, Carlisle continued. What of it?
Well, taking your similarities into consideration Similarities? Jacob said, emphasising the plural. The accelerated growth, the fact that Alice cannot see either of you, Carlisle explained. Jacob seemed stunned for a second. Damn, I forgot about that, he thought. Well, I wonder if that means we have an answer. If the similarities are gene -deep. Twenty-four pairs, I muttered. You don t know that. No. But it s interesting to speculate, Carlisle murmured. Yeah. Just fascinating, Jacob said sarcastically, as Bella drifted back off to sleep. Now we know that Edward can produce gametes, we know meiosis occurs in vampires. Meiosis? Rosalie asked. When chromosomal crossover takes place, I answered. Would that make the baby more vampire than human? If venom is present rather than blood in the fetus... Carlisle trailed off. Then there s a huge danger. And all the more reason to deliver as soon as possible. I finished, the words cutting like jagged metal in my throat. But what are the extra pair for? If Jacob s make him transform... Alice mused. That s only because that gene was present in his father. If we assume twenty four pairs means a half-breed, that means the genetic split between Bella and Edward will be fairly even, so the traits... Carlisle said. Of course, Rosalie said, eyes lit up. The thirst, the strength, the impenetrable amniotic sac... Yes, that s why Bella s body is struggling; too much va mpire for her system to be compatible, but enough human to stop her rejecting it... Everyone except Jacob, who was lost in contemplation, sat and continued the genetics conversation for well over an hour, considering the possible implications if Carlisle s theory was correct. As the night went on the discussion broke up. Carlisle went back to join Jasper and Emmett upstairs with the new speculations fresh in his mind to focus his research. Jacob began dozing next to Bella.
As they slept, I started musing. I wanted to do everything I could to make Bella happy. She was surrounded by family and friends, but I missed our private time. I wanted to give her something to show my love, the depth of my devotion. I suddenly came up with the perfect idea. Something that everyone had forgotten about during the chaos of me bringing my dying pregnant wife home; the photographs from our perfect wedding and blissful honeymoon. A homemade album, the kind of gift Bella would approve of. Alice... I started, but she cut me off with her thoughts. Of course she d seen my decision. Already on it, Edward. You take care of Bella; I ll take care of this. Where s the camera? In my case somewhere, still. The cases still stood in the entrance to my room, untouched. I think it s a beautiful idea, she ll love it. But remember, she could live, Edward. Don t give up yet, she thought as she got up. I went to muss her hair but she darted out the way with a grin and flitted upstairs. I stared down adoringly at my sleeping wife. The countdown continued; I was living on borrowed time.
The sky was still an inky midnight blue when I noticed Bella s face growing flushed. I woke Jacob up to trade off and took his place by her side. She smiled faintly in her sleep as I stroked a lock of her chestnut hair away from her face. Jacob got up and stretched. Guess I m ready to do some work, do some scouting to check if it s safe for the vamps to hunt, he thought. Thank you. If the route is clear they ll go today, I said. I ll let you know, he told me and strolled out the door. It was less than an hour later when Alice appeared again carrying her creation in the crook of her arm. She passed it to me and I gasped. It was a beautiful, soft, white leather bound album, with the words Memories of Edward and Bella Cullen inscribed in silver italic calligraphy. It was packed full of photos that exuded happiness. Our friends and family smiling and laughing at the wedding. Bella and I exchanging vows under the arch of white gossamer and blossom. Dancing under a canopy of white flowers illuminated by glittering twinkle lights. The amber and pink orb of the sunset on Isle Esme. The turquoise water lapping at the white sand as Bella swam with the porpoises. Colourful, vivid photos of the jungle and its wildlife. Self-portraits of Bella and I giggling, wrapped tightly in each other s arms. Each photo had a title in the same beautiful calligraphy, the pages separated by delicate, rose-scented translucent paper. It was simply exquisite. If I had been able to cry, tears would have been glistening in my eyes, from happiness, but also desolation at my stolen future. How could so much have changed so quickly? Alice... I began, but was lost for words. It s nothing, Edward. I may have made the book, but you made the memories, she thought as she pecked my cheek. Rosalie looked inquisitively but said nothing, which made a change. Bella woke up just before dawn, smiling up at me lazily. Rosalie went to fetch her a fresh cup of blood; Bella had a voracious appetite now. While she was out the room, I took my chance. This was something I wanted to share with Bella alone. Bella, love, am I still correct in thinking homemade presents are acceptable? I asked. Presents? She questioned, frowning. I ve got something I want you to have. It s from Alice too, I said as I passe d her the album I had placed down by the side of the couch . Her expression turned from one of confusion into amazement as she flipped it open, the pages fluttering. Soon, silent tears were flowing down her face. I hoped they were tears of joy. Do you like it? I asked, curiosity getting the better of me as it usually did with Bella s mind.
Oh, Edward! she cried. It s so beautiful! She reached up to stroke my face and I nestled into her caress. Alice, it s so perfect, thank you! she exclaimed as Alice came over to kiss her cheek. Bella sat poring through the photos, her face lit up, as I put my arms around her and ran my fingers through her hair, inhaling her floral scent, committing every moment to memory. It is going to be okay, Edward, she insisted as I held her. I wanted so badly to believe her, but the fear gnawed away at my insides incessantly. Bella was curled loosely on the sofa, the photo album still in her hands as she cherished it, when suddenly, with a crack, she drew a sharp intake of b reath and convulsed in agony, her teeth gritted to stop herself screaming. Bella?! Sweetheart, is it another rib? Nope, - gasp- here, she panted, pointing to her pelvis. It s broken her pelvis, now?! Alice thought in disbelief, eyes flaming. Carlisle?! I called frantically, and he appeared swiftly from upstairs. It s her pelvis. I heard a crack. Well, I didn t hear anything, Rosalie said dismissively. We need to do an X -ray anyway, Rose, Carlisle replied as Rosalie lifted Bella into her arms, still clutching her cup of blood and face still twisted with pain. We flew upstairs, Bella s breathing still laboured. As Carlisle examined Bella, I heard Jacob talking with Alice downstairs. Carlisle placed the X -rays on the light box for Bella to see. It s severe bruising, Bella, but luckily no breaks this time, he said , smiling faintly at her. She was returning to her normal colour now and her breathing was steady. See, I told you I didn t hear a crack, Rosalie scowled at me. You need your ears ch ecked, Edward. I gritted my teeth to prevent a growl from escaping; Rosalie was fast racing her way up the endangered species list. I scooped Bella up in my arms and trying to make every movement sinuous so as not to hurt her, but she still turned white w ith pain. Jake, she greeted as we came down the stairs, smiling through the agony. I lay Bella gently on the sofa and sat by her head. Carlisle finally made his way downstairs, his face etched with worry for his daughter-in-law. He didn t know how long B ella could survive; the fetus was growing too strong and he knew venom could only cure to an extent. If she were to be injured too severely, his plan would be in vain.
Carlisle, Jacob started, turning to face my father. We went halfway to Seattle. There s no sign of the pack. You re good to go. Thank you, Jacob. This is good timing. There s much that we need. His eyes rested on Bella s cup, wondering how much blood he would be able to acquire. Honestly, I think you re safe to take more than three. I m pretty positive Sam is concentrating on La Push. Carlisle seemed to trust Jacob as much as I did, and it wasn t my mind-reading skills that made me believe him. If you think so. Alice, Esme, Jasper and I will go. Then Alice can take Emmett and RosaNot a chance, Rosalie hissed. Emmett can go with you now. You should hunt, Carlisle advised. I ll hunt when he does, Rosalie growled, gesturing to me and flicking her hair. One thing was for certain; I didn t want a thirsty Rose anywhere near Bella when the time came for the delivery; she didn t have the same control as Carlisle or I. Carlisle sighed at her tenacity. I heard a book fall closed with a thud and Jasper and Emmett raced down the stairs. About time, bet those grizzlies are getting a bit over-populated without me, eh, Edward? Emmett thought as he punched my shoulder. Esme and Alice flew to the glass doors which opened out onto the river as Emmett kissed Rose goodbye. Jasper took Alice s hand as they flitted out. Carlisle put his icy hand on Jacob s arm; he didn t flinch. Thank you, he repeated, then followed the others out. They leapt across the river and were out of sight in a flash. Must have been more desperate than I thought, Jacob said internally. A smirk appeared on his face as he noticed Rosalie s murderous glare on him. He slouched into the chair next to her, draping his bare feet over the edge near her face. Ew. Someone put the dog out, she said wrinkling her nose. For God s sake, Edward, you don t ev en like him, she added shooting me a sharp look. I ignored her. Besides she was wrong; so wrapped up in her own world, as per usual, Rosalie had failed to notice the bond developing between Jacob and I. Having her as a mutual dislike had helped somewhat, I thought wryly. Have you heard this one, Psycho? How do a blonde s brain cells die? She ignored him, staring straight at the TV. Well? Do you know the punch line or not? Jacob asked. No, but I m not telling you that, filthy mutt.
I could sense her hands twitch into claws, her teeth grinding, but she continued ignoring him. I wondered what would happen if Bella weren t in the room. Has she heard it? he asked me. I didn t remove my eyes from Bella s frowning face. No, I replied. Awesome. So you ll enjoy this, bloodsucker - a blonde s brain cells die alone. I have killed a hundred times more than you have, you disgusting beast, Rosalie snarled. Don t forget that. Someday, Beauty Queen, you re going to get tired of threatening me. I m really looking forward to that. So will Emmett, Rose thought. Enough, Jacob, Bella said, scowling. Well, fine then. You want me to take off? he asked. No! Of course not. I sighed. What was it that kept Bella needing Jacob around? Not that it mattered, if i t made her happy; that was what counted. You look tired, Bella observed, looking at Jacob. Dead beat. I d like to beat you dead, Rosalie murmured, so low it was barely audible. Jacob sank lower into the armchair, dangling his feet closer to Rosalie. She bristled, her face set into one of disgust. Rose, can I have a refill, please? Bella asked, holding out her empty cup. Of course, sweetie, she said as she darted upstairs, glad for the chance to escape the wet dog smell emanating from Jacob. It was then that I heard the tenor of somebody s thoughts. A sense of contentment? It certainly wasn t Rosalie or Jacob; I was far too familiar with their internal voices. For a split second I panicked; I thought Charlie may have turned up unexpectedly. But n o, I hadn t heard any tyres or footsteps. Could I be hearing Bella? Did you say something? I asked her, confused. Me? I didn t say anything.
I knelt and leant forward over her. What are you thinking of right now? Nothing. What s going on? What were you thinking about a minute ago? Just...Esme s island. And feathers, she said blushing. The tenor of the voice was getting stronger. Definitely contentment. Could I be breaking through Bella s mental defence? No, it wasn t her voice. Say something else, I murmured. Like what? Edward what s going on? I like that sound, came the voice, the thoughts clearer now. I couldn t believe what I was hearing, but there was no mistaking it. It was the baby. Our baby. Carefully, I put both my hands around her ballooning stomach. Rosalie came back in the room and gasped. The f- I swallowed. It...the baby likes the sound of your voice. I said, utterly incredulous. There was silence for a second. Holy crow, you can hear him! Bella cried out, then winced. I gently rubbed the spot where he had just kicked. Shh, I whispered. You startled it...him. Bella s eyes widened, marvelling. Sorry, baby, she said rubbing her stomach. I listened harder, leaning my head to the side. Happy, the voice said simply. I was in shock. It...he or she, is...He s happy, I said, my voice full of wonder, eyes widening so much they must have resembled Bella s. She drew in a sharp breath, and tears started flowing silently down her face with all the love she possessed within. We were both in awe, and a rush of contentment flooded through me warming my icy insides. Of course you re happy, pretty baby, of course you are, she cooed. How could you not be, all safe and warm and loved? I love you so much, little EJ, of course you re ha ppy. What did you call him? I sort of named him, she murmured, blushing. I didn t think you would want... well, you know. EJ? You father s name was Edward, too. Yes, it was. What-? I paused as the voice said; I like that voice, too. Hmm.
What? He likes my voice, too, I said, joy racing through me like a shot of adrenaline. Of course he does, she said with a gloating tone, You have the most beautiful voice in the universe. Who wouldn t love it? Do you have a backup plan? Rosalie asked, leaning her head over so it was near Bella s; I d forgotten Rose was there. Her expression was wondrous, too , at her impending vicarious motherhood. What if he s a she? Bella wiped her tears from her cheeks. I kicked a few things around. Playing with Renée and Esme. I was thinking... Ruh-nez-may. Ruhnezmay? R-e-n-e-s-m-e-e. Too weird? No, I like it, Rosalie assured. It s beautiful. And one of a kind, so that fits. I still think he s an Edward. Their conversation trickled through my trance-like state. I was listening intently to hear more from the baby. I love her, came the beautiful new voice. I was dazed. What? What s he thinking now? Bella asked. Slowly, I laid my ear softly against her belly, and they all gasped. I love her so much, came the voice again. He loves you, I whispered. He absolutely adores you. From that moment, everything changed; my surroundings turned from drab monotones into sparkling, dizzying multi-hues. My empty, lifeless voice had turned into one of wonder and awe. Though I was still terrified for Bella s life, I knew I had been wrong; I could never hurt this baby. Moreover, I didn t want to hurt this baby. I loved him. By convincing me of its benevolent intentions, he had transformed my world from one of sheer despair and grief into one of dazzling hope. I felt my heart swell with love an d pride; for my brave wife, and also for the new life growing inside her. I couldn t believe something I d helped create was so good, so pure and loving. Could I really be the monster I believed myself to be? I sat there staring up incredulously at my amazing Bella, tears of joy pouring down her face, with my head and hands tenderly over her ballooned stomach. Suddenly Jacob stood up and I started receiving the tenor of his thoughts...Betrayal, anger, and absolute agony. Ahh, I choked, darting to the end table, pulling the drawer open and grabbing the first set of car keys I found. I threw them to him, and he caught them deftly. Go, Jacob. Get away from here. I didn t say the words callously; I was giving him the escape he so desperately sought.
Bella stared up at me; her expression torn between sheer joy at me hearing the baby, and absolute horror at Jacob s pain. He just needs some space, I said and stroked her cheek. Happiness was our overriding emotion, driving all else to the fringes, but the guilt was undeniable. Good, I m glad he s gone, Rosalie said disdainfully. Rose, I chided. What? Are you honestly saying you like the wet dog smell? She wrinkled her nose, extending her arm out to inspect her perfectly manicured steel nails. I r olled my eyes at her. Something in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I looked around to see Leah in her human form, stomping towards the house, clothes dirtied and her hair sticking up in tufts. She was being very careful with her thoughts, but bearing in mind what she must have witnessed I had an idea of why she was here. I got up and darted to block her at the door, but she was already in. I stood in her way, our eyes blazing. Leah, I started, but she cut me off. Don t start with me, leech, it s her I m here to speak to, she jerked her chin towards Bella, who was looking at her with trepidation. Bella is not to be upset, Leah. Now I appreciate all you re doing for us, but I want you to leave. Bella is not to be upset? What about Jacob?! Wha t the hell happened? I paused. I needed to explain quickly to get her out the house. I simply started hearing the baby s thoughts, Leah, he s happy and Jacob is understandably hurt Oh, so now everything is perfect for you?! She interrupted, looking directly at Bella whose eyes were now glistening. Rosalie was on her feet with me, leaning forward in a crouch , a growl building in her chest . Jacob gave up everything to protect you and now you re playing happy families. Do you realise how badly you hurt him time and time again? I ve seen it through his eyes. God knows why, but he loves you, and all you do is throw it back at him! You want to marry your leech here but you want to keep Jacob in your life! God you are so selfish! That s enough, Leah! I shouted. You do not come into my home and intimidate my wife, now, please, leave! She shrugged. I was done anyway, she said and with one last glare at Bella, strolled out casually. Bella burst into tears and I knelt down beside her, stroking her forehe ad and trying to wipe her fast-flowing tears away with my cold fingers. Shh, I murmured.
No...but...she s right! she wailed. No, Bella, love, she isn t, I soothed. Jacob won t mind, I promise. You know that. She nodded, but continued to cry into m y shirt, staining it with her salty tears. Edward, she needs to keep calm, this can t be good for the baby... I shot her a sharp glare but gave a tiny nod of my head. I kissed the top of Bella s head, tracing my fingers gently across the contours of her back, which seemed to relax her and stifle the sobs. I kissed her tear-stained cheeks and brushed the residue off with a feather light touch. She and Rosalie eventually began talking about the baby again; Rose was planning a trip to the shopping mall once the baby was born. I was certain Alice would be going with her; she d want her niece or nephew to have excellent fashion sense from day one. It brought a smile back to Bella s face, and to mine, though I was still livid with Leah. I spent hours just listening to the baby, marvelling at this little miracle. I was going to be a father and I would carry Bella into immortality and preserve her life. We were going to be a family. I allowed myself to dream. I thought of the cottage in the woods that Esme had started renovating before our wedding. I knew it well because I d seen it so often in her thoughts. The climbing roses and honeysuckle, the hidden garden with the glass -smooth pond, the quaint little living room lined with books, the eclectic furniture, the Is le Esmeesque bedroom... It would be perfect for Bella. And our child. How had my world changed so dramatically, and so quickly? I was sitting on the floor leaning back on the sofa, my head next to Bella s baby bump, when Alice and Jasper came leaping across the sparkling jade river; Alice with a graceful fouetté jeté that even the best ballerina would be in awe of, Jasper a somewhat understated long jump. They bounded through the glass doors, their eyes now brilliant amber. Hey, guys, Alice trilled. Hey Alice, Jazz, I called, Alice, could you put some more creativity into your jumps, please? You re just not trying anymore, I said sarcastically. Just because you can t do it, she replied, poking her tongue out at me. I laughed. Where are the others? Emmett wasn t quite finished with the grizzlies, she laughed and Bella giggled with her. Carlisle and Esme stayed on to find more blood. He sent this, - she gestured to a rucksack over Jasper s shoulder- but he said it wasn t enough. What s going on? You seem more cheerful, she added mentally. Jasper could feel the shift in the emotional climate; excitement, happiness and hope making a drastic change to pain, anger and anguish.
As I explained that I could now hear the baby s thoughts, raising their ey ebrows as I lovingly said baby, their jaws dropped and eyes widened in wonder. They then sped upstairs, depositing the blood and throwing themselves back into research with fervour. Somehow, hearing the baby s thoughts had made it more real and more pressing to find answers. We needed to know what to expect when he arrived. Uncomfortable...too big... the baby suddenly thought. I gasped. Edward, what is it? Is he okay?! Bella asked frantically. I paused to listen again, then turned to her. He s uncomfortable, he s getting too big, Bella... We can t wait much longer. We need to deliver him as soon as possible. Is it safe? Yes, I said honestly. It s more dangerous for him to stay in there, he doesn t have enough space. I had started to really believe that I could keep both my wife and my child alive. Now I could hear the child s thoughts and see how developed he really was, I knew there was no time to waste. It was dangerous for both mother and child to just sit around and wait for something to happen. We needed Carlisle to deliver the baby as soon as he returned. Bella stunned me again with the faith she had in me; she trusted me implicitly when I said the baby was ready to be born. Rose took slightly more convincing, but ultimately she trusted Bella so she agreed. There was just one more thing I needed now and only Jacob could give it to me.
Bella was sleeping when I heard my Vanquish pulling off the freeway. I left Rose with her and went to wait in the garage, leaning against Emmett s Jeep. Jacob pulled up alongside me, eyeing me carefully. As soon as he shut off the ignition, I spoke. A few things, Jacob. He slowly got out the car and tossed me the keys. Thanks for the loan, he said bitterly. What do you want now? Firstly... I know how averse you are to using your authority with your pack, but... What? he asked, taken aback that I would interfere with such things. If you can t or won t control Leah, then I Leah? What happened? She came up to see why you left so abruptly. I tried to explain. I suppose it might not have come out right. What did she do? She phased into her human form and Really? he interrupted. Into the vamps lair...Impressive. She wanted to...speak to Bella. To Bella? He repeated in disbelief. I won t let Bella be upset like that again. I don t care how justified Leah thinks she is. I didn t hurt her- of course I wouldn t- but I ll throw her out of the house if it happens again. I ll launch her right across the riverHold on. What did she say? Jacob asked, raising his hands to stop me. I took a deep breath as I relived Leah s tirade. Leah was unnecessarily harsh. I m not going to pretend that I understand why Bella can t let go of you, but I do know she does not behave this way to hurt you. She suffers a great deal over the pain she s inflicting on you, and on me, by asking you to stay. What Leah said was uncalled for. Bella s been crying Wait- Leah was yelling at Bella about me? I nodded curtly. You were quite vehemently championed. Whoa... I didn t ask her to do that. I know.
He rolled his eyes. Of course he knows; bloodsucker knows everything. Really something about Leah. Who would have believed it? Leah walking into the bloodsuckers place human to complain about how I m being treated... I can t promise to control Leah, he said. I won t do that. But I ll talk to her, okay? And I don t think there ll be a repeat. Leah s not one to hold back, so she probably got it all off her chest today. I would say so. Anyway, I ll talk to Bella about it, too. She doesn t need to feel bad. This one s on me. I already told her that. Of course you did. Is she okay? She s sleeping. Rose is with her. So the psycho s Rose now is she? He s truly go ne over to the dark side. I ignored that and continued, She s... better in some ways. Aside from Leah s tirade and the resulting guilt. Better. Because he s hearing the little monster and everything s lovey -dovey. Fantastic. It s a bit more than that, I said softly. Now that I can hear the child s thoughts, it s apparent that he or she has remarkably developed mental facilities. He can understand us, to an extent. Jacob s jaw dropped. Are you serious? Yes. He seems to have a vague sense of what hurts her now. He s trying to avoid that, as much as possible. He loves her. Already. So, that s why he s changed. The monster s convinced him of this love. Jacob thought, his eyes on stalks. I ignored his inner monologue. The progress, I believe, is more than we d judged. When Carlisle returnsThey re not back? Jacob asked, worrying what could have gone wrong. Alice and Jasper are. Carlisle sent all the blood he was able to acquire, but it wasn t as much as he d hoped for- Bella will use up this supply in another day the way her appetite has grown. Carlisle stayed to try another source. I don t think that s necessary now, but he wants to be covered for every eventuality. Why isn t it necessary? If she needs more?
I hesitated, worrying about how Jacob would take the news. I m trying to persuade Carlisle to deliver the baby as soon as he is back. What? The child seems to be attempting to avoid rough movements, but it s difficult. He s become too big. It s madness to wait, when he s clearly develop ed beyond what Carlisle had guessed. Bella s too fragile to delay. This seemed to knock the wind from his sails. I waited and watched as he stared at me, noticing my change in attitude. You think she s going to make it, he stated. Yes. Waiting as we have been for the child to be ready, that was insanely dangerous. At any moment it could have been too late, I said, repressing a shudder. But if we re proactive about this, if we act quickly, I see no reason why it should not go well. Knowing the child s mind is unbelievably helpful. Thankfully, Bella and Rose agree with me. Now that I ve convinced them it s safe for the child if we proceed, there s nothing to keep this from working. When will Carlisle be back? By noon tomorrow, I told him. Jacob s legs buckled beneath him, and he steadied himself on the car. I started to reach out a hand in support but stopped myself. I m sorry, I murmured. I am truly sorry for the pain this causes you, Jacob. Though you hate me, I must admit that I don t feel th e same about you. I think of you as a... a brother in many ways. A comrade in arms, at the very least. I regret your suffering more than you realize. But Bella is going to survive and I know that s what really matter to you. Jacob seemed too dazed to say anything, so I continued. So I hate to do this now, while you re already dealing with too much, but, clearly, there is little time. I have to ask you for something- to beg, if I must. He shook his head. I don t have anything left. I raised my hand to put it on Jacob s shoulder but thought better of it; I didn t think he would appreciate the gesture. I know how much you have given, I murmured. But this is something you do have, and only you. I m asking you as the true Alpha, Jacob. I m asking this of Ephraim s heir. Jacob waited, unable to respond. I want your permission to deviate from what we agreed to in our treaty with Ephraim. I want you to grant us an exception. I want your permission to save her life. You know I ll do it anyway, but I don t w ant to break faith with you if there is any way to avoid it. We never intended to go back on our word, and we don t do it lightly now. I want your understanding, Jacob, because you know exactly why we do this. I want the alliance between our families to su rvive when this is over. Sam, it s Sam you want.
No. Sam s authority is assumed. It belongs to you. You ll never take it from him, but no one can rightfully agree to what I m asking except for you. It s not my decision. It is, Jacob, and you know it. Your word on this will condemn us or absolve us. Only you can give this to me. I can t think. I don t know. We don t have much time, I said glancing up at the house. I don t know. Let me think. Just give me a minute here, okay? Yes. Jacob started moving toward the house, deep in thought. I followed and we walked in comfortable silence. There was a rustling in the bushes that edged the lawn, and Seth padded towards us, letting out a low whimper. Hey, kid, Jacob muttered, patting his shoulder. S all co ol. I ll tell you about it later. Sorry to take off on you like that. He grinned. Hey, tell your sister to back off now, okay? Enough. Seth nodded. Really sorry about Leah, Edward. Get back to work. I ll spell you in a bit, Jacob said, and Seth lope d off into the forest. He has one of the purest, sincerest, kindest minds I ve ever heard, I whispered. You re lucky to have his thoughts to share. I know that. We continued towards the house, raising our heads when we heard the sound of sucking though a straw. I flew up the porch steps and into the house in a hurry. Bella was awake, lying on the sofa, cup in her hands. Alice sat by her feet, Rosalie in an armchair. Bella, love, I thought you were sleeping, I murmured, leaning down to kiss her fore head and tuck a lock of her mahogany hair behind her ear. I m sorry, I wouldn t have left. I sat down on the floor by her head. Don t worry. I just got so thirsty - it woke me up. It s a good thing Carlisle is bringing more. This kid is going to need it when he gets out of me. True. That s a good point.
I wonder if he ll want anything else. I suppose we ll find out. We grinned at each other at the thought of our imminent parenthood. Jacob walked through the door. Finally, Alice sang, her pixie-like face lighting up. Bella s eyes flickered to him and she beamed. Then her mouth twitched and her face crumpled, tears glistening in her eyes as she remembered Leah s words. Hey, Bells. Jacob greeted. How ya doing? I m fine. Big day today, huh? Lots of new stuff. I was filled with admiration for Jacob; I knew what it would be costing him to be so supportive. You don t have to do that, Jacob, Bella murmur ed. I don t know what you re talking about, he replied, taking a seat on the arm of the sofa. I m so sHe pinched her lips together so she couldn t speak. Jake, she mumbled, making a feeble attempt to pull his hand away. Fine, I won t say it. He released his grip. Sorry! she said, grinning. Tomorrow, she ll be someone else, Jacob thought. But alive and that s what counts right? She ll look at me with the same eyes, sort of. Smile with the same lips, almost. Still know me better than anyone without full access to my head. I smiled at the pointed aside as he continued his inner mo nologue. Tomorrow, she ll be my enemy. Or she ll be my ally. Apparently it s up to me. Jacob sighed. Fine! Go ahead. Save her. As Ephraim s heir you have my permission, my word, that this will not violate the treaty. The others will just have to blame me. You were right- they can t deny that it s my right to agree to this . Thank you, I murmured, low enough so that Bella wouldn t hear. Alice and Rosalie looked at me inquisitively, but they were used to me having conversations seemingly with myself. Bella turned to Jacob. So, she asked, attempting nonchalance, how was your day? Great. Went for a drive. Hung out in the park. Sounds nice. Sure, sure, he muttered, looking away.
Bella grimaced. Rose? Again? Rosalie laughed. I think I ve drunk two gallons in the last hour. I moved out the way so Rosalie could carry Bella to the bathroom. Can I walk? Bella asked. My legs are so stiff. Are you sure? I asked anxiously; days and days of lack of use could not help Bella s already dubious balance. Rose ll catch me if I trip over my feet. Which could happen pretty easily, since I can t see them. Rosalie put Bella down on her feet, holding tightly onto her shoulders as Bella stretched her arms out. That feels good. Ugh, but I m huge, she sighed. One more day, she said, caressing her bump. All righty, then. Whoops - oh, no! The cup left sitting on the sofa suddenly fell to the side, dark crimson blood spilling over the white material. Alice, Rosalie and I all beat her to it, our hands a blur, b ut Bella still moved instinctively to catch it. There was a strange, muted tearing sound from Bella s stomach. Oh! she gasped. Her body turned lifeless and sagged towards the floor, Rosalie catching her from falling as I held my arms out, too. Bella? I asked frantically, panic freezing my still heart. She was silent for half a second then let out a high -pitched, spine-chilling screech of sheer agony. The horrific noise was cut off with a gurgle, her eyes rolling back in her head. Her body convulsed and arched, and then a fountain of blood erupted from Bella s mouth.
Bella s body, now a macabre crimson, twitched and thrashed in Rosalie s arms as if she had an electric current running through her. Bella remained unconscious while the b rutal spasms, emanating from inside the centre of her body, brought with them vicious snaps and cracks as bones shattered. Rose and I remained frozen for a fraction of a second, and then broke into action. Rosalie gathered Bella s jolting form into her arms and we flew up the stairs into Carlisle s study with Alice and Jacob at our heels. Morphine! I shouted. Alice- get Carlisle on the phone! Rosalie called. Rose placed Bella on a table beneath the bright white spotlights, tearing off her clothes, while I filled a syringe full of morphine and injected it into Bella s arm. The baby thrashed, his mood grew panicked and desperate; he couldn t breathe. What s happening, Edward? Rosalie screeched at me. He s suffocating! The placenta must have detached! This seemed to break Bella from her unconscious state. Get him OUT! she screamed. He can t BREATHE! Do it NOW! The morphineNO! NOW-! Another wave of blood choked her. I held her head up, frantically trying to clear her airways. Alice flitted back into the room attaching a little blue earpiece under Rose s hair. Then she backed away, her amber eyes wide and blazing. Carlisle! The placenta s detached! Rosalie started screeching. Tell me what to do! You ve got to get the baby out, now or they ll both die! Edward knows the theory of a C Section! Pass me to him! Quickly! But Rosalie ignored him, all that registered in her mind was that the baby was dying. She picked up a scalpel and raised it over Bella s bulging, jolting stomach. Deep crimson was seeping beneath the skin. Let the morphine spread! I yelled at her. There s no time, Rosalie hissed. He s dying!
With a sharp movement she plunged the scalpel down and sliced through the layers of tissue; vivid scarlet gushed from the wound incessantly like a dam breaking, blood pouring out in a torrent, while Bella continued to choke. The deluge of blood shifted Rosalie s focus. It scorched her dry throat. Her onyx eyes widened and gleamed with bloodlust, lips pulling back to reveal her teeth. Blood...Must drink...Blood, was her single train of thought. She was no longer a protector; she was a predator and her prey lay helpless and dying in front of her. No, Rose! I shouted, but I was stuck holding Bella s head up; there was nothing I could do. Jacob suddenly leapt over the table and launched himself at her, his right palm locking her jaw. Using his leverage under her chin he swung her out and kicked her in the abdomen. She fell back and hit the doorframe, which buckled with the force and the earpiece smashed into pieces. Alice appeared and pulled Rose back tightly by the throat to get her out into the hall. Alice, get her out of here! I yelled. Take her to Jasper and keep her there! Jacob, I need you! Bella was turning blue now as she choked, eyes bulging. CPR? I growled. Yes! Jacob shouted. The burn didn t register in my throat; all I could think of was my wife and baby, dying before my very eyes. Get her breathing! I shouted at Jacob. I ve got to get him out before My words were interrupted by a shattering crack. Jacob and I were like statues with identical masks of horror as Bella s legs went limp and sprawled out on the table. Her spine, I choked in shock and sheer terror. Get it out of her! Jacob snarled, throwing me the scalpel. She won t feel anything now! Never in my worst imaginings could I have envisioned the horror scene before me. My wif e s heart being forced to pump as she lay, cut open, covered in and gushing bright scarlet blood. I looked at the incision Rose had made and sliced the blade through the last layer of tissue around the amniotic sac. You stay with me now, Bella! Jacob yelled. Do you hear me? Stay! You re not leaving me. Keep your heart beating!
I placed my mouth into Bella s gaping flesh and used my razor sharp teeth to cut carefully through the thick vampire-like skin, the sound like shredding metal. I could hear Bella coughing and spluttering in the background. I reached in and pulled the gasping baby out. Renesmee. My voice was a soft murmur; I was in awe of the perfect creature in my arms. She had a mass of ringlets matted with blood, her rosebud mouth open in an O shape of surprise at her sudden entrance into the world. Her eyes were the same melted chocolate as her mother s, her skin cream beneath the coating of crimson. She was utterly breathtaking. Such exquisite beauty could only have come from my angel, my Bel la. Bella tried to lift her hands. Let me... she croaked. Give her to me. I supported Renesmee as her mother tried to cradle her in her limp arms. Renes...mee. So...beautiful, she cooed. Renesmee s pink lips opened into a wide, adoring smile at her m other before sinking her milk teeth into the soft skin above Bella s left breast. She gasped as blood flowed out of the crescent shape bite, and I whipped Renesmee out of her arms. No, Renesmee, I whispered. With a last thud Bella s heart faltered a beat, then Jacob s hands were frantically but rhythmically compressing her chest, breathing lungful after lungful of air down her throat. What are you waiting for? He choked. I was frozen in horror and shock for a fraction of a second. Take the baby, I urg ed Jacob. Throw it out the window. Give her to me, came a golden wind chime voice. Jacob and I both snarled as Rosalie came into view. I ve got it under control, Rose swore. Give me the baby, Edward. I ll take care of her until Bella... I promise I ll keep her safe. You can do this, Edward. I checked her eyes, but there was no bloodlust now. I didn t have any other option; I needed to get my venom into Bella s system now, so I passed Renesmee to Rose. I didn t know if I could get enough venom into Bella fast enough. Suddenly a metal syringe lying on a tray off to my side caught my attention. In a flash of inspiration I started draining venom from my mouth into the syringe. The tray of instruments fell to the floor with a clatter as I jumped to Bella s side. Move your hands, Jacob, I ordered, hitting them out of the way. What s that? My venom. I said and leant forward over Bella, injecting the poison straight into Bella s heart, her body jolting like she d just been shocked. Keep it moving, I ordered. I will keep
you alive; you are not going to die, Bella! Throwing the empty syringe down, I moved to her neck, and sank my teeth into her soft skin, refusing to feel the b urn in my throat; the instinct to keep my Bella alive was stronger than any other. As the venom flowed into her bloodstream, I ran my tongue over the bleeding puncture, sealing the wound close. I did the same on both her wrists, the inside crease of her el bows, anywhere there were arteries. It s too late. She s dead. The pull s gone; she s not here anymore, I ve got to get away, Jacob thought. Go, then, I snapped bashing his hands out the way and compressing her heart quickly, rhythmically. I knew how her heart was supposed to sound and I would beat it for her until she was strong enough. Bella would not stop fighting, she would not leave me; and I would not leave her. She s not dead, I growled. She s going to be fine. I was reassuring myself as much as I was him, but I knew the words were true. They had to be. Nothing would take me from Bella now. Come on, Bella, I urged, pushing the now -viscous blood around her body. Renesmee needs you. I need you. Nothing existed for me except Bella and my single minded ferocity. We d always been star-crossed lovers, the odds stacked against us. Would fate take her from me now in the cruellest way? A bloody, macabre death after giving birth to our miraculous daughter? The next instant, I saw the gaping wound over her womb seal itself shut and I knew then that the venom was working, so I worked harder. Jacob s thoughts suddenly screamed at me from the stairs. Jacob and his hatred for Renesmee, hatching a murderous plot for my daughter. The instinct to protect both my wife and my daughter pulled me in opposite directions. I could not leave Bella and I could not let him hurt Renesmee. I opened my mouth to shout a warning to Rosalie when the mood of his thoughts changed. It went from the heat of anger to a glowing as he saw Renesmee s face. Everything that he was, everything he would be, changed. His ties, his life, his loves all transformed to be replaced by one person. Jacob had imprinted. On my daughter.
I continued forcing the venom through Bella s system, panicked, terrified and seething. I was livid. First, Jacob had tried to steal Bella from me, now he was staking a claim on my daughter. My love for Renesmee was already strong, fervent, and devotional. Protectiveness swept through me. She was only a few hours old, for goodness sake. Suddenly Bella s heartbeat picked up underneath my pump ing hands, pulsating faster than usual as it pounded the venom around her veins of its own accord. I exhaled in relief and stopped my compressions. The scene in front of me was horrific. Blood covered almost every inch of Bella s skin; it matted and tangled her hair. Her limbs lay sprawled like a beaten rag-doll s. Crimson splattered the panelled walls, it pooled on the flo or as it dripped from the table steadily. My T-shirt, hands and arms were dyed a vivid scarlet. Instruments were scattered on the floor, the broken metal syringe at my feet. The doorframe was broken, and books were strewn around the room from Jacob s encounter with the thirsty Rosalie. I stood frozen by Bella s side, my hands ready to take over should her heart falter but it was strong and urgent as it spread the poison, burning up the blood in her veins. I knew on a level that meant it was working, but I couldn t seem to believe it. Broken sobs e scaped my lips which I tried to muffle with my own bloodied hand. I sat down, listening to Bella s heart. It was the only sound that made sense in this hellish, chaotic nightmare. There was an argument going on downstairs and a sense of possessiveness, mixed with frustration. Jacob. I heard the swish of material as Carlisle flew upstairs and a gasp in the doorway, as he took in the horror scene, his eyes wide. He stepped forward quickly, medical training kicking in, his brow furrowing as he checked Bella s pulse, the feel of the thick lethal concoction racing through her veins. Heartbeat s strong... incisions closed...but the injuries. He took in the vast amount of blood that coated the room and the unnatural way Bella s broken body was spread out. Edward? He asked aloud. How on earth did you get enough venom into her quickly enough... the blood loss... He seemed lost for words at the scale of the devastation. I pointed to the empty syringe that lay on the floor. Her heart... I said simply. I c ouldn t string a coherent sentence together anymore. Was it beating at the time? I shook my head. Jacob was pumping it... I trailed off, the sound of name turning my insides with anger.
What happened? I started to explain the story in an inflectionless tone. From Bella bending to pick up the cup, the detaching placenta, to Rosalie s thirst. My voice warmed when I spoke of Renesmee. Is she okay? I asked. Carlisle smiled. She s very happy and healthy. She s perfect, Edward. She looks just like you. But with Bella s eyes. He rested a hand on my shoulder, and for the first time in my existence, I gripped it back as sobs overcame me once again.
Two days passed. Two days that I sat listening for any minute change to Bella s frantic heartbeat. I had washed her, cleaning away the dried blood from her skin, which was turning a dazzling white, and growing stronger. Her mahogany hair was now thick, glossy and lustrous. Her body was no longer distorted; she w as back to her slender form, her stomach now flat and unblemished. Alice came to dress her; and after debating over a fuchsia strapless number decided to go with an ice blue fitted designer silk dress with silver satin stilettos. She was enjoying playing dress up with her life-size doll far too much, in my opinion. I rolled my eyes at her. She s unconscious, Edward. I have to take these opportunities when they arise... she d thought. All traces of Bella s nightmare birth had been scrubbed away with bleach. The room was back to its usual pristine condition, the emergency room set-up put away, but for the lifeless body in the middle of it. Finally, I had a proper chance to meet my daughter. Rosalie brought her to me when all the mess had been cleaned up, Renesmee peeking out from behind Rose s golden hair. She was even more beautiful than I remembered. She had grown an alarming amount. Now that she was clean of all the blood, I could see the bronze colour, my bronze, in her ringlets that now hung almost to her shoulders. Her heart fluttered like bird wing s. Her skin was ivory with rose flushed cheeks, and her chocolate eyes melted my heart. I reached out instinctively to hold her and she nestled into my arms, smiling up at me and placing her warm palm on my throat. I had known she was intelligent from the first time I heard her, but her gift dumbfounded me. Not that I would have noticed it if I were the only one to know her. Everyone absolutely adored her and I felt my heart swell with overwhelming love. Now we just needed her mother to wake up to make our family complete.
I heard footsteps ascending the staircase, along with thoughts full of panic and apologies. I supposed I would have to face Jacob at some point; it might as well be now. Um, hey, he said, clearing his throat and rocking back on his heels nervously in the doorway. I didn t look up. I m sorry I bailed... that was...inexcusable. I nodded. Yes, it was. But I accepted his apology. Edward, about... Ness- Renesmee. You must hate me. I get that. But I didn t have a choice. I know you ve seen it in the pack s thoughts before. You know there s nothing romantic about this. He shuddered. I just want her to be happy, safe and healthy. I nodded again. On a certain level, buried far down, I did understan d. I remembered my words to Bella in the summer. "The imprinting compulsion is one of the strangest things I've ever witnessed in my life, and I've seen some strange things... It reminds me of A Midsummer Night's Dream with all the chaos caused by the fai ries' love spells...like magic." I m going to see Sam in a minute...he needs to know. It s against werewolf law to kill the object of a brother s imprinting. They can t hurt her. Relief at that flooded through me, though I was still irked by the means of a chieving such an end. Can I ask a favour? I know you think I don t deserve any but... Can you promise that when Bella wakes up, you ll let me tell her? I considered it for a moment, and then spoke quietly, still not looking at him; the petty part of me glad at the thought of setting a newborn on him. Yes. I promise. Thanks. He turned and walked softly back down the stairs, exhaling as he went. I was terrified for the agony Bella must have been suffering, and more than a little worried that she wasn t moving. I hoped she was numb, that she couldn t feel the venom racing to combust her organs, the poison consuming her blood. I wanted her to know I was here, that I never left her side, that she wasn t alone. I prayed with fervour that she would forgive me for inflicting this excruciating pain on her. I heard my father s gentle footsteps approaching. Still no change? Carlisle asked me, resting his hand on my shoulder as he came into the room. None. I shook my head. The empty word echoed through my head with a deafening clatter. He furrowed his brow and lowered his head to sniff Bella s wrist. There s no scent of the morphine left.
I know. I d spent hours, nay days, breathing in Bella s scent as the morphine slowly disappeared from her veins, surprisingly leaving behind her floral, freesia -like aroma, only this time without the burn. Bella? Carlisle asked her softly. Can you hear me? Bella? Bella, love? Can you open your eyes? I placed my hand around hers. Can you squeeze my hand? I applied slight pressure. Nothing. This wasn t normal as transformations went. I felt compelled to voice my deepest fear, something I could only say to my father. Maybe...Carlisle, maybe I was too late. I murmured, my voice breaking on the last word, my mind starting to consider the heartbreaking implications if it were to prove true. Listen to her heart, Edward. It s stronger than even Emmett s was. I ve never heard anything so vital. She ll be perfect, he said with a reassuring smile. And her- her spine? I flinched at the memory of the deafening crack, her legs going limp and sprawling out on the table. Her injuries weren t that much worse than Esme s. The venom will heal her as it did Esme. But she s so still. I must have done something wrong. Or right, Edward. Son, you did everything you could have and more. I m not sure I would have had the persistence, the faith it took to save her. His voice was bursting with pride. Stop berating yourself. Bella is going to be fine. I m so proud of you, son. She must be in agony, I whispered, remembering back ninety years to the unspeakable inferno burning its way through me, the pain seared forever into the tissues of my infallible mind. We don t know that. She had so much morphine in her system. We don t know the effect that will have on her experience. I m incredibly curious... I caressed the smooth skin inside her elbow with my fingertips. Bella, I love you. Bella, I m sorry. Will you go and talk to Rose and Jacob, Edward? I can t stop them fighting over her... No, I m staying right here, I whispered. They ll sort it out. An interesting situation. And I thought I d seen just about everything. I ll deal with it later. We ll deal with it later, I emphasised, pressing my fingers gently into Bella s palm.
I m sure, between the five of us, we can keep it from turning into bloodshed. He chortled internally. I sighed. I don t know which side to take. I d love to flog them both. Wel l, later. Rose and Jacob were fast getting on my nerves with their constant quarrels over Renesmee; whose turn it was to feed her, to hold her, to rock her to sleep... I wonder what Bella will think - whose side she ll take. A hard chuckle escaped me. I m sure she ll surprise me. She always does. Bella had surprised me in every way since the first moment I met her; her silent mind, her innate goodness, her unusual reactions... With another pat on my shoulder as I sat lost in memory, Carlisle turned and flitted back downstairs where Renesmee was entertaining a captive audience as she sipped through her metal cup; blood, not baby formula. Hours later, I heard Alice dancing her way down the hall and into the room. How much longer? I asked her, my voice still hollow with fear. Not long now. See how clear she s becoming? I can see her so much better, she said, relieved that her sight of Bella was almost back to normal. And she was right. The grey haze that had clouded Alice s vision had almost completely disappeared, the blurred images no longer warped. I smiled; it hurt the muscles in my face, which had been contorted with horror and agony for days on end. Still feeling a little bitter? Yes, thanks so much for bringing it up. She scowled at me. You would be mortified, too, if you realized you were handcuffed by your own nature. I see vampires best, because I am one; I see humans okay, because I was one. But I can t see these odd half-breeds at all because they re nothing I ve experience. Bah! She threw her hand up in the air in exasperation. Focus, Alice, I reminded. Right. Bella s almost too easy to see now. Look... An image swam before me of Bella and I sometime in the future; we were lying down in the wildflowers of our meadow with rays of sun trickling through the trees, casting glittering rainbows off of both of us. Her skin was sparkling white, matching mine, her eyes still expressive though now orangey amber, her long, mahogany hair fanning out around her with strands of copper glistening in the sunlight. She s really going to be fine, I breathed in relief.
Of course she is. You weren t so sanguine two days ago, expression and blazing eyes. I said, remembering Alice s puckered up
I couldn t see right two days ago. But now that she s free of all the blind spots, it s a piece of cake. She gave a triumphant nod and flashed her gleaming teeth at me. Could you concentrate for me? On the clock - give me an estimate. Alice sighed. So impatient. Fine. Give me a sec- She shut her eyes tight and wrinkled her nose as images swirled. The clock face from this very room appeared in her vision showing a time a little over six hours from now. Thank you, Alice. My voice exuded happiness as I reached up to caress Bella s smooth, porcelain cheek, sweeping a lock of chestnut hair from her face. She s going to be dazzling, Alice murmured. She always has been, I growled. Jeez, Edward, relax. You know what I mean. Look at her. That ice blue really sets off her new skin, don t you think? I can t wait till she sees her closet; I wonder what she ll wear first...she thought as she pranced out of the room. Another row was breaking out between Rosalie and Jacob downstairs, like children fighting over a new toy. Emmett was playing the role of referee while watching a baseball game on the Plasma TV. I waited six hours, and then the sound that had got me through the last two days suddenly changed; Bella s heartbeat accelerated. Carlisle, I called. I knew this meant the wait was nearly over, the venom burning its way through the final organ. Carlisle darted into the room with Alice behind him, her grin and golden eyes wide with excitement, hands moving together in silent, expectant applause. We all listened as Bella s heart beat in a frenzy . Ah, Carlisle said with a grin. It s almost over. Soon, Alice said, bouncing up and down on the balls of her designer -shod feet. I ll get the others. Should I have Rosalie...? Yes, I began. Keep the baby away. I hated keeping Renesmee away fro m Bella, and guilt flooded me. But the fact remained that blood flowed through Renesmee s veins. I was a father and I had to protect my daughter; I was sure Bella would understand that.
The slender, white fingers lying in my palm twitched. Everyone held their breath as we heard Bella s heart gallop on to yet a new speed. I leant forward and squeezed her hand. Bella? Bella, love? I ll bring them right up, Alice said eagerly and flew down the stairs bringing Jasper, Emmett and Esme back with her. Emmett wore an excited grin, Esme smiled tenderly and Jasper s brow was furrowed warily. He went to stand in front of the others, folding his arms. Emmett followed suit. Alice was peeking around Jasper s body, her perfect teeth gleaming as she mentally counted the last few seconds. Suddenly Bella s back arched off the table, as if she were a puppet being raised by a string attached to her racing heart. Then, as if the string was cut, she collapsed back down with a clatter. It was the only sign of pain she d shown, which made me wonder. Had she been suffering the inferno all this time? It wouldn t be the first time she d refused to show perceived weakness. My heart felt like it was shattering from that torture, jagged shards ripping right through me. A ga-lump of Bella s heart broke me from my anguish. It stuttered twice and then with a final, muted thud, fell silent. It was over. Bella s lids fluttered, her long, thick black lashes caressing her smooth snowy cheek. And then she opened her eyes and gazed in wonder at the brand new world around her.