Breaking Dawn

Book 1 (Edward’s POV)

By MAGGIE CHAMBERS

This story is dedicated to my friend, Aurora, whose strength, bravery, and indomitable spirit inspired me to wanted continue writing even when I wanted to throw my computer out the window.

Aurora
Aurora: the Dawn, Symbol of Hope Every Morning, Without Fail Persistent, Faithful, Light for a New Day Aurora: Mystical Light God’s Shining Promise Comfort for His Children Aurora: So Beautiful Erasing the Shadows Cleansing. Healing. Aurora
By Maggie Chambers

All characters and plot developments belong to Stephenie Meyer. I have a long list of people I need to thanks. First and foremost, thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for creating the world of Twilight, the amazing characters, and most epic love story of our lifetime. * * *

Thank you, also, to the websites that support Fan Fiction, especially The Twilight Saga, Freedom Fan Fiction Writers, and Writer’s Unite. The creators of these websites have given us a home to share our passion for The Twilight Saga. We are all in your debt. * * *

When I first started writing in January, 2009, there were several readers who went out of their way to encourage me. While this list is not complete, these individuals directly contributed to the writing and success of this story: Ben_at_Work, LisaEver, Krugness, V (Hopeless Romantic), Panchali.TeamCullen and Jezzy the Jezebel I am forever indebted to you guys! * * *

There were many individuals who supported me throughout the writing process. I need to thank my husband and children for not only tolerating my obsession, but cheering me on and being excited for me. Also, Mary H., Katie B., Kate (Jessica), LisaEver, TwiHigh, Debra, Aurora, and Yneone. Certain readers went above and beyond the call of duty, promoting and sharing the story with anyone who asked. Again, this list is not all-inclusive: Debra, Yneone, Joanne, Lestat, Thais, Jillian, al_ain, TwiHigh, jklly12, meadusa03, Dianne, Just_1_Fan, Talva, Victoria, twilightmomlg, Lynn . . . The list just goes on and on. . . Thank you so much! * * *

Finally, I had the most incredible group of proofreaders in the world. Thank you, san_diego_gal, mortangel, Ben_at_Work, Tonya, Susan and Marli. Without you, this story would not be what it is. You are amazing! Finally, everyone who has read, commented, and cheered me on. You are the best!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pg. . . . . . Distractions . . . Isle Esme . . . Pg. . 5 Chapter 3. . Pg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Chapter 6. . Long Night . . . 82 Chapter 7. . 26 Chapter 5. . . . Pg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pg. . . . . . . . . . Gesture . Unexpected . . . . 17 Chapter 4. .Table of Contents Chapter 2. 143 . Big Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

dark hair that framed her heart-shaped face. Bella had removed my shirt long ago and now her left hand rested against my lower back spreading vibrant warmth and energy through my core. intertwined on her small bed. with a thick blanket between us to protect her from my cold skin. “No.” That simple sound was so delicious and I refused to speak again.” Her words were at odds with her body language. With her fingers buried in my hair. she pulled my face back to hers. You have to go. “Definitely staying. It’s your bachelor party. I stroked her face carefully. But. Our mouths communicated more fluently than words. “Bachelor parties are designed for those who are sad to see the passing of their single days. soft and sweet and sensual. “Mmmm. I fell in love again. There were no words to do it justice. the thick. .” I could not believe how time stood still while our lips were joined. They spoke of passion and need and the immeasurable love we shared.” This modern human tradition of gathering the male family members and friends together for a night of drunkenness and debauchery sounded neither fun nor attractive. 2 Long Night Song – 311. fascinated by the tiny blood vessels visible beneath the thin skin of her eyelids. seeing the purity of her spirit. and hers. I can stay. So there’s really no point. the fingers of her right hand twisted in my hair and her other hand rested against the small of my back. We lay.” Bella murmured against my lips. pressing me lightly against her. I couldn’t be more eager to have mine behind me. her indomitable strength and courage. I sank deeper and deeper. Our lips renewed their spontaneous dance.Ch. “I don’t need to leave. trying to find the perfect analogy for the feel of her skin under my fingertips. ignorant of my presence this night and almost every night since I had returned to Forks. Any further interruptions were inexcusable. Every time I looked into her eyes. Bella’s eyes opened as our lips parted with a gentle sigh. I opened my eyes.” I managed to whisper several heartbeats later. Mine. her goodness. drowning was a fate I embraced. Jasper and Emmett had been 5 . no. Her father slept in the next room. the lush black lashes that fluttered where they rested against her flushed cheeks. I drowned in her eyes. While she spoke. “Love Song” “I miss you already. and yet time still traveled too quickly. hard and unforgiving. .

I wanted her so deeply. The heat emanating from her body was doing strange things to me. Her voice was like smooth velvet. I could not resist the sweet taste or the softness that caressed my mouth so invitingly. It was gratifying to me that she didn’t want to miss anything. It terrified me. shouldn’t we? Have you slept at all in the last month?” We had spent every night in one another’s arms. but I was fairly certain Alice and Rosalie would not stand for that type of revelry either. pressing her body against mine. drawing me closer to her. That she wanted to spend every moment with me. But I had to. her fingertips tracing the muscles of my chest and stomach. but whenever I pressed the subject she found another topic that she just had to question me about. How could I control this titanic craving? “Bella.” she said. delicious. we should be fairly close to perfection by this point. giving both of us space. Bella ran her hand softly down my body. our favorite books and music. our families. kissing. sending a jolt of electricity through my frame. . Her tongue brushed across my bottom lip. Self-control had never caused me so much pain. “But this is the dress rehearsal.” Bella seemed happy with my reasoning. My breath caught in my throat. tantalizing. surprised. Her warm breath on my throat sealed my decision. “Wait. It’s no time for playing it safe. I pulled back slightly. “True. Her touch was feather-light and warm. more forceful than the sharpest thirst. This desire was more primal than the hunt. however her hands gripped my bare shoulders. I worried about how little she was sleeping.” Bella purred with a playful smile on her lips. I hungered for this with a fierce intensity that blinded me. My selfcontrol had been tested to its absolute limit. struggling to focus on speaking those two short syllables. and only luck and the love of my family had saved Bella’s life then. that every fiber of my being ached with the need. I was starting to have trouble concentrating on anything other than the feel of her embrace. Chuckling softly I replied. then. “Well. I stopped. My heart thrilled with the overwhelming love I felt for her and the intense pleasure of having it returned. . My lips quickly found hers.guarding their thoughts carefully. talking softly about our plans. I felt her leg wrap around my waist. .” I whispered. I was not leaving her bed unless I was forcefully removed. How could I control this beast inside of me? I had almost surrendered to the monster within that thirsted for her blood. and we’ve only practiced certain scenes. “Practice makes perfect.” she continued. soft and seductive. 6 .

It’s too hard to concentrate when you’re with me like this. desperate to redirect where this was going. or obstinacy. panic plain on my face.” Can you? Will you? I quickly squashed that train of thought and redirected the conversation to another subject we had both agonized over for weeks and months. what about Renee. desperately grasping at the words as my mind raced down long worn paths of fear and panic. My self-control was dealt another small blow. “I don’t know. I grasped at conversation as my lifeline now. I was frozen. A deal’s a deal. what about Charlie?” 7 .” She spoke forcefully. with an edge of frustration in her voice. breaking briefly through my concentration. trying to make her see just how desperate I was feeling.” I was rushing now. The rest I can live through. her determination. a stubborn set to her chin. I don’t want you to do anything you’re not sure about. . rubbing her right foot gently along my calf. I won’t be able to control myself.” she reassured me. I chuckled again. .“Don’t start this again.” I pressed. . “Shh!” Her lips pressed against mine once again. “I’m sure about you. “Can you?” I spoke out loud this time. You’ll get hurt. How could she be so confident in my control when I was walking on the blade-thin edge of self-restraint? “Bella. “I—I can’t think straight.” she smiled. “Just making sure. The heat of our embrace chilled me now. which I am positive you will survive despite your qualms.” I was almost pleading with her now. How could she know? She had no idea of the battle I faced every second we spent together. “How are your feet?” I joked. but afterward. “Really? No second thoughts? It’s not too late to change your mind. . “I don’t mean the wedding. “I’ll be fine.” I could barely complete my sentence. I cautiously returned her kiss before pulling back with a wry smile. “Are you trying to ditch me?” Her tone was playful. but I detected a hint of annoyance in her words. although with Bella I knew it was fruitless. She could not possibly understand how fragile she felt in my arms.” Her reply was immediate. “Toasty warm.

but this is what I want. Melancholy settled over me as I thought of another sacrifice I knew she would be making. once it had already been stolen from her? “Never changing. I was not being facetious and her light tone hurt. “I’ll miss them. pretending to be jealous. too. And then I saw her smile. She brushed off the loss of friends and family so easily. I watched her eyebrows pull together slightly with hidden pain. and I want you forever. She could not know how the spirit stagnated when physical change ceased. “Especially Mike.” she laughed. dredging up the trappings of her human life that she seemed so determined to abandon.” she teased. Oh. “Edward. her brown eyes were troubled as she murmured. Without struggle and strife. but at what point would she register her loss? How would she look at me then.” I whispered. . we’ve been through this and through this. but the humor was gone almost instantly. . “Admit it—for one second. “Do you remember when we told Charlie we were getting married? And he thought you were. never moving forward.” 8 . She laughed quickly at my response.” “Frozen forever at eighteen.She sighed. I desperately wanted her to understand but I could not bring myself to lay all my concerns before her. One lifetime is simply not enough for me. gauging her reaction. once changed. She may not realize it now. I answered her slowly. . Even physical pain and injury could shape the longevity and fortitude of spirit that makes a person stronger. . .” she replied. .” “Angela and Ben and Jessica and Mike. but how could she deny her birthright as a woman? I knew from Esme’s and Rosalie’s heartbreak that sacrificing motherhood was a burden I did not want Bella to carry. “Every woman’s dream come true. “I’ll miss my friends. what catalyst was there to drive you forward? Vampires. I want you. “What does that mean?” My tone and manner had finally sunk through her forced cheer. pregnant?” “And he thought about shooting you.” I pressed on. were frozen in more ways than the physical. he honestly considered it. Mike! How will I go on?” I growled low in my throat. I know it will be hard. She could not understand how the changes and aging of the human body were so closely interlinked with the growth and maturation of the mind. her voice teasing.” If she could only see what I was trying to show her.

. but I felt their loss every time they saw a human infant.” “How could you know that. rocking a tiny being in my arms while she slept. aren’t I? Must be the nerves. I would never sit by her side.” she threatened with a smirk.” “Esme and Rosalie get by just fine. was a dream I knew I would never have. He cheeks blushed red and her eyes opened wider with surprise. I knew that wasn’t going to come out right. I wish that he’d been right. I would never sit with her thumbing through a book of names. If it’s a problem later. But the thought of her standing next to me. It wasn’t that I wished Bella was really pregnant. Esme and Rosalie did NOT get by just fine. “You are my future. While I could accept that loss for myself. matching them with ‘Cullen’ to find the perfect combination. I am moping. A taste of humanity I would never share. Edward?” Bella pressed. too. “It’s not right! I don’t want you to have to make sacrifices for me. stop. “I just wish. “I’m sorry. Now. “I know what I’m doing. I prepared myself for my confession. I want to give you things.” she gasped. we can do what Esme did— we’ll adopt. look at my sister. This was one gift I would never give her. Theirs was a loss and a sacrifice too great to put into words. That we had the potential. It’s not as easy a sacrifice as you might imagine.” “Gah. They hid their pain well from the others.” I sighed. Maybe you need a bachelor party. I knew their memories and relived their regrets. I hate taking that away from you. or I’m calling your brothers to come and get you. completely unsure of how Bella would react. her hand held protectively over the swell of her stomach. “What. “More that there was some way he could have been. Bella? Look at my mother. but I felt no humor at the thought. well. not take them away from you. No moping. I don’t want to steal your future.” I would never hear the flutter of a tiny heart. or see her belly grow with the miracle of a new life. stealing that future from the one woman I loved above all else was the most black-hearted theft imaginable. Her eyes searched my face for a full minute before she responded. If I were human—“ Her soft fingers across my lips halted me mid-sentence.” 9 .The image of a shotgun had crossed his mind. . Then.

tangled doubts and fears of fulfilling my promise to Bella. There were so many other things that were weighing on my mind.” Emmett hissed. Clinging to the narrow sill.” She held me tightly for a second before releasing me with a resigned smile. I’ve waited a century to marry you. Jasper’s thoughts were quiet. we’re coming in after him. I was already severely pre-occupied with the question of whether Jacob Black would accept my invitation and how the human guests would feel among the eleven golden-eyed vampires. Miss Swan. .” Emmett’s muffled laugh carried through the open window. before they break my house. Apparently Emmett and Jasper are not going to let me bow out tonight. I could hear Jasper’s stealthy passage off to his right and see the light from Bella’s house up ahead. With a long-suffering sigh. Emmett dropped back to the ground with a quiet laugh. “Go. come out wherever you are! Emmett’s mental call taunted me. smiling as I considered ordering my brothers away and falling back into her arms. “You don’t have to call my brothers.” Come out. Also.” I vowed. My whole body hummed in anticipation of that moment.” Bella replied sarcastically. 10 . Those words were like a rush of adrenaline in my veins. “Have fun. dragged myself from her warm embrace and shrugged into my shirt. From his point of view. for the love of all that’s holy!” “What’s wrong?” Bella was shocked and confused by my dark tone. “Oh.” “Thanks! That’s sure to help me wind down. I rolled my eyes. “Go to sleep. “If you don’t send Edward out. I paused.” Bella was laughing at my brother’s antics. Creating new problems served no purpose. of course. “I’ll meet you at the altar. I saw Emmett’s jump in his mind the second before he sprang. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.I wrestled my thoughts away from my regrets and guilt. the honeymoon was always in the back of my mind. . I met his fiendish grin with a harassed glare. showing me only a slightly altered perspective of their swift approach. “Are your feet cold?” she glanced slyly down to the foot of the bed where our feet were tangled in the blankets. The wedding ceremony is the one thing I can’t wait. “Not in that sense. he scraped his diamond-hard fingernails against the glass letting out a bone-chilling screech.

her adoration—I could not deny their existence.” I scolded. I just could not exist without her. I committed the image of her sitting there in her bed to memory. The anxiety I felt was partly due to my worry that she would be hurt in my absence. Such a cliché. We’ll get him home in plenty of time. that she would no longer want to doom herself to an eternity with me. my full weight striking him in the left shoulder.“I’ll be the one in white. and soul. old T-shirt that she always wore to bed in lieu of pajamas. Jazz. Em. I was afraid that she would change her mind. body.” we all heard Bella speak softly from her room.” She wore a bland smile. Be Safe. something would finally click and she would realize the impossibility of our love. that I would not be there to ensure her safety.” Her sheets rustled and the bed creaked as she sat up to address Jasper. gripping the frame of her window as he replied. “Watch your language. somehow. “Jasper? What do vampires do for bachelor parties? You’re not taking him to a strip club. I knew that there was no possible way for her love to be as great as mine. Her love. I sensed the wave of calm reassurance he sent washing over Bella and whispered. perpetually hidden from me. so completely true. He finished the thought silently in his head for my benefit. My eyes instantly found Emmett crouching next to a tall pine. But the stronger emotion was harder to define. “You’d better not make him late. Her lips curved into a wry smile. in my case. But. but her attempt at nonchalance was ruined by the slight quaver in her voice. That somewhere in her human thoughts.” We had to guilt trip him into coming with us tonight.” I chuckled. But when I examined the intensity of my love and need for her. I twisted in the air to land on him. Jasper leaped lightly into the air. I spoke to her silently as I sprang out her window into the night. Bella. Emmett cursed and I slugged him in the same shoulder. “Thanks. but I was struggling to find the force of will to leave. “Very convincing. for every part of her mind. are you?” I could hear curiosity warring with a tinge of jealousy. “Here Without You” Saying goodbye to Bella always caused me pain even if I was only gone for a short time. Did she honestly think I would frequent such establishments? That I would have any desire to see any other woman in that 11 . her hair tangled and still damp from her shower. “Don’t worry. a monster. Not even the Volturi could keep him away from you tomorrow. Song – 3 Doors Down. the rumpled.

When the way became too crowded. I crouched in anticipation. “Cheater!” he muttered under his breath. The towering tree came crashing down. Gotcha. Emmett tired of his teasing. scraping against the sides of the Jeep. “Hold it!” Jasper interrupted the imminent violence. We stayed clear of trails where hikers might have been camping. The aged evergreen was not so lucky. She had a legitimate question. I caught the flicker of his thoughts and.way? I couldn’t help the surge of hurt I felt. The closely planted trees hugged the road on either side. ignoring the off-road harness. for sure. I raised my eyebrow at Emmett’s shocked expression. 12 . Emmett and I froze. Emmett took full advantage of the upgrades Rosalie had installed as we raced out of town and took off into the forest along an abandoned logging road.” Jasper told her. dodged his assault. but it was there in his thoughts. angling further south as we left civilization behind us. we abandoned the vehicle and continued on foot. taking advantage of my brief distraction to get his revenge. I shouldn’t be offended. and brought the powerful V8 to life. Thud. keeping his thoughts carefully focused on the surrounding forest. He had not decided to attack yet.” “Thanks. the 14-inch thick trunk splintered and cracked. “Don’t tell her anything!” he growled. knocking over two other trees. I snickered at his slightly bewildered look. He launched himself toward me. Emmett crashed into it like a juggernaut. Just a few mountain lions. I heard her settle back into her pillow with a sigh as Jasper dropped silently to the ground and we raced down to Emmett’s Jeep where it was parked deep in the shadows of an overgrown fir tree. Emmett teased me without mercy as we ran east toward the mountains. aggravated by my unresponsiveness. Emmett grappled me to the ground. “We Cullens have our own version. Our house would be inundated with humans tomorrow. The twisting and snapping sounds were deafening as they echoed off the hills around us. and I personally didn’t know how long it would be before I would be able to hunt large game again. Jasper ran wordlessly. Hunting was a necessity tonight. a couple of grizzly bears. obviously relieved.” she responded. trying to ram me into a tree. “Relax. Emmett flung himself into the driver’s seat. I slipped out from his grip. An upstairs light in the house two doors down blinked on accompanied by the irritated thoughts of the neighbor we had awakened. Many miles later. still chuckling a bit. His brow lowered into a threatening glare and Jasper burst into loud guffaws. with a raised hand. thanks to Alice’s extensive guest list. Pretty much an ordinary night out. Jasper. at the last instant. snaking my foot behind his leg to bring him down hard.

how are you going to manage that?” Jasper was curious. “Whoa. My brothers were looking at me expectantly. A growl erupted from my throat before I could stem the sudden anger rising in me. because I knew that it was ill-founded. “It’s the only way she would agree to marry me. but you never did. I saw the image of my face in his mind.” “Tough break. “So. I had cornered Carlisle many weeks ago. Edward.” I glanced at Emmett. concerned. I saw that he was honestly worried about me and I thought about what Carlisle could have been referring to. . I know you turned Tanya down. She would only marry me if. I don’t even know what to expect. I’ve never. I can tell you’re stressed out.” Jasper intervened again. still recovering from the aftermath of Emmett’s horseplay. I tried not to let my mind complete that thought. but also because I can tell you’re really anxious about something. Carlisle had patiently reassured me.” “Wait!” Emmett interrupted. bro!” Emmett was his usual. unstoppable. He was definitely getting a lot of satisfaction out of my mortification. I buried my face in my hands. I sank wearily to sit on a mossy boulder. I thought you were just choosy. The forest was silent. waiting for a response. I mean. You’re getting married tomorrow! But Em and I just thought. Glancing back at Jasper. . always confident in my self-restraint. .” I said. His eyes narrowed and then his mouth turned up into a smirk. “She insisted. “I don’t know. of course you are. if there’s anything we can say or do to help you out. Realization dawned on me and I was suddenly embarrassed. “You guys are going to try after all? We all thought you were going to wait until she was changed!” My shoulders bowed under the hideous weight of my internal turmoil. we wanted to get you alone tonight to hunt. lay off for a minute. guilt and fear warring with anticipation and excitement. “Ha! Are you kidding? No freaking way! Was this your idea or hers?” His thoughts revealed that he had jumped to the correct conclusion. Carlisle said you may come to talk to us about something. Two hands grasped me by the shoulders and I looked up into his concerned eyes. . Something must have showed on my face. my words muffled and barely audible. cheerful self. because Emmett suddenly pushed away from the tree and was in front of me in a fraction of a second. . we’re here for you. wait a minute. His trust had hurt. But. worry. “Never? I mean. With my elbows on my knees. well. He nodded once in agreement. when Bella had first given me the ultimatum. He had straightened from his crouch and now leaned nonchalantly against a tree. never?” 13 .“Emmett. I lifted my head to meet his worried glance. .

right?” His cavalier acceptance that I would injure Bella so badly infuriated me beyond words and I sprung at him without thinking. you have a plan. bro. Time stood still as I relived some of the most powerful experiences of my brothers’ lives. dredging up their most personal. My attack was more controlled than his had been. wishing he would fight back so that I could channel some of my fear and pain away from myself. nobody in the history of the world had two brothers like mine. I took two shuddering breaths before I responded. I was overwhelmed by the unconditional love and trust that these men offered me. both mental and verbal. “Would it help to talk about it?” Jasper interjected. “Wow. I didn’t mean to piss you off. However. You might be able to handle it better. “We’re both. Their selfless gesture ignited a spark of hope within me. but they stood by me. wow!” Emmett looked at me again. supporting me. and they cared deeply for Bella. “Not even before you were changed?” he pressed. right?” My anger dissipated as quickly as it had come.I shook my head wordlessly. dejected. The despair I was feeling was palpable and I welcomed Jasper’s calming influence. seeing their thoughts. That stopped him. encouraging me. he raised his hands in peace. intimate memories for me to understand. virgins. I looked from one to the other. . .” The word was awkward and uncomfortable to say out loud. I knew Jasper had suspected as much. you know?” Emmett nodded in agreement. and I instantly had him by the throat. He was truly at a loss for words. “Easy. patiently waiting for me to loosen my chokehold. one on each side with their hand on my shoulder. I did not feel at all like a voyeur. “So I guess you’re just going have to be ready to change her right then. but Emmett was clearly astounded. Both Jasper and Emmett opened up to me. That’s all I can say. They loved me. astounded by the offer they presented. My jaw was clenched in rage. I mean. Instead. I shrugged my assent. I was just curious. “Maybe if you knew a little bit more about what to expect you wouldn’t be so torn up. 14 . Neither one of them envied my predicament. I guess. pressed up against the same tree he had just stepped away from. My gratitude was heartfelt as my brothers stood close to me in that rain-soaked forest. Truly.” My words were a whisper. From his thoughts. I released him and turned away. “I’m sorry.

Our thirst sated for now.” “Oh. settling into an easy. their first times were distant. “No problem. we playfully challenged one another to climb the rocky heights. With a shrug and a fortifying breath of the pine scented air I followed them. He never lifted his soothing pressure. Let’s help repay our debt to society. even in August. I didn’t think what I felt for Bella would be so easy to control. I would never betray your trust. The exertion was invigorating and we quickly reached the summit. She doesn’t like to think about the ‘other girls’ even though they were decades ago. This one goes with us to the grave. we were scaling the icy cliffs of Mt. pounding me on the back. “You’ve got decades worth of slaughtering innocents to make up for.” Emmett snickered. 15 . As the golden orb crested the horizon.” This time my voice was stronger and the anxiety had faded ever so slightly. Even so. I was still afraid. I thought. too tempting a sensation to deny it. Facing the east we watched as fingers of light crept up to reclaim the night sky. Jasper was more understanding of the emotional onslaught that came hand in hand with the union of two bodies. for both Jasper and Emmett. Emmett grinned and slapped me on the shoulder. believe me. Streaks of amber and pink spread out. heralding the dawn. searching for that signature musky scent. Figuratively speaking. we all lived without that pleasure and fulfillment. before I ever met her. just don’t tell Rosalie.” Jasper didn’t respond to Emmett’s barb. It was an obvious attempt to shift attention away from me. of course. His love and adoration for Alice colored every memory with rich rainbow hues. Jasper hugged me quickly. “Thank you. the rapport we shared slowed. I owe you so much more than that!” I replied fervently. Four hours later. However. ground devouring lope and casting out my senses.” “Your debt. Gradually. let’s hunt! I heard some campers spotted a mountain lion just north of Quinault earlier this week. I took a deep breath to steady myself. both. but hopeful that I would be able to control myself and give Bella what she so desperately wanted. “Come on. And yet. Olympus. It was too invigorating. faded human memories— dark and out of focus compared to the brilliance of vampire experiences. we were bathed in its pure brilliance. which was ice-capped. Knowing helped. and then another. it helped.Emmett tried to compare what he felt during intimacy with the pure exhilaration of drinking human blood.

but mostly traveling in silence. He just shook his head and shrugged. with the most perfect of creatures. avalanche surfing and heavy clouds. ignoring their bemused expressions. I glanced at my brothers who also had beads of moisture glistening in their hair and soaking their clothes. we were going to be a mess when we finally made it home. I knew Alice wouldn’t hear of me seeing or even talking to Bella until she walked down the aisle. Between the horseplay. Jasper joined me seconds later and we turned to watch Emmett bouncing and cart-wheeling down the slope. occasionally talking. for one thing. I guess I underestimated you. reveling in the warmth of the breaking dawn. It was only about 10:00am. casting brilliant rainbows across the snowy expanse. It would destroy her hair. Alice had foreseen that today would be free of rain and even pleasantly warm for the ceremony. I stretched my arms high. I was lost in thought and my brothers seemed to understand and respect my need for some time alone in my own mind. I couldn’t help laughing as his ‘ride’ came to a shuddering end and he leaped gracefully across the fractured remains of the avalanche with a grin on his face. Laughter erupted from my chest and I embraced my brothers. I frequently checked the position of the sun in the sky. Today I would be joined. The tiny droplets clung to my clothes and condensed on my cold skin.I tipped my head back. I thought I’d be bored out of my mind tonight ‘cuz you’re such a prude. Without hesitation I threw myself down the mountainside. shouting and hollering with delight. I left the sea of ice chunks and snowy boulders behind easily.” I couldn’t imagine Rose putting up with his antics. frustrated and anxious for the time to pass. We had only descended another 200 feet before we were enveloped by a thick layer of clouds. A sound like thunder swelled behind me as Emmett barreled down the mountainside after me. but Emmett let out a whoop of excitement as tons of snow and ice collapsed under the pressure of our unexpected descent. 16 . lightly gliding over the shifting surface. I heard a string of expletives in Jasper’s mind. let alone joining in. “Sorry. Cracking and rumbling grew beneath my feet. I rolled my eyes at his childish exuberance and flung myself forward. I swallowed hard. body and soul. Edward. . but this part of the peninsula was smothered by a thick layer of clouds. All worry was washed away and my being sang with joy and anticipation. hunting. . My bare skin refracted the light. mind. and the wedding wasn’t scheduled until late afternoon. We returned to the Jeep at an easy pace. eager to meet my bride. I caught myself rolling my eyes again and traded glances with Jasper. mountain climbing. disappearing into the relative shelter of the trees. but that was fun! I’ll have to bring Rose up here one day and try that again. What was I going to do in the intervening hours? The minutes stretched out before me like the endless waves of the ocean.

draped in satin. I was enchanted by the transformation that had taken place in my absence. I nodded. Would he be there tonight? Did he even receive the invitation and the letter I wrote? Did I truly want him to come? When I considered the joy and relief Bella would feel if he did show up. Rows of chairs. Even with vampire speed and agility. It seemed like my light-hearted moment of joy had disappeared as soon as we descended below the clouds. What I was experiencing was so much worse than nervousness. it was an impressive feat. As we drew closer to home. A canopy of gossamer and 17 . aware of the heavier weekend traffic and the need to remain inconspicuous. if you’ll remember. When I was shut off from the sun. since we had left the night before. roses. It’s going to be just fine. like traveling through a starlit tunnel. I was just as nervous before I married Alice.Ch. I was excited and exhilarated. flanked the center aisle down which a simple rose-colored carpet ran. With it came the heart-rending memory of watching Bella cry herself sick the night she said goodbye to him. All of the furniture had been removed from the living room. but I couldn’t stop hundreds of other thoughts from flitting through my mind. but the answer did little to stop the nagging sense of jealousy and pain that always accompanied any thoughts of my former rival. I knew my answer was ‘yes’. even though it was still midday. Alice and Esme had strung thousands of twinkling lights around the trees lining the road. I stood for a moment. and the hour of the wedding. I cast around. I jumped impatiently from the moving vehicle as Emmett pulled around to the garage on the north end of the house. It’s one of those bizarre human emotions that make little sense to our kind. The heady scent of orange blossoms. I realized I was grinding my teeth in frustration when I felt a gentle calm wash over me and heard Jasper’s compassionate thoughts. The color of Bella’s blush. Emmett drove at the speed limit. The effect was stunning. It was lunchtime when we finally turned onto the three-mile drive that led up to our house. The anguished face of Jacob Black. sensing the minds of my family around me before I sped across the open lawn and entered the house. grateful but unable to pull together a smile. 3 Big Day The drive back to Forks was no easier. lilacs and freesias billowed around me. Somehow. dazed. just taking it all in. White satin bows glowed regally at frequent intervals. one picture kept creeping back to me with a persistence that was deeply disturbing. darker thoughts invaded my mind. so it is even harder for us to process.

Subtle. even more so than usual. She carried herself with pride.” I responded to her threat with a grin and a shrug. the perfect position to fill the room with its mellow resonance. set in the shape of roses. But the thing controlling my movements. Edward. For all of her criticism and anger at what Bella was choosing. She was not wearing her wedding band. I envisioned us standing there. “Edward.intricately woven flowers hung over the assembled chairs. Rosalie was gorgeous. “I wouldn’t think of it. my eyes were pulled back to the front of the room again. and began twisting the piles of white flowers into garlands for Esme to hang around the perimeter of the tent. My precious piano. The time would pass more quickly with something constructive to do. but her wrists and neck were adorned with flawless pink diamonds. without another soul in the room. Her long golden hair was twisted and coiled into a classic coiffure that bore an obvious resemblance to a royal crown. scanned them quickly. I stopped in my tracks. marked with her notes and personal embellishments. Rosalie’s sheet music was neatly laid out. marked the blessed spot where we would make our vows to each other. floor-length gown. I chuckled as I thought about how this scene would appear to a human. I thought sardonically. also dripping fragrant blossoms. my heart aching as Bella retreated from my side. Her voice was cold. Emmett was going to be stunned senseless when he saw her. she was happy for us. I forced my mind to rewind the scene. occupied its elevated platform in the rear left corner. Esme and Carlisle were flitting from place to place erecting the white canopy tent. Carlisle and Esme’s wedding gift when she and Emmett were first married. put that down! You shouldn’t be decorating for your own wedding reception!” Esme called out in shocked disapproval. Part of a video from a recent biology class popped into my mind. but I sensed the affection in her thoughts. conscious of her stunning beauty. that sucked me in. 18 . My feet were unconsciously drawn to those stairs. speaking those words of love and commitment. choosing instead to find Esme. a bridal arch. Like a magnetic force. The only thing that would indicate otherwise was the absence of changing light and flickering shadows. Alice will have your head. I had not heard her approach. bemused. Alice’s musical voice carried clearly from upstairs. of course. I paused as I stepped outside into the backyard. streamers and flowers according to Alice’s detailed sketch.” Rosalie threatened. glistening with polish. My Bella. hanging ribbons. Her figure was sheathed in a silver. back to the base of the stairs. At the far end of the aisle. “Don’t even think about going upstairs. and I knew my mother would have plenty to keep me busy. Time-lapse photography. was the rhythmic beating of a human heart. The lid was raised half way. I crossed to the table where her directions lay.

” Her hands rested gently on mine. . I was just glad and humbled that seeking my own happiness had brought my mother so much joy and satisfaction. assaulted by the force of their raw attraction. Rosalie was very pleased with his reaction. Esme embraced me. and I never believed that I would meet a woman who was worthy of loving you. “I am grateful for the help. You deserve one another. No mother has ever been happier for her son. Ivy. . but I am so overjoyed for you and Bella. preening under his adoring gaze. I just really want to keep myself occupied for the next two hours. white rose. . or more satisfied that he has found the perfect woman. ivy. They were 19 . and his lips were turned up in a small grin.” Esme rested her hand softly against the side of my face and a sweet smile lit up her countenance. then. son. . . “Apparently Alice has already banned me from the house and you know I’ll go mad with nothing to do. And now that it’s here. Surely there is something you need help with?” Carlisle appeared at my side and placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder.” “Sweetheart. how can we argue? We are happy to have your help and company. white rose. I knew this day would come. but I did not drop the garland. freesia. “Why don’t you spend some time at your piano? I would love to hear you play. . . laying down the interlocking panels of the hardwood dance floor.” Through Rosalie’s eyes. Carlisle and Esme traded a wordless look. my movements were automatic. We broke apart and continued our separate tasks. my fingers were a blur as they braided the ribbon and stems flawlessly. Edward.I laughed and shook my head. My throat was tight as I drew her into a close hug. if this is what helps him order his thoughts. I just didn’t want you to feel obligated to be out here if there was somewhere else you’d rather be. Oh. you know that is Rose’s territory today.” “Mother. “No. I almost wish I could cry. Jasper was uncomfortable. You know I cherish this time with you and I will miss you terribly. Her profession of love for Bella and unconditional approval of our union was so heartfelt. I raised my eyes to see her loving eyes pleading with me.” From the very beginning. freesia. please. I watched Emmett’s jaw drop to his chest when he entered the house and saw her. when you first confessed your love for Bella. “Esme. I can’t express just how happy it makes me to see you two together. “Stay if you wish. . I think it’s best if I just stay away from trouble out here. but we both had smiles on our faces. He was relieved when Rosalie asked him to take her car to pick up Bella’s mother and Phil from their hotel.” He squeezed my shoulder once before returning to his work.

Alice sent a pointed thought at me when I even considered going upstairs. Rosalie began playing softly as I tied my bow tie. snatch her into my arms and take her far away where I could be with her and only her. to speak and move as a human does. another car followed. and I was speechless. overly conscious of Alice’s bathroom door shut tightly with my sisters and Bella talking and preparing inside. He was holding out a shiny. She rarely played the piano. Alice had no part in the design or the purchase. The minutes flew by faster than I could have hoped. I raised an eyebrow when I registered why he was here. Instead. how I looked and dressed was all for Bella. I took my time with my own preparations. and brotherly approval.remembering their own wedding. I was proud of her. I flitted up to my room to change. The image of Bella’s profile in her mind was enough to still my hands for a moment. felt it too. Moments later. but I knew this was because it was difficult for her pride to take being second best next to me. grinned at my formal ensemble and then stepped in and shut the door behind him. Jasper. The tuxedo I wore was new. she was making a valiant effort to make it as wonderful for Bella and me as her first wedding with Emmett was for her. refocusing my thoughts. encouragement. He peered around the door. All I wanted to do was rush to Bella. I sighed as I saw the tranquil joy they shared in loving thoughts and sweet memories. but styled with traditional lines and tailored to fit me perfectly. was a priceless gift. without even being asked. Emmett sauntered outside moments later and I heard Rosalie’s offer to style Bella’s hair. saturating myself in her essence.” I called. I wasn’t nervous. I shook my head. Today. As difficult as today was for her. on his way back out to the garage. black lacquered box. She didn’t begrudge me my talent. * * 20 . but it did make playing less enjoyable for her. Bella’s mother would be here in minutes and other guests would be trickling in for the next hour. I did not feel any of the doubts or regrets that so frequently plague the minds of men before they walk down the aisle. That she had volunteered to play today. joining our simple communion with his own feelings of joy. I recognized Carlisle’s step in the hallway several seconds before he rapped lightly on my door. my body was buzzing with excitement. “Canon in D” We were putting the finishing touches on the outdoor reception area when I heard Rosalie’s car turning off the highway. * Song – Pachelbel. “Come in. I already knew what was inside. I stood in front of my mirror and took a deep stabilizing breath. It would take all of my focus and self-control to act human today.

Cullen was more than a name that I adopted out of convenience.” Touched beyond words. “Real good. But then you joined me in this life and chose to call me father. and a steel gauntlet. My name. Emmett beat a hasty retreat. looking good!” His eyes scanned me from top to bottom and back up again before he met my sheepish gaze with a grin. I nodded silently as Carlisle removed my generic mother-ofpearl cufflinks and replaced them with the heavier gold jewelry.” 21 . to teach. It was my history and my heritage. geez. . but Jasper? I was livid. you are. these are your birthright. Emmett. . Carlisle trapped me in a bone-crushing embrace. just calling over his shoulder. Have faith in yourself and Bella. You are a good man. I. “Edward. that instinctive need lay dormant within me. His pride and pleasure on this. this crest. . . Relax! We’re just—” Thinking better of his argument. And then Emmett burst through the door. Trust that the joy you will experience together will be greater than anything you have ever imagined. “Carlisle. Carlisle stepped back. a sign of strength and bravery. you are my first-born son. As different as I was after the change. “Eddie. to watch him grow. you didn’t. I know you are not in the conventional way. thank you. . For more than two centuries. He thought this was funny? I almost expected this from Emmett. The oval face was stamped with the Cullen Family Crest: a Lion Passant.” I glared blackly at my brother. “Edward. but in every way that matters. . to love.” I was fuming.” I murmured. “Edward. bro. what’s going on?” Carlisle broke in quickly. my wedding day.” I saw his mind flash to a whispered exchange with Jasper. “They’re ready for you downstairs. humbled by his profession of faith and love. “Emmett and Jasper are betting on whether Bella will trip while walking down the aisle. there was still one thing about me that was purely human.I took the box gingerly in my hands and lifted the lid to see a pair of solid gold cufflinks. his hands on my shoulders and his eyes locked on mine. was more emotion than I could absorb. “Emmett. everything I have and everything I know. I hadn’t seen them since Carlisle and Esme were married. Edward. I wanted a son to pass on my name. his broad shoulders and muscular arms straining and stretching the seams of his tuxedo as he moved. I can’t wait to see Bella’s reaction. It meant I was part of a family— a family that Bella would also be joining soon. God has blessed you with a supernatural love. three shamrocks to pay tribute to his Irish roots.

the Denali coven. She was dressed in a silver gown. Renee had no reservations about our early marriage. her feet landing precisely on the beat of the music. black hair was styled in curls around her face. Many pairs of eyes followed my progress up the aisle. I shook off my anger. minus Irina. Having seen us together. Despite Bella’s misgivings. allowing Carlisle and the steady melody of Pachelbel’s Canon to calm me before I followed. but in a different style. In a row of chairs about half way down the aisle. Sue looked like her skin was crawling and she couldn’t stop sending darting glances over at the right side of the room. the simplicity of her viewpoint was both profound and comforting. Phil escorted Renee down the aisle. even through the layers of fabric. I picked up on the scents and thoughts of many acquaintances from school as well as other humans from town. I caught her eye and mouthed the words. Her view of our relationship was unique. Her short. rather than walk.With an effort. Even so. Weber leaned in to speak to me. his hand a hot brand on my shoulder. but I only spared her a small welcoming nod. Tanya caught my eye with a provocative smile as I walked past. his mother. It was difficult not to hurt her feelings when she persisted in pursuing me despite everything I had ever told her. the seats around them remained empty. Mr. softening her angular features and making her look even younger. Emmett and Esme followed soon after. He wanted to confirm a few minor changes to the vows. accepting our love and need for one another as an essential part of both of us. waiting for the first glimpse of my bride. Jazz. Seth Clearwater. 22 . The only thing that allowed them to blend in with humans was the human tendency to ignore the warning signs that their own eyes couldn’t possibly miss. Now everyone in the room is in love with Alice. Rosalie executed a complex. Standing beneath the arch. At the bottom of the stairs. her body moved with such sinuous grace that she seemed to float. guests were milling about and almost two-thirds of the seats were filled. but flawless.” I whispered out of the corner of my mouth. Alice stepped lightly down the stairs. Her thoughts were full of tender memories of Bella’s childhood and hope for her happiness as a married woman. like Rosalie. The few guests who were still standing followed our cue and took their seats. Sue. and Billy Black sat in the back row. Somehow. Nobody was ready to place themselves next to so much alien beauty. “Smooth. taking their places in the front row. I thought of my earlier vision. with Carlisle just one step behind me. she was incapable of seeing us apart. Her lips broke into a rare and beautiful smile. flourish. She smiled at me with tears in her eyes. sat in graceful poses. My gaze swept over the heads of the gathering and locked on the staircase. I heard Jasper’s instantaneous intake of breath a fraction of a second before a pulse of love and adoration swept over me. My eyes darted in his direction and he locked down his gift in alarm. ‘thank you’. Even so. Just as he stepped back into position. The fabric appeared to pour over her figure like a moonlit waterfall. Jasper. for now.

I was in awe. that I had found a love as great as Jasper’s love for Alice. I was mesmerized. Her eyes were downcast. When they did. it only took a moment for her eyes to find mine. Staring straight down the aisle. Alice had orchestrated everything perfectly. dark lashes. In that moment. they shone brighter than before. The force of our love shimmered between us as each step brought her closer to me. loving the interplay of her scent with the profusion of flowers. Song – Wagner. Every sight. Her lips drew my gaze. Finally. Her skin was as smooth as porcelain. even. With her feet on level ground. I shook my head minutely. congratulations! Alice’s musical voice echoed in my mind. I consciously opened myself to the thoughts of those around me. sometimes with shadowy human vision. Alice’s ministrations had only intensified her beauty. I drank in the sight of her. But almost every mind was. raising my eyes slowly from the hem of her satin gown swirling around her ankles to the delicate bouquet she clasped in her left hand. framed by thick. My face broke into a wide grin. once again. Charlie’s polished black shoe appeared moments before a delicate foot clad in vintage satin heels descended to rest next to his. frozen by the breathtaking beauty before us. Then her eyes were only on Jasper. Rosalie ran through a fanfare that grew in volume and slowed slightly in anticipation of her appearance. Her face glowed with the blush of a rose. luminous hair. However. and other times with the crystalline clarity of vampiric sight. A hushed whisper raced through the crowd as they rose to their feet in unison. framed by tendrils of her dark. I saw Bella from dozens of perspectives. lit from within by an ardor that matched my own. She was momentarily overwhelmed by the magnificence of the room and I remembered my first impressions of the bowery display. and the beatific smile that lit up her face dazzled everyone in the room. and finally to her face. A veil of antique lace flowed freely down her back and curled around her shoulders with each step. sound and 23 . like mine. “The Wedding March” The thoughts of everyone in the room took on a feeling of expectation for Bella’s entrance. Greater. she stood before me and I inhaled deeply. Bella finally raised her eyes. it’s only because she’s that perfect. looking fuller and darker than before. Two sapphireencrusted combs sparkled beneath the braids. impossible as that seemed.“If they are. While I have your attention.” he replied smugly. my view was unobstructed as the vision of all visions was revealed to me. Her hair was a masterpiece of brown silky coils that dipped in and out of an intricate braid to form a lustrous coronet. I couldn’t contain my joy. Charlie clutched Bella’s hand on his arm as they reached the last step.

sweetness and beauty. for as long as you both shall live?” “I do. for poorer. You may kiss the bride. I now realized that I had been waiting for decades for her to be born and enter my life at the exact second that she had. “I now pronounce you husband and wife. And then.” I anticipated that kiss as much as our first kiss. When Charlie placed her hand in mine and stepped away. agreed to spend the rest of her life. as her attachment to me became undeniably obvious. Hearing those words whispered from her lips was the most deeply spiritual moment of my life. I felt that the universe had expanded beyond comprehension. Nothing could stem the tide of victorious exhilaration that coursed through me.” she replied softly. my determination to stay with her every day of her existence occupied my thoughts day and night. for better. and yet in that instant. her voice barely carrying beyond those closest to us. Those two words. . If my body had been capable of it. Every word spoken throughout the ceremony increased the energy coursing through me. my voice rang clear and triumphant. his rich voice rising and falling in a pattern that made the weight of each word settle deeply into your mind. . But as the days and weeks passed. I would have been crying with her. . but for very different reasons. do you take Edward to be your lawful wedded husband? Do you promise to love and cherish him. And here she stood. Mr. I watched Bella’s face. I gave myself entirely to Bella as she lay sleeping in her narrow bed on a rainy winter day almost two years ago. I was too terrified of losing control and hurting her. in sickness and in health. I could have lost myself in her eyes forever. it took all of my strength to turn toward the minister. keeping yourself only unto him. So simple. for worse. her eyes wide and her lips parted. before our families and our friends. for richer. 24 . the rest of eternity. I do.smell was a magnification of Bella’s own purity. I had never felt more right. “I do. my wife in name and in truth. So powerful. I did not care that I was a vampire or that she was human. forsaking all others. My universe narrowed to include only us. she had agreed to marry me. he spoke with animated warmth. but I hadn’t even dared to consider marriage then. with me. Weber spoke the final words of the marriage rite.” I do. To me. always and forever. . She had said yes. When it was my turn. “Isabella. When the minister reached the vows. vibrating subtly with each passing breath.

I saw none of her normal discomfort in front of crowds. well. from Emmett and Tyler Crowley. Angela Weber was crying and so moved that her father had been the one we asked to marry us. Jessica Stanley was shifting uncomfortably in her seat as jealousy and admiration warred within her mind. She showed no signs of caring or being embarrassed about being on display. Clapping. Bella’s break from her normal bashful. Tanya. My lips turned up in a smirk. and a couple of whoops and hollers. with Bella clinging tenaciously to my hand the entire time. For the first time ever. bro. rose around us. My love. I did not feel the burn of her scent or the fire of her blood scalding my lips. You are in for it! Wow. taking in her trembling lips and tear-filled eyes. my life. Her eyes and her thoughts were locked on me as mine were on her. I forced myself to accept the well-wishes and embraces from dozens of guests. Mrs. Our families looked on with pride and love.I framed her face with my hands. Isabella Marie Cullen. someone I admired and loved like a brother. Dang. I turned Bella to face the crowd. I bent down slowly to kiss her. but the majority of the attention was showered on Bella. I only felt the pure sensation of her body in my arms and her eager lips pressing against mine. Edward Cullen. Emmett’s amusement broke through the tumult. but nothing could detract from the sheer joy within me. She had never been more beautiful to me. but her eyes remained glued to mine. Mike Newton was seething. Tanya was not doing a very good job of concealing her thoughts or her jealousy. With the gentlest pressure. I didn’t know she had it in her. reserved demeanor did not go unnoticed. reacting to some of the thoughts of our audience. but she surprised me when she threw her arms around my neck enthusiastically. Tears were flowing freely down her face. . Renee was the first one to reach us and break through Bella’s trance. Several moments passed before the thoughts of our audience beat their way into my consciousness. 25 . Amused thoughts were quickly translating into giggles and chuckles as Bella clung to me. I cupped her cheeks as I pulled away from our kiss. When she showed no signs of moving. I fell gratefully into the ocean of her love. We were shuffled through the crowd. cheering. could barely contain his joy for us. . Seth. only vaguely aware of the flashing cameras and cheering guests.

That means a lot to me. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome. Seth. Hearing their thoughts as they embraced Bella. For letting Seth come. seeing how absolutely she had won the hearts of so many people. Sue hung close to his side. If she knew I had invited Jacob and he 26 . and this was one secret I could not tell her. I’m happy for you. “It’s good to see things work out for you. His thoughts remained focused on the gathering around us. overflowing with steaming food in chafing dishes and fruit and cheese piled on silver platters. who had abandoned their friendship in the months that I was absent. Billy was more relaxed with his hands resting easily in his lap. On Seth’s other side. the consummate hostesses. not meeting my eyes and casting wary glances at Tanya’s family. I hid my disappointment about his absence. but the brief image of a russet wolf and a flash of fatherly affection told me where his thoughts really were. but a continuous line of guests came to us with hugs.” Seth grinned as he caught me in a scorching hug. She was barely accepting of our presence and the new vampires were setting her nerves on edge. Sue shuddered and her thoughts screamed against the unnatural friendship we shared. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” Esme and Alice. kisses and warm handshakes. The setting we had labored over this afternoon was transformed into a scene from A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. she looked very much like Leah. . hair-curling scent of werewolf filled my nostrils and I grinned in relief.” Billy replied in his gravelly voice. For supporting Bella today. With her hair clipped into a short. “Thank you. The familiar. . man. harsh cut. “Congrats.Ch. Jacob. 4 Gesture Song – Frank Sinatra. The sun had just dipped below the trees and the mystical beauty of the twilight was settling around us. Bella still did not know about my special invitation.” Seth said with his normal cheerful tone.” I turned my head to include Sue and Billy. it was incredible to witness. guys. Some of the guests were already filling plates. Seth’s mother hadn’t dragged him away. as well. He was happier than I had seen him for many weeks and his black eyes sparkled with warmth and good humor. were gradually herding the crowd outside. with twinkling lights setting the flowers aglow. Several trestle tables stood off to one side. was genuinely happy for us and admired Bella’s beauty and gracious attitude. . . although her eyes did not carry the same degree of bitter pain. Even Jessica.

but her thoughts had still not completely let go of her ‘claim’ on me. my soul mate. Weber were next. seemingly helpless human had caused such a powerful change. When she hugged me it was just a little too close. but I had not. I suddenly felt weightless. but also striving to act as a gentleman should. They could not comprehend. their curiosity plain in their thoughts and on their faces. just a little too prolonged to be appropriate. For all the decades that we had been friends. Very few humans were so transparent in their goodness. We consider ourselves Carlisle’s extended family. Bella stiffened uncomfortably by my side under their scrutiny. I felt proud about the small part I had played in jump-starting their relationship. . I squared my shoulders against their doubt. “Ah. made it clear that she saw Bella as a fleeting obstacle to her goals. low and full of deeper meaning. You look well. possessive and tinged with jealousy.” Her eyes flicked over my chest and shoulders before she met my gaze again with slightly hooded eyes. Angela and Ben were next.still hadn’t come. I put some distance between us. Bella. resolved to draw the line firmly and clearly.” Her voice was like warm silk. “It’s been too long. she would be heartbroken. They all laughed in response to my voice bursting with pride. and I am sorry about the. In this. er. Carmen and Eleazar were staring openly at Bella. knowing her insecurity about my relationship with Tanya. . She eyed Bella critically. Kate. 27 . recent incident when we did not behave as such. and desperately trying to see how a fragile. skeptical of my attachment to a human. Her thoughts.” Tanya took her hand in greeting. this is my Bella. Can you forgive us?” This admission on their first meeting did set my mind at ease. For Bella’s sake. “Tanya. and Mrs. they had never understood my solitude or my withdrawn attitude. I felt I had repaid Angela in a small way for all of her sweetness and tireless support of Bella. to her self-proclaimed rival. but accepting. brimming with pride and affection.” “So do you. I had to carefully modulate my expression when Tanya appeared before me. I’ve missed you. Seeing the love and respect they had for each other. “Let me introduce you to my wife. They were puzzled by the transformation in me. Ben had long since forgotten the offhand remarks I had made to encourage him to pursue her. She deserved happiness and with Ben she seemed to have it. We should have met you sooner.” As that word sprang from my lips. Tanya. I took the introduction one step further and personally introduced my chosen one. I was surprised to be as strongly in their thoughts as Bella. I didn’t need Alice’s vision to see a future filled with love and happiness for Angela and Ben. because they did not know Bella. not fully understanding yet. Seth waved goodbye and wheeled Billy to the banquet tables with Sue clinging closely to his side. Yet. With their influence. “Welcome to the family. Mr. Edward.

she greeted me with a kiss. and the blessings and advice poured forth from every corner. It’s so nice to meet you. obviously overwhelmed by the presence of four new vampires. bringing her more to drink and holding her hand as she picked at her food. Carlisle was the first to stand with a raised glass. her dress or the decorations. My parents and the Denalis mimed drinking. Renee and Esme. and his wife. The champagne. I could not bear to leave her side for more than a moment. she greeted her with a smile. sparkling wine in our case. Tanya decided to move on. people were constantly joining us for polite conversation or endless streams of compliments on her hair. but even she was stunned by the monstrous confection. flowed freely. Their thoughts were a whirl of fascination and instinctive fear. The entire time. clearing his throat to begin the toasts. We’re all so very pleased to finally meet you.” Bella spoke breathlessly. Tanya glanced over her shoulder taking in the shocked expressions on the faces of Charlie’s deputy. She had never been as man hungry as Tanya. surreptitiously emptying their champagne into the grass a little at a time. 28 . I took more pleasure than I expected to waiting on her. eh Kate?” Tanya joked with her sister. Alice stepped in at the first real pause. “Keep the dream alive. “Welcome. Bella. calling us up to cut the massive cake.Although her thoughts declared the truth of her feelings toward me. Bella blushed profusely under the shower of attention. too. It was four tiers high and decorated with intricate icing and curls of white chocolate. The line moved more quickly now and we were soon free to fill a plate for Bella. “The Cullens are all evened up in numbers now. “We’ll get to know each other later. In between bites. her jewelry.” Bella stuttered. this is Eleazar. occasionally deferring the credit to Alice. Perhaps it will be our turn next. “Of course. Bella cringed away from the knife Alice handed her. Whenever I returned to her. Activity was slowing as the buffet tables were gradually emptied of their burden. Mark. “I’m Carmen. Tanya was making an effort to accept Bella and our marriage. I knew this was the only part of the wedding planning that Bella had really been vocal about. and then only if it was for her pleasure or comfort. laughing.” “M-me. Taking Bella’s hand gently in her own. but she was amused by the petrified stare on Mark’s face. We’ll have eons of time for that!” Tanya drew the others away.” Carmen stepped forward and placed her hand over Kate’s.” Kate rolled her eyes in response.

Bella shot a mortified glance toward her father who looked on with chagrin. Emmett was chanting in my head like a fraternity boy. I dropped down to one knee in the grass and looked up at her through half-lidded eyes. Bella blushed fiercely when I scooped up a small clump of cake and icing and placed it between her waiting lips. I slipped her shoe off amid screams from the ladies and raucous cheers from the men. Tanya and Kate out to join them. She even coaxed an unwilling Rosalie. I reached down and lifted her satin-clad foot. all the same. it served him right for betting against me. Oh well. striking an astonished Angela in the center of her chest. but the stimulant in my veins was dangerously potent. I ran my hand slowly around her foot and up her ankle. I promise! Alice grinned at her reticence. I set my jaw when it was my turn. grabbed the knife. My brothers and sisters stood near the edge of the crowd. Alice stepped in then. But they laughed with the others when Bella threw her bouquet over her shoulder with uncanny accuracy. Eat it! Rosalie grimaced in disgust and turned away as Bella raised a small corner of the cake to my mouth. Alice stopped Bella when she tried to follow the other girls as they returned to their seats. The three vampires drifted to the back of the crowd. Angela’s smile was radiant. laughing and giggling at the sound of Bella’s racing heart and crimson cheeks. dragging me out to join her. I rolled my eyes when I saw Jasper slip Emmett a wad of cash. She smiled weakly at me as I wrapped my hand around hers and we sliced into the bottom layer.” I whispered in her ear. Eat it. clapping him on the shoulder. Bella. but she stopped moving as I stalked over to stand before her. “She says it’s fine. The guys gathered around Ben. With my other hand. I shoved her skirt up to her knee. I watched her try to shimmy the garter further down her leg. Her eyes widened in shock as I carefully took the cake from her fingers with my lips and swallowed it down in one quick movement. I grinned. handing out plates and forks to the long line that formed behind her. Eat it. Cameras flashed and cheers rang out as I slid a healthy slice onto a waiting plate. I grimaced as the slimy chunk slid down my throat coating my esophagus with globs of icing. Slowly. Jasper set a chair next to her and I realized Emmett was by my side. and deftly cut up most of the cake. don’t worry. We had very little respite before Alice was pulling Bella from my side and calling all the unmarried ladies out to an open space beside the tent. When I realized the role I was about to play.It’s fine. revealing one shapely calf and a 29 . I may not have consumed any alcohol. I could see myself though the eyes of my brothers and sisters as they waited expectantly for me to balk. hoping my smile did not look artificial.

” I reminded her. . The onlookers gasped as I lowered my lips to her skin and took the fragile fabric between my teeth. I felt like a king as I escorted her to the dance floor. following my lead with grace and delicacy. her wedding day.pure white garter of silk and lace adorned with seed pearls. I watched Bella slip her dainty foot back into her shoe and I offered her a hand. mailed artwork. “Enjoying the party. Bella looked like an angel. Of all the people in attendance. with the sparkling lights all around us. What!?!? Oh. Mrs. Subdued by my reflections. Edward Cullen! Alice’s thoughts scolded me. and now he had given her away. floating with the music. It would shatter him. and leaned down to claim her lips. As the song drew to a close. “That will take a while to get used to. She was a much better dancer than she ever gave herself credit for. Bella’s heart was beating rapidly and her flesh trembled against my lips as I gently dragged the band down her leg and over her foot. his baby girl had blossomed into a radiant young woman. All she was missing was a pair of iridescent wings to complete the picture. 30 . Cullen?” Saying those words out loud was surreal. with school pictures. His eyes darted over to Jessica and back to the feminine lace in his startled grasp. . cutting in to take his final dance with his daughter. creating the illusion of being inside a mirrored ball. but so satisfying. In the center of the open space. Esme sensed my melancholy mood and danced gracefully with me. I dreaded the day when he would attend her ‘funeral’ and say goodbye to her for all eternity. I was uncomfortably conscious of the fact that tonight could be the last time he saw her face. silent in word and thought. I accompanied Esme onto the dance floor. He had watched his daughter grow from a distance. Cameras flashed incessantly. his only child. With a wink for Bella. Jasper relieved him of his burden with a hearty chuckle before stuffing Alice’s garter into his jacket pocket. allowing the music to dictate my steps as I reflected on my decisions. and too-short visits that were always spaced too far apart. Bella spun and swayed in my arms. finally aware of the thoughts that encircled us. Don’t you dare rip that. In mere moments. I stepped back. We were alone with each other.” Bella laughed “We have a while. I shot the garter directly into the astonished face of Mike Newton. “At Last” The music was starting again. His grief was so profound on this. The music changed and Charlie appeared next to me. Charlie’s thoughts carried the deepest grief and longing. Song – Etta James.

I turned on the sink. shuddering as I prepared myself for the unpleasantness that was to come. I returned to the house and fled to the bathroom. Nothing to be ashamed of.” I called back. My brief struggle had taken its toll on my appearance and I took a minute to straighten my shirt and fix my bow tie. I coerced it back up my throat. most people get sick before the ceremony. content to drink in her graceful beauty from a distance. I gave him a weak smile. I watched for several moments. but I admire you for holding it together like you did. “Everything okay in there?” His solicitous thoughts were well intended but rattled my nerves. shuffling uncomfortably in his tuxedo. and I fled the house as rapidly as I dared. As I choked out the last drops. forcing myself to swallow the metallic tasting fluid. It was time to reclaim my bride. It was thick and glutinous and nauseating. Leaning forward over the bowl. and scooped handful after handful of water into my mouth. With a backward glance at Bella. unable to formulate a reply that wouldn’t make things more difficult. The glob of cake in my stomach was starting to distract me. when a friend of Charlie’s claimed her for the next dance. We all have nerves on our wedding day! Of course. and the process of expelling solid food is repulsive and uncomfortable. I almost groaned out loud when I heard the shuffle of human footsteps outside the door. I inhaled deeply. No sooner had Charlie released Bella’s hands. I gasped in relief. But my ordeal was not over. Esme took Carlisle’s hand and they joined the revelers. flushing instantly. held it for ten seconds. I felt its slow progress marked by a trail of oily residue. With a kiss on my cheek. I’ll be out in a moment. cupped my hands. 31 . Just take some deep breaths and you’ll be fine. My stomach felt close to bursting and my body was shivering with the discomfort of the water sloshing around inside me.As the song faded away. “I’m fine. and then released it in a rush. I took Esme’s hand and we rejoined Carlisle. retching geyser. I bent over the toilet again. “Hey. The water had rinsed away the foul material. I stepped out of the bathroom and was startled by Phil’s immediate assumptions when he recognized me. kid. Don’t worry about a thing.” He patted me on the shoulder reassuringly. Inch by arduous inch. Phil knocked on the door hesitantly. A lot of my teammates toss their cookies before a big game. I glared at my reflection in the mirror. dancing with inhuman grace. I bent over the toilet. Vampires do not have a gag reflex. Shutting and locking the door. expelling all of the water from my mouth again in a massive. Finally I choked and spat the revolting morsel into the toilet. I tensed and forced my stomach to contract and push the cake up.

“What is it?” “A surprise wedding gift. “Still not that fond of Mike. Bella floated with the grace of her namesake. but her wry tone belied her complete ignorance of her spectacular appearance.” “You are very biased. enjoying the knowledge that I had succeeded in contributing even more to the perfection of this night. My preoccupation is the only thing that made me pause when a familiar mental voice called my name. you know. clothed in pristine white.” “Yeah. heartbreakingly beautiful you are tonight. Her face was frozen in shocked realization as she finally drew the connection between herself and the angelic figure in the reflection. Mike. “Huh?” She was bewildered. She had no way of expecting him here. Then I was livid. Her confusion now was icing on the cake.” She blushed at my implication. No. . “Then I suppose you don’t realize how utterly. until I picked his thoughts from among the tumult in my head. somebody was looking for you inside. I was enjoying her revelation too much. Why?” Just like I thought. Her eyes widened in disbelief. Bella was surprised when I smoothly edged Mike out of the way. I am disappointed that Alice didn’t make sure you were forced to look in a mirror. 32 . delicate as a lily blooming amid the morning mists. “Um. He’s lucky I didn’t kick him out. “Excuse me.” I took advantage of his startled pause to whirl Bella away from his despicable embrace. “Have you had a chance to look at yourself?” I asked suspiciously. I guess not. am I?” I questioned as I turned our bodies to face the mirror-like glass windows of the house.” I dragged out the surprise. Or worse. “Oh!” Jacob is here. I’m not surprised Mike’s having improper thoughts about a married woman.” “Biased. but her delight was going to be so sweet to behold. eh?” “Not when I have to listen to his thoughts. Right now! I anticipated Bella’s reaction and my face broke into a grin.My first reaction when I caught sight of Bella on the dance floor with Mike Newton was one of amusement. I pointed to the couple beneath the glow of the canopy. . right.

” I spoke into the shadows. depleted by the weeks of hard running and a wolf’s diet. . Jacob pulled her into a tight embrace. This is very. unwelcome stab of jealousy. There were obviously no Doritos in the depths of the Rocky Mountain’s overgrown forests. To reminisce. too. 33 . I saw his thoughts as he took in the sight of her. His frame was thinner. bursting with happiness. I reminded myself. “Jacob! Jacob!” “Hey there. He had wanted her to be happy. leading her in a gradual dance away from the lights and noise. .” She took three stumbling steps forward and I gripped her elbow gently to make sure she didn’t fall. But these were tears of joy and relief. was stunned by her image tonight. His heart was straining with the agony and the irony. He came as her best friend. Jacob Black watched and waited. I left to give them some time alone. He came because he loved her. Bells. Thank you for inviting me. Bella’s hand flew to her throat and she sagged against me in shock. I’m just glad I chose to come. and here she stood before him. “Oh. “Rosalie won’t forgive me if she doesn’t get her official turn on the dance floor. He came for her. kind of you. . lurking in the dark shadows. but his voice was husky with the strain. flushed and radiant with joy and excitement. Jacob’s thoughts were still jumbled. . but he was warmed by Bella’s instant acceptance of his arrival. to bring her peace and joy. In the darkness.” Bella was crying already. resting his face against her hair as she buried her face in his chest. To say goodbye. He. “Kind is my middle name. I quickly found his figure. and relieved that he had appeared. Thank you. I stubbornly pushed it away. Confident that I had been right to invite him. Bad analogy. But it was not with him. Can I cut in?” He tempered his sarcasm with a gentle tone. Song – Chris e Burgh.” I explained as I stepped away. And the pain of his bruised and bleeding heart was clear in every fractured dream that flew through his mind. “Thank you. “Lady in Red” I drew her back into my arms. And it was destroying him to be so close to us.Hmmm. beneath the sheltering branches of one of the ancient cedars. Jacob. Bella hardly noticed me turning to leave and I felt a sudden. She always seemed to have tears for Jacob. To me.

If there was any song ever written to honor Rosalie. You’ll ruin your dress. most of the time. our dancing displayed our strong personalities. hovering near the back of the crowd. but thank you. . preparing Bella for this monumental occasion. Alice had already warned Rosalie that I was looking for her. As much as I was able. It’s just me. But the strongest of them all came from Emmett. She had graced the ceremony with a piano performance so polished and moving that many of the guests had been unable to stop talking about it. you don’t need to thank me. Much like our relationship. Rosalie had not had a moment of comfort or silence for days. I wanted Bella to have complete privacy to say her goodbyes to her best friend. scanning the crowd for my sister. but you don’t understand. The first notes of “Lady in Red” filled the night air and I couldn’t suppress my smile. and our constant struggle for superiority. this would be it. Tonight I was enjoying my sister’s company and happy to show my extreme gratitude for everything she had done. “Edward.“Stop blubbering. Jake! Everything is perfect now. she had played the role of a devoted sister.” “Ahhh. The profusion of flowers that arrived over the last 48 hours had forced us to vacate furniture from two rooms and bring in portable air conditioners to keep them fresh. The topic dominated all conversations and the house was exploding with decorations.” “Just? Oh.” 34 . Rosalie stood near the dance floor with her hand held out. sketches and samples. While she was clothed in silver tonight. anxious for this song to end so he could have her by his side again. her stunning features and regal bearing drew the eyes of every man who saw her. . and for coming tonight. I pushed their hushed conversation and Jacob’s emotional thoughts to the back of my mind. “I know I said it earlier. I was forever indebted to Jacob Black. lists. We fell automatically into a smooth dance with Rosalie leading as often as I did. I took her proffered hand. but this dance was important to me. For that. I sympathized. Nobody else could have captured the essence of our love and turned it into music the way you did. Everything she had been to me over the decades. the only friend who had been there for her when I had not. I smiled to myself. To put it simply. The days leading up to today had been difficult for Rosalie. the most romantic I have ever heard. Everyone was in a flurry over the wedding preparations. As usual. Your renditions of Pachelbel’s Canon and Wagner’s Wedding Chorus were the most original. guiding her to the least crowded corner. I guess everything is. I didn’t do any more than anyone else. And yet. thoughts ranged from stunned confusion to blatant lust. waiting.” I began. But tonight there was no edge to our playful competition. Nobody else could have played today like you did. Her talent was very convenient.” Yes. Bella. our opinionated natures.

and even then it often lacked the pure selflessness of the imprint bond. . But her thoughts betrayed her true insecurity and the rush of gratitude she felt with my appreciation. even one with the supernatural shape-shifting abilities. Bella’s words and Jacob’s thoughts were pounding into my head with painful clarity. It felt wonderful. Memories of my recent foray into ingesting human food made my insides churn until I turned away for a moment. I was not offended and. laughing. struggling with his confusion and denial. mostly hidden within the shadows of the encroaching woods. They are going to. fear. We did not speak again for the duration of the dance. He greeted me with a sheepish shrug and dug in. . Rather than being shocked or disgusted by the implications. We were both laughing over the latest evidence of Quil’s complete subservience to the diminutive imp when I was struck by such a rush of images laced with confusion. We were seeing eye-to-eye for the first time in many years. His mind was replaying Bella’s most recent words. I rose and moved urgently toward the spot where I had left Bella. Emmett barely waited for the song to end before cutting in. Bella’s tiny figure was completely dwarfed by Jacob’s towering frame. And yes I can have a real honeymoon! I can do anything I want! Butt out!” A real honeymoon? Then that means. blank and empty. He eyed my strained expression sympathetically and finished his portion quickly. standing close together. Oh. Bella was being crushed by my monstrous strength. For a human. It was always fascinating for me to hear about Quil’s unique relationship with little Claire. He was standing by the buffet table. somehow knowing my destination and the general cause of my abrupt departure. Struggling to maintain the human façade. picking over the remains of the feast and filling what I knew was his fifth plate. I was in awe of the purity and uncompromising nature of his love for Claire. hatred and despair that I almost bent double with the pain. to develop a love so deep and all-encompassing was fascinating. 35 .Rosalie rolled her eyes and turned away. made the source immediately apparent. The familiar mental voice. But in every one. no! Images of Bella and me in intimate positions flashed through his head. The only bond that I knew to be stronger was that of a mated vampire. he just fell into step behind me. watching the guests enjoying themselves and made small talk about the Pack. stared back at me. gurgling with bitter disgust. I wove through the crowd until I found Seth. Bella’s wide eyes. . attempting to brush off my compliments like idle flattery. We sat at an empty table. . “I’m not putting anything off. her smile softer. Across the clearing I could see them. thrust into my mind against my will filled me with revulsion and selfloathing. but Rosalie’s steps were lighter. The pictures. God. Seth didn’t ask a single question. Jacob’s eyes bulged wide with a strange kind of bewildered horror.

I was going to tear the mutt’s body to pieces and nothing. I felt the air around Jacob shimmering. “What do you mean? Have a real honeymoon? While you’re still human? Are you kidding? That’s a sick joke. He was straining to maintain control. All of my efforts to protect Bella’s feelings when the real danger was physical suddenly seemed silly and weak. I had to restrain myself. This is so not your business. . I cursed the crowd around me that forced me to move so slowly. . He showed no sign of hearing her.“What? What did you say?” he choked out. even walked several paces toward the shadows. “Ow. I wanted to curse him for interfering. Emmett and Jasper moved to the edge of the crowd. This confrontation had been brewing for over a year. “Jake—stop!” Bella cried. If she was hurt in any way. I was a fool. Ten pairs of eyes followed me. Two wolves. nobody. but rapidly losing the battle. Jake! Let go!” He was hurting her! How dare he? I would tear his throat out! “Bella! Have you lost your mind? You can’t be that stupid! Tell me you’re joking!” Jake was trembling. I should have ended it months ago. . Edward. was going to stop me! My thoughts were crowded with alarmed voices. . Sam and Quil. shaking her in his anger. tense and ready to spring on Jacob or me. let us handle this. were converging on the same spot. It’s private—“ Jacob’s hands were wrapped around Bella’s upper arms. Sam and Quil emerged from the forest. all disgust I held for myself disappeared. Her head whipped back and forth and I no longer cared if anyone saw me. I saw her face contort in pain. Jasper keyed in on the powerful rage emanating from their direction. “About what. Bella!” “I said butt out. Already. pretending to be deep in conversation. His shock and disgust were quickly giving way to rising fury. waiting for my signal to step in. we shouldn’t even be talking about this. I shouldn’t have. At that moment.? Jake? What’s wrong?” Bella was puzzled and oblivious to her danger. my family and friends confused by my sudden departure. With Bella in the center of the conflict. Jake. It was replaced by a cold fury. . . The deep tenor of Sam Uley’s thoughts resonated in my head. 36 .

Sam snarled threateningly. He was imagining himself shredding my body. . back away. Let her go. his murderous gaze fixed on me. urging Jacob to retreat. beyond fury. but it carried all the strength of a roar. trying to break through to Jacob’s consciousness. . I held my ground. but forceful.” Jacob was shaking harder now. it was not to be tolerated.” I ordered. placing myself between her and the rabid dog. His voice was low and calm. The only thing preventing him from changing and lunging at me was his fear that he would kill Seth in the process. “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you myself! I’ll do it now!” His voice was a raspy whisper. Jacob flinched and dropped his arms. “You’ll hurt her. even when he crossed every line of decency and decorum. He was so consumed by passionate loathing that he no longer cared for his own life. You’re losing it. wanting to remove them myself. Jake.” Seth was whispering intensely now. “Jake. He was struggling with Jacob. bro. His face was frozen in horror and his eyes were transfixed by his inner vision. “Now!” I snarled. Jacob still did not move. This boy had challenged me before and I had calmly stepped aside. tearing me with his teeth. too. if necessary.” Seth urged. Sam growled ferociously.“Take your hands off her!” I hissed. no longer frozen but still stunned. how little regard he had for her happiness or safety when it did not agree with his sensibilities! 37 . To lay his hands on my wife. I almost wanted him to attack. Let’s go. Sam and Quil were in front of him and Seth had his arms locked about his torso. trying to peer around my body as her former best friend threatened my life. Before anybody else could react. He was beyond hatred. I was done with these games. But he presumed too much. to even attempt to detain her. forbidding me to attack. If Bella could only see what a monster he could be. I had respected him and been grateful to him for befriending Bella. Her face was strained as Jacob’s vise-like grip shut off all blood flow to her tortured arms. trying desperately to pull him back into the woods. “Seth. burning the scraps of flesh. I picked Bella up and flew back several paces. I could not just stand there with Bella in pain. His arms. For her sake I had never allowed myself to harm him. “C’mon. Bella was clinging to me. how little self-control he truly had. get out of the way.

His admission was not a threat. Quil turned to me. “Sam has him in hand. To me he was still a boy. Safety from me. devoted to his tribe. safety from himself. If it weren’t for Sam. Ever since your kind returned. I was stupid—” Her face collapsed into grief and guilt as the full impact of the conflict settled on her. It was all right now. it has been anything but all right. And nobody had the right to take that away from her. I held no enmity for him. “Edward. His eyes were filled with loathing. “Don’t do it. I would have stepped aside. his pack. I could no longer even hear their thoughts. “All right.” I murmured to myself. heaving against his weight to drag him to safety. I would have been a torn. Bella. hating to see his friend reduced to this agony and the indignity of being dragged away and disgraced before the woman he loved.” Seth continued to pull on Jacob. “I’m sorry.If Bella had chosen him. She had said yes to me.” She was still stunned by everything that had transpired.” I reassured her. Least of all this miserable. I would have let him kill you. He would have tried to avenge his friend’s pain if it weren’t for the orders of his Alpha. Despite his anger. Sam added his bulk to the battle. Bella was shaking with shock and fear. forcing Jacob to retreat with his massive head pressed against his chest. She had chosen me. He would have little remorse if every member of my family were destroyed. but I would have done it for her.” “But Jake—. I’m so sorry. watching their retreat. Quil remained between us. I spoke louder. C’mon. But she hadn’t chosen him. wasn’t it? Turning back to Bella. Her voice trembled and I was afraid she was about to cry. “You did nothing wrong—” I tried to stop her self blame. I accepted his thoughts with a cold nod. broken shell. It is not all right. Walk away. “It’s all right now. but a statement of fact. and his imprint. He’s gone. but she was persistent. Jake. selfish child.” she whispered to Quil.” I reassured her. He accepted my dismissal with a huff and disappeared into the woods. 38 . “Let’s get back.

she did look fine. When my eyes caught hers. back to the happy celebration. Her brow was drawn down and her lips were pressed together.” I cautioned. I felt my mood lighten with each step. . she lowered her gaze demurely and her thoughts became unreadable. squared her shoulders and murmured. I saw her face take on a steely resolve as she locked away her own chaotic thoughts and smoothed her hands down her skirt. and back. willing away the tears. She took two more deep breaths. Not a hair out of place. With a bitter taste in my mouth. “Give me two seconds. She was unusually pale. Tanya’s gaze was critical and very curious. My admiration for her strength jumped even higher. “Nothing is wrong with you. While I was feeling relief.” 39 . although several people seemed curious as to our whereabouts. “Love Hurts” Wrapping her in a protective embrace. I led her back to the light. “Okay. to the spot where Jacob had disappeared. Her eyes were wild and frantic shifting from me. Bella was still stiff in my arms. I nodded curtly in response. “We need to get back to the reception before somebody notices our absence. I knew immediately that she was heaping the blame for everything that had transpired on her own narrow shoulders. We stepped back onto the dance floor under the watchful eyes of ten vampires. The passage from dark to light was symbolic. Let’s go. carefully searching for any indication that there had been witnesses to the scuffle. searching for any signs of residual pain. I shouldn’t have let him get to me like that. moving from danger to safety. What’s wrong with me?” she continued.” Her voice was firm.” And. All was clear. I turned my thoughts to the human throng.“I have such a big mouth! Why would I.” I stroked her face gently. and begun to second guess her previous apology. listened to their snaps and snarls. “I can’t believe I did that. but she was anything but fine. surprisingly. She had picked up the stench of more werewolves. “Are you—“ “I’m fine. She tilted her head back. as if a fog had swept across her mind. What was I thinking?” Bro. . what happened? Is everything okay? Emmett asked from a distance while Jasper tested the calmer mood.” Song – Incubus.” Bella pleaded pitifully. “Don’t worry. “My dress?” “You look fine.

. I had hoped to be somewhat desensitized. . touch and sound that I was sure to experience. I said we would try. But emotionally? My good-will gesture had backfired more horrifically than I could have imagined. And his fears. How could I have hoped to subdue my base physical urges in just a few short months? How could I hope to fulfill my promise without losing control when I had never seen her body or touched her intimately? I knew from the things I saw and heard in the minds of countless people that I was unprepared for the sensations of smell. . However. his accusations. it was stronger and more forceful than ever! I was wrong to have promised to try. But to taste her sweat.” I was startled from my reverie by her firm tone. “It’s over. Now that our honeymoon loomed before me. my physical need for her was barely controlled and had not abated one bit. Had I really considered destroying her friend right in front of her? On our wedding day? Now that the immediate danger was gone. Demanded that I stop the kiss or the caress before my brittle self-control could be tested too far. although her scent still scorched my throat like a firebrand. decades of self-control and stringent focus. to touch her bare skin.” 40 . Learning to control my diabolical thirst around humans had taken years. Bella did not realize that I heard the strain in her voice and felt the tension in her shoulders whenever I pulled away. . . Let’s not think of it again tonight. . were they really so misplaced? Weren’t those the very same visions that haunted me every day and night? Those mental images forced me to pull away every time I wanted to lean closer. a seventeen-year-old boy. to smell her arousal. Her blood was no longer a temptation to me. . then the other. I lived each moment with Bella on a knife’s edge. “Edward?” I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead against hers with a silent groan. “Jacob is right. my rage was being replaced with self-disgust. I felt her eyes searching my face. a tortuous taste that I could not resist. Try. sight. I had no more control than Jacob. . She did not know how my heart ached when she lowered her eyes to conceal her constant disappointment.Physically she seemed to be okay. And the taste. But. . Would she forgive me if I told her I couldn’t do it? But I promised. I was questioning whether I had been too cautious. if anything. And I was not the only one suffering. the taste of her tears and her saliva were a constant torment to my throat. Jacob is way too prejudiced to see anything clearly. . with fear and desire pulling me desperately to one side. What am I thinking?” “He is not.

” Emmett cut in. I approached the alpha wolf cautiously.” She smiled her angelic smile and my black emotions began to melt away. “That’s why we’re here. I had no choice. I could not say no to her. Her hot hands were firmly holding my face and eventually I forced myself to open my eyes. With a terse jerk of his head. Let me dance with my little sister.” “Thank you. That’s the only thing that matters. black and thick with shaggy fur. but they were tightly controlled. I would make her happy. smiling a little as he whirled her around at a dizzying speed. Edward. I reluctantly relinquished her hand to my brother. “You’re monopolizing the bride. Promise that you’ll let this go. I’m not afraid. trying to sense his thoughts and mood. I love you.” I stared into her eyes. Jasper’s face was set and tense. The only thing you’re allowed to think about right now. He stood close to Alice. “Stop it!” she commanded authoritatively. protectively shadowing her every move. But she gazed. obnoxious.” I sighed. Sam. Jasper and Alice stood back from the crowd.” “I am. For me. By the way. I would do my best to please her. “I promise.” I muttered under my breath. he gestured to a dark figure. but it was impossible to shape the word.“I should let him kill me for even thinking of being with you like that. I was struck again with 41 . “Don’t be. Standing an arm’s length from his gigantic form.” I confessed. “You and me. looking for any sign of weakness or hesitation.” I ventured a small smile in return. loud. This could be my last chance to make her blush. which hovered several paces into the trees. I tried. The power and conviction in her eyes was shocking. She was my commander. Do you hear me?” “Yes. Alice and Jasper want to talk to you. the sovereign of my soul. and grinning wickedly. unflinching. back into mine. The distilled hatred and anger that Jacob felt for me had set his nerves on edge. “Forget Jacob came.

Their bodies. They would not return again unless invited. I heard the words flowing freely from his thoughts. We were grateful for his presence. The treaty was almost broken tonight. Friends of her father. that was not likely to happen soon. became a carefully contrived. I did not trust myself to speak. We will not cross the boundary line again. interlaced with the central essence of his existence. He was honored to be your guest tonight. Four pairs of eyes. Finally. to protect his land and his people. highly efficient. showing every evidence of enjoying herself. Instead. and four heavy heartbeats thudded in the night. and his pack. But he subjugated his instincts to his higher reason. they were all awed by her demure beauty and graceful steps. calculating and cold. I wish to thank you for lifting the treaty boundaries so that Seth could attend the ceremony. If you or any member of your family harms a human being in any way. From the outskirts of the human congregation. we will have no choice but to act. I am here to warn you. Let’s not think of it again tonight. I repeated the conversation for them as Jasper stared menacingly over my shoulder into the woods. Fangs that. She was finally relaxed. classmates from school.wonder for the shape shifters. His gaze intensified and his thoughts were clipped jabs in my mind. killing machine. turned on my heel and made my way back to my siblings. though enormous.” I felt there was more. Jacob has been subdued. I promised. . While I cannot place the blame for this incident on you and your family. . with the rest of his body. His fangs glistened razor-sharp in the twinkling light. Tonight was just a hint of what will come if things end badly. Judging by the stiff postures and raging thoughts of my family. Sam’s eyes were level with mine. and always will be. 42 . I almost lost two members of my pack tonight. We are. Every sense told him that I was the enemy. to give us space and honor the generations-old treaty. Sam would not have appeared so tightly controlled if this was the entirety of his message. I watched Bella twirling around the dance floor with a long succession of partners. were tightly packed bundles of muscle and sinew. forcing himself. “Thank you. Images flickered through his mind. Seth was not present and I hoped he was with Jacob. My jaw was set. watching you. I dipped my head in understanding. the pediatrician from the hospital. The four wolves that watched us from the shadows waited for several more minutes before Sam gave the command to return to their territory. barely. But the ceremony is over now. your presence is the very power beneath the turmoil. I understand.

of never having to let you go. With my hand between her shoulder blades. “Dancing isn’t so bad—with you. Her head was tilted back and turned slightly to the left. “Never. How wonderful they sounded now. Words that imparted a sense of eternity. As if I cared. trapped in this body. Her heart rate picked up and I followed its pace. trying to recapture the magic from a moment before. capturing her waiting lips with the force of my love and devotion. the first signs of fatigue curving her shoulders and slowing her steps. Our mouths moved against each other slowly. stagnant in a monotonous life. infusing me with her luxurious heat.” “Don’t tell me you’ve gotten over your dancing issues?” I teased. buried in Bella’s embrace. cutting off two prospective partners. showing me the faces of dozens of onlookers.Her gentle blushes and sweetly curving smile were like balm. her tender flesh heating mine. with such a perfect partner to share that eternity with.” I agreed. My other hand was tracing her hipbone. The fire was unbelievable. Alice refused to be put off so easily. Her hands on my neck pulled me continuously closer. I willed my sister away. moving my hand gradually up her back. not just in my throat. cooling my anger and soothing my nerves. The current song drifted to a close and I stepped to her side quickly. feeling the tension in her muscles as she stood slightly higher on her toes to meet my hungry kisses with her own. I leaned down to kiss her.” Her arms tightened around me. had always driven me to despair. The pulsing blood in her throat sent waves of delicious warmth against my chest and neck. But I was thinking more of this. My healing was complete when she melted into my arms. 43 . running over the dozens of pearl buttons that lined her backbone. As if I was going to allow one more interruption to take me away from the only place I longed to be. but throughout my entire body. Bella’s heart was sprinting and her body was encased by a fine sheen of sweat. welcoming me with her radiant smile. “I could get used to this. I pressed her body against mine until her heat molded around me like a liquid flame. She rested her head against my chest. “Bella! It’s time!” Alice’s chirping voice was accompanied by a pointed thought from her mind.

What was that? Something was about to hit someone?” I watched him rub his head with an innocent expression plastered on my face. she was willing to say or do almost anything to make sure the last scene of her fairy-tale wedding was played perfectly. but Bella did not submit immediately.” “I didn’t pick out the perfect going-away dress to have it wasted. jingling my car keys with a wink. and hauled her away to the amusement of several onlookers.” She claimed one of Bella’s hands and began to drag her away. Mine had only one focus. Exasperated. Just you wait. Alice. I broke away from the pair and entered the house. the brush of her tender lips. as if she hadn’t even heard Alice. The crowd had mellowed considerably with the good 44 . I will.“Do you want to miss your plane? I’m sure you’ll have a lovely honeymoon camped out at the airport waiting for another flight.” That woke me up. Bella’s lips met mine more eagerly than before.” she snapped back. Stifling a laugh. but still so carefully. “Come with me. Bella. “Go away. Alice growled. So help me. bullying Bella now. . Edward. “Bella. Emmett’s eyes went from shocked betrayal to indignation.” I murmured.” Anything that required me moving from this spot was not an option. with every person in their place. I saw that she would. do you want to wear that dress on the airplane?” Bella didn’t react at all. Shifting her attention back to me. “I’ll tell her where you’re taking her. Jasper brushed past me. Rosalie smacked him in the back of the head with a loud crack. But as I read her mind. I was awakened from my stupor by the sound of Rosalie. I could only imagine what thoughts were going through her mind. clearing her throat theatrically while Emmett slung his arm across my shoulders. She wouldn’t dare. I saw her intention before she acted and ducked forward to avoid Emmett’s recoil. In fact. Alice changed her tactics. You have no idea what’s about to hit you!” Emmett snickered. Bella stood on her tip-toes to kiss me one more time before Alice jerked her arm impatiently. “I’m sorry. . praying that she would just disappear. That last kiss. “You’re awfully small to be so hugely irritating. “You have the deer-in-the-headlights look. sent such a jolt of fire through my stomach that I was frozen to the ground for the duration of the song. . .

Dad. “There. Mom. “Oh. Her scent washed over me. I mouthed a quiet thank you to Alice. dark blue cotton.” “I love you. the feeling of warmth and well being settled over the crowd like a layer of down. I followed an invisible path to the tangled web of grief that was Charlie’s mind. “Over here. She had earned every ounce of selfcongratulations she was showering on herself. “Dad?” she asked. always will. I love you. his eyes rimmed with red as he anticipated saying goodbye to his baby girl. Her hair had been released from the braids and pins. mom. The three-quarter sleeves of her dress left her delicate wrists bare. I keyed in on Bella’s voice. more potent than ever.food and hours of dancing. too.” I guided her through the throng. who watched our reunion with a satisfied grin. gathering into folds at her tiny waist. You don’t want to miss your plane. wrapping an arm around his waist.” Charlie patted her back awkwardly. with just enough heel to tighten her calf muscles in the most becoming manner. Bella. it hung in heavy waves around her shoulders and down her back. full of unshed tears and the weight of her goodbyes.” Charlie did not think or speak of love easily. barely caressing her calves. Two panels crossed in the front to form a modest V-neck. 45 . her voice still strained with unshed tears. I’m so glad you have Phil.” Her arm was wrapped around Bella as they descended the stairs. for a change. The skirt flared and swirled around her knees as she moved. slightly turned away from the crowd. Instead. too. “Goodbye.” Bella’s eyes found me and she placed her hand in my outstretched one. Always have. For the second time tonight. I was watching an angel descend to my level.” “You. Don’t forget that. but holding onto his composure. Bells. a fragrant pulse point that always attracted me with its tantalizing smell and satin-soft skin. Unaware of the catastrophe that had been narrowly averted earlier. Dad!” Bella cried. honey. now. Alice had dressed her in sensible shoes. Take care of each other. “I love you forever. wanting to cry like her. We found him leaning against the back wall. Bella’s figure was wrapped in finely woven. speaking in quiet tones. grateful that people pulled back to let us through. Bella’s eyes scanned the crowd and it was easy to surmise who she was searching for. They were trickling back into the house in pairs and trios. His voice was rough but so full of truth that I ached for him. “I love you.

shy and reticent. We rushed to the car amid a shower of rice. Looking into his heartbroken gaze. I knew how he felt. Forever. . Now he regretted not hugging and kissing her more. rushing down the aisle formed by our cheering guests. His mind registered brief pleasure at the daughterly sign of affection. thanking her for blessing me with her love and her vow of eternity. answering so many questions at once.Charlie kissed her wet cheek at the same time that she pressed her lips against his. They were both so similar. dipping my head in an informal bow of gratitude and respect. And I was walking out the door with his only comfort. Rose hit harder. “Go on. But Charlie had nobody. “I am. “Are you ready?” I asked her quietly as we burst back out into the cooling night air. Forgetting my guilt and hesitation.” she replied simply. he would never. I opened the door for her and waited until she was in before crossing to the driver’s side. what I planned to do to his daughter. I felt the full weight of his trust and approval. This was goodbye. I hated that I was taking her away from this. I drew Bella against my side and we exited the house. I was both honored and guilt-stricken. Renee had Phil now. He had lost so much time to their separation that letting go now was like tearing out a piece of his soul.” “Soon. Hiding my true emotions. remaining stoic but lonely as the years dragged on. I prayed that was not the case. Losing her would kill him. She hid the depth of her anguish so well. gently turning her to face me again. anyway. Sure. Don’t want to be late. She was difficult to say goodbye to. Jasper had left the keys in the ignition and our passports.” she promised. I thanked him with a smile. but Bella’s obvious devotion eventually swayed his opinion of me. 46 . If he knew what I was. self conscious and restrained. . then. This time. He was alone in this world. One individual was pelting me in the back with supernatural strength and accuracy. Shielding Bella from the worst of the storm. boarding passes and money in both currencies were in an envelope in the center console. Her father and her mother loved her so completely. I pulled her against me for another kiss.” he spoke gruffly. “Call me. Perfect. It took him a long time be able to offer me that. even under the best conditions. They needed her. cast adrift at an early age. her eyes tightening. Alice had once said that Bella was all he had. I didn’t resent Emmett’s revenge.

He had given himself over completely to the instincts of the wolf.” I said simply. She craned her head around. His thoughts were pulsing in my mind.Bella rolled down her window. Turning onto the highway. the only trace of Jacob Black that remained was the throbbing knot of guilt and regret in my stomach. Bella didn’t even flinch. watching the lights streak by us in vivid white streams. unleashing the engine’s full force in a sudden leap forward. The pistons opened up with a throaty growl. watching them until the happy picture was completely hidden from view. “I love you. Soon after. but it faded swiftly into the distance.” she repeated my own words back to me. A large body crashed through the forest off to the left. I squeezed her hand reassuringly. The stillness of the night air was shattered by a piercing howl. 47 . She called out “I love you!” as we sped away. keeping pace with us as I flung the Volvo through the winding turns. Grinning widely. I leaned over to kiss her hair. Gone were the vivid images from earlier. I heard the noise of pursuit. All that remained in his mind were the raw feelings of torment and soul-shattering agony. primal and overpowering. leaning out and waving to our families and friends. Moments later. “That’s why we’re here. I prayed she didn’t hear the farewell cry of her abandoned friend. I kept my face impassive. I punched the accelerator.

Behind me. I tried not to think beyond her reaction to the location. no. unadulterated joy.” I assured her with a gentle smile. My survival instincts were subconscious. The cabin was barely one third full.Ch. squeak. I tried to contain my excitement as I imagined her response to our honeymoon retreat. . and I’ll spend the entire flight listening to her whining about her sister instead of finishing that book. I had planned it all in meticulous detail. at my side. dared to dream. I turned to Bella. Bella sighed. 48 . 5 Isle Esme Song – Jim Brickman. Her curiosity was roiling beneath the surface of her usually calm gaze. please help me make it through this flight. If one more thing goes wrong I just don’t know. Oh Lord. . and only five other passengers shared the first-class section at the front of the cabin. . . squeak of a broken caster drew attention to another one of the many voices humming through my mind. I felt like my silent heart would burst with pure. woman. marveling again at the beautiful creature who was now my wife. “Houston?” Bella asked with her eyebrows raised. Stopping at our gate. . can she? This suitcase is going to burst! There’s no way they’ll let us keep it as a carry-on. that she would love it. . the squeak. quickly reading their surface thoughts. “She can’t resist packing ‘just one more thing’.” I felt a little sympathy for the disgruntled man. I turned my attention back to the frail human girl. A tiny smile played across her lips as she settled gratefully into her plush leather seat. “Just a stop along the way. Not every man was blessed with an angel in his life. and I hoped. As I gazed into her curious eyes. A harried mother stood off to the side. . “Looking Back” I caressed Bella’s hand gently with my thumb as we walked the last 50 feet down the Sea-Tac Airport concourse. quickly squashing my nervous doubts as we swiftly boarded the plane. looking for negative reactions or threatening intentions. I glanced down the length of the plane. Reassured. . scolding her young son for losing a shoe. . . I assessed those closest to us. In less than one breath.

Cullen. parasitic creatures that we were. I shook her gently and waited as her body reacted and her eyelids fluttered open. The warm scent of her hair seared my throat. I treasured it. Mrs. she was my purest gift. I inhaled deeply. Planned her demise over and over in horrifying detail. I was loath to wake her. the faint rosy flush of her cheeks. Wordlessly she rose and followed me. My hand reveled in the silkiness of her hair. slow. her body relaxing in my embrace. .” Her heart quickened slightly and I grinned at her sudden blush. . She giggled quietly. I had hated her. 49 . I suppressed a small laugh as I scanned the concourse. To think. It was early morning in Houston. resting her head against my chest. . her full lips curving delicately. gentle heartbeat. I could see that Bella was struggling to keep her eyes open. Hideous. stroking gently across her shoulders and down her spine. but I ignored it. but I could not take my eyes from her angelic face. alongside the countless other signs of her affection. Her even breathing. I questioned my purpose and the justification for a species that seemed to be cursed. “I love you. too. I watched the steady rise and fall of Bella’s chest. Part of me had always recoiled from the word. Bella wrapped a thick navy blue blanket around her shoulders and smiled up at me. monstrous. not even disturbing her dreamless slumber. Her eyes darted up to mine gratefully. Her complete confidence was a gift that I did not take lightly.” she whispered. . The hours slipped peacefully away as I watched my Bella sleep. and the airport was bustling with activity. her breathing slowed. She was my salvation. I absently noted the flight attendants readying the cabin for departure. they mesmerized me. but we still had a long distance to travel. I had thought her a demon sent to destroy me and the lives of my family. Vampires. no longer. But. The thoughts of hundreds of travelers swirled around me and I automatically tuned out the din. when I had first caught her scent less than two years ago. The plane touched down smoothly in Houston.For decades I had struggled to come to terms with my unnatural existence. Instead. Glancing down again. Hungered for her blood. “I love you. She stumbled against me several times as we disembarked and I gripped her elbow softly to steady her. Gradually.

uninhibited by the secrecy that defined my existence. Despite its brevity. The memory flashed through my mind instantly. The last light of day clung to the western sky. but that ended unexpectedly with Bella’s precipitous return into my life. With her cradled in my arms. but the slight crease between her eyebrows reappeared as she puzzled over our destination. She did not even seem to notice the slight hesitation in my reply. * Song – Staind. but she drifted quickly back to sleep before the breakfast cart arrived. I momentarily considered all the decades that I had walked this earth. only showing a spark of energy when we reached our gate. “Believe” The dip in the tone of the engines and a subtle change in pitch and air pressure signaled the beginning of our descent into Rio de Janeiro. Her small hand found mine and clasped it possessively. I managed to get Bella to drink two cups of water. I suppressed a grin. With Bella at my side. I had seen it all. She smiled cautiously at me. I told myself. I was able to forget the horrors of the past and just treasure the knowledge that I was complete. Glancing down at Bella again. I wondered at the change in me. She nodded once. when she had flown to Italy at the risk of her own life to save me. alerting her to our imminent arrival. Yes. for Bella had altered me absolutely and permanently. a flight that was filled with pain and misery. Surely. I would be so relieved when we finally reached our island oasis and I could shed the need for concealment during the sunlit hours. However. Soon.Ah. I was reliving my reckless flight toward death and oblivion. aware of how dry aviation air would be for her. at last. The increasing pressure must have permeated her unconscious mind.” I reassured her with a serene smile. I’m still here. Just that fleeting thought sent my inner vision soaring back to the vampire-ruled city of Volterra. I would witness this world through new eyes now. this world. And yet. Her heartbeat quickened as she awoke. Bella stiffened next to me. I had adjusted to the restrictions of this clandestine life decades ago. I could see she barely registered her surroundings. Once on board. was completely reborn. Bella was still waiting for my response. There it is. it rankled to be confined to the shadows when I wanted nothing more than to walk fearlessly and openly next to my love. the cultures I had experienced. governments rising and falling amid war and social turmoil. * * 50 . She blindly trusted me to lead her safely through the tumultuous crowds. “Another stop. this universe. “Rio De Janeiro?” She sounded a little nervous and I had to remind myself that Bella had only traveled outside of the United States once. Very soon. the experience was intense.

creating the illusion that we were sinking into the ground. So frustrating! I hated not knowing her mind. Bella would definitely not want to know that. and my fully loaded model cost $350. just a few fishermen readying their boats for the next day. but avoiding undo attention was second nature. I gave the driver instructions in swift. The water beneath us was black as ink and the brilliant lights of the sprawling metropolis lit up the humid air for hundreds of feet above the city. the sea-like bay that is home to Rio’s active port and one of the busiest airports in the world. tipped the porter and helped Bella into the rear seat when the car pulled to a stop before us. but he nodded without a word and pulled away from the curb. Bella clung to my side. unaccented Portuguese. Before us. Bella stood by as I unloaded our suitcases and paid the cab driver. Maybe we would spend some time here as well. obviously overwhelmed by the bustling airport.I retracted the window shade and looked out over the twinkling lights of Rio de Janeiro. There were only a handful of these boats in existence. Then again. maybe not. 51 . I noted Bella’s skeptical glance. When we finally touched down. it was abrupt. I watched Bella as she gazed curiously out the window at the teeming streets. Rio at night was something else.000. the Rio Niteroi Bridge spanned the bay. The watercraft was ultra light. The pilot engaged the thrust reversers to slow the aircraft more quickly. When we disembarked. I signaled for a taxi. briny smell of the ocean distracted me from these thoughts and we were soon stopping at a crowded marina. I wanted to spend every second alone in her arms. I could have carried it all without effort. Very few people were near the docks after sunset. with a shell constructed of Kevlar fiberglass for strength. She leant closer into my body and I inhaled her enticing aroma. and I felt Bella lurch forward in her seat. Out of the corner of my eye. With a quick glance to make sure she was following I led the way along the docks to my boat. The sharp. Watching the approach was thrilling. because she tensed ever so slightly as a brilliant blush rose to her cheeks. If she didn’t know what a BMW M3 was. glowing like a fiery snake with the headlights of a thousand cars. soaring over the Baia de Guanabara. I held her reassuringly as she shook her head to stave off the lethargy that weighed down her limbs. flagging down a porter to follow us out to the curb with everything. His mind registered brief surprise at my fluency. A 525 horsepower Viper motor was capable of propelling the 28-foot craft to speeds in excess of 80 knots. We were on the final approach to Galeao International Airport. This was the Ferrari of speedboats. Perhaps the intensity of my focus was transmitting something to Bella’s subconscious. she definitely wouldn’t appreciate the distinction of the Porsche Fearless F28. I reclaimed our luggage. and one of the fastest yachts ever built.

There had been a mischievous undertone to her thoughts when Alice had told me Bella was packed and ready to go. but the downside was that we barely had room for our two suitcases. My father and brothers didn’t understand why I wouldn’t tell. I suppressed a wicked grin as I punched the throttle. tightly gripping the seat and I couldn’t hide my devilish smile. beckoning to me. she was too afraid of my temper. As we left those sheltered waters. that was another issue altogether. I wonder. she didn’t like this any better than my driving. Bella seemed content to maintain the comfortable silence of the last hour. A sort of timelessness settled over us. I grinned. and the Morro do Pico to the East. I was sure she hadn’t guessed the truth. surrounded by the vastness of the ocean. Song – Metallica. It was an indulgence. launching us into the night. . I glanced down at the GPS read-out to verify that we were on the correct course based on the nautical charts I had memorized. however. With nothing but water for miles around. I set our course due east. we were soon skimming across the open ocean with the lights of Rio de Janeiro fading behind us. with only the stars and the moon to watch our passage. This. I vaulted into the boat to stow our bags before assisting Bella. . So. “Nothing Else Matters” 52 . We were cruising on a course parallel to the coastline for more than 90 minutes before we finally passed Arraial do Cabo. Most sea-faring vessels were heavy and awkward to pilot. and Rosalie didn’t care to know. Finally! Her curiosity was winning. Where did she think we were going? Hmm. I saw Bella lean toward me slightly. Alice definitely hadn’t told her. ghosting between two dark peninsulas. This was a secret I had guarded from everyone except Alice and Esme. “Are we there yet?” “About another half hour.” I assured her. without question. I guessed. There was something mystical about this experience. the towering Morro Cara de Cao (Sugarloaf Mountain) to the West. I turned the prow south. I imagined a smaller Bella asking a similar question of her parents. the last cape before we truly left the mainland behind us. From a slight crawl. the inky black expanse of the Atlantic Ocean stretched out before us.The white boat screamed luxury with its fluid lines and sumptuous interior. Rolling waves built around us. “Are we going much farther?” she asked. was sleek. It was completely dark now. I only told Alice because her assistance was necessary for Bella to have all the right clothes packed. Its low prow and powerful inboard motor made other yachts look like slugs in the water. Now. I saw her hands. occasionally stealing a glance at Bella. deftly released the moorings and idled out of the boat slip. I could feel her eyes following my every move as I primed and started the motor. I kept the power low until we were well clear of the harbor. Although obviously startled by my brazen action. Childishly. Out of the corner of my eye. splashing sea spray in our faces. but it also served a very useful purpose.

I adjusted my course minutely. Another puzzle. inviting. the outline of a teardrop-shaped island rose out of the sea before us. This is the threshold of our entire life. It seemed my plan was being received exceptionally well.” I was warmed by the memory of my mother’s thoughtful generosity. obviously straining to pick out something from the moonlit waters. and was beside herself with joy for us both.” I said with pride. sounding awed. 740 miles away. the fragrant breeze coupled with the absolute stillness of the night was comforting. Suddenly. Our future begins now! “I’m nothing if not thorough. I felt shy.Several minutes passed with only the purr of the engine and the splashing of the waves to disrupt the tranquil night. I smiled at her expression. “Bella. “Aren’t you supposed to wait for the threshold?” Silly girl. A bathymetric map of the ocean floor would show a scattered string of volcanic mountains stretching east from Brazil to the rocky and desolate Ilha Trindade. I reached for Bella. I expertly flicked the mooring lines around the cleats on the short wooden dock and secured the boat. “A gift from Carlisle—Esme offered to let us borrow it. Gradually. I saw comprehension dawn on her face. It was as if everything up to this point had been blurry and out of focus. I placed our suitcases on the dock before turning back to her. I cut the engine and let the natural resistance of the water slow us down. She squinted into the night. 53 . Very few of these peaks crested the ocean’s surface. Breathlessly she asked. and a sweet smile adorned her lips. look there. She loved me. “Isle Esme?” Bella’s voice hesitantly broke through the sultry air. but this was one of them. I wondered at the fleeting frown that marred Bella’s otherwise perfect face. “This is Isle Esme. swinging her slight body into my arms then leaping lightly to the dock.” I teased. but waited to tell Bella until I was sure her human eyes would be able to find it. adored Bella. Pulling back on the throttle. I inhaled deeply. “Where are we?” she murmured. Now I could see with blinding clarity—every sense was on fire as I considered where this night was leading us.” I pointed. What did that mean? Hmm. I adjusted our heading to bring us around the northern tip of the island.

too. swaying sensually in the gentle breeze. Bella’s heart seemed to skip a beat and her body tensed. cream-colored carpet. I opened both doors. I looked down. Her heart seemed to be beating twice as hard as normal. Warmth flowed through my veins and I stepped across the threshold. fresh atmosphere. Majestic palm trees fanned the sky. Concentrating on unraveling Bella’s cryptic body language served as a distraction from my own tumultuous thoughts. Her arms were clasped securely around my neck as I flicked on each light. I carried her through the house. I thirsted for her body. palms rustled and breakers glistened in the moonlight. I need this. rigid. I had never been here before. the house came into view. but I pressed my lips firmly together. But I could not set her down yet. As we stepped through the lush tropical foliage. reflected in the full-length windows that made up the rear wall of the room. I willed Bella to meet my gaze. As I set Bella carefully on her feet. I knew Bella couldn’t. Fear? Anticipation? I couldn’t tell. Could it be that she was more nervous. Startled by the force of my desire I beat a hasty retreat. but she stayed staring fixedly ahead. gazed back at me. Her back was straight. Repeatedly. It was a single-level bungalow with two wide windows framing the double doors and the shallow covered porch. Outside. I looked down again. shining with love and trust. Instead. white walls and pale furniture created a clean. letting them swing wide. pounding against her ribcage. The beach was literally right outside. Silently. With some trepidation. plush. as white as mine. I approached the last room. I held myself to a moderate human pace. I cradled Bella against my shoulder with my left arm and seized both pieces of luggage with my right. I fumbled for the light switch. I stopped. The scent of two humans clung to the sandy path. I was dying to ask. While I could see my surroundings clearly. The low wooden steps creaked underfoot and I set the suitcases down. She still had not moved. White oak floors. but Esme’s thoughts had shown me what to expect. probably 12 hours old. a tidal wave of emotions crashed over me. 54 . More than blood. to say anything at all. At the sight of the house. I didn’t want to let go of the warmth that she brought to my body and soul. like a romantic backdrop to this lover’s stage.Effortlessly. more terrified than me? This was her idea! This was what she wanted! Who am I kidding? This is what I want. distracted by the intimidating presence of the king-sized bed that filled the room. The glow of lights through the trees reassured me that everything had been made ready as requested. Her eyes. wanting to search her sparkling eyes for answers. I could see her face. trying to gauge my feelings and Bella’s at the same time.

“I’ll. . . go get the luggage.” I didn’t return immediately, I needed to calm down. Control!! I yelled at myself. I wrapped mental bands of iron around my pulsing need, forcing it into submission with every ounce of my strength. Tonight was for Bella. I had made a vow to her, and there she stood as my wife. She had kept her part of the bargain. I would keep mine. But I couldn’t lose control. Not with her so small and fragile. I had waited for over 100 years to experience this last rite of passage into manhood. Surely I could contain my base urges for a few short weeks? At least long enough for me to change Bella, and then. . . I inhaled the humid air once, twice. I had made my decision. I was resolved that I would give Bella what she wanted so badly tonight, this last human experience. But I would have to wait to take my pleasure. I can wait. I will wait. The sound of Bella’s hesitant steps in the far room brought me back to the moment. She paused again. In a few quick steps, I was at the door to our marital suite. I placed my suitcase on the floor, and hers on the dresser. She didn’t even register my presence. My heart ached as I watched her stroking the white mosquito netting with her delicate fingers. Her hair hung in damp, heavy strands from a tangled knot at the nape of her neck. A single drop of perspiration trickled down her neck and I stepped quickly to her side, wiping it away with a caress. “It’s a little hot here,” I apologized. “I thought. . . that would be best.” I remembered the thick afghan that had always inhibited our embraces. Was I wrong? Was this too much? “Thorough,” she murmured a single word under her breath. I chuckled in response, but the suspense was killing me. “I tried to think of everything that would make this. . . easier,” I confessed. Easier? Love was not supposed to be this hard! She swallowed audibly, the tension in her throat made me quiver with contrasting waves of desire and frustration. I had to break this emotional stalemate. A sudden inspiration offered a potential release for both of us. “I was wondering if. . .,” I began slowly, trying to read her reaction, “. . .first. . . maybe you’d like to take a midnight swim with me?” Did I imagine the instant relief in the set of her shoulders?

55

I took a deep breath, more confident in my idea. “The water will be warm. This is the kind of beach you approve of.” I smiled as I thought of the frigid waters of the northern Pacific. No. She definitely wouldn’t like that. Cold and wet. That biology lesson seemed like a lifetime ago. “Sounds nice.” Her voice broke, whether from nerves or something else. “I’m sure you’d like a human minute or two. . . It was a long journey.” I offered her privacy and a chance to collect herself. She nodded a little stiffly. Unable to resist teasing her, I brushed my lips against her neck. “Don’t take too long, Mrs. Cullen,” I said with a small laugh. I really hoped she would follow me quickly. Anticipation sparked inside me. I kissed her shoulder lightly—a temporary farewell. “I’ll wait for you in the water.” I shed my shirt before I had even escaped the heat of the room, exiting through the French doors that led directly to the moonlit beach. I heard Bella’s stumbling steps as she retrieved her toiletries from the suitcase I had set out on the low white dresser. Four long strides brought me to the water’s edge. I stepped out of my slacks and boxer shorts, leaving them draped over a small twisted palm. I dove effortlessly into the swirling waters, feeling the freedom and weightlessness of floating in the gentle surf. I exhaled and sank to the bottom. Moonlight shone through the water, illuminating eddies and sea foam that patterned the surface. No creatures swam close to me. Their instincts sent them fleeing for cover at the presence of such a highly evolved predator. Bella obviously did not possess those same instincts. I would have sighed if my lungs were not completely devoid of air. Sounds enveloped me. This was a whole other world beneath the water. Grains of sand ground against one another, constantly shifting in the viscous environment. The surf rumbled and crashed above me. Far off, several hearts beat in time to one another, interspersed with sporadic splashes and a sharp sound like air being expelled from bellows. Dolphins? Bella would love to see them! But they were rapidly pulling away, perhaps alerted to my presence in their territory. With a push off the bottom, I rose to the surface. I stood with my back to the island. My hands rested on the surface of the water, feeling the ebb and flow of the waves. Such power in something so subtle, I mused. I tilted my head back, regarding the moon with a pensive gaze. It was easy to be quiet here. Despite the constant sounds of the wind and ocean, it was strangely silent. No voices or thoughts crowded my head. No droning cacophony interrupted my consciousness. Bella and I were the only people for miles, and I was, for once, completely alone in my mind.

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Now that I was above the waves, I could hear the throbbing of Bella’s heartbeat. That sound was, in many ways, the center of my universe. My stomach clenched uncomfortably as I thought how those beats were numbered. I reminded myself, this is what she wants! I found myself counting those beats. It was odd how they would not stay steady. Sometimes they raced as if Bella were sprinting. I imagined the amount of adrenaline that must be coursing through her veins. Fight or flight? Is this how she feels about making love with me? I am a threat? My former feeling of tranquility was fading in the face of insecurity and concern. The minutes stepped by at a pedantic pace. Of course I was a threat. I was a selfish monster for dangling her life on the fragile thread of my self-control. She must have been in the shower earlier, because now there was a new clarity to the sounds carrying down to me from the house. There. Her heart was racing again and I cursed the impotence I felt while hidden from her thoughts. Maybe she would not be joining me after all. Maybe she finally understood the gravity and danger of what we were trying to do. Part of me was relieved and thankful for this possibility. But deep inside, a dormant beast began to unwind, stretching and growing, encouraging other thoughts. Lust and desire vs. adoration and love. The conflict was excruciating. Song – Celine Dion, “The Power of Love” Somewhere behind me, soft footsteps approached. I heard the hiss of heavy fabric slipping over bare skin. I kept my eyes glued to the moon. Every muscle in my body screamed for me to turn and watch her approach. Those thick bands of iron I had forcefully welded into place held. . . barely. I breathed a prayer for strength as her scent washed over me. A warm hand rested over mine. I was no longer alone. “Beautiful.” Her voice was soft and musical as she looked up at the moon. “It’s all right,” My voice was husky. I turned to face her. Heat from her body radiated, even through the water. I envied the ocean, caressing her shapely legs, embracing her naked hips. I stared deep into her eyes, searching for whatever had caused her heart to race so frantically before. I intertwined our fingers as I examined her face. There was a serene confidence about her that I had never seen before. Bella had always been more than a girl to me. She was mature, responsible, selfless, and many other things. But now, as I stood before her, I recognized something startling. She was a woman. Something had transformed that timid creature I had first met into the sensual goddess who stood before me now.

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. Gently. the moon was not beautiful. . not frozen. I continued my thought out loud. Waiting. “Don’t be afraid. . . Who is already sick and pale with grief. No. . I drank in the sight of her. reverberating through my mind and spirit. I embraced her then. .” Oh. She was angelic in her perfection. but it felt as warm as the midday sun. No. I tensed at the heat coursing through my veins. “If I do something wrong.Had my love played a part? I liked to think so. I wouldn’t use the word beautiful. “ and I hesitated. And those lips. My breathing was rougher as she moved closer to me. Bella was looking at me expectantly. casting brilliant rainbows of light across my previously dark existence. I drew her deeper into the ocean. Those thoughtful eyes that seemed to guard so many secrets and such inner strength. She nodded. “I promised we would try. “If. “But. Those lips had whispered my name and banished the darkness from my endless night. It may not be beating.” I finished in a rush. and promised me a life illuminated by the brightest star in the universe. . fearing the strength of my desire. . That mouth had cried my name. Bella’s eyes were glued to my face. and kill the envious moon. reassured me. . .” I agreed. She raised her other hand and placed it over my frozen heart. choking on the hideous words. I could stare at her mouth for hours while she slept. .. even after this existence. She leaned her head against my chest. pulsing with love and need on that desolate day in Volterra. Her silky smooth skin that colored so quickly at the slightest surprise or embarrassment. The curve of her brow. Beautiful had a new definition. enfolding her in my arms. puzzling over my pensive expression. at first. giving her fair skin a brilliant glow. her hand still warming the skin over my trembling heart. "Arise. unable to say it. . And now? Those lips soothed me. fair sun. “Forever. we belong together.” I whispered. The moonlight reflected from the water. Not with you standing here in comparison. if I hurt you. how my soul recoiled at the thought! “You must tell me at once. Just waiting for her to breathe my name. She had saved my life and given me hope for a future. This creature before me was so much more than beautiful.” Her crooked smile reflected my own. Her eyes were serious as she closed the space between us with one small step. 58 .” The truth of those words rang out as clear as crystal. It fought to be free of its iron bonds. Words flowed from my lips unbidden.

held back for so many months. nestling closer. When she raised her lips to mine the whole world disappeared. and the other pressed against her back. The more I have. the soft pillow of her breasts. The waves rose and fell with a gentle cadence. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea. just between her shoulder blades. but I held her against me with one hand cupping her right thigh. “Okay. The water was at my chest now. . by mortal and immortal forces. . 59 . An urgency than took my breath away. fine! Don’t stop.” Her laugh was like the sweetest melody. Where she led. Here we stood. My love as deep. “Edward!” she squealed as I began to use my tongue. it was pure and timeless. and I lifted Bella up so her head rested on my shoulder.That thou her maid art far more fair than she. . The air around us shimmered with an ethereal energy. I actually have to breathe. And.” she breathed. One. The desire within me. when it became too much. But maybe we should get out of the water before you drown me by accident! Unlike you. No mere mortal could stand before that gaze and not melt from the blaze that it built within. I followed willingly." Bella gasped a little at the intensity of my words. alright. She wrapped her arms around me. She giggled and tried to squirm away. What began as a warm embrace was now simmering with sexual tension. This love that had been tested and tried by countless challenges. if you say please. for both are infinite. shining with the purest love that had ever been born. I lifted her higher so I could bury my face in her neck. This love we shared was completely unique and unprecedented in its form and magnitude. “Oh. her hair. I nodded once as I leaned down to press a fervent kiss to her forehead. made me dizzy with excitement and anticipation. I growled at her when she tried to pull my face away from her chest. “Romeo and Juliet.” I eyed her radiant countenance with a roguish grin. I’ll stop. the more I give to thee. . Together. Her whispered response sent a tremor through my being. I stood with my legs braced against the force of the tide. Bella’s legs circled my waist and her hands were buried in my hair. There was a hunger in her kisses now. I was too aware of her soft curves molding themselves against the hard planes of my body. tracing complicated designs on her flaming hot skin.” Her eyes were glassy with unshed tears.

I was trying to steady myself. I gripped her shoulders as if to steady her. But I couldn’t help laughing. I suppressed a groan and my eyes rolled back as the entire length of her body passed over my. Bella slid her legs down mine. My eyes darted open in surprise when her soapy hands stroked my chest. I chuckled at her reaction and strode confidently out of the water. In reality. searching for the floor. “Don’t you want to rinse off? We’re a little bit salty. Oh. admiring the patterns before they dissolved. Okay. with a dark brown stripe at waist level. A wide mirror hung above double sinks. I shook my head with a grin. Oh. “I should hope not!” I responded with a scowl. the walls were painted the color of fresh cream. visualizing thick iron bands. Bella 60 . “I’ve never had a shower with a naked man before. The shower stall was spacious and lined with natural limestone. I loosened my hold. I pressed a firm kiss against her forehead. unbelievable! Bella grinned up at me and I grabbed the soap to return the favor. riveted into place. . Her face took on a look of alarm as I stepped through the French doors. .” She spoke with an aloofness that I knew was an attempt to hide her trepidation. sliding down her curves and valleys before pooling at her feet. I can do this. my. In the bathroom. I reached over to start the shower. . . and with it her heartbeat. I knew what that image would do to my self-control. The intensity of her presence in that close humid space was like drinking molten metal. but bypassed the bed altogether. And I reveled in the pain. sunk directly into the granite countertop and adorned with stainless steel hardware.I raised my eyebrows and she blushed fiercely. Bella attempted to escape my hold as we passed her towel and my clothes. and tightened my grip on her. I traced lines of bubbles on her translucent skin. then this was 100 times as strong. too. lowering her eyes from my smoldering gaze. fluttering in the breeze. How could something as simple and mundane as a shower be so sensual? So mouth-wateringly erotic? Our bodies were clean. we both stepped in. . . But I was not ready to end this smoldering seduction. Her breath quickened. I averted my eyes from the mirror. . . “Where. replaced by the light fragrance of freesia and roses. Another breath. If I thought the rain amplified Bella’s scent. I gritted my teeth. don’t you think?” I nuzzled the soft recess beneath her ear and was gratified by her answering giggle. . . When the water was warm. that felt.?” she questioned me with wide eyes. With my eyes closed and my hands at her narrow waist. not meeting her curious gaze. The briny smell of saltwater no longer lingered. I sucked in her essence with every excruciating breath. The subtle colors and organic feel was soothing.

but my dreamlike visions were a pale substitute for the reality. I licked her softly and then more aggressively as she hardened and peaked against my tongue. I pressed my lips to her throat. Her skin was so smooth. holding my breath to give myself the chance to regain my equilibrium. For once matching hers. like her lips. . Her 61 . to savor every millimeter of skin that they traveled over. At first. I was fascinated as I discovered the immense pleasure that this one part of her body could bring to both of us. I marveled at the way her breast felt in my hand. Trying to ignore the fearful. Bella always accused me of being ‘good at everything’. Well. tracing a line across her collarbone and then down to the velvet skin between her breasts. pinning her to the wall. And then. and I allowed my fingertips. . The course sound of air sweeping in and out of her lungs made my own breathing accelerate. My skin. . to feel her. . Almost without a thought. Imagining framing the perfect curve of a bubble. This was farther than we had ever been. eliciting another gasp of pleasure. I cupped her breast in my hand. and then rested it at the base of her spine. reveling in the vibrations of her skin on my lips. but then I wanted to feel more. The rim of her areola was so smooth. Not a trace of air was left between us. one of the most sensitive parts of my body. I brought my right hand up her thigh. I retreated slightly then. “Mmmm. But even this respite was not enough when Bella arched against the wall and her soft flesh pressed against my hungry lips. With my left hand I fondled her other breast.” she moaned. so sweet. I couldn’t take my mouth away. . I flicked my tongue out to taste her. I hesitated for the barest fraction of a second. I just kissed it. cautious side of my nature. I had often imagined touching her like this. How could I continue without losing control? The need within me burned as hot as a furnace. holding me tighter.clenched her teeth as I pressed the length of my body against hers. the pounding of her heart and the blood rushing through her veins roared in my ears. I brought my mouth up and further to the right. . I moved my head slowly. That close to her chest. Her flavor. now was my chance to prove her right. occasionally stroking the nipple with my thumb. felt so hot. “Oh!” My lips had found her nipple. over her hips. My mind was racing. Her nipple rubbed across my cheek and I turned my face slightly to meet it. warmed by the heat of the shower. Her breathing stopped and her heart seemed to jump. so enticing. Her hand ran up over my shoulder and cupped the back of my neck as I moved my nose and lips softly up the swell of her breast. Bella was pulling me closer. My fingers splayed across her bottom and I pulled her pelvis tightly against my waist.

It was not unpleasant. sensuous kiss in the patch of silky hair that had been tickling my chest. experience every part of her. feeling their weight against my palms. I squeezed her breasts one more time and drew my lips lower. The scent beckoned me closer. I tried to hold my breath. With a wicked smile I dipped to plant a single. “Notte di Luce” My kisses became more insistent and I dropped to my knees as my lips and tongue drew passionate lines across her flat stomach. Her fingers were wound through my tangled hair. Her eyes were wide—I felt like I would drown in those twin pools of desire! 62 . I marveled again at my ability to feel. It tickled my palm as I massaged her breast with slow. But as fragile as my control was. This delicate cage of brittle bone and soft flesh held my most precious possession. clenching tightly against my scalp. . I wasn’t prepared for Bella’s reaction. just strange and new. gentle circles. pausing at each rib. Surely I could stand just one kiss? Sensing that Bella wanted me to touch her there. instinctively encouraging my advances. I brought my right hand around her waist and up her side. as if my insides were liquid instead of stone. I made a bargain with myself. Bella was trembling now. Her racing heart thudded beneath my lips. With each beat of her heart. but never in such an undiluted dose. Her knees gave out and she slid down the wall to collapse into my startled embrace. but the scent clung to my nostrils. The saccharine aroma was intoxicating. I had smelled it on her before. And I wanted more. I stroked and rubbed her breasts in unison. smell. electrifying my senses. I was stunned by the twisting feeling that provoked in my stomach. I lifted them. her ribs pressed against my fingers. The soft ebony hair that hid her most private place rubbed against my chest. Bella was moving. so fragile. Always more. She arched her chest against my hands. A new aroma was thick in my nostrils. Her gasps of shock and delight were louder. I wanted to taste her. I needed to drink in that sweetest of fragrances. see. many times. . My throat ached more painfully than it ever had for blood. Just one kiss. occasionally trapping her nipples between them and pinching them gently. This body. For now. taste.other nipple hardened. I knew I would need to restrain myself. just like the one between my lips. Song – Il Divo. and then pressed her hips against my chest with a gasp. causing the whole of her breast to tremble and shake. hear. running the length of my fingers up and down.

With a slight pressure. Her smooth thighs caressed my waist and hips. . I knelt between her thighs. One of the iron bands strained and fractured. With an uneven intake of breath. and only her husband. My body had cooled since we left the shower. The feeling of warmth around the crown of my penis was unlike anything I could have imagined. on hers. I felt as if somebody had taken the essence of every physical pleasure. soaking the white satin sheets. with warm water cascading down on top of us. but her smile gained confidence as she snaked her legs around my waist. and now the contrast between my cold flesh and her warmth was unnerving. Her jaw clenched and her throat convulsed in alarm. she pulled me deeper. I entered her. Her lovely breasts pressed against my granite chest. my face would have been redder than hers. as her husband. my self-consciousness returned in a rush. the venom was pooling in my mouth now. I don’t know what Bella saw on my face. If I could have blushed. tight bundle. With her ankles locked against my lower back. That final kiss had pushed me over the edge and my member throbbed with a vigorous new life. Oh. I braced my hands on either side of her shoulders. Water trickled in rivulets from our bodies. I dipped my head shyly. Her knees rested on either side of my hips. still wrapped around me. I swallowed once. turned the shower off. .We were sitting on the floor of the shower. She brought her knees up. Her sweet breath rippled over me with every rise and fall of her trembling chest. 63 . I knelt before my goddess in humble supplication. and carried her. Bella’s eyes widened in awe at the steel shaft that now pressed hard into her stomach. Her shy smile was more than an invitation. still awash with the smell and taste of her. Would I hurt her a lot? Could I do this? Intentionally cause her pain? I gulped down the stress and fear that threatened to swallow me. as if in a trance. My breath was coming in shorter gasps as I lay her body across the bed. I hesitated before resting myself at the moist entrance to her haven. I held her body to mine. I was poised over her now. My feet were folded up under my buttocks and Bella straddled my lap. molding to my form. I realized where my gaze had fallen to and my eyes darted back to hers in panic. I shivered. My eyes were locked. back to the bedroom. wrapped it into a warm. I knew that we had delayed this long enough. ever could. We both tensed in anticipation. Bella lay there with her mouth slightly open. And froze. Surprisingly. It was permission to join with her now and for eternity. As it was. and drawn it over my sensitive skin.

?” She was frightened now. began to gather deep within me. I dragged each stroke tenderly along her inner walls until we were both shaking from the intensity. I don’t know how long we held that pose. She was my muse as we wrote this symphony in sweat and tantalizing tremors of love. “Love me?” she whispered. her flawless breasts. . Her rapidly beating heart drove the rhythm of my thrusts. but pain still lingered in the corners of her eyes. but her legs tightened convulsively around me. sweeter than the dulcet tones of an angel. I moved slowly. We remained in that position for several heartbeats before I allowed her insistent pressure to draw me deeper and deeper into heaven. bringing her pleasure. but excited. My member throbbed with each gasp or groan. . “Yes?” I queried. There was an anxious. drinking in every sight. But my own desires betrayed me and I pressed through the barrier of her virginity. She bit down on her lip in that expression of distress that I treasured so much. I delved a little deeper. savoring the sensation that was both pleasurable and agonizing in its strength. I felt like a master composer. Gradually. and touch. I was still unsure of my self-control. My confidence grew. Pulses of heat stroked me where I rested inside of her. our bodies finally joined in a ritual as old as time. I could hardly comprehend the feeling of absolute joy I experienced. As her heat engulfed me. “Ed. Soft moans erupted from her throat. But I saw no sign of pain in her eyes. sharing this with her. . I tried to retreat. her arms. I paused. but breathless. Her body was my instrument. but the words were more of a command than a question. Her face was frozen in bliss. sound. . like a summer sunrise. I closed my eyes. Her uneven breathing played like a harmony to my own deeper gasps. My hesitation and fears were gradually falling away. I became aware of a new sensation. Bella’s eyes were open and the muscles of her legs flexed around me. Occasionally I bent down to press my lips to her eyes. “Edward?” Her voice was small and bewildered. her neck. searching look on her face. as if she was having trouble catching air. . ward?” Her voice was louder. Bella’s small cry of pain was like a dagger twisting in my gut. every inch of her skin.oh! Uhhhh! Edward. I continued my rhythmic actions. . “Oh. her hair.At first I resisted. I was completely immersed in her warmth now. Gentle heat. Responding to her quickening heart rate. Each dark shadow was illuminated and then washed away by the light that grew within me. My hands were sinking into the mattress on either side of her shoulders. My icy fingers left trails of goose bumps on her silky smooth skin. stroking her hips. Why had I ever been afraid? How could I have considered 64 .

her touch sent parallel streaks of molten fire down my back. my lifeline in that endless explosion of sound and color. I collapsed onto my forearms. Her quivering walls dragged another groan from the depths of my stomach. Her cry of ecstasy blistered my mind. like a pillar of fiery ice. trying desperately to restrain its power. I fought back. “Aaahhhhh!” I couldn’t stop! I thrust again. At that moment. more forceful than I intended. Too close! 65 . so close. Bella writhed under me. harder than before. I smiled at her now. She must have bitten her lip harder than I realized! That tiny taste was the death blow to my already tenuous control. just inches from my face. Her mouth opened under mine. Her throat stretched. My pace was frantic. The fire in my core erupted like a volcano. whimpering and crying out. I felt shattered but renewed. drowning in the light! I grasped onto Bella. light burst behind my eyes. my salvation. burying my manhood to the hilt. Bella grasped me with all her strength. pulling me deeper into her than I had thought possible. Her human fingernails did no damage. almost lifting us from the bed. I silenced her cries with a kiss.backing away from this? Even my choice to restrain my own satisfaction for her sake brought only peace and happiness to my heart. However. My mind cried out in alarm. I let my pure adoration shine in my eyes and voice. love. scorching me with a new fire. like a phoenix awakening. Our bodies were pressed against one another. I alternately froze and burned as every restraint I had built shattered. The venom in my veins boiled. sweeter than nectar. A growl rose from deep within my throat. White-hot fire seared every cell in my body with a pleasure so intense it was torture.” Song – Sergei Rachmaninov “Isle of the Dead” With a strength and suddenness that shocked me. “Aaahheee!” Bella arched again. “I’m here. like a meteor blasting through the atmosphere. The beast inside me unfurled itself. Her fingernails scraped down the length of my back before digging against my flesh. Bella arched against me. Her blood was pounding through her veins. Gasping in surprise. more addictive than heroin. the taste of her saliva mingled with another flavor. From the depths of my soul I spoke.

* Time eventually returned to its normal pace. My mouth descended to her throat. Her eyes closed with a contented sigh. Slowly. for that is what it was. The demon inside me. Reality hit me like a battering ram to the stomach. Destroying us. “I love you. Noooooooooooo! My soul screamed! With a power not my own. Another wave. relief. . I turned my face away from the blinding temptation. I brushed something soft and white from her face. razor sharp and dripping venom. and I saw in that instant what I was about to do. My lips encased her pulsating jugular. And adoration. The taste was sweeter than ambrosia. “Oh. A downy feather. And I was lost. . I saw no pain. hit me like a tsunami. cursed me with its rage. despair. .” Her response was muffled. Victory. No disgust or accusations. I couldn’t decide.” I murmured. brushed her damp hair back from her face. I withdrew slightly.Venom spilled from my mouth as I struggled to return from the abyss. . . I could still taste her essence. Salvation. I smiled. biting down ferociously. The only emotions that greeted my searching eyes were amazement and wonder. teeth bared. The aftershocks of our union began to fade. “Mmmm. Conscious thought followed soon after. My teeth clenched spasmodically and I clutched Bella’s body to me. confused at first. victory. God!” I groaned in pain and horror as I saw just how close I had come to destroying her. lingering kiss. the frenzy had taken hold of me. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. also. I had almost. . Like a shark with blood in the water. . Bella’s legs and arms were beginning to relax. I buried my face in the silk encased pillows. . I shuddered in shock. staring deep into her eyes. preventing any need for a reply with a soft. stronger than the first. Bella. I loosened my hold. * * 66 .

Ah. . Beneath the feathers. All joy and pleasure were forgotten as I collapsed onto the bed next to her sleeping form. pressing my fingers deep into my flesh as if I could gouge the image of her desecrated body from my mind. Not even God could grant me that mercy. My throat constricted in a horrified gasp. Her face glowed in the moonlight. Perhaps she had been right? Perhaps I was incapable of hurting her. Solid. . I wanted to vomit. reassuring. chastising myself. Her faith had saved us both. Jasper and Emmett had been wrong. A tree must have been blocking the moonlight. What God would allow a creature like me to walk this earth free to commit such evil? 67 . fulfilled. My hand moved on its own. The steady beat soothed me. no sensation on earth that could compare with the absolute rapture I had felt tonight.I buried my face in her soft bosom. I felt numb. The demon inside mocked me. as if belonging to a stranger. I allowed myself to calm down. my Bella. I withdrew from her then. I clenched my eyes shut. even in the face of instincts and temptations more powerful than the elements. Tranquility settled like a blanket around me. I drank in the sight of her adorable face. begging forgiveness. Kneeling over her. dead inside. my internal struggles were laid to rest. casting shadows across her delicate cheekbone and throat. I brushed my fingers delicately over her porcelain skin. I regulated my breathing. and I permitted myself a small smile. Outside. warm. A hiss of air escaped my clenched teeth as I reassessed the aftermath of our frantic lovemaking with new eyes. fresh bruises were blossoming across my love’s once perfect flesh. then minutes. calling me back from the depths of my self-hate. . There was nothing. . I hated to do it. But the shadows did not move. the palms rustled in the wind. whispering apologies. . but Bella was obviously deep in slumber. I was nauseated. Cold dread snaked through my stomach. Her heart spoke to me then. She had trusted me. counting seconds. My fingers fit perfectly over one set of brilliant marks on her upper arm. Her full lips parted with a sigh and my stone heart lurched in my chest. radiant. If He even existed. serene. so peaceful in sleep. . Finally. Our lovemaking was beyond nirvana.

. I had hurt her by my rejection. a solitary figure in a bleak expanse of time. Jasper. He carved out his own place in heaven with a persistence and determination that I was too weak to emulate. 68 . . His unnatural battle with the twisted morality of our existence had left him alone. Her heart was pure. It is impossible to consider the damnation of your soul without aching for the pain that this would cause to the people who have willingly linked their souls to yours. My father. So full of passion for life. . I couldn’t compare my present conflict with the battle that he had fought for decades. Despair is its own kind of conceit. himself. However. Rosalie. my closest confidant. I had seen his past. Alice had been the brightest star in my endless night. broken from the loss of her infant son. . Oh. mangled and barely alive who had looked into Rosalie’s eyes like a dying man catching his first glimpse of an angel’s face. I had thoughtlessly dismissed her. Hours passed. In my anger and pride. . What was she seeing now? What path would my tormented mind choose? And what would that choice mean for everyone and everything that I held dear? Bella.My thoughts spun into an ever descending spiral of despair. selfless. could I? But Alice had healed that wound. Alice! My dearest sister. a sick parody of order in the universe? Carlisle. Would I break it again? Emmett. He had struggled with loneliness and despair. I could never fully forgive myself. How long did he hesitate before succumbing to the temptation of a mother’s pleas. The decades-old guilt still gnawed at my insides. Before he acknowledged it. Before I met Bella. it was a festering wound. Only minutes old. How do you sever those ties without sinning further? Causing more pain? Would the death of that star free them to find new paths? Or. teasing and bullying. would they forever be locked in that orbit. Effectively. He played the role of an older brother. but older and wiser in so many ways. even this half-life that we led. you make yourself the center of the universe. with those who love you trapped – like celestial satellites locked into erratic orbits around a broken star. making me his companion in immortality? Esme. The struggles he endured as his conscience grew and transformed his life. She had given me her heart. A true gentleman would never have acted in that way. she had been confused and terrified. Her vivacious spirit always lifted me from my dark moods. Younger in years. I would always look at him as the distraught boy. The most loving mother a man could ever know. . and I had willingly filled that void.

Was she awake? How badly did I hurt her? I was impatient to know. With the greatest trepidation. I had caused her pain from the moment I first laid eyes on her. Somehow. . jaw clenched for an interminable period of time. I may even be evil incarnate. but I embraced it as a small penance for my sins. but terrified to learn the extent of her injuries. casting brilliant light against every surface. I was distressed when my frigid skin contacted hers. My heart lurched. She felt feverish with heat. The aftermath of my last attempt was a bitter image in my mind’s eye. My ears registered the faintest quickening of her heart. I could not leave. unable to feel the warmth. But wasn’t that just? I pressed my face to the dark locks of her perspiration-dampened hair and inhaled deeply. My emotional trauma was translating into true physical pain. I was afraid of the moment when she would wake up. The change in her breathing was subtle. 69 . The new dawn finally arrived. stay I would. it was the closest thing to honor that I had left. The grey light of morning crept into the room. I could not stay. Her arms tightened around my neck. And yet. The sun was high in the sky before Bella stirred again. and see the monster that lurked within. The bruises that marred her flesh were testament to the inevitable results of that decision. Words could not describe the hopelessness I felt. In my stone arms. this didn’t feel real. Knowing that she was awake. I waited. But I would cling to my word. . look into my eyes. I would stay until she asked me to leave. . Her sweat-streaked face lay against my chest. I tensed in preparation for the inevitable. I waited for the pain to strike her. . I knew this to be the truth. I may be a monster. I lay there. I imagined her sweet features twisted into a mask of fear and revulsion. I gathered her into my arms. This was it. that the pivotal moment of truth was upon me. The air around me hummed with the dazzling energy of the tropical sun. holding her gently. I observed this distantly.I could not continue. I had promised her that much. Any tug on the thread of my existence affected her. she was as fragile as blown glass. I was startled from my reverie by Bella shifting in her sleep. I trailed my fingers delicately from the base of her skull to the small of her back. And now? Our lives were inextricably intertwined. I groaned softly. The familiar fire paled in comparison to the wrenching agony that possessed my damnable soul. I reached out and stroked the back of her hand.

I cursed my inability to hear her thoughts. replaced by something distant and alien. I waited. “What are you thinking?” I whispered the words.” Hmmm. some clue or sign that I was missing? Her stomach growled and she laughed again. Bella! You were never this cruel!! Why are you feigning ignorance? Do you want me to confess my sins out loud? I could not stop the bitter words from escaping. Petrified and ashamed. then wandered aimlessly across the taught skin of her back. My fingers returned in their path up her spine. I could endure the silence no longer. the clearest window to her mind.?” her voice trailed off. I felt the shock go through her body. Finally. dreading the answer. what is it? What’s wrong?” Oh. she brought her graceful fingers to my face. I was still confused. Was I imagining her confusion? I longed to look into those warm brown eyes. She laughed softly. Did I . For over 80 years. 70 .I forced my breathing to remain steady. I asked. I don’t understand. This could be the last time I would hold her in my arms. she would downplay her injuries to spare me. “What’s funny?” What. But I couldn’t bear to. I have. I kept my eyes locked on the canopy above us. . What was she trying to tell me? Was this some sarcastic way of reprimanding me for allowing myself to pretend humanity? My bewilderment only grew as she lifted her head and stared at my immobile face. “You have to ask?” She did not respond with words. Oh. indeed? Was this the precursor to hysterical weeping? Was there something. stroking my forehead where lines of strain betrayed my deep-seated anxiety. I relished these final moments of closeness. The musical sound shimmered off of the gauzy mosquito netting. “You just can’t escape being human for very long. but potent in its torment. . “You’re upset. Instead. afraid that all warmth would be absent. but needing to know. my love! When will you stop sacrificing yourself for this monster? My cry was silent. “Edward. ?????? Puzzled. If I showed any sign of my pain. The sudden movement sent shivers through my core. Her breath caught in her throat. unable to turn and face her.

at first. 71 . Bella? The truth—don’t try to downplay it.” Did I really want the truth? Could I bear that knowledge? Yes. Bella. The knife in my stomach twisted viciously.And the truth shall set you free. wounded. I considered that for a moment. she would run for freedom. “Stop that!” I hissed. bruised. Then tell me I’m not a monster.” I ordered. I was infuriated by her stubborn goodness. her voice speaking my name struck me to the center of my soul. But. smooth and naked against mine. . she stretched her arms and legs. I had imprisoned her in a future of endless night. I would force her to face the truth head on.” I should have known! I sealed my eyes shut to contain the sudden rage inside me. Why? Would you prefer a different word? Injured. She did not deserve my anger. “Stop what?” She pretended innocence. in this moment. John 8:23 . Timidly. I decided.” My voice was black with frustration. Her long pale legs were moving. “Stop acting like I’m not a monster for having agreed to this. Strange that now. . my mind should wander to quotes from the Bible. “Look at yourself. Bella had never been a good liar. I had to. should I go on? I clenched my teeth to trap the harsh words. I sensed the anger growing inside her. damaged. Even now. Then we would see. Her single gasp broke through the silence. Of course she would hide her anger. Humiliation and self-disgust wrenched my gut. When she saw the evidence of my grotesque nature tattooed across her naked body. her next words were not what I had been preparing for.My eyes tightened with the strain of forcing more words out. “Why would you jump to that conclusion? I’ve never been better than I am now. “Edward!” I flinched at her shocked whisper. “How badly are you hurt. Perhaps this was for the best. I had cornered Bella. “Hurt?” She repeated the word as a question. I was staggered by the realization that I was starting to become aroused by her closeness.

I was reliving that moment last night when. . bit a pillow? Why?” I really did not want to elaborate.” I whispered. . But the knowledge didn’t bring me any relief. Bella!” The growl in my voice was unmistakable. “Edward. Several moments passed before she moved.” Her face was blank. “I’m .” I hissed. A frail human hand wrapped around my wrist. but I could not move.” “You. I felt a soft touch on my arm. No screaming. Finally. My pain only intensified as she continued her tentative examination. I placed my fingers delicately over the handprints on her arm. .“Why am I covered with feathers?” She was confused. “Oh. But she couldn’t deny this. I was painfully aware of the inadequacy of my apology. mindful that I needed to regain control immediately. Nothing more. She had proven her ability to deny the pain. Or two. In my present frame of mind. . The nausea returned. “Look at that. I wasn’t sure if I could stand to relive that moment when I had almost. Bella. I had fitted my hands to the bruises on her skin and succumbed to this torrential misery. even before I said it. The hours of torment were wearing me down. “Edward?” 72 . No! I couldn’t think of that! “Look. no tears. so sorry. Understanding was clear on her face now. I exhaled impatiently. No thoughts or emotions. My eyes followed every movement. Slowly. . I threw my arm across my eyes to block out the image of her vacant stare. I had to drive the truth home. I reached out with my right hand. I fought the compulsion to flee the room in disgraced humiliation. I stretched her arm out so she could see what I saw. That’s not what I’m talking about. The ivory skin of her arm was mottled with dark purple and angry red bruises. so that she could not miss the gravity.” She breathed in recognition. I gingerly took her hand. . exerting a pitiful amount of pressure.” I remained as rigid as a statue. I should not have—” I couldn’t stop the gurgle of self-hatred that pooled in the back of my throat. the danger I had exposed her to. Desperately trying to control the shaking. But what else could I say? “I am more sorry than I can tell you. “I bit a pillow. “I knew better than this. in motions mimicking my most recent action.

Don’t be angry. I’m so happy. . I couldn’t help myself. “Cut it out!” she snapped. she’s always said. “No. .” I knew my plea was in vain. hesitant to let go.” She emphasized each word. Had I been wrong all this time? Did she really not feel the pain? Was the joy she felt at our union so great that it overshadowed the injuries that my lack of control had inflicted? “I’ve already ruined this. Her peaceful acceptance of the evidence of my massacre . No! I couldn’t let her finish! “Do not say the word fine. I’m really f—“ I could stand this no longer. “Ugh!” She groaned. .” “Not today. discarding my apology. “Bella. . what would I hear? “Why?” I stared into her eyes.” “But I am.” She spoke forcefully. Am.” she persisted in a hushed tone. I can’t even tell you. “That’s a new one. Happy. . “If you value my sanity.What do you want me to say? What can I do? I cannot look into your eyes without seeing the pain. I would have been amused by the scolding. “I’m. Her fathomless brown eyes met my golden gaze without flinching.” I whispered. That doesn’t cover it. “Why can’t you just read my mind already? It’s so inconvenient being a mental mute!” Huh? But. I. don’t. I ground my teeth as the conflict within me raged on. She was intimidated by the violent edge in my voice. Forgiving myself went contrary to my fierce desire to protect her. Edward. waiting for the veil to lift and reveal her cryptic thoughts.” At any other time. You love that I can’t read your mind.” If I could. DO NOT say the word fine. “Don’t ruin this. I can’t look at your body without reliving this agony! “I’m not sorry.” My voice sounded as icy as my soul felt. You don’t. . I pulled my arm away from my eyes to search her face for the meaning of her words and actions. 73 .

“Did you expect this. “totally and completely blissed out. waiting for me to finish. I was perfectly happy. it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. just wonderful and perfect it was. However.” Or ever. . Edward!” I rolled my eyes and shook my head. I am. My chest felt compressed. She sat silently through my tirade. . She obviously didn’t understand. How little regard she had for her safety. “You should be angry at me. “Because all of this angst would be completely unnecessary if you could see how I feel right now! Or five minutes ago. “I didn’t know what to expect—but I definitely did not expect how. Now—well. . anyway. not knowing what to expect. actually. “No broken bones—that equals a victory?” I was chilled by this revelation. “I think for a first time. I continued to myself. the edge of annoyance fading as she continued. Does that make you feel better?” she retorted. Tricky? Is that what she called it? She thought it was easy when I miraculously managed to divert my killing instinct to tear her throat out and drain her blood? The way she casually accepted the possibility of her death and my destruction. I could not maintain the rage. . she threw her hands up in the air then brought them down onto my chest with a sharp smack. I thought that was assumed. I don’t know how it was for you. You are killing my buzz. I was furious! “Assumed?” I spat the word out.” “Well.” This wasn’t the reaction I expected. I’m sort of pissed off. Her tone softened. we did amazing. unable to refer to our frantic coupling with tender words or amorous sentiments.” she ranted. “I mean.Frustrated beyond words. I sighed. And then—well. Bella? Were you anticipating that I would hurt you? Do you consider the experiment a success because you can walk away from it?” Here I used a clinical term.” she brushed the painful looking bruises with a graceful sweep of her fingers. My breathing eventually slowed and I awaited her response.” 74 . My breathing was labored. but it was like that for me. . confronted by her calm countenance. With a little practice—“ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “No. how. too tight. or my sanity. and she dropped her eyes from my penetrating gaze. “That! That right there is why I’m angry. I don’t think anything could make me feel better now. “We knew this was going to be tricky. .” Her cheeks blushed a brilliant scarlet. . And this is really nothing. Her voice dropped to a whisper. but I welcomed even the hint of her wrath. .

what with my being a vampire. . .With her eyes hidden. “Really? The best ever?” Her wondering smile tugged at my heart and made me want to cradle her in my arms. Was it possible that she had felt the same explosive fire and tempestuous release that had sent me soaring into heaven last night? Could she love me now. “I didn’t dream that you would construe the way I feel about what I did to you to mean that last night wasn’t. . ”I also asked him what I should expect. Her shyness. well. . It was disquieting. “I spoke to Carlisle after you and I made our bargain. I didn’t know what it would be for me. I was mesmerized by her blush. I was closed off from her thoughts. even more than before? “It seems that I have more to apologize for. I took her face between my hands. He had faith in me. You’re not human. to insulate me from the damage I had wrought on her fragile figure.” She stumbled through the last few words. though—faith I didn’t deserve. My touch on her lovely skin was like gossamer as I allowed my mind to drift back to a conversation from months ago. I wasn’t finished. She cast her eyes down again. I brought her chin up with one finger so that I could examine her eyes again. . like nothing else. I just was trying to explain that. not when you were. Of course he warned me that this would be very dangerous for you. “But I don’t want to think of it that way. her quiet responses. “That I didn’t enjoy myself?” Just saying those words amplified my disgust for my animalistic behavior of the night before. . for a human. He told me physical love was not something I should treat lightly. . “Carlisle told me it was a very powerful thing. Had I been reading her incorrectly? I mulled over the last several minutes. “Is that what you’re worried about?” It was difficult to speak through my clenched teeth. well. I can’t imagine that life gets any better than that. then. But he said I did not need to worry about that part—you had already altered me so completely.” She drew a breath to speak. But if what she said now was true. I had seen her silently play the martyr so many times that I had just assumed.” Flashes of heat and desire pulsed through me with this confession. With our rarely changing temperaments. hoping he could help me. but I silenced her with a light touch on her lips. I had assumed wrong. “I know it’s not the same. strong emotions can alter us in permanent ways.” 75 . the best night of my existence. .” How I detest that word! I felt a tired smile twist up my lower lip.” She didn’t allow me to finish. I thought she was trying to protect my feelings.” I dragged those words out with difficulty. What I saw there did nothing to calm me. . starting from when she had first awoken. Her response only confused me further.

. So just deal with it. I don’t want to do that. “Do you think I’m making this up? Why?” Hurt and distress were plain on her face. heard her murmuring my name. I don’t think they were wrong. “I spoke to my brothers. . okay? I didn’t even know there was a reason to make you feel better until you started being all miserable. “Those are the happiest memories I have. somehow. “Or when you said ‘I do’ and I realized that. Just that it was different for us.” I concluded plainly. All the things I had said or done that had hurt her. I am not pretending anything for your sake. Something more. .” I couldn’t disagree with her declaration. I didn’t know where to start or how to respond.” I saw her sleeping face. endangered her.” “What does that mean?” she bit back sharply.” My mind flashed to that Saturday in our meadow and the poignant taste of our blossoming love. I’ve never been so happy in all my life—I wasn’t this happy when you decided you loved me more than you wanted to kill me. Edward Cullen. A sharp crease formed between her eyes.” 76 . Or your history of trying to let me off the hook when I make mistakes. Even if it were possible that you really did feel that way. Her face was only three inches from mine and her clear.” she agreed fervently. . .” And here I paused. But. “To ease my guilt. specters of guilt and remorse. broken and bleeding. “But I’ve tasted your blood.” Her glaring eyes challenged me to contradict her. knowing that I would be forever transformed just by loving her. which were suddenly glassy with unshed tears.” “It was more. Second only to drinking human blood.My lips broke into a genuine grin. It was everything. I get to keep you forever. I gently stroked the tiny frown line between her eyebrows. “Or the first morning I woke up and you were there waiting for me. “I’m making you unhappy now. caused her pain. really. made me flinch in remembered agony. . . dejected creature I had been before she lit up my world. “It was everything. .” the memory of her body. too. . “That doesn’t change the fact that it was wrong. They stalked me now. “I can’t ignore the evidence. sweet breath assaulted me with every adamant word she spoke. They told me it was a very great pleasure.” I had felt the same wonder and joy. and this is better than any of those. . It was true. “Not when I heard your voice in the ballet studio. I was no longer the cynical. “You listen to me. Bella. She grabbed my chin then.” Images were flashing through my head. and there could be no blood more potent than that.

I shook away the despair and smiled at her with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. uncomfortable with my thoughts. This hurts. I didn’t want to think of the burning of her scent in my throat as I planted kisses on her shoulders. Ugh. I averted my eyes. My negative feelings were locked away tightly from view. How I wished I could believe that! I took a deep breath and nodded. why exactly did you decide to ruin Esme’s pillows?” she asked with innocent curiosity. . drifting across the floor and sticking in my hair. I’ll do whatever I can to make you happy now. I don’t know if she even heard my comment then. because I was distracted by her climbing gingerly off the large bed. 77 . There’s no sense in letting my mood sour this time for you. I didn’t want to notice the way the light hit the curve of her hips.” I met her suspicious look with a simple smile. Was that only yesterday? I felt like I had lived through a lifetime of suffering in just one night.“Then don’t you be unhappy. Bella sat up in bed and shook some feathers from her hair and body. . She reached high above her head.” How did she speak with such self-assurance and conviction? I thought back to her words when she joined me in the ocean. How much did she miss last night? I ran my hand through my hair. “You’re right. Memories so bright that they would shine. The past is the past and I can’t do anything to change it. This darkest of days would fade and disappear. I gasped in shock and had to turn away to regain control. The bright sunlight illuminated every bruise. loving companion.” I had said too much. shadow and blemish. stretching. I would be a cheerful. My hands clenched into fists so tight I would have crushed a steel bar to fine powder. dislodging more feathers in the process. Tiny white feathers swirled around me. a nervous habit. I stifled a grimace of discomfort. I would never mention any of this again. or see the shadow cast by her full breasts. Her stomach growled in that same instant and I snapped at the excuse to escape our bed. “I don’t know if I decided to do anything last night. almost seductively smooth. My mood was instantly darker as I muttered. We’re just lucky it was the pillows and not you. . I would not subject her to my pain again. Deep breath. her stomach. I would give her the most beautiful memories of our honeymoon paradise. . “Don’t be afraid. “Whatever makes me happy?” Her voice was coy. the soft. “You’re hungry.” she had stated. “So. It was even worse than I had realized. I stared out the window to the glistening waves.” I swiftly rose and pulled on a pair of loose khaki pants. even when remembered through her heightened vampire senses after I changed her. Was I going to break my promise already? Control. We belong together. That’s the only thing that’s wrong here.

* * * The melodic spray of the shower carried to me from the bathroom as I assessed the contents of the refrigerator. Behind me. Rosalie was especially nauseated by the raw ingredients and smells of my 78 . anticipating her cries or screams of horror.“Do I look that hideous?” Her tone was light and playful. now there was an awfully innocuous word for what I was feeling!. but I crushed that urge. I’m a hideous monster.” How could I respond to that? “This isn’t going to work. I swallowed. I thought of our shower last night. too. I was there behind her in an instant. “Do you want to help me?” Yes! My body screamed. Even though it was afternoon. But I stepped to her side and concentrated on pulling the white fluff from amid the tangles. her body glowing with desire and slick with soapy bubbles. Emmett had ribbed me pretty hard for watching episode after episode of cooking shows on the Food Network. I was frozen. I can’t do this! I would have growled. Oh God. . I took in a swift breath at her use of the word. gulped really. I had no idea what to say or do to comfort her.to jeopardize her health. I decided breakfast food was most appropriate and set to work preparing a bacon and cheese omelet. her light steps carried her to the bathroom.” she sighed.” She twisted around to face me. “It’s all dried in. She should be fainting from hunger! I resolved to be better about providing for her basic needs. She was staring at her reflection with a look of dismay. . “You would be worried about your hair.” I retreated from her embrace as fast as I could without hurting her. It was more than 20 hours since Bella’s last meal. . Hmmm. .” I muttered darkly. I’m going to have to wash it out. “I’d better find some food for you. Physically that is. “How did you keep from laughing at this? I look ridiculous. Her warm arms wrapped enticingly around my waist. . I couldn’t allow my distractions. Hideous. “I’ll never get this out of my hair!” she pointed to the feathers that were plastered into her unruly hair. Her dejected sigh followed me with barbed stings of regret. Moments passed and then her groan of despair cut into me like a razor blade. I counted backwards in my head. . sure that she would see things differently now.

no. Beautiful. . However. pure. . she had not eaten anything for over a day. It looked like a huge portion for her petite body. Bella eagerly crossed the room and slid into one of the waiting chairs. A whisper of doubt crept up my spine. I will not waver. I could find the strength. how could I return to those chaste kisses and simple caresses? I had a skillet on the stove with butter melting when I heard Bella exit the shower and walk to the dresser. These words became my mantra. She took her time unpacking her clothes and accessories. I threw myself into the project. innocent. . Lecherous fool! I chastised myself. the telltale whisper of satin and silk created a tickling sensation in my lower stomach. I turned to greet her with a smile. I will not give in. If we could only stay busy and away from the house as much as possible. Anything to keep my mind from drifting to join Bella in the shower. I slid the fully cooked omelet deftly onto a waiting plate. She wore a simple. I thought to myself. I turned away from my morbid thoughts. without anybody to test the concoctions. Snow White.” I said. I had a better record of creating danger and threatening her life than rescuing her.first experiments in the kitchen. I only had moments before I would have to face her. I heard the subtle sound of soft fabric stretching and sliding over still damp skin. . There I go again. white cotton dress. I took a seat across from her. I carefully set about reconstructing the shattered restraints that I had prematurely abandoned in the height of our passion. Her wet hair was as dark as ebony. I could not differentiate between scents with the sizzling butter right beneath my nose. . my success was purely academic and here-to-fore unproven. With a shaky breath. “I’m not feeding you enough. satisfied that I had a productive outlet for my energy. This was not going to work! But it had to. How would I turn her down without hurting her feelings? She had a one track mind when it came to physical intimacy. Oh. “Here. I gulped down the cravings that make my mouth water. Even before our engagement she had challenged my self-control in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. entertained by the ravenous way she was inhaling her food. depositing the plate with silverware on the small tiled table. but I didn’t think I really fit the description of the prince. However. but again. 79 . .” I said by way of apology. Now that I knew the sweet abandon of possessing her body. If Bella wanted to make love again.

Surely she would hear that and understand it was because of my unequivocal love that I had to say no. With a wistful smile.She swallowed hastily. She wouldn’t give up without a fight.“ my voice faded. searching for a distraction. 80 . “Thank you. . “I’ll have to ask them to deal with the feathers. But I wasn’t afraid to play dirty. “I will not make love with you until you’ve been changed.” Of course I know. “I know. “I was asleep. . I raised my hand to stroke her cheek from the corner of her eye down to her stubborn chin. I stiffened and leaned back in my chair. I was vaguely impressed that there was nothing left over. She looked at me expectantly. we could even build sand castles if it would keep her occupied and out of danger. I still had not responded to her question. This was not where I wanted my thoughts or words to lead. I just needed to keep her busy. are you?” I had no answer for the bitter accusation that underscored her question. “You aren’t going to touch me again while we’re here. . and I kissed her back without thinking. I guess my experiments had paid off. I was pretty sure near-starvation was tipping my approval ratings a little bit. I wasn’t rejecting her. This is really good. But what do you want me to say? I sighed in defeat.” Speaking my resolve out loud added strength and conviction to my decision. by the way. Although. She leaned gently against the palm of my hand. The first night would surely be the worst. we would definitely look for the dolphins. The dolphins. And tired. And you’re right. Bella watched me silently as I stared into space. The taste of her sweet lips instantly resurrected the burning need in my loins. swimming. I just needed to buy some time. exploring the island. She finished her food quickly. heck. A few weeks at most. . A first for this place. Snorkeling. Her teeth were clenched tightly together when she spoke.” “Food Network. She leaned towards me for a kiss. Yes. What could I say without hurting her? A simple “No” sounded cold.” she said simply. Impressive for someone who doesn’t eat.” I replied with a grin. “You know that’s not what I meant.” Her eyes challenged my certainty with their transparent disappointment.” I stated wryly. I will never hurt you again. “Where did the eggs come from?” “I asked the cleaning crew to stock the kitchen.

Time to go. Okay.The trembling of her lower lip almost did me in. Now! 81 .

hoping to see the tell-tale splashes and grey twisting bodies that would indicate the dolphins were close. 6 Distractions “Bella. I heard the whisper of bare feet as Bella padded across the house to join me. Alice had packed a designer bikini that looked like it was made just for Bella. From a low bluff. conservative dressing. “I know you don’t like surprises. The strong smell of coconut-scented sun block almost completely obscured Bella’s naturally floral scent. . I stepped out onto the shady porch and scanned the horizon. Bella regarded me with suspicion. Sure enough. but retreated to the bedroom without a word. I take that back. The bottoms were matching fabric and sat low on her hips. On second thought.” I grinned at her. I had become accustomed to Bella’s normal. until the curvature of the earth swallowed the ocean. Several minutes passed. Never mind. She looked uncomfortable in the skimpy beach wear. I had always admired Bella’s figure. But I was able to offer her a genuine smile as I took her hand and led her down to the beach. The most desirable woman in the world had chosen me! The dark bruises that mottled her skin kept me sober. Bella stepped out onto the porch. Seeing her dressed like this made me alternately dazed and proud to the point of conceit. It was definitely a struggle to maintain my placid expression. Hmm. but I had never really cared. Rich. chocolate brown fabric was gathered in a layered twist to form a stylish top. but somehow that just made her more attractive. This was stunning and sexy and unbelievably adorable.Ch. I wrinkled my nose in distaste. I was able to see for miles. Bella would absolutely love this! I returned to the bungalow in a flash. Just trust me. I set off around to the leeward side of the island at a fast pace. This is going to be an exception to the rule. Alice always cringed at Bella’s wardrobe. 82 . Perhaps on the other side of the island? The reef was more developed there and presumably offered better hunting for the aquatic mammals. this should make things a bit easier for me. Silver bodies leaped and dove in a choreographed performance that took my breath away. “So what is this big surprise?’ Bella cast a sidelong glance at me. . why don’t you grab a swimsuit? There’s something I saw yesterday that I’ve been dying to show you!” I knew my enthusiasm sounded forced. but this. sunlight glinted off a stunning aerobatic display.

“Would you like me to carry you? It’s just a bit further. I knew she would be the same Bella. trying to read them. but she would definitely rival my speed as a newborn. Bella was less than 19 years old to my 108 years.It took more than 10 minutes to walk to the bluff where I had sighted the dolphins. “Edward. ow. How much of her attraction to me was based on my superior strength and agility? If I wasn’t superhuman to her. I knew she was the one. Reflexively I had her by the waist before she could hit the ground. I found myself wondering how our relationship would change when Bella was a vampire. Before she had taken three breaths. ow! I stubbed my toe!” She leaned against me. But what if it wasn’t the same to her? The human mind and body are simple and weak compared to a vampire’s. Her face glowed in the warm sunlight and her hair was streaked with red and auburn highlights. Occasional roots and vines somehow gripped her ankles and tripped up her feet. just to spend eternity with you. although I’m not sure what she expected to see. You can walk through anything barefoot without ever wincing! Ugh! Sometimes I hate being just a clumsy human. A light breeze was blowing towards us. Bella picked her way carefully along the sandy trail. possibly a whole year. just as I was the same Edward. you have no idea how jealous I am sometimes. But what if I’m not enough? Eternity is a long time. Bella looked into my eyes. Bella wants you! She is sacrificing her entire life. everything that she has ever known. but the seed of doubt had already put down its first roots. “Humor me. The sun was beginning its descent and the water shimmered in the afternoon light. Bella was standing still. her future with her family. facing the open ocean. but mine were fixed on her childlike expression of enchantment. Don’t be stupid.” I laughed despite myself. would she still look at me with those wide-eyed glances that I adored? She would be stronger than me for the first several months. I reached the top of the bluff and set her down. . “Edward!” She shrieked in surprise. something fundamental would change between us and I wasn’t sure if that change would bring us closer. I took her hesitation as consent and swept her into my arms. . When I met Bella. despite my humor.” My voice sounded a little off. or pull us apart. Bella’s eyes feasted on the panoramic view.” I was already running and Bella held tightly to my neck as the tropical landscape whipped past us. A century of searching told me that. a distance that had taken seconds when I ran. 83 . rubbing her offended foot vigorously. Bella gasped and stumbled. I was the fastest of my family. I tried to shrug this latest insecurity off. “Ow. I had seen and done things she could never dream of. However.

but these were animals. you didn’t scare them. but strong. now. I had heard of dolphins and their friendly attitude towards humans.” Something akin to adrenaline was stimulating my sense of excitement and adventure. Strong animals who were 84 . The feeling faded and became cautiously curious. and she returned my stare with a questioning look. they’re dolphins! They’re so beautiful!” I held Bella’s hand as we clambered down the sandy bank. and were leaping and cavorting back and forth less than 100 yards off shore. but I knew I could swim the distance in seconds. Bella’s eyes were bright and her breathing was fast. “They sensed my presence and must instinctively see me as a predatory threat. I stroked swiftly back to the sandy strip and stood just out of the water. The feeling I picked up was simply curiosity. watching Bella closely. Edward. They had ceased their retreat. “No.” “Really? Do you think they would come this far?” “We can always see. We were treading water with no human beings for dozens of miles in any direction. I want to get closer!” Her excitement was contagious and we were soon diving into the shallow water. “Oh. It took several minutes. I heard the trilling sound of the dolphins communicating with one another. I couldn’t help myself. There it was again! A vague sensation. It was a strangely stimulating sensation. Bella looked down at my feet then grinned. but the humming of emotions and wordless thoughts in the back of my mind placed them much closer to humans than I would have guessed. When Bella nodded her assent. waiting for me to continue. even with the exertion of treading water for so long. I laughed out loud. When we reached the bottom. But they are curious. If I get out of the water. At that moment.“Oh! Did you see that?” she pointed excitedly. Carlisle is going to be beside himself when I tell him this! I responded to Bella’s earlier question. I heard the accompanying splash and a high-pitched chirping. traveling swiftly towards Bella. not people. The sleek bodies cruised just beneath the waves. “Oh. like focused emotions without words. I mimicked her. but then I felt a shift in the pod’s intentions. they may come closer in. no! Where are they going? Do you think we scared them?” I was shocked by the mental feeling of unease and defensiveness. “Will you be okay if I wait on the beach?” I was a little concerned to be far from her side. I looked at Bella. I was nervous. analyzing the feel of the fine white grains slipping like crushed diamonds between my toes. Bella squished her toes into the sand with delight.” She raised her eyebrows. We were only 10 yards out when the dolphins started retreating into deeper water. “Come on. I did.

The setting sun cast a rosy glow across her features. tensed and ready to spring into the water at the first sign of danger. “Of course. The leader closed the last five yards slowly and paused before Bella’s outstretched hand. so at ease in this environment. Not for the first time. although I was nowhere close to being tired of watching her. spinning once. Bella reached out one hand. floating vertically in the water. but such a difficult time relating to her own species? Bella swam for almost an hour. The bottle-shaped nose bumped gently against her hand. probably only now registering the fatigue in her muscles. She was having so much fun! “Bella! Did you want to come in now? We can always come back tomorrow. Intelligent. I admired her bravery and courage. with the dolphins cavorting jubilantly around her. However. They were as amused by Bella as she was by them. Bella leaned her head on my shoulder. 85 . The other three joined the first and one leaped into the air. “Just that I think this must be a magical place. I could tell when Bella began to tire.known. Her voice was tinged with exhaustion.” “And the next day?” she called back. She didn’t even flinch. She was grateful for my assistance. still paddling and treading water steadily. with its head standing clear of the waves. How was it that she could have such an affinity for animals and mythical creatures. “What are you thinking?” I asked. on occasion. circling and occasionally coming up for air. I identified four different heartbeats now. she clasped my hand in hers and we found a place in the sand to sit and absorb the orange rays of the setting sun. The closest dolphin paused now. and humans in boats did not usually come to this area. but kept my hand in hers. Her bell-like laugh rippled across the water as she caressed the silver skinned creature. Considering. The dolphins fled to deeper waters as soon as I was knee deep in the ocean. Bella draped her arms around my neck and allowed me to tow her safely into the shallows. Back on her feet. Beady eyes peered at us. I shivered at the thought and stood. if you wish!” I chuckled as I swam back out to her. before slicing effortlessly back into the water. They had never had friends not of their own kind. but still so light and carefree. I was mesmerized by the sight of Bella.” She smiled warmly up at me. to fight and beat sharks in open attacks. before curiosity won. I knew that the leader was assessing me. Suspicion and curiosity wavered back and forth. the threatened feeling was more like wary speculation this time. The others hung back.

allowing her to draw in several lungs full of air. Disappointment and. leaning against my body in a languid way that I knew indicated sleep would not be far off. and birds called out to one another. and into bed. Bella was smiling again. but Bella seemed famished and obviously wouldn’t have waited for me to prepare something more complicated. Song – Chopin. suddenly aware that my stone-hard fingers were digging into the tender. pulling my mouth more firmly against hers. There was only her and me. 1” Bella allowed me to carry her home without argument. far away. “Op. No. love. No house. But the brilliancy of the setting sun overpowered her need to corner me with her agenda. She didn’t want to let this go.“I have to agree with you. I flinched as if it were my own flesh that had been tortured. streaks of red and amber reflected the cloudless sky. something more? “I just don’t want you to miss your first tropical sunset. 86 . I felt a little guilty about the anticlimactic end to our day.” I smiled sweetly at her and nodded towards the orange orb that was hanging pendulously over the western horizon.” Her voice was thick with emotion.” “Don’t what?” “Don’t pull away from me like that. The ocean was on fire. Bella inhaled sharply through her nose. We would explore the island tomorrow.” Bella tilted her face up to mine. Dinner was a quick and simple affair. I lowered my mouth to hers. Bella twisted slightly to face me and her free hand cupped the base of my skull. 27. her lips slightly apart. no beach. Mosquitoes droned. fed. floating through the ether. Bella glared at me. don’t. entranced by the tender gesture of trust and affection. Her sweet taste and the velvet caress of her tongue on my lips sent my thoughts flying away. Her heartbeat pounded out a furious rhythm. I stiffened and pushed her away. day-old bruises. then throat. a slice of ham and toast with fresh butter. We sat silently as the sun melted into the ocean. “Edward. at first. Scrambled eggs. She flinched in my hands. I grabbed her shoulders pulling her deeper into my embrace. The island was coming alive with evening sounds. I needed to get Bella back to the house. I moved my kisses to her jaw. Just us. Right now. wrapped in a cocoon of warmest silk. Tomorrow I would surprise her with a more sophisticated menu. no ocean.

“Yes?” she replied. This was going to be difficult.My khakis were stiff from two swims in the ocean and drying while we sat in the sun on the sandy beach. Her feet stumbled a bit. but she seemed to be revitalized at the prospect of a shower. Her voice sounded odd and I registered that I had interrupted her brushing her teeth. Her shoulders were rolled forward as she valiantly tried to beat back the exhaustion that was weighing her down. dipping her head shyly as I took her place and started the water. and I thrilled at her joyful anticipation. surprised. fluffy beige towel for her to wrap herself in. “I thought we should sleep in the other room until the cleaning crew can take care of this. I went to our bedroom to grab some clothes and was met with a downy layer of feathers. She blushed. Bella turned off the shower and I held out a large. I didn’t like the way she was assessing me. Bella was watching me as I grabbed the other towel and wrapped it around my waist. dragging my fingers against my scalp. Bella leaned against me as I escorted her to the large bathroom. I sat on the floor. I self-consciously shed my filthy slacks and swiftly rinsed away the salt and sand. Bella had a slight sunburn on her nose and shoulders. “Bella?” I knocked softly on the bathroom door.” she agreed. okay?” “Okay. Bella was eager to explore more. I didn’t join her in the shower. I cleared my throat uncomfortably and was rewarded by her scarlet blush. I’ll bring your suitcase over after you’re done. There was another bedroom. After today’s adventure. I did like it. Way too much. 87 . a cool construction of dark slate laid in a diamond pattern. Well. so I’ll see you in a minute?” I nodded in reply as I squeezed past her and heard the bathroom door shut softly behind me. actually. “Why don’t we get you to bed. I ran my hands through my hair. I honestly didn’t know how I would have fared with last night’s memories still so vivid and powerful. She nodded weakly. I exhaled forcefully and gathered the contents of my suitcase. Instead. “Um. hmm?” I murmured when she had cleaned her plate of every last crumb. and we talked in quiet tones about some of the other attractions of the island.

I was confused when her face remained cool. lying in long ebony strands over her sun-kissed shoulders and down her back. which were obviously bruised and fatigued. stopping at the side of the bed. My eyes traveled up. Let your body recover. I would have offered her a light massage to rub away the aches. when she looked at me that way. But Bella discarded the one-sided treaty and closed that gap. A long slit ran from her ankle to the middle of her right thigh. which were neither hidden. I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and drew her head down to rest on my chest. nor completely revealed by the smooth fabric. A wistful smile turned up the corners of my mouth. with a small smile hovering about her lips. “Are you coming to bed?” she asked quietly. Why hadn’t I thought to at least grab a shirt? Bella climbed into bed.I stood at the tall window. but it was combed straight.” I was very conscious that I was just wearing a pair of linen trousers. I heard Bella exit the bathroom and rummage around looking for clothes. cinched loosely at the waist with a drawstring. She was disappointed that I had not kissed her. interrupting my reverie. My feet were moving of their own accord. yeah. Bella sighed. it was accompanied by a rosy blush. and I settled down next to her. I was not so sure. with moonlight illuminating Bella’s face and figure. “Um. and held her hand out to me. She took five measured steps towards me. Bella ducked her head. She had looked so beautiful! The bedroom door opened behind me. Her hair was still damp. I doubted Alice would have approved of Bella’s normal bedtime attire. my love. a very human response. I pressed my lips to the top of her head and ran my hand soothingly down her back. cream-colored silk nightgown. and her lips vibrated gently with pent up desire. My mantra had been so convincing in the bright light of the kitchen. I will not give in. I will not waver. I didn’t dare do that now. Normally. Old sweats and a ratty T-shirt. The vision before me was so elegant and stunning that I forgot to breathe.” 88 . She lay down in the exact center of the bed. Bella was radiant in a long. lost in thought. inviting me to join her. She would be sore tomorrow. somewhat hesitantly. The night of our first kiss was one of my happiest memories. Her face was tilted up to mine. I cleared my throat. Her eyes were half closed. No man’s land. I turned. caressing her womanly curves. Afraid to breathe. Under normal circumstances. Now. I left six inches of space between us. with spaghetti thin straps of braided silk cord. It was simply cut. Try to get some sleep. “You’re exhausted. showing only the slightest hesitation from muscles. glancing up at me from beneath her thick lashes.

dancing in the silvery light of the moon. But it was manageable. one night was equivalent to a short breath. Bella’s breathing slowed now. This was a 89 . I lay. Like the other room. In the life of an immortal.“There’s nothing wrong with my body. Esme’s imaginative design and delicate touch were evident in the choice of colors and materials. Even so. Finely wrought steel was cut into intricate palm leaves and wound around the circumference of the clock face in a tropical motif. In my case. The bed was smaller. Her hand came to rest. Koa wood. The molten flames were building inside my loins. curb my urges? The return to celibacy was more painful than every temptation I had ever faced. I guessed from the golden glow and heavy scent. I will not give in. A small part of my consciousness counted the slow ticking of the wall clock. she seemed to naturally know exactly what would drive me wild with desire. What was she thinking about? Was she nervous about her forward behavior? Bella was no more schooled in the art of seduction than I was. Was it not enough that I had to stifle my longing. It taunted me with its slow pace. . gradually working her way downwards. Her fingers twitched. but then began a path back toward my chest. I belligerently repeated my mantra until the fire cooled. one night dragged on. tense and uncomfortable. pressed against my chest. It was darker. for now. then. staring blankly at the wall for hours. and the furniture was all handcrafted from hard woods. with French doors leading out to the beach. . more masculine.” Her fingers were tracing paths of flame across my abdomen. She outlined each individual muscle of my stomach. Some sign of nervousness or restraint was good. Her cheek felt suddenly hotter. and made up with luxurious blue silk. and her heartbeat settled into the steady rhythm of sleep. only smoldering quietly. It was this very pose that had melted my resistance last night in the ocean. Palm branches swayed outside. of course. I swallowed. Bella’s fingers paused at my waistband. It was mounted on the wall opposite me. warming my heart. one wall was completely constructed of tall windows. I tightened my embrace minutely. and on. I had not acknowledged her caresses in any way. Teak paneling gave it a warm appeal. . also. I glared at the offending timepiece. I breathed a brief ‘thank you’ and settled in to wait out one of the longest nights of my interminable existence. I was glad she paused. It was not gone. . Not denying her right to touch me. but in many ways more suited to me. and on. I will not waver. This bedroom was smaller than the other. nor encouraging her to continue.

Spanish. Bella snuggled into my side again. Russian. that sounds delicious. half way through the Japanese recitation. She looked so offended. strawberries in August?” Bella seemed momentarily baffled. German. Wait. In an attempt to keep my imagination under wraps.” I replied. . The sun would rise soon. this is almost springtime.” I explained. Portuguese. Italian. “We’re in the Southern Hemisphere. seeking respite from the oppressive heat. It was difficult to feel peaceful with Bella’s warm body draped with such tantalizing abandon over mine. love. “Too cold and rainy in Forks. How ironic. “Mmmm. can you?” I teased. Chef Cullen?” “What would you say to waffles with strawberries and whipped cream?” I thought it was a very appropriate breakfast for a honeymoon. Last spring I had been so jealous of Jacob Black and his ability to keep her warm while camping in the mountains. I recited the Constitution of the United States to myself. “So. I felt a lot better about that now. A glance at the detested clock confirmed that it was almost 6 o’clock. What am I going to do with you?” 90 . offering a peaceful interlude for companions to enjoy each other and share one another’s company.” Her retort made me laugh again. too hot and sunny in the tropics. “Hey. the air was heavy with humidity and very warm. sweet and refreshing. French. Hmm. Chinese. . Or at least that’s how the host had described it on that cooking show. Romantic. Arabic. yes. I noticed a perceptible lightening outside. “You just can’t be satisfied. Doesn’t it reach over 100 degrees in the summer there?” “Well. just relieved that this night was over.” she said sheepishly.lover’s retreat. Her eyes were still closed as she raised her arms above her head and stretched languidly. . * * * Bella inhaled slowly and rolled onto her back. She exhaled and turned her head to peer at me. “Good morning. . Even in the early morning. But it isn’t so humid that you need two showers a day. what’s for breakfast. “You used to live in Phoenix. The seconds ticked slowly on. Japanese. “You mean it gets hotter than this?” I couldn’t help laughing. She sat up suddenly. Then I translated it into every major language I knew.

We had planned to stay on the island for two weeks before returning to Forks and preparing for our ‘move’ to Dartmouth. Could I have some of those. My teeth were clenched in agony as I saw her body in my perfect memory. right?” I asked with a grin. What a night! I sighed and padded into the kitchen to prepare her breakfast.” I kissed her perfect nose and chuckled as her hopeful expression turned into a satisfied grin. and Edward?” “Yes. I marveled for a second at my body’s ability to handle something as fragile as an egg and brush it against the side of the metal bowl with just the right amount of force to crack it open. I did not relish the thought of more nights like last night. Only the flash of her thigh through the long slit of her gown sent a momentary jolt of uncomfortable desire through me. too?” “Anything for you. I had 12 days. completely covered in bruises. and every sense was so highly tuned to Bella’s presence. She was stretching in the morning light. Bella. slipping into a charcoal grey T-shirt as I walked. kiss her. since we are a little conspicuous if we try to live in sunnier regions. Her bones broke so easily. the shell and the yolk inside would have been shattered. “That’s a good thing. Only my 91 . okay? Oh. and twelve nights. love?” “Those eggs you made last night tasted wonderful.” Her voice was muffled against my shoulder.” Bella nodded her head. “That’s my cue. that every second was an agonizing temptation to gaze at her. stroke her porcelain skin. I cracked several eggs into a small mixing bowl. I decided to pick out some activities to keep myself busy while Bella slept. If I increased the pressure by the smallest fraction. . I had the waffle batter mixed and resting on the counter ‘to allow the elastin to develop’. She colored with embarrassment and sat back up.I drew her back into my embrace. I was so awake. . Hadn’t she fractured a knuckle just punching Jacob’s jaw? Human force broke her. To wait. “Let me just take a human minute. It wasn’t that I was bored. or something like that. I avoided listening to Bella as she lingered in the shower. I reminded myself with a groan. bury my face in her hair and inhale the fiery bouquet of her scent. The rain’s not so bad. Bella’s body was barely stronger than this egg. I needed to formulate a strategy. So. I would crush her. To keep Bella busy and distracted. but whatever she was about to say was cut off by a growl from her impatient stomach. “I don’t mind Forks. It was a chilling thought. However. Obliterated. I took too much joy in her exuberant attitude to allow my dark mood to return. Rather. She practically leaped out of the bed and walked swiftly to the bathroom.

Part of my mind smirked at the analogy. her muscles were definitely sore. “Wow! Is that all for me?” My mind flashed back to the bowls of batter and raw eggs. this is unbelievable! Why do you have to be so good at everything?” Why did she sound annoyed? “Does it bother you so much that I love you and want to take care of you?” I asked. After my insecure thoughts yesterday. and in mere seconds whipped the eggs to a frothy blend of yellow slime.” “Food Network. In my opinion. Strawberries and cream. I wanted the presentation to be right. I was glad Bella had a huge appetite and was enjoying my cooking. Hmmm. I was really curious to know how she felt about the perceived imbalance in our relationship. “Mmmm. again?” “Of course. I had to trust the chefs on TV and the details of sight and smell I had picked up from watching Bella prepare meals for herself and Charlie. I ignored my natural revulsion and set a frying pan on the stove to heat. Like many of the clothes Alice picked out. Never mind that I didn’t feel worthy of her! So considerate and selfless and brave. 92 . this looked just as appetizing as the meal worms our biology instructor fed to his pet iguana. I added a small amount of water. “So what does my tour guide have planned for today?” Bella’s voice was amused.continuous exposure to human weakness had given my muscles the subconscious control to avoid killing her. My stomach recoiled.” I replied with a shrug and a grin. She looked good enough to eat. Neither of us could afford for me to lose control like that again! While my brain spun in circles. Too gross. my hands were busy. the cuts were simple but flattering. No. Wow. “You don’t have to eat it all. I raised an eyebrow and smiled as she crossed the room and wrapped her arms around me. I finished assembling Bella’s breakfast and was just spooning whipped cream onto the mound of sliced strawberries when she came out of the bedroom. She dug in to her breakfast as if she hadn’t eaten an impossibly huge dinner the night before. Yes. She chuckled and eased into the chair I pulled out for her. That would explain the extra long shower. She was dressed in a pair of khaki shorts and a rose hued tank top. With a shake of my head. Half of a Belgian waffle just doesn’t have the same impact.

What gift could be greater than your body and soul? I will treasure that gift for all eternity. something I thought was lost more than 80 years ago.” I chuckled. I lifted her chin so that she could see the truth of my words on my face. Soon. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Isle Esme was shaped like a tear drop. Bella stopped occasionally to examine a particularly colorful shell. and kept her eyes downcast as she chewed and swallowed. A thick jungle formed a canopy over the slopes. I really love that about you. You have inspired me. this argument. Tenderly. with the house perched in a position where you could see the ocean from three sides. her nose. I had no 93 . “Bella. loved me. “Now finish your breakfast. You can buy whatever you want.” she paused in between bites. That is why I can never bear to hurt you again!” Bella was breathless. The atmosphere in the room had lightened considerably. . I want to see if we can find those birds that were making such a racket last night. mortal or immortal. less than 2 miles long and much narrower in width. I brushed my lips tenderly against her lips. Song – Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole. Soon.” Her posture indicated that her thoughts went much further. but I can’t be sure. The bottom third of the island rose into a rocky peak. or a well-formed rock. “Oh. perhaps shocked by the force behind my declaration. You have resurrected my humanity. They sound like a species that I saw last time I was in South America. “It’s just that I don’t always understand what it is that I do for you. lying in my arms last night. . I thought. The northernmost part tapered to a point. Don’t worry. Bella’s brooding eyes were hidden behind lowered lashes.” She groaned at this revelation and I burst into loud laughter. I pulled back to let her regain her composure. It makes me feel safe and secure. again. periodically interrupted by rocky tide pools. and you should wear some sturdy shoes.” Oh. but forming an abrupt wall of green shadows by the beach. Her unspoken words drove a wedge of guilt into my side as I remembered her wistful sighs. my entire future. I guess it just seems like I’m always taking. looking pensively at her plate. my love. you are my life. and you’re always giving. Bella finished her food swiftly then. thinning at the higher elevations. and her eyes as they fluttered closed at my touch. it will be fun!” I assured her when I noticed her skeptical look. You are impervious to most physical threats. “I guess you do love me. A thin strip of sand rimmed the southern part of the island. I noticed that her knuckles were turning white as she clenched her fork in her hand. has a right to hope for. This was our destination as we walked hand-in-hand along the eastern coastline. and made me happier than any man. my love. we may not be staying on the paths. Before I could over-think it. Carefree and in love. and we left the house in a hurry like two eager young adventurers.“No. She dipped her head to take a hasty bite. which crested about 150 feet above sea level. “You are so absurd.

it’s breathtaking!” 94 . and grabbed onto my arm for support. “Yeah. A peaceful harmony existed between us.” I pointed to the place where I last saw one surface. I could feel the ocean brimming with life and energy. The largest was probably three feet across at the widest point of its mottled green shell. . but incomplete. Through her eyes. I just wasn’t watching where I was stepping. I found myself humming brief snatches of a melody. In the shallow water. I could pick out the individual swirls of olive. occasionally disappearing into the deeper spaces between the reef. Another turtle surfaced for air and Bella gasped. Her face reflected the same childish wonder that she had exhibited yesterday. Coral. Although we were sheltered from direct sunlight here. . amber like mine when fresh from the hunt. words were unnecessary. the air was oppressive and humid. Bella slipped on the thick leaves. large shadows were gliding. and the faintest trace of methane that indicated an active termite colony close by. . If this was the joy I derived from Bella’s human experiences. The sun was still low in the sky and our shadows stretched off to the right. thousands of fish. I wished she could see through my eyes. Then I saw a reptilian head rise above the water for a couple seconds. Turtles? They must be. The sun reflected off the rippling ocean as if angels had recklessly scattered armfuls of diamonds across the open water. Only five yards into the dense foliage. This is so. mustard yellow and black. damp earth. “Sea turtles. they would seem to be simply green. I could identify the color of its eyes. how much more satisfying would it be to watch the whole world unfurl before her through the brilliancy of acute vampire senses? It was mid-morning when we ducked into the shadowed confines of the jungle. It was enchanting and powerful.” “Turtles? Where?” She was instantly intrigued. “Bella. look. The heavy fragrance of a flower I didn’t recognize was wafting over the musty smell of composting vegetation. I was impressed by their size. Each individual crease of its fleshy neck was like a bold line. the breeze was nonexistent and I was overwhelmed by the myriad of smells. I knew what I would be focusing on tonight. eels. With Bella’s eyes on her feet. her aimless shell hunt momentarily abandoned. Deep tones of aquamarine were interrupted by darker places—shadows of reefs that were entire ecosystems of their own. sharks. rippling across the uneven sand. “Are you okay?” She nodded. I don’t know how to say it. . I took responsibility for steering our course around the occasional piece of driftwood or exposed coral shelf.desire to push our leisurely pace.

cold and dangerous. but only the first paid us any attention. I shot the bird a bemused glare. Bella was delighted. “Shhh. But then I snapped back in shock when the bird mimicked her last two words. . Hmm. However. . I caught glimpses of several other birds. The rocky inlet dug into the west side of the island forming a sheltered cove. We walked quickly now. I shook my head. I was eager to get Bella in the shade so she wouldn’t get dehydrated or overheated. A raucous call broke through the sultry air. “The very same. it was a little disconcerting to hear human words from a very inhuman mouth. When we caught sight of the first one. This way.” Bella was talking to the thing. Finding the parrots was a fun excursion. multihued feathers flashed among the branches. With Bella badgering me to join in. The morning passed quickly. Snowy white plumage gave the bird a spirit-like appearance in the dim interior. She was practically jumping up and down. With a silly little wave to the latest addition to our menagerie. Granted. I cursed to myself when I realized we had chosen the long route back.That was the word I was looking for! I was drinking in her face. The beach curved sharply to the right. I shrugged the thought away. “Are those the birds we’re looking for?” Bella asked. “Have you ever been snorkeling?” I asked Bella. I tried a few different lines. there were no thoughts coming from the birds. We won’t hurt you. 95 . The reef was partially exposed and rainbow colored schools of fish darted around in the shallows. softly illuminated by fractured shafts of sunlight. I think they may be parrots. but before long she was famished and thirsty. following the sounds of cackling and rustling wings. The sun beat down on us. The air glowed green from the light shining through the leafy canopy more than 50 feet above our heads. Their brains were not highly developed at all. content to let the gibberish continue. We had to walk the uneven rocky perimeter of a beautiful little bay. Bella and I quit the wooded area in favor of the west-facing beach. “Did you hear that? He talks! I didn’t know parrots talked without being trained!” Yeah. First the dolphins. neither did I. This image was destroyed when it broke into an undignified rant. Bella wasn’t bored at all. “hurt you”. she was so warm and friendly. I didn’t blame it.” I led the way slowly. now the parrots. trying to chase us away. Bella gingerly clasped my hand for stability as we clambered over the crowded mossy logs and cluttered piles of branches and leaves. but the creature obviously preferred Bella. and I was.

not hers. the ever-present rhythm of her heart. “Yeah. they were too focused. The rhythm accelerated and I glanced curiously at her from the corner of my eye. I stood up more quickly than normal. The sounds of her eating.” She replied with a sardonic laugh. My vision swam. of course. Bella’s face was red and her eyes seemed unfocused. Was she alright? Bella’s plate was empty and she held her glass in her right hand. but I’ll try not to swallow my mouthpiece.” I sighed. Bella barely paused to breathe when I set the plate in front of her. 96 . or denting the stainless steel sink. Condensation was gathering on the glass. It detached while I was swimming and it got lodged behind my teeth. I often darted to my destination at normal speeds. I gripped the edges of the counter with both hands measuring and exerting enough pressure to steady myself without fracturing the counter. and. . I never could maintain the human facade around Bella. while we were alone. The plate in my hand shattered. I smiled to myself. focusing my attention on the domestic chore of washing dishes. With her eyes half closed and her face reflecting her bliss. I was trying not to fixate on Bella’s body. More evidence of her selflessness. and salad. But no fish. It saturated my consciousness and my mind floated.“Um. I knew fish was his favorite. “Only you. What purpose did it serve to restrain myself? I stood at the sink. . A sandwich. collecting in drops that trickled one by one down the side to splash on the table. It was noon by the time we were back at the house.” “You swallowed the mouthpiece?” I was alarmed. Charlie wasn’t here. I know. The lifeguard had to pry my jaw open and yank it out. She immediately bit into the sandwich with a satisfied moan. The water fragmented into tiny droplets with a tinkling sound. Locked on my. I’m not very good at it. I had requested that the cleaning crew stock ingredients that would enable Bella to have a varied diet here. . And. . I was having trouble keeping my thoughts on the present. I gathered the pieces of crushed flatware. a glass of orange juice. of course. No. radiating warmth even in the tropical heat. and the motions were automatic. Here. I didn’t see any reason to subject myself to the odor of cooking fish. I didn’t really swallow it. even though they ate it frequently at home.” she admitted with a familiar blush of embarrassment. I did once when I was younger. breathing. I had done this dozens of times with Bella. “Well. Bella guzzled two large glasses of water while I assembled a quick lunch for her.

the deep purplish hue remained in horrific blotches on much of her skin. I’ve never seen you in shorts before?” I waited for the punch line. Bella. “I’ll be ready in a minute. “You have nice legs. unable to meet her startled gaze. . . down my legs and back up again. I looked down at my toes. Was she serious? “I’m serious! What’s so funny?” “You are. Surrounded by the swirling currents. Like yesterday. I smothered another laugh. With an exhalation of air she stood up. * * 97 . adjusting the fit of her mask and the position of her snorkel. her graceful swimming made me feel guilty about my earlier amusement. Once in the water. then traveled over my brilliant white chest. I didn’t want to distract her.” She scowled in return. However. with the dolphins. let’s go scare some fish. her body took on an ethereal quality. cute.Where was that snorkeling equipment? I left the kitchen at vampire speed. The black fabric bore a startling contrast to her milky skin. Bella stood a few paces away. I raised an eyebrow. She was trying so hard not to trip over the long fins. Matching rings adorned both her hips on the high-cut bottoms. The smaller ones were actually fading. digging in the sand. I ground the fine sand to powder with the pressure of my feet. Her hair billowed like an auburn cloud.” She met my eyes expectantly. Come on. waiting for her to explain the odd look on her face. The form-hugging suit enhanced her shapely breasts and was joined in the front with a thick silver ring. each silky strand separately reflecting the light that shone through the surface. “There. * Bella in the snorkeling gear was.” I was afraid she was going to say something else. I was more conscious than ever of my skin reflecting the sun’s rays around me like a thousand microscopic prisms. stomach. “Did you know. The tension burst out of me with an uncontrolled laugh. Bella walked towards the waters edge with an exaggerated clown-like gait. I steadied my rebellious stomach as I forced myself to assess her bruises. copying Bella’s actions from the day before. She was wearing a black bikini today.” Bella was struggling with the strap on her right fin. Bella seemed almost at home in this environment.

In my mind. I would have sensed the larger set of waves that were now rolling through our previously tranquil lagoon. . Bella’s closeness was driving me to distraction. Above us. . easing her sore muscles. I was so preoccupied with the temptations of my baser appetites that I had neither felt nor heard the distinct changes in the ocean. If we made love. . We followed a school of bright yellow fish that darted and swam between rocky outcroppings. . I listened to the patterns of water that swirled about her body.I swam with her—not needing to breathe was more than convenient here. My first concern was her safety. we had more privacy than we would ever have after returning to Forks. 98 . My thoughts were jumbled by her scent and the heat of her figure. subtle. Why didn’t I want to trust myself? She said she wasn’t hurt very badly. I was visualizing astrological charts and trying to remember which constellation Mars would appear in tonight. . discovering something new to marvel over with every dive. tied in knots. resisting my desires with every ounce of strength I possessed? I knew what to expect now. I couldn’t help but chastise myself. when I realized she was fine. Here on this sunlit beach. My hands were balled into iron fists. gazing up at the cloudless sky. I wouldn’t lose control. We swam for hours. . scrambling to get to her feet before the next wave could hit us. I could barely make out the telltale glint of red reflecting from Mars. and tossed it onto the beach. We lay in the shallows. Bella coughed and spluttered. The need to reach out and touch her energized every cell in my body until my entire being was humming with the urgency. Great analogy. shouldn’t I? If this was what we both wanted. but I wasn’t about to explain the truth. If I encouraged her at all. I could be as silky as the water caressing her skin. I could love her like she deserved. . then why was I lying here. Crash! An unexpected wave broke over us. Unfortunately. I could touch her that softly. Dozens of varieties of coral created a fantastic display of natural art. If I had. one piece at a time. If I focused. Gentle waves washed up to our shoulders and retreated back into the ocean. Gentle. I had let my thoughts run away from me. Let her think I just didn’t like sand up my nose. alone on our solitary island. the azure mantle was uninterrupted in its purity. However. only taking a break for Bella to drink some water and re-apply the coconut-scented sun block. I would be like the water. side by side. serene. I squeezed my eyes shut and clenched my teeth. . like she wanted me to. smoothing away tension and worry. That was safer. Water. Bella was beside herself. invisible to Bella’s human eyes. Stubbornness. My stubbornness was just that. so close to mine. . I should respect her enough to trust her judgment. Bella pulled off her gear. Hah! Bella misinterpreted my scowl. . gentle. Finally exhausted. delicate and colorful.

Her gown tonight was ivory satin embroidered with tiny roses along the hem. I wouldn’t put her in that position. thrilling at the feel of her supple body stroking me like a liquid flame wherever our skin met. she came to me and leaned her head on my chest. her favorite.” I spoke gruffly. braised asparagus spears and an aromatic rice pilaf. I did not watch the setting sun. I wasn’t paying attention. There shouldn’t be anything for her to forgive me for! “Let’s get home. However. My arms wrapped around her. Bella was dressing in the blue room while I arranged the food on her plate. 99 . “Yes. But here she was. I could hurt her again without even realizing it. Somehow I knew that Bella would be just as forgiving then as she was now. discarding every carefully constructed restraint.” I felt even worse now in the face of her thoughtful concern. Our bare calves were intertwined and I braced myself against the desire to fall to the floor with her in my arms. The skirt ended at her knees. If we became intimate again. I’m so sorry. stroking and teasing until I drew in an uneasy breath. Her lips bestowed feather-light kisses across my chest and shoulders. When Bella rejoined me. “Edward. She sniffed the air appreciatively. It’s not like you can control the ocean!” She was consoling me? What for? Of course. The straps were wide at the shoulders but tapered before they met the sweetheart neckline. and increased tenfold. I yielded to the moment. Delicate fingers followed those kisses.“Are you okay?” Bella had sand in her hair and down her back. She must have sensed my mood. along my jaw. but flared slightly and twirled enticingly around her thighs when she walked. she was already dressed for bed. My teeth were clenched tight enough to crush iron. Bella seemed to feel the intensity of the desire emanating from my body and she gave me no mercy. what I was really saying was—Of course I can’t control myself. I was surprised that the simple motions of cooking the meal were therapeutic and my bad humor faded quickly. holding her close. you can’t possibly protect me from every threat or hazard. I barely registered the darkening sky. I should have realized that was coming and warned you. giving me space. Bella washed up while I prepared her dinner. asking if I was okay. instead of darting straight to her seat and devouring the food like she had the past several meals. Bella hung back a bit. up my neck. But inside. The buzzing energy from the rocky cove was back now. This was a special meal that I had planned weeks ago. It hissed between my teeth. I can’t control the ocean. I set her food on the table with a glass of Coke. Almond crusted chicken breast.

past my knee. please. She stretched one hand out toward me. unleashing a cataclysmic flood. weaving effortlessly through the close-growing trees and 100 . Denial of what I was about to do. Her soft skin sent intense heat melting straight through the material of my shorts. “You need to stop. It only took a split second to complete her motion for her. We belong together.” Another gasping breath tore down my throat with the heat of a wildfire. “Edward. but the noble part of my soul. I shook my head in denial. chose that moment to intervene. “No. standing and stretching before me—the beauty of her body overshadowed by injuries wrought by a violent beast. I brought my lips back to Bella’s. . Our lips met for the first time in more than 12 hours. You are my husband and I am your wife. The beast rose from its hiding place within me and took control. Her forceful manner now was like boiling magma.” she begged. my face a mask of guilt and self-disgust. I was living this moment on two parallel paths. The passion that had been building on both sides burst like a dam. My resolve wavered. Edward. Her touches last night had simmered with desire. . My memory was retracing the first night. Song – Nana Mouskouri. if soul is what you would call it. I broke free from her embrace and stumbled back two steps. exactly like this!” Her leg was rubbing against mine. With my hand under her knee. hungering for more. and my other arm pressing her whole body against mine I spun around and set her up on the counter. A strangled moan rose from my core. Bella’s other leg wrapped around me and I was locked in. gripping the countertop with her other one. Her back arched and I could feel every muscle she possessed straining to meld our bodies together. I don’t know how or why. but I was already hurtling down the beach toward the rocky peak. I spun on my heel and. I don’t. threatening to explode forth and engulf everything in its path. faster than she could blink. She threw her head back as my lips and tongue followed the contours of her jaw and throat. up my outer thigh. Bella. “Deep and Silent Sea” I heard one despairing sob escape her throat. pulling my face down to her neck. “I have to go. Denial of what I had done.” I choked out the words.” I groaned. feeding the present with a powerful compulsion to abandon all defenses. The present disappeared and before me I saw a vivid memory. Bella’s fingers dragged through my hair.“Bella. I was out the door. I never slowed.

hanging vines of the jungle. My running morphed into a leaping climb as I scaled the last 50 feet to the top of the diminutive mountain. The surface was broken and sharp, crumbling under the force of wind and time. Millennia of torrential rains, blistering sun, and violent winter storms had fragmented the porous rock. Now, I felt more pieces disintegrate with every step. I glared at the night sky, hating it for its passive beauty. With a roar of pain, I drove my fist into the ground, burying my arm up to the elbow. I was panting hoarsely, my body mimicking a human panic attack quite accurately. I pulled my clenched fist out of the ground, fixating on the way the powdered fragments of igneous rock poured down the muscled contours of my forearm. I alternately flexed and spread my fingers, examining the unmarked skin of my knuckles. Cold. White. Alien in the milky moonlight. I crouched there, shaking violently. My throat burned mercilessly. I could not shut out her scent. It clung to my skin, my hair, my clothes. I could not purge her startled face from my sight. Shock and betrayal were the predominant emotions. I had allowed her to get too close, again. By doing so, I had hurt her! A few brief moments of gratification were purchased. But at what price? Would my selfishness never end? My throat convulsed with tearless sobs and I rolled onto my back. Fear, guilt and shame swirled in a malignant knot in my stomach. I could almost see the cankerous threads of sickly green and black that infected me, staining all of my thoughts with their diseased touch. The demon was so strong, searching for the smallest hint of weakness. Whenever lust colored my thoughts, it growled and advanced. My lust for Bella seemed to tower over, even drown out, my love at times. And, at those times, I was terrified for her. And disgusted with myself. But didn’t lust and love sometimes walk hand in hand? Surely, the looks Bella cast my way were smoldering with more than love. She had made no secret of her desire to make love with me, even months before we were married. Loving Bella, wanting to be with Bella, was a weakness? How had I come to this? Was I truly fighting a demon or was this simply a manifestation of fears born from decades of loneliness? My fear of losing Bella had been magnified 100 times since the day when I had truly believed she was dead. Remembering again the anguish on her face, I realized it was becoming a greater threat to her than any physical danger. I felt like a coward.

101

Bella was eating dinner alone. Probably crying herself to sleep in our sad excuse for a marital bed. And I was afraid to go to her. I was too terrified of the ‘demon’ inside me to offer her the smallest comfort. A hug, a gentle kiss? I sighed. I lay in silence for over an hour. My eyes were shut, but I could feel the silvery light of the moon on my skin. I could sense the oh-so-subtle tug of its gravity as it pulled the ocean’s waters toward high tide. Gradually, the gentle night air smoothed the anguished lines on my face. My revelation came softly, almost stealthily into my mind. She needed me, as I needed her. I will make this up to her. I felt stronger and freer. I knew that my love for Bella was greater than any selfish temptation. I would not slip up again. It was like shackles had fallen from my wrists as I disowned the monster within me. He would never hold sway over my thoughts or actions again. My desire for Bella was still great, but it felt purer for having been distilled in the crucible of her pain and my fear. I looked up to the brilliant moon. I still heard the soft echo of Bella’s melodic voice, “Beautiful.” Beautiful, her face. Beautiful, our love. Beautiful. . . our future. With a satisfied smile, I leapt from the peak, casting my body hundreds of feet forward with one powerful leap. As I plummeted down, my eyes picked out each ripple of the water, every shadowed coral outcropping. My body sliced into the water, making the smallest splash, barely disrupting the shimmering surface. As I dove into the water I felt washed clean. Reborn. I swam swiftly back to the north. It was getting late and my Bella should not have to sleep alone. A vibrant melody was building in my head. The harmony joined, and then mellow arpeggios grew in strength until the entire complexity of a new composition was playing through my mind. It was the story of our love and passion. And it was far from over.

102

I did not pause in my headlong rush until I was standing at the foot of the bed, looking down on her sleeping form. Bella’s face was relaxed in slumber, but the lines near her eyes told me she had indeed cried herself to sleep. My throat ached with remorse. Hadn’t I promised to never leave her again? Hadn’t I sworn that she would never be alone? But I had broken my word. I had betrayed her trust. My honor was not enough to overcome my weaknesses. Or was it? Could I be strong enough for her? I would certainly expend every last ounce of my energy trying. I was still wet from my swim, so I quickly showered and dressed in a pair of grey cotton pajama pants and a white T-shirt. I towel dried my hair and climbed onto the bed next to Bella. She was sleeping on top of the sheets and I carefully lay down against her side. With tender kisses, I erased her tears. Her lips were parted in the barest hint of a smile. A tremor of relief and joy reverberated through my heart. I embraced my body’s need for her. I savored the steady warmth that filled my lower stomach with a strange sense of anticipation. With fear evicted, I was able to enjoy the intense medley of feelings and emotions that combined to form the throbbing inside of me. Knowing that I would wait, for weeks if necessary, put a painful pressure on that need. But even the pain was different now. This was not anguished longing. There was no despair or self-loathing. Instead, this was the pain of a hunger unrelieved, a thirst unquenched. The anticipation of satisfying the need was its own intoxicating draught. I was drunk on love. I did not want to spend a moment away from Bella’s side. She hadn’t breathed a word in her sleep for days, however I could never stop myself from listening and hoping. The voice of an angel, murmuring my name. It was a silly desire, but I had spent so many nights waiting for that sound, and reveling in the joy it brought me each time. I could not quit the habit now, just because Bella was too exhausted to dream. When the sensations within me became too strong for comfort, I got up in search of a distraction. Esme had a collection of books and DVDs in the TV room. I grabbed a book at random and returned to bed. The volume was thick and dog-eared. The binding was creased and worn. Obviously one of Esme’s favorites. Gone With the Wind. I had seen the movie decades ago, and I relaxed into a pillow to explore the Civil War-torn southern states and the whirlwind life of a southern belle. I was half way through the spellbinding novel when Bella began to wake up. Propped up on my elbow, I looked at her face, waiting for that miraculous moment when her eyes opened and found me. It was a moment I anticipated with pleasure every night since that first night that she asked me to stay with her. I was confused by the anger and pain when they did open. Of course. Bella knew nothing of my epiphany. She had every right to be angry with me.

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I was just trying to explain that I am no longer going to run from you. how I’d hurt you. You know why it has to be this way! It won’t be long. If anything. . I FELT possessed. love. in every way. I rolled onto my back. I lowered my eyes. I hated myself afterwards when I saw what I had done to you. Her eyes flashed at me and her lips were set in a grim line.” “So. and not hurt you. as if she didn’t trust her voice. Her lower lip was pushed out into an adorable pout. please. cast a sidelong glance at her annoyed countenance and decided to tell as much of the truth as I could. I lost control. My greeting was met with silence. That night. what I felt. inexcusable. Afraid that I would hurt you again. I should never have allowed things to progress like they did last night. That night. “Bella. Her anger caused two bright spots of color to appear on her cheeks. . “Bella. like I was possessed. so much more vivid 104 . There is no demon inside of me now. we will never have to worry about this again!” Bella’s eyes narrowed into a fierce scowl. I cast off that fear. And then I did the opposite. I am no longer afraid. Last night. These last two days have been torture for me. was the most intense pleasure. I told you before that I would not make love with you until you’ve been changed. . . “I was afraid. The way I behaved last night was. Once I change you. It was too powerful for me to fight.” I breathed. . I swore I would do everything in my power to make you happy. when we. “No. but I feared for you.“Good morning. because I wanted you. .” I corrected her hastily. made love. “You cannot know the depth of my desire to be with you. . I could still hurt you. .” “What?” Bella sat up and faced me. . there was no improvement. I will remain in control and I am not afraid. I had promised not to show Bella my pain. . “So where did you go last night?” she demanded. you’ve changed your mind?” The tentative hope in her voice alerted me to the fact that she had misinterpreted my words. I need to apologize.” I paused to take a shaky breath. . Her anger was back and more focused than before. “Why even bother apologizing if you have no intention of changing the very thing that caused the problem?” Her bitter words opened a new wound in my heart. she looked angrier.” I was ashamed when I remembered how I had led her on. . . Perhaps even worse than before. Something inside of me took over. thinking of the best way to word my apology. It was more than I could have ever imagined. I toyed with your emotions. When I looked back into her eyes. . But this was necessary for her to understand how last night had changed me. “You are too fragile.

swam or snorkeled for hours. but did she really think a bond like ours could be destroyed over something as trivial as physical love? Our love spanned the distance between two species. I sat there astonished by her vehemence. I had misjudged the depth of her feelings. I returned the offending novel to its place on the bookshelf and wandered into the kitchen. or myself. unconditional union.than her gentle blushes.” “Well. placing her wishes and needs before his own. The threat in her words was obvious. She invariably gave in. I prepared scrambled eggs again. “Rhett loved Scarlett unconditionally for years. ageless. but I knew better than to encourage her. All the time. she would still need to eat. fusing reality and mythology in a timeless. I shook my head slowly. This cheered her up a bit and we spent the next several days in various forms of recreation. I would smoothly change the subject to something more. caught off guard by the change in subject. taking a vindictive satisfaction in breaking the eggs one at a time. Her face was often wreathed in smiles and her voice was animated as we talked about the things we’d seen and experienced in the last week. outdoorsy. . We needed to avoid any more incidents like the one in the kitchen. Seconds later. Bella rarely raised her voice in anger. Even if she hated me. With the long hours of strenuous exercise every day. 105 . her eyes were boring into mine. though. I could not get past the regret I felt for the vague sadness that pinched the corners of her eyes. I thought she was having fun. Bella was eating more than ever and sleeping so deeply. their relationship was already broken and they had nothing! Enjoy your book. Her foul temper persisted until I suggested revisiting the dolphins. When she entered the kitchen half an hour later. and we ranged across the island. she barely moved or made a sound.” she continued.” Bella flounced out of the room. Or the tense crease between her eyebrows when she was lost in thought. “Gone With the Wind?” I nodded. However. I was more attracted to her than ever! But she had other thoughts. . I could only hope that she would let go of her anger and hurt. the bathroom door shut with a loud thud. still confused. with hours intertwined on the couch. By the time she woke up and realized it. I still caught Bella watching me when she thought I wasn’t looking. He waited for her. she was hurting him with her stubborn selfishness. “I’ve seen the movie. We even built sand castles during low tide one day. then you know. Several times she invited me to join her in the TV room to watch a romantic movie. Bella didn’t meet my eyes and refused to speak with me. The desire in her eyes was overshadowed by a hopelessness that wrenched my heart. “Do you know the story?” she continued. With a defeated sigh. Again. That she would consider and understand the words I spoke earlier. She eyed the book in my hand.

Since that first evening. She stepped into the room and no amount of self-control could stop the instantaneous fire that blasted through my starving body. Bella’s outfits had gotten progressively less. . Nights were hardest for me. Last night. The urge had progressed so far beyond hunger that every cell in my body felt starved for her. modest. I was caught off guard by the instant reaction in my groin when I saw how little she was wearing. which was due in tomorrow morning. . Not a romance this time. I had to read to keep my mind occupied. I gathered her up from her chair and carried her back to our bed. even so. But did I really have any other option? No. non-sexual kind of way. In the back of my mind. slumped over her half-finished dinner. I didn’t. I wrestled my rebellious body into submission and smoothed my features into a calm welcoming smile. focusing through the veil to drink in her tiny waist. The last century didn’t hold a candle to the perpetual waiting I faced now.One evening. Lace as delicate as spider silk fell in a transparent curtain that only tempted my eyes to linger on her curves. feeling the exhaustion that weighed down her limbs. finishing the last chapter of my book. But with each dawn I breathed a sigh of relief and crossed out another day on my mental calendar. . um. one of Carlisle’s books. a part of me was always intimately aware of its proximity and pace. Yes. I don’t know when I started counting down the days. It discussed. I reclined on the silk draped bed. . grew louder as she left the bathroom and walked down the short hall. and the barely-there lace panties beneath. But. Every time I found myself admiring the reflection of the moonlight on her thigh. I had to remind myself to contain the heat. I concealed my response by burying my face in the book I was reading. the progression in mining equipment over the last millennium and how sophisticated mining technologies were affecting the global diamond market. Seeing the dark circles under her eyes. she had come out of the bathroom brushing her hair. 106 . She spun in a graceful pirouette before me. They were also restocking the refrigerator—we were getting dangerously low on eggs. Fascinating in a dry. When I found her there. or the swell of her breasts as her chest rose and fell in her sleep. The lingerie she wore had a lace top that lifted her breasts and pressed them together to form a jaw-dropping line of cleavage. I guessed the protein and cholesterol were good for Bella with her increased activity level. This was the history of diamond mining. Bella was a vision in a black negligee. the smooth curve of her hips. I felt guilty and miserable about what I was doing. Bella’s heartbeat. I was mulling over the best way to explain the feathers in the other room to the cleaning crew. . in detail. . Her hair fell in dark waves around her narrow shoulders. she even fell asleep at the table while I was in the shower.

” My voice sounded so much more contained than I felt. “It doesn’t matter. Days of constant activity had given Bella’s body a firmness and grace in movement that she had never had before. My skin felt tight. . . Her skin was an open flame. However. exposing her heavenly bottom which was only partially covered in black lace. My chant was losing its effectiveness through days of constant overuse. . but completely unsurprised by that disappointment. To savor the tremors of her body as I sought her pleasure. You always do.“What do you think?” her voice was like melting chocolate. . too constricting. I didn’t know how to have her next to me right now. She had wanted to compromise. “Dang it. The short dress lifted as she spun. Toned muscles in her taut stomach and luscious legs flexed and rippled as she turned. Flames of passionate desire. She would marry me if I made love to her as a human. . I wanted nothing more than to stroke every inch of her flawless skin. But I can guess what you want in return. And to act otherwise? She would suspect something was bothering me. “I’ll make you a deal. “Thanks. I was so close to the edge that I did not know if I could touch and smell her without giving in. “I will not make any deals with you. Her voice was off. her skin had picked up a faint golden tone. each reflection and shadow. scorching me with its heat. . It sounded as if she was disappointed in my reaction. tried to clear my mind.” No. My eyes captured every line and curve. I was wound like a spring and it would only take one nudge to make me burst out of control. Even with layers of sun block. offering no resistance as I pulled her against my chest.” That was exactly how we ended up here in this stalemate.” 107 . And I really wanted. heavy and sweet with promises of sensory delight. this was routine. Oh! The memory of that first night tore through my mind.” her voice was sluggish with sleep but her eyes watched mine closely. “You haven’t even heard what I’m offering. glowing with a radiant heat that made my chest ache with longing. I cleared my throat. Oh. I will not waver.” I will not give in.” she replied. well. “You look beautiful. singeing everything in its path until I felt like my entire skull was in flames. She climbed into bed next to me.

but honestly. She didn’t really want to go to college. Not. It’s not like I’m going to get crow’s feet in the next year. one semester of college probably wouldn’t kill me. wasn’t it? For Bella to live a normal human life. . I will not give in. even if I knew that it was an impossible request. Where were my selfless thoughts now? I was furious. Dartmouth? But then that meant. I restrained that reaction with a rush of sudden anger. Words I had argued to convince her of the folly of discarding her humanity so quickly. anything. Say. What is it you want?” My soul groaned. her husband. I almost tore it from her body in my frustration. “Why are you doing this to me? Isn’t it hard enough without all of this?” I brushed my hand across the lace that was gathered on her hips.” 108 . “Well I was thinking. That. as any man’s would. Still. . And now? She wanted something and it felt too cruel to deny her without hearing what it was. . She knew very well how much I craved the opportunity to give her something. No. I had been counting the days. I know the whole Dartmouth thing was just supposed to be a cover story. She shifted the tiniest amount in my arms and my body reacted. indicating the seductive ensemble. And now? Days would become months. Nothing had changed. as she would have before my unnatural existence threw her world into chaos.” My voice was void of all emotion or inflection. My mind screamed. Charlie would get a thrill out of the Dartmouth stories. . eighteen. I was in shock. Just. knowing what answer I would be forced to give. You would stay human. nineteen. it might be embarrassing if I can’t keep up with all the brainiacs. living every moment in an agony of barely controlled desire. “It doesn’t matter. I bet. “You would wait. Or years. Did. those words would have brought me relief and joy. It’s really not such a big difference. I won’t make any deals with you.” She shrugged her shoulders as she repeated my own words back to me. but not on me. This was the furthest thing from my thoughts. It was a privilege she bestowed on others. “All right. Sure. She was just trying a new tactic since her other attempts at seduction had failed. . . This was what I wanted. I will not waver. Once.You.

I have a reason to be human that I didn’t have before. a few years is nothing! I wasn’t entirely convinced.“I want to go to college. I cradled her against my chest. you always begging to be a vampire without delay?” And me. “But I do want to go. it’s not college as much as it’s that I want—I want to be human a little while longer. That’s worth hurting you. . I squeezed my eyes closed and exhaled through my nose.” Bella pulled herself up to kiss me.” I finished out loud. well. “I don’t want to give it up yet. I just had to force my eager body to acknowledge it. “You are so human. As a human. The obvious lethargy that shadowed her expressions and movements gave me hope that I would be able to end this argument swiftly. Bella had executed an abrupt about face. She wanted me to say it out loud? You want to have sex.” “What’s that?” Did I really have to ask? The non-existent nightgown was communicating her feelings pretty effectively. but.” “That’s the whole point. 109 . They tempted me with their smooth wetness.” she pressed. Haven’t we had this argument a million times. Risking your life for the gratification of the flesh. I don’t want to wait through years of being a blood-crazed newborn for some part of this to come back to me. “No. Edward. if you do. Bella. it’s because you don’t think I’m strong enough to resist your advances. . “Yes. I like this part of being human. “You are making me insane. trying to convey how important this was to her. Bella. I smiled as she struggled to suppress it and failed. soft and pliable against mine. “Guess. “And there is nothing that is worth risking your life again. but it was the truth. you don’t. willing her scent to leave me so that I could think more clearly. As if I would risk hurting you again to take my pleasure? I have waited for decades. unable to stand the temptation of her delectable kisses. Now that she was agreeing with my arguments. that is. Ruled by your hormones.” I retorted. always urging you to wait. Or at least. would I have the strength to support her while still keeping my word? The pit of my belly throbbed in response. I wanted to drown in the sensation of her lips.” She stared me in the eyes. I pulled her away gently. Until now.” Another example of the changeable nature of humans. Well.” The yawn that had been building finally won.

“I wonder why I’m so tired. It makes them scarier. Usually I’m all over the bed when I’m having nightmares. Usually.” She yawned again. urging her to relax and sleep. as if to emphasize this point. I would battle the specters of the past for her. And shouting. 110 . “What is frightening you?” “Mostly. You haven’t said a word in your sleep since we got here. when I’m dreaming.” she hesitated. I hated to see Bella in any kind of pain. Bella.” Her lower lip pushed forward in a petulant frown. almost two years ago. She had always handled the stress too well. I was not surprised that some fears were resurfacing now. “I haven’t been tossing? That’s weird. . I don’t know I’m asleep. Although. you know. I know that I am.” I began humming the lullaby that I composed for her. I’d worry you were slipping into a coma.” This alarmed me. with her. The menace of her own imagination was not something I could fight. I wasn’t going to deny it.” “What are they about?” “Different things—but the same. “It’s all so bright and real. with the dangers she had faced over the last two years. There was no enemy for me to confront. They make me so tired. Her shoulders shook minutely.” Really? I’d never seen her sleep so deeply for so long! “You’ve been sleeping like the dead. That couldn’t be part of your scheme or anything. “I can’t believe I haven’t been babbling about them all night. I chuckled. With these. you’d think I’d sleep better. It never failed to soothe her.” I teased. I continued the lullaby. If it weren’t for your snoring. She should face them head-on. There was no longer anything to be frightened of. . “You’ve been having nightmares?” “Vivid ones. “For as tired as I’ve been. Perhaps the suppressed emotions were finally trying to free themselves. I felt helpless. Sleep. love.” “Colors?” Human dreams were normally darker and out of focus. Similar to human memories when compared to a vampire’s.“You’re tired. because of the colors.” I wanted to reassure her.

“Mostly?” My protective nature was impatient to know what it was she faced. Although I was going to need a new talisman to keep my ‘dreams’ at bay. I had not seen her this. With the current trend. It’s really bright here.” I promised. She relaxed in my embrace as I began her lullaby anew. at least I could help keep them at bay. “Do you want to go home?” “No. distressed. stubborn girl. . . “Some are nice. It all seems like it’s really happening—I don’t know that I’m dreaming. “The Volturi. was Carlisle researching the possibility of a cure for vampirism? An anti-venom for the undead? It was a stimulating topic for my mind to explore and I did so wholeheartedly.” I didn’t realize that Bella was unhappy here. I wanted her to see that with me by her side.” I hugged her tighter. I wrapped my thoughts back in on themselves. If she wouldn’t speak with me about her dreams. No. and they’ll have no reason. “Do you want me to sing to you? I’ll sing all night if it will keep the bad dreams away. . My mantra was worn out completely. I had exhausted my attempts at diverting my thoughts. Trying to be strong so as not to hurt me with her pain. . . “When does the semester start? I wasn’t paying attention before. The carefully restrained horror on her face told me more than anything else. With this book in his collection. Maybe this island is the problem. . . Edward. She would never want to offend me by asking to cut our stay short. not yet. The night advanced slowly. My heart swelled with love for my brave.” Her voice was a whisper. The threat of their return and their insistence that she be changed soon was disturbing her sleep unnecessarily. about the development of anti-venoms using the venom of snakes. So. Underwater. I 111 .” She was so noble. Can’t we stay a while longer?” I tried not to think about how little she would be wearing a week from now.” I sighed. Anything to keep my mind from the feel of the angel lying in my arms. alone in her human dreams. I had seen a book on the shelf earlier.” She was trying to reassure me. “They aren’t going to bother us any more. You’ll be immortal soon. she had no need to fear anything! “What can I do to help?” “They’re just dreams.” “They’re not all bad. and now I was struggling to smother the persistent flames of desire that were flickering within me. “We can stay as long as you want. . since we fought Victoria. Bella. I forced my mind down a different path of meditation. Fine. colorful. with the fish and the coral.

What had she seen that would cause this reaction? My imagination was running away from me. “It was so real. Her gasp was laden with anguish so intense I wanted to cry with her. I’m here. sweetheart?” I tightened my arms around her. but more sprang forth. Bella. “It’s okay. I wanted it to be real. fighting our family. body language. sounding for all the world like a person who had lost their love in a tragic accident. Her eyes were red as her tear-stained face searched mine. I choked down my own panic. . I stemmed my own anxiety. to explain her confusing behavior. Her sob belied the truth. rubbing the tears away. A glance at the clock showed me I was still hours away from a reprieve from this torture. waiting for her to calm down. kidnapping Bella. “And?” I needed her to continue. It went against the grain to be so passive when something was hurting her. I couldn’t fully control my emotions. like a parent comforting a child. It was a good dream. . “Tell me about it.” she spoke in a strangled voice. She felt so fragile in my arms. A good dream? She wasn’t scared or hurt? Then why the intense pain? Why did she look so lost and despairing? “Everything’s all right. “Oh!” Tears were coursing down her face. The Volturi attacking. Her tears scalded my neck and chest. Bella stiffened in my arms with a gasp. .” She shook her head. “It was only a dream. you’re fine. At least then I could understand! “We were on the beach. Her voice broke with some unnamed emotion. Take deep breaths. Maybe that will help. Did you have another nightmare? It wasn’t real. bewildered. How did her reaction point to anything but a terrible nightmare? “Because I woke up!” she cried out. “Then why are you crying?” I stopped rocking her. but was replaced with a look of indecision.” I rocked her in my arms. The pain receded. 112 . “Bella! What’s wrong?” I tried to wipe away the tears. Her face was etched with grief and loss. Her arms were tight around my neck as she shook with bone-wracking sobs.” She wailed. but I could feel myself losing ground. Without seeing inside her mind.” At least then I wouldn’t be in the dark. . facial expressions. I relied on voice.” I altered my voice to be smooth and comforting. willing away the nightmare that had woken her.applied consistent pressure to the powerful urges. it wasn’t real. “Bella? Are you all right. love. I wanted to fight it! “Not a nightmare.” her voice trailed off.

streamed down her face and she sobbed in defeat. New tears. And I knew I didn’t want to. Bella. I can’t!” “Please. I brought Bella’s tremulous lips back to mine. Bella. Our irrepressible passion for one another clashed like cymbals inside my mind. “I can’t. 113 . moaning in my own torment. “I’m s-s-s-orry.” her voice was muffled against my chest. My body was ready to be with her. with petals of velvet and an enticing aroma. and I clung to the image of her battered body. It had saved me before. I had never been so happy or felt so complete. Edward. “Please. but I could not fight my desire and hers. so out of control. My heart constricted. her face fell. My surrender had been inevitable from the moment I saw her tears. her arms were around my neck again. Edward?” The voice of an angel. And now? Could I deny her the one thing she had ever asked for? The only gift she had ever wanted from me? I had conquered the demon within me. My entire being recoiled from the pain I was sure to cause her. kissing her with the force of my bottomless longing. so like the first time she had begged me to make love with her. I could not refuse my Bella. so. I grasped her shoulders. right now. As I watched. heavier than before. . Her trembling body awoke in me every tender thought I had ever held for her. She shook her head. “Just Show Me How to Love You” With a helpless groan. I fought back against the guilt and longing that were dragging me under. beseeching me.” So fragile. Her lips pressed against mine with a feverish need that matched my own. but anxious not to hurt her in any way.” I was feeling desperate and helpless and confused. “Tell me. The night she had agreed to marry me. The desolation in her voice cut me like a thousand knives. struggling with her need and my own. Bella.” Another tear rolled down her face.” I had never seen her so frantic. All of my arguments were slipping away. Then. “No. Song – Sarah Brightman & Jose Cura. I pulled her against my chest. The pleading words. Her mouth was like a succulent rose. so lost. as if fighting a decision inside her mind.“Oh. . . .

With a growl. I ran my tongue suggestively up the cleft between her breasts. I pushed back to a kneeling position. Edward! I’ve been so desperate all week. Her hands were under my shirt. Her blood pulsed beneath my lips and tongue. when Bella had remained somewhat passive and receptive to my attentions. but she was still choking on the tears. Her knee was wedged between my thighs and her hip pressed temptingly against my groin. intertwining our legs with aggressive abandon. tore my shirt off and threw it into the shadows. Gasping and returning a particularly stimulating touch. there had been a hesitation born of fear and nervousness. I whispered reassurance. afraid that we would never. Her tongue ran seductively over her upper lip as she tasted the wetness of our kiss. hungry for the encore to our first disastrous union. drawing up her chin so that I could taste the sweetness of her neck. putting me on top. I lowered my body to hers. I swore that I would never abandon her like that again. I marveled again at her lustrous hair. . A glowing light seemed to hum around us. kissing the swell of her breasts where they bloomed from the bodice of her gown. stretching her full length against me. I could not think of that now. flowing like a dark cloud around her face. With a strangled sound. Not with her fingers clutching at my shirt.” Tears sprang into her eyes again. I flipped our position. When we first gave ourselves to one another. savoring the flavor. Bella’s eyes shone at me and her face was dazzling. The fire of her womanhood beckoned to me. chuckling when she shivered in delighted anticipation. and her negligee riding up over her hips. her lips locked onto mine with a newfound power. I grasped her face with both my hands. She nodded to acknowledge my words. enveloping me with the heady scent. professed my love and passion for her. 114 . ranging across one another’s bodies with hands and mouths. Our days of abstinence had intensified our needs. rubbing over my back and around my shoulders.Bella shifted in my embrace. Wide brown eyes gazed expectantly out of her heartshaped face. With a mortified sigh I kissed them away. Bella’s body was molded against mine. I was growing to erectness. “Oh. . . Unlike before. We both lived out every imagined touch and motion from the preceding days. we delayed the inevitable because our passion burned too brightly. Tonight. Bella groaned when I continued my exploration of her neck and shoulders with my lips. “Is this really what you want?” I murmured between kisses. . she was returning my strokes and caresses with manipulations of her own. With a mischievous smirk. illuminating the bed in the otherwise dark room. that I would never feel.

Her body was bare before me now. She was poised over me expectantly. Her mouth was slightly open and her sensuous tongue crept out again to trace a line of glistening saliva across her trembling lips. As my ardor grew in strength. and raised a curious eyebrow at her. I rolled free to pull off my pants. I grabbed the bodice of her gown and tore it down the middle. She kissed and bit my flesh making me groan and shake with each new sensation. I didn’t think there could be anything sexier than the way Bella had received me before. forcing her to sit back with one hand on her chest. My other hand lifted her body effortlessly. murmuring her name as I gently grasped her legs behind her knees and spread her thighs so I could enter her. eager to continue our passionate exchange. so did the force of my caresses. I grinned. Bella’s gaze ran wantonly down my chest and stomach before halting on my erection. The fire erupted into a conflagration.Bella was braver than me. she braced her hand on my shoulder and her body twisted. I complied readily. moaning. she started where I had left off. Her gasps and groans were growing in volume. was driving me insane. But now? Her attitude. I couldn’t see for the pounding in my head. overloaded. I was surprised when she resisted me. Bella was nibbling my ear now. She exhaled sharply then settled even lower. wrapped in an indescribable warmth that made me echo her gasp. I hesitated for a fraction of a second before removing the delicate black lace panties in the same way. I could not wait any longer. nestled between her succulent breasts. over-stimulated. with the tip of my penis buried in the moist folds between her thighs. My head was pressed against the top. I threw my head back in shock. I exhaled then. With a swiftness that she could not react to. I followed my touches with lingering kisses. When her fingers lifted my waistband and her hands delved inside my trousers. My senses were boiling. Her breasts looked fuller than before and I stroked them lovingly with my fingertips. Her hand ran down my back and I arched against her touch. She did not blush. and Bella straddling my hips. pressed between our writhing bodies. and she slipped smoothly over me. liberating myself from the stifling fabric. The flames inside me burned brighter. her mouth opened in a soundless gasp. My member was rock hard. allowing gravity to reclaim her. I ran my hands down Bella’s sides. In response. I held her there. then. Her confidence astounded me as she stroked and kissed my chest and stomach with cool selfassurance. engulfing me in the blazing embrace of her deepest recesses. Her eyes were wide. With me on my back. 115 . I broke away from her kiss. indicating a change of position. Her shocked countenance was transformed into an expression of bliss. She rocked over me. her womanly seduction. with her fingers clenching against my marble-hard chest. overwhelmed with the crushing force of my need. waiting for my next move.

Inhaled the fiery scent of her blood. before the floodgates opened in final release. thrusting deeper. Her tight inner walls quivered as she released the pressure within her in an overwhelming rush. so perfect! Bella had awoken in tears. Bella cried out then. I tried to pull away. . it continued to grow as Bella lay sleeping with her head resting on my shoulder. the pleasure of your partner could be. This was more. trapped. food. My fingers tore through the wood. I would willingly forego every other activity or diversion for the rest of eternity. fading into softer sighs at each diminishing pulse and vibration of our union. I twitched with pleasure as I thought about how I had put that smile there. The need to lose control warred with my determination to restrain myself from any action that would harm Bella. I groaned in denial. Reveled in the sweet aftermath of love completed. I felt the flood overtake me and I fought against the urge to grab her hips and bury myself further. The need in me was taking over. she slept peacefully with a seraphic smile upon her lips. Tonight had been so. searching for my own release. I just held Bella in my arms and breathed. Bella. but after what we shared. I remembered this. just as powerful as before. gasping for air. but Bella pursued me until I was backed against the headboard. but never slowing her frenzied tempo. Between vampires. I had no requirements for sleep. My breathing was hoarse with spent emotion as I gathered her in my arms. without interruption. 116 . or even air. Warm and safe and satisfied. I had my hands on her hips now. In a desperate gesture. just to spend another night with Bella. * * * This was one night when the minutes did not torture me. If anything.Bella was leaning forward. I focused on the molten core of my being and channeled the exploding passion out of my stomach. afraid of the potential disaster that loomed before me. My fingers burrowed into the mattress as I wrestled with the power coursing through me. I was growling. It came then. quite literally. I was frustrated by Bella’s human needs. She melted into my embrace as we drifted on the exhilarating paths of our sated passions. I remembered the spasmodic shock waves that sent my mind into oblivion. showering us with chunks and splinters. I reached up and dug my fingers deep into the headboard. and into the wood of the bed frame. The euphoric high did not fade. The slick wetness of her body made every movement shiver with infinitesimal vibrations. guiding her up and down. My body was arching under her. My groin throbbed painfully with that thought. Bella’s cries subsided. Breathed in the smell of her strawberry scented hair. so much more than my highest hopes could have foretold. The pressure building and building. along my rigid arm. your only focus for days at a time. . For the first time ever. water.

She examined my expression from beneath the veil of her lashes. With Bella feeling so anxious. I immediately felt guilty that she was expecting reprisals from me. . I would never fully release control. I had been such a tyrant! Insisting that I knew better. I don’t know exactly what that was last night. “I guess I never did—but I sort of showed you what it was about.” I hoped to draw Bella out in conversation. Interesting. incidentally. It was late morning before I sensed Bella returning to consciousness. That my fears should rule our relationship. I was determined to solve this particular riddle. The promise of that forthcoming moment left a smile glued to my lips. And. She breathed a small sigh of relief. The audacity and pure folly of my actions over the last week burned deep in my stomach. “Oh. “How much trouble am I in?” Her voice was small and timid.” She was shaking her head slowly from side to side. long after the light of dawn brightened the eastern sky. I didn’t mean. stem the rising tide of guilt within me. I felt the subtle change in her heartbeat and a tiny hitch in her otherwise steady breathing. . With my recent lapse of control. “I am sorry. I was lying with my hands clasped behind my head. .’ She had been unyieldingly persistent all week. Shadows of bewilderment and pain flickered across her features. “Heaps. or the emotional breakdown that followed. As I stared at the ceiling. together? I blinked. Knowing Bella. a humorous response was the most likely way to put her at ease swiftly. I was still baffled by the collapse of her normally calm demeanor. Minutes passed. Well. but my eyes flicked over to meet hers.” My tone was cold. “You never did tell me what your dream was about. then propped herself up her elbows to fix me with a pensive stare. She was afraid of my anger. did she feel differently about things now? She had never explained her dream. As long as Bella was a frail human. . her husband. 117 . I did not doubt that there would be a ‘next time. she was definitely not going to give up on future entanglements. I smirked to let her know I was only joking.” She fantasized about me? About us.” This was a shocking revelation for me.I would have to keep a stranglehold on my body. What was she thinking? In the light of day. What had she dreamed about that elicited such a dramatic reaction? Bella’s eyes opened partway. Her answering blush was more descriptive than her words.

relieved to learn of her virginity. Bella’s quick wit was one of her most fascinating traits. “The pillows all appear to have survived.Less than two years ago. . er. even when mortified with embarrassment. gingerly at first. “Unfortunately.” I nodded in the direction of our feet. . I had been so. . Twelve hours. Hmmm. She had expended more than the usual amount of. and only mine. always waiting to see if she would respond with a darker blush. too. “Whoa. “I’m thinking about it. The purity of her mind and soul were further magnified by the innocence of her body. She said that we were on the beach. . I watched as she furtively assessed her body and glanced rapidly around the bedroom.” I wrapped my arms around her. “You slept for a long time. She stretched her arms and legs. A very good dream. . held over from my few short years as a human. “Is the inventory complete?” Did she really think I couldn’t figure out what she was doing? One didn’t need to read minds to understand her sheepish behavior. I liked that one. .” She nodded twice. I loved to tease her. in every way that mattered. indeed. . but trying not to stifle her if she needed air. “It was a very good dream. “Twelve?” She was bewildered. Rather than being disturbed that I had been the catalyst for such a transformation.” she murmured. where several pitiful scraps of lace were all that remained of Bella’s sexy lingerie. . thrilled at the knowledge that Bella was mine. .” If Alice had foreseen last night (And I wasn’t sure that she had not. . I was sure she was hungry or even dehydrated. but swayed violently and flopped back against the pillows. last night. a swift retort or even biting sarcasm. The barest hint of a blush tinged her cheeks a warm rose.” And many other things. . ‘appropriate’ was definitely 118 . Some primal instinct within me. “Am I forgiven?” The humble tone brought me back to the present. The little manipulator!) she couldn’t have made a more. I was deeply satisfied. . but then with more enthusiasm. energy. It illustrated her intelligence and strength of character. Bella had confessed to never having felt physical or emotional attraction to another person.” It seemed like a reasonable explanation for the brief bout of dizziness.” How could I disagree? “I did. head rush. immediately concerned. I was still lost in thought. . I couldn’t resist. . Perhaps I could help make this dream a reality? Bella began to sit up. I can’t say the same for your. nightgown. “That’s too bad.

brushing her face gently with my fingertips. Electricity ran through my fingers.” She was starting to sound defensive. There was that brilliant blush.” Her cheeks were aflame with embarrassment now. “You seem to be extraordinarily unobservant when your attention in otherwise involved. I was remembering the sight of Bella stepping into our bedroom again. Her face was regaining its normal color as she looked at me. I was lost in her eyes. “You’re not angry?” “I’m not angry. yes.the wrong word. “You look so guilty—like you’ve committed a crime. “How are you feeling?” she asked suspiciously. “I feel guilty. “I’m really going to miss that. and exploded in my core. The hesitation in her tone returned. “I was a bit absorbed. She followed my gaze as I looked over my shoulder at the mangled wood. That’s not a capital offense. Perhaps I had pushed a little too hard? “Maybe that was the wrong word. The warmth of her blood radiated from her crimson cheeks. 119 . And the headboard. My fingers had crushed and clawed through three inches of solid koa during the peak of my ecstasy.” In reality.” Ahhh. You’d think I would have heard that. just content to drink in their warmth. I shifted uncomfortably and concentrated on Bella’s words. “I’ll have to buy Esme a new bed frame. searching for nothing.” There was a small crease between her eyebrows as she took in the destroyed headboard.” I admitted.” she muttered. “Hmm.” I sighed. down my arm. “Were there any other casualties?” Her voice hesitated before the word ‘casualties’. I laughed at her funny expression.” I smiled contritely. “The word seduced implies a certain amount of premeditation.” “So you seduced your all-too-willing husband. “What?” She demanded an explanation for my high spirits.” I confessed unwillingly. but I was at a loss for words right now. she looked more like the cat who had gotten into the larder and was confronted by the cook with cream still coating her whiskers. I immediately thought of the pillows.

” My eyes darted to the ruined headboard and back to her face. “Breakfast time for the human?” I queried innocently. I was surprised when she impatiently slid her eggs onto a plate and grabbed a fork after only a couple minutes.” She hopped out of bed too quickly and stumbled as her feet met the floor. Being wrong was very. and fly through the trees with her at my side! Bella slipped into a kimono-like silk robe. If only being wrong were always this incredible! I rolled my eyes as she gloated. I knew she was in for a pleasant surprise. A new emotion was transforming her features into a beatific expression. . But how could I describe what I was feeling? The tremendous high that I floated on was not something I could describe with mere words. I didn’t think I could ever use the word ‘silly’ to describe her again. .” No. “Why not?” “Well. walked quickly to the kitchen and grabbed the frying pan. 120 . I enjoyed cooking for Bella. Her stomach growled. to control myself. I snatched up the closest clothes. ensuring she was truly steady on her feet before relinquishing control. enjoying the feel of the hot. Relief? Hope? “I told you that it was all about practice. Maybe because I had a better idea of what to expect. humid air washing over my skin.I regretted the words and actions that had made her fear my wrath. I would have said more. I didn’t hurt you. to channel the excesses. no refunds. I chuckled at her sheepish look. ruining the moment for her. a pair of brown cotton pants and a creamy button down shirt. There were too many subtle changes in her since we arrived on Isle Esme.satisfying. “Are you all right?” “If I don’t have a better sense of equilibrium in my next life. it was only an illusion. but cooking itself held no pleasure for me. I was out of bed in an instant and caught her before she could fall. for one thing. It was easier this time. “Please. I didn’t bother with the buttons. you told me so. I’m demanding a refund. As deftly as I handled myself in the kitchen. However. Bella moved with purposeful self-assurance as she prepared meals.” Yes. So much more. . I watched as she cooked her own food for the first time since our arrival. How thrilling it was going to be to run. . I was growing increasingly attracted to confident Bella. hunt.

“Do you know how many eggs you’ve gone through in the last week?” I pulled the trash bin out from under the sink to show her. probably. The thought of such a bargain tainted my blissful memories with guilt and shame. but stopped long enough to take another steaming bite. though.” My jibe was more affectionate than mocking.” “Yeah. I sat down next to her and spoke with a conciliatory tone. “Sex was the key all along? Why didn’t I think of that? I could have saved myself a lot of arguments.” She was rambling. If she persisted I knew it would not be easy to distract her. And we didn’t agree to a deal. This place is messing with my appetite. won’t we. Obviously she was interpreting our spontaneous lovemaking as my agreement to her proposed ‘deal’. (my earlier hesitation had been washed away last night) I could not allow her to go to Dartmouth under the assumption that she owed me anything.” She was already scooping a forkful of food to her mouth. She was not indebted to me.” She snorted. But I like it here. “It wasn’t a pretense. “Weird. “You can give up the college pretense now—you’ve gotten what you wanted. We’ll probably have to leave soon. I guess we need to find a place to live and stuff. It was full of empty cartons. a very unladylike sound. plotting and scheming. As much as I loved the idea of her remaining human. and the cleaning crew was due very soon. “I really do want a little more time being human. 121 .” She leaned towards me and her voice lowered to a seductive purr as she ran her fingers across my bare chest. She was thinking about our conversation last night. but cute for all of its crass derision. too. so there are no strings attached.“Since when do you eat eggs sunny-side up?” “Since now. The fire was growing to the point of discomfort. to make it to Dartmouth in time? Wow. What can we do to wear Bella out today?” I chuckled without shame at her poor imitation of my voice. The smoldering fire within me burst into fresh flames and I eyed her skeptically. I don’t spend my free time plotting like some people do. “For this?” I caught her hand as it crept down my stomach. I rolled my eyes at her and quipped sarcastically. I have not had enough.” she agreed with a laugh. “You are so human. Edward. Not like that.

” My smile grew into an enthusiastic grin.” Hmm.” I hadn’t been able to bring myself to leave Bella to go house hunting. But the brick façade.” When had she decided to take my eccentricities so lightly? Of course. “Real estate is a good investment. she stubbornly insisted that we needed to be prepared for every eventuality. please handle the renovation and interior design? Oh. Time for a confession. please. we sort of already have a house there. 122 . . but didn’t pursue the subject any further. My spirit was soaring as the next several months played out before me like one of Alice’s visions. I was sure that Bella would be overwhelmed. You’re going to love college. Alice had bounced and clapped her hands. she did not respond so favorably to all of my expenditures. elegant white columns and private. Smug.” I downplayed the expense involved. Edward! It’s going to be so perfect!” I had cautioned her that it would most likely never be used. secluded. . “Do you think we can find an apartment this late?” Oh. How had she known that this would be one of those cases? On subsequent trips. “I’ll probably fail out in one semester. “We’re going to Dartmouth? Really?” My voice rang with excitement. . we’re ready then. I knew it! Can I please. However. She raised an eyebrow. since her visions were known to change when new decisions were made.” she cautioned me. Not a normal Bella reaction. “Oh. “You bought a house?” Bella was still uncomfortable with my family’s attitude about money. She was sure about this—staying human. You know. waiting for me to try out my latest composition. I knew right away that it was perfect. but Alice and Jasper had made the trip and found a beautiful. When Alice had ‘shown’ me each of the homes. just in case.“I know. Victorian-style house. Not very likely! “I’ll tutor you. at first. Alice coordinated and supervised a complete basement-to-rafters remodel. I smirked in response to her suddenly downcast expression. going to college. There was even an antique grand piano. I felt my lips turn up in anticipation. What she didn’t know. . partially wooded lot would capture her heart just as surely as it had mine. “So. “Well.

So the Guardian. whatever you’d like. The wistful thoughts of romance were at odds with the gruff tone of his mental voice.” I watched for her reaction. . I am not hiking all over the island today. . 123 . Excessive on my part. if you want. Newlyweds. “All right. so hopeful and beautiful. We could spend Christmas with Renee. Why don’t you pick one out while I get the door?” Two human heartbeats were quite close.” How could I deny her when she pushed out her lower lip in a pout and scowled at me like that? I refrained from laughing. heaven forbid I not be protected from tanks. perhaps. I want to stay here and watch a movie. “Can you hold on to that thought? I hear a boat. “A few weeks. I heard a distant hum. A motorboat was approaching the island.” With the cleaning crew here. sure that that would just make her angry. making my body tense up all over again. “How much longer can we stay?” “We’re fine on time. . was something she understood.” I was seeing a future that I had not dared to imagine. I was automatically translating Portuguese to English as I picked up on the first human thoughts I had heard in a week. Bella did not have to abandon her human ties. The view looking down on the crystal clear ocean would be breathtaking during the daytime. maybe I could take Bella to that rocky peak. . So somebody had told her—I knew she hadn’t been reading automotive magazines. A few more weeks. One tread was heavier than the other.“I’ll have to see if we can keep your ‘before’ car for a little longer. Let me explain the mess in the white room to Gustavo. and then we can go out. which she had snorkeled over and around. . even for Bella’s newfound flexibility of character. . “I don’t want to go out. but it was growing louder every second. but she had evidently resigned herself to my attempts at protection. and there was the soft whispering sound of feet shuffling along the sandy path. Young love. “Yes.” Bella pondered that for a moment. That was a stretch. before now. . She did not have to burn bridges or experience the loss of her loved ones quite yet. as distasteful as she pretended it to be. There’s a place in the jungle on the south. The cleaning crew must be here. And then we can visit Charlie before we go to New Hampshire. I wish I could have given my wife something so incredible for our honeymoon. Bella would love to see a bird’s-eye view of the reefs.” I grinned at her scornful tone. . “So I was thinking—you know what I was saying about practice before?” The suggestive tone was back. . .

I cocked my head toward the front of the house and was rewarded by a faint tapping at the door.I really hope this doesn’t take long. . He smiled and responded to my welcome with a heavy. Many observed enough for true suspicions to form. yes. My skin only glowed subtly in the reflected light. had a stocky build. but we need the money. Gustavo. a slight woman who could have been anywhere from 45-60 years old. These rich Americans! I wish I could resent their frivolous lifestyles. Bella’s idea of a movie was the perfect excuse to stay inside. Her maternal instincts were stronger than most. a perpetual warning to remind them of the evil that inhabited even their primitive world. Fangs sinking into the tender throat of a young Indian woman. Kaure was obviously part of a culture that still held onto the old stories. they are good. I opened the door with a slight bow and words of welcome. We need it so badly! Stress and worry colored the woman’s thoughts. protector. My bronze hair was tousled and uncombed. gravelly voice. Like the Quileute Indians of the Olympic Peninsula. but terrifying.” Bella pointed out. Primitive drawings of stunning but horrific creatures. She did not shy away from challenges. The man. The other person. making her the champion. Multiple images flashed through her mind. the Ticuna tribe must have had some encounter with a vampire far back in their history. “I didn’t hear a knock. gleamed dully even in the shade. was observing me suspiciously. 124 . Libishomen. She was part Ticuna Indian. I could not risk being exposed by the sun. Deep lines crisscrossed his weathered face. this one. dark from his heritage and decades of laboring under the brilliant tropical sun. while she shook her head and wandered over to the shelves that held Carlisle and Esme’s DVD collection. As two sets of feet sounded on the wooden steps. and nurturer of a veritable gaggle of children. Legends were passed down through the generations. . She saw me as beautiful. . My eyes were dark amber. I could see images of her loved ones flashing through her mind. rimmed with a thick black ring. the word hissed through her mind. I don’t know how I’m going to keep up! But the wages. so white compared to theirs. . My skin. spoken in clear Portuguese. This was not the first time that somebody had seen one of us and questioned their eyes. I turned on my heel with a grin. Her eyes narrowed and I saw myself through her mind. My mind echoed hers with the European derivative. but her resolute attitude indicated a life of hard work and determination. . . . grandchildren and younger relatives. With Rosa sick and the baby crawling all over. I was glad for the recessed porch. Incubus. .

125 . Gustavo replied that they had the items from my grocery list in the icebox in the boat and would be bringing them up to the house after they had finished cleaning. I introduced my beloved bride. She was raised to be more superstitious—or you could call it more aware—than those who live in the modern world. we entered the main room. Human beings were too afraid of death to really want to believe in creatures like me. She did not entirely believe in the stories. We were walking through the house as I pointed out the tasks for each room. he reminded me of Emmett. dark and forbidding. “Kaure’s part Ticuna Indian. other. She instinctively knew that I was something. I breezed past the blue bedroom. Bella. her hair tumbling over her silk-clad shoulders. I knew from experience that a reaction like hers was best treated with casual disregard. He grinned at me with a knowing look and a shrug. She suspects what I am. . almost worshipful in its strength. she had recovered her bearing. I did not look at Kaure. The truth was too horrific. Reason and logic would quickly bury the suspicions. Her face was tinged with pink. and my chest swelled with masculine pride at her stunning beauty. . but I knew I would be monitoring every thought that flitted through her active mind. recoiled in shock. Gustavo and Kaure followed me into the house and I quickly rattled off the list of things that would need to be attended to. Love. With a slight inclination of my head. Already. and stopped in the larger bedroom. I wrapped her in my arms. I addressed Gustavo directly. I left them to their work and rejoined Bella by the television. was planted boldly in her mind. past the bathroom. Instead. but the doubt was strong in her. Then. mentally chastising herself for her impolite reaction. forming an apologetic but sketchy explanation for the feathery mess. with a sinister aura.My face was a mask of pleasant welcome. In that instant. I saw Bella’s eyes lock on her frightened face and I motioned for the two Brazilians to follow me. whose eyes were downcast as her thoughts whirred. Gustavo smiled at her. feeling starved from being away from her side for even those few short minutes. remembering his own wife as a young lady. Several other nightmarish pictures raced through her mind. turned to greet us. I was mortified by the admiration in his thoughts. “What’s with her?” Bella’s urgent tone betrayed her concern for the small woman. broken and drained of blood in the arms of a white-skinned monster. The image of a fragile figure. Kaure. I shrugged. It was easier on the mind to brush the evidence away like annoying insects. made the memory glow. on the other hand.

A sharp gasp hit my ears at the same moment that terrified visions of a demonic assault raced through Kaure’s mind. even the legendary incubus. “She looks terrified.” Bella muttered as I released her lips. noting her dismayed expression and pink-tinged cheeks. childhood nightmare. I leaned down to meet her kiss. schmovie. I forgot the presence of our guests. had ever fathered children.” She was not mollified by my cavalier attitude.” My laughter had a dark edge to it. drinking in her sweet kisses. I’m sure a movie will convince her that you’re human. I put Bella down suddenly. 126 . The Libishomen—a blood-drinking demon who preys exclusively on beautiful women. it would have surely been a monster more horrible than its sadistic father. “She is—but mostly she’s worried about you.” I ran my eyes suggestively over her face and body.or close enough. tasting and savoring her exquisite flavor. “She’s afraid of why I have you here. why don’t you choose something for us to watch? That’s an acceptably human thing to do. whirling to meet the startled gaze of the petrified woman. Alice had once had a vision. not a true memory. but it was still very disturbing. “Movie. helped along by her humiliation. The tortuous burning in my throat and lungs was nothing compared to the aching fire in my stomach. It seemed that the sounder judgment of today’s modern world was gradually winning. They have their own legends here. I could only imagine the hideous hybrid that would result from mixing vampire and human DNA. unnaturally swollen with pregnancy. “I’m so sorry. “Oh well. Kaure stood with feathers in her hair and a bag clutched to her chest.” “Yes. The image of the vampire with his broken victim was fresh in my mind. My mouth traveled over her jaw.” She laughed as she rose up on her toes to wrap her arms around my neck. screaming out in terror and pain. . No vampire. Bella’s fingers were twisting through my tangled hair and I pressed her body closer to mine as I nuzzled her neck. Several of her earlier thoughts lingered. but then lifted her in my arms. particularly the image of an Indian girl. I brushed off the remembered pain and dragged my attention back to the present.” “Me?” The pitch of her voice rose dramatically. Her thoughts were a whirlwind. all alone. Her eyes darted back and forth between my face and Bella’s. The picture had the feel of an old. down her throat. .” she murmured when she regained control of her senses. If they did.

My hair. . I made a conscious effort to pay attention to the film. Despite the stress of the situation. She was waiting for my response. As I reclined on the sofa and Bella lay against me. I opened the case. “Yes.” “So there will be more destruction?” Her mouth stretched into a wide grin of satisfaction.” I feigned embarrassment. . . Esme might invite us back someday. Bella’s tangled sentence was so comical.I used my most non-threatening voice as I smiled at her. . Her mouth opened to release a sigh of anticipation as I approached the enormous bed. one I vaguely remembered from the early ‘40’s. setting my nerves alight. The cheery soundtrack and vivacious voices were muted by the sound of Bella’s blood rushing through her veins. but it was just a black and white blur on the large screen. wasn’t she?” Bella muttered. put this on and we can pretend to watch it.” I nodded. “I think it might be safer if it’s premeditated. Her long brown hair. Let her think I was just self-conscious about being caught being intimate with my wife. They could leave the groceries in the kitchen and go. my clothes. both annoyed and suspicious of the woman’s reaction. “Very honeymoonish. and the rosy flush of her cheeks were the only colors in the sea of white. She was dressed in the same simple creamy gown with the braided silk straps that I had agonized over for hours during our second night here. “Not at all. I almost decided that the house didn’t really need to be cleaned. everything around me was saturated with her luscious scent. She accepted my apologetic explanation with downcast eyes and continued swiftly from the house. waiting for me on that big expanse of white silk. rather than if I wait for you to assault me again.” Bella thrust a DVD at me. A lover’s stage. I was sure Bella and I could handle anything that was pressing. I imagined her tiny figure. we should be more respectful of your feelings. She was too intimidated by the expensive entertainment equipment to even attempt to operate it. I’m afraid we are still a little lovestruck. “I don’t know. I laughed at her greedy expression.” I smirked. inserted the disc and pressed play. sun-kissed skin. “Will we move back into the white room now?” Her voice broke through my reverie. I’ve already mangled the headboard in the other room beyond repair— maybe if we limit the destruction to one area of the house. “Here. “She was thinking what I think she was thinking.” 127 . It was an old musical.

. trying to avoid jostling Bella. Will you be requiring our services again next week?” Bella was startled by his gruff voice. sir. but her racing heart was drumming a staccato beat against my arm. My amusement was tinged with true concern. Oh. humming under his breath as he dusted and wiped down the furniture. “Is there something the matter with your heart?” This was not a healthy heart rate.“It would only be a matter of time. “Right. She was determined to focus on the task at hand. trace them with my tongue. “How about lunch first?” Her teeth dragged across her lower lip. “They’re finished. Your eagerness cannot be as great as mine. I grasped her hand and led her to the kitchen. how her imagination traveled. I will notify you of our exact departure date. I wanted to lean in and caress her lips with my own. and I cradled her in my arms. “Nope. You may not notice me tearing the furniture apart. . The minutes crept by slowly. 128 . but considering neglecting one hunger to feed another. calmly stroking her smooth hair. but meanwhile. Patience. . Healthy as a horse. She immediately perked up.” Gustavo nodded agreement to my request and Kaure followed him silently to the door. “Maybe it would be more polite to wait until we’re alone. Even for a human as young as Bella.” I told Bella. We will be staying for a while longer. “Yes. but it would probably scare them. Kaure was in the bathroom. Did you want to go survey the demolition zone now?” From destruction to complete demolition. Drat. leaving twin trails of redness. “We are all finished. Of course. Bella’s hesitation was a clear indication that she was famished. yes. . Soon.” She responded with an off-handed tone. scrubbing the tile vigorously. we would appreciate your services again next week. but it had been hours since Bella’s meager breakfast. My stomach lurched in response. my Bella. With a smile.” I was listening to Gustavo. I shifted my legs. Gustavo’s heavy steps approached and I sat up to speak with him. I subjugated my desires to her needs. So tempting.” Bitter disappointment. I reminded myself. Her breathing was regular and her eyelids drooped. “So that would mean that we’re alone now?” Her eyes were bright and her succulent lips curved into an expectant smile.

“Maybe later. being a woman.* * * “This is getting out of hand. I swept her into my arms and silenced her with my eager lips. I absolutely surrendered to love. Our relationship was transforming before my eyes. “I can’t believe we survived waiting this long!” I buried my face in her hair to muffle my laughter. dropping all pretenses of humanity as I flew to the bedroom. 129 . And the destruction began anew. I drank in her curves. We collapsed onto the bed. I wanted to hear how she would propose her ‘idea’. agreed?” Her lips and tongue ran slowly around the perimeter of my ear in reply. guilt and loss I had experienced since our first fateful meeting was purified and transformed into the most delightful reward that life had to offer. I had no more desire to swim than she did. I was carefully calculating every touch. there’s an awful lot of headboard left—“ That did it. more perfect and more complete than anything I could have imagined. It was as if all of the fear. pain. . But the increasing curve of her hips and gently swelling breasts were caused by more than just extra outdoor activity. effectively ending the conversation. loving the play of shadows and light across her silk robe. evolving into something more beautiful. But perhaps. every movement. . I was still impressed by the quantity of food that disappeared into her tiny frame. This was the way our love was supposed to be! “Let’s not test our fortitude like that ever again. she was self-conscious of these changes in her body. Despite the last week. This was right. Of course.” Bella glared at her now empty plate. Bella’s voice was soft with emotion as she wrapped her arms around me. I had another idea for burning calories.” Really? Is it the same as mine? “And what was that?” I asked innocently. she had more muscle mass than before. so that any time our bodies collided it was with the gentlest force. “Well. “Do you want to swim with the dolphins this afternoon—burn off the calories?” I suggested mildly.

She caught my gaze. Speaking with words or thoughts was natural and familiar. When I finally allowed my body to find its release. to her toes. I was neither shy. Again. Her immediate need was satisfied. While there was an eagerness to our lovemaking. enabling me to isolate and revel in every part of the whirlwind that engulfed me. as if it were paper. each tremor of her body. no need to study. returning to my face. There was no learning curve. I removed my shirt. The light of day was fading quickly now. heavy with the raw intensity of my longing. anchoring my hands in the already mangled headboard. even when Bella’s moans of ecstasy burned every conscious thought from my mind. While my climax was no less powerful than before. I untied her robe and marveled as it slipped away from her body. our bodies shifting and intertwining in a graceful display of our passion. yet again. we took our time. catlike. this newborn communication made every nerve ending jolt with the messages I was receiving and sending. but I think this has been harder for you than it has been for me! You look like a starving man who was just handed a double-stacked cheeseburger and told he had to wait for everyone else to get their food before he could eat. Every expression on her face. husky with physical and emotional pleasure. Bella rolled onto her back. I found myself copying her unhurried looks. Bella’s eyes wandered over my figure. I committed this experience to memory with perfect detail. Her cheeks turned a brilliant pink and she giggled. but I was drowning under an ocean of desire. It was as if a new pattern of speech was silently implanted into my brain and I was suddenly and fluently translating every feeling I had into a wordless exchange of movements and caresses.I shivered in response but dragged myself away reluctantly. I learned a new language that day. I drank in her physical beauty with open mouth and wide eyes. We danced together. Song – U2. and stepped out of my pants before rejoining her on the bed. I held myself tightly in control. like a sculptor’s masterpiece being revealed before an expectant audience.” 130 . Her arms were over her head and her back arched. “I wouldn’t have believed it before. She was drinking in the sight of my body in the muted sunlight. My fingertips gouged through the wood easily. “Magnificent” Sometime later. the sound of her voice. Bella’s body in daylight was more exquisite. I was still breathing with conscious effort. I heard my voice rise in an inarticulate moan. With a small groan. There was no lengthy twilight here in the tropics. I allowed the force of it to crash over me. time seemed to slow for me. more luminous than before. as she flexed and stretched every muscle from the tips of her fingers. and then traveling down my arm and back again. However. nor nervous. content at first to just admire her in the glow of the evening sun. Bella lay against me languidly. this felt right.

too demanding. I was standing before her in a fraction of a heartbeat.“A fitting analogy. And a shower. “Edward?” Her clear voice beckoned me. . . My perfect memory played a recording of our first night on the island. As a human. . I stood back slightly. food and shelter to survive. As a vampire. I ran 131 . having thought the exact same thing only moments ago. you’re the only other person I will ever have to wait for. Naked. She eyed me skeptically for a moment before replying. no. . And I had teased Bella for her behavior. And now? Well. I groaned and squeezed my eyes shut. I honestly didn’t think she was convinced. Her human hormones. . How could a need. I was literally reliving every thought and action in my mind. return with even more strength in such a short time? I was too greedy. I clenched my teeth as her hip rubbed against my thigh. By the way. . so I kept my tone light and playful.” She was deferring to me? My selfish nature almost took control. “And you tease me about my hormones. this had been simplified to the basic requirement of blood to nourish me. unable to stand the double assault of my thoughts and her presence in that tight enclosure. “Truthfully? I think I need a human minute or two. I finished my shower and then drew Bella back against my chest. I sighed and let my mind wander back to the vivid memories I hoarded like the priceless treasures that they were. satisfied so completely. Bella shook her head and stepped into the shower muttering. More powerful than déjà vu. I had needed water. Before I met Bella. allowing Bella to complete her ablutions. . . were no match for this new feature of my composition. Well. what are we waiting for?” I was afraid I would scare her with the force of my desire. fortunately. . I pushed those memories away violently. we traded places. dwarfed any more basic need. The near-constant fire in my throat was merely a side bar to distract me from this greater necessity. Her startled look changed to one of sardonic amusement. now my need to share my love and passion with Bella rivaled. I flopped back onto the bed as she scampered down the hall.” I chuckled in response. My body felt alternately scalded and frostbitten standing so close to her in the shower. but I helped her to her feet and pushed her gently towards the bathroom. if the truth must be told. while I could still think. . potent as they were. Squeezing past one another. if that’s okay with you. “Did you want to join me?” Without a thought. Quickly.

My heart. the wait was over. There was no more perfect love. no greater happiness. or feel clearly. throbbed within my chest. * * 132 . And every union was utterly. than that which we shared. * Song – Patti Austen. She sighed contentedly. We got out of bed when Bella awoke and fell back into it frequently to dampen the fire of our mutual need whenever it grew too painful. I ran my hands down her arms. Rather. We were not in the sheltered cove where we had snorkeled before. With the gentlest pressure. Several days passed. So fragile. venture out to gambol around our island retreat like children on the first day of spring. Her eyes sparkled as she lifted her lips to mine. I kneaded her shoulder muscles with my fingers. She tilted her head back with a sigh. * * * The next several days were a blur. absolutely unique. so soft. Her wet hair straggled down my stomach. “The Island” Part of my mind pondered this happiness while the rest of my attention was focused on Bella. Judging by the sound of her racing heart. If anything. Everything about her was magnificent. during which I lived and moved as if rays of light shone down on me from heaven. down her jaw and under her chin. The hot water and my ministrations combined to smooth away the tension in her neck and shoulders and she melted into my embrace. We had no routine. swimming alongside me. and turned her to face me. The fact was that I could not see the world around me because I was incapable of dragging my eyes or my thoughts away from the goddess before me.my fingertips over her delicate cheekbone. These excursions were not really a break from lovemaking. My mind sang with the sweetest joy. It wasn’t that I did not see. resting it against my chest. occasionally. no schedule. Today I was surprising Bella. placed my hands on her hips. washed into seaweed-like strands by the warm water that poured between us. We broke apart long enough to address Bella’s human requirements or. We almost didn’t make it out of the shower. though not beating. I was mesmerized by my ability to touch her and bring her pleasure without pain. hear. I marveled at the way her tender flesh offered so little resistance. we were approaching our newfound intimacy like a wine connoisseur who must cleanse his palate between each vintage to better appreciate the subtle tones and flavors that make each wine unique. my senses were heightened to a fever pitch.

A small amount of light filtered through clefts in the ceiling of the cave. Minute particles in the water cast a greenish tinge on everything below. “You’re going to need to trust me. I judged that is was an old lava tube by its almost geometrically-perfect cylindrical shape. filling her lungs completely before forcing the air out in a rush. The sounds of the wind and waves were amplified and ricocheted off every surface. and I dove beneath the surface. greenish algae that clung to the wet walls. To access the caves we would be underwater for almost 30 seconds. I knew Bella could hold her breath that long and longer. while Bella slept. A short exploration that night. occasionally sending salty spray up through gaps in the ground. This had all occurred before that transformational night when our relationship had soared to new levels of intimacy and trust. As my head broke the surface.” She glared in response to the implication that she didn’t. I turned my back to her. Her explicit trust and confidence in me never failed to amaze me. so take some deep breaths before we go under to fully oxygenate your blood. 133 . so neither did I. tree-like coral clung to the walls and floor. even with me propelling us through the water at inhuman speeds. I hadn’t told Bella the details about my discovery and I was suddenly nervous. Low tide brought the clues I needed and I was able to locate the approximate point of entry for the water that rushed in and out of the rocks. After 20 feet. The inside of the cave felt almost like being inside a conch shell. The effect was mysterious and lonely. We’ll be underwater for about half a minute. ensured her hands had a firm grip on my shoulders. Bella.The last time we had walked around the southern tip of the island. Further examination had revealed the presence of a network of caves. Okay?” Bella nodded and began inhaling and exhaling deeply. I raised an eyebrow and waited while she took a final breath. but I could not find the entrance. but the predominant light source was a thick layer of cool. treading water above the entrance to the lava tube. but hauntingly beautiful. Small. A two-foot long eel raced for the relative shelter of a crack in the rock as I swam by. The rational part of my brain dismissed my concerns. had led me to the underwater entrance. I decided I wanted to share my discovery with Bella. phosphorescent light. but I held up a hand to stall her response and continued. Now. the tunnel opened out to a pool and I kicked to the surface. Without the trust I gained in myself and our love. It glowed with an eerie. I noted several things simultaneously. At that moment. we were facing each other. I had been confused by the sound of air and water rushing through the rocks themselves. I followed the rushing water through a tunnel opening in the reef. “I’ll need you to hold onto my shoulders and try to keep your legs and feet straight behind us. but Bella’s fragile body and susceptibility to accidents was undermining my confidence. I don’t know if I could have followed through with my wish. When she nodded. six days later. She didn’t hesitate.

My calculations were perfect. We were directly over the dark, cave-like opening in the rocks. Three strong strokes brought us down to the entrance. Bella’s grip was still strong so I swam into the tunnel without a pause. I was ticking the seconds off in my head, listening to the sound of her heart and feeling the thudding pulse against my back. We were almost through the tube before her heart rate began to increase, reacting to the strain of her diminishing oxygen supply. Three seconds later we surfaced in the cave and Bella calmly exhaled before dragging in fresh air. Her unruffled composure impressed me. I should have known. I shook the water from my hair and grinned at her. Her eyes fixed on my face for only a second before she was looking around with openmouthed astonishment. I swam to the edge of the pool and climbed out onto the rocky ledge. Years of waves had eroded the rock and deposited a thick layer of sand on the shelf. I pulled Bella up after me and she stood, turning slowly, taking it all in. When I managed to drag my eyes from her face, I found myself frozen in shock. I had only seen the cave at night, but the sight before me now was stunning. Salt crystals encrusted the walls of the cave, shimmering in the thin beams of light that permeated small cracks in the ceiling. Millions of diamonds might have produced a similar effect. Even more enchanting was the pool itself. A thick shaft of light spread out from the tunnel, illuminating coral growths, colorful sea anemones and spiky sea urchins. The pool fairly glowed with turquoise light. The water rose and fell with a pulse of its own, making the aquatic scene advance and retreat in a mesmerizing fashion. Bella giggled and I glanced at her questioningly. “I thought this was a surprise for me, but you seem more shocked than I am.” “Well, you were prepared for a surprise. I’ve been here before, so I wasn’t. But my last visit was at night. This. . . this is just magical.” Bella stood before me and raised her lips to mine. “It is magical. Thank you.” “So this is a good surprise, then?” “The best!” she responded with a laugh. We sat down in the sand, content to share the beauty of the moment in silence. I found myself humming the melody to the song I had composed the previous week. Bella looked at me with a tiny smile gracing her lips. “Edward, that is so beautiful. What is it from?” “I don’t know,” I lied. “It’s just a tune that popped into my head.”

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“I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so perfect. It’s like the song is speaking to my soul, calling up emotions and memories that I didn’t even know I had. . .” So the power of our song spoke to her as it spoke to me. I raised her hand to my lips and placed a slow kiss on the tip of each of her fingers. Our eyes never parted, sharing the secrets of our souls in pure communion. Passion and lust seemed to pale in comparison to the power of our devotion to each other. When I kissed her, the fire of my thirst hardly disrupted my pleasure at her touch. We made love, there in the sand. No words were spoken. Our sighs and moans were swallowed and intermixed with the sounds of the wind and water echoing through the cave. My climax was as gentle as the filtered sunlight that surrounded us and I followed Bella to the heights of her ecstasy with patient waves of adoration. It was dark when we left the cave. We walked along the moonlit beach hand in hand, entranced by what we had just shared. * * *

A few days later, the sun rose brilliant and clear, as usual. However, on the horizon, clouds were piling up, driven thousands of feet into the atmosphere by boiling convective activity. The air was thick with humidity and oppressive with its weight. After breakfast, I was sure Bella would want to cool off in the ocean. Perhaps she would wear the blue bikini today. I had seen it in her open drawer and couldn’t help imagining how the brilliant color would look setting off the gold-kissed creaminess of her skin. One hour later, I was standing on the beach idly counting the waves that washed up on the shore. I admired the eternal persistence of the ocean. It made me feel young. It made me feel mortal. It made me feel more like Bella. The sound of her heart and the brush of her footsteps in the sand alerted me to her approach. I turned and grinned as I scanned her figure from head to toe. . . and back up again. I was right. She had worn the blue bikini. It was everything I had imagined and more. With my eyesight, I was able to tell immediately that this was not some mass-produced piece of swimwear. Alice had probably found a custom designer and commissioned the garment specifically for Bella. Every row of the tightly knotted fabric was perfectly even. Only the tiniest space remained between each strand, revealing tantalizing glimpses of the pure pale skin beneath. Her breasts tempted me with their fullness, and the crocheted bottoms were tied in bows on each side and clung to her figure, accenting the curve of her belly and hips. Her voracious appetite was enhancing her already delicious figure in all the right ways. Under the brilliant midday sun, Bella and I swam and laughed, splashing water into the air to admire the rainbows in the mist. Sunlight reflected from my skin and lit up each droplet like a miniature flame. I admired the play of light across Bella’s skin.

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Bella sent a volley of water towards my face and dove for the shoreline, giggling and gasping as she waded through the shallows. I snapped out of my daydream and vaulted out of the water to stop her. She isn’t going to get away that easily. If I allowed myself to stop and consider our actions, I was sure I would see our antics as childish. But I was thriving on this innocent banter. The silliness and spontaneity were refreshing. With one bound I was at her side, arms around her, tackling her to the ground. She collapsed in a fit of laughter, with my playful growl drowning her out. I dragged her back and hovered over her, trapping her in the cage of my arms and legs. Her eyes danced with merriment and mischief. I knew immediately the rules of the game had changed. The hunter had become the prey. What perverse part of my nature decided at that moment to torture me? It was a pleasurable pain, though, as I focused on resisting her tempting caresses and delicate kisses. Her warm hands stroked my arms, chest and tense abdomen. Her luscious lips pressed against my throat, leaving a trail of fiery explosions in their wake. But her hands never traveled further than my waist. My desire was like clay in the hands of a sculptor. She molded and manipulated it into a wild creature. It growled and snapped its teeth, prowling within the confines of its enclosure, searching for an escape. I glowered down at her, stubbornly trying to prove that I was the stronger, more restrained party. I sucked in a breath of air as her fingers traced the band of my shorts. Her undiluted scent was like the intense fire of blacksmith’s forge. The air in my lungs smoldered and light burst painfully behind my eyes. The agony in my blazing throat was growing exponentially. It was more than two weeks since the last time I had fed. Sixteen days that had brought me from the lowest depths of self-hatred to the most perfect happiness and exhilarating joy imaginable. Could I really bear to leave, even for a minute? If I left to hunt now, I knew I may not have to leave again for the rest of our stay. I could hunt again when we returned to Forks. I did not want to miss a single moment. Even the thought of being away from the steady heartbeat that ruled my existence felt like my own heart was being torn from my chest. I momentarily considered the idea of hunting the dolphins. It would be a different sort of challenge, tracking and taking down prey in the ocean. However, as unappetizing as fish

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“Bella. I could only taste her skin. Fine. I had considered penguins as a food source once. you know you aren’t going to win. foundering in her depthless gaze.smelled. although only hypothetically. commanding my body not to respond. Bella shuddered beneath me. I barely registered the growling in my throat until Bella cried out and I paused. I was shocked by how sensual that part of my anatomy was. “Are you okay?” 137 . I was sure any mammal on a strictly fish diet would taste appalling. rubbing her bare thigh against my groin. even if I had to endure the bitter pain of separation alone. My own skin was ablaze from the flames that spread like a brushfire from every point of contact between us. I forfeited the contest. alternately licking and biting my right ear lobe. I drank in the molten flames and covered her mouth with my own. Bella was becoming more forceful as my lack of reaction goaded her on. Every drop of her sweat was like acid on my tongue. the force of my surrender staggering her. obviously doubting my statement. Apart from Bella’s obvious attachment to the dolphin pod. For now. Her bikini clad breasts grazed across my pectorals and I gasped as I felt her nipples standing firm beneath the blue knit fabric. Bella would not even need to know I was leaving. She raised her eyebrows. Every inhalation sent spasms of agony through my body. I could only smell her scent. “Or when I do this?” She wrapped her arms around me and lifted herself from the sand. showering her with hungry kisses. My decision was made. So it doesn’t affect you in the least when I do this?” She drew her leg up between mine. Of course. With a final shudder. I resolved that I would not miss a single waking moment. I swallowed thickly. No. . despite my efforts to sound natural and unstrained. My resolve collapsed around me and I buried myself in her embrace. Their cognizance and human-like emotions made me feel that it would be crossing a line to even consider them as prey. her neck. But I was still in control. My mouth was on her mouth. But. I never would have imagined that it would create such a throbbing need within me. My eyes were wild. the rapid rise and fall of her chest drew my gaze and trapped it for a moment. then.” My voice was husky. Her eyes were bright and she was panting. there was something more about them. The drumming of her heartbeat blocked out every other sound. her breasts. I didn’t want to interrupt her bliss. . “Hmmm.

an epiphany that made my stomach throb with anticipation. . 138 . I hated to admit it. If I had been at the height of my arousal. “Wait. how to please her without exposing her to the dangers of my disintegrating self-control. I needed to hunt as soon as possible. “Edward? What’s wrong? Did I do something?” Bella hitched herself up on her elbows. over and over again. Her eyes fluttered closed.“Uh huh. I should have been more desensitized to her smell. I released the strings that held her bikini bottom on. I carefully gauged the pressure of my lips.” I hissed.” “But I thought—” I was wondering how to resolve this dilemma. I don’t know what would have happened. Stay very still. concern and worry etching lines on her face. With a touch more sly than the most skilled pickpocket. I’ve been wanting to try something. brushing them along her jaw from the corner of her mouth to her earlobe. I didn’t know what was going on. But I had given of my physical essence every time we joined. “Actually. and her heart picked up a staccato rhythm. but my lapse of control terrified me. avoiding her speculative gaze. making deep depressions in the wet sand.” I murmured. I was just unprepared. I occasionally ran my tongue across her lower lip or around her outer ear. her breathing deepened. I smiled despite my parched throat. love. hovering over her with my weight on my hands. “Don’t move. playfully tracing my hipbones with her fingernails. As much as I took pleasure in the feel of her skin against my lips. “No. this was only a distraction from my hands’ activities. I moved back to my earlier position. I was more depleted than I should have been. I hadn’t even realized that I had driven against her so hard. . The solution came to me in a rush. “Are we back to playing games?” She arched an eyebrow at me. I’m okay now. I was doubly determined to turn the negative of my present state into a positive experience for her. please. not swallowing against the parchment-like dryness of my desiccated throat every time her scent washed over me. But I paused when I saw how far I had pressed her body into the sand.” I lowered her back onto the sand. but I knew I could not be with her completely. confused and frightened by my loss of focus. and the drain on my body’s resources was finally taking its toll. smiling slightly as her heart skipped or she held her breath for a moment.” she nodded reaching for me again. The realization that she trusted me without question sent a rush of pleasure through me. not in my condition.

kissing her and teasing her through the rough fabric. My body wanted to respond so badly. I brushed my nose and lips from the hollow below her ear to her collarbone. stroking them. The cool water did not soothe me. I left her bikini top in place. wrapping around my testicles. I released a cold breath of air over each nipple. to drink from her body. her whole body quivering. exposing her throat to me. lingering on the softer skin beneath her arms. I resisted the desire to thrust into her. The taste of her sweat was a dichotomy of sensations. I brought my mouth back to the valley between her breasts and I drew my tongue slowly up to her clavicle and back down again. Did she have fantasies about what I was going to do to her? Did she imagine doing the same things to me? The morals of my childhood rebelled at the thought. Her arms tensed and her fingers dug into the sand like claws. The water had teased her. into the sand. I blew again. 139 . My hips twitched involuntarily. Bella gasped. Bella shivered and groaned again. Bella’s entire body was shaking violently by the time my mouth descended to her belly button. anything to alleviate the primal need for release. I rimmed the edge with the tip of my tongue several times before dipping in and circling beneath the tender lip of skin. watching her shiver as tiny goose bumps raced across her skin I worked my way around her breasts. Bella’s legs clenched against my waist and hips.Bella threw her head back. Her breasts immediately tensed and the dusky rose of her areola and nipple was visible between the tiny stitches. pausing over her throbbing jugular. fiery agony on one side. Instead. A daring wave crept up the sand. but unable to block the vision of her mouth around me. too. I wondered if she guessed my plan. barely touching the focal point of my arousal. I wanted to taste her. its gentle caress mimicked human hands. torturing myself with my thirst. At this moment. Another growl rumbled in my chest. I gasped in shock as venom rushed to my newly throbbing erection. there was something that called to me more passionately than her blood. her dark hair gathered in my hands as I watched her licking and sucking my erect organ. I was both disgusted at myself for even considering it. Masochistic as I was. her stomach tensed in reaction to the wintry blast of my breath. Taking her invitation. The sudden release of heat and moisture between her thighs spurred me on. I drank it in and reveled in the flames. and the most delicious combination of floral nectars on the other. washing over our feet and calves. I heard every grain of sand that scraped across her fingernails and it was as if her nails were scraping against my skin. Bella’s eyes were tightly shut and her mouth released a deep moan.

don’t.Driven by my fierce arousal. the rushing of her blood. She was shaking her head. I met her startled gaze and held it. holding my breath at first so that I could really focus on the minuscule vibrations as the curls scraped across my sensitive skin. I sifted through the cacophony of sounds around me. Beneath my lips. They looked so soft that I had to feel them. her goldkissed skin dripping with sweat and her trembling stomach muscles. Every cell felt as if it was burning again. My eyes rolled back into my head and a humming sound filled the air around us—a deep. placing a line of gentle kisses from her belly button to the soft mass of curls between her legs. She had just brought her knees up. I drowned myself in her scent. Her heels dragged through the sand making deep furrows that quickly filled with water. causing the small knot of nerves in her 140 . . purring growl that vibrated through every part of my body. parting them slightly. dipping slightly lower with every pass until my nose was buried in the skin where her thigh joined her hip. Blood rushed to her already swollen core. I wanted to really smell her.” “Don’t what. . isolating the pounding of her heart. I blew gently across her vulnerable flesh. the soft fluttering of her inner organs. Holding her gaze. her mouth partly open but silent. Bella’s body came to life. my lips pressed against her soft folds. She froze and then shook her head more violently. I brushed my lips over the top of her hair. I took her concentrated scent into me and melted. please. lowering my body to rest between her legs. opening herself to me. My eyes traveled lower still. raising herself up to her elbows. I ran my mouth from side to side. . “Edward. noting every detail of her full breasts. I couldn’t stop the mischievous grin that sprang to my lips. She gasped again. the salty water. the strained rasping of air in her lungs and throat. . I shoved her loosened bikini bottom down with my chin. her sweat and her wetness swirled around me. creating the most intoxicating cocktail ever. Bella?” I queried innocently. Before I could go further. This was the sweetest revenge possible for her earlier teasing. I looked upon the body of a woman completely bare and open to me. For the first time in my century-long existence. exposing her center to my touch. The heat. changing and transforming into something more than it was before. Bella’s head jerked up in shock as the air hit her most tender parts. There were no medical diagrams or drawings that could have prepared me for the wonder and pleasure I felt. I inhaled deeply. I lowered my eyes slowly. dragging the undiluted essence of her into every corner of my lungs. her eyes wide and a little bit frightened. Dark curls of sweat-dampened hair covered her mons and trailed down on either side of her thick outer lips. Her body language did not match her verbal denial. The heat was excruciating.

She raised her head sluggishly. I dragged my tongue along one side and then the other.” she choked out before falling back against the sand and surrendering her body to me entirely. . Looking down. capturing the slick strands of her arousal into my mouth. I wanted to drink from her. She threw her head back and her thighs squeezed my shoulders tightly. her secretions soothed my throat. 141 . . I wanted so desperately to run my tongue along her center. And.” I called softly. I wanted this to mean as much to her as it did to me.clitoris to harden and rise up in a firm peak against my lips. Bella shook and bucked her hips beneath me. as much as I detested the idea. I ran my tongue along her labia. and she cried out in ecstasy. I desperately wanted more. Having tasted her. panting. feeling the gradual seep of fluids from the glands within her every time I put pressure on them. I kissed her with the softness of butterfly wings. I didn’t want this to be a time when I ‘dazzled’ her into submission. forcing her to stay open to me. I wanted her to accept me completely. I probed every fold carefully. Edward!” she cried out. Lifting her legs. . Even sweeter than her blood. “More. I could hardly believe how different she felt. I pushed back against them. I observed her wetness dripping down between her folds in silvery strands. I was confident that I would stop if she asked me to. “Please. . I placed them over my shoulders and raised her buttocks with my hands. but the top of my shaft was not nearly as sensitive or as flexible as my searching tongue. . Something held me back from taking her completely. She had never asked for more before. but only temporarily. . “Do you want me to. My tongue swirled around her opening. avoiding the silkier inner membranes for now. Our combined weight rested on my elbows and they dug deeply into the wet sand with every twitch and twist of her hips. With eager strokes. experiencing her with my tongue instead of my penis. continue?” Despite my earlier teasing.what?” she gasped in a confused voice. without reservations. . I had felt the rough mass of tissue just inside her vagina every time I entered her. “Bella. The similarity was not lost on her and she drove against my mouth until my tongue descended into her core. But something restrained me. mimicking my earlier attention to her belly button. . Don’t stop. please. and I attacked her fragile flesh with a new determination. “Wh. I needed no further encouragement.

” I whispered into her hair. Most of the things I heard and saw in the minds of others had only seemed uncomfortable and embarrassing to me. putting firm pressure on the cluster of tissue just inside until it expelled the rest of her nectar into my waiting mouth. Seconds later. When her gasping breaths took on a high pitch my own hips bucked against the sand. Gathering my knees up under me. When she started to whimper my stomach tightened. only to bury my tongue within her again. Every time my nose bumped against her clitoris. But I couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like to pleasure her like this after she was changed. the only thing that was uncomfortable was the pressure in my swollen organ. Even knowing that I would not release with her magnified the experience for me. I carefully retied her bikini and gathered her languid form into my arms. I lifted her higher. You are my life. I refocused all of my efforts onto her swollen clitoris. I was still reeling from what I had just done. I groaned in anticipation. With a soft. I needed to be careful of my teeth. Her eyes were closed. pinching it between my lips and flicking the very tip of my tongue against it so lightly and so rapidly that her entire core was vibrating. Now. “I will love you forever. and Bella’s body reacted with another tiny shudder. dipping inside and stroking her with my tongue before running up the middle of her slit to flick her clitoris lightly. unrelieved and aching. I released her with a final lick. Her ankles locked behind my neck. I was afraid to move too much or too quickly. never missing a beat. I could not risk her being harmed. Her hips rose and fell in time with my mouth. When I could suck and nibble at her without being afraid of harming her. I wanted to give her a release so complete that she could not see or breathe or remember who she was. Her entire core clenched with powerful spasms. Between her hands in my hair and her legs wrapped around me. I wanted to take her further and deeper. satiated moan.I was getting carried away and I knew it. always guarding her fragile flesh with my lips and tongue. always pushing slightly against me. For once I would witness her experience without the distraction of restraining my climax. But I refused to surrender. she nestled into my embrace and fell asleep. until only her head and shoulders were on the ground. When she buried her fingers in my salt-rimed hair and pulled. I had never even imagined such a thing before I knew Bella. It did not even matter that she could not hear me. 142 . her vulva convulsed and her vaginal walls clenched around my tongue. her chest rose and fell in deep but irregular breaths. Her entire body was limp when I finally lowered her to rest again in the sand. I almost climaxed myself. an ear-splitting shriek tore through the air. I could not lose control right now. Instead. sending a rush of hot fluids down my neck and chest. I settled into a steady rhythm. begging for just a little more pressure.

I was changed. I watched the sun dip lower in the sky. before carrying her back to bathe her and tuck her into bed. I cradled Bella’s sleeping form against my chest. finally melting into the ocean. Bella had changed me.Settling into a cross-legged position. 143 . As I let the mosquito netting fall around her prone figure I realized I was not the same man that I had been when we arrived on this island. She scarcely stirred from her deep slumber. The evening light bathed her skin with a rosy glow. And I was content to never look back again.

Willing her very essence to permeate me. yet I could no longer deny. I did not understand. mind and soul. it was unlikely she would ever read those words. Go back to sleep and I’ll be here when you wake again. this fragile human. The waxing crescent moon cast very little light. I’ve just gone to the mainland to hunt. I would dedicate its salvation to her. I pressed one final kiss to her forehead and fled from the room. 7. She was my midnight sun. I stood over her sleeping figure. “Con Te Partiro” In the darkness. Cullen. I’m hoping you won’t wake and notice my absence. I would never tire of hearing and seeing her new name. . With my body aching and my throat constricted. yet knowing I had to. I needed to remain in control at all times. I told myself. Mrs. If a creature as good and pure as Bella could love a monster like me. filling my lungs with the scalding scent of her. This woman. if you should. I love you. I’ll be back very soon. had saved me. . had given me hope in my land of night. The thirst was and always had been an undeniable force. unable to step away. However. I needed to leave and hunt. My lips twisted into a small. making the air around her shimmer with an amber-hued light. 144 . Cullen. . then maybe I could be worthy of that love. My love and anxiety twisted into an uncomfortable knot in my stomach as I penned a short note. Unexpected Song – Andrea Bocelli. but. Mrs. and the distraction of my tortured throat was a risk that must be subdued. the light of my existence. Her skin radiated vibrant warmth. but Bella’s visage was alight with a glow from within.Ch. I could not leave her alone without an explanation should she awaken before my return. body. I would spend every second of every day trying. For she. This is for her safety. As soundly as she had been sleeping of late. I inhaled deeply. Only since she had rescued me from my suicide attempt with the Volturi had I begun to have hope. . the greatest blessing in my life. And if I truly had a soul. satisfied smile as I read her name before setting the note down next to her.

A cursory check was all I needed to assure myself that it was refueled. Maintaining control required my entire focus as the small craft was launched into the air by a large. temptation. It was after midnight and the streets were almost empty. It seem to float in space. darting forward when the way was clear.000 years after His life. and darted back to the boat to re-fuel it for my return trip. I wished for a fraction of his faith—some sort of consolation in this twilight existence. the statue was lit from below by dozens of spotlights. benevolent being was stoic and unshakable. even 2. the idea of a Man so powerful He could influence the minds of millions. while not aligned with any one particular faith system. but the control I had been forced to learn in her presence made the scent of other humans only a passing. The Corcovado loomed over the city. I stowed an extra fuel container in the boat thinking that Bella might want to make a trip into Rio to sample the nightlife before the cleaning crew’s next visit. I glanced around the deserted marina once more before running silently westward. Before Bella. It was a discomfiting thought. nobody witnessed my inhuman speed as I flitted to the fuel station. exalting in the wild thrill of skimming over the rough ocean waves. and his faith in a supreme. Wispy clouds shrouded the base of the statue. I passed over many trails thick with the sweet scent of humans. I never would have dreamed of hunting in such close proximity to humans. ramp-like swell. but I had only penetrated a few hundred yards into the dense growth before a musky 145 . The tension in my arms and the feel of the yacht’s engine growling with power helped to ease the physical pain of separation. Emmett and Jasper would expect a detailed account of the game and hunting experience here and I didn’t plan to disappoint them. I stuck to the shadows. Not even the oldest vampire I knew had been around so long. the trip back to the mainland was significantly faster than before. I pushed the throttle to the stop. Occasionally I glanced upward to the brilliant monument. sounds. and ready for service. I left the murmuring minds behind as I ran swiftly through the trees of the Tijuca Forest. At close to 90 knots. I willfully dragged my thoughts away from missing Bella and my spiritual musings. I was truly testing my reflexes and control. filled a portable tank. and scents of thousands of human beings.The pain and anxiety grew ten-fold before I had even set foot on the boat’s deck. Several minutes later. Dark as it was. While the rocky mountain was dark and ominous. something I never did while in Bella’s company. crowned by the statue of Christ the Redeemer. held the Christian creed in high regard. Carlisle. and I was drifting into a boat slip in Rio de Janeiro within two hours. if slightly painful. And not even Aro could claim a fraction of this Man’s charisma and worldwide impact. wondering at the faith of the millions who traveled here every year to pay homage to their Savior. I was free from the oppressive thoughts. thanks to Gustavo. an Atlantic rainforest reserve immediately adjacent to the city. As an afterthought.

scent caught my attention. It was similar to that of mountain lions, but sweeter and heavier; a pleasant surprise. I cast off surface thoughts and allowed my senses to draw in the sounds and smells of the forest. Millions of mosquitoes and other flying insects created an insistent buzz. Three lightsounding hearts beat toward the north, accompanied by the sound and scent of fresh-flowing water—a stream. The rhythm was familiar, probably a small variety of deer. I continued to focus. A breeze from the northwest brought a stronger dose of the earlier scent and I raced, ghostlike in that direction. Subtle, at first, a steady throbbing permeated my consciousness. As I drew closer, I took to the trees. The branches grew at angles from the trunks, unlike the flexible, horizontal branches of the evergreens in Washington. They did not offer the same springy propulsion as I jumped from tree to tree, but dangling vines provided plenty of entertainment. I had a mental image of Emmett, dressed like Tarzan, swinging wildly through the canopy. I chuckled silently to myself, but quickly refocused as I drew close to my prey. I first spotted the great cat draped languidly over a branch, yawning widely. It had neither heard me nor caught my scent. I paused to admire its feline grace and ink-black pelt. A panther, gorgeous and lethal. The panther stretched out one foreleg, spreading its massive paw with talon-like claws bared. If I were not in such a hurry, I would have taken my time with the hunt, but I longed to return to Isle Esme. With a fluid pounce, I landed on the cat’s branch and sunk my teeth into the sinewy neck before it could do more than flinch. Warm blood washed down my throat, cooling the burning fire and making all of my senses soar with the rush of energy. My sense of smell had not lied. This was the most pleasant meal I had tasted in years, infinitely more palatable than the deer and elk we subsisted on much of the time. All too soon, the body was drained of blood and I released the empty carcass. The thirst returned almost immediately, so I reluctantly turned toward the first heartbeats I had sensed, determined to sate my thirst completely before returning to the island. I wrinkled my nose in disgust as I neared the smaller herbivores, but I steadied my resolve and finished my hunt quickly and cleanly. The return trip to Isle Esme was much slower. Strong winds tore across the ocean surface, molding the water into angry waves that frothed and broke around the low prow of my boat. My impatience grew and grew as the sun rose before me. I forced the throttle forward once, only to be met by an angry creaking in the prow, so I brought it back again with a growl. The winds decreased rapidly as the atmosphere heated up and the air was warm and heavy with humidity by the time I docked and secured the boat. As soon as I killed the engine, the warm reassurance of Bella’s heartbeat mended the ache in my spirit. I glanced up at the sky, furious that nature had conspired to keep me from Bella for longer than I expected. Two agonizing hours longer.

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The sun shone, brilliant and uncaring, already climbing toward its zenith. I ran my hand through my hair, detangling the snarls from my windy passage, as I quickly negotiated the sandy path to the house. I was greeted by the hours-old scent of cooking oil and lively music playing on the TV, which was frozen on the menu of the movie from the previous day. All of the windows were open, but the air was still uncomfortably warm. I was dismayed when I saw Bella, her face and hair damp with sweat, where she lay on the sofa. Tenderly, I gathered her in my arms, caressing her forehead with one cool hand. “I’m sorry. So much for thoroughness. I didn’t think about how hot you would be with me gone. I’ll have an air conditioner installed before I leave again.” Bella barely registered my presence before she was struggling from my embrace. Her face was panicked and I released her in shock. “Excuse me!” she gasped. Her face was drained of all color. “Bella?” She ran from me without another word, her hand clamped firmly over her mouth. I was one step behind her. I felt so helpless watching her retching violently into the toilet. All I could do was hold her hair and wait for the fit to pass. Her eyes overflowed with tears and she gasped for breath between heaves. I couldn’t contain my worry and pressed for her to speak. “Bella? What’s wrong?” “Damn rancid chicken,” she moaned after several more shuddering breaths. “Are you all right?” I was skeptical. I had smelled the fried chicken upon my arrival, but as unpleasant as the smell was to me, it had not smelled rancid. “Fine. It’s just food poisoning. You don’t need to see this. Go away,” she panted weakly. Whether she was trying to spare me the unpleasantness or she was suffering from some superficial human emotion like embarrassment, I was not about to leave her alone in her present state. “Not likely, Bella.” “Go away,” she moaned again. She pushed weakly against me as she flushed the toilet and stumbled to the sink to rinse her mouth. I could hardly believe the transformation that had taken place in my brief absence. Yesterday, Bella had fairly glowed, but now her skin was sweaty, pale and mottled with pink

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patches on her cheeks. I had seen her ill with colds, injured and in a hospital bed, but I had never seen her look so ill. Even her hair had lost some of its luster. I carried her gently to our bedroom, setting her down as carefully as I could. She leaned into my embrace as I held her gingerly. “Food poisoning?” While not a practicing physician, I was instinctively skeptical of her hasty self-diagnosis. “Yeah,” Bella croaked. Even her voice had lost its musical timbre. “I made some chicken last night. It tasted off, so I threw it out. But I ate a few bites first.” “How do you feel now?” I held my hand to her forehead, narrowing my eyes as I estimated her temperature. Almost 100 degrees, I was sure. I assessed her symptoms, considering heat stress as the most likely culprit. Guilt, a feeling I had missed those last several days, wormed its way back into my stomach again. “Pretty normal. A little hungry, actually.” I appraised her silently, noting her improved color and even breathing. Considering the possibility of heat stress, I insisted that she remain in bed and sip a large glass of cold water. When she seemed to handle that and her temperature dropped to a more acceptable level, I fried three eggs over-medium. I watched every movement she made, looking for any sign of sickness, but she seemed to be in good health again, just fatigued from her ordeal. We retired to the couch and I turned on CNN. Bella’s sudden sickness had made me uncomfortably aware of our isolation and her vulnerability so far from real medical aid. Watching the pre-recorded headlines was reassuring, in a way. It brought the world closer again. Bella was so calm and relaxed lying across my lap. I stroked her hair absently, considering how I would handle a medical emergency if she were truly injured. I wasn’t getting any closer to a comfortable solution when Bella stirred. She twisted her body to kiss me and I leaned down with a small smile, always eager to feel her lips on mine. We were still inches apart when she lurched out of my lap and sprinted for the kitchen sink. Again, I held her hair, but the nagging sense that something was very wrong pursued me. Her temperature was not elevated now, so I had to rule out heat stress. My book knowledge offered me no help here. “Maybe we should go back to Rio, see a doctor.” Someone who can do something more than watch you helplessly. She shook her head vehemently, as she walked carefully to the bathroom. “I’ll be fine right after I brush my teeth,” she assured me.

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I opened the door slowly and stepped around to face her. “How many days has it been since the wedding?” she whispered. not watching the screen. her brow furrowed in concentration. Panic quickly overran the guilt I had been feeling. I cursed myself for not having the will and self-control to practice medicine alongside Carlisle. she paused. Bella’s frame shook slightly. My gentle knock startled her and she dropped something. feeling her forehead. Several seconds later. “Are you well? Did you get sick again?” I waited anxiously for her to reassure me again. . I started to consider an infection or internal bleeding of some sort. “Yes and no. When she held it up. “What’s wrong?” I questioned. “Bella! I’m losing my mind over here. just focusing on the sounds of Bella brushing her teeth then digging through her suitcase in the bedroom. Her eyes were staring blankly. Bella. and she held up a finger to halt my half-formed protest. Her pulse was weak and she exhibited many of the signs of shock. In the face of a real problem. what is it?” Her lips moved silently. “Seventeen. I sat next to her. counting. and she reached shakily for an object in her suitcase. Several moments passed before I decided to check on her. My breathing was strained and my head pounded with the knowledge that something was terribly wrong. Her question seemed completely random and I responded without thinking. a small blue box of tampons. . her face pale and cold.” I hissed frantically. I was completely baffled.I sat back down on the couch. her body frozen in a sitting-position next to her suitcase. her throat convulsed. I was utterly worthless. . 149 .” Her strangled reply did little to settle my anxiety. bewildered. hoping she could give me more detailed symptoms to help me. “Bella? Can I please come in?” “O. kay?” she responded hesitantly. and I was completely helpless to act against it. Then silence. finally. and then she began counting again. Her voice sounded lost. although I could already tell her temperature was normal. but my heightened senses could only pick up a faint fluttering and warmth in her abdomen. .

But how many vampires actually mated with a human? Libishomen. 150 . . suspended from all sensation. The name hissed through my thoughts. It can’t be true. Even time had deserted me. A small analytical part of my mind registered shock. my whole body was frozen as my mind processed the implications of this fact. All sensation deserted me. “I don’t think I have food poisoning. “No. . but never truly control. Time is the measurement of change. There was no change. feel. It can’t. . . . I was caught in a maelstrom. Or can it? My mind was severed from my body by this horrifying conclusion. taste or smell. Unable to hear. . Surrounded by blackness. Along with the cursed word. . with no hope of breaking free. pregnant? Was that even possible? No vampire had ever impregnated his mate.” she choked on the words. They were incompatible with existence in this swirling vortex of panic-inducing night. . . Even my memories flitted away.” My face. . . Could she be. . The pregnant girl in the jungle. Any sensory input at this point and my mind would fracture from the strain. . I floated in a vacuum. Its passage is something we measure and track. No. . .“What? Are you trying to pass this illness off as PMS?” “No. . I was blind. I’m trying to tell you that my period is five days late.” she finished shakily. Pain. Alone and terrified. . flickers of Kaure’s memories and fears darted in and out of my head. There was no time. five days late. . No end to the numbing darkness that overpowered me. . Screaming. Edward. I drifted.

What else could it be?” Carlisle was stammering. I had trouble forming words. so complete that I choked on it. I had no body. “Is it possible?” My mouth felt alien. . “Weird. . . but muffled in the darkness. I swear something moved inside me just now. . Ringing. echoing hollowly in the anesthetized passages of my splintered psyche.” I could hear the buzzing reply. . A voice. . . . I focused all of my strength on that sound. Carlisle. and. An aberration. Maybe I am crazy. . I need to speak to Carlisle. Anathema. But I’m having bizarre dreams and eating all the time and crying and throwing up and. the timing. my Bella. I was alone in the darkness with a vision of a face so beautiful it would make angels weep. as if my lips had not made a sound in centuries. . I had to find the answer. distorted and delayed by the satellite connection.Something. No. Carlisle. There was something important. Ringing. Ringing. A monster. my love. . Stranded in an icy wasteland of terror. My hand shot out. .” Those words forced my mind back into my frozen body with a painful snap. A baby. With her name came a fear so intense. . Sweet and musical. . Names. in trouble. And that face was crumbling in shock and pain. Her symptoms. an uncharacteristic sound. The sound came from a great distance. “Put him on. . No. “Um. Something I loved was. Isabella. reaching for my cell phone. I know it’s way too early for any of this. Alice. I think Edward wants to talk to you. only my mind. faces. . Bella.” Bella mumbled. Is it possible? Could the legends be more than stories? What kind of monster is it? What kind of monster am I? “It must be. 151 . memories came rushing back. Not human. not a baby. His voice rarely wavered or hesitated with doubt. And I could not go to her. Someone. But. This is going to sound crazy—look.

Self-blame and guilt were thick in his troubled voice. even to me. All my dreams of an ideal life in New England. “The airport. you need to come straight home. . I never thought to warn you.now? “I never thought it was a risk. Never this! I rarely had the need to utilize the full vampiric capabilities of my multi-faceted mind. soulful brown eyes. growing stronger by the second. At the rate it’s growing. my desire. Her warmth was an anchor. determined not to lose a single second. “And Bella?” What would this mean for her? I wrapped my arm around her. But not this. I am so sorry. pulling her against my side. but remorse and fear tinged every word. Edward. We’re going home. I heard again that insidious flutter. We need to get it out. being like a normal. but now I found them rigorously tested. I had imagined myself human. 152 . but knowing I would have to navigate an automated system to find a real person to assist me. newlywed couple. . Mixed in with the natural sounds of her body. happy. Edward.” My voice sounded dead and cold. The heart of a parasite. Like the voice of a corpse echoing up from an open grave. Bella’s heart jumped as my words confirmed her fears. “He thinks you’re pregnant. That had been my dream. listening to the monotonous ringing. . Yes.” My thumb automatically found the ‘call end’ button. . and mahogany locks. “What did Carlisle say?” Bella asked impatiently. I will. going to college. They were all obliterated with the revelation that I was not sterile after all.” He ended in a whisper. I pressed the phone against my ear. I was dialing again instantly. fathering a human child with Bella’s fair skin. “Yes. “We don’t have a choice. wishing someone would answer. protection against the chilling darkness that still swirled in the recesses of my mind. Hadn’t I wished out loud that Bella and I could have the potential to be parents? How could I wish for such a thing? Of course.” The fantasy world we had been living in for the past nine days was shattered. “Who are you calling now?” she wanted to know. Can you leave today?” He was trying to modulate the tone of his voice.

153 . I did not care about the cost. I hated it. standing in silence with tears coursing down her face was enough for me to want to take my own life. While my mind careened through dozens of different thoughts. without my prompting. The monster’s heart was beating strongly. silenced the ringer and approached Bella cautiously. Hated it more completely than I had ever hated another living creature. and the airline had displaced two other travelers to make room for us. finally making some progress with our flight arrangements. afraid to startle her. Her voice murmured softly. its creator. It threatened Bella’s life by its very existence. And by hating it. While my flurry of activity and the tense conversation with the concierge continued. By their fruits you shall know them. I dampened the growl that threatened to escape my throat. I had neither the time. Over the next 73 minutes. Bella stood hesitantly off to the side. Every last scrap of clothing was packed and our travel arrangements were confirmed and paid for. I would have paid anything to get us home immediately. possessively counting every beat. or even the airlines used. Bella made her way to the kitchen and stood.A portion of my mind locked onto the sound of Bella’s heart. I was waiting impatiently for the phone to connect. my body was making quick work of repacking our suitcases. I had only blurted out the beginning of my request and she was already trying to convince me to accept a promotional travel package. I didn’t even pause to question the cost. Evil begets evil. Direct flights were rare. I heard the crackle of a plastic packages and dull crunching sounds as she ate some sort of snack. While these thoughts were streaming through my mind. . “Bella?” I addressed her warily. I snapped my phone shut. every sound her body made. I only wanted the fastest route home. Sooner than I expected. but my incoherent mind made little sense of her words. the type of aircraft. I had dialed the airport concierge. . I threw an outfit on the bed and was grateful that she immediately began to dress herself. The sight of her. A hissing breath escaped my lips. I locked in on the slight fluttering sound that was almost completely hidden beneath the louder whooshing of blood through her system. watching my frenzied actions with awe and a touch of fear. I was intimately aware of the rushing of blood through her veins. I was connected with a woman who claimed to want to help me find and book my flight. I had no choice but to hate myself. How precious that sound was now that her body was in danger! Another part analyzed every movement. even the subtle whisper of her hair brushing against her shoulders and back when she moved. I kept up a constant stream of conversation in Portuguese. nor the patience to deal with a travel agent. staring pensively out the window. the air sweeping in and out of her lungs.

I would appreciate it if you could return tomorrow to clean and secure the property. More eggs. “Dammit!” I cursed. My wife and I have had an unexpected change of plans and will be returning to America today. I pulled her close to me. We’ll take care of this. She was far too close to the truth.” “That thing?” she gasped. Leaning back. willing her to be strong and unafraid. But I gathered my strength and pretended to be brave for her. We’ll be home in sixteen hours.” I left Bella alone in the kitchen and sped toward the front door. and you’ll be fine. cupping her stricken face gently with my hands. I won’t let it hurt you. Before she even spoke. Kaure’s thoughts immediately caught my attention and I suppressed a growl. needing to feel her safe in my arms. “No. Carlisle will be ready when we get there. It was then that I registered a softer but highly suspicious mental voice. even if I knew it was only an illusion. my eyes were drawn to the steaming dish she held before her. I’ll get rid of him and be right back.“Bella! Are you in pain?” I crossed to her side. Kaure had not completely dismissed her fears after all. You’ll be fine. I knew the full impact of this nightmare had not fully sunk in. more eggs. . I opened the door with a carefully impassive expression. no—“ Her eyes looked so lost. Two heartbeats and two sets of footsteps on the stairs had me cursing under my breath as I opened the front door. All I needed to do was postpone their visit until tomorrow and change my request from cleaning and restocking to a thorough cleaning and securing the property for future use. . you’ll be fine. I murmured soothing words of encouragement. “Don’t be afraid. I hissed softly. . “I’m sorry that I didn’t think to call you sooner. Don’t be scared. How had I not heard the sound of a boat arriving? “I forgot Gustavo was due today. I looked directly into her eyes.” Gustavo’s mind registered shock and surprise but no suspicion. what odd diets these Americans have. I was formulating a reassuring response when I was shocked by a gruff voice speaking directly in my mind. 154 . Fish. “We’re going to get that thing out before it can hurt any part of you.” “Take care of this? What do you mean?” Her voice was so full of pain and bewilderment—I could barely bring myself to look into her eyes. . onions and some local herbs.

She shrank back slightly. I made a special dinner for you! You and your lovely bride must be tired of cooking every day. she was imagining Bella’s body.” I was impressed again by her ability to squash her own fears and bravely challenge me when I knew she suspected my true nature. In her mind. You may leave now. “She’s insisting on leaving the food she brought—she made us dinner. chilling me more than an arctic breeze.” My tone was clipped. then. “At least let me put it in the kitchen for you. Bella stood in the exact spot where I had left her. I could sink their boat and make it all look like an accident at sea. You will be thanking me later!” I doubt that. lifeless and bleeding streams of scarlet onto the white silk sheets in the first bedroom. It is my gift to you. “I think I can decide what is best for my wife’s health. Gustavo was apathetic.” she muttered under her breath in Portuguese as she set the covered dish on the counter. I could not afford to lose another minute. nothing could stop me from killing her and Gustavo if I chose to. angrier than I intended. It was starting to sink into her mind that if I was what she suspected. The relief she felt when she saw Bella was short lived. My own words foreshadowed my greatest fear. Nobody would ever know or suspect the truth. “This way. She was surreptitiously trying to peek past my figure. searching for any sign of Bella. As with her previous visit. I gritted my teeth but stepped back and turned on my heel. In her mind. I wiped the moisture tenderly from her cheeks and whispered in her ear. Kaure met my gaze. but her cheeks were damp with fresh tears. Allow me to share one of my grandmother’s favorite recipes. I led her to the kitchen. barely flinching as my amber eyes bore into her deep brown ones. My anger and self-hatred grew unchecked. 155 . but then squared her shoulders and took a step toward me.“But. I saw that she noticed Bella’s pallid skin and tear-filled eyes. The strain of this delay was too much. “She is unwell. Thank you. It’s an excuse—she wants to make sure I haven’t killed you yet.” I growled. You have delivered your gift. Now she was concerned on a more natural level for Bella’s health. Kaure’s thoughts were racing as she turned the corner. she should not be traveling.” Yet. waiting patiently for his partner to complete her self-imposed errand. Her eyes darted back and forth between us. sir. a rational explanation for my antagonistic attitude began to surface and she started to regret provoking me to anger.

Her hands shook as she rinsed her mouth. wide with shock and terror. Bella clutched her swelling stomach. I should have grasped it by the handles. the cause of her pain and sickness encouraging her to be strong. Images flitted through her mind rapidly. a demon. I thought I had experienced the most nerve-shattering agony at Jane’s sadistic hands. screaming her accusations shrilly. her body heaving violently and she spun to release the contents of her stomach into the sink. However. . Her face was hot and clammy with sweat so I ran my cool fingers across her skin to bring her some relief.and a child’s nightmare. Instinct took over and I stepped in front of Bella. my mind and body had grown in their capacity for joy. I could not stem the force of her thoughts and I gasped weakly. I felt my spirit being crushed beneath the weight of her words. the center of our agony. their faces frozen in horrified fascination. wrapping my arms protectively around her. but I was beyond caring. Her knuckles were whitened from her death-grip on the edge of the counter. but three stood out from the rest accompanied by the violence of her mental shrieking. The crude drawing of the vampire holding his victim’s body. I had never felt such pleasure. breathing slowly and deliberately. a murderer. I was quickly realizing that the sword cut both ways. were fixed on Bella’s hands. I snatched the offending dish from the counter and thrust it into the refrigerator. . love and pleasure during our time on this island. a circle of Indian children gathered around a wizened elder. I turned her around. I was a monster. Everything she said was true. . but the feel of 156 . . In the nightmare. Bella tensed and gagged. Kaure’s gasp forced my mind to focus on her perception of the drama unfolding before her. She sagged into my supporting embrace. a reaction to the ancient’s stories. crying out in agony as sharp rips and tears echoed through the jungle clearing. She had seen my inhuman speed. Her movement stirred the air sending the pungent smell of fish and onions at us. Impatiently. spitting weakly into the sink. Her fist was raised as if she intended to strike me down with the force of her anger. not even considering my audience. I held her hair back from her face and whispered words of comfort in her ear. a young Indian woman clutched her bruised.Kaure’s shoulders stiffened but she accepted my rebuke silently and turned to leave. My self-loathing was unparalleled. My movement spurred Kaure to action and she advanced on me. . She rested her head against my shoulder. The dish was scalding hot and the flesh of my hands protested. distended belly and fell to the ground. Her eyes. gasping and shaking. as if I could protect her from the images and the fate they implied. but I had also never felt so much pain. Helplessly. The images in her mind drove the air from my lungs. Bella was still bent over the sink. I thought I knew pain. I thought hearing that Bella had thrown herself from a cliff in grief was the most tortuous experience I could ever have. clasped over the bulge beneath her shirt. I felt so hypocritical. But what chilled me the most was the knowledge that my torture had only just begun. .

the Libishomen. crying out alone in the jungle replayed over and over in my mind. leaning toward me with no trace of fear or revulsion evident in her posture. long ago. primitive language halted her tirade and her face and mind froze in awe. Helpless and hopeless. . and how much were embellished legends. My earlier aspirations to redemption were a mockery of the truth. Our survival depended on secrecy. There was so little air in my lungs. . the women. You are a murderer!” “I love her. . I nodded assent. Once. forced me to think of her. Our daughters are cautioned from a young age to be wary of his pale skin. warding off the taint of my evil presence with the symbol of salvation. . her eyes flitting back and forth between my face and Bella’s. Please. How far my hopes had fallen. I was nothing more than a demon. I reached out to Kaure. Salvation was a bitter thought. Her knowledge could possibly offer some help for the dilemma that Carlisle and I faced. 157 . No sooner had she registered my fluent grasp for her native tongue. I needed to know how much of Kaure’s words and memories were based in fact. Kaure’s suspicious mind and bravery had forced the truth to be known. I spoke to her in the language of her mother’s people. . I beg you! Please. the Ticuna Indians. my beautiful angel. . “Please! My wife. My voice was low as I pleaded with her. taking their life force into his unholy body to feed his powers. Your kind does not know love. More than my life. She is my life. She studied Bella’s confused expression and evaluated my pain-twisted features. “The legends. What will happen to my wife?” Doubt was strong on her face and in her mind. tell me what your legends say. are they real?” The guttural. He drinks the blood of his victims. But Bella. clutching my arm. She recoiled and crossed herself. . what will happen to her?” I held my hand against Bella’s cheek. Are you? Are you like him?” I had never revealed my identity to a human before Bella. desperate to know what would happen to Bella. should have no part in my damnation. I need to know. The image of the Indian girl. yes they are real. perfect face and beautiful voice. “The legends you speak of. The Libishomen is a demon.Bella. She was watching my actions with confusion. . My chest did not want to expand to accept more. he preyed upon my people and we do not forget. . She noted my protective stance and the way Bella clung to my arm. “Your wife? But you have made her with child! You do not love her. but there were no secrets here. then she spat out a long stream of words in the same language. Skin and face and voice like yours. .

I suspected that whoever he was. I was as still as stone watching Kaure take several deliberate steps toward me. “No. “Then Bella. we think. Kaure mimed a rapidly expanding stomach. she said she felt it move. . She has been gaining weight rapidly these past several days. Even knowing what her response would be. “How long ago did she conceive?” “Sixteen days. The mental picture that accompanied it sickened me. . Do you know our legends?” “I knew of the Libishomen stories. work-worn hands over Bella’s. My jaw seemed to be carved from ice. Her instincts rebelled against believing or trusting me. overcoming her fear of me. She says. the. It took everything within my power to form my next words. “You know our language. . did the woman live?” I knew the answer. “Morte. Bella flinched at her gesture and my stomach lurched sickeningly.” “And how has she been feeling?” “Hungry. . . . “Did you know what your seed would do to her?” My seed. she recognized my true fear for Bella and regarded us sadly.Compassion for Bella drew her forward involuntarily. he was. Tired. and breathed a single word. laying one of her small. Kaure paused before slowly shaking her head. the doomed girl of her childhood nightmare lay helpless while her stomach erupted violently. like me.” She flinched with this revelation. but I felt compelled to ask. In her mind. Using both hands.” Kaure took the final steps to bring her right before us. . . Her face was devoid of hope. Bella looked up at me while I spoke and the tension in her body made it clear she saw my pain and despair. She sighed. “In your legends. But I did not know of the woman. . the answer tore at my insides. but I didn’t know what I was seeing. . I didn’t know this could happen.” 158 . When we first arrived. .” I couldn’t finish.” Kaure looked at me with pity. However. . the one he. With great effort I responded with a single word. . .

I’ll get it for you. But the facts and similarities were irrefutable. morte. Kaure turned and left us. We needed to go. hung in the air.” I walked to the bedroom and dug through her suitcase to get to her toiletries. and I was confident in her silence. Desperate to put her at ease. I paced silently. That is what I wanted to do. “Don’t worry about what she said. I leaped into action. I could only hope that Carlisle and I were in time. That final word. waiting for me to move or speak. “Are we leaving soon?” Bella called after me. waiting for her to return her toothbrush to me.With her head and shoulders bent beneath the weight of her grief and pity. to get us home sooner. “To brush my teeth again.” I replied softly. and ‘morte’ was not difficult to translate. It’s nothing but legends. . “Where are you going?” I whispered. but she could not fool me. but it was one less thing to drag my thoughts away from Bella.” Her matter-of-fact response did not appease me. . I was lost in thought. Her ability to lie had improved over the years. old lies for the sake of entertainment.” Bella’s words rang with truth. My hand darted out to grasp her shoulder before she could take a second step. There was a rigid set to her shoulders and tension around her eyes that made me wonder. 159 . evil and oppressive. any way. She should have been cursing me. “I packed your toothbrush. She should have been hysterical. As soon as she placed the damp toothbrush back into my hand. I told myself. to take action without delay. There was only one witness to my damnation. I knew her too well. trying to find a way. crying uncontrollably. Even the sound of a motor sputtering to life and carrying the boat away was unable to rouse me from my horrified stupor. She was still and silent in my arms. This was no consolation. The thought of losing sight of her made me distraught. I was thankful for one thing. . Kaure’s story is only a legend. that Gustavo had returned to the boat long before our argument. Unwilling to start an argument or contradict her in any way. I detected the faintest note of tension in her voice. tearing her hair. I blurted out. but she did not meet my anxious gaze. What must Bella be thinking now? How much did she understand? Bella turned away from me. Bella was very perceptive. . “As soon as you’re done. I did the only thing I could do. I would hijack a plane and fly it myself if I thought it would help.” “I didn’t understand anything. I had felt her reactions to much of the conversation.

I made short work of repacking my suitcase and returned to the house to pack some food for Bella. As I fled the room. This will be over soon. My phone was not in my pocket and I was certain I had not packed it in the suitcases. really. Don’t worry about anything. Crystal clear tropical waters swirled around the supporting piers in eddies of turquoise and green. I loved this woman. “Yes?” “Could you.” I reassured her. . I knew Alice would see us coming. * Song – David Gray. I stowed the suitcases behind the seats in the boat and then reached for my phone to call Carlisle. I had almost decided to search Bella’s suitcase also when I remembered seeing it on the countertop as I raced from the house. 160 . “Of course.“I’ll get the bags into the boat. but I needed to speak to him one more time for strength and reassurance. But even wishing that. “Nightblindness” * * The small dock was part of an idyllic setting. My eyes and throat burned with my impotent fury. . This entire scene bore such a sharp contrast to the dry ache of despair in my throat. I gathered our suitcases. We’ll get to Carlisle in just a few hours. flung it open and searched through the hastily folded clothes. I would do. My call would just have to wait. occasionally bumping against the padded siding. Anything I could do to offer her comfort instead of increasing her pain and distress. my impatience.” My fierce determination. I wished I could be as strong as her. She was so brave. all seemed selfish in the face of her simple request. Or had I? With a growl I pulled my suitcase back onto the dock.” As I spoke. I knew I never could be. in case I get hungry again. confused by the tone of her voice. The boat rocked gently on tiny swells. My father always knew what to say to encourage me through any tribulation. Bella’s hesitant voice halted me. She nodded bravely. pack some of the food? You know. my self-hatred. Gladly. I heard her begin to talk to herself again. “Edward—“ I turned back.

I kept my hand at Bella’s elbow as we exited the 161 . Little did I know that even my faint hopes were soon to be crushed. settling her on the boat’s shifting deck. Honeymoon? No! This was a perversion of nature. An aberration that would destroy her as it pursued a twisted existence. There was no thrill as the wind of our passage whipped my hair into a bronze tangle. I was not her guardian. I glanced across at Bella. I stiffened my shoulders against the crushing guilt. I could not let that thing take her from me! Behind us. Cautiously. This was not my paradise. Her reticence was a harsher judgment than any cruel words or accusing glances. I loosened the moorings before approaching Bella. now. Not once did her eyes glance my way. There was no escape. determined to tear her life from her. How could she not blame me for doing this to her? But I knew she would never say it out loud. Nothing was worth this pain. The entire trip on the boat. I was running. she didn’t make a sound. growing in strength. It wouldn’t be long. Did she flinch from my touch? Her eyes never met mine. lost in her own thoughts. storm clouds gathered in the east. The interminable hours of self-castigation were persistently eroding my hold on sanity. my senses frayed. my body shaking with the intensity of my self-hatred. huddled silently in her seat. I lifted her by the waist. We landed at Sea-Tac airport and waited silently while the rest of the passengers disembarked. She would only nod or shake her head minutely to answer my few direct questions. I was fleeing from a nightmare too terrible to face. but no amount of mental reassurance could squash the dread growing inside me. A squall line advanced. Silky waves of dark brown hair hid her face from me and she silently took her seat. Bella was too sweet and selfless to ever admit to me how much I had hurt her—was still hurting her. She must hate me. I endured the trip back to Seattle in tortured silence. Carlisle would know what to do. I should never have come back. Swiftly. I clung to that slim hope. It was as if an impenetrable wall stood between us. It must be stopped. in the cab weaving through the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro. and Bella was paying the price for my selfishness. I was her curse! I leaped into to boat. but it pursued me. wiping all memory of the tropical sun from the suffering skies. Everything about me was a danger to her. My nerves were raw.How ironic. I felt no exhilaration from the throbbing roar of the engine or the sound of the propeller tearing through the water. The monster inside of her. and the arduous flights back to Seattle. Jacob was right.

My soul descended into hell. Emmett’s signature smirk was missing. Rosalie stepped forward from the others. and Bella. I fell to my knees. I saw her own imagined vision of the future. My sister met my gaze. All of her instincts were to protect me. nothing concrete. concealing Bella’s face from view. My confusion lasted only a fraction of a heartbeat. She ached for us. She’s going to be okay. But those instincts were in complete opposition to her desire for a child. We’ll make sure of that. Her pixie-like features were pinched with stress as she struggled to make sense of the flickering future. as if anticipating great pain. her arms outstretched in welcome. breaking free from my startled grasp. My eyes assessed my family gathered in a somber semi-circle. son. defeated. Alice’s arm was intertwined with his. tenderly holding a fragile. her son. She was so torn that I could not bear to look into her tormented gaze. Blurry images of Bella flitted like specters through her head.gate into the nearly deserted concourse. her grandchild. Bella was already enfolded in Rosalie’s protective embrace. 162 . No! I gasped in soundless horror. safely in her arms. I nodded minutely. My gaze swept the rest of their faces. human-looking child. I ignored his attempt to include me in that protective blanket. Rosalie no longer attempted to block me from her thoughts as she caressed Bella’s hair. Esme’s flitted back and forth between Bella and me. acknowledging his thought. replaced with a grimace. In Rosalie’s mind. Carlisle’s eyes locked on mine. Comprehension burst across my psyche like an asteroid exploding into flames. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess. triumphantly defiant. A small part of my brain absently noted that ours was the only active gate. moderating their emotions to neutralize the confusion and panic that roiled around them. She stood in the living room of our house. Jasper was tensed in concentration. impenetrable curtain. Bella’s broken body lay lifeless in the background. Deep brown and golden waves intermingled to form a single. Her face was a mask of frightened confusion. although I was grateful for Bella’s sake. What? Bella suddenly came to life.

The End 163 .

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