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Changing the Future

Changing the Future

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Published by Laura Knowles
Written originally on fanfiction.net, the author took down there profile I believe. Anyway I read it and loved it and am passing it along.

Written originally on fanfiction.net, the author took down there profile I believe. Anyway I read it and loved it and am passing it along.

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Published by: Laura Knowles on Nov 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/09/2015

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

Changing the Future
Chapter 1: Packages
EPOV “Edward, honey, a package came for you today,” Esme remarked when we came home from school. “What did you get me this time, Alice?” I asked indifferently. Packages were a common occurrence in this house, thanks to Alice’s shopping obsession. Of course, due to her psychic visions, which included stock market trends, we had more money than we could spend in hundreds of years. This was comforting considering we were immortal vampires. “It wasn’t me this time,” Alice protested. Her eyes glazed over momentarily as she used her gift to see what was in the package. I used my mind reading gift to watch the vision with her. I saw myself open the box and take out a set of four books. Then I saw myself curled up on my couch, reading all night and all the next day. “Oh, just books. Enjoy your weekend, brother,” she smirked, dismissing me and my package. She grabbed Jasper’s hand and ran up the stairs with him. Rosalie and Emmett had long since disappeared into their bedroom. “Thanks, Mom,” I mumbled, kissing Esme’s cheek. She beamed at me. I knew I had just made her week. I usually kept to myself, eschewing physical touch, but I knew how much it meant to Esme to threat her like my mother. She had been acting like a mother to me for about eighty years now. I loved her and would do anything for her. I grabbed the package and headed to my room. I sat on my black couch and tore open the box, eager for something new to stimulate my intellect. I took all four books out, resting them on the cushions beside me. I picked up the first book and dove right into the prologue.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

BPOV I was finishing packing my bags when I heard the doorbell. I opened the front door just in time to see the brown van drive away. I looked down and saw a square package on the front stoop. I bent down to lift it up and saw it was addressed to me. It got her just in time. I’d be on a plane to Forks tomorrow. I sighed and pushed that thought to the back of my mind. I’d made my choice and, by golly, I’d live by it. Even if it killed me. The box was heavier than I expected, and I lugged it back to my room. I didn’t see any return address on it, and I wondered if Renee and Phil had gotten me a going away present. I tore into the box and was delighted to find four books. I loved reading, and now I had something new to read on the plane. At least these would help the first weekend pass by quickly. I’d much rather read than feel anxious about starting a new school on Monday. Mom was so sweet to think of me like that. I left my room to hunt her down. I found her in the garage, searching through boxes, a pile of discarded items surrounding her. I sighed. Oh, well. This time she can clean up her own mess. “Thanks for the new books, Mom,” I stated enthusiastically. She looked up at me wearing a puzzled expression. “What books, honey?” How odd. Renee couldn’t lie any better than I could, so I knew it wasn’t her. “Never mind,” I answered, brushing off her query. “The flight takes off rather early tomorrow, so I’m going to bed right after dinner.” “Good idea, honey,” she responded absently, her mind already back on her search. I shrugged and went to the kitchen to start dinner. I whipped up some spaghetti and ate at the table by myself. I knew my Mom would get to hers whenever her hunger was strong enough to break into her thoughts. I was used to eating alone. I went back to my room, putting the final items into my bags. I sat on my bed, looking around my room, thinking about all the people and things I was leaving behind. I refused to give in to despair. I prepared for bed and got under the covers. This was the last night in this house, in this room, in this bed. Tomorrow, I would go to cold, dreary, rainy Forks to live with my father, whom I had only seen for two weeks each year. I did my best to will myself to sleep. I tossed and turned, my mind refusing to settle down and allow me a few hours of peace. Finally, I gave up on sleep. I decided to start reading my new book, hoping it would help pass the time and calm my nerves. I grabbed it out of my carry-on where I had placed it. I settled up against the headboard with my legs under the covers. There were two pale hands holding a red apple under the title Twilight. I wondered what it was about. Time to find out. I opened it up to the prologue and began reading.

EPOV I was shocked and appalled as I read. Several chapters into it, I turned to the author information. I didn’t recognize the name or the picture. How did this Stephenie Meyer know all my family’s secrets? How dare she publish this information, exposing us to the world? Did she know what the Volturi would do to her for this? This was serious business. There was no way the Volturi would believe we had no part in this. Our whole family was in grave danger. I decided I had better read all the books and find out just how much this woman knew. The books were long, but reading at vampire speed, I would be finished some time tomorrow.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

BPOV I stopped reading, staring at the page in shock. The first chapter was all about me. Who knew me well enough to write this? It had only just been decided. I flipped quickly to the author information. I stared blankly at the picture. Who was Stephenie Meyer? How did she know me and my family? I was certain I had never seen her before in my life. This was really weird. I decided to keep reading and was soon drawn into the story, certain it must be fictional. Yet it was so true to my character and personality. I could really see myself behaving just like the Bella in the book. A little part of my heart kept asking, “What if it’s real? What if Edward is just as real as I am and Charlie is?” I stayed up really late, unable to put the book down. I finally finished the book, but felt dissatisfied with the ending. Then I made the mistake of reading the teaser chapters at the end of the book. What a cliffhanger! There was no way I could stop there, surrounded by thirsty vampires! I quickly scrambled to grab New Moon. I read until I got to the point the chapters were mere single word place holders depicting the passage of time. I set the book aside. He left me. How could he leave me? I felt devastated, though clearly not nearly as devastated as I did in the book. I had hope, knowing there were still 2 2/3 books left in the series. I had to be up and at ‘em in two short hours. I felt a few hot tears squeeze out as I closed my eyes, falling rapidly to sleep. EPOV I pinched the bridge of my nose as I read Bella’s response to me leaving her. I was certain, knowing myself, that I had left loving her still, but wanting to protect her from becoming a monster like me. After all, vampires mate for life, for eternity. Having declared myself, there was no way I would have ‘gotten tired’ of her. It was impossible for my kind to fall out of love. The only way I could have intentionally left my mate would have been if I truly believed she’d be better off without me, but it would kill me inside to walk away. By the end of New Moon, I was feeling pretty stupid and mad at myself. I had royally screwed things up and hurt so many people, according to the story. The worst part was admitting to myself I really would have behaved that way in those situations. I really was a sick masochistic lion, to push away and destroy the woman who made my heart sing in some twisted hope she would be better off without me. I quickly moved on to Eclipse, not wanting to dwell any longer on the revelations I was having about myself, my insecurities, and my weaknesses. By the end of Eclipse, I was ready to hunt down Jacob Black and tear him limb from limb. I’d never even met him, never even met Bella, but I was ready to rip him to shreds for what he did to my imaginary mate in a story book. How pathetic could I get? I figured I’d better read Breaking Dawn and find out the answer to that question. I read Breaking Dawn in a constant state of shock. I made love to Bella while she was human? And other than the first time, when I didn’t know what to expect, it was not only possible but glorious? A baby? I could have a baby with Bella? Jacob imprinted on my daughter? Bella was the perfect newborn and had an awesome gift that allowed her to protect our family from the Volturi and also allowed me to read her mind? Our child would grow to adulthood and then live forever? By the time I reached our happy ever after ending, I was completely blown away. I picked up Twilight, wanting to read it again. To my surprise, the book was completely blank, including the cover. All the pages were blank, there was no cover picture, no title, no author. I was suddenly extremely thankful I had a perfect memory. Never had I been so grateful. I realized I now had nothing to show anyone else. All four books were completely erased. I couldn’t tell my family – they’d never believe it. Well, they knew I didn’t lie, so they would believe me eventually, but I realized I didn’t want to share any of this yet.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

After coming to know Bella through the books, I had come to several realizations. I was already in love with Isabella Swan, who may not even exist. If she was real, I would never leave her. I wanted to marry her and have a child with her. I would not hesitate to change her when the time was right. Jacob Black – the whole love triangle thing wasn’t going to happen I would not do anything to cause the Volturi to pay attention to my family. I would do whatever we needed to stay under their radar. I knew something strange and magical was happening, because the books had erased themselves. Hopefully, that meant the books had never actually been published and the Volturi would have no idea of their existence. I immediately went to the computer and searched for Stephenie Meyer on the internet. I was very relieved to not that no one matched the description on the cover. I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. My family was not currently in danger. Now I just needed to determine whether or not she was real and when she was coming. I had heard through the grapevine that Chief Swan’s daughter was coming to live with him, but I hadn’t cared enough to pay attention to the gossip before. I drove into Forks and parked in front of the police station. I relaxed, letting my mind drift into the building to pick up the stray thoughts of the people inside. . . . I think I’ll have ravioli for dinner tonight . . . . . . I am so tired. I can’t wait until my shift is over . . . . . . There’s no way they can pin this on me. Nobody saw what I did . . . . . . I wonder how Bella is settling in, probably unpacking today . . . She was here! Now to see if there was any truth to the story. One whiff of her scent was all I needed to confirm or disprove it. I drove to Charlie’s house, spotting his cruiser parked out front. I parked nearby and walked up to the car. I opened the passenger side door and was immediately hit with a scent that set my throat on fire. Venom pooled in my mouth, and I knew my eyes were black. I quickly but quietly shut the door and ran back to my car. It was true! First things first, I needed to hunt. Now. I was back home in minutes. Everyone looked up at me as I raced through the door. Esme gasped as she noticed my eyes. “What happened, honey?” She fretted, coming over to take a closer look. “I caught a whiff of a delicious human scent and realized I’d let myself get too thirsty. I need to hunt now, and I was hoping you’d all come with me,” I confessed. I really wanted them to be fully satiated before they encountered my Bella on Monday, but I couldn’t tell them that. They were all shocked that I’d actually asked them to come with me.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

. . . Boy, he’s really panicky. That’s not like him. It must’ve been a close one. Glad it wasn’t me for once . . . Jasper sent me a wave of calm and smiled reassuringly. “I’m a little thirsty myself. I’d be glad to keep you company,” Jasper proclaimed. Alice started searching the future. She clasped Jasper’s hand and smiled at me too. “Of course we’ll join you,” she remarked. “I can see we’re going to have a lot of fun on this trip.” “Awesome!” Emmett shouted. “I challenge you all to a contest to see who can catch three different species of animals first.” Rosalie rolled her eyes at Emmett, but she had been watching me with concern. . . . Since when does Mr. Perfect lose control of his thirst? . . . “Why don’t you kids go on ahead and go? Carlisle will be home soon, and I’d rather wait for him.” . . . Unless you particularly want me to come along, Edward? . . . Esme eyed me with concern. I smiled and shook my head, trying to relieve her mind. “You two deserve a little time alone. Why don’t you just enjoy our absence tonight?” I suggested. She grinned happily, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Well, now I’m definitely going,” Rosalie complained in feigned annoyance. . . . Nice job, Edward. That was really thoughtful. They really don’t get much time to themselves. . . She sounded both surprised and pleased with me. “I’m surprised at you, Edward Cullen!” Emmett teased. “Of course, you probably think they’re going to sit around playing chess all night.” We all started laughing, including Esme. “That’s exactly what I was picturing, Emmett,” I joked. “And I plan to hunt far enough away so that is the only image I receive regarding their interactions tonight.” “Amen to that, little brother,” Jasper agreed. Everyone started laughing again. I could tell they were confused by my convivial demeanor. Was I really such a dull fellow then? I thought back over the past eighty odd years. Yep, I guess I was a regular stick in the mud. Well, all that was about to change. I had found a reason to embrace life in this existence. Bella was going to make me a new man. “What are you waiting for, lazybones?” I called out, dashing out the back door and into the woods. I heard their laughter as they pounded behind me. I was the fastest and could outrun them if I wanted, but I slowed down to allow them to catch up to me. “Rules for your contest, Emmett?” I asked lightheartedly. “Okay, three animals, three different species. Animals must weigh over a hundred pounds. The first one to drain three different animals, bury them, and return to the house receives a forfeit from the last one back,” he announced eagerly. “Ready, set, go!” We all shot off to go our own ways. I decided I really wanted to win. I ran toward my secret meadow. I caught the scent of a herd of elk rather quickly. I jumped on one and drained it, disposing of the carcass neatly. I was extremely pleased to note a nearby lynx. This was my

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

lucky day. I rapidly dispatched it before heading deeper into the wilderness. I found a lone timber wolf, its paw caught in a trap. It was chewing its own leg off trying to escape. I put the poor thing out of its misery and mangled the trap beyond repair. Poachers didn’t belong in a national forest. I cleaned up after myself and headed back to the house. I had only been gone a few hours, able to find the necessary animals nearby. I entered the house quietly, not wanting to disturb my parents if they were busy. A few minutes after I entered though, Carlisle came downstairs. . . . Ahh, Edward. I was hoping it was you. . . . “Is everything okay, son? Esme told me you seemed rather bothered earlier,” he mentioned casually, his love and compassion radiating out toward me. I smiled at him. “All better now, Carlisle,” I replied easily. “I just let myself get too thirsty.” He nodded understandingly. . . . I’m glad you resisted, son . . . “So am I,” I muttered under my breath. I knew he heard me anyway. He chuckled, slapped me on the back, and headed back upstairs to the master suite. “Hey, Carlisle, note the time,” I called after him. “I think I’m the first one back, so I guess I’ll win the contest.” I decided to go back out and check on Charlie’s house while waiting for my siblings to return. I ran over to the Swan residence. I heard their heartbeats and their breathing and knew the chief and his daughter were both asleep. I snuck in the back door. Her scent permeated the kitchen. My throat burned despite the blood I had gorged on earlier. I knew from the books I would get used to the burn, even learn to ignore it, and that Bella was worth the effort and the pain. I found the laundry room and saw two of her outfits in the dirty clothes hamper. Trying not to think of how this would look to a third party, I grabbed one of her dirty socks, thrusting it into my pocket. I then skedaddled back outside. I dashed into the woods, relieved to inhale the fresh air. I have myself one clean breath, before resigning myself to self-torture. As I walked toward my house, I held the sock to my nose, inhaling deeply, forcing myself to become desensitized to her mouthwatering aroma. I decided not to go back inside the house. I perched in a tree instead, with a good view of the house, so I could watch for the return of my brothers and sisters. I continued to punish myself with her scent, forcing myself to learn to ignore it as I contemplated all the things I had learned about my Bella. Frankly, I was awestruck. A beautiful, innocent, intelligent, selfless human woman loved me, or would anyway. She saw me as an angel, instead of a monster. She was willing to give up everything to spend forever with me. I would treasure her from the very beginning this time, knowing she belonged with me and feeling confident in the strength of her feelings for me. No wasting precious time with regrets. The big question was how do I approach her? I sat in the tree for hours, considering and rejecting different scenarios. Finally, I decided I just had to see her face. The burn in my throat was painful, but manageable. I had gotten used to its constant presence for the past few hours.

I jumped down from the tree, maintaining the sock’s proximity to my nose. I briefly pondered the fact that all of my siblings had yet to return. I mentally shrugged. My goal had been to make sure none of them were thirsty tomorrow for Bella’s first day of school. I was quickly outside the Swan residence staring up at her bedroom window. It was wide open! Why would her window be open in the middle of winter? I tucked the sock back into my pocket and leapt up to her windowsill. She was sitting up in her bed reading. I

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

gasped as I recognized the title and noticed three other books stacked on her bedside table. She looked up at the sound. Our eyes met, and I was lost.

Chapter 2: Meeting of the Minds

BPOV Instead of unpacking, I had been reading constantly since I first started Twilight. I only stopped when absolutely necessary. Charlie probably thought I was crazy. I had hardly even spoken to him since I got her. I would have to make it up to him tonight. I was completely enthralled with this story of my “life”. If only it were real. But, really, vampires and werewolves? I wasn’t born yesterday. I was so relieved to get to the last chapter of Breaking Dawn and enjoy the happily ever after this Stephenie Meyer person had granted my character. I did always enjoy a Disney style fairytale ending. I was lingering over the last sentence, when I heard a gasp. I glanced up into the eyes of an angel. I recognized him instantly. Pale skin, dark circles, butterscotch eyes, bronze messy hair, flawless features. I noticed he was staring at me just as intensely as I stared at him. For a moment, I blushed and felt self-conscious. He smiled when I blushed, and I relaxed, knowing from the books that he saw me the same way I saw him. In his eyes, I was beautiful, an angel. I might consider him delusional. I might not see it myself, but I would not doubt his feelings for me. Look how much trouble my low self-esteem caused my character in the story. “Edward!” I breathed, hardly daring to believe my eyes. Perhaps I had actually fallen asleep and was now dreaming? I pinched myself to be sure. Yep, definitely awake. “Bella!” he murmured reverently. “May I enter?” I smiled at his friendly formality. “Please do.” I closed the Breaking Dawn book and set it down on my nightstand. Edward climbed in and casually strolled toward the bed. “How are you handling your thirst?” I wondered, confused. He smiled and gestured toward the books.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“I received the same four books in an anonymous package. I snuck into your house earlier and grabbed your sock from the laundry hamper. I’ve spent the last six hours becoming accustomed to your scent. It really is overwhelmingly delicious,” he confessed with a crooked grin. My heartbeat sped up at the sight, and his grin got wider. I blanched at the idea of him sniffing my dirty sock, but I was thankful for anything that allowed him to be this close to me. Then his first words registered. “You’ve read the whole Twilight series too?” I asked in astonished delight. He nodded solemnly. “Well, that certainly makes things easier.” He nodded again, reaching for my books. “May I?” I nodded, curious. Was there something in particular he wanted to ask or point out to me? He sighed as he quickly flipped through them, then handed them to me. I was dismayed to see they were all completely blank. “What happened?” I shrieked in dismay. “The same thing happened to mine when I finished reading them. I don’t know why.” “Because we’ve already changed the story,” I whispered, having a brief epiphany. He looked surprised, then nodded thoughtfully. “You’re right, we have. Frankly, I’m relieved. There are several major things I’d like to change. It’s good to know we can.” “Please don’t leave me,” I begged, thinking back to New Moon. He grabbed my hand and squeezed it gently. “I won’t, I promise,” he claimed firmly. “I already know it would be an absolute disaster. And I will change you when the time comes. Now that I know you won’t regret it, I’m not afraid.” I beamed at him. Two major victories already, and we just met! I silently sent up a prayer of intense gratitude and blessing for Ms. Meyer’s forethought in sending us the books. “I’m already in love with you, Edward,” I confessed, hoping he felt the same. “I will love you forever, Isabella Marie Swan,” he professed. “I’m very thankful you’re real and not a fictional character.” I laughed, knowing he had started falling in love with me through the books, just as I had done for him. “I will gladly marry you when the time comes, and I would love to have a child with you.” His face became radiant with joy, and he practically exploded with excitement and happiness. “Absolutely!” he eagerly agreed. Then his face became serious. “What about Jacob?” “Yes, Jacob. I definitely don’t want to hurt him or you like that. However, he is clearly meant to be part of our lives. I thought about where it went wrong with him, how he got knocked off the best friend track and onto the romantic interest track. I’m fairly certain I messed everything up when I flirted with him at the beach to learn more about you. I used him then, deliberately leading him on to get information. I sent him the wrong signals, leading him to think I might be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him, and causing him to consider me in a romantic light. I won’t do that this time.” “Hmmm, you may be right. I hesitate to have him anywhere near you though.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

I smiled at him, squeezing his hand reassuringly. “I will always choose you, Edward, and since you aren’t going to leave me, I won’t need him to stitch me back together. But we need to befriend Jacob. We need the support of the wolves, and he is the true Alpha. Besides, there is a good chance he’ll be part of our family some day.” “Don’t remind me,” he muttered, wincing at the thought of Jacob imprinting on our newborn daughter. “Yeah, this time we move before the birth and don’t let any wolves near her until she’s older. I’m willing to share my child with our family, but I’d like to keep that special devotion all to ourselves for a while.” He grinned, silently agreeing with me. It had been incredibly irksome in the story for her to be just as attached to Jacob as she was to her own parents. “I think we should befriend Jacob, Quil, and Embry as soon as possible. According to the books, we have a whole year for them to get to know you and your family before they become wolves. That could change if they start spending time with the vampires, of course. However, if they were already friends with all of you, if they knew you were people too, think what that could do to the alliance. Also, we’ll need permission for you to change me, so we don’t violate the treaty. I know we could do that if we have Jacob on our side,” I encouraged. I waited for several minutes while he mulled over my idea. “So, what do you think?” I asked when I couldn’t stand the silence any longer. He flashed me a wide grin. “I think you’re brilliant! Well, obviously you won’t be watching my family play baseball any time soon. I want you to join us for lunch tomorrow at school. I made sure we all went hunting last night. What other suggestions do you have?” “Instead of asking Jasper to keep his distance, he should spend lots of time around me so he can acclimate to my scent, just like you do. Then he won’t lose it so easily if I get injured around him. Also, we should actively help him increase his control. He did that in the book after my birthday, and his control increased dramatically,” I suggested. “Besides, if he feels your emotions, have you ever considered he might feel your thirst too? Can you imagine how difficult it must be for him if he must master not only his own thirst, but also the thirst six other vampires add to his own? You consider him the weakest link, believing he struggles so much because he drank human blood for so long, but it’s possible he’s actually one of the strongest, resisting despite the amplified thirst he feels around the rest of you. Yet he doesn’t even realize it. He thinks of himself as weak, not understanding why he struggles more than the rest of you do.” I watched him mull all this over for several minutes. “I’ve realized a lot of things about the way I behave and way I treat others. I agree with your logic. I’ve hurt my family in different ways, and I intend to make amends, starting with Rosalie,” he mused. “I will reassure Rosalie that I intend to have a child and want her to help raise it. I’d like to name Emmett and Rose godparents to our child,” I recommended cautiously. “That’s an excellent idea, love,” Edward agreed enthusiastically. “Do you feel weird that we are seriously discussing godparents for our future child when we only met a few minutes ago?” I asked, concerned I was moving too fast. He laughed and tapped my nose with his index finger.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“During the past few days, I’ve lived through roughly two years with you. I already know you better than I did in the book, since I had access to your thoughts. I was very thankful the books were almost entirely in your point of view. Besides, vampires mate for eternity. I’ve already fallen in love with you and made the crucial changes. Your hold on me is irrevocable and unbreakable. I will always love you, no matter what.” “I feel the same way. I learned a great deal about myself too. One thing I realized is you and your family give gifts as an expression of your love and affection. It’s obvious money is no object for you guys, that money is virtually meaningless to your family. Thus, the gifts you give are never about money, but are always from the heart. You are taking your valuable time and attention and expending an effort to think about me and what would make me happy. I can see that my pride and feelings of unworthiness are what prevented me from accepting gifts. Reading it as an outsider, I suddenly realized that when I reject your gifts, part of you feels like I’m rejecting you, your love and affection, that I don’t consider your time, attention, and effort to be worthwhile. So I’m going to forget my money qualms, knowing Alice can always make more, faster than even she can spend it.” We both laughed at that, knowing her shopping obsession, but also knowing her psychic skills with the stock market paid for it a thousand times over. I continued thinking aloud, “Also, while I don’t really like to be the center of attention, I realize it’s part and parcel of being with you, since you’re so gorgeous, and you’re worth it, worth all the whispers and stares we’re going to get. Besides, I really don’t give a flying flip what those kids at school think. At least I already know Angela and Ben are the only ones worth knowing. Plus, I’ll reassure Rose I won’t give away your secrets, and I won’t be changed until I’m dying. That way, she’ll know I’m not just throwing my human life away. Hopefully, that will help her get over her jealousy and hard feelings.” “I’ll do my best to help with that. It seemed in the story that I didn’t express my feelings for you clearly to her, probably because I was so conflicted in the beginning, trying uselessly to ignore you. Once Rose understands I love you the way she loves Emmett, I hope she’ll come around. I don’t want to tell the family all about the story, if you don’t mind. Maybe you could just say you got a package from some psychic named Stephenie Meyer, who wrote you all about us, but the words disappeared after you read them. I’ll say I got one too that told me all about you and offered some warnings of things to avoid, but the words disappeared after I read them, so I had nothing to show anyone else. I don’t want to scare them or cause unnecessary hard feelings, especially since we’re doing things differently this time around. What do you think?” “Yeah, I agree sometimes ignorance is bliss. You know I can’t lie at all, but that story tells the truth and nothing but the truth. It just doesn’t tell the whole truth. I can certainly work with that.” “Okay, I need to get back to my family before they get suspicious. If you don’t mind, I’d like to come back tonight after Charlie is asleep.” He was visibly nervous, wondering if he had stepped over the line. “I’d love that!” I exclaimed happily. He gave me his crooked smile, leaned forward to gently press his lips to mine, and was out the window before my brain could even process the fact that he’d kissed me. Wow! Yep, I was hopelessly in love with a vampire. I jumped out of bed, eager to start my day. EPOV I stood still for a brief minute under Bella’s window, touching my fingers to my lips. They were still tingling from our kiss. I felt like shouting for joy. I finally found my mate after all these years, and she was absolutely wonderful. I struggled to get my emotions under control as I

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

ran slowly back to the house. I wasn’t ready to reveal her existence to the family yet. Tomorrow would be soon enough. I couldn’t force myself to feel detached like I did before. Finally, I thought about leaving her, not permanently – that was too painful, but for a two week hunting trip. Yep, that brought my mood plummeting to a more normal level for the preBella me. Jasper would probably still be confused with my array of emotions, but it was the best I could do. I heard voices inside arguing, with accusations of cheating being flung about. I rushed into the house. My siblings were fighting while Carlisle and Esme sat on the couch watching.

Chapter 3: Setting the Stage

EPOV “Where’ve you been?” Alice asked as soon as she spotted me. “Don’t you already know?” I questioned, wondering if she’d seen any visions of me with Bella. “No,” she growled crossly. “I’ve been too busy to ‘look’ for you.” I nodded. “I’ve been back for hours,” I bragged. “I got tired of waiting around for the rest of you. What took you so long?” All four of them smirked at me condescendingly. “You wouldn’t understand, but I can assure you we weren't playing chess,” Emmett sneered playfully. “Rose was last, so she pays the forfeit.” “Only because Jasper cheated!” she shrieked indignantly. “Fine, name your forfeit, Eddie.” She was trying to provoke me by using the nickname I hated, but I chose to ignore it. I had bigger fish to fry. “Hmmm,” I hummed, pretending to think. I already knew exactly what I wanted. I allowed an evil grin to cross my face. “I know! I’m going to invite a human to join us at lunch tomorrow, and you have to be nice to her the whole time.” My whole family gasped in shock. “What?!” Rose screamed. “A human girl?” No freakin’ way. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Emmett complained. “Why should the rest of us have to suffer for her forfeit?”

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“I can’t believe you’re absolutely serious about this, completely determined,” Jasper added. Have you lost your mind? “Do we have to eat human food?” Alice asked in disgust. Four minds screamed at me in protest. “Son, do you think that’s a good idea?” Carlisle inquired hesitantly, his glance flickering momentarily to Jasper. “I’m confident Jasper can handle it. If I can, so can he,” I responded firmly. Wow, I’ve never felt this kind of trust from him before. Did his experience yesterday help him understand me better? Thanks, Edward! “I’ll be fine,” Jasper stated confidently. Alice quickly searched the future. “Yes, it’ll be fine. She eats lunch, but none of us do. It doesn’t seem to bother her. Nobody talks much. I don’t recognize her. Must be Chief Swan’s daughter, the new girl,” Alice announced. Oh, well. It’s only half an hour. I can scare her off afterward. “Fine, I’ll be nice to her during lunch,” Rosalie sighed, resigned. “But she’ll probably be too nervous to eat.” “This could be fun!” Emmett plotted, rubbing his hands together. I didn’t even bother telling him to be nice. According to the Twilight series, Bella loved Emmett and took his teasing in stride as long as it was nonsexual, and she’d get her own back once she was a newborn. “Rosalie, I wondered if you would go for a walk with me,” I offered hopefully. Why me? “I wanted to speak with you privately for a few minutes.” Okay. She nodded. We headed into the forest, far enough so we wouldn’t be overheard, before she turned to me expectantly. Well? “I was thinking back to when you were changed.” Oh, no. She turned away from me. What about it? “I realized how I must have sounded to you. I was feeling selfish. I was used to having Carlisle and Esme all to myself, and I knew we would all have to help take care of you as a newborn. I guess I felt similar to the way most older children feel when their parents have another child. I was jealous that Carlisle chose to change someone else. I felt like our family was complete with just the three of us. I resented that we had to move to hide your existence. Plus, you were so beautiful as a human girl.” You thought I was beautiful? “Of course I did. I’m not blind, you know!” She turned back to look me in the eye, judging my sincerity.

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“As a vampire, you became the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I knew you would always be noticed no matter where we went. Your overwhelming beauty would command attention, when our whole existence required blending in, avoiding notice. I was afraid you would expose us without even trying, because men would watch you wherever we went.” She smiled at me. I can understand your point of view. “I’m sorry if I hurt you with my negativity and apparent rejection.” She was surprised I understood how she felt. “Please forgive me, Rose. I love you, and I’m really glad you’re my sister. This family is much better for having you and Emmett in it.” Wow, thanks, Edward. I didn’t have any idea you felt that way. “I forgive you, Edward.” But why didn’t you even consider me as a possible mate? “Ahh, Rose. If I were a human man, of course I would have, but I was and am a vampire. Vampires have soulmates, and they usually recognize them almost instantly. Reading Carlisle’s and Esme’s thoughts, I had a good idea of what that would feel like. I didn’t feel that pull toward you, so I knew you weren’t the one destined for me. I knew you would never be more than a sister in my eyes. Having experienced the love Carlisle and Esme shared, I refused to settle for anything else. You share that same love with Emmett. Having experienced that love, can you really imagine yourself in a relationship with someone else?” No, I can’t. It wouldn’t be worth it. “So, it was nothing personal, Rose. I could quickly tell we weren’t meant to be a couple. You were destined for Emmett, not for me.” She nodded in understanding. Thank you, Edward. That’s always bothered me all these years, but now I know the truth and it sets me free. She smiled. “You’re a wonderful sister though.” She grinned. Now I know you’re flattering me. Don’t worry, I’m not mad about the human. And I forgive you for being a selfish prick all those years ago. She giggled and took off for the house. I pretended to give chase, but I was pondering the change in Rosalie. Just that one conversation seemed to have lifted a weight off her shoulders and removed a shadow from her eyes. I shuddered to think how much I had unknowingly hurt her all those years ago with just a few careless words. When I came inside, Carlisle and Esme were sitting side by side on the couch reading. I walked over to Esme and pulled her up into my embrace, hugging her tightly. Carlisle’s eyes widened in surprise. “I just wanted to tell you how blessed I’ve been to have you as a mother all these years. I don’t know how you continually put up with us, but I’m very thankful you do. You’re the reason we are a family and not just a coven. You’re the glue that holds us together. Without you, our family would fall apart. You make each house into a home for us and you’re always there for us when we need you. Thanks, Mom, for everything.” Esme squeezed me tighter and I kissed the top of her head. Voices chorused from the second story.

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“Yeah, you’re awesome, Mom!” “The greatest!” “The best ever!” “Thanks, Mom. We love you.” Esme’s thoughts were jumbled and chaotic. She was actually sobbing, but I knew she was just overwhelmed with happy emotions. Carlisle stood up and took her into his embrace. What brought this on, son? “I’ve just been thinking a lot about my family, and I realized some things about myself as well. I wanted to give credit where credit was due. Thank you for saving me all those years ago and for adopting me as your son. I wouldn’t want this existence without your love and guidance. Without you as my father, I would truly be a monster. However, you are my daily inspiration to be something more. Thank you, Dad.” Now Carlisle was the one choked up with emotion. The voices sounded out again. “We love you too, Dad.” “You’re an inspiration to us all.” “Thanks for teaching me a better way to live.” “Thanks for saving me, Dad.” Carlisle sank down onto the sofa, cradling Esme in his arms. They clung to one another. “Thank you, children. We love you all,” they replied in unison, smiling into each other’s eyes. I went upstairs to kill some time until I could return to my Bella. BPOV Time had dragged by all day. I felt like the clock was turning backwards when I wasn’t watching it. I had unpacked all my bags, cleaned and organized my room, gone grocery shopping, and made several casseroles. I already had dinner prepared for the next three days. My mind spent the entire day thinking about the Cullens, about all the mistakes Edward and I made in the Twilight series, and how we could do things differently this time. I had retired to bed early, too excited to calmly sit and make small talk with Charlie. I did hug him goodnight and thank him wholeheartedly for having me. Because of him, I had met my soulmate, and I knew my time with Charlie was short. I got ready for bed, climbed under the covers and let my thoughts drift to Edward again. Finally, I heard Charlie shuffle off to bed. About fifteen minutes later, my angel appeared through my window. Edward closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. After about five minutes of deep breathing, he opened his eyes and smiled at me. He came over and sat beside me on the bed, taking my hand in his. “My siblings know you’re going to sit with us at lunch tomorrow. They don’t know anything else about you. I had a good talk with Rosalie that should help reduce some of the jealousy. Also, she lost a contest today, so her forfeit was to be nice to ‘the human’ tomorrow at lunch.

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It doesn’t give you much time to make a good first impression, but at least she won’t be openly hostile for your first meeting,” he explained. “Thanks, Edward,” I murmured gratefully, staring into his eyes. My heartbeat picked up a bit, and he smiled my favorite smile. My mind went blank. So that’s what it’s like to be dazzled. I closed my eyes and shook my head. “No fair dazzling me!” He chuckled, clearly pleased with himself. “Once you get your schedule, I’m going to try to match my schedule to yours. Now that I’ve found you, I want to spend as much time together as possible.” “Works for me! I was so bored today. I missed you already and couldn’t wait for Charlie to go to sleep so you could come over. I even considered slipping a couple of sleeping pills into his dinner.” He raised an eyebrow at me. “Well, I didn’t seriously consider it, but it did cross my mind,” I admitted. He laughed quietly. “You need to get some sleep. You’ve got a big day tomorrow. Brand new school, possessive vampire boyfriend, lunch with five vampires. Not your typical Monday. Bedtime for the human. Besides, I’m looking forward to your sleep talking. I wonder if you’ll say my name.” I groaned, “Probably.” I wanted to protest, but I hadn’t had much sleep this weekend, trying to finish the books. My eyelids were starting to close of their own accord. I snuggled down under my covers and rested my head on his thigh, draping my arm across his legs. He ran his fingers through my silky brown locks for a few minutes. Then he started lightly massaging my temple, followed by my neck and shoulders. By the time he started on my back, I was sound asleep.

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Chapter 4: Shocking the Students
BPOV I woke up the next morning in Edward’s embrace. As I began to stir, he released me. I opened my eyes to find myself staring directly into his gold ones. He smiled and my heart flipped. “You stayed! You’re real! You’re wonderful!” I was beyond ecstatic. I was positively euphoric. His eyes flicked to my lips. I stopped breathing. Would he kiss me? He gently lowered his lips to mine. I threw my arm around him, trying to hold him there, though I knew it was futile. He didn’t pull away. Our lips moved against each other, the sensation incredibly pleasant. He pulled away as I started to feel lightheaded. “Breathe, Bella,” he reminded me with a chuckle. I quickly relieved my screaming lungs. “Time to get up and get ready for school.” “Are you sure we can’t just stay here and practice kissing all day?” I begged. “I guess the book was right about you,” he teased, running his fingers down my cheek. I groaned. “I’ve decided not to be such a prude. Obviously, it is possible to be intimate with one another while you’re still human. I’ll have to work into it slowly, but not as slowly as I did in the book.” I felt relieved and amazed at this incredible man who wanted me, needed me, loved me. And he was all mine. Forever. And he wanted to be intimate with me. I was willing to work into it. We could take it slowly. As long as we were making progress, I wouldn’t ask for more. “Okay, time for my human moment. I’ll see you at school?” “Count on it!” he exclaimed as he jumped out the window. Today was going to be an incredible day. EPOV Jasper kept giving me funny looks on the way to school, but none of the others paid attention to me. After we went our separate ways, I returned to the parking lot to wait for Bella. I heard her truck long before I saw it. I was going to have to do something about that old thing, as soon as she would let me. Maybe for Valentine’s Day? Her eyes lit up when she saw me, and she headed straight for me after she parked. We walked side by side into the school.

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“First test,” I whispered, as I held the office door open for her. Her eyes widened as she remembered the first day office scene from Twilight. She entered confidently anyway and went right up to Mrs. Cope’s desk. I followed her in, allowing the door to close behind me. “Hello, I’m Bella Swan. Today’s my first day, and I need to pick up my schedule,” she greeted Mrs. Cope with a smile. “Ah, yes, Charlie’s daughter, right? I’ll just print it out for you. So what do you think of Forks so far?” “I’m optimistic that I’m really going to like it here,” Bella stated with a grin. . . . What a nice girl. So pretty too. . . “Here you go, dear. I hope you have a great day!” she enthused, handing Bella her paperwork. Bella thanked her, subtly holding up her schedule so I could read it. “Wait in the hall for me,” I whispered as she brushed past. Her scent had permeated the small room, but I was still under control, thanks to all the time I had already spent with her. Mrs. Cope saw me waiting and beckoned me forward. “What can I do for you, Edward?” . . . Anything and I mean anything. No, no. Too young. But so hot! . . . I deliberately dazzled her, summoning up all my charm. “I really need to change my schedule, Mrs. Cope.” I heard the door open and looked behind me to see Alice come waltzing into the room. She quickly joined me at the desk. “Me too!” I groaned too quietly for Mrs. Cope to hear, before ramping up the charm. Alice added her own dazzling charm and Mrs. Cope didn’t stand a chance. We soon both had a schedule almost identical to Bella’s. . . . Why are you doing this, Edward? I only saw that you were, not why. . . . “Bella,” I breathed. . . . . Bella Swan? The new girl? . . . . I nodded briefly on our way out the door. . . . . Why? . . . . I knew she was watching me, but I only had eyes for the girl waiting in the hallway. She smiled at me, and I grinned back. I heard Alice gasp. . . . . What on earth? You’re lit up like a Christmas tree. . . . “Both our schedules match yours now, love,” I assured my mate. “We’d better head to class.” . . . . Love? . . . Alice thought in shock, turning to look at Bella.

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“Alice!” Bella squealed, throwing her arms around my sister. The look on Alice’s face at being greeted so enthusiastically by a human was priceless. “We’re going to be best friends, even though you do force me to go shopping with you and torture me with makeover sessions!” Alice froze for a second at the unexpected embrace, then returned the hug. She quickly checked the future and saw the truth of Bella’s words. She squealed and squeezed her tighter. “Can’t . . . breathe. . .” Bella gasped. “Oops! Sorry!” Alice apologized, immediately letting go and stepping back. Bella stumbled, but I was already prepared to catch her. “That’s okay,” Bella laughed. “I have a feeling I’ll soon get used to it.” . . . . She’s your mate?! . . . . Alice screamed in her head as we walked to class. I nodded happily. . . . . Wow! Does she know about us? . . . . I nodded again. . . . . You told her?! . . . . I shook my head. . . . . Then, how? . . . . “I’ll tell you later,” I promised, speaking so softly only she could hear me. . . . . Okay! . . . . We all handed our paperwork to the teacher. She eyed us curiously. “Do you guys already know each other?” “Bella is a friend of the family,” I answered smoothly. Bella blushed and nodded at the same time Alice did. Mrs. Taylor arranged for the three of us to sit together to help Bella get settled. I thanked her and the students who moved to accommodate us. When the bell rang, we hurried off to our next class, ignoring the other students in our haste to secure three seats together. Once we settled into our seats, some of the other students approached Bella. I didn’t like their thoughts. I was sitting directly behind Bella, so I started playing with her hair, wanting all the children to know she was mine. Alice was sitting to Bella’s left. She smirked when she saw what I was doing, knowing exactly why I was doing it. I was marking my territory. “Hey, you must be Isabella Swan. I’m Jessica Stanley.” “Call me Bella, Jessica.” “So, um, I guess you already know the Cullens?” Bella simply nodded. “She’s my best friend,” Alice offered, knowing it would be all over school before the end of the day. “I’m so happy she was able to move here to be with us.”

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“She’s my fiancé,” I growled. Everyone but Bella stared at me in shock. Even Alice. . . . . What?! . . . . . . . . Fiancé? . . . . . . . . Huh? . . . . . . . . They’re too young to be engaged! . . . . . . . . Is she pregnant? . . . . . . . . Is he serious? . . . . . . . . Do their parents know? . . . . Bella didn’t have to be a mind reader to know what they were thinking. She laughed. “Yes, he’s perfectly serious. No, he hasn’t asked me formally, so he hasn’t given me the ring, but he already has it.” . . . . You do? . . . . Alice wondered. I nodded. . . . .Wow! . . . . “No, we’re not getting married anytime soon. No, my parents don’t know. No, I’m not pregnant. Both of us are still virgins, for crying out loud, and we plan to wait for our wedding night. Satisfied?” “Settle down, class. Get in your seats,” Mrs. Clark commanded. Even she was shocked at our conversation. Bella smiled at me and I smirked back, giving her the thumbs up sign. Alice beamed at both of us. . . . . . You have so much to tell me, brother! . . . . Once again, we raced to our next class when the bell rang. The other kids whispered, but they kept their distance. The same was true for fourth period. Finally, the lunch bell rang. The three of us went through the line together. Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper were already at our usual table. Alice sat on one side of Jasper and Bella sat on the other. Jasper stiffened slightly when he caught her scent. . . . . She smells so good, I don’t know if I can handle it. . . . I sat between Bella and Emmett. “Don’t worry, Jasper,” Bella whispered under her breath, reaching over to pat his arm. “I know you won’t hurt me. I know I smell delicious, but you’ll get used to it, and you just hunted yesterday, so you’re not really thirsty. I do apologize for the burn in your throat though. I hate that you have to suffer when you’re near me.” She casually picked up her pizza and took a bite. Emmett, Rose, and Jasper all stared at her in shock. “What the hell?” Rose shrieked too quickly for human ears to process.

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“Remember your forfeit, Rose,” I reminded her. She glared at me. . . . . Did you know this would happen? . . . . I shrugged noncommittally. “She’s calm. She trusts me! What’s wrong with her?” Jasper asked, completely confused. I put my arm around her and kissed her cheek. Her heartbeat sped up and she smiled at me. “You two love each other!” Jasper accused in shock. “She’s my mate,” I announced happily. “I can tell,” Jasper agreed thoughtfully. “Edward!” Rosalie hissed. “You told her about us?” I shook my head. Three sets of eyes stared at me in confusion. “So, Bella,” Alice drawled. “Time to spill the beans.” Bella nodded and smiled. “A few days ago, I received a package in the mail from a psychic by the name of Stephenie Meyer. The package contained a book which told me all about your family. The book said I would join your family because Edward and I are soul mates. At first, I thought the book was a joke, a work of fiction, even though it described me perfectly. It included details no one else should have known. Yet how could I believe in vampires and werewolves? As soon as I met Edward, though, I knew it was all true.” “She’s telling the truth,” Jasper confirmed. “Alice?” Rosalie asked suspiciously. Alice shook her head. “Wasn’t me.” . . . . It really wasn’t, Edward. . . . I smiled at her. “It wasn’t Alice,” I agreed. “I too received a package from the psychic.” I saw recognition light in everyone’s eyes. “My package contained books which explained about Bella and why I can’t read her thoughts.” . . . . You can’t read her thoughts?! . . . . All four mentally shrieked. “She’s a very powerful shield. Her gift works even as a human. It’s powerful enough that even Aro wouldn’t be able to read her while she’s human.” Their eyes all widened. “I was warned of multiple possible dangers to her, from a fatal car accident in the school parking lot to gang rape by four men in Port Angeles to attacks by nomadic vampires. All things that would happen if I don’t prevent them.” Rosalie winced at the mention of rape, remembering the reason for her current existence. “I was also blessed with knowledge of some of the good things that will happen, if I allow them. She is my soul mate, the only woman I will love like this for all eternity. I fully intend to marry her and keep her with me forever. She has already agreed.”

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. . . . What?! You plan to kill her? To take away her human life and damn her to this empty existence? . . . . Rose was clearly angry. I squeezed Bella’s hip, encouraging her to speak. “Rosalie, I would very much like to be your friend and your sister. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, but I know there is so much more to you than that. I wanted to assure you that I will never reveal your family’s secrets. Also, I am not planning to throw away my human life. I will not agree to being changed until I am dying. I also intend to have a child of my own before I am changed, God willing. I don’t know anything about raising children, and I never even thought about having one until I met Edward. I know it’s premature to discuss this the day I meet you, so you have lots of time to think about it, but I’d really like your help raising our child. I’d like for you and Emmett to be our child’s godparents.” Bella paused and continued eating. “Is she kidding?” Rose whispered too low for human ears. Her thoughts were frozen. “She’s completely sincere! She trusts you. She loves you like a sister! She trusts and loves all of us. She considers us her family! What a weird human!” Jasper exclaimed under his breath. “I’ve never come across anyone like her in all my years.” . . . . She really wants me to help raise her baby? She wants me to be a godmother? . . . . “She and I have already discussed it. It was her idea, but I’d like that too.” Rose would have been crying if she had tears. “Emmett, you’re like the big brother I always wanted, only much, much scarier,” Bella confessed. Emmett grinned. “I am extremely clumsy, even for a human, which will be a consistent source of entertainment for you. Just remember that once I am a newborn, I’ll be stronger than you, at least for a little while.” Emmett laughed out loud at the suggestion Bella could ever be stronger than him. “By the way, we’re driving everybody crazy. They are very upset they can’t hear our conversation, and they’re mad we’re hogging the new girl. If you haven’t heard the word already, I introduced Bella as a friend of the family and my fiancé. Alice introduced her as her best friend. I’d appreciate it if you would support us in this.” They all nodded. It was time to head off to fifth period classes. Each one of them gave Bella a hug on the way out. Even Rosalie.

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Chapter 5: Meet the Parents
BPOV This day was going so much better than it had in the book. Part of that was because I was a new person. Feeling confident that the sexy, drop-dead gorgeous man beside me loved me unconditionally and irrevocably forever and considered me the most beautiful woman he’d ever met, even more beautiful than Rosalie, did wonders for my self-esteem. Knowing I had, or would have, the full support, acceptance, and love of the Cullen family helped me understand how fleeting time was and how little the opinions of others really mattered. I could give as good as I got, secure in the knowledge I would never be alone. I smiled at Edward peacefully. We were holding hands under our lab table. He stroked the back of my hand with his thumb, grinning when my heart rate responded. This was the one class Alice didn’t share with us, since it was already full. Finally, the last class of the day – Gym. Oh, joy. The Cullens already knew how clumsy I was – Edward because he read about it and Alice because she could foresee it. Besides, I’d already announced it to the family at lunch. So, rather than being embarrassed, I decided to just have fun. After all, every time I tripped I ended up in Edward’s arms, so it was a win-win scenario. As we were changing into our gym uniforms in the locker room, Lauren accosted me. “So, Bella, how do you know the Cullens?” she snipped frostily. I looked her over carefully as if judging her and finding her wanting. “That’s a story for another day,” I remarked casually. Alice chuckled, enjoying my secret wordplay. We went out to the gym to find Edward. Apparently, basketball was on the menu. The boys would be practicing shooting hoops at one goal and the girls at the other. “Hey, Edward,” I whispered. “I dare you to bounce the ball against the floor so it goes through the hoop from underneath, then comes back through the correct way.” He grinned at me and proceeded to do just that. I heard the boys all start making jokes with him. Alice laughed playfully. “Alice, I dare you to throw the ball so it sits up on the back of the hoop against the backboard and gets stuck there,” I challenged quietly. As soon as it was her turn, she threw the ball up there and got it stuck. She stuck her tongue out at me playfully and I laughed. Next I challenged Edward to toss it in with his eyes closed, but it had to bounce on the rim three times before going through the net. I dared Alice to bounce the ball off the rim at just the right angle to hit Lauren in the butt where she stood gossiping with Jessica. That was absolutely hilarious. It was the most fun Gym class I had ever experienced. Edward and Alice assured me that the same was true for them. They were very thankful I had taken a time of pure torture for them and made it fun. The best part was being able to use some of their enhanced abilities without any of the humans noticing. After class, Edward walked me to my truck.

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“I’ll meet you at your house, love. Would you like to come to my house this afternoon and meet Carlisle and Esme?” “I’d love to, Edward!” EPOV I kissed Bella goodbye and joined my family in the Volvo. “So we’re having a visitor? Carlisle and Esme will be thrilled!” Alice sang happily. . . . . They’ll be ecstatic you’ve finally found your mate. . . . “Well, if we’re going to have a human hanging around for a while, I’d better get used to her scent. What if I hurt her, Edward? I’d never forgive myself if I killed your mate in a moment of weakness,” Jasper worried. . . . . She smells so good. . . . “Jasper, I know you can do this. I know you are strong enough to resist. You just need to try. Mind over matter. We’ll talk more about it later,” I reassured him. . . . . Okay, Edward. I promise to try. . . . “Well, this should be interesting, having a human around,” Emmett speculated. . . . . Imagine the trouble I could cause . . . . “Edward, are you sure this is a good idea? She’s a human!” Rose accused halfheartedly. . . . .But she’s going to have a baby and share it with me. If anybody screws this up, I’m going to rip off their heads. If anybody hurts her, they’re dead meat, including you, Edward. . . . I smiled. “She’s my mate. Esme was human when Carlisle found her, and Emmett was human when you found him.” “They were already dying! So are you just going to kill her?” “I’ll wait until she’s dying to change her.” Rose nodded. . . . .That’s fair. . . . “Please don’t tell Carlisle and Esme yet. I want to do it myself,” I begged. They all agreed, knowing I would be over with Bella shortly. I dropped them off at the house and went to get Bella. EsmePOV It was nice to have Carlisle home during the day for once. He had worked the 10pm to 10am shift in the ER last night, so we had the house all to ourselves for a few hours before the kids got home from school. We didn’t hesitate to make good use of that time, enjoying the freedom of privacy. We finished up shortly before the kids were due home and settled in the living room. Carlisle was reading a few medical journals, keeping up to date on the newest drugs and procedures, and I was sketching a few ideas for renovating the dining room. We both paused to greet the kids when they entered. I noticed most of them had strange expressions on their faces. They settled down in the living room as well, with an air of expectancy. Alice was positively vibrating with enthusiasm and excitement. Jasper had both hands on her, desperately trying to calm her down, but judging by the giddy grin that kept

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manifesting on his face, he was losing the battle. Rose was perched on the edge of the couch, almost as if prepared to run at a moment’s notice, wearing an ambivalent I hadn’t seen on her face since she waited for Emmett to awaken from his change. Emmett was relaxed, sporting a mischievous grin, which was actually a normal look for him. “What’s going on, children?” I asked suspiciously. Suddenly, I realized my first son was missing. “Where’s Edward?” “Oh, he just went to get something. He’ll be right back,” Emmett replied casually, his grin turning wicked. Jasper snorted, but kept his head averted so I couldn’t read his expression. I squeezed Carlisle’s thigh to get his attention. “Our children are up to something, and it involves Edward. Mother’s intuition.” Carlisle looked at their faces and all four of them looked guilty. They all exchanged glances. Carlisle was intrigued now. There was no doubt in my mind that something was going on, and Edward was in the thick of it. “Hey, why don’t we watch a movie?” Emmett suggested cheerfully. “How about Look Who’s Coming for Dinner?” The other three kids began laughing hysterically. We were hit with a wave of it, courtesy of Jasper, and we were both laughing long and hard too, though we didn’t get the joke. We all managed to calm down after a few false starts. “Stop trying to distract me!” I remonstrated. “Where is your brother?” Just then, we heard his Volvo coming down the driveway. The kids all looked relieved and excited. We heard two doors shut. Two? Then we heard a feminine squeal. One we didn’t recognize. As they approached, we could hear a human heartbeat. A human? Edward was bringing a human to our house, without even warning us first? My eyes rapidly scanned the room for anything that might set us apart. Edward walked in, carrying a human girl in his arms. Carlisle and I exchanged a quick look of surprise. Carlisle stood up and slowly approached, assuming his medical skills were needed. “What’s wrong?” he asked in his professional doctor voice. Edward set her down on her feet, taking a few extra seconds to be certain she found her balance. “Nothing right now, Carlisle,” the girl murmured quietly. “No doubt I’ll need your services many times in the next couple of years though. I’m terribly clumsy.” Emmett snickered. She walked right up to Carlisle and gave him a full body hug. I was on my feet and by Carlisle’s side before I even realized it, instinctively staking my claim on my mate. Edward smirked at me and announced, “Um, yeah, we really need to start keeping human food and a first aid kit handy.” . . . . What? Why? . . . . Edward nodded toward the girl who still had her arms wrapped around my husband. Before I could say anything, she released him and saw me. Suddenly, her arms were wrapped around me, her head resting on my shoulder.

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“Esme! Oh, Esme! I have always longed for a mother like you. I have always needed to take care of my mother, rather than her take care of me. I was always the responsible one, while my mother behaved like a child. I love my mother, of course, but she never fulfilled that role in my life. I would dearly love it if you would adopt me too and be the mother I always dreamed of but never thought to have,” the girl choked out between shaky breaths. I felt my heart swell with love at her words. She needed me. She needed me to take care of her. I loved being needed and taking care of my children. My heart had already claimed her as one of my own, and I didn’t even know her name yet. She stepped back, looking at both of us with respect, trust, and love. But she’s a human. How could she feel that way? “Carlisle, you are my hero. You are the perfect example of persistence and determination overcoming all odds and tremendous obstacles to do what is morally right. Esme, you are my hero, too. You represent the epitome of motherly devotion and love, adopting five children into your family, making them feel like your own, and tying all these different personalities into one unbreakable bond, teaching them all love, respect, and loyalty to each other. I would be deeply honored if you would accept me into your family and love me as one of your own.” Carlisle and I were both overwhelmed. Neither of us knew what to say. “You know, you never even told them your name, love,” Edward laughed. “Let me do the honors. Mom, Dad, this is Bella Swan, my soul mate and future wife.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to his chest. Her heartbeat immediately responded to his touch, but there was no fear in her eyes. . . . .Love? Soul mate? Wife? . . . . She looked up into Edwards eyes and smiled. I didn’t need Jasper’s gift to witness the love and devotion they shared. I had seen it on the faces of the other mated couples in the house. He bent down and lightly touched his lips to hers. Her heartbeat started racing like crazy. All the vampires laughed. Her cheeks blushed bright pink. I gasped as her scent hit the back of my throat. . . . .Does she know what we are? The danger? The limitations? . . . . Edward broke the kiss and looked at both of us. “Yes, she knows everything and no, I didn’t tell her. You remember the package I got the other day? It was from a psychic by the name of Stephenie Meyer. Bella got a duplicate copy. I learned a lot about her and how to protect her. I also learned a great deal about myself and pitfalls to avoid. For both of us, the words disappeared off the pages shortly after we finished reading them, so we have no proof. Both of us were unsure of the existence of the other and the truth of the writings until we met. I put out a search on Stephenie Meyer, but there does not seem to be any such person.” “The words disappeared after you read them? How odd,” Carlisle commented. “Bella thinks it may be because we already changed the future, just by knowing what could happen and choosing to do things differently.” I found my voice at last. “Bella, sweetheart, welcome to our family. We are very pleased and honored that you choose to join us. I already think of you as one of my children.” I gave her another hug to emphasize my words. “Thank you, Esme,” she gasped, with tears of joy in her eyes.

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“Oh, my! I need to grocery shopping! We don’t have any food in the house. Oh, I hope my cooking skills are still up to par. It’s been eighty years since I cooked anything. I’ll need to pick up some more kitchen things. Does our oven even work?” “Calm down, love,” Carlisle laughed, putting an arm around me. “One step at a time. I’m sure you’d like to spend a little time getting to know our new daughter first, wouldn’t you? We can order her some pizza for tonight.” I beamed at him, overflowing with happiness. Edward finally found his mate and now our family is complete. I let out a sigh of contentment. At that moment, all was right with my little world. “Bella, I am delighted to welcome you to our family,” Carlisle insisted, pulling her into a sideways hug and kissing the top of her head. “Please come and join us so we can all get to know you. I take it you already met the rest of the family at lunch today?” She nodded shyly, sitting on the couch beside Edward. “Do you have any questions for us, Bella?” “Not at the moment.” “Well, then I will go first. Feel free to ask a question whenever you think of one. So you know we are vampires?” Carlisle began his interrogation. She nodded. “Do you know what that means?” She sighed, “Yes, you drink the blood of animals, which is what gives your eyes their golden color, versus the red eyes of those who drink human blood. You’re incredibly strong and fast, all your senses are enhanced, and you are always somewhat thirsty. Your eyes fade to black when you’re hungry, angry, or aroused. You have no heartbeat, but you do have a soul.” With that last statement, she glared at Edward as if trying to burn it into his head. He chuckled and nodded. She smiled and continued, “The only way you can die is to be dismembered and burned to ash. Werewolves, like the ones at La Push, are your natural enemies. The change from human to vampire takes three days and is painful beyond imagination. The change occurs when vampire venom circulates through the human bloodstream. Vampires mate for eternity. Even though you are animal drinkers, you are still dangerous to humans because you could accidentally lose control, either of your thirst or of your strength. The Volturi are very dangerous. They collect gifted vampires, and we want to avoid them knowing anything about us if at all possible, because they would kill to get hold of Edward and Alice in particular. Once I am a vampire, I can learn to control my shield and use it to protect our whole family from Jane and Alec, and some of the other vampires who use mental attacks.” She stopped as she realized everyone but Edward had gone into shock at her words about the Volturi. Edward sighed. “What happened to ignorance is bliss, sweetheart?” he asked. She looked at him in surprise. “Well, you are not going to take the path that leads them to our front door, but I still think everyone should know how dangerous they are to our family. Though Aro remembers Carlisle fondly, he believes Carlisle to be weak. If he finds out how large and powerful the Cullen family is, he will find an excuse to attack us. He would view us as a rival coven and would give us the choice of death or joining his guard. If anybody doubts me, all they have to do is ask Eleazar. He figured out the pattern in our alternate future, so I’m sure he could do so again in this one. But the Volturi don’t know anything about us, so as long as we don’t give them any reason to investigate us, we should be fine. As long as everyone stays away from Italy, we should be in good shape.”

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Oh, dear. Ignorance is bliss. Now I have to worry about my family’s safety even though there isn’t an imminent threat. The possibility of a future threat is enough to trigger my anxiety. “I’ll keep an eye on the Volturi, for us. I’ll know if they ever learn about us, and we can act accordingly then,” Alice promised. Jasper sent me a wave of calm. I smiled gratefully at both of them. I’m so blessed to have such wonderful children.

Chapter 6: Cliff Notes
BPOV See problem solved. Alice will watch out for the Volturi and nobody else will have anything to do with Italy. I don’t really know why Edward was so worried about telling them that. He sighed again. Of course, apparently keeping secrets was part of his nature. At least, he was always keeping secrets from me in the book. I was really glad I knew all those secrets now. I took a moment to ponder what would have happened if Edward had been the only one to read the books. Somehow, I don’t think it would have gone anywhere near as well. Then again, if I had been the only one to get the books, it really wouldn’t have gone well then either. I could just imagine how much he would have freaked out if I had simply gone up to him that first day, or even the next week and told him everything I knew. I was really glad Stephenie Meyer had informed both of us at the same time. Hmmm. His family was actually taking this rather well considering how crazy it sounded. “You know, it just occurred to me that you’re all handling this really well. I’m sorry for being so forward about acting like I know you. I hope I haven’t been making you all uncomfortable.” “Don’t worry about it, Bella,” Carlisle assured me. “We’re rather used to strange things in this family.” The others all smiled and nodded. “Emmett being one of the strangest,” Edward added. “Hey! This from the boy who hears voices,” Emmett retorted. “That’s enough, boys,” Esme insisted. “We don’t want to give Bella a bad impression of us.” “I think it’s a little late for that, Esme,” Jasper muttered. “Apparently, she already knows us.” They all laughed. “What’s this you said about the werewolves, Bella?” Carlisle inquired. I exchanged a look with Edward. He didn’t seem to want to jump in with an explanation, so I decided I would do it. “The wolves are back. There’s already at least one. His name is Sam Uley. Apparently, they have 24 chromosome pairs, and their dormant genes are triggered by the presence of
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vampires. So, because you are here in Forks, many of their young men will become werewolves. It could be as many as 15 males and one female, though that would only be if Forks comes under attack, which it did in SM’s future. Hopefully, we can prevent that from happening.” “Hmmm, we’d better contact the tribal elders then and renegotiate the treaty. This is an unfortunate turn of events,” Carlisle pondered. “Well, Edward and I did have something of plan. One of the elders, Billy Black, is best friends with my father. His son, Jacob Black, is the true Alpha of the pack, but he isn’t supposed to change for about a year. His two best friends also become wolves a little while after he does. He doesn’t believe the legends right now. He thinks his father is just being superstitious. So, I thought this would be a good time to invite him and his friends over here to get to know you all.” “What?!” Rosalie screeched. “You want us to invite werewolves into our house? Do you want us to die?” “No, of course not. They don’t even have to come here. The problem is that they are taught that vampires don’t have feelings, that they’re not people. According to SM’s future, the wolves hate you until they start to get to know you. Once they start seeing you as people, they actually choose to help defend our family. We face a newborn army, and they kill eleven of the 22 vampires. Without them, we wouldn’t all have survived. Also, later, they stand with us against the entire Volturi guard and all three brothers. They risk their lives to protect us. If they didn’t stand with us, we would have been immediately destroyed. Because they were there, we all walked away unharmed. We need the wolves on our side.” “When is the newborn army coming?” Jasper demanded. “Well, hopefully they won’t come at all. It was the result of a series of events. But we know who and why, so we can prevent the first even from ever occuring.” Edward groaned forcefully. “Bella, what was the point of our agreement not to tell the family everything?” “Well, I’m sure they don’t need to know every little detail, Edward, but how can they help prevent the bad things if they don’t know anything about them.” “They don’t need to worry and fret about things that won’t occur.” “Of course not, but if it were me, I’d want to know what I was up against. By the way, Alice, I just thought you’d like to know that you can’t see werewolves in your visions. So if they are involved in any way, you can’t see that portion of the future.” “What? Why?” Alice wasn’t pleased. “We don’t really know, but your theory was that you could see vampires because you are one, and humans because you had been one, but not hybrids, because you’ve never been one. Speaking of hybrids, you can’t see half-human, half-vampire hybrids either. There are several down in South America, whom we may want to visit next year. So you won’t be able to see mine and Edward’s child.” “Bella!” Edward shrieked. “That’s one of the things we weren’t mentioning!”

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“Well, you know, it’s not like we made a list or anything. Maybe you should make a list of all the things I’m not supposed to talk about and share it with me,” I snapped. “It’s not like I’m a mind reader or anything.” He had the grace to look embarrassed. The rest of the family was frozen in shock, staring at us in disbelief. “You have sex with her while she’s still human?” Jasper shouted. “I can’t see the baby’s future?” Alice whines. “Wow! Go, Edward!” Emmett cheered. “You two are going to have a baby together?” Esme gasped. “The baby is half-vampire?” Rosalie questioned. “I think this is one of those things we’d like to hear about in greater detail, son,” Carlisle announced. Edward sighed again. “Okay, what did you want to know?” “Well, I’ve been under the impression that it’s impossible for vampires and humans to procreate. So I am naturally curious about that whole process. How does it work? And I’m also surprised that you chose to, umm, attempt that process while she’s human.” “Yeah, I know,” Edward glared at him. “She almost died because you didn’t know anything about it.” “I think Bella should explain,” Rose suggested. “She’s a lot more forthcoming than Edward.” The rest of the family all nodded in agreement, looking eagerly to me. I couldn’t help a little smirk at Edward. He snorted. “Go ahead, Miss Chatterbox, fill them in on all the details.” “Okay, well, Edward didn’t want to change me. He kept thinking I would get over him or something and have a nice human life without him. He was wrong.” “How do you know?” Rose demanded. “Uh, well that’s kind of a long story, and I’m sure that’s one of the things Edward doesn’t want me to mention,” I hesitated. “Give us the cliff notes,” Rose suggested. I started to shake my head and Edward did too. “Please, Bella, just start at the beginning and let us all get on the same page. You’ve thrown out so many bits and pieces that just lead to more questions. Can you please sum up the next two years according to Stephenie Meyer, so we can all understand what to expect? At least the bare bones summary?” Carlise asked politely. I would do anything Carlisle asked. I glanced briefly up at Edward and he nodded. I took a deep breath. I was going to sum up over 2500 pages of material as briefly as possible. I decided to start with the baseball game.

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“Okay, three nomads come. Laurent goes to Denali and is Irina’s mate. James is a tracker and goes after me. His mate, Victoria, helps him. James almost kills me, so Jasper and Emmett kill him, while Alice, Carlisle, and Edward save me. James bit me, but Edward sucks out the venom to keep me human. Edward decides to leave me because he thinks it’s too dangerous for me to be near him. He tells me he doesn’t love me and all the rest of you leave without saying goodbye. Edward forbids Alice from looking for my future and you all promise not to come anywhere near me. I spend the next couple of weeks catatonic, then the next few months as a zombie. I start hanging out with Jacob Black. He turns into a werewolf. I start doing stupid stuff because I have a death wish. Meanwhile, Edward is holed up in a dirty attic somewhere in South America, completely nonfunctional. I go into the woods. Laurent finds me while hunting and tries to eat me. The werewolves kill him. Victoria keeps trying to get to me to torture and kill me to revenge James’s death. I spend most of my time at La Push so the wolves can protect me. I jump off a cliff on a stormy day. Alice sees me enter the water but not come out. She assumes I’m dead and comes to Forks. Jacob saves me from drowning. Rose tells Edward I committed suicide, so he asks the Volturi to kill him. They say no. He decides to force them to kill him. Alice and I go to Volterra to save him. We do, but all three of us are taken to Aro. Aro wants all three of us to join the guard. We all say no. They let us go and we fly home.” “And you’re still human at this point?” Jasper asks in disbelief. I nodded. “You go before the Volturi, knowing about us, and they let you go?” I nodded again. “Yes, with Alice’s word that I’ll be changed soon. Edward refuses to change me. Carlisle offers to do it after I graduate. Edward says he’ll do it if I marry him. I agreed to marry him if we could, umm, be intimate before I change.” I started blushing, looking down. “I was afraid I’d have to wait through the whole newborn year before we could do anything. Anyway, he agrees. Victoria makes a newborn army. They come to get us. The wolves help us fight. All newborns die. Edward kills Victoria. A few of the Volturi guard come. They don’t see the wolves. They’re unhappy we’re all still alive and I’m still human. Edward and I get married. I get pregnant our wedding night. Edward freaks out. We come back. Edward wants to abort. I ask Rose to help me protect the baby. The baby and I almost die until we figure out I have to drink blood. Carlise leaves to get more blood. The placenta separates. Edward does an emergency c-section and delivers the baby. He gives her to Rose. My heart stops. Jacob does CPR to circulate the venom while Edward puts me back together. I go through the change, and practically skip the whole newborn phase. Our daughter is perfect. Jacob imprints on her. She’s gifted, prefers blood to human food, has normal vampire abilities but a human heartbeat and brown eyes, is warm, has accelerated growth rate. Irina sees her, tells Volturi she is an immortal child. They come to kill us all. We call all our friends to stand with us, but the wolves are what stops them long enough for us to explain. Alice finds Nahuel from South America and brings him to testify. He and his sisters are all vampire/human hybrids. They grow to maturity in seven years, then live forever like vampires. The Volturi go home, our friends go home, we’re friends with the wolves, my dad knows we’re different but doesn’t want to know any details, just wants to get to know his grandchild. The end. Okay, that about sums up 2500 pages. Well, except I didn’t mention that I’m Edward’s singer. My blood is like a thousand times more potent to him than anyone else’s is, so he’s always fighting the urge to kill me, but he eventually gets over it.” They are all just staring at me. Hey, I think I did a pretty good job of summarizing two years of life in about five minutes. I deliberately left out the part about Jasper attacking me at my birthday party, knowing it would just cause hurt feelings. Jasper turned to look at Edward. “The other night, when you came in all wild, it was because you smelled her?” Edward looked sheepish. “Um, actually I had wanted to test the theory to see if the books were real, so I went over to her house. I knew from the books I would react very badly the first time I caught her scent, so I merely opened the passenger side door of the car she rode

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home in from the airport. That stale scent from the previous day was enough to affect my sanity to that extent.” “So how can you sit so close to her now?” “I knew from the books that I could learn to ignore her scent the way Carlisle does if I kept practising, so I took a piece of her clothing and smelled it for hours at a time to force myself to think past the burn. I know that sounds kind of weird and stalkerish, but at least she understands. That reminds me though. Bella had a theory about something, and I wanted to test to see if it’s true. Emmett, Carlisle would you mind holding Jasper for me.” Jasper looked offended, but allowed himself to be restrained. Edward rested his nose against my neck and inhaled deeply, allowing his mind to register how thirsty my blood made him feel. Jasper immediately started growling and snarling, trying to get to me. Edward quickly stopped breathing and refocused. The women moved to stand in front of me as Emmett and Carlisle pushed Jasper back into the couch. “Everybody, project your love to Jasper, make him feel it,” I cried. “Not anger or disappointment, just love.” I watched as their bodies relaxed and their stances changed. Alice approached him, putting her hands on his face and capturing his eyes with hers. Jasper rapidly returned to sanity. He looked at me in horror, then hung his head in shame. “I’m sorry, so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” “I do,” Edward admitted sadly. “It was my fault.” Jasper raised his head in surprise. “All this time we’ve made you feel like the weak link. We’ve seen you struggle more with your thirst than the rest of us do, and we’ve made excuses that it’s because you’re newer to this life and that you drank from humans longer than the rest of us,” Edward explained. “The truth is that you’re one of the strongest. We are the ones who bring you down. You don’t just struggle with your own thirst, you wrestle with the thirst of all seven of us. I proved it just now. You were completely fine until I allowed myself to feel my thirst for Bella’s blood. You were reacting to my thirst, not your own.” I squeezed Edward’s hand and smiled at Jasper. He looked at Edward in amazement, trying to process and internalize Edward’s revelation. The whole family turned to look at Jasper with new eyes. “I can’t believe we’ve lived with you for all these decades and never realized it. Bella was the one who figured it out. Every time any of us go too long without hunting, we make it harder for Jasper to maintain control. Every time any of us are struggling, he struggles harder. I’m sorry, Jasper. I’m sorry for all the times I’ve made it harder for you, and I’m sorry for not understanding and I’m sorry for judging you for your struggles, thinking myself better than you. Please forgive me, Jasper, for all of this and for making you doubt yourself,” Edward begged. Jasper sprang forward and embraced us both. We wrapped our arms around him. He leaned back, smiling joyfully. “Of course I forgive you, Edward. Thank you, Bella. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. Edward and I can practise together, so we can both get stronger. I never want to hurt you. Now that we know, I think our whole family can hunt a little more often to make sure we never get too thirsty to have you around,” he offered. The rest of the family nodded, murmuring their apologies to Jasper and promising to try harder to make his life easier.

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Chapter 7: Dealing with Dad
BPOV “Okay, I hate to break this party up, but Charlie is going to be home soon, and it would be best if Bella is already there when he arrives,” Alice announced. “Yeah, at least I already prepared dinner. I just need to pop it in the oven so it can get started heating. Alice, do you think you could come over and help me talk to Charlie? Apparently, he will really like you a lot. He’s a sucker for your charm,” I suggested. Everybody chuckled. “Who wouldn’t like the pixie?” Emmett asked. “I think Charlie would be a lot more comfortable if I introduce him to my new best friend before I introduce my boyfriend. Sorry, Edward. I’ll talk you up for the rest of the week, and then you can officially meet him on Friday. How does that sound? Then it won’t be such a shock for him when we start dating.” He nodded understandingly, flashing his crooked smile. “I’ll be up to your room later, after he falls asleep.” I grinned. “Looking forward to it.” Alice rolled her eyes. “Come on, lover girl. The clock is ticking. Let’s go!” Edward gave me a brief goodbye kiss, pulling back as Emmett began hooting. I raised an eyebrow at Emmett. “Just wait, Emmett. I’m keeping track, and when the time comes, payback will be hell.”

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He laughed. “Bring it on, little sister.” I glared menacingly. He pretended to cower. “Oh, yeah, I’m quaking in my boots now. Rosie, save me from the big, bad human! She might cry on me or something.” “Whatever!” I growled, stomping out the door. Unfortunately, for my dramatic exit, I tripped over the threshold and would have fallen down the porch stairs if Edward hadn’t caught me. I heard Emmett howling with laughter. I sighed and felt Edward trying to suppress a chuckle. Alice grabbed my hand and pulled me along to the car. I did my best to ignore her speed on the way to my house. I knew it wouldn’t do any good to protest, since Alice was a rather unstoppable force, so I was determined to learn to live with it. She chattered happily about all the clothes she wanted to buy for me, and I quickly tuned her out to think about what I should say to Charlie. At home, I put the pasta dish in the oven, along with some garlic bread. I pulled out one of the bag salads and poured the contents into a suitable salad bowl. Alice helped me set the table. I smiled to myself when I saw her folding the napkins into various elegant shapes. “Oooh, can you make a swan?” I asked, knowing it was a popular origami figure. “Of course,” Alice replied, as if it should have been obvious to me. “Oh, Bella! That’s a great idea! Charlie will love it.” With a few deft flicks of her fingers, faster than my eyes could even process, she had folded some paper towels into an elegant centerpiece. Just then, I heard Charlie come in the door. He walked over to the coat rack, where he usually hung his jacket and gun belt. “Bella?” he called. “In here, Dad,” I called back. I heard his heavy footsteps as he made his way to the kitchen. He smiled when he saw me. “Something smells good. I see we have a visitor,” he commented pleasantly. “Um, yeah, Dad. The pasta is coming out of the oven soon, and this is Alice Cullen, my new best friend. She offered to help me set the table while I made dinner.” “It’s very nice to meet you, Alice. Your father is a wonderful man. Our town is very lucky to have a surgeon with his skills working here. Wow, look at the napkins!” he replied warmly. “Thank you, Chief Swan. I’ll pass on your regards. Do you like the centerpiece? I made it for you. A swan for the Swans,” Alice twinkled charmingly. Charlie actually blushed. Well, at least I knew I came by it naturally. “Call me, Charlie. It’s a beautiful swan, Alice. You’re very talented.” “Thanks!” she squealed enthusiastically, flashing a wide smile at him, dazzling him speechless. I guess I came by that honestly too, considering the Cullens, some of them at least, had the same effect on me. “By the way, Dad, I just wanted to warn you about something, in case you heard any strange rumors,” I began, embarrassed. He concentrated on me intently. “There were several guys at school who were invading my space and making me uncomfortable, so Alice’s brother stepped

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up and told them I was his girlfriend. I was so thankful, because it was the only thing that made them back off and leave me alone. Alice was there with me, because we had already started becoming friends, and Edward was just trying to help. He apologized and said it was the first thing that popped into his head that would make them stop fighting over me. I thanked him and thought nothing of it, but I realized later the incident had been blown out of proportion by the gossip mongers, and most of the school had us engaged to be married. I even had somebody ask me if I was pregnant, which was rather embarrassing, considering I’ve never even had a boyfriend before. I told her I was still a virgin, but I wouldn’t be surprised if by tomorrow a few people have decided I’ve managed an immaculate conception. I knew rumors could get out of hand, especially in a small town, and everyone was talking about me before I even arrived, but still, this is crazy. I just wanted you to know if somebody tells you tomorrow that I’m eloping with Edward Cullen to have his love child, that you really have nothing to worry about. I’m just about as likely to be abducted by aliens,” I assured him, rolling my eyes. Alice chuckled. “I wouldn’t rule out the aliens just yet. I’ve heard of stranger things around here.” Charlie’s lips twitched, but he asked sternly, “Edward Cullen? Which one is he?” “He’s the youngest one, in the same grade as me. In fact, we have the same biology class,” I explained. “Ah, the youngest one,” Charlie muttered, lost in thought. He smiled. “Well, that’s okay then.” I wondered what that was about, but shrugged it off as unimportant. I had Charlie’s approval, which was all I needed to proceed. I pulled the pasta and bread out of the oven and placed them on the table with the salad. “I’d better get on home now,” Alice stated, hugging me goodbye. “Alice, you’re welcome to stay and join us for dinner,” Charlie offered sincerely. “It smells delicious!” I smiled as I saw Alice give a tiny shudder of distaste before she turned to give Charlie a grin. “Sorry, Charlie, maybe next time. My mom is expecting me to have dinner with the family tonight,” she lied cheerfully. “I’ll save you a taste, if you’d like,” I joked as I walked her to the door. She grimaced and stuck her tongue out at me. “I’ll look forward to it, Bella. Hey, how’d you like to catch a ride to school with me tomorrow? It’s better for the environment if we carpool.” “Sure, I’d love it!” I agreed enthusiastically. “See you tomorrow.” I closed the door behind her and joined Charlie at the dinner table. We served ourselves and took a few bites, before he began his interrogation. “This is really great, Bells. You’re a good cook. So how was your first day of school today?” “Well, it was both good and bad. I met Alice, and she and I hit it off right away. She invited me to sit with her family at lunch, and her brothers and sisters were all really nice to me. It was so wonderful to be able to relax and fit in comfortably with a group. It was like I really got five new friends for the price of one,” I chuckled. “Another girl in one of my classes seemed
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really nice. She’s as shy as I am though, so we didn’t say much to each other, but I just had a feeling we’d get along well together. Her name is Angela. I certainly didn’t enjoy being the center of attention all day today. I had to endure so many stares and whispers. If it wasn’t for Alice, I don’t think I would have made it. Some of the girls were downright rude and nasty to me, but she stood up for me. I didn’t really like the way any of the boys behaved around me, except for Alice’s brothers. They were all perfect gentlemen. They didn’t really talk much, but when they did, they were always polite. Alice’s sister Rose was really nice too. The two of them invited me to go shopping with them after school tomorrow. I told them I’d check with you first.” “Who’s driving?” “Um, Alice I believe. Why?” “Well, that’s okay then. I’m not sure I want you in a car with Rosalie behind the wheel.” “Why not?” “Well, let’s just say she’s been known to exceed the speed limit on occasion.” “Okay, Dad, whatever you say. I’m just glad to have some friends to spend time with now.” He smiled. “Yes, that’s really great honey. Dr. Cullen and his wife are very nice people. I was concerned when they first moved here that we’d have a lot of trouble with so many adopted teenagers in one family and with the parents being so young, but those kids are much better behaved than a lot of the teens whose families have grown up here for generations. By the way, honey, which boys were giving you trouble?” “Well, there were a few that just seemed a little creepy. Um, I know one was named Mike, and one was Taylor or something like that. I didn’t really catch their names.” “That was probably Mike, Tyler, and Eric. You should probably stay away from those boys. What about Edward? The one who claimed he was your boyfriend.” I blushed. “Dad! He just said that to get the other three to leave me alone. I do like him though. He seemed really nice, but he’s rather reserved and shy. He doesn’t talk to very many people, and he seems uncomfortable around a lot of the girls. He only really seems to relax around his family. I don’t know what he thinks of me, other than that I’m friends with his sisters.” I thought I was doing a fairly good job of selling Edward, at least as far as I ought to know him from our first day of school. I was deliberately painting an image I thought an overprotective father would appreciate. Charlie nodded his head knowingly when I mentioned Edward’s discomfort with the girls at school. I wondered what he was thinking about. “Anyway, Alice is so outgoing, she brings us all out of our shells. I felt like a turtle poking my head out for the first time,” I joked playfully. “I don’t even have to say a word. She can carry on an entire conversation all by herself. Personally, I love it. I don’t have to worry about any of those awkward silences when I’m with her.” Charlie chuckled. “Maybe that’s why all the boys in her family are so quiet. They can’t get a word in edgewise.”

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I laughed. “Don’t let her hear you say that. I have a feeling she can be quite a force of nature once she gets riled, kind of like the Tasmanian Devil. A whirling vortex of destruction. I definitely don’t want to get on her bad side.” Charlie laughed out loud. I could tell he had a hard time imagining that petite young girl being strong enough to destroy anything, but I knew better. That girl had her entire family quaking in their shoes. Their really expensive designer shoes that she bought for them and forced them to wear. We finished up dinner in harmony with one another, and Charlie went into the living room to watch TV. I put away the leftovers and loaded the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. Once the kitchen had been restored to order, I grabbed my backpack and headed up to my room to work on my homework. After my homework was done, I got ready for bed. I went downstairs and gave Charlie a hug and a kiss goodnight. “You off to bed now, Bells?” “Yeah, I’m pretty beat. Today was somewhat emotional for me, so I’m feeling kind of drained. I’ll see you in the morning.” “Sure thing, sweetheart,” he yawned, shutting off the television. “I think I’ll head up myself. Yes! That means Edward will be here soon! I hurried up to bed and jumped under the covers, listening impatiently to the sounds of my father preparing for bed. After what felt like an eternity, finally all was quiet. I watched the window, waiting for my angel to appear. Even though I was watching, I still missed his actual entrance. One second I was alone, and the next second he was standing there smiling at me. I held out my arms, and he flew over to the bed to wrap me in his embrace. I lay up against him, relaxing as I felt safe and secure. Before I drifted off, I mumbled, “You know, if you want to get me a gift, you could start with an electric blanket.” I felt him chuckle underneath me as I lost the battle for consciousness.

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Chapter 8: Rosalie and the M3
BPOV I woke to a chilly kiss that nevertheless warmed me up on the inside. I opened my eyes and found myself staring directly into Edward’s golden ones. “Good morning, love,” he greeted me with his crooked smile. I smiled widely in return. “Good morning to you too. What a way to wake up in the morning. I must admit I’ll take you over my alarm clock any day.” He chuckled. “Well, at least I’m good for something.” I grinned. “I’m sure I can think of a few more reasons to keep you around. If I concentrate.” “Is that so?” he murmured, giving me little kisses along my jaw line and down my neck. “So much for concentrating!” I gasped. He lifted his head with a smirk. “Hey, who said you could stop?” I protested, trying to pull him back down. He gave me an evil grin. “Time for your human moment, love.” I huffed. How frustrating. How like him to get me going and then pull away. I grumbled as I got up, grabbed my clothes for the day, and went to take a shower. I wondered if cold showers worked on women too, but decided to try it another day. By the time I finished my shower and dressed, he was waiting in my room, in my rocking chair, already changed for school. “Let me get this straight,” I grumbled. “You ran home, took a shower, changed your clothes, and then ran back, just in the amount of time it took me to take a shower and dress?” He smirked. “I can’t help it if you like to take really long showers.” Long showers? There was still hot water, doggone it. It didn’t qualify as a long shower in my book unless I ran out of hot water. I knew he was teasing me though, because the truth was that he was just really darn fast. “I parked the car around the corner, by the way. I’ll go and get it after your father leaves.” I went over and sat in his lap, leaning back against his chest. I could tell he was holding his breath. “Is this too hard for you?” I asked in concern. He shook his head, smiled, and wrapped his arms around me. We stayed like that for a few minutes, gently rocking back and forth, until my stomach growled. I blushed and Edward chuckled.

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“Sounds like breakfast time for the human,” he teased. I glared at him. He pushed me off his lap and helped me upright. I heard my dad moving around in his room. “Go hunt downstairs for some food, love, so you can quiet the hungry beast inside you.” I rolled my eyes. “Very funny, Edward. Maybe we have some yummy mountain lion in the fridge.” He raised an eyebrow at me. “Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll go pounce on a Poptart. I think I can manage to subdue it into submission. I’m sure you’ll come running if it gets to be too much for me and you hear my terrified screams for help. Attack of the mutant Poptart. I can see the headlines now: Mutant Poptart Mutilated by Vicious Vampire. ‘Nothing munches my mate!’ he screamed while passionately pummeling the Poptart. What do you think?” “I’m thinking I may need to have Carlisle investigate mental institutions. I’ll be sure to visit you as often as I can.” I threw a book at his head, which he promptly caught and began flipping through. I groaned, shut the door and headed downstairs. Charlie was already in the kitchen, messing with the coffee pot. He may not know how to cook, but he knew his way around the coffee machine blindfolded. “You know, caffeine really isn’t good for you, Dad,” I pointed out by way of greeting. He turned his head and smiled. “Okay, so don’t buy anymore Cokes then.” “Then again, everyone needs a little pick-me-up in the morning, right?” I hastily backtracked as I grabbed a soda from the fridge. Coke and Poptarts. The breakfast of champions. “Right,” Charlie chuckled. “So, did you sleep well?” “I slept great, Dad. I actually sleep a lot better here than I did in Phoenix.” “Really? That’s great to hear! It sounds like you’re settling in well,” he ventured. “Yep, I like it here so much better than I thought I would. In fact, if I could have anticipated this level of happiness and contentment, I would definitely have come sooner. Thanks for having me, Dad. I’m really glad I came.” He blushed, looking away. “This will always be your home, Bells. I’ll always have a place for you. I just want you to know that. You’re always welcome to come home to me, no matter what.” I felt the tears leaking from my eyes. “That is so sweet, Dad. Thank you.” I jumped up to give him a hug. He patted my back awkwardly before clearing his throat. “Time for me to go to work,” he announced, putting his coffee mug in the sink. “See you this evening, Bella.” I smiled, knowing he was uncomfortable with showing emotions and physical affection. “Sure thing, Dad. Don’t forget I’ll be shopping with the girls after school today, but I should be home around dinnertime. I’ll call if I’m running late for some reason.”

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He nodded as he put on his gun belt. He shrugged into his jacket and opened the front door. “Have fun, Bells, and be safe.” “I will,” I called out as he shut the door. I quickly cleaned up my mess in the kitchen and was going to go upstairs to check on Edward when I heard a knock at the front door. That’s odd. I went and opened the front door to see Edward standing there, his Volvo in the driveway. He chuckled when he saw my surprise. “I’ve already got your backpack in the car, so grab whatever else you need and we can go.” I raced to get my purse and ran out, locking the door behind me. Edward was waiting for me on the passenger side of the Volvo. He already had the door open for me. I was surprised but happy to see Alice and Jasper in the backseat. “Hi, guys!” I exclaimed as I slid into my seat. I put on my seatbelt, then turned to look at them. “I wasn’t expecting you. Not that I’m complaining or anything.” “Yeah, I could tell,” Jasper chuckled. “You have really strong emotions for a human. We decided now was as good a time as any to begin working on my control, so here I am. Confined in a tiny little vehicle with a delicious smelling human and two vampires who wouldn’t hesitate to tear my head off if I decided to take a little nibble. Nothing like jumping right in, hoping for the best. Why, this isn’t challenging at all for me. We really should make it more difficult.” “I guess I could come sit in your lap and lean my head back, exposing my jugular, if that will help,” I teased, responding to his sarcastic remarks. Edward growled, and Jasper smirked. I swatted Edward lightly on the arm. I didn’t want to hurt myself. I just wanted to get my point across. “Relax, Edward. I was just kidding.” “He’s just jealous, Bella,” Jasper drawled. “The question is, was he more upset about the idea of you sitting in my lap or me drinking your blood?” Alice giggled. “Both,” Edward growled. I laughed. “Don’t worry, Edward. I’m all yours,” I reassured him. He smiled at me. Everyone watched us openly as we pulled into our parking space at school. Edward and Jasper got out of the car and walked around to open the doors for Alice and me. “Not that we can’t open our own doors, of course, but it does make them feel better,” Alice muttered to me with a wink. “I tell you, the things we women do for our men, just to make them feel better . . . .” We all started laughing, including Rosalie and Emmett who had walked over when they saw us arrive. “Oh, Rosalie, did you drive your M3 today?” I asked, remember the type of car from the book. She nodded impassively. “Great, I’ve been dying to see it. I’ve heard it’s a pretty fabulous car.” She grinned at me and gently grabbed my arm. “It’s over here.”

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We walked toward a large group of boys, clustered so tightly together I could barely make out the hint of something red in front of them. “Nobody better get fingerprints on it, or they’re gonna die,” Rosalie threatened through clenched teeth. “Nobody touches my baby.” The boys quickly moved away from the car, not wanting to make her any angrier. I finally got a good look at her car. It was a red convertible. If I hadn’t read the Twilight book, I wouldn’t have known anything else about it. I may not speak Car and Driver, but I can still appreciate an attractive sports car. “Wow, Rose, this is incredible! I’m impressed. It’s perfect for you. It’s gorgeous, sexy, powerful, and can get wherever you need to go really fast,” I stated quietly. “Plus there’s a lot more going on under the hood than a casual observer could even imagine.” “Ha, that sums up my Rosie fairly well,” Emmett laughed. “Don’t forget dangerous if mishandled.” Rosie smacked him, but smiled at me, the smile going all the way to her eyes. I relaxed. I had taken a chance, making an analogy like that, but it seemed she liked it. “And it fills up on fluid once a week,” Alice joined in the game. “It’s flashy and gets noticed wherever it goes,” Edward added. “It’s expensive and high maintenance,” Jasper offered. “Hey now, guys, be nice,” I complained. Rose smirked looking down at her fingernails as if admiring them. “Well, it is the best in it’s class.” “True, true,” Emmett agreed. “Personally, I always enjoy the ride. It’s a great feeling every time I’m inside it.” We all started laughing. Trust Emmett to come up with that analogy. I blushed, trying not to make the inevitable comparison in my mind. “Sorry, Rosalie. I didn’t expect it to get so carried away.” “Don’t worry about it, Bella, but we’d better get to class before the bell rings. I’ll see you at lunch.” We exchanged smiles as Edward, Alice, and I headed off to first period.

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Chapter 9: Shopping After School
BPOV “Hey Angela!” I greeted warmly. “I know we didn’t talk yesterday, but I was hoping you’d be willing to be friends.” She looked at me with surprise. I guess I couldn’t blame her. I hadn’t given her any indication yesterday that I was amenable to friendship. I lowered my voice. “Look, Angela, I’ve met Lauren’s and Jessica’s type before, and I really have no desire to become best buds with someone so shallow and conceited. You, on the other hand, are a real person. You don’t smile and pretend to like someone while internally insulting them and making up rumors about them behind their back. And Mike is the type that is thinking of nothing but how quickly he can make your clothes disappear. So, I know I was kind of mean yesterday, but they were all so fake and insincere. I just wanted them to leave me alone. I hate being the center of attention.” She smiled at me, nodding her head in understanding. “Sure, I’d love to hang out anytime.” “Cool! Umm, I’m going to be sitting with the Cullens at lunchtime, but maybe you could join us?” I felt Alice’s eyes boring a hole in my back. “No offense, but I’m a little intimidated by some of the Cullens,” she whispered. “I’d just as soon stay at my regular table for now.” I smiled. I couldn’t really blame her. After all, I was the weird one. Humans were supposed to nervous around vampires. “No problem. Maybe we can hang out some on the weekend?” Angela grinned. “That would be great.” I turned to Alice and winked. “Couldn’t you foresee her answer, Alice? I could, and I’m not the psychic one around here,” I taunted under my breath. I saw her relax and nod, writing something down in her notebook. A few seconds later, she flicked a note onto my desk. I glanced down at it casually.

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Well, I’m glad you knew what you were doing, because if she had accepted your offer, Rose would have turned you into mincemeat. I wrote back: Yeah, it doesn’t take a psychic to see that one either. I heard Edward chuckle behind me and knew he was reading over my shoulder. I didn’t bother trying to flick it back to her. Knowing me, it would have probably missed her desk completely and landed on the teacher’s shoe just as she walked by us. Somehow those kinds of things kept happening to me. So, I just held it up a little so she could see it. She huffed and stuck her tongue out at me, so fast I almost missed it. I barely resisted the urge to return the gesture in kind. I mumbled, “Whatever,” under my breath with a slight smile, and she proceeded to ignore me for the rest of class. Like that was a punishment. I smirked to myself. Later that afternoon, when the last bell rang, I hurried out of the gym, ready to spend some quality time with Edward. I noticed we didn’t really talk much in the books and wanted to spend some time talking about our principles, morals, and ideals. I needed to know what he expected from a girlfriend and a wife, and he needed to know my expectations. We needed to learn more about each other, and not just our favorite colors either. We needed to discuss some of the major issues facing the world today, find out where our stances differed, and then move to compromise, agree to disagree, or part ways. I figured it was probably already too late for both of us to part ways. I wanted to know how he felt roles and responsibilities should be divided in a relationship. I was no Esme, and if that is what he expected of me, then that is something that needed to be discussed from the outset. We had already discussed having a child, so I wanted to know how he wanted to raise his child, how parental responsibilities would be divided, and what discipline methods he considered appropriate. We needed to discuss finances. We needed to think about where we would live after we got married. So much to say, so little time. Unfortunately, halfway to Edward’s Volvo, I was hijacked by two female vampires and carried over to Rose’s car. “How about we take my car?” Rose suggested. I shrugged. Okay, it’s only a few minutes. I was curious to go riding in the convertible with the top down. I’d never been in one before. “So where are we going shopping, Bella?” Alice asked innocently, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “What? Shopping? What on earth are you talking about? I’m going to hang out with Edward this afternoon,” I protested. “Bella, Bella, Bella,” Alice chided, shaking her head. “Didn’t I hear you tell Charlie that you were going shopping with Rose and me this afternoon?” “Ummm, yeees . . .” I answered hesitantly. “So what are you going to say or do when he asks you how your shopping trip went? You’re a terrible liar, Bella.” “Ummm, I hadn’t really thought about that. I guess I could come up with something.” “Excuses won’t work. You need to tell the truth. In order to tell the truth, you must actually go shopping with us. We’re doing this for your own good, Bella,” she entreated, giving me the

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puppy dog eyes. I rolled my eyes. I swear that little pixie has me wrapped around her finger. She did have a point though. I sighed deeply. “Edward can come too, if he wants,” Rosalie offered. I perked up. If I had to endure this torture, just give me Edward and I’d be a happy prisoner. Edward was beside the car in seconds. “Thanks, Rosalie. I’d be glad to come.” He eagerly climbed into the back seat with me. Rose’s jaw dropped. She couldn’t believe Edward actually willingly volunteered to go on a shopping trip with the girls. “Okay, I believe you now. I never thought I’d see the day Edward would choose to go shopping with us. He must be head over heels in love to be so out of character for himself. “I am head over heels,” Edward confirmed. “And I’m not choosing to go shopping. I’m choosing to stay close to Bella. There’s a difference.” Rose snorted. Then she realized something else peculiar. “How is your Volvo getting home?” “Jasper agreed to drive it home for me.” “You let Jasper drive your precious Volvo, just to spend time with Bella while she’s shopping?” Rose gasped. Edward nodded. “Now I know you’ve gone over the deep end. Bella, who is this and what have you done with my brother?” I laughed, squeezing his hand. “I don’t know, but I sure do like him,” I teased. Rose turned and smiled at me. I got rather nervous when she did that, considering we were traveling well over 100mph, and unlike everyone else here, I wouldn’t get up and walk away if she hit anything at this speed. “Ummm, thanks, Rose. Ummm, wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep your eyes on the road though?” She laughed, but turned back around. “Now you’re scared? A houseful of vampires doesn’t scare you, but fast driving does?” “Got it in one,” I managed to choke out, my heartbeat racing as we took curves at speeds that should have sent us flying through the air, but we always managed to stay dead center in the lane. Edward wrapped me in his embrace, softly humming something sweet into my ear. I relaxed considerably, concentrating solely on him instead of Rosalie’s insane driving. I could see why Charlie didn’t want her driving me around. Saying she didn’t always obey the speed limit was the understatement of the year. I wondered if she ever obeyed the speed limit. We made it to Port Angeles in record time. “Oh, Bella! What I great idea! I’m going to get one too!” Alice shrieked excitedly, bouncing up and down in place and clapping her hands. “Jazz and I are going to have so much fun with it. Rose, I bet you and Emmett would like it too. Maybe we should get one for Carlisle and Esme, just in case? Let’s see. Yep, they’ll love it! Oooh, I can’t wait. C’mon, everyone, let’s go already!” I had finally figured out what I was going to buy. Trust Alice to see it as soon as I’d made the decision. Edward was smirking, having seen the visions in Alice’s head as she did. Rose looked

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decidedly irritated at being the only one not in the know. I knew exactly how she felt. I felt that way a lot around these two. “Where are we going, Bella?” Rose inquired, her voice full of frustration. “We’re going to Bed, Bath, and Beyond,” I replied. “Well, I hope they have something in the ‘Beyond’ section because I don’t sleep, and I don’t go to the bathroom,” Rose grumbled. “What exactly was it you planned to get?” “Blankets.” “Blankets?” “Blankets.” “Oh, joy.” I chuckled. “I appreciate your company on this endeavor, Rose. You can pick the next store, and I promise not to complain.” That helped her perk right up, and she fell into a state of contemplation, trying to decide which of her favorite stores was going to make it to the top of the list. We found our way to the blanket section of the store and were pleasantly surprised to see the wide variety of color. Rose came out of her reverie when she realized we had arrived at our destination. “Electric blankets? What do they do, vibrate?” she asked curiously. I laughed. “No, but maybe you should patent that idea. They get warm, which in turn makes you warm. They can actually get rather hot on the highest setting. I’m going to use it to keep Edward and me warm, when he snuggles with me at night.” Sudden comprehension flashed into her eyes, and she looked at them again with more respect, as she realized the potential. How would it feel if Emmett were warm all over when they came together? “Do they come in king size?” she wondered, starting to dig through the pile. “Or would two twins be better? Or maybe both? Yeah, I think I’ll get all three.” Alice snickered. “Good idea. You never know when you’re going to need extra blankets. Okay, I’ve got two kings, one for us and one for Carlisle and Esme, plus two twins for Jazz and me. So do you want to continue shopping or go home and try these out?” “Go home,” I answered immediately, holding my two blankets. I had a king for his future bed and a queen for mine. “Bella!” Rose gasped. “I’m shocked at you!” I blushed and stared at the floor. “I distinctly recall you promising I could pick the next store and you wouldn’t complain.”

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“Yes, Rose, I did.” “So, how could you possibly want to go home and try these out without going to the lingerie store first?” she teased, pretending to be hurt and indignant. “I can’t imagine what I was thinking, Rose. How foolish of me,” I drawled, blushing even redder. Even though I was embarrassed, my blush was nothing compared to the look on Edward’s face at the turn in the conversation. If he were human, he would definitely have been blushing. He looked like he was caught between the desire to agree and the desire to flee. I couldn’t help but want to push him just a bit further. “I need some new pajamas anyway.” His eyes widened, then darkened, then he looked away, shoving his hands in his pockets. Rose, Alice, and I giggled all the way to the cash register to purchase the blankets, with Edward stalking us the whole way. When it was my turn, Edward stepped up smoothly to pay for my items. I started to protest, but he quirked an eyebrow in my direction. “I do remember you telling me my first gift to you should be electric blankets, so since you already gave your permission for me to buy them, there should be no complaint now.” Well, that effectively shut my mouth. I had said that the other night. I had also promised to work on accepting gifts for his sake. So I gave him my best smile, and stood up on tiptoe to give him a quick kiss on the lips, whispering, “Thank you, Edward.” He looked shell shocked, and I was surprised to discover I had actually dazzled him for once. Wow! What an ego booster! I could dazzle Edward Cullen! I grabbed his hand and led him out of the store to where his sisters were waiting. “Edward, why don’t you take our purchases out to the car and then meet us at the lingerie store?” Rose suggested nonchalantly. He nodded mutely, gathered up all the bags, and headed for the exit. “Alright girls,” Rose murmured conspiratorially, putting an arm around each of our shoulders. “Ready to have some fun?” Alice immediately grinned, “Heck, yeah!” I hesitated, not sure if I wanted any part of whatever Rosalie might consider ‘fun’. Alice reached over and grabbed my hand. “C’mon, Bella! Where’s your spirit of adventure?” My spirit of adventure? I lost it somewhere around the time I got a cast for the fifth time. Then again, I did hang out with a bunch of vampires and no witnesses. That was pretty adventurous, wasn’t it? “I’m here with you, aren’t I? I kiss Edward, don’t I? I come over and hang out in a house full of vampires, don’t I. That isn’t adventurous enough for you?” Alice rolled her eyes, but it was Rose who responded, “That’s not adventurous. It’s just plain stupid. But don’t worry, we like you anyway.” Wow, Rose just said she liked me. In a backhanded kind of way. Well, I can do my part to foster this friendship.

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I sighed, “Okay, I’m in. What’s the plan?”

Chapter 10: The Plan
BPOV “Okay, so here’s the plan. We’re going to mess with Edward, which we always enjoy, and you’ll reap the benefits, Bella. You know how Edward is, he’s such a prude. He wouldn’t be caught dead, or even undead, in a lingerie store, so he will wait outside the store for us, facing away from the store. He will also do his best to stay out of Alice’s and my heads so as to not see anything he shouldn’t. So, if you can get over your shyness of Alice and me, we can really mess with him. Every time you model something you want him to see, you’ll model it for us in front of the three-way mirror. Then we’ll take turns saying odd things that he can’t help but want to investigate. He’ll jump into either Alice’s or my mind to see what’s going on, and then he’ll get an eyeful. What do you think?” Could I do this? Was I willing to model teddies and sheer nightgowns in front of Alice and Rose in order to ‘make’ Edward look at them? What was the worst that could happen? Really? Well, Edward might get mad, but the images would be forever burned into his perfect memory, and I had no doubt he would pull them out and look at them again later. I did want to encourage him to progress our relationship, didn’t I? But this was so soon. I’d only known him for not quite four days now. I’d been saving myself all this time. Would I really wish to become sexual with someone I’d known for only a few days? Then again, I knew I belonged with Edward for eternity. He was the someone special I’d been saving myself for all these years. Of course, we couldn’t go the whole way anyway. I wasn’t ready to be a mom quite yet. So, did I want to encourage him to take the next step in our physical explorations of each other’s body? Absolutely. I’d soon be sisters with these two girls anyway. In the books, Alice had helped me shower with my broken leg, and Rose had carried me to the bathroom every time I needed to use it while pregnant. So, I really didn’t need to fear being not fully clothed around them.

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They were family. They weren’t interested in my body or anything, so I had no need to feel self-conscious. “Okay, I can do this. It’s a go with Operation Lingerie,” I grinned. “Finally! I thought you’d never stop debating with yourself,” Rosalie teased. Alice giggled. We headed off to the store and started picking through the racks. Alice kept giggling to herself every few minutes. Finally, we headed to the dressing rooms so I could try on a few things. “This is going to be so much fun!” Alice sang excitedly. Rosalie signaled that Edward was in position outside the shop. I hurried to get changed into the first teddy, a lacy piece in his particular favorite shade of blue. As I stepped back out into the main part of the dressing room and posed in front of the mirrors, Rose and Alice got into their positions to get the best possible view of me. Then, Rose began her plan of attack. EPOV I took my sweet time taking the bags to the car, trying to give the girls time to find what they wanted and finish shopping. Or at least move to a store I wouldn’t be ashamed to enter. I knew undergarments were necessary, and I thought about them as much as the next man. After all, we got multiple copies of the Victoria’s Secret catalog mailed to our house each time. One to McCarty, one to Whitlock, one to Masen, one to Cullen, and one to Hale. We four men each grabbed one for ourselves to peruse in private and left the fifth copy for the girls to share amongst themselves. Hey, it was perfectly legitimate. They did commercials on TV for Pete’s sake. Emmett always let us know when one of those came on, so we could all watch it. We pretended not to, of course, but even Carlisle would find an excuse to wander downstairs for a few minutes. Then, he and Esme would usually go back upstairs afterward. Like none of us knew what they were doing. Actually, Alice, Jasper, and I had way too much information about what they were doing. Rosalie and Emmett would be blissfully caught up in themselves, to busy worrying about what they were doing to think about anybody else. They’d head off to their room shortly thereafter. By then, Jasper would be overwhelmed by everyone’s lust and Alice would be desperate for distraction, so she wouldn’t mind in the slightest when he would suddenly grab her and throw her over his shoulder, cave-man style, and run up to their room. Personally, I would just go hunting. Woo. Hoo. Still, I was a gentleman, a gentleman of more than a century. While I was very much in favor of Bella purchasing some beautiful things that I might hope to see on her someday, there was no way I would be going into that store. No way I was going to walk through rack after rack of women’s undergarments and touch them, or look at them, or suggest any of them. Whatever Bella got would be fine with me. On the way to meet up with the girls, I passed a game store. I couldn’t resist and stopped in for a few minutes. I was happy to note the new Xbox game Emmett wanted had finally been released. I decided to get it for him. Not only would I be his hero for a few hours, but he’d be kept busy playing it until school the next day. Emmett, quiet and in a single known location not causing trouble, was a good thing for the entire family. I headed on to the specified meeting location, hoping my some miracle the girls were already finished. I was dismayed to see the number of things Alice carried in her arms on her way to the dressing room. I might as well make myself get comfortable. We were obviously going to be here a while. I leaned my back against the wall of the store, pretending to watch the people walking by in the mall corridor and listening to the conversation in the dressing room. I deliberately gave them all some privacy by blocking out their thoughts.

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“Go ahead, Bella,” Alice encouraged. “We’ll wait for you here.” I wondered what kind of items Bella was trying on for size. After a couple of minutes, I heard Rosalie ask, “Hey, Alice, do you think Bella will like these crotchless panties?” What?! Instinctively, I jumped into Rose’s mind just in time to be treated with a view of Bella in a royal blue teddy that matched her curves perfectly. I moaned, biting my lip, and jumped out again, but it was too late. That image was burned into my brain. I had no desire to tuck it away out of sight. Instead, I closed my eyes and dwelt on the image, drowning in her sexy brown eyes and the luminescence of her pale white skin next to the brilliant royal blue fabric. “I like it, Bella. You should get that one.” A few minutes later, I heard Alice ponder, “Do you think Edward would like this one?” “Nah,” Rosie returned blithely. “It’s too sheer. It wouldn’t leave anything to the imagination.” Curiosity overcame self control as I hopped into Alice’s mind. I groaned heavily as I saw my beautiful Bella wrapped in black lace that exposed more than it covered. I hopped back out, but I was having a hard time thinking straight. I was also felt a need to untuck my shirt and hope it might hide how much I was enjoying the images in my mind. I swore to myself I would stay out of my sister’s heads if it killed me. I took deep breaths, trying to calm down. “Alice, do you think we should get Bella some toys?” “Maybe, Rose. Oh, no. I don’t think Edward would want her to have one of those!” What?! What were they talking about now? What did they want to buy for Bella that I wouldn’t want her to have? I started to panic, but I didn’t want to jump into their minds in case they were looking at Bella again. “Well, I think we should get it for her anyway. He doesn’t have to know she has it,” Rose decided. Forget self-control, I needed to know what Rose was planning to get for Bella. I quickly jumped into both of my sisters’ minds. I got a double eyeful this time. Both of my sisters were looking at Bella from slightly different angles. With the mirrors behind Bella and the two viewpoints, I had a clear 360 degree view of Bella in the latest creation. I nearly toppled over from the force of my lust. I completely stopped breathing. Good thing Jasper wasn’t here. I didn’t think he’d be able to stand, but if he could, Alice would be in big trouble. And we probably wouldn’t see them for days. What do you think, Edward, red or blue? Alice thought to me. I caught a quick glimpse of two amazing sets of sexy, silky pajamas. I was beyond rational thoughts at this point. I simply whispered, “Blue.” Alice snickered. “Here, Bella, Edward says he likes the blue ones.” Bella chuckled. “Blue it is.” “Hey, is that a tattoo, Bella?” Rose asked in surprise. I couldn’t help myself, I had to see what she was talking about. Bella was wearing a sheer bra that opened in the front and a matching

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sheer thong. I gasped, a low rumbling building in my chest. I was just about ready to burst in there and take her on the dressing room floor. "Oh, guess it must have been a shadow," Rose snickered. "Which one would you like to try on next, Bella?" “Just get them,” I growled. “Get them all! It’s time to go home. Now.” I was barely holding myself back. I was even picturing throwing her over my shoulder and running for the car. I heard all three girls laughing, but Alice and Rose were headed to the cash register, so I ignored them. Bella got her clothes back on and came out to wait with me. As soon as my sisters left the shop, I grabbed the armload of bags and started herding them toward the car. “Get a grip, Edward,” Rosalie complained. “You don’t want to be quite that obvious, do you?” I just growled at her, urging them all to move faster. I soon as we got to the car, I threw all the bags into the trunk and settled into the back seat with Bella. She stared up at me with wide, innocent eyes. My sweet naive Bella. “Is something wrong, Edward?” she inquired with concern. I gave her a pained smile. “Of course not, my darling Bella. I’m just having a hard time right now.” “Very hard,” Alice muttered. Rosalie started laughing, and Bella bit her lip while smiling angelically at me. She started patting my upper thigh and rubbing it a little. “You poor baby, I sure you’ll feel better soon.” I groaned. This sweet darling girl had no idea what she was doing to me. I closed my eyes, determined to endure the blissful torture all the way home.

Chapter 11: Heating Things Up
BPOV

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When we pulled into the garage at the Cullen’s house, Edward chose to sit in the car for a few minutes. Despite his firm belief in my naiveté, I knew exactly why he needed the time, so I merely kissed his cheek and followed the girls inside. “Everybody come to the living room! We got you all presents!” Alice exclaimed enthusiastically to the rest of the family. Carlisle emerged from his study, and Esme came in from the garden. Jasper and Emmett paused their Xbox game and turned to face us. I went to have a seat on the couch where I could watch everyone’s faces while waiting for Edward to make an appearance. Rosalie tossed her bag to Emmett at the same time Alice tossed one to Jasper. Alice then presented the third bag to Carlisle. All three men pulled out the blankets and examined them blankly. “Um, thanks, Alice,” Jasper responded hesitantly, trying to fake enthusiasm. “Yes, nice color,” Carlisle commented kindly, handing the blanket to Esme. “An electric blanket? Cool!” Emmett enthused. “Does it glow in the dark?” I started laughing and the girls joined me. “That’s a good idea, Emmett,” I praised. “Not quite as good as Rose’s, but could still have a market for young children. No, an electric blanket gets warm to hot, in variable settings. When you wrap yourself in it, or get under it, it warms up your body, using the electricity. It’s like snuggling inside an oven, without the danger of catching on fire. I watched as comprehension and then speculation dawned on the faces of the men and Esme. Emmett was the first to react. “Well, thanks for the gift, Rosie. Let’s go try it out. See you tomorrow, Bella!” he shouted on his way up the stairs. He had grabbed the bag of blankets and lifted Rose up bridal style before sprinting up to their room. The others watched them go. Edward chose that moment to appear from the garage. He came over and sat beside me on the couch. “You’re so sweet, always thinking of me, Alice,” Jasper purred seductively, grabbing Alice by the hand and dashing up the stairs. “Goodbye, Bella!” Alice called as she followed Jasper. “Thanks for the great gift idea!” I chuckled. Carlisle and Esme were exchanging a heated glance. They started backing towards the stairs, one step at a time. “Yes, well, I think we’re all going to have a quiet . . .” CRASH! Something sounded like it broke up in Emmett’s and Rose’s room. “ . . . private evening tonight. It was great seeing you again, Bella. You’re welcome any time, but I’m sure Charlie will be wanting his dinner soon, so we’ll see you tomorrow, okay dear?” Esme explained politely, reaching out for the stair railing. “Of course, Esme. Thank you all for having me. Good night!” I smirked playfully. “Good night!” Carlisle exclaimed, winking at me, before the two of them raced up to their bedroom.

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Edward was staring after them, wincing at their thoughts. I grabbed his hand and headed for the front door. As soon as we made it inside the Volvo, I burst out laughing. “Drive, man, drive,” I urged. “Before the moaning starts.” His eyes widened, and he peeled tires backing out and tearing down the driveway. I started laughing again. Then, I stopped with a start. “Did you get our blanket?” I demanded. He smirked. “Of course, I did.” He pointed to the back seat. I released a huge sigh of relief. “So, are you looking forward to trying it out tonight?” I cooed coyly, wiggling my eyebrows. He cut his eyes in my direction. “Absolutely,” he leered. I chuckled. “Excellent.” Once we got to my house, I popped the chicken casserole into the oven with some biscuits. I defrosted some broccoli in the microwave and sprinkled cheese on top, putting it in the oven to melt the cheese. Dinner would be ready shortly after Charlie walked through the door. Edward was busy setting up the electric blanket, no doubt reading the precautions on the bag and devising a new list of rules for me of things I could and could not do with my electric blanket. No doubt it recommended against using in the bathtub and other kinds of common sense ideas. The scary knowledge was that for every one of those possibilities listed, somebody had actually tried it and then tried to sue the company to make up for their own stupidity. The glories of a litigious society. I quickly dashed upstairs to check on Edward before Charlie got home. He had the blanket set up on the bed, under the comforter. It was plugged in, turned on, and set to maximum heat. “Why don’t you just snuggle under the covers while I eat dinner with Charlie? After dinner, I’ll come up here to do homework and see how warm your skin feels. You can actually stay under there until I’m ready for bed, if you like. At that point, we’ll have to turn the temperature down, because I’ll actually overheat at that setting,” I suggested. “Sounds like a plan, love,” Edward agreed. “Charlie’s here now, so you might want to head back downstairs.” “Okay, I’m going to talk to him about the Blacks tonight. We need to go ahead and start working on those friendships.” Edward grimaced, but nodded resigned. “At least this way I’ll be around to keep an eye on him and his interactions with you.” I rolled my eyes at his obvious jealousy. “You know, I doubt Stephenie Meyer sent him the four books, so you’d better be nice to him. If you act all jealous and possessive, he’s just going to think you’re a jerk. He won’t have any idea why you resent him.” Edward grinned. “As long as he thinks of you like a sister, I won’t have any need to resent him, will I? So no flirting this time.”

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I groaned, “I already told you I wouldn’t. Now that I already know the truth about you, I have no need to pump him for information.” I heard Charlie open the front door. I quickly went out into the hall, shutting the door behind me. I jostled lightly down the stairs, holding onto the railing, just in case. “Hey, Bells,” he greeted me. “How was your shopping trip?” “I actually really enjoyed it, and it was productive too. I’m feeling a lot closer to Rose and Alice than I did before. At this rate, they’ll be more like my sisters than my friends. I’m so happy to have them. I didn’t really have any close friends in Phoenix. I was shy and kind of a loner. I’m so glad I decided to come here, Dad,” I replied enthusiastically. “Any more rumors about you and Edward I should worry about? I did have someone ask me if you were engaged.” “Really, what’d you say?” “I just told them if there was anything they needed to know I would be sure to tell them. I hate small minded gossips.” “Thanks, Dad. I decided I didn’t really care what anyone else thought either. Anybody who wants to know can just ask me to my face.” “Good for you, Bells.” I pulled the casserole out of the oven and set it on the table, along with the cheesy broccoli and biscuits. I set the table, and we both sat down to enjoy our meal. “This looks fabulous, Bells. I’m going to get fat if you keep spoiling me like this.” “Actually, Dad, this is a lot more healthy than fast food pizza or diner food, so you might find it easier to stay in shape with my cooking.” I put a large helping of broccoli on my plate. I noticed Charlie attempted to avoid it. I rolled my eyes. “Really, Dad. Just try the broccoli. Be a good example for me.” He grimaced and reluctantly put a small spoonful onto his plate. I added pepper and salt to mine and eagerly tasted it, savoring the flavors and textures on my tongue. I nodded encouragingly to him. He wrinkled his nose, but bravely lifted a bite to his mouth. “Wow, Bells. This is really quite good!” “I always thought broccoli should be orange.” “Orange broccoli?” he asked in confusion. I smiled and pointed to the cheese. “If you coat it with enough cheddar to make it look orange, it can’t help but taste good. Cheddar makes everything better.”

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He shook his head and grinned. “I guess all those commercials really do indoctrinate your young mind.” “The power of the jingle,” I teased. We ate in silence for a bit. I was happy he enjoyed the food I had made for him. “So, did you see Edward today?” “Um, yeah. He’s in most of my classes, like I told you yesterday. Plus, I sit with his family at lunchtime. I helped Rose and Alice carry their bags inside when we got back to their house. Edward volunteered to help carry bags too, while Emmett and Jasper just kept playing video games. Edward’s really smart, gets straight A’s at school, and helps his Mom around the house. I really like him.” “Just remember you’re only seventeen. Don’t worry about trying to rush into anything or grow up too fast. You’re only young once.” Unless you’re a vampire. Then you’re forever young. “I know, Dad. I’m supposed to be meeting with Angela this weekend. We don’t have firm plans yet, but I’ll let you know once I know for sure. Speaking of friends, do you still hang out with Billy Black?” “Well, we’ve had a falling out recently, over the Cullens as a matter of fact. Billy is always accusing the Cullens of conspiracy to harm us all. I’ve tried pointing out all the things Carlisle and Esme do for the community, but he’s stuck steadfast in his anti-Cullen stance. He’s even encouraged some of the other Quileutes to boycott the hospital. What is he thinking?” “Dad, are you really going to throw away a decades long friendship over a difference of opinion? Can’t you two just agree to disagree about this? Are you really going to let it come between you? Why don’t you call Billy and ask if he’d like to join us for dinner tomorrow. Just tell him you still want to be his friend, you just don’t want to discuss the Cullens with him. Maybe you shouldn’t tell him about my friendship with the Cullen family, at least not at first. Give him a few months or so to get to know me first and learn to trust my judgment. I have to tell you, I really like the whole family so far, and I don’t want to spend the entire evening facing Billy’s disapproval and distrust for my association with them. Besides, it might be fun to catch up with Jacob after all these years. Maybe he’d like to hang out some too.” Charlie smiled at me. “Great thinking, Bells. I’ll call him right after dinner.” “Great,” I replied encouragingly. I cleaned off the table and started washing the dishes, while Charlie went to issue the phone invitation. I really wished I did have vampire hearing right now, so I would know exactly what was being said. I heard Charlie issue the invitation, but I couldn’t hear anything else once I started running the water in the sink. I finished cleaning up the kitchen just before Charlie got off the phone. I headed out into the living room as he placed the receiver into the charging unit. I looked at him questioningly. He grinned happily at me. “Billy and Jacob are coming over tomorrow night for dinner. Thanks for the idea, Bella. I feel a lot better reuniting with my best friend.” “Sure thing, Dad. That’s great. I’ve got a lot of homework to do, so I’m going to head up to my room now. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, okay?”
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He smiled and give me a small goodnight hug. “Don’t stay up too late.” “I won’t, Dad. Don’t forget you need your beauty sleep too,” I teased. He scoffed, ruffling my hair. I dashed up the stairs, eager to get back to Edward, as Charlie settled down with the TV remote for his nightly sports marathon. I smirked to see Edward huddled under the blanket, a smile of pure bliss on his face.

Chapter 12: Snuggling
EPOV I took off my shoes and snuggled under the covers, marveling at the warmth emanating from the blanket. It was a lot like being in a sauna or a hot tub, but could thankfully be done comfortably while wearing a decent amount of clothing. I pulled the covers all the way over my head, wanting my face and lips to be warm too. I wondered how long it would take for my body to absorb enough heat energy to feel like a human would to Bella. I was thrilled with the idea that she could snuggle comfortably with me without getting too cold. My body reacted at the thought that we would no longer need to keep a barrier between us when I held her at night. The down side is that, without the barrier, she might actually feel my reaction. I definitely had no desire for her to understand just how hard it was for me to hold her in my arms all night long. I heard Charlie ask Bella if she had seen me today. I realized suddenly that I couldn’t hear his thoughts either! How odd. It must be genetic, if she inherited it from her father. Carlisle would be very interested to know this. I could get general impressions of his thoughts though. He wasn’t completely silent to me like she was. I could sense his approval as he mentioned me. That was good news. Now I just had to be careful not to do anything to change his impression of me. I smiled as I heard Bella extolling my virtues. She mentioned me helping to carry bags. I felt guilty for not helping the girls carry the bags into the house. Not that the bags were heavy, and my sisters wouldn’t have felt it even if they were. It still would have been the gentlemanly thing to do. Unfortunately, I was too busy trying to take the mental equivalent of a cold shower, trying to diminish any evidence of my state of arousal before joining the family.
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I was fairly certain Emmett would feel the need to call attention to it if he witnessed such a loss of control on my part. Not only would that be extremely embarrassing for both me and Bella, but he would harass me endlessly about it over the next few years. Charlie’s mind projected concern and nostalgia as he encouraged Bella not to rush into anything. This was followed by relief as she reassured him and deftly changed the subject to other friends. I had a feeling he was still adjusting to the idea that his little girl was now a teenager rapidly approaching adulthood. His thoughts became filled with frustration as he discussed Billy’s prejudice against my family, followed by sadness at the reminder of decades of friendship, and ending with resolve as he agreed to call him up after dinner. He enjoyed the rest of his dinner in a state of happy contentment. After dinner, I heard him pick up the phone in the living room and start dialing as Bella cleaned off the table. I concentrated on the conversation, extremely interested in the outcome and knowing Bella would expect a recap when she joined me upstairs. “Hello?” “Hey, Billy, this is Charlie.” Pause. “Hey, Charlie.” “Listen, we’ve been friends for so long, I don’t want to throw away our friendship over one issue. I’ve missed spending time with you. I know we don’t see eye to eye about the Cullens and was wondering if you would agree to disagree about them. I won’t try to convince you they’re good, and you won’t try to convince me they’re evil. We just won’t talk about them at all. Our time together will be a Cullen-free zone. What do you think?” “I’ve missed you too, Charlie. I think I can agree to disagree. I’ve hated that they’ve come between us and ruined our friendship too. We won’t talk about them at all to each other. Sounds good.” “Thanks, Billy! Hey, I don’t know if you heard, but Bella is here now. She has grown up to be quite an excellent cook, and she remembers you and Jacob. She has volunteered to cook dinner for all of us tomorrow night, if you two would like to come over here. We can watch a game afterwards, while Jacob and Bella get caught up and get to know one another. What do you say?” “That sounds great, Charlie! We’d love to come. What time?” “How about 6? I’m usually home by then.” “Should I bring anything?” “Nah, I think Bells has it covered.” “Thanks for calling, Charlie. I really have missed you. We’ll see you tomorrow.” “Sure thing, Billy. Bye.” Charlie was very happy. I could tell he felt like he’d had a weight lifted off of his shoulders. It was weird to be getting impressions instead of fully formed thoughts, almost like I had Jasper’s ability and was reading his emotions instead.

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I heard my love’s beautiful voice informing Charlie she was coming up to her room. I smiled in anticipation. He teased her about not staying up too late. I would make sure she got enough sleep, though I was certain she would still be awake for a while after he had gone to bed. I heard Bella’s measured tread up the stairs and lowered the blanket down from my face. She opened the door, her eyes searching out mine right away. I knew I had a big smile on my face. Our eyes met, and she smirked at me. I raised an eyebrow, as she continued into the room, shutting the door behind her. “You look comfortable,” she taunted, sauntering over to the bed and crawling up next to me. She reached out and caressed my cheek. Her hand still felt a bit warm to me, but nowhere near as warm as usual. She grinned. “While you look and smell delicious enough to eat, I think we still need to roast you a bit longer.” I pouted playfully. “You’re still not quite up to human temperature, Edward. Why don’t you go ahead and cook yourself a bit longer, while I finish my homework?” she suggested with a wink. “Only if you give me a kiss,” I bargained. “Gladly.” She leaned forward, pressing her lips to mine. We kissed enthusiastically, until she needed to draw back and catch her breath. I smirked, listening to her heart racing and watching her chest heaving. I loved the effect I had on her. “Okay, I really need to concentrate on homework now,” she confessed, pulling the blanket back over my head. She kissed my forehead through the blanket. “I’m sure by the time I’m finished, you’ll be nice and toasty warm.” I chuckled, listening to her pull her books and supplies out of her backpack. She sat at her desk. I could hear the scratching of her pencil on the paper as she began her assignments. I started thinking about our time at the mall. Specifically, the time at the lingerie store. It was obvious my sisters had deliberately set me up to witness a scantily clad Bella. The question of the day was whether Bella was in on it, or merely an innocent victim to my sisters’ twisted prank. I sincerely hoped it was the former, for all of our sakes. My perfect recall conjured up a picture of Bella in the black lace teddy. I studied it in great detail, in a way I hadn’t allowed myself to at the time. My body responded again, just as quickly as it did the first time. Of course, Bella chose that moment to finish her homework. I couldn’t let her catch me like this. I quickly turned onto my side and moved my hands in front of my crotch. I waited as she put away her school stuff and approached the bed. The seconds ticked by like hours. I heard her chuckle softly. “I’m going to go get ready for bed now,” she whispered. “You just stay where you are, and I’ll be right back.” “Okay,” I responded quietly. I heard her rustling in some plastic before escaping from the room. She went into the bathroom to change. I started thinking unsexy thoughts to bring myself back under control. Okay, kittens, Jessica, Mike. Yep, that did it. Thinking about Mike was a foolproof way to kill the mood. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. I heard the bedroom door open and close again. I was ready for her now. I sensed her come up to stand next to the bed. “Close your eyes,” she mumbled hesitantly. “Okay,” I murmured back.

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She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, just as I had done a minute before. “I think it’s time to check and see if you’re ‘done’,” she suggested seductively. I felt her join me in the bed, slipping under the covers and scooting close to me. She gently ran her hand over my forearm. I was surprised to note that her skin didn’t feel warm. It felt the same as mine, or rather mine felt the same as hers. I reached out to pull her into my embrace and encountered something satiny. My eyes flew open to behold my love dressed in the blue satin baby doll pajamas I had picked out of Alice’s head earlier today. I froze in shock. So much for calming down. I swiftly rose to the occasion. I heard a sweet giggle and looked up to meet Bella’s eyes. I was even more shocked to see the direction of her gaze. She was looking at the front of my pants. “I was going to ask if you liked it,” she snickered. “But I can already tell that you do. I guess these were a good choice after all.” I stared at her, speechless. She finally moved her gaze up to meet mine, and she blushed. Then, with a mischievous grin, she started unbuttoning my shirt. By the third button, I had managed to summon enough energy to move my hand to catch hers. “What are you doing?” I demanded. “Unbuttoning your shirt,” she answered with wide eyed innocence. “Why?” She smiled at me. “I just want to feel your chest while it’s so warm. I promise not to rape you or anything.” I rolled my eyes. Like that was even a possibility. I did let go of her hand and allow her to keep unbuttoning my shirt. The gentleman in me was protesting vehemently that this was a bad idea, but the man in me wanted her to touch me at least as much, if not more so, than she did. I reminded myself that she had agreed to become my wife and spend eternity with me. That helped silence the gentleman, who was somewhat appeased at the idea that she was my fiancé and by my resolve not to remove any more of my clothing, nor to allow her to remove any of hers. So I made no protest when she slipped the sleeves of my shirt down my arms and over my hands, before tossing the shirt onto the floor. She moaned a bit as her eyes eagerly devoured my chest and arms. Then, she put her hands on my chest and began exploring. My skin tingled wherever she touched it, and I couldn’t help moaning myself. She traced the contours of the muscles in my chest, abdomen, and biceps. Then she scooted closer, pressing her chest against mine, as she allowed her hands to explore my back. She took her time with all of her explorations, as if she were trying to memorize the feel of my skin. I loved that she could be so close to me without shivering. When she began kissing my chest, I pulled away groaning, needing to put a stop to this before I got carried away. She immediately started pouting, trying to pull me closer again. “I think that’s enough exploring for tonight, love,” I gasped. “I just can’t take anymore right now. It feels absolutely fabulous, and I’m in definite danger of forgetting everything but the need to make you mine in every sense of the word. Since that isn’t possible right now, I’m going to calm down a bit.” “Ah, okay,” she smirked. “I guess you’re not the only one who seems to have a natural talent for this.” I grinned at her. “Perhaps. Or perhaps we’re just meant for each other.”

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She nodded, grinning back. I removed her arms from around me and shifted to lie on my back. I reached over and dialed back the setting on the blanket, not wanting Bella to overheat. Then I pulled her over to me and kissed her gently. “I think maybe you should get some sleep. I don’t know if you heard, but your dad came up to bed about half an hour ago.” “I was a bit distracted.” I snickered this time. “Is that so? I never would have guessed.” She growled at me, a cute little kitten growl. I barely restrained my laughter, knowing she wouldn’t appreciate it. As if she could intimidate me. Well, actually she could, but not by threats of violence. The thought of losing her now that I had found her was worse than intimidating. It was terrifying. I had to admit to myself that her anger actually did intimidate me, despite the fact that she couldn’t cause me any physical pain. She could definitely cause me emotional pain, if she decided she didn’t want to be around me. So I preferred not to make her truly angry. She curled up next to me, resting her head on my chest and draping her arm over my stomach. I loved the sensation. It felt like she belonged there. I rubbed her back lightly with my hand, enjoying the texture of the satin sliding beneath my fingers. Watching her sleep last night had inspired a lullaby, just as the book had suggested. I began humming it for her, the portion I had composed thus far, and she quickly fell asleep. I tucked the blanket around us, thrilled to be able to have skin to skin contact without fear of giving her hypothermia. As I snuggled with my beautiful Bella, I allowed myself to picture each of the different outfits she had modeled in the dressing room earlier. She was absolutely gorgeous. My breathing increased slightly, the longer I thought about her. I adjusted myself to be as comfortable as possible while wearing pants. Bella began dreaming. To my surprise, she threw her leg over my hips. She began moaning my name and rocking against me. It was obviously a very good dream and raised my own level of arousal to heights I had never known before. Her movement created the most delicious friction against me. The gentleman in me was screaming at me for my incredibly inappropriate behavior in allowing this to continue, but the man in me drowned him out. She continued moaning my name, moving her lips on my chest, rocking against my side. I was on sensual overload – the sound of her moaning for me, the smell of her arousal, the feel of her in my arms and against my skin, the sight of her in my mind dressed in sexy lingerie, the taste of her kiss lingering on my lips, and the feelings building up inside of me. The music in my body came to a full crescendo, and I clapped my free hand over my mouth to keep from shouting. I lay limply underneath of her as she stiffened, crying out into my chest. Then she became just as boneless as I felt. She was wearing a satisfied smile in her sleep. I decided it was a good time for me to go home, get cleaned up, and change my clothes. I gently slid her off of me and got out of bed. I tucked the covers around her and kissed her temple. “I’ll be back soon, love,” I whispered to my sleeping angel. I grabbed my shirt and jumped out the window. As I ran home, I realized I was wearing a goofy grin. Try as I might, I couldn’t wipe it off my face. I hoped my family members would all be too busy using their own electric blankets to notice me. Otherwise, I’d be faced with questions I really wasn’t prepared to answer. I had a good idea they would all know what would cause that kind of goofy grin, considering some of the ones I’ve seen on my brothers and father, and I didn’t want them thinking of me and Bella that way. Luckily, they were all rather occupied when I arrived home. I doubted they even knew I was there. Certainly none of them directed their thoughts my way, and I did my absolute best to block the thoughts they were having. I removed my jeans, hiding them instead of placing

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them in the hamper. I didn’t want Esme to see anything unusual while doing the laundry. I decided I’d better start doing my own laundry now. I took a much needed shower, changed my clothes, and rushed back to my Bella.

Chapter 13: Dinner with Jake
BPOV I puttered anxiously around the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on everything. The table was set and had a vase of wildflowers in the center. The kitchen was sparkling clean, all the dishes were washed and put away. I peeked in the oven needlessly once again. I wanted everything to be perfect for tonight. The delicious aroma of lasagna permeated the air throughout the entire house. I was serving garlic bread and salad along with it. I had the glasses already filled with ice, and I had made iced tea. I heard the front door open. “Bella?” Charlie called out, shutting the front door. “It smells wonderful!”

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I meandered out of the kitchen to watch him hang up his jacket and gun belt. I smiled at him. “How was your day?” I asked pleasantly. “Not bad. A few minor issues, no major ones. I do like living in a small town,” he returned easily. “Looks like we have about ten minutes until Billy and Jacob get here, so I’m going to go get freshened up, okay?” “Sounds good, Dad. I’ve go everything under control down here.” He dashed upstairs to his room, and I resumed my nervous pacing around the living room this time. I had already been through here twice making sure everything was cleaned and dusted. I tweaked the pillows on the couch, though of course they didn’t really need it. I spent a few minutes gazing at all my old pictures Charlie had displayed prominently around the room. I wondered if I shouldn’t hide a few of them when he wasn’t looking. I wasn’t sure I wanted Edward seeing those unflattering pictures of me. Just when I thought I would go insane, I heard a knock on the front door. I actually jumped a bit at the noise, my heart rate accelerating. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and answered the door. I saw Billy in his wheelchair. As I expected, the sight of his kind old face immediately brought back childhood memories. I didn’t really recognize Jacob as well as I did Billy. I could only see a hint of the boy he used to be. I wasn’t sure I would have known him under different circumstances. I stood back so they could enter, Jacob pushing Billy’s chair. Once they were inside, I shut the door and gave Billy a hug. “It’s so good to see you again, Billy,” I enthused gently. “How are your daughters?” “They’ve upped and moved away. It’s just Jacob and me at home now,” he chuckled. “But they’re happy, and they come back to visit now and again. ” “Hi, Jacob. I’m glad your dad has you, at least for a few more years. It can’t be easy for either of you though.” He ducked his head shyly. “We manage. Dinner smells really good though. Neither of us are particularly talented in the kitchen.” “Well, I made plenty, so no one will go hungry tonight,” I teased. “I’m pretty sure there’s enough even for a growing teenage boy.” Charlie had made his way downstairs, and all three males laughed appreciatively at my attempt to break the ice. Just then, the oven timer buzzed, so I excused myself and rushed to take the food out of the oven. Jacob strolled in behind me. “Anything I can do to help?” he offered, leaning against the counter. “Umm, sure. Do you want to get the drinks ready, at least for you and Billy? There’s tea, beer, and water.” “Does Charlie know you’re offering me beer?” he joked easily. I rolled my eyes. “Have you ever tasted beer?” “No,” he admitted sheepishly.

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“Well, I have. Believe me, you’re not missing out on anything.” He grinned. “So did you get rip-roaring drunk?” I shook my head and gave him a disgusted look. “Of course not. My stepfather, Phil, let me taste his one time. I haven’t desired a repeat of the experience.” Jacob laughed. “Right, so stick with the tea then, that’s your recommendation?” I grinned. “Absolutely.” We worked together quickly and had everything set up and ready in record time. I peeked into the living room to see how Billy and Charlie were getting along. I didn’t want to interrupt if they were in the middle of something serious. Jacob came to peer over my shoulder. Billy and Charlie were sitting comfortably in the living room getting caught up on all the news about each others lives since the last time they had spoken. “They gossip as bad as little old ladies,” Jacob whispered in my ear. I chuckled. “Maybe it’s because neither of them has a wife to do it for them,” I suggested. Jacob grinned at me with a sense of camaraderie. “Dinner’s ready, guys!” I announced. Charlie sprang up from his seat and pushed Billy into the kitchen. I had removed a chair to make room for the wheelchair so Billy could join us comfortably at the table. Conversation at the dinner table was limited, as the guys couldn’t seem to shovel the lasagna into their mouths fast enough. I ate mine at a reasonable pace, but even I had to admit it was one of the best ones I had made thus far. The males all had seconds, and Jake even helped himself to thirds. They had all grimaced at the salad, but they all took a little to appease me. The garlic bread was a big hit as well. There was hardly any left. Finally, all three of them sat back satisfied. “Wow, Bells!” Charlie exclaimed proudly. “You really outdid yourself tonight. That was better than any restaurant food I’ve ever eaten.” “Yeah!” Jacob agreed. “I’d like to get the recipe, if you don’t mind. Not that I could make it as good as you did, but even if it was half as good, it’d be better than what we usually eat.” “I think we’re going to have to come visit you regularly, Charlie. But, uh, only when Bella’s cooking,” Billy joked. “Seriously, this was absolutely delectable, Bella.” I blushed, letting my hair fall like a curtain around my face. “Thanks,” I mumbled self-consciously. I looked up with a smile. “Isn’t your game about to start?” Charlie grinned. “I think that’s our cue, Billy. How about we go and enjoy a little TV while the young’uns clean off the table.” “Sound good to me,” Billy approved. “Make yourself useful, Jake.” Jacob scoffed. “Don’t I always?”

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Billy chuckled and shrugged. The men settled down in front of the TV, their attention focused on the game. Jacob cheerfully started gathering the plates and taking them to the sink, while I focused on wrapping up the leftovers. “How about you wash and I dry?” Jacob suggested. I smiled and nodded, pulling a fresh dish towel out of the drawer and handing it to him. We worked together in companionable silence, not trying to talk over the sound of the running water combined with the noise of the TV in the background. It didn’t take long for us to finish. “Thanks, Jake, for helping.” “No problem. I’ve got the same chore at home, so I’m used to it.” I smiled. “Hey, I was wondering if you wanted to take a little walk while we talk?” “Yeah, that sounds good.” “Okay, we’ll just let our dads know, so they won’t worry.” I stuck my head into the living room. “Dad? Jake and I are going to take a little walk. We won’t go far.” “Okay, Bells, but stay out of the woods.” I laughed. “Trust me, Dad, I have no desire to get lost in the woods tonight. Knowing me, I’d be lost before we even got twenty feet past the tree line, and you’d have to call out a search party.” They all chuckled. I headed out the back door, wanting to get out of hearing range. With the TV on, I knew I wouldn’t have to go far. Jake followed me passively, waiting for me to speak. “Hey, Jake, what is your dad’s problem with the Cullens, anyway?” He ducked his head and looked away. I had a feeling he was blushing. “It’s just some silly superstitions based on our tribal legends. They’re pretty ridiculous if you ask me.” “Well, I hate that my dad and yours have allowed it to come between them and a friendship that has lasted so many years. That’s why I tried to get them back together, and so far it seems to be working.” “This was your idea?” he asked, looking impressed. “Yeah.” “Thanks! Dad’s been really depressed about losing Charlie’s friendship. This is the happiest I’ve seen him for quite some time.” I smiled. “My pleasure. Anyway, I was thinking maybe we should take things one step further.” “What do you mean?”

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“Well, you know grudges and feuds can last generations, hundreds of years even. They never stop until finally one generation chooses to ignore the grievances of the past and become friends with their enemies. Only then is the cycle of hatred and fear broken.” “Um, okay. So what does that mean in plain English?” “Well, Alice Cullen is my best friend. I thought maybe you and your friends could hang out with me and my friends. Maybe if we of the younger generation can learn to live together peacefully, then we could put an end to the animosity between the Quileutes and the Cullens. What do you think?” “Hmmm, that sounds like a good idea, but my dad would be really mad if he found out I was hanging out with the Cullens.” “Well, I wasn’t planning on telling him, of course. You certainly don’t have to – I’m not trying to push you into anything. I was just thinking about Billy and Charlie. Charlie’s mad because your dad has been convincing people not to go to the hospital now that Dr. Cullen works there. Charlie’s afraid someone is going to get hurt or die because of this. I just thought it was time to maybe show everyone that we can all live together in peace.” “Wow! I didn’t realize my dad had gone so far off the deep end. Yeah, I think you’re right. What did you have in mind?” “Well, people tend to fear what they don’t understand. If you and your friends take the time to get to know the Cullens, then they won’t be ‘other’ anymore. They’ll be people, just like you and me. You guys can show that there’s no reason to go to such extremes to avoid the whole family. Even if we never convince the older generation, we can stop the cycle from progressing to the next generation.” He nodded, understandingly. “Okay, I’m with you so far.” “So we’ll all hang out on weekends. We’ll talk, play games, go places. All the things normal friends do together. We’ll just have to do it all off the reservation. I’ll pick you and your friends up and we’ll all meet at the designated locations. How does that sound?” “Sounds like a plan, but I’ll have to check it out with Quil and Embry, my pals. I’m willing, but I can’t speak for them.” “Great, just call me tomorrow and let me know. That’ll give me plenty of time to work out the details.” He grinned conspiratorially at me. “So you think your friends are willing to hang out with a bunch of sophomores?” I scoffed. “Why not?” He looked me over seriously. “I’ve heard they keep to themselves. They don’t really seem to like anybody. Except you, apparently.” “Well, they are all rich, smart, and gorgeous. Other people tend to be intimidated by that, so they make rude and hurtful remarks. The Cullens also get a lot of kids trying to be friends with them for all the wrong reasons, interested more in what they have instead of who they are. Plus, they’re all adopted. Most of them had hard lives before they were adopted by Carlisle and Esme, so they have difficulty trusting others. They have good reasons to keep to themselves, Jacob.”
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He nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, that makes sense.” I smiled again. “Thanks, Jake. We’d better get back inside before our dads come looking for us.” We headed back, just as Charlie opened the back door. “Oh, there you are, kids. Jake, Billy’s ready to go. We haven’t forgotten it’s a school night.” I walked them to the door, waving goodbye from the front porch as they drove away. My heart was singing with hope. I couldn’t wait for Edward to get there so I could tell him all about my conversation with Jacob. Charlie looked more lighthearted than he had since I arrived. He gave me a hug and a kiss on my forehead. “Thanks for your encouragement, Bells. I’m really happy to have my friend back. Who knows how long it would have taken for us to get back together without your help?” I grinned as I hugged him back. It was nice to be appreciated.

Chapter 14: TGIF (Thank God it's Friday)
BPOV This had been the craziest week of my life. Only last Friday I had been on a plane to Forks with no idea that the fictional series I was reading was actually real. I hadn’t even known my precious Edward for a whole week, yet it felt like a lifetime. In a mere ninety minutes, I would introduce him to my father as we went out for our ‘first date’. We had decided to go to the Italian restaurant in Port Angeles for sentimental reasons. It had been the location of our first date in the book, and I wanted to create the memory for real. I had every intention of ordering the mushroom ravioli and a coke. This time, however, things would go slightly differently. At least Edward wouldn’t be desperately trying to restrain himself from killing the attempted rapists, or worrying about me going into shock. We wouldn’t have the anxiety of first knowledge dangling between us either. Nor would we have to be concerned about Jessica and Angela. All in all, this was going to be a much better date than the original. I went upstairs and gasped with surprise when I entered my room. Alice and Rosalie were sitting on my bed, waiting for me. Alice wasn’t that surprising. I should have known I couldn’t do anything as important as a first date without her ‘helping’ me with my makeup, clothes, and hair. I was rather startled to find Rosalie with her though. I tried to mask my shock, but knew I was way too late. By the time my human brain could even register my own emotions, they would have already processed the expression on my face. Rosalie looked at me curiously. “Why are you so much more surprised to see me here than Alice?” “Umm, because Alice likes me and you don’t?” Made perfect sense to me. She rolled her eyes. “What makes you so sure I don’t like you?” My jaw dropped in shock. Hadn’t I just read a four book series during the majority of which Rose couldn’t stand me? “What?!” she exclaimed indignantly. “I’m starting to get insulted by your attitude.”

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“Forgive me, please Rose,” I hurriedly explained. “I just had the impression from Stephenie Meyer that it would take more than a year to earn your trust and even longer to earn your friendship. Almost two years in fact.” She huffed, irritated. “Well, you shouldn’t believe everything you read.” I gave her my best winning smile. “Believe me, Rose, I’m glad she was wrong. I’d love nothing more than for us to be good friends and eventually loving sisters.” She smiled back, somewhat shyly, which seemed a bit out of place on her perfect face. “Me too.” “Me three!” Alice shrieked excitedly, bouncing on the bed. “Now, enough jabbering. We have work to do. So much to do, so little time.” I groaned and simply turned myself over to her. I knew there would be no use resisting. My days as Bella Barbie had begun. I decided to go to my ‘happy place’ in my thoughts, trying to picture Edward’s meadow. I desperately wanted him to take me there, and he had promised to do so on Sunday. I tried to imagine what Edward would look like sparkling in the sun. I knew that no matter how hard I tried to picture it, the reality was bound to be so much better. My thoughts slipped to the Twilight book. I remembered the description of my Port Angeles trip and considered it in relation to Rosalie’s story. I was glad I wouldn’t be suffering from those men, but at the same time, I hated that they were free to wander the streets at night looking for other victims. “Hey, Rosalie, I’ve got a suggestion for you and Emmett if you get bored sometime within the next few weeks.” She met my eyes curiously in the mirror as she worked on my hair. “Well, according to the book I read, my first trip to Port Angeles was nearly a disaster. I went with Jessica and Angela, but wandered off on my own. I got disoriented and found myself in the warehouse district. It would have been a few weeks from now. Anyway, there were four men who cornered me on a deserted street. Edward arrived just in time and barely restrained himself from destroying the men for what they had planned to do to me.” I had Rose’s full attention, and she had started a very low growling in her chest at my words. I continued to maintain eye contact. “I really hate the idea of men like that roaming the streets looking for victims. While I’m glad they won’t ever get me, I hate the idea that some other girl may suffer at their hands.” She nodded, her growling increasing slightly. “So I figured if you and Emmett were bored some time, you might feel like taking a walk through the warehouse district, with Emmett conveniently out of sight. If you were accosted, I have no doubt you could make the men think twice of ever approaching a lone young woman again. I’m sure you could teach them some manners, so that no girls ever need fear them again, and Emmett could help hold them still until you’re ready for them. That way you won’t have to bother chasing after them or worry about giving away your superhuman skills.” She stopped growling, and an evil grin crossed her face. “I have been rather bored lately. I think I could definitely do with a peaceful nighttime stroll in Port Angeles.”
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“Originally, my incident was on a Tuesday more than a month from now, shortly before the Ladies Choice dance. So, I don’t know how often those scum prowl the streets, skulking in the shadows. I don’t want you to be disappointed if they don’t show up to provide you with your desired entertainment,” I warned. She smirked. “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Thanks, Bella.” “Just remember, Carlisle won’t appreciate it if you actually kill any of them, Rose,” Alice reminded her. “Justice is one thing, but murder is another.” “Yeah, if you kill them, it’ll stir up all kinds of trouble, with manhunts and investigations. But somehow, I doubt any of them would want to admit they’d been beaten up by a mere girl,” I agreed, laughing condescendingly. “What a blow to their manhood. And they couldn’t exactly explain why to the police either. What would they say? We wanted to rape this girl, but instead of screaming in fear and cowering while we took turns violating her, she beat the royal crap out of us. We want to press charges. Yeah, right. They’d get tossed behind bars faster than they could blink, and you’d probably get a medal from the mayor.” All three of us chuckled darkly at the mental images my words evoked. Rapists were all about control. They didn’t really care about the sex. They enjoyed the idea of forcing their will on another, of taking what didn’t belong to them. They delighted in being the cause of other people’s pain and fear. They were the worst kind of bully. Rosalie squared her shoulders determinedly. “Justice it shall be.” I decided to lighten the mood. I smirked at her until she raised her eyebrow, silently demanding to know the source of my amusement. I grinned. “Just picturing you in a Wonder Woman costume, fighting for truth and justice. You could even pull off the whole ‘spin around really fast clothing change’ thing with your vampire speed. Maybe you should dye your hair black.” She just looked at me without commenting as Alice and I burst into laughter. As she continued to stare unsmilingly at me, I felt bad, wondering if I had hurt her feelings. I quickly calmed down and started to apologize. As soon as I did, her face cracked into a smirk of her own. “As a matter of fact, I already have a Wonder Woman costume, complete with lasso and bullet repelling bracelets. It’s one of Emmett’s favorite outfits.” Now all three of us started laughing. “Can you just imagine the men’s faces if you pulled that stunt? All I can say is if you’re going to do that, I’m coming along to videotape it. That’s definitely going to be a ‘Kodak moment’. It would be wrong not to share it with the whole family,” Alice suggested. “I’d pay to see that,” I encouraged. “It’s a date,” Rosalie agreed. “Do you think Jasper would want to join in the fun? It would be amusing to thoroughly mess with their emotions too.” Alice quickly checked the future, her eyes glazing over as she went into a vision. “Yes, yes! This is going to be so much fun!” she squealed.

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I shook my head in amusement. Both of them turned to me, gazes inquiring. “Just typical vampire fun for a Friday night, right? I love you guys. I really feel blessed to be allowed to be part of your family.” Both of their gazes softened, and they each gave me a hug. “We love you too, little sister,” they both whispered. “Now back to business!” Alice demanded sternly. “We only have forty-five more minutes to get you ready. Time’s a wasting.” I quickly turned my mind back to my happy place. How it could possibly take them this long to get me ready when they only spent about ten minutes on themselves was beyond me. Couldn’t they do this stuff to me at vampire speed too? Did Alice deliberately draw out the torture? Or was I just so much less perfect looking than they are that it takes so much longer to artistically enhance my features than it does theirs? One of these days, I was going to get up the courage to ask, but I was afraid I might not like the answer. So today I would suffer in blissful ignorance, since I didn’t want anything to interfere with my enjoyment of tonight. They finished with fifteen minutes to spare. I heard Charlie come home and get settled. “Come on down and see my dad,” I begged. “He’s going to love you Rose and he already loves Alice. Y’all are my main excuse for spending so much time at your house. He needs to get to know you, so he’ll be less suspicious. Besides, he’ll probably be so dazzled by the sight of you two, that he’ll forget to be gruff and overprotective when he meets Edward.” They both laughed at me and nodded. They cleaned up all of their makeup supplies at vampire speed, so they were ready before I even stepped out into the hallway. “Hey, Dad!” I called downstairs. “I made dinner for you, but I’m going to go out tonight. Edward asked me out on a date and I accepted. He’ll be here in about ten minutes.” He came to the bottom of the stairs and watched me descend. He had a look of surprised awe on his face. “Wow, Bells! You look beautiful! I mean, even more so than usual.” His face started to look a bit suspicious. “You didn’t tell me you had a date tonight.” “I’m telling you now,” I informed him, rolling my eyes. “He asked me at school today, and this is the first chance I’ve had to speak to you since then.” He still looked concerned and a bit sad, as if just realizing I was all grown up now. “Where is he taking you?” “We’re going to Bella Italia in Port Angeles and then coming home. We’ll be gone for a few hours, but I won’t be back too late. By the way, Dad, Rose and Alice helped me get ready. They’re going to leave now, but I wanted Rose to meet you before they go.” He glanced at the stairway to see them descending regally.

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“I’ve already met Rosalie,” he admitted. She ducked her head and looked away in a shy maneuver. I would get the story out of her later, I decided. “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Rosalie. I hope your family is all well.” She smiled sweetly at him. “Yes, thank you, Chief Swan. I haven’t had any other trouble since the one time, sir, either at school or elsewhere.” He nodded, understandingly. “Don’t worry, Rosalie. I know you’re a sweet girl. Everyone makes mistakes when they are going through a difficult time. I won’t hold it against you. I’m glad you and Bella decided to be friends.” Now I was really curious. He turned to Alice, who beamed up at him in delight. He was immediately dazzled. He blushed crimson, which caused Rosalie to smirk. She quickly moved behind him, so he wouldn’t be able to read her facial expressions. Alice completely disconcerted him by giving him a brief hug. “So good to see you again, Chief Swan!” she cried. He blinked at her sheer energy and excitement. “Alice!” he choked out finally. He gave her a bemused smile. “It’s good to see you too, sweetheart. And you can call me, Charlie.” “Thanks, Charlie, but we’ve got to be going now. Rose and I have to get ready too, since we’re all going to Port Angeles tonight.” She and Rose danced out the door to Rose’s car. “Drive safely!” Charlie yelled cheerfully as they buckled their seatbelts. “Don’t worry, Chief Swan, I won’t forget,” Rosalie responded in a pleasant tone. I could tell she was irritated, but I doubted Charlie could. Alice looked like she was barely holding in her laughter, and I was sure she would let loose as soon as they were out of hearing range. I waved goodbye and turned to see Charlie looking much more relaxed. I tilted my head inquiringly. He smiled at me. “I’m glad you’re all going to Port Angeles together. There’s safety in numbers.” “Well, I certainly won’t be alone,” I quipped. No, I’d be with Edward. The rest of them would be in the same city, but wouldn’t set foot in the restaurant with us. But I wouldn’t take away Charlie’s peace of mind if it made him feel better to think we’d all be together the whole time. Just then, I heard a knock at the door. I fairly flew to it, flinging it open with a little too much force. It banged into the wall. It wasn’t the first time it had happened though, so I didn’t feel too bad about the little handle shaped dent in the drywall. It had already been there, though it might be a little deeper than it was before. My angel, my knight in shining armor, was there, smiling his crooked grin. I just stood there, breathless at the sight of him all dressed up in a tailored suit, until he cleared his throat in amusement. “May I enter?” he asked formally, his eyes twinkling. “Oh! Yes. Of course. Sorry,” I stuttered incoherently, my face turning bright red. I finally managed to take a step back and to the side to allow him into the house. Once in the hallway, he produced a single red rose and bowed gallantly to me.

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“A beautiful rose for a beautiful lady,” he purred. I blushed even harder as I reached to take the rose. “Thank you!” I gasped, touched. My stomach was doing somersaults inside of me. I realized my fingers were trembling slightly. “Let me just find a vase.” I dashed into the kitchen, then stopped as I remembered I had left the two men alone in the foyer. I quickly changed direction and joined them. “Before I get the vase, let me just introduce you two. Edward, this is Charlie, my dad. Dad, this is Edward Cullen, my date for tonight.” Edward smiled charmingly and held out his hand. I noticed he was wearing driving gloves, no doubt to mask the coldness of his fingers. “It’s an honor to meet you, Chief Swan. My father speaks highly of you. You have a very special daughter, sir, and I promise to treat her with all the courtesy and respect she deserves.” “See that you do,” Charlie growled. I could see that he was impressed in spite of himself. Wow. Edward was really pulling out the old-fashioned charm. That’s probably the kind of thing he would have said back in his day before paying court to a young lady. Even I was impressed. I quickly hurried into the kitchen to get the vase, not wanting to leave the two of them alone together any longer than absolutely necessary. I wasn’t worried about what Edward might do or say. I was worried about Charlie. I hoped he didn’t say or do anything too embarrassing. I quickly pulled Charlie’s dinner out of the oven where I had kept it warm and set it on the table for him. “So what are your plans for the future, Edward?” Charlie asked gruffly. “Well, I intend to go to college after I graduate high school. I’d like to follow in my father’s footsteps. He’s my personal hero and inspiration. So I’m considering the medical field. I would love to work alongside of him someday. I know it will involve a great deal of hard work and diligence on my part, but I think I would enjoy the challenge.” I hurried back in time to see Charlie nod thoughtfully in response. I jumped into the conversation before Charlie could continue his interrogation. “I think we should probably get on the road now if we want to get home at a decent hour,” I mentioned, going to stand beside Edward. He smiled and offered me his arm. I took it, smiling at the old-fashioned gesture. The only place I saw people walk like this was in church and at weddings when the ushers escort people down the aisles to their seats. Well, except for people old enough to be my great-grandparents. Like Edward. I stifled a giggle. I didn’t think he’d appreciate that comment. Charlie followed us to the door. “Be careful with my baby, Edward. Bring her home safe and sound,” he warned seriously. “I will, sir. I promise,” Edward replied just as seriously, meeting Charlie’s eyes. Whatever Charlie saw there in Edward’s gaze seemed to pacify him, because he nodded and stepped away. “See you later, Dad. Dinner’s on the table. Don’t let it get cold.” He smiled softly at me. “Have fun, Bells. I’ll see you later.” I smiled happily and kissed him on the cheek, before heading out to Edward’s car. Edward walked me around to the passenger side and opened the door for me. Once I slid in and

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buckled up, he closed the door and walked over to his side. He gave Charlie a brief wave before getting into the car and starting the engine. As we backed out of the drive, I watched Charlie retreat into the house and close the door behind him. Edward grinned at me. “Well, that went well, don’t you think?” I grinned back. “Of course! You were absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t be surprised to find he’s half in love with you himself.” “I wouldn’t go that far. Hopefully, you won’t need to make a break for Phoenix tonight, like you did the first time I met him in that Twilight book. That was a disaster. If everything goes well tonight, I’ll already be way ahead in my relationship with him than I was in Meyer’s world. It’s kind of hard to trust a boy, when at the end of your daughter’s first official date with him, on the night you meet him, your daughter comes home, says horrible things to you, and then drives off into the night for Phoenix, only to end up broken and battered in a hospital bed. Not a good way to start a relationship with your future in-laws.” I shuddered. “Don’t remind me. Enough of that previous future. We’re here in the present, making a new future for ourselves. I don’t want to ruin our official first date worrying about things that are never going to happen.” “You’re right. Now keep your eyes off the speedometer and we’ll do just fine.” I closed my eyes and whimpered, causing him to laugh. I opened my eyes to focus on his face and spent the entire trip lost in admiring his features. If I had to be blissfully unaware of my surroundings for a period of time, this is how I wanted to spend it.

Chapter 15: First Date
EPOV I pulled the car up to the curb, parking right in front of Bella Italia. I hopped out, hurrying around the car at human speed to get Bella’s door. She waited patiently for me this time, knowing how important these small gestures of courtesy meant to me. She was a lady and deserved to be treated accordingly. I opened her door and offered my hand to help her out of the car. She accepted it and tried to gracefully join me on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, since this was Bella we were talking about, she promptly stumbled as her foot somehow tangled and didn’t clear the edge of the doorway. She would have fallen flat on her face onto the sidewalk, but I had a hold of her and saved the day as usual. She blushed as I caught her once again. I chuckled lightly. “Don’t worry, love,” I teased. “I love it when you throw yourself into my arms.” She smirked. “You caught me. I’m not really this clumsy – I’m just trying to get my hands on your body any time I can.” I laughed. “I knew it! But don’t worry. I’ll never let you fall.” She looked up into my eyes, her amusement fading. “I already have.” “Sweetheart, I’ve fallen for you too. Your heart is safe with me, just as mine is safe with you.”

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She smiled, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears. “You’re so sweet,” she whispered. She stood up on tiptoe to brush her lips tenderly against mine. I squeezed her gently. Just then, her stomach growled, bringing us both crashing back to reality. She blushed again, and we both laughed. I stepped back, pulling her further away from the car so I could shut the door. I took her by the hand and walked up to the restaurant. I held the door for her, allowing her to precede me into the room. I put my arm around her as we approached the hostess. Holy moly! He is divine! I would sell my soul for one night with this guy! He is that hot! Maybe I should give him my number. She hadn’t even noticed Bella. She only had eyes for me. How disgusting. If she wanted to sell her soul, she’d have to find someone else willing to take it, because I wasn’t the least bit interested. Couldn’t she just do her job? “How can I help you this evening?” she purred. Anything for you, baby! Anything at all! Don’t hesitate to ask. Please. PLEASE. I could feel Bella stiffen in my embrace, no doubt offended by the hostess’s behavior. I looked down at her, allowing the full extent of my adoration and devotion to be displayed prominently on my face. Bella looked up when she felt me staring down at her and gave a startled intake of breath when she intercepted my gaze. Her own face mirrored the depth of eternal love and admiration she felt for me. I watched the hostess out of the corner of my eye, watching her absorb the meaning of our loving exchange. Of all the rotten luck! He’s already taken. And he’s head over heels for the girl. Stupid bitch. How did she get so lucky? Why are all the good ones either taken or gay? This is so unfair. Though she obviously loves him just as much. It is rather sweet and romantic seeing them looking at each other that way. Kind of makes me believe true love is more than just a fairytale. Wonder if this guy has a brother. My lips quirked slightly in amusement. Too bad. My brothers are already taken too. Bella registered my amusement and knew it had something to do with the hostess’s thoughts. Her eyes became amused as well. I turned to face the hostess again. “My fiancé and I would like a private table in the nonsmoking section please. I wanted to discuss our honeymoon with her.” I felt Bella shudder with repressed amusement. She lifted her hand to her mouth for a polite cough. She surprised me when she decided to join in the game. She gave the hostess a wink, then leaned against me with a dreamy smile, putting both arms around my waist possessively. “Private would good, very good,” Bella murmured suggestively, just loud enough for the hostess to hear. The hostess’s eyes widened, and she was practically drooling with envy. Her thoughts were jumbled and incoherent, which was good, because I didn’t really want to hear them anyway. “Right this way,” the hostess stuttered, leading us to a secluded corner booth. An image of Bella and me on the bench with my hand up her skirt and her writhing against it flashed through the girl’s mind. I rolled my eyes. I was a gentleman. I would never do something like that with Bella in a public place. I wasn’t Emmett, for Pete’s sake. At least not until we’re married, the hot-blooded man in me urged as a compromise with the highly moral gentleman in me. Great. Not only do I hear other people’s voices inside my head, but now I’m having arguments with myself. I handed Bella into her seat before discreetly sitting across from her.

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“Your waitress should be with you in a few minutes,” she stated, trying to catch my eye. I waved her away indifferently, never taking my eyes off of Bella. The hostess gave up trying to get my attention and returned to her post. Finally. Bella let out a sigh of relief as well. I chuckled. “I see you didn’t like her any more than I did,” I commented dryly. “I’m going to tattoo ‘Property of Bella’ across your forehead,” she muttered grumpily, glaring in the hostess’s direction. I laughed. “The needles would all break,” I reminded her. She was so cute when she was jealous. Like a little hissing kitten, arching it’s back, trying to look intimidating. She narrowed her eyes at me. “So I’ll use werewolf claws to scratch the skin.” She folded her arms across her chest in challenge. Hmm, what do I say to that? “Um, wouldn’t a wedding ring suffice?” I offered hopefully. Her lips twitched as she shook her head. “I don’t think so. It’s too subtle. How about I just make you a big sign to wear around your neck?” she taunted. “Or I could get a few t-shirts made. That could work too.” I grinned. “Anything for you, love. But I’d like to get a few t-shirts made for you too. Ones you could wear around the school. How about: ‘My Boyfriend Reads Minds, So Stop Thinking What You’re Thinking Before He Kills You’. Does that sound promising?” She started laughing hysterically. The waitress chose that moment to arrive. “What can I get for you?” she asked, looking solely at me. Her mind was focused on all the ways she wanted to provide ‘good service’ for me. I quickly blocked her thoughts. “The lady will order for us,” I growled menacingly. She startled and took a step backwards. Her heart rate picked up slightly, and she quickly focused her attention on Bella, where it belonged. I was very glad that Bella knew exactly what I am, so I didn’t have to spend so much energy pretending to be human or worry about scaring her when I deliberately intimidated others. The waitress wouldn’t be wasting any more time fantasizing about me. In fact, she was actually starting to pity Bella. Maybe I had overdone it a bit. “I’ll have the mushroom ravioli and a coke,” Bella ordered sweetly, pleased that I had put the waitress in her place. “Make that two cokes,” I added dismissively. “I’m not hungry.” The waitress nodded and didn’t attempt to linger. Bella squeezed my hands. “You naughty boy,” she snickered. “You probably scared that waitress half to death. She’s going to have to work up her courage to bring me my food now. It’ll probably be cold by the time she’s brave enough to bring it to the table.” I shrugged. She was teasing, but there was an element of truth. The waitress really didn’t want to come back to our table. She was actually considering asking one of the other waitresses to switch with her. So the next time she glanced at nervously at our table, I smiled at her. She relaxed and decided she had overestimated my hostility. Bella saw the smile and raised an eyebrow in inquiry.

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“She was ready to run screaming into the night, so I had to calm her down a bit. Now she’s willing to bring us our drinks and breadsticks, but has no desire to linger a second longer than necessary. The perfect balance.” Bella swatted my hand playfully, before tangling her fingers with mine. “So what should we talk about this time, since I already know you read minds?” “Well, the Twilight book only gave answers to a few of the questions I have about you, so now I want to know your entire life history in detail, plus all your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. How does that sound?’ “That could take a while.” “I’ve got a while.” “Yeah, well, when the food gets here, I’m going to eat, and I can’t talk and eat at the same time.” I nodded. “Yes, you’d probably choke.” She growled at me, her cute little kitten growl. I stared into her eyes, capturing her gaze with mine and pulled out my crooked grin. Sure enough, she froze, dazed and blinking. I had dazzled her, of course. I reached out and ran one finger over her jaw line, brushing my thumb across her bottom lip. Her heart rate sped up, and she stopped breathing. “Breathe, Bella,” I whispered. She sucked in a breath and let it out with a small moan. I felt myself stirring. I dropped my hand and broke her gaze, just before the waitress brought the cokes and breadsticks to the table. Bella blushed beet red, but the waitress just put down the food and drinks and scurried off without even looking at us. Bella began fumbling with her straw, trying to regain control of her heart and lungs. She took a few sips of her coke before looking at me again. “How about we talk of t-shirt ideas instead. I’ve got one for you, other than the ‘Property of Bella Swan’ shirt. “I’ll Never Grow Up, Never Grow Up, Never Grow Up, Not Me!’ would be appropriate.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m not Peter Pan. Besides, that one would be more appropriate for Emmett.” She laughed and nodded eagerly. “Alice’s could say ‘World Champion of Extreme Shopping’. Actually, we should get one of those shirts that say ‘World’s Best Mom’ for Esme for Mother’s Day. We could get the kind where all the kids leave their handprints. Alice would consider it tacky, but I bet Esme would wear it with pride.” I nodded. She was right. Esme would be absolutely thrilled. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alice already had it on her shopping list now that we had thought of it. “Well, but then Carlisle would feel left out. I suppose we could make a ‘World’s Best Dad’ tshirt for him for Father’s Day and then make him wear it to work,” I suggested. She giggled. “Even better! I think we should decorate one of his white coats and then each get him a really ugly tie. Then we’ll tell him whichever one he wears first means he likes that person best, but if he doesn’t wear them, he doesn’t love us. So he’ll have to wear all six ties at the same time that day, along with his ‘no longer white’ coat. He’d protest strongly, but I bet he’d do it. I can just imagine him trying to explain himself at work.”
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I shook my head in amazement at her devious plan. “That’s just cruel and unusual punishment.” She laughed. “As if you wouldn’t enjoy watching it.” “And videotaping it,” I added cheerfully. She laughed again. The waitress brought her ravioli and carefully placed it in front of her. She saw our drinks were about half full and left quickly. I had added to Bella’s glass from my own as she drank. “How about for Jasper? ‘Worry! I DO Bite!’ Or Rosalie ‘Proud to Be a Bitch’,” I offered. “Aww, don’t pick on Jasper,” she pouted. “His could say ‘Feelings . . . Nothing More Than . . . Feelings’ and Rose’s could say ‘Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful’. Emmett’s would be ‘I’m Too Sexy For This Shirt’. Oooohh! And Alice’s could say ‘I know what you’ll do next summer . . . .’. Jake’s could be ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’.” “Nah, Jacob’s should be ‘Warning: Beware of Dog’.” She burst out laughing. Unfortunately, she had been swallowing just then, so she ended up coughing and hacking, a lot like I’d predicted. Thankfully, she was able to clear her airway herself, and I wasn’t forced to use the Heimlich maneuver. “I think we’d better stick to tamer topics,” I recommended. “At least until you’re finished eating.” She blushed and nodded guiltily. I grinned and began my interrogation, building up my mental Bella file. Pretty soon I’d have a whole Bella database.

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Chapter 16: Saying Goodnight
BPOV I felt myself slowly becoming conscious, but I played possum. I was too comfortable to want to move or even open my eyes. Instead I thought about last night. It had been the perfect first date. When Edward brought me home last night, we had known Charlie was spying on us from the window. Edward very courteously opened my car door for me, offering me his hand to help me out of the car. I didn’t trip this time, thankfully, and he shut the door gently behind me. He escorted me to the front door to say goodnight. I rehashed our conversation in my memory. “Thank you for a wonderful night, Edward. It was perfect,” I gushed, knowing Charlie was listening. Edward smiled crookedly. “I truly enjoyed learning more about you, your likes and dislikes, your childhood memories. I feel so comfortable in your company, like I’ve known you for years,” he replied solemnly. I grinned at him and saw the answering twinkle in his eyes. “I feel the same way,” I agreed. “I’m usually really shy, but I feel more confidant and competent when I’m with you. Like I’m not afraid of anyone. Like I can take on the world, or whatever life throws at me and still come out okay in the end.” “Exactly,” he responded. “You make me want to be a better man, to be the kind of man you deserve.” “Oh, Edward,” I reacted, forgetting my audience. “You’re a wonderful man. You’ve got to stop being so hard on yourself. Nobody’s perfect. You just have to learn to accept who and what you are and just be the best you can be. Nobody can ask for more than that. You made mistakes in the past, but you learned from them, and you haven’t done them again. Yes, you rebelled against Carlisle, rejecting his way of life, but you were young and confused and grieving over your parents and the loss of your former life. But you realized the error of your ways and came back to Carlisle and Esme, ready to accept them as parents and return their love. You’ve been a good son for so many years now. Carlisle and Esme both love you like you were their own, and I know you love them too. You have to stop blaming yourself for your rebellious time and let it go. Focus on all the happiness you’ve brought to your family since then. Stop punishing yourself. You deserve love and happiness too. You complain about me putting myself down, but you’re just as guilty, and I don’t like it any more than you do, so stop it! I’ll make a deal with you, Edward. I’ll stop thinking and saying negative things about myself, if you’ll stop thinking and saying negative things about yourself. Neither of us is unworthy.” I peered up into his eyes to see if I was making an impression. He grinned down at me. “It’s a deal, Isabella Marie Swan. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help you see yourself the way others see you, the way you truly are. I know you have a hard time believing it, but
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you truly are very beautiful and special. I promise you I am not the only one who thinks so. Since we have our new deal, you can’t just dismiss what I said either. You have to learn to accept compliments with grace. When I say you are beautiful and special, you should simply thank me, not toss the words aside as if you don’t believe them.” “Fine,” I huffed. “But the same is true for you. Thank you, Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. You are beautiful too, and not just on the outside. You have a beautiful heart, Edward, a beautiful soul. I can see and hear it in the amazing music you’ve composed. It’s almost magical to hear you play your songs on the piano, the way each song tells a story. I can feel it in the love and loyalty you have for your family, the way you try to protect them. You are special.” I could see the struggle on his face as he tried to accept my words. I had deliberately mentioned his soul, knowing how he felt about it. If he wanted to keep the deal, he would have to simply thank me and not toss my words aside. I could tell I had hit a nerve and found myself wishing I could read his mind. He took my hands in his. “Thank you, Bella,” he answered gruffly, seemingly overcome with emotion. I smiled encouragingly at him. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” He took a step backwards, putting a little more space between us, and dropped my left hand. He bowed to me, bending over my hand and placing a chaste kiss on the back of it. He stood up straight again, dropping my right hand as well. “May I see you tomorrow?” he asked courteously. I suddenly remembered our audience again. “Oh, uh, yeah, sure,” I sputtered, embarrassed that Charlie had heard me bare my feelings like that. “A bunch of us are going to do lunch and a movie in Port Angeles. You’re welcome to come with us if you’d like.” “Ah, yes. I do believe Alice mentioned it to me. I wasn’t sure at the time, but if you’re going, then I will definitely come too.” I blushed, and he grinned. So much for subtlety. I guess after the little heart to heart we just had, there would be no point in pretending to Charlie that we weren’t getting serious quickly. He waited for me to open the door and step inside. “Goodnight, Bella. Sweet dreams.” “You too,” I teased with a smirk. He nodded, acknowledging that he would be back in my arms once Charlie was asleep. He got into his car and took it home. I shut the door and turned around, grinning like a crazy person, only to see Charlie standing there watching me. I jumped slightly and schooled my expression into a more socially acceptable smile. “Oh, hello, Dad. You didn’t have to wait for me,” I mumbled nervously. “Come on into the living room and chat with me, Bella,” he invited, not taking his eyes off my face. I realized it was more of a summons than an invitation, so I reluctantly swept past him and settled onto the couch. I knew it was serious when he actually turned off the TV before settling into his favorite recliner. I waited nervously for him to say whatever was on his mind. “So, Edward Cullen, huh?” he began, just as nervous and uncomfortable as I was. I nodded. “You two really seemed to hit it off tonight.” I took a deep breath. I needed to be as honest as possible. “Dad, I feel like he’s my soul mate. I know all teenagers start gushing about love and forever when they’re dating, believing
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nobody else has ever felt the way they do, and nobody could possibly understand what they are going through. I’ve had that lecture from mom for the past ten years. But I’m not like other teenagers. I’m an old soul and so is Edward. I know you don’t want me to rush into anything, but I’m going to warn you now that I intend to marry Edward someday. Not tomorrow or next week, but someday. When I’m with him, I feel comfortable, safe, content. I feel like I belong, like I’m alive, like I’m stronger than I was before. I feel special, beautiful, admired, accepted. When I’m with him, I feel like all is right with my world. I know I haven’t known him for long, but I’ve never met anyone like him. There is so much more depth and maturity to him than the typical shallow, self-centered teenager. He doesn’t go to parties, doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t even curse. His ideas of a good time are to read books, compose and play music, go hiking, and spend time with his family. I can actually discuss literature with him. If I use a quote, he typically recognizes the source. He is a music prodigy, an absolute genius. His family is very close-knit. They love to play baseball together, when the weather permits. They spend a lot of time outdoors. Plus, he is a perfect gentleman. He treats me with an old-fashioned courtesy and respect that I doubt I would get from any other teenager I could possibly date. At least you won’t have to worry about him pressuring me to do anything I don’t want to do.” Because I will be the one pressuring him to push the boundaries. There isn’t really anything I don’t want to do with him. But of course, I would never say that to my father. I saw Charlie’s blush after the last sentence, but he also seemed very relieved not to have to bring up that particular subject himself. “Well, he seems pretty taken with you too,” Charlie postulated. “I certainly don’t want you to rush into anything, but I don’t have a problem with you dating him. I’d like to get to know him a little better myself, but we have plenty of time for that. Just be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt or have your heart broken. I don’t want you to make the mistake of giving yourself over to someone who won’t return your feelings.” I had a feeling we weren’t just talking about me anymore. He sighed, looking my way but not meeting my eyes. “Bella, if you’re like me, once you give your heart, those feelings never die. But relationships can’t survive on that love alone. Both people in the couple have to feel the same way in order for it to work. Try not to give him your heart until you’re sure you’ll be getting his in return. Try to figure out if his is the forever kind of love, or the here and now, good while it lasts, kind of love. Unrequited love leads to loneliness and misery. I don’t want you to be old and alone, pining for something you can never have.” I knew he was talking about Renee. He still loved her after all this time. I went over to him and squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. “I’m not going to make the same mistake you did. I’ll be making my own mistakes, different ones. We all make mistakes. But don’t feel too bad, because if you hadn’t made your mistake, then I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t even exist. Sometimes living means learning to roll with the punches, to accept both the bad and the good together, and focus on the good.” “You’re not a mistake, Bells. You’re a blessing. You’re the best part of my life.” I blushed. “Thanks, Dad. I love you too. And don’t give up hope. You’re not all that old. You can have a second chance at happiness. It won’t be the same love, but it can be different in a good way.” He smiled shyly at me, awkwardly patting my back. “I’m going up to bed now, Dad. Unless there’s something else you wanted to say?” He shook his head and stood up straight. “I’m going fishing with Billy in the morning, so I’m going to head up to bed now too. Have fun with all your friends tomorrow.”

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I sighed in contentment and felt little kisses on my shoulder. “So, are you ever going to open your eyes, or were you planning on lounging around in bed all day?” a velvet voice teased, his breath tickling my ear. “Mmmm, that depends,” I murmured. “Would you be lounging around in the bed with me?” He chuckled. “No, you little minx. I’m planning to go to my house and watch a movie, before we need to meet with Jacob and his friends.” “You’d rather watch a movie than hang around in bed with me?” I pouted, opening my eyes to look at him. He swooped in to kiss the bottom lip I was projecting. “Well, I think you will particularly enjoy this movie too,” he explained. “What’s it about?” I asked with a groan. How could it possibly compare to making out with my super hot vampire boyfriend? “It’s about a girl who goes walking through the streets at night in the city, looking for trouble. Trouble finds her and she beats the crap out of all the trouble she finds, making the streets a safer place for all unaccompanied women. I think it’s a Wonder Woman flick.” I gasped. “Rose’s movie? She found them last night?” He nodded. “Indeed. I do believe they are very sorry they found her. Alice did the taping from the rooftops, so we should get a good view. They all came home in high spirits, so I’m rather eager to watch the tape of their exploits.” “Me too!” I shrieked. I hopped out of bed and immediately started falling, my legs tangled up in the covers. Edward caught me, of course, before I could smack face first into the floor. “Thank heavens for vampire speed,” I muttered as he set me upright. I dashed over to my dresser, but managed to trip and fall against it at the last moment. “I tell you what, love,” Edward drawled. “You grab your undergarments and I’ll get your clothes and shoes. I’d like to get you over to my house in one piece. Slow down a little. We’ve got plenty of time.” He handed me my outfit at the door as I headed to the bathroom. I just grabbed the clothes, gave him a quick kiss, and raced pell mell through my morning routine. I didn’t want to argue about slowing down when I had better uses for my time. By the time I was dressed and ready, Edward had breakfast ready for me. “I brought you a breakfast burrito so you could eat on the go. I can’t believe I’m going to let you in my precious Volvo with human food. I must really love you or something. Just please don’t spill anything. It’s going to take days to get the smell out as it is.” I stuck my tongue out at him. I know, I know. Real mature. “Smells great to me!” He wrinkled his nose in disgust. “To each his own, I suppose.” I laughed and he joined me. “Lead on Sir Knight! We must fulfill our quest.”

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He snickered, before bowing formally and sweeping his arm toward the door. “This way, milady. Your carriage awaits.” I giggled. A stray ray of sunlight shone through the door, landing on Edward’s face. I gasped as I saw his skin sparkle brilliantly for the first time. I had read about it, but that hadn’t prepared me for seeing it in person. I gazed up at him in awe. My knight in shining armor.

Chapter 17: Rose’s Big Night
RPOV I was ready to kick some ass. All dressed up with somewhere to go. We were all headed to Port Angeles to give a lessons in manners to some evil rapist scum. I was both the bait and the trap. When Bella explained about what almost happened to her in Port Angeles, it brought back the memories of the night my fiancé and his friends brutally raped me and left me for dead. I had my revenge on them after my change and had then tried to put the past behind me. I didn’t want to be a murderer. Esme and I always helped the battered women’s shelters in each town we called home. I had even spent time as a rape victim counselor via telephone. I was always trying to come to terms with the past, with the violent stripping away of my

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hopes, my dreams, my future, by the man who had professed he would protect me and adore me until death would part us. I guess when he left me dying he figured his broken promises no longer applied. Little did he know that my death wouldn’t part us at all, but his sure did. Surprise, surprise. I was glad I had been able to get my revenge after I was changed. My perfect memory could instantly recall the expressions on his face the entire time I tortured him up until I finally allowed him to die. I sincerely hoped he was burning in hell. I had burned with the flames of hell for three days during my change, and I hoped those same flames burned him for eternity. I hoped the pain was just as intense, the never-ending burn, the consciousness of pain, the begging for the mercy of oblivion, all roasting his body and soul for all eternity. I thought about Bella, a seventeen year old innocent girl, younger even than I was at the time of my rape. So trusting, so naïve, so blind to the dangers she faced. Just wanting her own happy ending, like all the rest of us raised on fairytales of Prince Charming. I had my Prince Charming at least, even if I didn’t end up with my happy ever after. Granted, my Prince Charming still liked to act like a child, even after all these decades. Maybe that was part of his charm for me. He was like a big kid so much of the time, yet always a man when I needed him to be. Sort of like having my cake and eating it too. Unfortunately, cake really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In fact, it smelled and tasted disgusting. I would know. I still insisted on the ‘feeding each other cake’ ritual every time Emmett and I got married. The cake was always beautiful, but once sampled, could never live up to it’s aesthetic appeal. The idea that my newest little sister could suffer at the hands of four evil men, just like I did, infuriated me. I almost lost it there in her room when she described the ordeal she was trying to avoid. I was glad Edward had rescued her in her original future, but this time she didn’t need him. She needed me. I was proud of her for looking past simply saving herself to recognize the danger these men posed to all other females in the vicinity. She needed me to provide justice. The justice these men deserved but would never get under the law. I, Rosalie Hale, will bring down the mighty arm of justice to smite these men tonight. They will never rape and kill another woman. Not on my watch. I would be protecting not only my little sister, but also any other woman that would have fallen into their clutches. Emmett was eager to knock some heads together, but he recognized my need to do this myself. He knew exactly what had happened to me and what the memories that had been stirred by the current situation were doing to my sense of self-worth and well-being. Because he loved me, he would do his best not to interfere, to allow me the victory that would give me healing. He would take pleasure in my victory, counting it as a mutual victory for both of us. I was truly blessed to have him as my mate. Alice was so excited, she was shaking the whole car as she bounced in her seat. I took that as a good sign. We would find our quarry tonight and everything would go well. I wouldn’t kill them and after I taught them their lessons, we would have some fun with them, courtesy of Jasper. Alice had the video camera ready to capture the entertainment so we could share our laughs with the rest of our family. Well, maybe not Carlisle. I wasn’t sure how he would react considering how much he abhors violence. He allowed me to get my revenge on the slime who violated and killed me, but he didn’t help, nor did he want any details. He simply turned a blind eye to my actions. So we would probably be watching the video without him. He’s at the hospital so often that it won’t be hard to find time when he’s not home. Also, since Alice is so happy, it must be safe to assume Jasper won’t be a problem tonight. I surreptitiously checked his eyes in the rear view mirror. Sure enough, they were a light goldenrod, indicating he had recently fed. I parked the car in the populated section of town, directly under a streetlight, in front of a restaurant. I didn’t plan on taking any chances with my baby getting stolen while we were busy wreaking havoc on unsuspecting rapist bastards. We got out and strolled past the shops toward the edge of town. I felt eyes watching us walk away. I was used to being watched and lusted after whenever I was around humans, but I was hoping our intended victims were

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watching as well. Once we reached the outskirts of the industrial area, I started issuing instructions to my companions in a voice too quiet for human ears. “My spidey senses are tingling. Alice, are the men following us from town?” “Not yet, they’re watching us from the bar though,” Alice replied, somewhat disappointed. “Of course they’re not following us, silly. Have you looked at Emmett lately? Right now it would be four on four. They can’t possibly like those odds,” Jasper reminded us. Right. Why didn’t I think of that? “Okay, so you two decide you’re going to head back and get some dinner. You can circle around and catch up without them noticing. Stay out of sight and start taping as soon as they start moving. Emmett and I will continue walking. Once they start following, let us know. Emmett and I will have an argument, causing him to storm off, leaving me alone and unprotected.” “Actually, guys, I’m really hungry,” Alice claimed, speaking loud enough for the humans to hear. “I think Jasper and I will go get some dinner now. Why don’t you two come join us when you’re finished exploring?” We all nodded amiably and those two meandered back to town. Emmett and I continued walking towards the warehouse district. Jasper texted us on my cell phone to let us know the men were heading in our direction. We strolled along, hand in hand, trying to let them catch up to us. Once I heard their footsteps behind us, I knew they were close enough for us to stage our fight scene. I squeezed Emmett’s hand and we stopped. I heard their feet scramble to find hiding places nearby, trying to get close enough to listen to us. Emmett held both of my hands in his as he turned towards me. He smirked quickly at me before schooling his face into a frown. “Rose, be honest with me. Do you have feelings for Jasper?” he asked grimly. “Feelings? For Jasper?” I choked, trying to hide my amusement. “Well, I promise to tell you the truth, Emmett. Jasper always seems to know what I’m feeling, unlike you, who doesn’t have a clue sometimes.” “I can usually gauge your feelings too, Rose,” he replied, feigning hurt. “Maybe so, but Jasper shares my feelings. He’s so responsive to my moods. When I’m happy, he’s happy. When I’m upset, he’s upset. He shares my joy and my pain. Better yet, he’s able to calm me down when I get angry. Even when I’m furious, all he has to do is lay his hand on my shoulder, and I feel waves of calm wash through me. Nobody else I know has that effect on me.” “Okay, so he’s the sensitive type. I get it. But you two are just friends, right?” “No, I’ve loved Jasper like a brother for years. My parents look on him as a son. He’s part of my family now.” “I love your parents and I thought they liked me too. I wanted to be part of your family ever since the day you brought me to your house. I wanted a future with you forever.” “My parents do love you like a son too. You know how loving they are. It’s just that whenever I feel overwhelmed with lust and desire, I can tell by the look in Jasper’s eye that he is experiencing that same overwhelming lust. He never acts on it with me though. Instead, he
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hunts down Alice and shares that lust with her. That’s when I hunt you down and take you whichever way I want you.” “What? You’re sharing your lust with Jasper? Even if you two never act on those feelings with each other, I’m outta here,” Emmett growled, stomping away from me, back towards town. “Emmett!” I shouted after him. He turned his head towards me, but kept going. “I’m going to go talk to Jasper now. I’m sure he’ll know exactly how you’re feeling,” he sneered. I watched him stomp away and pretended to sob into my hands. I heard the men whispering to each other. “Man, that guy is stupid. How could he just leave her out here alone and crying like this?” one of them asked in surprise. “Well, I for one am glad he did. Even with the four of us, it wouldn’t have been a pretty fight. Did you see the size of his muscles?” “I can’t wait to ‘comfort’ the little lady and show her how a real man handles her overwhelming lust.” “The little bitch is going to get what she deserves tonight, and we’re going to give it to her. Let’s get started before Jasper shows up, though I’m certain we can help him feel some of her pain if he arrives before we’re done.” “Man, Lenny. That’s cold. You scare me sometimes.” “Why, Joey? Are you developing a conscience? You didn’t mind taking your turn with the last girl, but if you want out, you’re welcome to leave.” “Oh, come on, Lenny. I don’t want out. I want in. In her,” they all started laughing at his little joke. I pretended to be startled by their laughter, cowering and appearing frightened. I clutched my purse to my chest, stepping further into the shadows. “Look, James, she’s making our job easier for us.” “Yeah, keep backing into the shadows, baby. You ever seen such a beautiful girl, Stu?” “Nope. I wonder if she feels as good as she looks.” “We’ll soon find out.” Though they were back to whispering, I continued to move back behind the warehouse, out of view of the street. I saw Emmett, Alice, and Jasper sitting on a nearby rooftop, filming the whole thing. The men decided it was time to make their move. As soon as the men turned the corner of the warehouse, I stepped out into the center of the alleyway. “What do you want?” I challenged, refusing to cower any longer. “You know what we want, and we’re going to take it.”

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I smiled, putting my hands on my hips. They were so stupid. “If you’re smart, you’ll turn and walk away right now. If you come any closer, I’m going to have to hurt you.” They all four laughed. The biggest one taunted, “I’d like to see you try. Violence turns me on, so your feeble attempts to escape will just get me in the mood.” They all fanned out and began advancing. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Emmett had disappeared. As soon as the men were within the boundaries of the alley, I chuckled. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you, scum. It’s time for a little good old-fashioned justice,” I announced. I quickly spun around, allowing them to see the blur of me spinning. What they didn’t see was me slipping off my dress and putting it in my purse. I grabbed the lasso and crown out of the purse, tossed the purse behind me, put on the crown, and prepared the lasso. Once I was ready, I stopped spinning, facing the men, legs spread shoulder width apart, arms on hips. I had taken Bella’s advice and was dressed in my Wonder Woman outfit. I simply stood there for a few seconds while the men’s slow brains processed what they were seeing. As I saw the comprehension of who I was pretending to be filter into their consciousness, I began spinning my golden lariat. Before their brains could provoke them to react to the situation, I had them lassoed. My rope was wrapped tightly around all four of them, forcing them to bunch together. I heard someone land, seemingly out of nowhere, right beside me. The men looked at the newcomer in shock. I could smell Emmett, so I turned to look at him. I couldn’t help grinning when I saw him in his full Batman outfit. “So, Miss Diana Prince, fancy meeting you here. Need any help cleaning up the trash of our fair town?” Emmett inquired in a smooth, deep voice. “Why, if it isn’t Bruce Wayne! So good to see you again. I’ve got everything under control though,” I responded flirtatiously. He bent and gave me a kiss. “Do you mind if I just watch, Diana? I love to see you work.” “Not at all, Bruce. I don’t mind an audience.” He stepped to the side, crossing his arms across his chest, and glared at the men. The big one pulled out a knife and cut the lasso. As soon as the lariat dropped to the ground, they all tried to make a break for it. “He cut my rope!” I roared angrily. “I can’t believe the bastard actually had the nerve to cut my rope!” I was furious. How dare he mess up my prop? Emmett and I easily caught the men and stopped them before they could leave the alley. The one who cut the rope tried to stab Emmett with the knife. Of course, the knife simply bounced off of his skin. “Gotta love body armor,” Emmett chuckled, pretending the knife had bounced off the costume instead of his skin. I knew better. I was fuming. How dare that bastard put a hole in Emmett’s costume? That was one of my favorite costumes! I decided to save that one for last. He was the one who had called me a bitch, and I was sure he was the ringleader of the little group. “Hold those two scum until I’m ready for them, Bruce,” I commanded. “As you wish, Diana,” he purred back. I began inflicting violence upon their bodies, careful to hold myself back. I broke a select few of their bones, loving the satisfaction of the crack. I pinched certain nerves. I crushed their family jewels like eggs. Then I tossed them aside. I had left them able to walk and talk, but in immense pain. All movement would hurt, including breathing. They would need months for

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painful recovery, but they would recover. Other than the excruciating pain, they would all be perfectly able to walk back to town to receive medical help. “Next!” I ordered, holding out my hand. Emmett, knowing the way I think, held the ringleader back and pushed the other guy into my waiting grasp. This guy was utterly terrified. He had urinated in his pants. I wrinkled my nose in disgust. “Please, have mercy,” he begged. I raised an eyebrow, gazing at him impassively. “Did you show mercy to the girls you raped?” I asked. The answer showed in his eyes. “I didn’t think so. Well, this is their little gift to you.” I proceeded to give him the same justice I had given his friends. Once I tossed him aside, I turned back to Emmett with a smile. The leader glared at me with hatred, but I could see the fear swimming behind it in his eyes. He knew it would do no good to beg. “Your turn now,” I sang sweetly. I particularly enjoyed his justice, but with him, I took it one step further. He needed extra punishment for damaging our favorite costumes. I grabbed his knife and tore off his pants, exposing his privates. Then I used the knowledge I had gained in medical school to make sure he would never be able to become erect again, even with Viagra. “Talk about cruel and unusual punishment,” Emmett laughed. “I almost feel sorry for you, man. But since you deserve it and more, I’m just amused instead. Diana is just so clever.” I tossed him aside with the others and then brushed off my hands. I retrieved both pieces of my lasso and my purse. “I need to wash my hands now after taking out the trash, Bruce. Care to join me?” “Love to, babe,” he accepted, giving me a very passionate kiss. I jumped up, wrapping my legs around his waist, and started grinding against him. He instantly responded. “My place or yours?” “Both,” I smirked wickedly. “What can I say? Justice makes me horny.” Emmett and I laughed. I jumped down, and he wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “Ta, ta, boys,” I taunted. “Enjoy your recovery. See you in your nightmares!” I laughed evilly and strolled off with Emmett. As soon as we were out of sight, we went to join Alice and Jasper at their vantage point. The men groaned and started cussing. One of them pulled out his cell phone and called 911. In no time, two squad cars and an ambulance arrived at the scene. They were quickly followed by a news van. We waited for everyone to get out of their vehicles and the camera to start rolling before beginning the next stage of entertainment. Jasper filled all four men with extreme remorse. In no time, all four of them had confessed to every crime and act of wrongdoing they had committed in the past. Once they had confessed to the brutal rapes, and even some murders, Jasper sent them intense levity. They began laughing hysterically, slapping their thighs as they made rude comments to each other about the rapes they had committed together. All the other humans at the scene were shocked and disgusted. There was nothing humorous about what they had done. The men were digging their graves. Jasper calmed them down. Once they were calmer, the police asked them what happened. Jasper inflicted them with the strong desire to tell the truth. They quickly explained that they had attempted to rape a girl,
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but she turned out to be Wonder Woman and was having an affair with Batman. Jasper then sent them massive paranoia. They began jumping at shadows, peering around fearfully. They began asking stupid questions and making accusations towards the police. The police read them their rights and began to lead them to the ambulance. Jasper sent them anger and desperation. They instantly started resisting arrest and trying to escape. The paramedics were forced to give them sedatives to make them compliant. We were all holding our hands over our mouths in a desperate attempt to hold in our laughter. The news crew was ecstatic to be getting the whole thing on camera. They knew their tape would be used as evidence, but they would make a copy of it before handing it over. This was a major scoop for their station. The public would want these men hung out to dry. Finally, the men were carted off to the prison hospital to be treated, and everybody else left the scene. Alice stopped recording and gave me a high five. Emmett and I changed back into our street clothes and all four of us walked back to the car, huge grins adorning all our faces. I couldn’t wait to show the tape to Bella, Edward, and Esme tomorrow morning. I turned and bumped fists with Jasper as we got in the car. He grinned and nodded, understanding. Jasper and I had delivered justice, Hale style.

Chapter 18: Watching Superheroes Movies with

BPOV I was sitting on the couch at the Cullens’ house, curled up next to Edward, my head resting on his chest. Esme was sitting beside me. Jasper was in the loveseat with Alice, while Emmett and Rosalie were stretched out on the other couch. Alice was the keeper of the remote. “Please, Alice,” I whined. “Everybody is here. We’re all waiting. Just press play already!” Alice smirked at me. “Patience is a virtue, Isabella Swan.” I rolled my eyes at her. “Well, some of us are getting older by the second, so get your rear in gear.” I saw several of them startle at my remark and look at me in surprise. Did they forget I was a human? “Hello? Human here, remember?” I taunted sarcastically. “I don’t have 24 hours every day to accomplish all the things I want. So if you want to sit around doing nothing, kindly wait until I’m asleep, thanks.” Emmett laughed. “She’s got you there, Alice. Enough stalling.” Alice sighed and pressed play. The movie started by following the bad guys out of the bar and to the warehouse district. I could tell by the angle that it was shot from the roof. Unlike most home movies, the screen was still. Every time I shot a home movie, my hands would

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inevitably shake a bit, which was obvious once the video played. It must be nice to be able to hold completely still. The quality was similar to a professional movie. I listened to Rose’s and Emmett’s ‘fight’ about Jasper and him sharing his feelings. I couldn’t help laughing as Rose told the absolute truth, but in such a way as to make it sound much worse than the reality. After Emmett stomped away, the men made their move. They appeared to be huddled together and whispering. Edward started scowling, and I looked at him in confusion. “Can you hear them talking?” Edward asked me, noting my expression. I shook my head. “I can see their mouths moving, but I can’t hear their words.” Alice rewound the video a bit and then turned up the volume to the maximum setting. This time, I could make out the words they were whispering. I began scowling as darkly as the rest of the family. When the men suddenly chuckled, we all had to cover our ears, as the volume was so high. Luckily, it was brief. They continued whispering for a few more minutes. Alice quickly turned the volume back down when the men started moving. I watched Rose lure them into the darkness behind the warehouse. She even had the decency to warn them. Then Rose suddenly spun around and turned into Wonder Woman! I gasped. “How did you do that, Rose? I want to see it in slow motion.” Alice rewound and then began a frame by frame through the transformation. At the slower rate, I could see how she removed her dress, putting it into her purse, and removed the lariat and crown. I could see how she settled herself into her new persona before coming to a stop, so the rapists could get an eyeful. “That was totally awesome, Rose! I can’t wait until I’m a vampire. I want to be a superhero too.” “We’re not the good guys, remember?” Edward reminded me. “Humph, Wonder Woman was one of the good guys,” I grumbled. Alice continued the movie at regular speed. I started laughing when Emmett showed up in the scene. Alice slowed it down again, without me even asking. I saw how he jumped down from the warehouse roof. “Batman!” I snickered. “I am so going to be a superhero!” Edward just rolled his eyes while the rest of his family chuckled. I patted his arm condescendingly. “Don’t worry, Edward. You can be the Flash, since you’re the fastest,” I suggested. Alice bounced excitedly. “I’ll order him a costume, Bella! It’ll be perfect.” Edward growled, glaring at her. She shrugged and turned back to the movie, clearly unintimidated. I winced as I watched Rosalie deliver her justice. I couldn’t watch. I tucked my head into Edward’s chest. Note to self – do not make Rosalie mad. I was really glad she was on our side right about now.

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I turned back to the screen when I heard the bad guys call 911. I thought the show was almost over. I forgot Jasper was part of the plan. I listened to the list of their crimes as they confessed and was extremely thankful they were now off the streets. I watched the faces of the policemen when the men started laughing about their conquests. I was shocked at first that the men would do something so stupid, but quickly realized it was courtesy of Jasper. Even with the hilarity Jasper sent them though, they wouldn’t have joked about the rapes if they contained any decency. No matter how hysterically happy I was, I would never say the kinds of things they said. The mood was Jasper’s, but the content of the words they used was all theirs. I did relax and laugh when they told the officers they’d tried to rape Wonder Woman, but she and Batman beat them senseless. The faces of the officers were priceless at their admission. Those boys were going to be out of society for a long, long time. Once it was over, we were all quiet for a bit, each waiting for someone else to make the first comment. “Hmmm,” Esme began. “I am glad to see those men have been carted away by the police and will receive their just reward. However, I do not think Carlisle will appreciate the methods you used to obtain that justice. I think it would be best if your father never saw this video, don’t you agree children?” We all nodded. Some things are better left unsaid, and sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Rosalie grabbed the video disc and tucked it out of sight. “So have you decided which superhero you want to be, Bella?” Alice asked cheerfully, deftly changing the subject as Carlisle entered the front door. “Superhero?” Carlisle inquired curiously. “I haven’t decided yet. I need to think about it for a while.” “May I ask why you are going to be a superhero, Bella?” Carlisle wondered. “Well, Rose is Wonder Woman and Emmett is Batman. I want to be a superhero too when I’m a vampire. What’s the use of having all those super powers if you can’t use them? Oh, and Edward is going to be Flash,” I explained cheerfully. Edward growled again, but I ignored him. “I see,” Carlisle responded slowly, giving me an assessing look. I figured he was doubting my sanity. “It’s true!” I insisted. “Ask them if you don’t believe me.” “Rosalie, are you Wonder Woman?” Carlisle asked doubtfully. She nodded. “You fight crime dressed in a skimpy outfit using a golden lasso?” She nodded again, enthusiastically. Carlisle appeared confused. He turned to Emmett. “Emmett, are you Batman?” “Of course, Carlisle, I thought you knew that,” Emmett responded cheerfully. “You fight crime wearing a mask and cape and utility belt, lurking around on the roofs of buildings?” “Exactly!”

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Carlisle appeared to be getting concerned as he looked around at all the serious faces of his family. “Edward, are you Flash?” Edward rolled his eyes. “Of course not, Carlisle. Don’t be ridiculous.” Carlisle seemed relieved to receive a normal response. “Not yet, but he will be,” Alice mentioned cheerfully, tapping her temple. “I’ve seen it.” Carlisle’s concern was back in full force. I think he was starting to doubt his own sanity at this point. He turned to Esme in desperation. “Esme? Are you a superhero?” “Of course, sweetheart. I thought for sure you already knew,” she purred. He looked like he would be sweating if he could. He looked around the room again, as if he had somehow walked into the wrong house. It reminded me of an episode on The Twilight Zone. I was glad Jasper was helping to keep the mood serious. Otherwise, I was sure we’d all be rolling on the floor laughing right about now. I wasn’t sure how much longer Jasper would be able to hold out against the humor though. “Which superhero are you, Esme?” he sputtered. I had never seen Carlisle so discomposed. “Well, if you don’t already know, I’m not sure I want to compromise my secret identity,” she pondered carefully. His eyes widened. “Do you have a costume?” he squeaked. “Of course I have a superhero outfit, honey. Don’t we all?” she responded in surprise. She sauntered over to him and ran her finger down his chest. She leaned into him and murmured into his ear. “I tell you what, sweetheart, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours . . . .” Carlisle’s eyes lit up and a wide grin spread across his face. “Deal!” he quickly accepted. He grabbed her hand and pulled her up to their room without even acknowledging the rest of us further. That took away the last of Jasper’s control, and we all hit the floor, howling with laughter. Even Edward. After a couple of minutes he winced though, covering his eyes with his hands, as if that would help block what he was ‘seeing’ in his head. “Isn’t it time to pick up the future dogs yet?” he groaned, eager to get out of the house. I glanced at my watch and jumped up excitedly. “Yep! I’ll head on over there and pick them up, okay? Oh, and I thought of a plan so they’ll let us pay for everything without feeling like they’re accepting your charity. When I mention the terms of the bet Edward lost to Jasper, just go with the flow.” They all nodded to me. “Bella,” Edward started hesitantly. “I’d like to ask you a favor.” “Sure, Edward. What do you need?”

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He held out a set of car keys. “I’d like you to drive this car instead of your truck, when you’re traveling out of town. It has room enough to hold all the Quileute boys, gets good gas mileage, and has an excellent safety rating. I’d feel much better if you pick them up in this and drive this to Port Angeles.” “You bought me a car?” I shouted in disbelief. “No, no, of course not,” he assured me with a smile. “This car belongs to the family, love. I’d just like for you to borrow it for the “Make Friends With Werewolves” campaign.” “Oh, okay, sure, no problem,” I mumbled, blushing. I felt silly for my outburst. Of course he hadn’t bought me a car. What was I thinking? Speaking of thinking. “What about Billy though? He’ll want to know why I’m driving this car.” Edward nodded thoughtfully. “Pick the boys up in your truck, but then drive back here and change vehicles.” “Sounds like a plan.” “Jasper, Alice, and I will ride in the Volvo.” I nodded. “Have fun with the dogs,” Emmett encouraged cheerfully. Rosalie elbowed him in the ribs. Those two were going to go hunting instead. We decided to keep the numbers nonthreatening at first, and Jasper’s talent could prove useful. Three future werewolves, three vampires, and one human. Oh, joy.

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Chapter 19: First Meeting
BPOV My stomach was full of butterflies as I drove onto the reservation, headed for Jacob’s house. I was hoping and praying the day would go well. Our main concern was whether or not close contact with the Cullens would actually trigger the werewolf gene earlier. The last thing we needed was for the three boys to suddenly turn into giant wolves on the Cullens’ front lawn. Not a good plan. Still, better their yard than at the mall or in the movie theater, which is why they were waiting anxiously for me to return with the three boys. As I approached Jacob’s house, Jacob stepped outside, along with Quil and Embry. I knew Jacob had recognized the sound of my truck, since the Blacks had owned it first, and it could be heard a mile away even by human ears. I pulled up and they started piling in, Jacob in the passenger seat and the other two in the back. Billy rolled out as they were getting settled. “Hey, Bella!” he greeted warmly. Obviously, he was still unaware of my plans. “Where are all of you headed?” “We’re meeting up with some of my school friends and going to Port Angeles. We’re going to have lunch, catch a movie, and maybe just hang out afterwards to get to know one another better,” I enthused, hoping I could feign innocence once the truth of who my friends were became known. “Sounds like fun! You kids enjoy yourselves. Just be back by 9 at the latest. I know it’s not a school night, but since it’s your first time out, I want to be sure you get home safely. Besides, once you’re home, Quil and Embry and Bella all have to return to their homes. That way, they’ll be home by ten.” Jacob groaned, embarrassed. “Dad! I’m not a little kid.” Billy smiled. “I know, son. If you were, I wouldn’t let you go at all. Now mind your manners with the pale faces,” he teased, looking at me. It was a long standing joke between our families, especially since I was so very pale. Quil and Embry gasped, shocked to hear him say something like that in front of me. I just laughed. “Relax, Quil, Embry. Billy’s just jealous because he’s never gotten a sunburn before. Not everybody can turn red and blister painfully after merely an hour of direct sunlight. It’s a natural talent,” I playfully boasted. All four of them burst out laughing. “Remember the summer you were seven?” Jacob reminisced. “Your poor feet! You couldn’t even wear shoes for a week. Sometimes I wondered if that was why your Mom sent you here in the summers. We get a lot less sunshine. I can only imagine the kinds of burns you got in Phoenix.”

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“Actually, I just slathered on the spf 100 I custom ordered. After two or three coats of that stuff, I wouldn’t have a problem. Of course, it would take me an hour a day to put that much on, but it was worth it,” I joked. They all looked at me closely to see whether or not I was serious. I couldn’t help but giggle at their expressions. They laughed and shook their heads. “Okay, Billy, I’ll bring him home safely, but we need to head out now if we’re going to make it in time for the movie,” I mentioned, waving goodbye. Billy smiled and nodded. I hurriedly turned around and drove away, the boys waving goodbye until Billy was no longer in sight. I turned to Jacob. “Are you ready for this?” I asked Jacob in concern, wanting to be sure he wasn’t already regretting his choice. “Are you kidding? I’m pumped! How often do you get to hang out with your tribe’s mortal enemies whom your father claims are vampires?” he exclaimed. Then he clapped his hand over his mouth in horror, realizing what he had just said. I just laughed, pretending I thought he was joking. He smiled sheepishly. “You won’t say anything about that to them, will you?” “Tell them your father thinks they are vampires? Well, Billy doesn’t make any secret of his animosity toward the Cullens, so I’m sure they already know his feelings on the subject. However, I won’t embarrass you by immediately announcing the fact when we get to their house.” “Thanks,” he muttered sarcastically. My answer had not really reassured him, since I didn’t promise not to say anything ever. I decided it would be a good time to make my feelings clear. “You know, Jake, I just wanted to say that with knowing each other for so many years and playing together as kids, I consider you part of my family. It’s lonely being an only child, so I consider you my brother, as well as one of my friends. I hope you’ll treat me like a sister or at least a cousin, as well as a friend. Family is closer than friends.” “Umm, yeah, sure,” he answered, in a discouraged tone. He thought for a few seconds, straightened his shoulders and grinned at me. “You know, Quil is my cousin, and you’re much prettier by far. I think you’ll be my favorite cousin.” I grinned back. “Sounds good to me. Cousins it is.” We pulled into the Cullens’ driveway and started winding through the woods to their house. The boys were all looking around them eagerly. I knew they likely had never been in this portion of the woods before. We pulled into the yard and the three vampires were waiting for us. I noticed they were all wearing gloves. I realized they didn’t want to give away their cold skin to the Quileutes until the boys had a chance to get to know them. Being actually physically cold would definitely raise too many questions in the boys’ minds with regards to the legends. One of the purposes of today’s trip was to demonstrate how easily the Cullens could interact with humans in public places. We all exited the truck, and I introduced them to one another. They shook hands amicably. I grinned happily to see it. I had wondered how they would smell to one another before the gene was activated. I watched carefully. Alice took a deep breath and then smiled and winked at me. She had foreseen my question and gave me a thumbs up to indicate they didn’t smell like wet dogs yet. “Hey, guys,” I interrupted the small talk. “We need your help with something. It’s a matter of honor.”

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At the mention of honor, all three Quileutes stood straight and tall, completely serious. Honor was very important in their culture. “Edward and Jasper made a bet and Edward lost. His penalty is that he has to pay for everybody for everything on all outings for the next two months. He has more money than he knows what to do with, so monetary amounts don’t really affect him. He is filthy rich, richer than Bill Gates,” I explained as their eyes widened. “So the more money this bet costs him, the more it will be a blow to his pride, though his bank account won’t suffer. Normally, we would all pay our own way, but for the next two months Jasper wants us to spend as much of Edward’s money as we can, to make the penalty of losing the bet worthwhile. So order whatever you want at the restaurant and think about whatever expensive outings you’ve always wanted to do, so Jasper can have his fair reward.” Edward pretended to be chagrined, while Jasper smirked. Alice was grinning happily at me. I could tell they were all impressed with my idea. Now the boys wouldn’t feel at all guilty about Edward picking up the tab. “Please, guys, I need your help,” Jasper interjected. “Last time I lost, he made me dress like a girl and then go into a bar and flirt with the guys. The really scary part was that one of the guys was really interested. He was filled with lust and determined to take me somewhere private. I raced out of there so fast it nearly made my head spin. I had to take a break and puke in the alley before ripping the dress off and stuffing it in the dumpster. I owe Edward big time for that one. So I need everyone’s help to restore my honor by emptying his pockets. What do you say?” Jacob was shocked and appalled. “Disgusting, man. How could he do that to you?” Edward quickly defended himself. “Because the last time I lost, he made me go into a karaoke bar wearing my underwear outside my pants, get upon stage, and sing ‘I’m Too Sexy for My Shirt’ while performing a strip tease. The audience fought over my shirt and hat, and some lucky person made off with my underwear. I had to run out bare-chested. It took ten showers before my body felt clean from all those grimy hands pawing my torso.” The three boys started laughing loudly. Jacob continued chuckling. “I think I get it now. Somehow, I think our lives just got a lot more interesting. It’s going to be a fun ride getting to know you guys.” Quil laughingly agreed. “We’ll definitely do our part to help Edward feel the sting. It’s only fair. I think he was much too easy on you.” Embry looked at me curiously. “What was the bet about?” “Oh, well, Edward and Jasper were betting on a race between an Aston Martin and a Ducati,” I improvised. Sounded good to me. Edward rolled his eyes at me. “The Ducati,” all three boys said at the same time. Hmm. I guess that wasn’t such a good bet after all. Jasper chuckled. “Absolutely,” Jasper agreed. “Let’s get this show on the road,” Alice squealed excitedly. We all smiled at her. I led the boys over to the Mercedes SUV, while the vampires settled into the Volvo. The boys were excited about the SUV. It still had the new car smell. I got behind the wheel and tried to follow Edward, but I wasn’t comfortable driving at his speed. I allowed myself to fall behind. I knew

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where we were meeting, so I wasn’t worried. The boys had fun playing with the entertainment system and exploring all the bells and whistles included in the interior. I got a text message from Edward: Planning to arrive some time today? I just ignored it. I figured they were probably already there. Alice would know when we were close, so they could just entertain themselves somehow until we arrived. We finally pulled up to the restaurant to see the Cullens smugly waiting for us. I rolled my eyes at them. Edward stepped forward to open my door and help me out. We entered the steak restaurant and were immediately seated. I had found out that Washington had a ‘no smoking in restaurants’ law, so every section was nonsmoking. I was really happy about that, as the smoke usually made me cough and interfered with my enjoyment of my food. I bet the vampires were particularly happy, considering their superior sense of smell. Jacob and his friends delighted in ordering the filet mignon, toasting Edward with their cokes. Jasper, Alice, and Edward also ordered full meals, in keeping with appearances. When the food arrived, the boys tucked rapidly into theirs, but the vampires didn’t even touch their plates. I ate at my normal pace. Eventually, Jacob got full enough to notice that the vampires weren’t eating. “You guys aren’t eating?” he asked incredulously. Quil and Embry looked up from their plates. “Actually, we ate just before you arrived. We figured we’d just save this food for later, unless you guys are still hungry?” Edward replied smoothly. Jacob started to shake his head, but stopped. “Wow, I’m hungrier than I thought. I think I will take you up on your offer after all,” Jacob answered in surprise. He reached over and grabbed Edward’s plate. “I’m not usually such a pig.” “You’re probably just getting ready for a growth spurt,” Alice consoled him. I met her gaze, one eyebrow raised. She shrugged, indicating it was not a vision, but was her opinion. He certainly would be going through a major growth spurt, sooner or later. Quil and Embry took Jasper’s and Alice’s plates, gorging on the delicious steak. “Well, all that protein should help your muscle development,” I added, only partially teasing. Everyone else chuckled. I watched everybody’s interactions while I ate, pleased to see the comfort level they each displayed. Jasper spoke with Embry about dirt bikes and motorcycles, Edward talked about cars with Jacob, and Alice and Quil discussed dating tips. There was a definite sense of camaraderie growing as we all enjoyed each other’s company. The boys all cheered when Jasper promised we would go to a dirt bike track after the movie and rent dirt bikes for all of us. All five guys started making comments about their riding skills and doing the usual macho competition mumbo jumbo. Alice and I just rolled our eyes at each other, unimpressed with all the big talk. “So, what movie are we going to see?” I asked the group. “What movie would you guys like to see?” Edward inquired of the boys. “How about that new Dracula versus Wolfman flick?” Jacob suggested with a smirk. Quil and Embry started laughing. “Good one, Jake.”
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The Cullens looked at them in surprise. I sighed. “Seriously, Jake.” He grinned. “I am serious. I’d really like to see it. I wonder which one will win.” “It’s going to be a stupid grade B horror flick,” I protested. “How about a comedy instead.” Alice started laughing. “No, I definitely want to see the stupid horror flick, Bella.” I looked from her to Edward, who was also chuckling. I groaned. Obviously, something amusing and probably embarrassing was going to happen as a result of going to this movie. It was now six against one, in favor of going to the movie. It was useless to protest at this point. “Fine,” I grumped. “Don’t worry, love,” Edward teased. “I’ll save you from the scary imaginary characters.” I growled and pretended to punch his arm. I knew it would only hurt me if I actually hit him. He rubbed the spot and pouted, pretending to be hurt. Everyone else laughed. Edward paid the bill, leaving a generous tip, and we all walked over to the movie theater, since it was only a few blocks away. The movie was starting in fifteen minutes. We quickly got our tickets and went inside. “Hey, Edward,” Quil shouted from the snack counter. “We need popcorn, candy, and drinks, dude.” “Yeah!” Jacob and Embry laughed, giving Jasper high fives. “You just ate two whole dinners each. If you eat any more, you’ll explode,” I griped. “You worry too much, Bells,” Jacob teased. “Remember, we’re growing boys.” “I’ll say,” I muttered under my breath. The vampires all smiled at my remark. “Get whatever you want,” Edward offered magnanimously. All three of them came away from the counter with their arms full of popcorn, ice cream, and soda. They even had candy stuffed in their pockets. I just shook my head at them. I saw that Edward had bought me a soda and candy. I smiled and gave him a brief thank you kiss. I felt the boys watching us, but I ignored them. “I’d better take a quick hu- moment to visit the restroom,” I murmured quickly, hoping the Quileutes wouldn’t notice my slip. Maybe I’d better stop referring to my bathroom breaks as human moments if I’m going to make silly slips in public like that. “I’ll go with you!” Alice immediately added, grabbing my arm. Edward and Jasper snorted. I simply nodded, trying to pretend I hadn’t just almost given away the whole thing. We raced quickly for the ladies room, wanting to finish before the movie started. I did my business in record time. “Why were you laughing earlier, Alice?” I questioned suspiciously, while washing my hands. “What did you see?”

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“That’s for me to know, and you to find out,” she snickered. I glared at her in extreme annoyance. “Evil little pixie,” I muttered grumpily. She just laughed.

Chapter 20: Dracula vs. Wolfman
JacobPOV I saw the way Bella leaned into Edward’s embrace as we waited in line at the movie theater. I saw the love in his eyes as he looked down at her. My heart spoke the knowledge my hormones didn’t want to hear. Those two were made for each other. I had been watching Jasper and Alice too. The unspoken intimacy between them showed a bond I had only heard described in our legends. It went beyond the love I had seen in the people around me on the reservation. They moved and flowed together, as if they were two halves of the same whole. Mates. These two were soul mates. I finally understood what my dad had tried to explain. As much as I hated to admit it, Edward’s behavior toward Bella was exactly like the way a werewolf behaved with his imprint. It was obvious that Bella was the center of Edward’s universe, that the sun rose and set with her for him. He was constantly aware of her, even when they weren’t close enough to touch. She was obviously in love with him as well. Not surprising. The legends explained that no imprint could resist the pure love and adoration offered by her werewolf. They were tied together with an invisible bond. Neither was complete without the other. She was looking so beautiful today. I had hoped she might feel something for me, wondering why she had invited me to join her group. Her little speech about loving me like a brother quickly killed my hopes and dreams of the two of us being together. It had hurt a bit at first. I had been fantasizing about her since dinner at her house. I was surprised to find that there was a warm glow in my heart after the initial disappointment. I was happy she loved me, even as a brother. I wanted to be part of her life. I felt like I was supposed to be part of her life, part of her family. So I grinned and called her cousin. The smile she gave me then caused the glow to grow, warming my heart further. I would be her best friend and her protector. I wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. She was important to me, to my future, though I had no idea why or how. Besides, I had never really thought I had a chance with her anyway. I was fifteen and she was seventeen. Technically, I was still jailbait for her until I turned sixteen. I had learned in sex ed that if a minor under the age of sixteen was intimate with someone more than two years older than them, it was still considered rape in the eyes of the law. Not that I would press charges if she wanted to make out with me, but I didn’t think it would go over well with Charlie if someone else reported it. He wouldn’t want to arrest his own daughter for statutory rape. So she was out of my league for another year anyway. If she was still available when I turned sixteen, I would make my move then. I knew though that most eighteen year old girls preferred older guys. Why would she want to date someone younger? Then, when she went off to college, she would leave me behind in high school. Our love was doomed from the start. I sighed.

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I had been doubtful of Edward at first. After all, he was mentioned by name in my tribe’s legends. I couldn’t help but be suspicious. Especially when none of the Cullens ate anything. All of them seemed completely comfortable with us though. I couldn’t see any reason to fear them. They were interacting with other people in a public setting without any difficulty. I spoke with Edward at length over lunch, subtly poking and prodding. We discussed cars and drifted to music. I could see his passion over both subjects and was surprised to learn he actually composed music for the piano. He was clearly intelligent and self-disciplined. I was surprised to find I actually liked him as a person. I could see myself becoming friends with him. He really listened to me and wasn’t condescending, even though I was two years younger than him. It was his reactions toward Bella that really won me over though. He was so attentive to her needs, unfailingly courteous, like a true gentleman. He never failed to smile at her when he looked her way, as if she was the reason for his existence. I could feel the intensity of his emotions. Our legends described the Cold Ones as being heartless monsters, incapable of human emotion. Either he wasn’t a Cold One, or the legends were wrong. I didn’t really believe in the legends though. I wasn’t a superstitious native. Folklore had no place in the modern world as anything other than entertainment. So obviously he wasn’t a Cold One. I couldn’t help suggesting the Dracula vs. Wolfman movie. The coincidence was just too much, considering the history between the Quileutes and the Cullen family. I was interested to see how they would react to my suggestion. Would they be offended? Quil and Embry burst out laughing, knowing the legends as well as I did. I could tell they didn’t believe them either. They had both been speaking animatedly with the other Cullens throughout lunch, and I could see they were completely at ease. I trusted Embry’s instincts about people. He was usually shy and didn’t talk much to people he didn’t know. However, he and Jasper had found common ground discussing motorcycles and dirt bikes. Embry was ecstatic when Jasper promised we’d race dirt bikes after the movie. I was looking forward to it myself. To my relief, the Cullens didn’t object to my movie choice, seeming to find it as ironically funny as we did. Bella was the only one who objected, mainly because she didn’t like horror movies, but Edward reassured her. Now we were getting seated, our hands full of yummy treats. None of us had much money, so I was very thankful Edward lost that bet. We wouldn’t have accepted his charity and would have had very limited budgets, but we had no problem helping him repay his debt of honor. It’s a guy thing. Embry entered first, followed by Quil and me. Bella sat in-between Edward and me. Alice was beside Edward, with Jasper on the end. We settled back to enjoy the movie. It started with the depiction of Dracula. I heard the Cullens and Bella chuckling as the movie brought out every trivial vampire stereotype I had ever encountered. If the legends were true, then most of this was utter nonsense. The movie was dramatic, not humorous, so why were they laughing? The only reason I could think of was because they knew this was utter nonsense. But if they knew, how did they know? I was starting to freak myself out a little bit. I had fully believed the legends when I was a kid. It was only as I became a teenager that I had rejected them as fictional stories. The movie switched to a depiction of Wolfman. The Cullens and Bella were still chuckling, but this time the three of us joined them. Our legends were certainly more believable than the trumped up nonsense on the screen. Why were the Cullens so amused? Did they know our legends? Why were they so pale? How had they been named and described in our history decades before they arrived? Could they be Cold Ones? I glanced over to see Bella’s hand entwined with Edwards, her head resting on his shoulder. Surely if he was a cold, heartless, stone monster she wouldn’t be comfortable using him as a pillow, right? I’m going crazy. I was interested to see how the movie authors would portray the interaction between Dracula and Wolfman. I was engrossed in the scene where Dracula was sneaking up behind an

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oblivious Wolfman, with fangs bared, going for the jugular. Suddenly, I felt something cold press into my neck, right over my jugular, and felt cold liquid trickling down into my shirt. I shrieked, immediately jumping out of my seat and whirling around. “Cold Ones!” I yelled frantically, arms flailing, heart racing, adrenaline pumping. I quickly realized several things. The Cullens were staring at me in amusement, still comfortably settled in their seats. Bella was staring at me in shock, my popcorn bucket upside down in her lap. Embry was staring at me in surprise and concern, and Quil was laughing his head off, holding his stomach. I noticed the top was off of his drink, and his fingers were wet. I touched my hand to my neck, confirming there was no injury and then sniffed my fingers. The liquid was soda. Quil had stuck his fingers into his ice cold drink and then placed them on my neck. I was going to kill him. Before I could react to my new found knowledge, the manager arrived at the scene and asked us all to please leave, as we were disturbing the other patrons. We filed out and headed back to the cars. I apologized to everyone for messing up their plans. They assured me the movie wasn’t really that entertaining. “Now we can go to the race track!” Embry exclaimed. The others cheered. I was still embarrassed. Jasper put his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Jacob. Just have a good time.” I felt the embarrassment fade away, being replaced with excitement. I grinned at him. “Let’s do this!” We all piled into our vehicles and headed for the track.

Chapter 21: Motorbikes
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JasperPOV It had been so amusing to see Jacob’s panic when Quil played a trick on him, but I was aware of the level of suspicion he had toward us, and Edward could read it in my mind as I assessed them. All three of them had a baseline suspicion and confusion directed toward the three of us, always underneath of whichever emotions were otherwise prevalent. They were overwhelmingly excited at the moment, now that we were at the motor bike track, trying on helmets and strapping on protective gear. In fact, if I hadn’t been controlling my gift for over a century and a half, I would likely be bouncing off the walls they way Alice usually does. I simply channeled their excitement into Edward and Bella so it wouldn’t overwhelm me. Alice had enough excitement on her own. I doubted I would ever need to send excitement her way. I knew the Quileutes were battling between their intellect and their instincts. Their intellect claimed vampires and werewolves were mythical creatures. Their instincts warned that we were inhuman and dangerous predators. Their experience with us thus far told them we were friendly, compassionate, and loving, able to appreciate humor. Yet the legends they had been taught from the cradle said we were heartless monsters, unable to coexist peacefully with humans, our natural prey. Their minds cried out that the legends couldn’t possibly be true, but if they were, then we were their natural enemy. The reality of us was the source of major confusion for their subconscious minds. The subconscious was busy gathering evidence and pointing out clues that matched us with the Cold Ones in the legends. At the same time, the subconscious was gathering evidence and clues showing the differences between us and the Cold Ones in the legends. The subconscious struggled to fit the pieces together, to make sense of the puzzle we represented. Thankfully, boys will be boys, and they were easily distracted from their internal struggles with the roar of the dirt bike engines and the sight of the dirt track, complete with dips and jumps. I knew their subconscious minds continued to work though, even while they played and joked and laughed. We were careful to give them space, not standing too close to them, so they wouldn’t feel intimidated. I constantly monitored the slight edge of fear they all felt. For now, the level was low enough that it merely added to their pleasure, the way a roller coaster or haunted hay ride provides an adrenalin rush. They all had an edge of rebellion too, knowing they were associating with the forbidden Cullens, which would earn the wrath and disapproval of their parents. The knowledge of their rebellion was also fueling their excitement. I saw Edward strapping safety gear onto Bella. He was using every option they had. He had made her wear chaps over her jeans and a bulky but sturdy jacket over her sweater. She had on gloves, knee pads, and elbow pads, as well as shin guards and wrist braces. I wondered if the poor girl could even walk in all that gear. She reminded me of the little kids in their snowsuits who were unable to move their arms and legs in all their snow gear. I sampled their emotions. Edward was incredibly concerned, worried, and protective. Bella was mildly irritated, but mostly resigned, as she patiently allowed him to plaster her with protective gear. “Edward,” I mentioned, walking over to them. “I think Bella should ride behind me for the first loop.” He glared at me, and I felt his jealousy and resentment wash over me. “Relax, dude, I’m not going to steal your girl,” I assured him. “I have experience riding with a passenger, so I can help her get the hang of it, while knowing how to control the bike if she leans the wrong way. You have never ridden a motor bike at all, though I know you’ll pick up the skills rapidly. I know I would feel more comfortable if you tested out the limits and responses of the machine by yourself first, before taking on Bella as a passenger.” He nodded reluctantly at my logic, sighing as he realized he couldn’t kiss Bella through her helmet. I chuckled as I felt her disappointment when she realized the same thing. He settled for embracing her, whispering, “Be safe.” She nodded and winked at him, before coming eagerly to join me. I felt her excitement build now that she was finally going to see some action.
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“Don’t worry, Edward,” I called to him as I escorted her over to my bike. “I probably won’t take her over the jumps, well not the first one anyway.” Bella chuckled, but Edward growled at me, stalking toward us angrily. Relax, bro. I’m just messing with you. You know I would never endanger your mate. He stopped and nodded stiffly, watching her climb onto the bike behind me. His jealousy spiked again when she wrapped her arms around me. Like she can even feel me under all this padding you’ve strapped to her. He grinned and relaxed, quickly collecting his own gear and heading to another bike. “Hold on tight!” I shouted to Bella over the sound of the motor. She squeezed her arms tighter, and I pulled out onto the track, gradually increasing the throttle to give her time to adjust to the speed. Soon we were flying, and I could feel her excitement and her fear. So far the thrill was outweighing the fear, so I kept going. The Quileutes were already working on their second lap. Embry had his own dirt bike he rode on the reservation, which he had generously shared with Jacob and Quil, so all three of them already knew how to ride. I turned my gaze to watch my beautiful wife as she sailed effortlessly over a jump. She had ridden with me many times, so she was very comfortable. I felt her joy as she flew through the air, and her pride when she landed cleanly. I could also feel the Quileutes’ awe and wonder as they witnessed her finesse. So far everyone was having fun, even Edward. I pulled to the side once we finished the lap and waited for Edward. “Thanks, Jasper! That was awesome,” Bella exclaimed as she got off the bike. I predicted she would stumble in the process, having come to know her over the past week, so I already had my arm out to catch her when she did indeed stumble. I couldn’t help smirking at her chagrined expression as she realized what I had done. Edward pulled up nearby and beckoned for Bella to join him. As soon as she was safely away, I opened up the throttle all the way, peeling out, and raced to join Alice. As soon as I was beside her, she matched her pace to mine, and we flew around the track in tandem, swerving gracefully around the other riders in our path. I knew from an aerial view, it would look like we were dancing. After a few laps like that, I wanted to have a little more fun. I forgot about our audience, as this was one of the activities Alice and I usually did without the rest of the family. So, I challenged Alice to motor bike X games. She laughingly accepted. On the next jump, both of used the air time to do a handstand on the handlebars, coming back into our seats just before we hit the ground. Of course, for us, it was easy to calculate the necessary timing and strength wasn’t an issue. At the next jump, we each did a backward flip, our eyes on each other. The other riders didn’t exist for me at that time. It was just me and her in our own little love bubble. We continued doing various tandem tricks, each adjusting for the other to keep us together, performing the routine we had perfected over the years. It wasn’t until the final jump that I remembered where we were and who was watching. Normally, our final trick was to french kiss in midair, after which we would park the bikes and make mad, passionate love together under the stars. As my brain processed the realization that we couldn’t kiss while wearing helmets, the knowledge of our location flooded back to us. I saw the same comprehension dawn in Alice’s eyes as well, and we both looked around for our family and friends. We landed the jump and headed for the exit. We had attracted quite an audience apparently. In addition

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to our group, there were about ten other guys and gals watching us from the bleachers. I ducked my head when I heard their applause and whistles. “Wow! You guys were awesome!” Bella shouted, running up to hug us. “How long have you been working on that routine?” “A few years,” Alice admitted with a smile. Edward looked at us with surprise. “It’s one of the things we like to do when it’s just the two of us,” I confessed. “Now you know our secret.” “Wow! Do you think you could teach me some of those tricks? Please?” Embry begged enthusiastically. I took off my helmet and smiled at him. “Soon, probably, in a month or two, if you’re still interested at the time,” I offered. I had no doubt that such close exposure to our family would trigger their gene early. Once he was a werewolf, it would be safe to teach him, as he would be so breakable and would heal rapidly from any injuries. I just wasn’t sure he would still be interested in learning from me once he became a werewolf. “Cool! Me too!” Jacob and Quil pleaded. I nodded and smiled. “I’ll be willing if you are,” I agreed. Right now they couldn’t imagine anything making them change their mind about me teaching them, but I knew things wouldn’t be the same once we were officially on opposite sides. “Well, I want to do a few more laps, if you don’t mind,” Jacob stated. We waved him and the other two off to continue their fun. Several of the people from the bleachers were heading onto the track as well. Alice and I went to turn in our gear and then sat on the bleachers watching the various riders. A couple of them actually knew what they were doing and were performing tricks like Alice and I had. One of the them thought he knew more than he actually did. He was attempting tricks he wasn’t ready for yet. He was going to get hurt if he didn’t tone it down a little. Edward and Bella joined us on the bleachers, divested of their gear. “Where have you been practicing motor bike stunt driving?” Edward inquired curiously, peeved that we had managed to keep it a secret for so long. I chuckled at him. “We have a plot of land in Oregon, where we built a track for ourselves and a garage for our bikes. It’s our private retreat where we go for our ‘Alice and Jasper’ time,” I responded. A few memories of our time together there passed through my mind and Edward shuddered. “I’m sorry I asked,” he muttered. “I really didn’t need to see that.” I shrugged. Hey, what I chose to do with my wife when we were alone together was none of his business. If he didn’t like the images in my head, he should mind his own. “That guy seems to be struggling a lot more than the others,” Bella observed, watching the same guy I had noticed earlier. “He’s pushing his limits. If he pushes any harder, he’ll probably lose control and crash,” I predicted. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, the accident happened.

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The guy had been trying to do a one-handed trick when he lost control of the bike. His legs flew out behind him, and he lost his seat. As he felt himself falling, I could sense his panic and embarrassment, but he foolishly kept hold of the bike. “Let go!” I screamed to him, but it was too late. He hit the ground, with the bike going in one direction, and he in another. We vampires immediately started holding our breath, suspecting blood would be freely flowing from one of his injuries. We ran at human speed to help him. When we got close, Edward ran on ahead. He had been through medical school twice and would be able to assess the guy’s condition. I watched him perform a rapid exam. Meanwhile, the Quileutes had joined us and were watching Edward, Alice, and me closely, while radiating suspicion and concern. Sure enough, the guy had a small laceration on his neck that was bleeding slightly. We were all in control, since we were holding our breath. I did tense a bit when I saw the crimson on his neck, but Alice squeezed my hand and Bella distracted me by tugging on my shirt. I looked down into her deep brown eyes. “I have faith in you, Jasper. Remember, you are strong,” she whispered, her eyes gleaming brightly. I could feel the waves of love and trust she sent me, and I knew I would be strong enough to resist, no matter what. I smiled and nodded at her and she grinned back, before crouching down beside Edward. I knew Edward heard the exchange, but he chose not to acknowledge it. “He’s mostly fine, a few bumps and bruises. The helmet saved him from a serious head injury. His only real issue is a dislocated shoulder. He should have let go of the bike when he felt himself falling. Jasper, hold him please while I get his shoulder back into joint,” Edward announced to the crowd. I nodded and eagerly went to lend my assistance, thankful of my new self-confidence. I carefully restrained him. Once I was in position, Edward turned to the patient. “I’m afraid this is going to hurt a lot. But it’ll be almost all better once I get it back into position. You’ll just be a little sore for a few days. If I leave it until you can get to a hospital, you’ll be in a lot more pain,” Edward explained to the guy. The guy groaned and nodded. As quickly as humanly possible, Edward fixed the arm back into its socket. The guy screamed during the process, but calmed quickly once it was over. Within a few minutes, he was able to get up off the ground and limp his way to the office. Edward and Bella went with him, providing moral support. Alice and I wheeled his bike back where it belonged, clearing the track for other riders, and the boys brought their bikes in to park them. We all joined Edward and Bella in the office, where we could see the guy already looked heaps better. “Great job! I’m really impressed!” Jacob enthused, clapping Edward on the back. Edward was careful to shift so Jacob wouldn’t hurt his hand. The other boys crowded around us too, getting closer than they had before. Their smell was interesting, rather like the odor of clean dog fur, which wasn’t unpleasant, but also wasn’t appetizing. I filed the observation away for later. “How’d you learn how to do that?” Quil wondered. “My dad taught me a few little tricks of the trade. You never know when they might come in handy,” he boasted. The boys all nodded. They knew Carlisle was a doctor, so Edward’s response made sense to them. “Hey, would you like to come back to our house and join us for dinner?” Alice suggested. They exchanged glances, before happily agreeing. Their suspicion and confusion was at an all time

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low, having witnessed us in close proximity to a bleeding human without any loss of control on our part. They were now 90% sure we couldn’t possibly be vampires. On the way back to the cars, I heard the boys joking in whispers, not realizing we could hear every word. “I hope when we join them for dinner we aren’t on the menu,” Quil laughed. “Yeah, you notice they didn’t say anything about us eating,” Embry teased. “I guess it’s the best of both worlds. They can serve venison. First they drink all the blood, then they cook the meat and serve it to us,” Jacob joked. Personally, I thought it sounded like a good idea. I could tell Edward and Alice agreed with me. Poor Bella was out of the loop, since she didn’t have our super hearing. “How efficient!” Quil taunted. “Well, our ancestors did teach us not to let any part of the animal go to waste,” Embry encouraged gleefully. “Sure, as long as we don’t have to watch them drink it,” Jacob commented. “I don’t drink . . . . wine,” Quil quoted Dracula. They all three burst out laughing. The fact that they were comfortable joking about it was a really good sign. Bella’s plan was working well so far. They piled into the SUV with Bella, while we vampires slipped into the Volvo. We pulled away quickly, wanting to get out of hearing range before allowing our own amusement to pour out of us. If Edward hadn’t had vampire reflexes, he’d have crashed the car for sure, as hard as he was laughing. Alice calmed down long enough to call Esme and warn her of our impending invasion and the dinner invitation. Poor Esme now has to throw together a meal fit for three growing teenage boys and one small slip of a girl. Being Esme, she happily rose to the occasion, surprisingly not angry with Alice for thrusting this responsibility on her at the last minute. At that moment, thinking of my adopted mother, my beautiful wife, and my supportive family, I felt truly blessed.

Chapter 22:
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Dinner with Wolves
EPOV I pulled into the driveway and parked the Volvo. Jasper and Alice slid out quickly and ran inside to check on Esme’s status. I followed them in, smiling to see Esme in the kitchen, wearing an apron and surrounded by various ingredients. She was focusing on a cookbook and humming contentedly. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally . . . I went to the living room. She was obviously in her element, and I wasn’t going to disturb her. You invited the dogs here? Rosalie looked deeply offended. “This is important to our family, Rosalie. Their friendship could be the difference between life and death for us. Please don’t ruin this for us.” She nodded at me in understanding. I’ll make an effort, for the sake of the family. “Thanks. Besides, they don’t smell bad yet, so enjoy it while it lasts.” She wrinkled her nose, and I grinned. “So, we get to mess with the dogs tonight, huh?” Emmett asked hopefully. “No, they don’t know anything yet. Wait a little bit, then we can all have fun.” Emmett looked disappointed, but he took it manfully. “Jasper, we should hunt, after that incident at the track. Just to be safe,” I suggested. “What incident?” Carlisle inquired, entering the front door. Was there a problem? Esme came out of the kitchen to hear the news. “One of the riders got hurt attempting a stunt. He dislocated his shoulder and was bleeding from a cut on his neck. Jasper was able to hold him still while I reset his arm into the socket. The best part was that the Quileutes witnessed the whole thing.” Emmett, Rosalie, Carlisle, and Esme were all staring at us in shocked surprise. Their minds were all doing some version of ‘Wow!’ Carlisle stepped forward, grabbing both Jasper and me in a hug. “I’m so proud of you both. Congratulations! This is excellent news. We should celebrate!” he exclaimed emotionally. Jasper was overwhelmed with the love, pride, and happiness pouring out of Carlisle. Carlisle stepped back, and Esme rushed in to embrace us next. Her joy, love, and pride flooded Jasper. He was positively euphoric from all the admiration, regard, and respect he was receiving from his family members. I had never seen such radiance in his expression before. I heard his resolve harden to never harm another human. He was used to feeling pity, disappointment, and anxiousness from all of us. He never wanted to go back to

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that again. He was determined to continue earning our respect and admiration. I gave him a hug myself, projecting my understanding. We really hadn’t been treating him fairly all these years. It was amazing that it took a human to show us the error of our ways, but I was very thankful she did. I knew Jasper would do just about anything for her now, as she was the impetus for his current high. “Well, we kind of are celebrating, in a way. The boys are all joining us for dinner tonight,” Alice volunteered. “Ah, I was wondering about all those awful smells coming from the kitchen. Oh, no, I suppose we are going to have to eat that disgusting stuff with them,” Carlisle groaned. Esme reached back to smack his arm. “No offense, honey. I’m sure you are a wonderful cook, for humans. I’ve just been around so long, I don’t even remember human food ever tasting good.” We laughed at him. “Yeah, I bet the dinosaur meat was rather tough, huh?” Emmett teased. Carlisle rolled his eyes and went off to his study, muttering under his breath something along the lines of ‘I brought you into this world and I can take you out again.’ We kept laughing. Poor Carlisle. Sometimes he just gets no respect. Esme headed back into the kitchen, while Jasper and I ran out back for a quick hunt. By the time we came back, Bella and the boys were just walking into the house. I quickly moved to join them. The first one the boys saw when they entered the living room was Rosalie. I witnessed their reaction through Rose’s eyes. She was smugly satisfied with their response. All three of them had their eyes wide and their mouths hanging open. They just froze, staring rudely. I chuckled and waved my hand in front of their faces to break the spell. They shook themselves, blushing at their reaction, and tried to maintain a calm façade. Jasper came in behind me and flooded them with calm. I smiled and nodded at him, thankful for his intervention. The boys relaxed a bit and regained some of their natural poise. Bella performed the introductions. “Rose, this Jacob, Quil, and Embry. Guys, this is Rose and Emmett.” The boys shyly waved, awed by Rose’s beauty. Emmett chuckled and came to sit by Rose, draping his arm around her shoulders. “Forget it, boys, she’s mine,” he growled playfully, grinning up at them. They all nodded, but didn’t speak. The boys started whispering amongst themselves, not knowing everybody could hear them. “She’s a freakin’ goddess!” Quil exclaimed under his breath. “I think she’s an angel,” Jacob murmured. “Beauty, thy name is Rosalie,” Embry added. “Do you think the three of us could take him?” Quil pondered. “Like she would want us if we did,” Jacob rebutted. “O that I were a glove upon that hand, that I might touch that cheek!” Embry whimpered.

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“Would you cut the Romeo bullcrap, Embry? You’re not star-crossed lovers, you dope,” Quil taunted. “Like two ships, passing in the night,” Embry responded. “Give it a rest, both of you. She’s taken. Period. End of story,” Jacob commanded. “Now behave yourselves.” At least these boys have good taste. Rosalie smirked, enjoying the attention. Maybe they aren’t so bad after all. Carlisle came down the stairs, a welcoming smile upon his face. “Welcome to our home, gentleman. I am Carlisle Cullen. We are honored to have you here as our guests.” They each croaked out a choked greeting. I listened in to see what they were thinking. Wow. THE Carlisle Cullen. He looks good for supposedly being hundreds of years old. This is the guy the elders are so afraid of? He doesn’t look like he would hurt a fly. This guy isn’t scary. The big guy is freakin’ scary. This guy looks like a swimsuit model with the heart of Santa Claus. Or like he should have wings and a halo, for Pete’s sake. I grinned and spoke for vampire ears only. “They don’t think you’re scary, Carlisle. They’re thinking you should wear a halo.” I heard muffled laughter from my family at my announcement. Carlisle’s smile widened into a grin. Esme came back into the living room, still wearing her apron and carrying a wooden spoon covered in sauce. “Hey, boys, I’m so glad you decided to join us. Dinner will be ready shortly,” she gushed, beaming at them. She was positively glowing with happiness. “I hope you’re all hungry, because I made lots.” They nodded. “Thanks, ma’am,” Jacob approved. “It smells so divine, my mouth is watering. My stomach is growling in eager anticipation.” I don’t remember my own Mom, but something about this woman just screams ‘Mom’ to me. I have the strangest urge to hug her. How weird is that? “Yes, ma’am, I’m starving,” Quil added, rubbing his belly for emphasis. Man, this lady looks like June freakin’ Cleaver, the quintessential housewife. She looks like the type who has milk and cookies waiting for the kids after school. Lucky Cullens. Embry nodded enthusiastically. She’s so sweet. I hope the food tastes as good as it smells. If so, I think I’ll become a regular visitor here, find reasons to stop by right around dinnertime. I chuckled to myself at Embry’s thoughts. Stopping by randomly at dinnertime would not be such a good plan. Unless he wanted to be dinner. Not that we’d stoop to eating a dog. If they tasted as bad as they smelled, they were in no danger from any of us. Still, I didn’t think he’d appreciate what was usually on the menu. Esme went back into the kitchen and Alice started setting the table. The rest of us congregated in the living room. Jacob started talking about cars with me again, and Rosalie

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joined the discussion. Jacob became animated as he discussed the Volkswagen he was putting together from scratch, hoping to have it finished by the time he was sixteen. He and Rosalie conversed about the different parts and options he had for that make and model. He explained how he had to wait until he could afford parts and usually tried to scavenge parts from the scrap yards. Rosalie shook her head in pity. “It’s such a shame. I have so many ideas and suggestions for you. If I were helping you, we could probably finish the whole thing in a day or two,” she sighed. Jacob had earned her respect by knowing his way around an engine in intricate detail. Jacob looked at her in surprise. “You’d help me with it?” he inquired eagerly. “You could come to my house and see it tomorrow.” She gazed at him sorrowfully. “I’m not allowed to set foot on the reservation, Jacob.” “Urgh! That’s right! I forgot,” he groaned. Who made up that stupid rule anyway? Anybody can see that these guys aren’t going to hurt anyone. He looked so downhearted that Rosalie was motivated to help him with an offer that even surprised herself. “Maybe Bella could use the SUV to tow your car here, and we could work on it in my garage. I have all the necessary tools, and we have lots of spare parts laying around from my various upgrades to the cars we drive. I even have a brand new engine that I think would fit in the engine compartment. It wasn’t strong enough to power the car it came with, but it should have plenty of pep for your purposes. If it works, you can have it for free. I’m not going to do anything with it. It’s just taking up space and collecting dust.” Jacob was incredulous. “Are you for real? I mean, you are like the perfect woman. Gorgeous, intelligent, and well versed in auto mechanics. Emmett is one lucky guy. If he ever mistreats you, give me a call. I’ll be glad to kick his ass for you.” Rosalie started laughing hysterically. “Thanks, Jake. You are so sweet,” she gasped in between laughing fits. He raised an eyebrow in her direction. “Sorry,” she apologized, calming down. “Thank you for the compliment, Jake. You’re a good kid.” “Dinner’s ready!” Esme called from the kitchen. “Everybody wash up and join us in the dining room.” There was a mad scramble as the Quileutes all rushed to the bathroom. When they were finished, Bella made use of it. The rest of us dragged our feet, reluctant to sit down for a ‘lovely family dinner.’ “Hurry up, kids!” Esme called from the dining room, with an edge to her voice. We had to stop lollygagging. This is going to be a nightmare. I can’t believe my traitorous wife thought it would be a good idea to invite them home for dinner. We should have both stopped by a fast food place and ‘eaten’ on the way home. Then they’d already be full, and we wouldn’t have to suffer. It’s going to suck both ways, incoming and outgoing. The little pixie owes me, and I’m going to collect later tonight. I jumped out of Jasper’s mind before he could continue that line of thought. I didn’t want to know how he planned to collect from his wife. Hmmm, my visions are starting to get a bit fuzzy. We must have triggered the gene after all.

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There is no way I’m going to torture myself by pretending to enjoy human food just to please a bunch of mutts. No way, no how. Rosalie was silently fuming. Emmett took one look at her and wisely decided to bow the two of them out for tonight. Uh, oh. Rose doesn’t look happy. I don’t want to upset Esme, but I think it would be worse if we come to the table. He came to the doorway of the dining room. “Hey, Esme, Rose and I just ate about an hour ago, and you were right, it spoiled our dinner. We’re both too full to eat anything right now. I’m sure it’s all really yummy though.” Esme swiveled around to look at Rose and gauge the situation. One look at Rose’s stony expression and Esme decided to cut her losses. “Okay, Emmett, you two can entertain yourselves while the rest of us eat,” she agreed reluctantly. “Hey, no fair! How come they get a ‘get out of jail free’ card?” Jasper protested under his breath. “I just ate half an hour ago, and I’m too full to eat anything too.” “Too bad! They know you didn’t eat lunch with them, so there’s no way you can get out of dinner too,” Emmett taunted, smirking at Jasper. “Don’t worry, Jazzy, we’ll get him back,” Alice muttered, tapping her temple with a wink. “Bring it on, little sis,” Emmett sneered, before he and Rose ran up to their room. Please let them have the restraint not to do that while we have guests here. Carlisle thought in horror. The Quileutes all started heaping food onto their plates while the rest of us carefully arranged our napkins in our laps. Not only was it considered good manners, but it was a convenient hiding place for our unwanted food. We had placed all three boys on one side of the table, Carlisle at the head, Esme at the foot, and the rest of us on the other side, so none of the boys could see into our laps. “Thank you for this wonderful meal, dear,” Carlisle commented pleasantly. “You are exceptionally talented in the kitchen.” And the living room, and the bedroom, and the shower . . . . I quickly tuned out his thoughts. Way, way too much information. “Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and cheese over angel hair Alf redo? Baked ziti with pepperoni and feta? Homemade garlic bread?” Embry moaned appreciatively. “Oh, Esme, I love you! Ditch Carlisle, and run away with me!” I hope he has a sense of humor, or I’m a dead man. We all chuckled. “I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your kind offer, Embry. I have promised Carlisle forever, and he holds the keys to my heart. When you find a girl your age that you want to marry, I’ll be glad to share my recipes with her,” Esme replied in appreciation of his compliment. The boys were all shoveling the food into their mouths as fast as possible, practically inhaling it. Bella was eating her portion daintily, as usual. The rest of us were slipping noodles off our plates and into our laps whenever the boys weren’t watching. “Well, Mom, it looks like your cooking is a big hit. At this rate, I’m not even sure if there’ll be leftovers,” I reassured her. She beamed lovingly at me. Thank you, Edward.
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“You should taste the chicken, Edward,” Jacob suggested. “It’s to die for, I swear.” Quil and Embry snickered at his pun. Had he caught me sneaking food off my plate? I quickly listened in on his thoughts. Why does he look so uncomfortable? “Here, you can have a piece of mine. Just go ahead and taste it,” he pressed. I shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. “I’m not a big fan of spinach.” Hmmm. Is that really the reason? None of them are eating the chicken. How odd. It wasn’t odd, it was practical. The ziti noodles were discrete pieces, easily slipped off the plate. The chicken and angel hair would have to be cut into smaller pieces first. “Try some without the spinach then. Here, this bite doesn’t have any spinach.” He held the fork out to me. “Yeah, Edward, try it,” Jasper taunted. “Yum, yum.” Quil and Embry were watching now too. I was going to have to eat it, but I was taking Jasper down with me. “I will, if you will, brother,” I snorted. Jasper blanched. He sighed and nodded. Then he grinned. “You should try some too, honey,” he recommended to his wife. She glared daggers at him, telling him without words that he would be keeping company with himself for the rest of the night. He chuckled. We all took a bite, trying not to look like we were eating dog food. Wait a minute, we were eating dog food! Esme made this stuff for the dogs. Great. Forced to eat dog food with a bunch of mutts. What is this world coming to these days? Esme smiled proudly at us as we chewed and swallowed our chicken. All of us wore looks that were a cross between disgust and nausea. The white sauce was the worst, so thick and slimy. Bella was trying desperately not to giggle. Carlisle cleared his throat, giving us a warning glance. “None of my children are particularly fond of chicken,” he explained. He could say that again. I had drank from one once, just to see. It was foul. The Quileutes relaxed somewhat, having seen us eat. Their rational minds were able to delude themselves into ignoring their instincts once again. After dinner, we retreated to the living room, where we watched a football game on the big screen. We all talked and laughed, sharing jokes and stories. Esme gave the boys big plates of apple pie and ice cream for dessert. “Will you adopt me, too?” Jacob joked. “I haven’t eaten food this good ever.” “Me too, me too!” Embry pleaded. “I’m just a poor starving child, wasting away from hunger.” “You do look like you could use a little fattening up, Embry. I’ll work on it whenever you visit. How about that?” Esme replied in amusement. He nodded enthusiastically. “Milk and cookies!” Quil blurted. We all turned to look at him. He blushed.

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“What?” Jake asked. “What are you talking about?” Quil was radiating extreme embarrassment, paralyzing his ability to speak. Jasper sent him a wave of calm, and he relaxed. He ducked his head, not meeting anybody’s eyes. “When I look at Esme, I think of milk and cookies. Like my idea of the perfect mom was always that she would have milk and cookies waiting when her kids got home from school. I don’t know where I got that idea from originally. Esme just seems like that kind of mom.” We were all quiet for a few moments. I saw the sheen of unshed tears in Esme’s eyes. He had unknowingly just given her a great gift, essentially calling her the perfect mom, and all the vampires recognized it. Even Rose was greatly softened towards the future wolves. Esme got control of herself again. “I tell you what, boys. How about you come over again tomorrow morning, after you wake up, and I’ll prepare a big brunch for you. I’ll make eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, waffles, hash browns, muffins, and anything else you request. How does that sound?” “Heavenly!” Jacob breathed in awe. “Perfect!” Embry squealed in delight. “Awesome!” Quil crowed. Esme grinned at their enthusiasm. She would be preparing for it all night. Good thing she didn’t need to sleep. “I hate to break up the party guys, but I need to get you back to La Push, so you don’t miss curfew. I’d hate to blow things with Billy on our first outing,” Bella proclaimed. The boys groaned, but dutifully made their way to the door, thanking everyone for having them. “Don’t forget to call if you want Bella to use the SUV to tow your car when she picks you up tomorrow,” Rose reminded Jacob. He smiled in gratitude. BPOV Esme walked us out toward my truck. “Drive safely, sweetie, and call us when you get back home, so we know all is well,” she murmured as she hugged me goodnight. She was such a mom. She couldn’t help herself. She embraced each of the boys, telling them goodbye, thanking them for coming, and expressing her delight at seeing them again tomorrow. I didn’t stop her. I wouldn’t have been able to if I tried. I watched the expression on each boy’s face change as she hugged them. I knew they had felt her cold marble skin and had felt her rock hard body. The knowledge was there in their eyes. They could no longer deny what their subconscious had known all along. The Cullens were Cold Ones. They were vampires. Esme was oblivious to the change in the boys as they hopped into the truck, waving goodbye. The window was open between the cab and the back of the truck. Nobody spoke while we drove down the driveway and turned onto the main road. After a few minutes, Jacob spoke, still staring straight ahead, not looking at me.

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“The Cullens are Cold Ones. They are vampires.” “Yes.” I was nervous as to how he would react now that he knew. “You knew this and invited us to hang out with the tribe’s mortal enemies?” I sighed, speaking loud enough for Quil and Embry to hear. “Jacob, today you saw the real Cullens. Carlisle saves lives, he doesn’t end them. They are real people, with real thoughts and feelings. They are not unfeeling monsters. I wanted you two to get to know one another without the prejudices that have been passed down from generation to generation. There are evil vampires who need to be killed for the protection of society, just as there are evil humans that are unfeeling murderers. Yes, the Cullens drink blood, but they hunt animals. You eat animals too, don’t you? So how is that so different? Why is it so much worse to partake of an animal’s blood than of its flesh?” Jacob turned to look at me, with anguish in his eyes. “I see your point, but what if they hurt you by accident? You could be killed!” “Jacob, I appreciate your concern. I’m much more likely to get hurt or killed in an accident simply driving my truck, yet you don’t freak out when I do. I spend time with the Cullens every day. I’m not afraid of them. They are at the high school with other humans in close proximity for six hours five days a week, with no loss of control. We were in a movie theater and a restaurant surrounded by humans today, with no loss of control. A man got injured and was actively bleeding, yet they still did not lose control. In fact, they helped make the man better. Carlisle performs surgery for a living. He is completely immune to scent of human blood. The Cullens are not the enemy. If you can’t see that after today, then I’ve been wasting my time trying to make peace.” Jake stared at me, his eyes full of conflicting emotions. I could practically see the internal struggle he was going through, trying to reconcile the reality with the fantasy. I pulled up in front of his house. “I know you all need to think about and talk about what happened today, but please don’t mention it to anyone else for now, if you don’t mind?” They all nodded, as they got quietly out of the truck. “They really do like you guys. All of their offers were perfectly sincere and not offered lightly. Especially Rose’s. She doesn’t let just anyone into her garage. I haven’t even been invited in yet. Call me in the morning and let me know if you still want me to pick you up for brunch or not,” I urged. They exchanged glances and nodded cautiously. I gave them each a hug goodnight, and I felt it. I felt it from each one of them. They were warm. Too warm.

Chapter 23: Saturday Night
BPOV

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Changing the future

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I stepped back from Jacob and his buddies, knowing the transformation process was beginning. I hoped they would forgive me for interfering. Of course, this time around, they had no real reason to hate the Cullens, other than raw prejudice, because Edward hadn’t broken my heart and left me to fall into a catatonic state. There were many upsides to being a werewolf, and I was hoping they would understand that. “Guys, I still want to be your friend, regardless of what you decide about the Cullens. Please call me either way. I have a lot of information I believe you have a right to know. Tonight is not the best time to discuss it though. You’re already in information overload, so I really want to hook up with you tomorrow, whether it is with the Cullens or without,” I pleaded, staring intensely into each set of eyes, willing them to sense my sincerity. They all nodded and smiled, relaxing slightly. Quil and Embry both looked to Jacob, already beginning to defer to him as their spokesman. I guess some instinctual part of them knew he was the Alpha. Jacob stood a bit taller, with the two of them flanking him, lending him their unwavering and unspoken support. “The guys and I need to discuss this whole situation. I’ll call you in the morning, Bella,” he informed me calmly. He seemed to struggle with himself again, before softly adding, “Be safe, Bells. We don’t want you to get hurt.” I nodded sadly, understanding his concern. “The Cullens won’t hurt me, Jacob. In fact, they’ll protect me with their own lives.” He nodded again, watching me head back to my truck. All three of them simply stared after me, unmoving, as I drove away, back to my house. Once I crossed the border of La Push, I whipped out my cell phone, calling Edward. I was feeling a bit panicky. Edward answered on the first ring. “Bella?” “Oh, Edward, I felt them. Their body temperature has already started rising. Can Alice still see them? Are they coming tomorrow? Are they going to cause trouble?” “Calm down, love. Let me ask her.” I heard him talking to Alice in the background. They were speaking too softly for me to overhear their conversation. The second the hum of voices went silent, I jumped right in, wanting answers. “Edward? What is it? What did she see?” “Bella, calm down. You don’t need to get so worried. The future is full of static right now, there are occasional glances, but mostly just jumbled color. Our whole family is looking that way for tomorrow morning, so I’m guessing the boys do accept our offer for brunch.” “Is there any trouble? Any fighting? Is everything okay?” He hesitated, and I felt my panic spike again. He sighed. “She can’t see that. She only knows they’re coming, but not the outcome. I suppose it will depend on whether or not they choose to listen to us and be influenced by us.” “Oh,” I whispered. I would do anything to keep Edward safe and out of harm’s way. I didn’t know what else to say then. “Look, I’m going to inform the rest of the family while we’re at it, and then I’ll join you in your bedroom, where we can talk privately.”
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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“Thanks, Edward. I really need you right now.” “Goodnight, Bella. I’ll see you in a few.” I hung up, feeling so much better. I had Edward and would soon be in his arms again. That thought alone was enough to improve my attitude and outlook. I made it safely home, and told Charlie about spending the day with Jake and his friends, neglecting to mention that the Cullens were there too. I didn’t really want him to slip up and mention anything to Billy before we had things resolved, especially since the two of them would be spending most of the day fishing together tomorrow. I certainly didn’t want to get Jacob in trouble with his father or the tribe. That wouldn’t help our case at all. After a few more minutes of conversation, I excused myself to bed, kissing Charlie goodnight. I was both apprehensive and excited as I made my way upstairs, wondering if Edward was ensconced in my room yet. I was disappointed to find my room completely empty, but figured I might as well use the time to get ready for bed. After finishing my nightly routine, I crawled under the covers, wondering why Edward was taking so long to get to me. I heard my dad coming up the stairs, treading heavily with fatigue. He moved into his room and was soon snoring. I was glad I didn’t have to share a room with him, considering how loud the snoring was coming through the wall. I wondered briefly if Renee had left him mostly because she couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. I chuckled to myself at first at how ridiculous that sounded, but then realized how cranky and irritable people get when sleep deprived. Perhaps there was more to my theory than I had originally considered. Being fatigued and impatient, having a short fuse, would lead to more fights and disagreements. People snap more when they’re tired and irritable. Maybe someday I would do a dissertation on the subject. Can poor sleep ruin a relationship? At least that’s one less concern that vampires have, seeing as how they don’t need sleep. As I was pondering the tragic catastrophe of my parents’ marriage, Edward hopped through the window. I grinned happily at him, thankful to have him take my mind off of unpleasant memories. He responded with his crooked smile, that literally took my breath away. I was lost in his gaze, my heart rate racing erratically, when he reminded me to breathe. Urgh. How many humans have to be reminded to breathe? Pathetic. I took in a deep lungful of air, which also helped calm me in the process. Edward joined me under the covers, snuggling into the electric warmth. I turned on my side to face him, my hand rubbing over his upper chest, as he gazed deeply into my eyes. “So, how’s the rest of the family doing?” I wondered. He sighed. “Everybody is busy making plans and contingency plans, trying to consider every possible scenario and the way we should handle each and every possible situation. I could use a little distraction for the time being, if you don’t mind?” I smiled seductively at him. “Oh, I don’t mind Edward. I’d like a little one – on – one time with you.” He bent his head to mine and started kissing me, slowly and carefully. I moaned, running my hands up his back and into his hair. We continued making out for a few blissful moments, before Edward inevitably pulled away. I groaned at the frustration of being all hyped up with no release in sight.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

I started singing under my breath, “I can’t get no sa-tis-fac-tion, though I try and I try and I try and I try. I can’t get no . . . . . satisfaction.” I felt Edward’s chest rumbling with barely suppressed laughter. “Awww, poor baby,” he crooned at me. I felt like punching him, but knew it would only hurt my hand. I growled and turned my back on him instead. He pulled me back against his chest and started humming my lullaby. Stupid prudish vampire with his stupid sleep-inducing lullaby, was my last thought before I drifted off into dreamland, where I finally found my satisfaction.

Chapter 24: Brunch
BPOV I woke to the feel of cold, hard lips moving against mine. I inhaled deeply through my nose, enjoying the intoxicating aroma of his sweet breath. If one has to wake up, this is definitely the way to go. I hummed in pleasure and felt him smile against my lips. Before I could stop myself, my arms were around him, my hands rubbing over his back, neck, and shoulders. He pulled away about a foot, far enough to bring me to my senses, and I cursed internally.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“I wasn’t finished yet,” I pouted, trying out my puppy dog eyes. He grinned, unimpressed. “Sorry, love, but I think Alice has perfected that expression, and I’ve gradually learned to ignore her. You’ll have to try a lot harder than that to get past my inhibitions.” Humph. That sounded like a challenge to me. I would find his weakness eventually and exploit it for all it’s worth. I bit my lower lip in thought. He groaned and swooped down to capture my mouth again, his tongue lightly tracing my bottom lip. I was surprised, lost in thought, trying to figure out what had happened. Aha! He liked it when I bit my lower lip. Hmmm. I filed that information away for future use. I would discover which buttons to press if it killed me. Hopefully, it would eventually kill me, though I would continue to live in every way that mattered. I would have the perfect husband and the perfect family. As my thoughts drifted to my vampire family, the events of the previous day crashed into my consciousness. I shot into a sitting position, gazing at Edward in apprehension. “Jacob! Has he called yet? Is Charlie still here?” Edward sat up beside me and gently stroked my cheek. “Relax, love. Charlie left an hour ago, and Jacob hasn’t called yet.” “Should I call him? Should we call Alice? Have her visions changed at all?” I panicked. He continued stroking my cheek soothingly, while rubbing my back with the other hand. “Just be patient, love. It is still fairly early to be expecting a call, and Alice will call us the minute anything changes. Everything is going to be fine, I’m sure.” I took a deep breath. I couldn’t just sit here and wait, not knowing what Jacob and his buddies were planning. If anything bad happened to my family because of my little plan, I would never forgive myself. Or if I had endangered the boys in any way. Would the other wolves find them now? Would the brainwashing of hatred and death begin? Would it be too late? Would the wolves fight amongst themselves? What had I done? What had I been thinking? Edward could hear my heart racing and my hyperventilating. He knew I was having an anxiety attack and decided to snap me out of it by kissing me again. It worked all too well. I couldn’t think straight whenever I was in his arms. I forgot to be worried or concerned. The house could probably fall down around us, and it wouldn’t faze me. My wits were definitely addled. He pulled away again, shortly after he felt me respond. I wondered if I could control my response, if he would kiss me longer. But who would want to kiss someone who was completely unresponsive? You might as well kiss your hand and pretend it’s your lover. I couldn’t wait around, thinking about all the possibilities. I could see why Edward wanted me to distract him last night. He obviously didn’t want to return the favor any more than necessary, so I decided it was time for a human moment. Whenever the fun started, I needed to be prepared to face it, whatever it may be. I hopped out of bed, thankful I didn’t trip for once. It allowed me to make a more graceful exit. I congratulated myself on that the whole way to the shower, allowing myself to add a little extra sway to my hips as I ‘glided’ out of the room. Well, perhaps glided is too graceful a term. Not tripping over anything any my path is about as graceful as I ever get. Unfortunately, in my haste to exploit my new found balance, I forgot to grab a change of clothes. I felt the blush forming on my cheeks as I realized I needed to go back into the room and get them, while Edward would watch in amusement. How embarrassing. Of course, I could just go ahead and take my shower and return to my room simply wrapped in my towel.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

Then the towel could slip while I’m looking for my clothes. I wonder how long he could hold on to his inhibitions if I stood before him in nothing but my birthday suit. No, that would be wrong. My mind was positively drooling over the idea of Edward being so overcome with desire for me that he would take me right then and there. My heart, on the other hand, whispered a warning. How would I feel if he rejected me after I bared all? I would be utterly devastated, drowning in feelings of despair, rejection, and hopelessness. It wasn’t worth the risk. I worked up my courage and marched back into my room. Edward raised his eyebrows in surprise as I came through the door looking exactly the same as I did when I left. I ignored him and gathered my fresh clothes. His lips twitched and his eyes shone with amusement as he realized what had happened, but he wisely chose not to comment. I took a nice hot shower, trying to reduce the tension in my neck and shoulders. What if Jacob calls while I’m in the shower? Would Edward pick up the phone? Would Jake leave a message? I decided to rush through the shower a little faster than usual, so I wouldn’t miss Jake’s call. I threw my clothes on and ran the brush through my hair, then hurried back into the bedroom with my pajamas. Edward was waiting patiently in my rocking chair. Just as I was going to sit in Edward’s lap and let him calm me, my phone rang. I startled, and jerked around, promptly falling onto the bed. Edward chuckled, and faster than my eyes could trace, he had gotten the phone and was handing it to me. I growled at him, though it wasn’t his fault. I didn’t like him laughing at my natural balance handicap. I answered the phone cautiously, hoping for good news. “Hello?” “Hi, Bella. It’s me, Jacob.” His voice was impassive, neither excited nor disturbed. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. “Hey, Jacob. I’m really glad you called. So what did you guys decide?” “We’ve decided to come to the brunch, but we want answers. No more pretending or lying. We want the truth.” His voice sounded harder now, more stern. “Of course, Jacob. I agree that you need to be told the truth. Should I bring the SUV?” There was a hesitation. “No, just drive your truck.” “Okay, Jacob,” I accepted, my voice heavy with disappointment. “I’ll be over to pick you up shortly.” “We’ll be waiting.” Then he hung up without saying goodbye. I gently hung up the phone on my end and looked at Edward with troubled eyes. His face had become the mask he uses when he wants to hide his feelings, his public mask, which makes his face appear to be carved out of stone. I bit my lip in concern. This wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. Edward’s features softened, and he pulled me onto his lap, rubbing my back. “Don’t worry, love. Everything’s going to be alright,” he murmured, kissing the top of my head. I sighed, pulling away to look up at him with a smile.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“Thanks, Edward. Well, let’s get this show on the road. Waiting will only prolong the torture. I’m going to go and get them now and bring them to your house. You can run home and warn the family of the impending invasion.” He nodded and carried me downstairs. I didn’t object like I usually would. Today, I wanted the comfort I could only find in his arms. He walked me out to the car, shutting and locking the front door behind us. He held the door open for me as I climbed into the driver’s seat, then leaned in to give me a goodbye kiss. I smiled nervously. “Here goes nothing,” I muttered, backing out of the driveway. He watched me drive away before taking off into the forest. I took my time driving to La Push. I felt a little better in one way, that I was actually doing something instead of just waiting. On the other hand, the closer I got to my destination, the stronger my nausea got. Had the boys actually changed yet? The process had started last night, but how long would the process take? Had they talked to the other wolves? I was worried about what might be awaiting me at Jacob’s house. I pulled onto the dirt road leading to Jacob’s house and saw the three boys exit the door, no doubt having heard my truck approaching. When I got to them, I stopped and stared. They had all grown at least three inches overnight and their muscles had grown and become more defined. They didn’t look fifteen anymore. The boyishness had left their faces. They looked more like eighteen. I knew they would be turning heads where ever they went. I was actually looking forward to bringing them around Forks, just to see the looks on Lauren’s and Jessica’s faces when they saw them. I would get a kick at seeing them throw themselves at a group of fifteen year olds. I especially wanted to see their expressions after informing them of the boys’ true age, after they had fawned and flirted and made sufficient fools of themselves. Bella! I fussed at myself. Those were not very nice thoughts. There was no need for me to stoop to their level. They hadn’t really done anything to me yet, since I didn’t bother making friends with them in the first place. I watched the boys all come around and get into the truck, and finally looked past their new bulging muscles to realize they were all wearing high-waters and really tight t-shirts. I started giggling, and they glared at me. The poor boys had outgrown all their clothes overnight! Alice was going to have a field day with this, at least if they let her. Of course, that meant they’d be ripping out of five hundred dollar outfits whenever they transformed, so maybe Alice wasn’t such a good idea. I controlled my giggling and settled for a smirk. “Wow, I think you guys are going to make high-waters fashionable,” I teased. They growled at me in annoyance. “No, seriously. Not many people could pull that look off successfully.” They huffed at me, all three folding their arms across their chests and refusing to look in my direction. “Relax, guys, the girls will all be much too distracted ogling your new muscles to even notice what you’re wearing. I mean look how long it took me, and I’m already in love with someone else.” They all looked at me then, smirking happily. Quil leered. “Did you like what you saw?” “Oh, yeah. If I wasn’t already taken, I’d seriously give you guys a run for your money. Well, once you turned sixteen anyway. I was actually thinking of introducing you to some of the girls from my school, just so I could watch them fawn all over you.” All three of them chuckled, losing their self-consciousness. I hadn’t pulled away from the house yet, as I wanted the guys somewhat at ease before I took them to the Cullens. It wouldn’t help matters if they were already tense before they got there. I was glad Billy wasn’t there. I wasn’t sure I was ready to face him yet, now that Jacob had begun changing.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

The drive to the Cullens was uneventful. None of the boys wanted to talk, so I let the silence continue. Everyone was lost in their own thoughts, so the quiet wasn’t awkward. As I pulled close to the house, I saw Jacob tense slightly out of the corner of my eye. My thoughts, however, were centered on the gorgeous young man waiting for me on the front porch. He smiled at me and was at the driver’s side door, opening it for me, the second I came to a stop. The wolves piled out warily. EPOV I heard Bella’s truck approaching from a mile away and stepped out onto the front porch to wait for her. All of my family members were apprehensive and each were dealing with it in their own way. I tuned out their thoughts, especially Jasper, who was caught between sending out calming waves and desiring to throw Alice over his shoulder and run until they were out of the danger zone. He wasn’t afraid for himself, but he was terrified something might happen to Alice. I saw all three boys tense when they noticed me, but they were more wary than hostile. I dashed over to Bella’s door as she pulled into position, anxious to have her safely in my arms again. I understood Jasper’s desire completely. I was battling with my own self not to run away with Bella and keep her far away from the soon to be wolves. I inhaled their scent. They didn’t smell bad yet, but didn’t smell as nice as they did yesterday. They had developed a slightly musty odor, which was still much better than wet dog. They wrinkled their noses a bit, and I could tell that my scent wasn’t as pleasant to them as it was yesterday either. Bella and I led them toward the house. Without even thinking about it, Jacob took the front position, with Embry and Quil flanking him on either side. I checked their thoughts, but they weren’t even aware of what they were doing. They were all nervous though, wondering how to behave around us now that they knew what we were. They were looking to Bella to guide their own behavior, and were confused at how comfortable she was walking with my arm around her shoulders and hers around my waist. They had seen our brief kiss as I helped her out of her truck and were still in shock over it. We all went inside and Esme met us in the living room. She immediately gave Bella a loving hug. “Good morning, dear. I’m always so happy to see you here with us.” Bella returned her hug, a radiant smile on her face that wasn’t lost on the boys. “Good morning, Esme. It smells absolutely fabulous in here, though you guys probably don’t think so.” “Don’t mind us, sweetie, we don’t need to breathe after all, and it’s certainly worth it to make you happy.” Esme turned to the boys and lit up like a Christmas tree. She clapped her hands, radiating joy and excitement, as if her child had come home from a semester at college. “Oh, boys! I was so hoping you would come. I’ve made all kinds of yummy things for you. Lots of meat for growing boys. Emmett is even out grilling steaks for you right now. I had him run to the store for them earlier.” I listened in to the boys’ thoughts. How can she be a bloodsucker when she looks at me like that? Like I’m the prodigal son returned to her at last. Nobody has ever looked at me that way. Like I’ve brightened their day with just my presence, and they can’t wait to scoop me up in their embrace and shower me with love and attention and all my favorite things until I never want to leave again. I bet my own mom would have looked at me that way. Like I’ve finally come home. (Jacob)
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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

My nose is having an orgasmic experience. I’m salivating already. Did she say steak? I love her. I don’t care if she’s a leech. She certainly knows the way to a man’s heart, and she can have mine as long as she keeps feeding me this way. And Carlisle doesn’t even eat, so how can he truly appreciate her properly. (Embry) Man, this woman is June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, and Betty Crocker all rolled into one. Is she like the perfect woman, or what? I wonder if I could be an honorary son? (Quil) Esme glided over to Jacob, embracing him joyfully. He was stiff for a moment, but then melted, wrapping his arms around her and resting his cheek on top of her head. Esme responded by going into full mom mode. I had told her that Jacob lived alone with his wheelchair-bound father. She stepped back, and he reluctantly let her go. “Well, look at you! You must have grown at least three inches since yesterday. And look at all those muscles! You’re going to have a hard time fighting off the girls when you go back to school tomorrow,” she enthused, beaming proudly at them. “Now why don’t you go get washed up for breakfast? The food is ready when you are.” Now, she is a mom with a capital M. “Sure thing, Mom,” Jacob answered, then blushed as he realized what he said. “I mean, Esme.” I didn’t think Esme could get any more radiant than she already was, but I was wrong. She seemed to be lit up from the inside, almost personifying pure maternal love. She gathered Jacob in a loving embrace, pouring her love into him. “I would be honored to have you as a son, Jacob Black,” she responded, her voice wobbling with emotion. She stepped back and looked at the other two boys. “The same goes for you two boys. My heart holds more than enough love to add you to my family.” Jacob’s mind was too overwhelmed to form coherent thought as she filled one of his deep basic emotional needs, the love of a mother. I could practically hear walls come crumbling down inside his mind as her love poured through. I knew there was no way he would ever willingly hurt her now, as he now identified her in his heart as his own mother. I spared myself a moment to be amused at the irony. A vampire with a werewolf son. A werewolf with a vampire mother. How absurd could we get? Well, I guess it wasn’t really any weirder than a werewolf imprinting on a newborn half-vampire, half-human hybrid, that happened to be the daughter of his former ‘true love’. Alice chose that moment to come dancing down the stairs, stopping in front of the boys. “Oh, this will never do,” she complained in horror. The Quileutes looked at her in confusion. “We need to go shopping. Today! You can’t be seen out in public looking like that. What will people think? Don’t you worry, I’ll take care of everything.” With that parting comment, she danced to the dining room, tapping her chin thoughtfully. The Quileutes stared after her, not comprehending their fate. I felt sorry for them. They turned back to us, their eyebrows raised in question. “I’m sorry, guys,” Bella moaned in pity, patting Jacob’s arm. “You’ll have to take one for the team.” Their curious expressions became disturbed. “Don’t ask,” I warned, shaking my head. “You don’t want to know.” “You two, stop scaring them,” Esme scolded. “Don’t worry, boys. Alice is just going to supply you with new wardrobes to match your change in stature.” Their expressions just went back to confusion, but they shrugged it off to get ready to eat.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

We all sat around the dining room table, even Emmett and Rosalie this time. The table was piled high with loads of food. We vampires were all holding our breath since the stench of so much hot human food was positively disgusting. At least we didn’t have to pretend to eat any of it this time. Esme was thrilled to see how much food the boys managed to cram onto their plates. Her eyes were lit with pleasure seeing how much they enjoyed her cooking. “So how’s the steak? Taste the steak!” Emmett begged, practically bouncing in his seat. “Emmett!” Rosalie griped. “Act your age.” Emmett promptly fell out of his chair, lying on his back on the floor, his arms crossed on his chest in typical burial position. He stayed perfectly still, not breathing, eyes closed. “Ha, ha. Very funny. So funny I forgot to laugh,” Rose growled sarcastically. “Finally!” Carlisle quipped. “I thought that boy would never die. Now we can get a little peace and quiet around here.” Bella started laughing out loud, finally realizing Emmett was pretending to be dead in order to ‘act his age’. The boys all laughed too. “Dude, he’s been dead,” Quil joked. “So if the undead die, is that undoing the undead? Would they be redead? What would you call a dead undead?” “Ashes,” Jasper returned with a smirk. The Quileutes started laughing so hard that Jacob choked. Quil started pounding on his back as he started coughing. We could tell it wasn’t serious, since the coughing meant air was able to pass through. “Uh, oh. Is there a doctor in the house?” Embry called out with a grin, realizing Jacob wasn’t really in trouble. We all grinned in response. Jacob quickly regained his poise, but he had tears of laughter streaming down his cheeks. Conversation turned to more general topics as the boys and Bella ate their breakfast. Emmett rejoined us at the table, wanting to talk about baseball. As soon as he sat down, Jasper yelled, “He’s Alive!” causing us all to jump, well except for Alice who was expecting it. Quil quickly joined in, “It’s a bloody miracle!” Emmett couldn’t resist. “Did somebody say blood?” Jasper and Edward responded together. “HooRah!” The Quileutes and Bella burst out laughing again. Carlisle put his forehead in his hand, shaking his head. “More teenagers. What have I done to deserve more teenagers?” “You’re simply blessed, my dear,” Esme responded mildly. He looked up with a smirk, showing he wasn’t really upset. “Right. Blessed. Uh, yeah. That was the word I was thinking. Mmhm, right. A family full of mythological immortal teenagers, some of whom are natural enemies. Yes, blessed. Edward, do remember the names of any of the mental institutions you were researching when you realized Bella knew what we were but wasn’t afraid of us? I think we have another potential inmate.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

Bella glared at me. “Mental institutions?” “I would visit you every day,” I assured her with a smirk. “Besides it sounds like you’d have either Esme or Carlisle to keep you company. We could throw in Emmett for good measure.” Rosalie growled at me. “Emmett? You’re the one who needs to go, control freak. Or how about Alice, the shopaholic?” Jasper drawled, “Heck, let’s just get a family ward. Better yet, we could build our own facility. Esme can design it, Rose and Alice can decorate it, and Carlisle can work there. Well, he can pretend to with his ‘doctor complex’. We’ll have them bring in deer daily. We’ll drink the blood and the wolves can eat the meat. All nice and tidy.” He sent everyone a wave of amusement that had us all giggling. What the heck? I don’t giggle. It’s undignified. I glared at Jasper while I giggled uncontrollably, promising retribution. He smirked, raising an eyebrow in challenge. Come and get me, Eddie. At least he stopped sending out the emotion though. We all calmed down. “Speaking of natural enemies,” Jacob stated in a commanding voice. “I think it’s time for some answers.” We all looked to Carlisle as our spokesman. He nodded calmly. “That’s why we’re here.”

Chapter 25: Answers
An unidentified Cullen’s POV “You are Cold Ones,” Jacob stated. “Vampires.” “Yes, we are,” Carlisle admitted. “But we do not drink human blood ever. We only hunt animals.” “What about bagged blood, like from the hospital?” Embry asked. Carlisle shook his head solemnly. “No, we do not drink that either. There are vampires who do, who consider that a fair compromise. Personally, I still have moral issues with that, the least of which is that it diminishes the available blood supply for patients who need it. Honestly, I have never used human blood as a food source, never in over 360 years. I was human once, a long time ago, and I chose to never relinquish my humanity. Even as a newborn completely on my own, I chose to run away from humans rather than be tempted to attack and kill them. I would consider myself a cannibal if I were to feed on human blood. I realize that is a highly unusual opinion for a vampire to have, but I do not want to be a murderer or a monster. Unfortunately, most vampires believe they are superior to humans. They view humans as nothing more than cattle, ripe for slaughter. They spare no thought to who might be hurt by the loss of the person they kill for their dinner, much less the loss of a future for that particular person.” “So if you’re not getting blood from the hospital, what are you doing there?” Quil wondered. We all looked at him like he was crazy. Carlisle raised an eyebrow. “I’m a surgeon. I save peoples’ lives. Ask anybody at the hospital. I spent 200 years, two hundred years, developing an immunity to human blood, so I would feel absolutely no temptation to taste it even if it splattered in my face. Why do you think I did
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it? I wanted to make a difference in this world. I wanted to spend my eternity making things better for others. Do you have any idea how many lives I’ve saved due solely to my advanced senses and increased speed? Lives that a human doctor would have been incapable of saving, surgeries a human doctor couldn’t possibly perform. That’s in addition to all the procedures I do that a human doctor could do just as easily if one were available. Can you even imagine how many babies I’ve delivered in the past hundred and fifty years? How many broken bones I’ve set, how many wounds I have stitched?” “But why?” Jacob queried impatiently. “What is your motivation? What makes a vampire go against its nature and become a doctor for humans?” “Ah,” Carlisle responded in comprehension. “I believe I understand your question now. My father was a preacher. He raised me to obey the teachings of the Bible, particularly to love my neighbor. His pet project was hunting vampires, seeking to destroy them, considering them evil soulless demons bent on destroying innocent human lives.” All three Quileutes nodded, their attention fully fixed on Carlisle. This was something to which they could relate. It was the same thing they were taught about vampires form the cradle. Carlisle noted their nods and continued his story. “He asked me to lead the hunt one night and to everyone’s amazement, we actually flushed a real vampire out of hiding. Since I was in the lead, he pounced on me and bit me. He then fled from the rest of my group, who were bearing torches, before he had time to drain me dry. The others left me where I had fallen, taking off in hot pursuit of the vampire. I knew my father would be devastated by what happened to me, so I hid myself in a nearby cellar. As I burned in the fires of hell, internally at least, I promised myself that if I became a vampire, I wouldn’t become a monster like the one who had bitten me. When the transformation was complete, I denied my thirst and tried to end my existence. That’s how I discovered vampires can’t drown, can’t suffocate, and can survive any fall. I chose to starve myself rather than attack a human, so I ran far away from people into the wilderness. After a month without feeding at all, I came across a deer, and my instincts took over. I had eaten venison as a human, so I had no moral issue with feeding from animals. I knew then I had another option. I didn’t have to be a monster or a murderer.” He paused to see if the boys had any questions about his story thus far. They nodded, indicating they had understood everything, and encouraged him to continue. “I wandered for a while, spent time with other vampires occasionally, and eventually came to the conclusion that I preferred living amongst and interacting with humans rather than vampires. I found that my vampire skills enabled me to help others, so I worked to make my new existence a blessing rather than a curse. I had a purpose, a reason for living. For over 275 years, I lived this existence without a mate or like-minded companion. Once I became a doctor, I worked round the clock, 24/7, taking off only enough time to hunt. I worked at more than one hospital to accomplish this without drawing attention to myself. I found the work highly fulfilling, and I had no one waiting at home for me, so I worked all the time. Over the past ninety years, I have slowly accrued my family. I now spend more time at home than at work, but I still have a mission, driven by my internal moral code, to help others, to love my neighbors. That is why I work at the hospital.” Carlisle paused, staring intensely into each of their eyes, trying to make a point, trying to show how he is different from other vampires. “I refuse to be a monster. I save lives instead of taking them. I help people rather than hurt them. I use my powers for good, not evil. I help bring children into this world, instead of sending them to an early grave. I put people back together rather than break them. I stop their bleeding, not start it. I give them blood, not take it away. I didn’t choose to become a vampire, but every day I choose to be a blessing, to benefit our society, to be a constructive force rather than a destructive one. I am a man of

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honor and integrity. I am trustworthy, thus, I can respect myself and can face my self in the mirror. Living this way is a deeply ingrained part of who I am as a man.” The soon-to-be wolves seemed taken aback and amazed. The full effect of Carlisle’s authority and sincerity rang through both his voice and his body language. There was no possible way to doubt him. Quil and Embry looked to Jacob to express their lingering concerns. “Okay, we believe you Carlisle, but what about the rest of your family, and what about the vampires like the ones in our legends – the emotionless monsters?” Jacob inquired defensively. “First of all, every member of my family lives the way I do, drinking only animal blood. Your legends speak of Cold Ones with red eyes, right? But they mention that I and my family have yellow eyes, correct? When a vampire drinks human blood, whether it is from a bag or from a person, their eyes turn red. When a vampire drinks only animal blood, their eyes turn yellow. If they do both, their eyes are essentially orange. If I were to drink human blood right now, my gold eyes would immediately turn red and it would take more than a day, plus multiple feedings of animal blood for my eyes to back to yellow. Thus, you can immediately tell, by looking at the eyes of all of my family members, that none of them partake of human blood.” Jacob, Embry, and Quil stared carefully into each vampire’s eyes, finally relaxing some of the tension they had felt since arriving. They turned expectantly back to Carlisle, knowing he wasn’t finished yet. “The one exception to the eye color is that of newborn vampires. Their eyes are red because they are still full of their own human blood. It takes months of a strictly animal blood diet before their eyes turn yellow. We only know of one other family of vegetarian vampires,” Carlisle explained. “Vegetarian vampires?” Quil asked in confusion. “It’s an inside joke. That’s what we call ourselves, since we don’t eat humans,” Edward responded. The boys nodded, showing their comprehension. “Please continue, Carlisle,” Jacob instructed. “Most vampires consider humans like cattle. They feel no more guilty about killing a human for food than you to when you eat a steak.” The boys looked down at their plates, then back up to Carlisle, wearing expressions of disgust. “As far as taste is concerned, human blood tastes like steak and animal blood tastes like plain white minute rice. Not many people can choose to stick to a diet of nothing but plain white minute rice, with no butter, no spice or seasoning, no oil, nothing at all, day in and day out for all eternity. Especially, when steak is everywhere around them, the delicious aroma filling the air. Animal blood is filling, but not very satisfying,” Carlisle added calmly. “So human eating vampires care no more for human feelings, than you care about the feelings of the cow you just consumed.” The boys shifted uncomfortably in their chairs, sneaking glances at one another. They obviously didn’t appreciate the comparison. “So you have every right to defend your people against any human drinker. We will likely even help you, particularly if the attacks are deliberate. Normally, we just ask nomads not to hunt within 300 miles of Forks. That usually works fine, at least as far as protecting the humans in

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our territory. I realize it doesn’t help humans elsewhere. However, I do not like taking the lives or existences of any sentient being where they are humans, vampires, or werewolves.” “Werewolves?” Jacob squeaked in shock. We all looked at him in surprise. “Yes, like you three,” Carlisle mentioned casually. The Quileutes looked at him in shock, their mouths hanging open. “Oh, had you not realized it yet? You spoke of natural enemies, so I assumed you understood.” “I meant our whole tribe is supposed to be enemies of your family. There’s no such thing as werewolves,” Jacob protested. “Au contraire, mon ami,” Emmett jested. “Our family and your tribe are not enemies,” Carlisle corrected. “We are allies against the human killing Cold ones. We are supposed to be friends, since we are fighting on the same side, protecting the same people. I prefer to use nonviolent methods of persuasion whenever possible. I will, however, defend my family to the death. I am capable of fighting, though I prefer to only fight when absolutely necessary. You three have all been invited to become part of my family. The choice is yours, but if you do accept the invitation, I would defend you with my life, risking my entire existence to protect you, just as I would do for any of my other children.” The boys looked around at our welcoming, smiling faces. Jacob’s eyes were shiny with unshed tears. They thanked all of us, obviously touched that we wanted them to join us. “Now, before you get too excited though, I need to warn you,” Carlisle continued seriously. “All three of you are werewolves, or will be soon. You will continue to grow and mature, and will maintain a body temperature around 108 degrees. We did not realize before we moved back here to Forks, that our presence alone is enough to activate your shapeshifting genes. The genetic information is encoded in the 24th pair of chromosomes you each have. We sincerely apologize for that. There are many good things about being a werewolf, and I hope you’ll keep that in mind when the time comes for your first transformation. Just try to remember that your anger and fear trigger the change into wolf form. In that form, you are horse-sized wolves, who can run hundreds of miles an hour, can heal extremely quickly, stop aging, are immensely strong, are immune to sickness or illness of any kind, and are fully capable of killing vampires. Your calmness will help trigger the change back to your human form.” “So that portion of our legends is true too?” Jacob gulped. “Yep, you’re gonna get all furry,” Emmett teased. “And you’ll stink too. Werewolves smell like wet dogs, at least to vampires. Of course, vampires smell bad to werewolves too, so we’re even. We’ll smell sickeningly sweet to your delicate noses.” Jacob looked to Carlisle for confirmation. “You know, I’ve always wanted a dog, Jake,” Bella mused. “But Renee would never let me get one.” She started singing an old song, “Feed Jake, he’s been a good dog. My best friend, right to the end. If I die before I wake, feed Jake.” Everybody laughed, lightening the tension that had been building up around the table. “Thanks a lot, Bells,” Jacob growled, rolling his eyes. “I love you too.”

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“Yeah, once you’ve gone furry, I challenge you three to a baseball game, Cullen Style,” Emmett taunted. “You’ll finally be some decent competition.” “Besides, you’re not the only werewolves in the tribe. You’ll have Sam Uley to help you. He’s been a wolf for a while now,” Carlisle assured them, getting back to business. “Sam Uley’s a werewolf?” Jacob muttered in disbelief. “Well, I guess that explains a lot.” “Who else hangs out with Sam?” Edward asked. “Paul!” Quil and Embry answered together. “So Paul is one too. You know, he is supposed to imprint on your sister, Jacob. Why don’t you see if you can get her home for a visit soon? Paul will mellow out quite a bit once he finds her,” Bella suggested. “Why do I want Paul anywhere near my sister?” Jacob wondered, looking irritated. Bella grumbled. “It’s going to happen sooner or later anyway, Jacob. Imprinting is a good thing, guys. You get to find your one true love, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are meant to be together. The love bonds between a wolf and his imprint are just as strong as those between vampire mates. The bonds between you and your soul mate are unbreakable. Think how wonderful it is to have complete confidence in the rightness of your relationship. If you find your mate while she is still a child, you can take comfort in the knowledge that you wont age while you wait for her to grow older. In the mean time, you can be there for her in whatever capacity she needs, brother, friend, protector, etc.” “By the way, Jacob, you are the true Alpha of the pack, but Sam is the acting Alpha for the time being. Oh, who is Sam dating right now?” Bella queried. “Emily. It was rotten. He made all kinds of promises to Leah Clearwater and then broke her heart by ditching her for her cousin,” Jacob grumbled angrily. “Has Emily been attacked by a bear?” Bella demanded. “Yeah, a few months ago. She has terrible scars on her face,” Jacob replied. “Okay, I’ve got a plan, if you guys are with us. Now that you have gotten to know the Cullens and heard their side of the story, do you feel like we can put aside past prejudices and all be friends?” Bella challenged. Jacob exchanged meaningful glances with Quil and Embry. He shrugged, and they both nodded. Suddenly, Jacob looked at Bella with concern. “I’m willing to be friends with the Cullens, family even, but where do you fit into all of this, Bella?” Carlisle, chose to answer for her. “Edward and Bella are soul mates. They are already bonded. Once you share memories with a wolf who has imprinted, you’ll be able to understand the strength of the bond. Which reminds me, you’ll have a shared pack mind once you change. You’ll be able to communicate with each other telepathically while in wolf form. Both Bella and Edward would experience debilitating physical and emotional pain if separated, so she has, of course, joined our family as Edward’s mate. For now, she will remain human, but she will be changed into a vampire some day.”

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“You’re going to turn Bella into a bloodsucker?” Quil shouted in horror. “You’ll make her a monster! She’d be better off dead,” Jacob protested heatedly. Five young vampires and one human girl glared angrily at them. A few even growled to express their displeasure. Carlisle met their gazes calmly. “I have just finished explaining to you that we choose not to be monsters. Please explain to me how we are monsters more so than you are? Would you consider yourself to be better off dead? We will train her properly to partake solely of animal blood. We will actively prevent her from hunting humans until she develops enough selfcontrol to prevent herself from taking human life.” “Okay, maybe she wouldn’t be a monster, but she wouldn’t be human either,” Jacob admitted. “What about all the human experiences she’ll miss once you stop her heart?” “We promise not to change her until it becomes medically necessary. She will remain human until the choice becomes either let her die or change her into a vampire,” Edward promised solemnly. “We will not let her go gently into that good night,” Carlisle added. “We will not doom Edward to an eternity without his mate. That isn’t fair to either of them.” The Quileutes were silent for a few minutes. Then they conducted a hasty discussion in Quileute, effectively excluding everyone but Carlisle, who had learned their language in a previous century. He did not indicate his knowledge however, neither commenting nor reacting to whatever they were saying, giving them the illusion of privacy. After just a few minutes, they came to a consensus and Jacob spoke for all of them. Surprisingly, the voice coming from Jacob’s mouth was infused with all the authority of an Alpha werewolf as the words poured out from him, “If Bella agrees to an end of life measure of allowing the change solely to prolong her existence in the face of imminent death, then we will have no objection. You will need a written living will from her, signed in the presence of witnesses, indicating her permission to allow the change to occur, along with medical evidence to support a diagnosis of imminent death at the time of the change. If you have these two things, I, Jacob Black, will officially allow her change to be an exception to the treaty.” “Thank you, Jacob,” Carlisle approved happily. “Wow, Jacob,” Bella quipped. “I didn’t know you knew all those big words, much less how to string them together into a meaningful sentence.” He ducked his head, looking chagrined, then met her eyes with a smile. “I know. I don’t know what came over me, but suddenly I knew just what to say.” “Interesting,” Carlisle pondered. “Perhaps there is some kind of pack memory encoded in the DNA that gets passed down from generation to generation.” “You know, technically we wouldn’t be breaking the treaty anyway. We’ve figured out how to perform the transformation without biting the person, but we appreciate you understanding and acceptance of the situation. We really do want to work with you instead of against you,” Edward mentioned. The boys seemed intrigued that Bella could be changed without being bit, and so did half the vampires. Those in the know, namely Edward, Bella, Carlisle, and Alice, chose not to share any of the details at that time.

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“Well, now that we’re all on the same page, why don’t you share your plan, Bella?” Jacob suggested. She nodded, looking around the table.

Chapter 26: Bold and Beautiful
BPOV “Okay, we need to be proactive here to accomplish our goal of peace and unity. We need to make friends with Jared, Kim, Leah, and Seth. We need to get them on our side before it’s too late. If we wait, they will be brainwashed by the whole enemy propaganda, and it will be that much harder for them to form an unbiased opinion on the matter. Once we have them on our side, Jacob’s sister can manage Paul, and that just leaves Sam. I was thinking about how we might reach him, to show him how the Cullens are different from the monsters in the legends, how they are people who care about others. I know the way to Sam’s heart is through Emily, because she is his imprint, and he would do anything for her.” “Wait a minute,” Jacob interrupted. “Emily is Sam’s imprint? I thought you said imprinting was a good thing. Look at all the pain it has caused to Leah, Sam, and Emily. How can you say it’s good?”

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“It is good in that you find your true soul mate. Leah and Sam loved one another, but they didn’t belong together. Their relationship would have eventually failed for one reason or another. At least they found out before they got married. However, ideally, you wouldn’t get involved in a serious relationship, knowing you will one day imprint. You would know you would one day leave whomever you were with to be with the one you love, so you wouldn’t put yourself into a position to cause the kind of heartbreak Leah has had to suffer. Sam unfortunately made commitments to Leah before he became a werewolf. This is the warning to the rest of you. Date if you want, but don’t make any promises to any girl, because your heart is not your own to give. It already belongs to somebody you simply haven’t found yet.” “Well, that kind of sucks, don’t you think? That we have no say so in whom we love?” Jacob griped. “Honestly, Jake, it’s that way for everyone. They just don’t realize it. Regular humans can’t command their hearts to love or not to love any more than you can. Unfortunately, because they don’t have something as obvious as an imprint to guide them, so many of them make foolish mistakes in relationships and end up divorced. They lose their happy ever after, because they don’t recognize when they’ve found it and when they haven’t.” Everyone nodded, murmuring quietly in agreement with my sentiments. Several of the people around the table were looking at me with new found respect. Sheesh. I may not be a vampire, but I am pretty smart for a human, if I do say so myself. Not that I’d admit that out loud, because I wouldn’t want to boast, but my IQ was definitely up at the high end of the range. “Back to Sam and Emily,” I reminded everyone. They looked at me expectantly. Because Emily is Sam’s imprint, he would move heaven and earth for her. His whole universe revolves around her. So the easiest way to win him is to win her. Besides, I wanted to do something nice for her. She didn’t choose this life, but she is trying to make the best of it. I know she is self-conscious about her scars, and they are a constant reminder to Sam of how he hurt her.” “Sam did that to her?” Quil burst out in outrage. “How dare he, the bastard?!” “It was an accident,” Edward soothed. “He never meant to hurt her. He got angry, lost control, and phased into his wolf form while he was standing too close to her. He accidentally gashed her with his claws during the process of changing.” “That’s terrible!” Jacob gasped. The three of them appeared lost in thought, disturbed looks on their faces, as they finally began to comprehend the fate in store for them, and the dangers their friends and families would face if they didn’t learn how to control themselves properly. “Carlisle, couldn’t you do plastic surgery on Emily and make those scars all but invisible? I feel certain you could do whatever reconstructive surgery might be necessary to restore her looks to her as much as possible. If anyone can, you can,” I suggested. I had complete faith in Carlisle. He appeared touched by my belief in him and his abilities. Everyone at the table stared at me in approval and amazement for my ingenious plan. I didn’t know why nobody else had thought of it. “Yes, of course,” Carlisle replied thoughtfully. “I’d have to take a look at the actual injury before I could say for sure what needed to be done, but a good picture should be enough for an initial evaluation.” Jake, Quil, and Embry looked excitedly at him, with their eyes full of hope. Knowing now that it wasn’t her fault in any way that Sam broke things off with Leah, they wanted to do something nice and helpful for the sweet, pretty young girl. They wanted to make amends for the way the tribe had been treating her as well.

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“I’ll take a picture and bring it to you as soon as possible,” Jacob volunteered. “Any other ideas, Bella?” Carlisle asked me respectfully. It thrilled me to hear him use that tone with me. It was nice to be appreciated. “Not right now, no,” I confessed, wishing I had a few more tricks up my sleeve. “You know, Bella,” Jasper mused thoughtfully. “You’re one smart cookie. The Confederacy could have used someone with your strategizing abilities on our side. It might have turned the tide of the war in our favor.” He paused, stroking his chin with a frown. “Though that might not have been a good thing. Perhaps I’ll write a series of alternate history novels portraying the likely outcomes of civilization if the South had won the war. Hmmm.” I realized he was lost in thought, making mental outlines for his new pet project, so I tuned him out and focused back on the rest of the family. “Great! Now that we’re all family, let’s go get my car, so Rosalie and I can get started working on it,” Jacob recommended enthusiastically. Rose’s face lit up with a radiant smile. “Sounds good to me,” she agreed, looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding the car essentially from scratch. “I’ll go get everything set up and ready in the garage.” Jacob and I headed back to La Push in the SUV, while Quil and Embry stayed to play video games with Emmett and Jasper. Carlisle and Esme cleaned up the dining room, putting away all the excess food. The boys assured Esme they would be glad to polish off the leftovers in a couple of hours. Edward and Alice went outside so Alice could try to search the future beyond the wolves’ sphere of influence. On the way to Jacob’s house, another idea struck me. “Hey, Jacob, how about you introduce me to Seth and Leah, and Kim today. While we’re at it, maybe you could track down Jared and we could take him and Seth back to the house to hang with all of you guys. I’m supposed to meet Angela this afternoon, to spend some time getting to know her. Kim and Leah can come with me and we can make it a girls’ day out. What do you think?” “Sure, sure, Bells,” Jacob muttered absentmindedly. He used my cell phone to call and invite the four of them to join us. To my surprise, Leah and Seth showed up a few minutes later, while Jacob was busy attaching his car to the tow bar of the SUV. Jacob quickly made introductions before focusing all his attention back on his task. Seth meandered over to help, leaving me alone with Leah. I was nervous about how to approach her. I decided to just bite the bullet. “Hey, Leah. I just arrived in town a week ago and wanted to make some new friends. What do you think about going on a little Girls Day Out trip with me and a couple of other girls. At least it would be a good excuse to get off the rez for a few hours,” I offered hopefully. She looked deep into my eyes judging the sincerity of my offer. Reading my genuine desire to be friends, she accepted with a shy smile. I could see the pain she was trying to hide, having lost her best friend, her intended husband, her beloved cousin, and her dreams for the future all at the same time. Kim showed up shortly thereafter, and also accepted my offer with shy gratitude. Jared met Jacob at the garage. Jacob asked them if they wanted to hand with Quil and Embry at the Cullens’ house. After the initial shock wore off, they hastily agreed. The girls were surprised at

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the our initial destination, and Leah was concerned for Seth at first, but after receiving reassurance from Jacob, he let it go. “If anything bad happens to him there, I’ll have your head on a platter, Jacob Black,” She threatened. Jacob scoffed, unintimidated. We all piled back into the SUV and made the journey to the Cullens house in relative silence. Once we arrived, after all the introductions, I pulled Rosalie aside and explained Leah’s situation to her. I asked her to share her own story with Leah, of being betrayed by the man she expected to marry only a week before the wedding. Leah hadn’t been raped by her exfiancé, but the feelings of hurt and betrayal of losing one’s hopes and dreams for the future in the face of utter rejection by the one you had chosen to spend the rest of your life with, were similar. I felt like the two of them could relate to one another, and pain shared results in a slight easing of the burden we all carry around with us. I thought maybe they could help each other come to terms with the feelings of loss, betrayal, hate, anger, distrust, guilt, shame and self-loathing that were a natural result of this type of hurt by someone they trusted.. Maybe they could even become friends. Rosalie agreed and pulled Leah aside, taking her for a walk down by the river. Seth gravitated to Edward and engaged him in conversation. Jacob and Jared too the car over to the garage and got it situation so it would be ready for a major overhaul. Alice made off with Kim, excited to have a new Barbie available for a makeover. She spouted fashion and makeup tips the whole way to the stairs, dragging a bewildered Kim behind her. I took a deep breath and used the opportunity to call Angela to make sure she was okay with two girls from La Push joining us for the afternoon. She was totally fine with the idea. In fact, she was excited by the opportunity to make some new friends. I had a sudden premonition, or perhaps intuition would be more accurate, and realized there was a good chance Alice would desire to come also. So I quietly asked Angela if she would be comfortable with Alice joining us. She quickly agreed. She admitted Alice seemed really nice and in a group setting away from school, she didn’t expect to be intimidated at all. I confessed that Alice could be a bit intimidating and occasionally overwhelming, particularly when shopping was involved, but Angela was determined. She then confessed that Rosalie and Emmett were the ones she found most intimidating, which was why she didn’t want to sit at the Cullen table during lunch. I laughed and agreed that they could be rather intimidating, but admitted both were real softies on the inside, calling Emmett a big teddy bear. She giggled at the idea. I hung up and went back inside, followed by Leah and Rosalie. Rose called Emmett over, and he came right away. He gave her a scorching kiss and a grin before going back to the guys and the games. Rose whispered something to Leah and gave her a gentle hug of encouragement. Jacob and Jared came in, looking for Rose, eager to get started on the project. Alice and Kim chose that moment to make their entrance. “Wow, Kim, you look gorgeous,” I pointed out, helping draw the attention of the room to her. All the Quileute boys’ jaws dropped as they stared at the vision of Kim, especially Jared’s. “Kim?” Jared asked in surprised disbelief, looking at her as if seeing her for the first time. Quil let out a wolf whistle, “Wheeetwhew!” Embry punched his arm, reminding him to mind his manners.

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“Looking good, Kim,” Jacob complimented her. Alice danced over to Leah and smiled winningly. “Your turn!” Alice sang, holding out her hand. Leah looked over at Kim, then back to Alice. She took a deep breath, snuck one more quick glance at Kim, nodded nervously, and took Alice’s hand. Alice quickly dragged her upstairs before she could regain her sanity and change her mind. “Thanks, Rose,” I murmured under my breath, knowing she would hear me. “I think you’ve really helped her.” She smiled at me with genuine pleasure, which warmed my heart. “C’mon, guys,” Rose commanded Jacob and Jared. “Time to get to work. Enough lazing around. If you want Esme to keep feeding you like she has been, then you need to earn your keep.” “Feeding?” Jared asked, looking at Jacob. Jacob grabbed his belly and dramatically moaned in pleasure. He licked his chops and grinned. “It’s pure heaven! That woman is a sheer genius in the kitchen. Best food I’ve ever tasted,” he professed. “Really?” Jasper asked skeptical, raising his eyebrows in surprise. “Heck, yeah!” Embry shouted form his position of the couch. “I begged for her to run away with me, but the poor woman is completely devoted to Carlisle, so she had to turn down my offer.” Everybody started laughing. “Do I hear my name being used in vain?” Carlisle inquired mischievously, escorting Esme into the room. “Oh, look, honey!” Esme enthused. “We have new guests! Somebody please introduce us.” I took it upon myself to introduce Seth, Kim, and Jared, letting them know Leah was upstairs with Alice. Carlisle and Esme cheerfully welcomed them, encouraging them to make themselves at home. Esme offered them food, but they preferred to wait a bit. “These are the scary Cullens our parents have threatened us with when we refuse to obey? These are the emotionless, soulless, bloodthirsty monsters who will eat us alive if we look at them funny? These are the evil masterminds bent on the senseless destruction of the tribe and all life as we know it?” Jared whispered to Jacob, not realizing all the vampires could hear him, even Alice upstairs. “Yep!” Jacob replied with a laugh. “I think the elders must have been smoking something when they came up with that nonsense. I’m about as afraid of Esme as I am my own grandma, and the way Carlisle acts, it feels like he ought to be nominated for sainthood or something,” Jared mumbled. “I know,” Jacob chuckled. “There are evil vampires like the ones in the legends, but the Cullens are on the same side we are. They help protect humans from the murdering kind, just like we do. There’s no reason we can’t be friends with them, or even one big happy family.” “Cool!” Jared agreed. They followed Rosalie out to the garage, missing Leah’s grand entrance. Carlisle and Esme went back up to his study.

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Leah walked gracefully down the stairs, brimming with confidence. She was beautiful, and she knew it. Alice followed along behind her. “Absolutely gorgeous, Leah,” I commented. “All the guys in Port Angeles are going to be drooling when they see the five of us strolling along.” Alice grasped her hands together, shrieking with excitement. “Oh thank you, Bella! Just give me a few seconds, and I’ll be ready to go.” “Hey, Alice!” I called up the stairs after her, not bothering to raise my voice. “Great idea, Bella. I’ll take care of it,” came the reply, floating down to me. I smiled. We were going to have so much fun. Quil, Embry and Seth had gathered around Leah and were behaving foolishly to get her attention. I put my arm around Kim, seeing she felt a little left out. “So, Kim, it seemed Jared was rather impressed with your new look,” I smirked. She lit up like a light bulb and nodded shyly. “Don’t worry, you’ll get your share of attention at the mall, but it was pretty obvious to everyone that there was a special chemistry between you and Jared, and none of them want to intrude on it.” “Really? Are you sure?” she gasped in surprise. I nodded and grinned. She relaxed, filled with joy. Alice came racing back down the stairs, a small duffel bag on her arm. “I’m ready!” She sang. I laughed, loving her exuberance. “So, shall we go show all the guys in Port Angeles how hot the girls in Forks really are?” I asked the girls. “Absolutely!” they agreed, congregating around me. “We need to pick up Angela, and then we’ll be ready to knock their socks off and give them something to dream about when they’re all alone at night,” I giggled. “Heck, yeah!” Leah exclaimed happily. “Let’s knock them dead.” “I don’t think I like this plan, Bella,” Edward grumbled. “They’d better keep their socks and everything else on their bodies where it belongs.” We all started laughing. “It’s just a saying, Edward,” I laughed. “Boy are you behind the times.” He growled and I stuck my tongue out at him. “Yeah, now that’s mature,” Emmett teased. “Nice comeback, Bells.” Jasper came over and hugged Alice to him. “Maybe I should follow you guys and make sure the menfolk keep their paws to themselves, darlin’.” “Well, I for one, don’t think they should go out at all, at least not without us to escort them safely,” Edward protested. “Some boys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world. I want to be the one to walk in the sun, oh, girls just want to have fun,” I sang softly, smirking at Edward.

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The other girls joined me in the chorus, belting it out with their hands on their hips and grins on their faces. “That’s all they really want, is some fun. When the working day is done, oh, girls, girls just want to have fun. They just wanna, they just wanna. Girls, girls just wanna have fun.” The guys all watched us in amusement, shaking their heads at our antics. Carlisle and Esme came back down the stairs to say goodbye. “Aren’t I supposed to ask when you’re going to live your life right?” Esme asked with amusement, giving us each a hug. “I suppose I should be inquiring what you are going to do with your life?” Carlisle added, playing along. I laughed. “That’s right! Nice to know you have good taste in music!” I teased, giving Carlisle a warm hug. He rolled his eyes. “Yes, that is one of the songs Alice tortured us with a few years ago,” he murmured, winking at me. “Hey! It’s got a great beat for dancing!” Alice defended. “Sure thing,” Emmett shouted over the volume of the video game. “It made it onto Dance Dance Revolution.” “Yeah, that’s Emmett’s criteria for good music,” Jasper quipped. “It has to have been chosen for use in a video game.” “Darn tootin’” Emmett laughed. “Works for me.” Edward stood off to the side looking very cross with everyone and everything. I moved over to him, giving him another kiss. “Don’t worry, dear, you know you’re still number one, but girls, they wanna have fun,” I whispered against his lips. He chuckled. “Just don’t forget whose arms you’re coming home to, my dear,” he reminded me, giving me one last hug. I winked at him and headed for the front door. “Let’s get this show on the road, people,” I shouted cheerfully. “Time’s awastin’.” We drove over to Angela’s house and rang her doorbell. She opened the door happily, but then seemed overwhelmed to see us all crowded onto her front porch. I saw her take in everyone’s looks and outfits and then look down at herself self-consciously. “Can we come in for a few minutes, Angela?” I inquired eagerly. She nodded shyly, stepping back so we could pass by into her living room. I made the introductions, saving Alice for last. Angela looked at the duffel in Alice’s hand in confusion. “This little pixie is Alice. She’s an unstoppable force of nature. She has given us all makeovers this morning, and is insisting on giving you one too before we head out. I would try to stop her, but I have learned over the past week that Alice always gets her way, so it’s just easier to

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flow with the current rather than fight against it. We’ll just make ourselves at home here in your living room until she’s finished with you.” Angela looked at me in confused surprise. “Makeover?” Alice grabbed her hand and dragged her down the hallway to her bedroom. “Why, yes! Don’t mind if I do,” Alice agreed as if Angela had been offering. Ten minutes later, I heard Angela muttering ‘wow’ over and over again. I figured she was getting her first glimpse of herself in the mirror. After a minute or two, she walked back into the living room with a new level of confidence. She grinned cheekily at me. “So what are we waiting for, girls?” she demanded eagerly. “Let’s go turn some heads.” “Even more beautiful than usual, Angela,” I complimented her. “You look fabulous. We all do,” Kim mentioned happily. “Let’s go have some fun,” Leah giggled. “The boys in Port Angeles won’t know what hit them.” Alice came out with the duffel repacked, a big grin on her face. “I can’t wait to see their jaws drop when they see us coming!” “Thanks, Alice,” we all told her, happy to be looking and feeling bold and beautiful. We all piled in the SUV and took off down the highway, singing, laughing, and having a grand old time.

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Chapter 27: Girls Day Out
BPOV The five of us headed into the mall together, still laughing and enjoying each other’s company. “Time for shopping!” Alice trilled, bouncing in place. We laughed at her enthusiasm. “Remember, Alice, you may have unlimited credit, but the rest of us don’t,” I reminded her. She pouted, looking extremely downcast. Then she had an idea and was back to bouncing again. “Let me treat you today! Please? Please? I have more money than I could ever possibly spend, so it means so little to me. Spending time with all of you, having friends, is worth way more than money,” she pleaded. The other girls looked uncomfortable. “We don’t want your charity,” Leah responded stiffly. “Oh, you can pay me back if you like!” Alice insisted. “Just let me pick out some new outfits for you, and in return, you can let me do your hair and makeup and pick out your outfits before you go on a date! How’s that?” I groaned loudly. “Oh, I don’t think so, Alice. You’d have to buy us half the mall to make that worthwhile.” I winked at her where the others couldn’t see. The others were looking at me like I was insane, which I am, but that’s beside the point. “She can spend hours getting you ready for your date,” I explained. “What she did to you today is nothing compared to the way she usually operates. She’ll torture you endlessly for an hour or two before finally deciding you pass muster. In the end, you do look fabulous. She is absolutely brilliant at what she does, but the agony of having to sit still for so long while she pokes and prods your face and hair almost outweighs the end result. Especially when she then fixes herself up just as well in about five minutes. So unfair.” Alice smirked. “I’ve had a lot of practice fixing myself, silly Bella. Besides, you know it is one the things I love to do most of all, but I haven’t had any friends willing to let me play Barbie with their bodies.” “Yeah, there’s a reason for that, Alice,” I muttered. “I don’t really enjoy being Bella Barbie.” “Yet, Edward is always pleased with the results,” she prodded. “Yes, of course he is, but he still thinks I look beautiful just the way I am. Though I have to admit, it is fun to see him go speechless at the sight of me.” The other three girls were paying close attention to our conversation. “Oooooohh! I know!” Alice squealed. “We could have a slumber party! If you girls will let me buy stuff for you today, you can pay me back by having a slumber party at my house next
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weekend! We’ll do our nails and our makeup and our hair. We’ll watch movies and talk about boys. We’ll play games and giggle and stay up all night long and throw popcorn at each other. I’ve never had a slumber party before! Oh, please, please, please!” She pulled out her puppy dog eyes expression, going so far as to drop to her knees, hands clutched together as she begged. Leah, Kim, and Angela all looked at her like she had escaped from a mental institution. Come to think of it, she had, several decades ago. Hee, hee. “Let me get this straight,” Leah began, crossing her arms across her chest. “You want to buy us a bunch of clothes, and in return, you want us to spend the night at your house and allow you to give us makeovers whenever you want?” Alice nodded enthusiastically. “I know I get the better end of the deal, but please, say yes! I have impeccable taste in clothes. I promise I won’t buy anything that won’t look absolutely fabulous on you. Please?” The girls exchanged incredulous glances. The looked to me in question, as if asking, ‘Is she for real?’ “She’s perfectly serious,” I confirmed. “You’ll really make her day if you let her buy things for you. She’s positively addicted to shopping, but she’s already filled all the closets in the Cullen house to the bursting point. She buys all their clothes for them, with the exception of Rosalie. This girl practically lives to shop. I think she considers it her purpose in life. It’s a good thing she’s filthy rich or her little habit would have all of them in the poorhouse within a week.” Alice glared at me. “Hey, sometimes the truth hurts,” I shrugged. “Shopping is a perfectly fine life goal,” Alice growled. “So is helping others understand style and develop fashion sense. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.” We all started laughing uproariously at her comment. It was so Alice. She glared for a few seconds longer and then joined in the laughter. “Okay, okay,” Leah capitulated once she calmed down. “You can buy me whatever you want, and I won’t complain. In return, I’ll allow you to make me look fabulous whenever you want and attend a slumber party with all my new friends, where I will have tons of fun and enjoy myself immensely.” “Sounds like a fair trade to me,” Kim agreed, chuckling. “Sure, I’m in,” Angela agreed. “I’ll force myself to wear the beautiful outfits you choose, force myself to endure your ministrations to make me look my best, and force myself to spend time at a party with the four of you, whose company I have enjoyed more than anyone else’s thus far. It’s a tough sacrifice, but I’m willing to take one for the team.” Alice threw her arms around Angela, giving her an excited hug. “Oh thank you! I’ll try to make your sacrifice worthwhile.” We all started laughing again. I swear, Alice is something else. “Okay, let’s start with lingerie!” Alice exclaimed happily. I groaned, rolling my eyes. I hadn’t forgotten the last time she took me lingerie shopping, only this time there was no Edward waiting to catch a mental glimpse of my figure. Leah punched me lightly on the arm.

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“Hey, don’t ruin her fun, Bella!” Leah protested. “I’m sure we could all use a few things from that store.” She smirked at my discomfort. “C’mon, we’re all girls here. Besides, I’m sure we need some decent pajamas for our slumber party.” “Yes, yes, yes!” Alice shrieked. She took off down the walkway at a fast human pace. I had to jog to keep up with her. She noticed us struggling to match her pace and slowed down a bit, allowing us to catch up to her. We went in, and the others had a field day, picking out items for each other, encouraging each other to try things on, and finding things they really liked. They were surprised when they realized how many things Alice actually bought. I knew she had paid attention to everything they had liked, even if they put it back afterward. As a result, we each ended up with our own bag full. Great, now we would be walking through the mall holding bags that prominently displayed the name of the lingerie store. Well, I guess that’s one way to get the guys’ attention. “Dresses now!” Alice enthused. We all followed behind her, trailing along like little ducklings following their mother to the pond. I chuckled to myself at the analogy. Once inside the new store, Alice became like a drill sergeant, ordering us to try on the dresses she pulled from the racks as fast as we could carry them. We would then model them for her and each other. It would only take Alice seconds to determine whether the dress was a ‘keeper’ or if it should be thrown back. Charlie would be proud of me using a fishing analogy, I thought to myself. Sometimes she made her decision before the rest of us could even get a good look. None of us argued with her though. Her taste was inevitably impeccable, as she had said. We walked out of that store with three new dresses each. Angela, Kim, and Leah were looking a little overwhelmed by the little dictator Alice had become once we entered her shopping domain. “I tried to warn you, guys, but you didn’t listen,” I teased. “I told you she was an unstoppable force of nature. She’s like a tornado. She’ll suck you up, twirl you around until you’re dizzy, and then set you down again someplace else.” We all laughed again, except Alice. Alice glared at us, her hands on her hips. “But that’s a good thing, right?” The other three frantically began to try to reassure her. I just gave her an affectionate hug and a peck on the cheek. “You’re my favorite tornado, Alice, and heaven help anybody who stands in your way. They’ll be completely obliterated,” I murmured lovingly. “Exactly!” Alice grinned in satisfaction, deciding she rather liked the comparison after all. “Now it’s time for tops and bottoms. Follow me!” We followed her, like good little sheep, all in charity with one another once again. In the next store, we ran into Lauren and Jessica, who were simply window shopping, as they couldn’t afford the clothes in that store. “Well, well. If it isn’t Alice Cullen and her little sidekick Bella,” Lauren sneered nastily. “Along with two little native girls who wandered off the reservation.” I felt rage building inside of me. How dare she speak about my friends like that? I wanted to tear into her, but couldn’t think of anything to say. Why is it I always think of the good comebacks long after the confrontation is over and done?

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Leah pointedly turned her back on Lauren and sighed. “Looks like somebody forgot to take out the trash. The stench is rather off-putting, don’t you think?” Alice nodded. “Perhaps I should speak to the manager. I spend enough money in this story to pay his salary, so I’m sure he won’t mind throwing out the garbage to make our shopping excursion more pleasurable.” She marched off to speak to the manager, leaving us all sneering back at Lauren. It was really quite something to see super shy girls like Angela and Kim actually sneering at somebody in public. I wished I had brought a camera. This would have been one for the scrapbook. “Is that you, Angela?” Jessica asked in disbelief. “You look . . . pretty . . . today, much improved over your usual. What are you doing with these losers?” Angela put her arm around Kim’s shoulders, and Kim responded by putting her arm around Angela’s waist, in a show of solidarity. “I’m spending a wonderful day with my friends. In fact, I’ve never had more fun than I have in the past two hours. It’s so nice to be able to talk to other girls who actually have brains in their heads and can discuss things other than malicious gossip. But you wouldn’t know about that, would you?” Leah and I laughed, giving her a high five. “Go get ‘em, tiger!” Leah crowed. “Show those claws!” Jessica’s face turned red with anger. “Just wait, Angela, you’ll be sorry you messed with me. You’re not welcome to sit at our lunch table anymore. You’ll have to find someplace else to sit your sorry butt.” Lauren nodded, her teeth clenched. Angela laughed. “That’s okay, my friends already invited me to sit with them last week. I just stayed at your table because I felt sorry for you in your mundane existence, living your dreary little lives caught up in your pathetic little dramas. I can see you aren’t worth my time though, so I’ll gladly join the Cullens and Bella tomorrow where I can at least get some decent conversation.” “Wonderful, Angela! I’m so glad you finally accepted!” Alice exclaimed, coming over with the manager. “What seems to be the problem here ladies?” he inquired professionally. “Well, sir, these two girls have done nothing but insult me and my friends since we came into this store. We are here to replace my friends’ wardrobes. They’ll need at least five outfits each. I doubt those two girls have any intention of actually buying anything, so all they’re doing is loitering around and scaring away your real customers.” The manager looked sternly at Lauren and Jessica. “Well, do you intend to buy anything?” “Maybe!” Lauren yelped defiantly. “You’ve been in here for an hour already. Bring your intended purchases up to the register, please.” Jessica’s face flushed red. “We haven’t found anything we like yet.” The manager continued to stare at them grimly. “You’ve tried on at least twenty items apiece and neither of you have found anything to your liking?”

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They both shook their heads. “Then I don’t think you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for here at our store. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” They both huffed and stomped to the exit. Jessica passed through fine, but the alarm started beeping when Lauren went through the exit. The manager dashed over, grabbing hold of Lauren’s wrist. He reached up and pulled back her collar, revealing another shirt underneath the one she was wearing. “I do believe this shirt belongs to us, miss. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to undress in the dressing room with Wendy to be certain you haven’t tried to walk off with anything else.” He growled waving the cashier over to his side. “Go with this young lady and remove the garment or garments she has attempted to steal.” “I just forgot I was wearing it!” Lauren protested. “I was looking for something to go along with it, when those losers came in and started giving us trouble. I just wanted to try it on with a jacket to see the overall effect. I wasn’t trying to steal it! Honest!” The manager ignored her, dragging her bodily over to the dressing room and pushing her into it. “She had another pair of pants on underneath her own, sir,” Wendy announced from the dressing room. Jessica’s mouth dropped open at the news. She had come back into the store to witness Lauren’s humiliation. “It was part of the outfit I was planning to try with a jacket!” Lauren whimpered. “Really, I wasn’t going to steal it.” Wendy stepped out of the dressing room, handing the shirt and pants to the manager. “Fine,” he grunted, as Lauren stumbled sheepishly out of the dressing room. “Then come and pay for this outfit, and we’ll let it go.” All the color drained from Lauren’s face. She swallowed loudly. “I, uh, can’t afford it, sir. I don’t have enough money,” she admitted, unable to meet his eye. He nodded his head, as if he had suspected as much. “Call security and the police,” he instructed Wendy. “Tell them we caught a shoplifter. Since the amount is over $200, this is considered grand larceny, which is a felony. Are you eighteen yet?” Lauren shook her head no. “Consider yourself lucky then. If they decide to try you as a juvenile, you’ll actually get to have your record sealed later.” Lauren was trembling with fright. “Jessica?” she stuttered pitifully. Jessica looked scared at first, but then seemed to realize she was sitting on top of a major gossip story, one only she would have the details about. She knew Alice, Angela, and I wouldn’t gossip about it, as we considered that beneath us, and Kim and Leah didn’t go to our school, so they didn’t count. She smiled smugly and took a picture of Lauren with her phone. “I’ll wait here with you until the police come, but then I really have to get home,” she assured Lauren slyly. I was certain she wanted to get a picture of Lauren being led away in handcuffs. “I wish Edward was here, so we could tell whether or not she’s really guilty,” I whispered to the others, feeling bad for Lauren. What if she was telling the truth?

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Alice gave me a strange look. “Of course, she’s guilty, Bella! It’s obvious to anyone who can read body language that she is lying through her teeth.” Leah nodded in agreement, though she wasn’t sure how she knew, she did know Lauren was lying and was guilty of the crime. “Why would it help to have Edward here?” Angela asked curiously. “Oh,” I started, blushing bright red. Oops. That must be why Alice looked at me so strangely. I was a little too comfortable with my new friends, I think. “He’s just really good at reading people.” “Actually, Bella,” Alice teased. “You’re just really gullible. You’re such a bad liar yourself, you’ll believe anybody who’s even remotely good at it.” “Thanks,” I grumbled. “I love you too.” They all chuckled. Well, my philosophy is: If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime. That and: You reap what you sow. I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over Lauren’s predicament. She brought it on herself. “Now that you’ve had your entertainment for the day, let’s get down to business,” Alice commanded, back to being the Shopping General. By the time we got finished in there, we were all exhausted, except for Alice, of course. Being a vampire does have its benefits. We did enjoy seeing Lauren led out in handcuffs, and Jessica did get a picture of it, just as I suspected. Lauren seemed outraged that Jessica would spread the word about what happened, but I wasn’t surprised. What comes around goes around. When you’re a backstabber who hangs out with other backstabbers, you shouldn’t really be surprised when you get stabbed in the back, right? I mean, it’s only common sense. There may be honor among thieves, but apparently the same doesn’t hold true for gossips. “Shoes now!” Alice announced happily. We all groaned. “Alice, I realize you are like the Energizer bunny – you keep going and going, but the rest of us are tired and hungry. We need a break,” I informed her. “Oh, right!” she realized in embarrassment. “Sorry! Let’s head to the food court then and find something yummy. You can all rest while you eat.” She quickly changed direction and headed for the food court. I chuckled to myself. Good old Alice. Once we entered the food area, Angela suddenly stopped in her tracks, clutching my arm. The others stopped with us, looking to Angela in surprise. I followed her gaze and saw Ben Cheney. I remembered from the books that Angela had a crush on him as he did on her. “Awesome! You are looking your best, and you have our support. This is the best time for you to approach Ben!” I suggested. She quickly shook her head. “Oh no, I can’t!” she wailed. “What if he doesn’t like me?” “I’ve seen him watching you when you weren’t looking,” I encouraged. “Really?” she asked in surprise. I nodded. “Oh, well maybe we can just walk by his table and see if he notices me.” Alice sent me a wink, and I knew she had something up her sleeve, so I simply agreed to Angela’s plan. We strolled along toward his table, talking quietly amongst ourselves, and he didn’t even look up as we approached. When we got to his table, Alice suddenly gave Angela a little shove, causing her to bump into him and drop all her bags. Angela shot Alice a brief glare, but her attention was soon taken up with Ben.
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“Oh, I’m terribly sorry!” she apologized, blushing red. “I must have tripped.” Ben looked at Angela, his mouth open and his eyes somewhat glazed. After a few seconds, he closed his mouth and shook his head, appearing just as flustered as she did. “No need to apologize, Angela. You didn’t hurt me. Are you okay?” he asked courteously. She smiled. The rest of us melted away to get our food, leaving the two of them with at least the illusion of privacy. “I’m fine, just a bit embarrassed,” Angela admitted shyly. He smiled back at her. “Oh, you dropped your bags, let me help you with those,” he offered, kneeling down to pick them up off the floor. He saw the lingerie bag and lifted an eyebrow, then chanced a look up at her through his lashes. “So, uh, are you here with someone?” “Oh, yeah,” she answered, confused by the sudden flash of disappointment in his eyes. “Bella Swan, the new girl, and Alice Cullen, plus two new girls I just met today. Leah and Kim are both really nice. They live in La Push.” His eyes lit up again once he realized she was here with her female friends. He worked up his courage, while he gathered up her bags. “So are you . . . seeing . . . anyone?” He blushed, staring at the floor. She blushed too. “Oh, no. I’ve never actually had a boyfriend.” His eyes flicked to her in surprise. “No? But you’re so beautiful and so smart and so nice! Would you consider . . . maybe . . . spending some time . . . with me?” She flashed him a breathtaking smile that seemed to stun him. She dazzled him, I thought in amusement. “I would love to, Ben.” His face lit with joy. “Really?” She nodded. “Awesome! I could take you home today, if your friends don’t mind, and we could spend a little time together now.” She looked over at me with a hopeful expression. I smiled and nodded. “Go for it!” I mouthed, giving her a thumbs up to show my approval. She grinned back at me in appreciation. Alice came up beside me. “You’re welcome,” she whispered. Angela grinned even wider and nodded. She turned back to her new boyfriend. “I would love to spend some time with you now.” We left them happily conversing. “Two down, two to go,” she murmured to me triumphantly. I lifted my eyebrow. “You know, Kim is going to be with Jared,” I mumbled back. “Oh, I know,” she muttered archly. “But they’re not together yet, so it doesn’t count yet.” “It won’t be long though, especially with you ‘helping’ things along,” I mentioned with a grin. She grinned back. “Absolutely.” Suddenly, she gasped. “It’s Kim, she’s in trouble!” We had been walking over to Leah, so she was within hearing distance. Alice took off, and Leah and I followed along behind her. She was going slightly faster than human speed, in her

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concern, but I wasn’t going to object. I hoped she could get to Kim before anything bad happened. We raced after her, trying to keep her in sight as she wove through people and tables. Since I wasn’t familiar with the mall, I had no idea where she was going. We rounded a corner and went down a long hallway. I realized we were headed to a set of restrooms. We arrived in the bathroom area just in time to see Alice wrench the door handle off the bathroom door of the family restroom. It was a large, handicap accessible, restroom, which included a diaper changing station, and was designed mainly for mothers of sons who were too old to go into the women’s bathroom, but were still young enough that the mothers didn’t feel comfortable allowing them to use the men’s room alone. It was also big enough for mothers of multiple children to keep them all under close surveillance while they took turns using the potty. In this case, two men had locked Kim in with them and were planning to use the space to take advantage of her. They stopped when they heard the door handle break, the inside half falling to the floor. Wasting no time, Alice used her fingers to unlock the door and pulled it open. “Let her go!” Alice growled fiercely. “Oh, did you want to join the party sweetheart?” one of them sneered. “We’ve got enough for you too.” He tried to grab her, and she threw him across the bathroom, where he hit his head on the sink and promptly passed out. She stomped angrily over to the other man who was holding Kim’s wrists up against the wall and staring at Alice in disbelief. “I said let her go,” she growled again, grabbing the man’s arm and snapping a bone with the force of her grip. He immediately let go of Kim howling in pain. Alice shoved him into the opposite wall with enough force to break the tile, before gently grabbing Kim into a hug. “He’s certainly going to feel that tomorrow,” I mentioned cheerfully. Leah was staring at Alice in surprise. Kim choked out a few sobs. “Did they hurt you, Kim?” She shook her head no, squeezing Alice hard. “I was so scared! I had to go to the bathroom, and I should have told one of you, but I thought I’d be quick. When I came out of the ladies room, those two were waiting for me and shoved me into this room. They pushed me up against the wall, telling me all the things they planned to do to me. I could tell they were getting excited by my fear, but I couldn’t stop trembling. They didn’t even have a chance to kiss me before you busted in though. You saved me! Thank you!” Kim explained, pulling back to look at Alice in awe. “Yes, you did,” Leah agreed, looking at the two bad guys lying on the floor unconscious, one of them with a gash on his head that was oozing blood. She turned to look back at Alice. “How?” Alice dropped her arms, smiling sadly. “You already knew what I was, didn’t you?” Leah nodded thoughtfully. “And now I know what you are not.” She and Alice shared a look of understanding and both of them smiled. Leah came over, giving both Alice and Kim a hug. She went back and took both mens’ wallets out, looked at the IDs and then put them back. I lifted my eyebrows in question. She gave me an evil smile. “Just in case Jared wants to know.” I nodded in understanding, though I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to tell him. An angry young werewolf and the two men who tried to rape his imprint wouldn’t be a good combination. I doubted anyone would ever find their bodies. I’d have to have a little talk with

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everyone on the way home and decide just how much about our trip we really wanted to share with the guys. Leah came back over to Alice and Kim, throwing an arm around each of them. “I’m starving, Let’s grab a bite.” Alice started giggling. “Good thing I’m not hungry. I don’t think you really want me to grab a bite.” We all started laughing, relieving the tension we had felt since we realized Kim was in trouble. A vampire and a future werewolf laughing together over feeding habits. I felt like reciting Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech to commemorate the occasion. We went back to the food court and got our lunch. I hid in the corner of the booth, trying to avoid attention. Kim was overwhelmed by the number of young men staring at her, but Leah was loving all the attention. “You know,” she whispered, playing with her napkin. “You guys have really helped me come to terms with the loss of Sam. It still hurts, but I don’t feel as bitter as I did before, and now I actually have hope for the future. Hope that there’s someone out there meant especially for me. I had been questioning myself, wondering what was wrong with me, what had I done that had turned him away. I hated myself even more than I hated him. But spending this time with all of you, and feeling beautiful, and driving the men wild, I realize I’m not alone in my suffering. I feel okay with myself now, like I am worthy of more than just being bitter and alone. I also realized the break-up wasn’t the end of the world. There are far worse things I could have suffered. So I’m going to do my best to let go of Sam and start living again. Really living, not just existing. I’m going to actively pursue happiness.” “Good for you!” we told her, squeezing her hands. “We’ll be here for you.”

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Chapter 28: The Van
BPOV I awoke early Tuesday morning, surprising Edward. Well, he had been aware of me preparing to wake, but he was surprised it was at 6am. I had been having a dream about snow and Tyler’s van. I remembered the van accident had been when Edward revealed himself for the first time, in the process of saving me. “Has it been snowing?” I wondered. Edward smiled at me. “Yes, it has,” he murmured in amusement. “I know you don’t like the cold and the wet, but snow can be such fun for vampires. You must know how much I love you that I am here with you instead of playing in it with my siblings.” “You could have left.” “Oh, silly Bella. Don’t you know that when I am holding you in my arms, there is no place I would rather be?” I smiled, touched by his romantic drivel. I pulled his head down to mine, and we kissed passionately. I moaned into his mouth and ran my tongue over his bottom lip. His lips parted, and his cool, sweet breath washed over me, intoxicating me. His cold tongue slipped into my mouth, dancing with mine. He pulled my lower body closer to him, so our chests were touching, without the blanket in-between us. The coldness of his skin through his shirt and through my thin pajamas was enough to cause a reaction. He groaned, and I knew he could feel the pebbles brushing against his marble torso. Abruptly, he pulled away, gasping for breath. “If I don’t stop now, I won’t be able to stop at all.” “So don’t stop,” I encouraged, trying to pull him closer to me again. He rolled his eyes at me. “Now is not the time for this.” I pouted, but he simply swooped in to plant a quick kiss on my lips, before climbing out of bed. I still had an extra 45min to kill before my usual time to rise and shine. I knew how I wanted to fill that time, but apparently by gorgeous vampire boyfriend wasn’t going to comply. I sighed and remembered my dream. I guess we could spend the time talking at least. “Edward, do you remember from the first book what happened on this day?” He frowned. “Yes, you almost got squished by Tyler’s van, but I saved you, revealing my inhuman abilities in the process. But don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. You’re not driving your truck. You’ll be riding with me instead, so everything is already changed.”

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“But Edward, nothing has changed for Tyler. We know he is going to crash his van in the parking lot. It would be irresponsible of us to allow that to happen.” Edward gave me a stern glance. “It is not our place to play God with other people’s lives.” “What?! We already have! Not only have we changed things for ourselves, but we’ve changed things for everyone around us. The wolves, your siblings, even Angela and Ben. What is this really about?” “Well, how much should we tempt fate, interfere in the way things are supposed to be?” “You’ve heard of the butterfly effect haven’t you? That if you went back in time thousands of years and killed a single butterfly, that change could massively affect how the world works today, right? So, we have already made massive changes. We’re talking a herd of elephants, not just a butterfly. With all the things we’ve already done, to refuse to prevent injury to someone we know just because is awfully hypocritical. Does this have anything to do with the fact that it brought me to his attention, and he thought he was taking me to prom? Are you jealous?” He wouldn’t meet my eyes, so I knew that it was true. “How petty, Edward. I mean, get real. Don’t worry, I’ll make the call for you.” He brought his eyes up to mine and grabbed my hand. “What call?” I rolled my eyes. “The call to Tyler to warn him to take it slowly this morning when coming into the parking lot.” “How are you going to explain that you are suddenly calling him out of the blue to warn him about speeding on the ice?” Hmmm. Good point. “I’ll think of something. I don’t want to talk about Tyler any more. I’m going to go take a shower now.” “I didn’t want to talk about him at all,” he muttered. “Whatever. Why don’t you get a life? Take a chill pill.” Edward smirked. “I already took a chill pill, in case you haven’t felt my body temperature lately. That’s the reason I need to get a life. Since I don’t have one, I’m borrowing yours. What are we going to do once you’re changed? Then neither one of us will have a life.” I couldn’t help chuckling at his goofy humor, which brought a grin to his face. No doubt it fed his ego too. Edward finally let go of my hand, and I gathered my clothes for the day. I went to the shower and started brainstorming about what to say to Tyler without sounding completely insane. I was enjoying the feeling of the hot water spraying down on my back, when I heard a loud banging on the door. “Don’t use all the hot water, Bells. I still need to use the shower too, so wrap it up, please,” Charlie yelled through the door. Ugh. How embarrassing. I quickly turned off the water, hoping there was enough hot water left for his shower. Usually my father hops into the shower before I do. I wondered what time it was and how long I had been in there. I toweled off and dressed rapidly, fumbling a lot with my increased pace. I grabbed my brush, deciding to use the mirror in my room instead so the bathroom would be available. I dashed into the hallway, almost knocking Charlie over. I hadn’t
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expected him to be waiting there. I must have really been pushing the time for him as he looked stressed. “Sorry,” I gasped. “I lost track of time.” He grunted and headed straight into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. That’s one of the disadvantages of living in an old house with only one bathroom. I like the more modern houses with one bathroom per bedroom. Some of the larger ones even had more bathrooms than bedrooms. How crazy is that? The Cullens were smart enough to design their house with enough bathrooms for each bedroom, plus a guest bathroom on the first floor. It was quite amusing, seeing as how they didn’t use the potty, but they did all enjoy showers and baths. I hadn’t seen for sure, but I was willing to bet that all the bathrooms for the couples included massive soaker whirlpool tubs built to accommodate more than one person at a time. I slipped back into my bedroom and was shocked by the time on my alarm clock. I had been in there way longer than usual. In fact, I was going to have to rush a bit to get ready on time. Poor Charlie only got a five minute shower. I heard him curse as the water turned icy. Oops. If I got up early again, I would find some other way to spend my time. It wasn’t fair to him. Edward took the brush out of my hands and began to calmly brush my hair. I loved the way his fingers felt against my head as he held me in place. He would periodically run his fingers through my hair. I didn’t have time to blow dry it this morning. I would have to let it dry naturally. Hopefully, it wouldn’t freeze outside. I didn’t think it would really be cold enough to freeze my wet hair, but coming from Phoenix, I didn’t have any prior experience from which to draw. “We can’t leave your hair wet like this. I don’t want you to catch pneumonia.” “Edward, you’ve been through medical school twice now. You know very well that is an old wives tale. Pneumonia is caused by germs, not wet hair.” Really, he could be so ridiculous some times. “Esme is an old wife,” he chided. “and she certainly seems to know what she’s talking about.” “Why? Did she tell you that you would catch pneumonia if you went outside with wet hair?” “No, but my human mother did,” he responded quietly. I sighed. There wasn’t any argument I could give now. I certainly wasn’t going to tell him that his cherished human mother didn’t know what she was talking about, even if it was true. He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my pony tail, then squeezed with his vampire strength. When he removed the towel a few seconds later, the towel was soaking wet, and my hair felt nearly dry to the touch. “Handy,” I muttered, impressed. “You’re much faster than a blow dryer. Reason 213 for keeping you around.” “Reason 213? What are the other 212?” he asked with a grin. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” I teased. “But I’ll never tell.” He gave me a sad look, then tried the pouting and puppy dog eyes. My breath caught, and I almost gave in, but then I remembered what he had told me the other day. “Sorry, Edward, but Alice already uses that expression on me, and she has really quite mastered it, so you’re going to have to try a lot harder if you want me to get rid of my inhibitions,” I snickered, gleefully.
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He growled at my response. Then he tried to dazzle me. I was prepared for it this time, so I purposely kept my gaze on his nose instead of falling into his compelling eyes. He put his finger under my chin, trying to get me to lift my gaze to his. My stomach growled just then. Saved by the growl. He gave up trying and let me go downstairs to grab some breakfast, while he jumped out the window to get his car. I grabbed a Poptart, not even bothering to toast it. It wasn’t flavorful or nutritious, but it was edible and fast. I grabbed the phone book, amused once again by how thin it was. Compared to the ones in Phoenix, this one was merely a magazine. I did appreciate the fact that there was only one listing for Crowley, so I didn’t have to waste time trying to figure out which one was correct. I dialed the number and waited impatiently for someone to answer. “Hello?” “May I please speak to Tyler?” “This is Tyler. Who is this?” “This is Bella Swan. Listen . . .” “Bella? The new girl?” “Um, yeah, that’s me. Listen, it’s really important that you take it easy coming to school today, particularly when you’re coming into the parking lot.” “You called me to tell me to be careful of the ice? Are you worried about me or something?” I heard a bit of interest in his voice. Great. Just what I didn’t want. “I just noticed your tires looked a little bald yesterday. I was going to say something to you about it later, but when I realized the roads were so icy, I was concerned that the van would slip and slide, and someone might get hurt.” “So you were worried about me. That’s so sweet.” No, no, no! This wasn’t the way I wanted it to go. “Oh, well, don’t read anything into it, Tyler. Edward and I are together. Period. End of story. I called a few other people I thought might have trouble too, so I’m concerned about everybody, not just you.” “Uh huh, fine, right. No problem, Bella. I’ll see you later, okay?” I sighed, resigned. “Fine.” I hung up, not wanting to hear any more bull crap from him. I heard Edward knocking on my door, then letting himself inside. Charlie had already left, and it was past time for me to leave too. That phone call had put me behind schedule. Well, really the shower had put me behind schedule, but the phone call only made it worse. Edward was going to have to drive like a lunatic to get us to school on time. I knew he would never crash the car, but what about everybody else on the road? TylerPOV Wow, that phone call was odd. I hadn’t really thought about the new girl, especially since she went for Cullen right from day one. But she had just called me. Me! I know she said she had called others too, but somehow I sensed she was lying when she said that. I knew she had

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been dating Edward Cullen. She said the two of them were together. He had probably come to her house to pick her up before school. Everyone knew they always rode together. She was probably trying to tell me that he was there with her, and she couldn’t speak of her feelings for me when he was listening. Cullen was kind of creepy. The poor girl was probably intimidated by him. She was probably afraid to ditch him so she could date me, but I would protect her. I was sure I could take him. Just as long as his brothers stayed out of the fight. She really was quite pretty, now that I thought about it. I should take her to prom. We’d look really great together in our prom pictures. Then there was always what happened after the dancing was finished. The tradition of spending a little private time with your date for the evening. I was really looking forward to it. There was a reason the parents always got nervous the night of prom. Who was I to buck tradition? Holy moly! Look at the time! Between the phone call and my subsequent daydreams of Bella, I was seriously running late. Forget being careful! I was going to need to speed. I just hoped Chief Swan didn’t catch me. I wanted to make a good impression on him for when I started dating his daughter. EPOV I was holding Bella’s hand, our fingers intertwined, as I drove to school. I was having fun speeding so quickly over the ice, but I knew Bella was terrified, so I tried not to express my enjoyment too openly. I knew she could sense it though. So little time together, and yet she already knew me so well. I brought her hand up to my mouth and began pressing soft kisses on the back of it. I was murmuring soothing words to her, hoping she would relax and keep her eyes off the speedometer. Unfortunately, her eyes had been glued to it since we left the driveway. She was completely unaware of her surroundings, not even noticing how pretty everything looked covered over with a white blanket. So clean and pure, glistening and sparkling like diamonds. My phone buzzed, startling Bella, whose gaze jumped to my pocket. I sighed and dug it out. Seeing Alice’s number on the caller id, I reluctantly answered it. Not wanting to let go of Bella’s hand, I chose to steer with my knees. Thankfully, Bella was too focused on the phone to realize what I was doing. “Yes, Alice?” I answered, a bit of irritation in my voice. This had better be important. It was interrupting my Bella time. “Bella! Tyler! Van!” she yelled anxiously. “Relax, we’ve got that under control. She called him this morning and warned him to drive carefully,” I grumbled quickly. “Edward!” she screamed loudly. Suddenly, someone else’s thoughts shouted loudly in my head. Oh, SSSHHHIIIIIITTTT! Huh? I turned in the direction of the thoughts were coming from, just in time to lock eyes with Tyler Crowley as his van plowed into the passenger side door. TylerPOV I sped down the road, desperately trying to avoid being tardy. I turned down the next road and accelerated quickly. This road included one long hill coming to the bottom, ending in a stop sign. I hated that someone had put a stop sign there. It ruined almost all my fun. My favorite thing to do was to accelerate toward the hill, then coast down, gaining another 10mph, and finally slam on the brakes at the bottom, skidding to a stop at the corner. I had it down to an art, knowing just when to hit the brakes to bring me to a final halt just in front of
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the sign. It was bad for the car, but good for morale. That’s probably why my tires are bald – too much burning rubber. I chuckled to myself. It was so worth it. I was going even faster than usual this morning, desperate to make up for lost time. My brain was on autopilot. I wasn’t really thinking about anything, just staring mindlessly at the road in front of me. I was up to 55mph by the time I hit the bottom of the hill. I tried to slam on the brakes, but the wheels slipped. Then the brakes locked and I began to slide, not losing any speed or momentum. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a silver car rapidly approaching the intersection. That car was on the main road and would have right-of-way. At some point my brain realized we were going to crash, and my mind screamed, “Oh, SSSHHHIIIIIITTTT!” The driver of the car turned to look at me, our gazes locking, just seconds before impact. He had time for his facial expression to register horror, and I recognized Edward Cullen. The force of the crash spun both vehicles around the intersection, jerking my eyes away from him as my head slammed forward. Right before I blacked out, I had time for two thoughts. The first was immensely grateful I was wearing my seatbelt. The second was the recognition that the passenger beside Cullen was none other than the beautiful Bella Swan. EPOV Sheer horror overtook me as I realized even vampire reflexes would be too slow to prevent the impending crash. I flicked my gaze to Bella’s and watched her comprehend my horror. Before she or I could respond to it, the van smashed into my Volvo with incredible force. I heard the bending and tearing of metal, reminiscent of the sound of dismembering a vampire. I saw the side impact air bag inflate as if in slow motion and saw it hit Bella and deflate. I saw the corresponding backlash as her body fell back toward the door, her head smashing through the shattered window. Though it was safety glass, somehow it still managed to gash her forehead. Head wounds typically look worse than they really are, because they tend to bleed like crazy. Sure enough, the warm red blood started pouring out of the gash, dripping down the side of her face. The scent of her freshly spilled blood in the close confines of my car instantly overwhelmed me. I felt the growl rumble up inside of me, and I was more thirsty than I had ever been in my existence. I was pure vampire now. This glorious elixir of life was MINE, all mine, made especially for me. The sweet, salty scent sang to me, called to me, begged me to drink, to savor. I knew I would never taste or smell anything finer than the delectable wine dribbling out in front of me. I heard something shouting, “EDWARD, NOOO!” I looked down at the silver object in my hand. How dare it tell me no? And who was Edward anyway? I crushed it easily to powder, and the noise disappeared, leaving me in blissful silence. Not wanting to be interrupted, I spared a glance for my surroundings. There was another prey, also bleeding nearby, slumped over a steering wheel. It was not moving, though it was still breathing. It was not a threat. It could wait. I grabbed my prey’s head in my hands, careful not to crush it. I didn’t want to waste a single drop of my delicious dinner. My prey was still and unmoving. Good. It wouldn’t feel anything then as I drained its life to fuel my own. Ever so delicately, I stuck out my tongue, touching the trail of blood where it ended on its jawline. At the first taste of the blood on my tongue, my taste buds exploded. My vision dimmed, and I saw flashes of light behind my eyes. I was in heaven. Pure bliss. Sweet euphoria. It was the most incredible taste I had ever experienced, a hundred times better than any other blood, better than I ever could have imagined. I licked up the side of its face, following the trail of blood up to the wound. The blood coated my tongue, causing mini-shocks throughout my system, like mini-orgasms. There is no way I would rush through this experience. I wanted to stay connected to this feeling forever. I never wanted to stop drinking. Ever so softly, I brought my lips around the gash, caressing the flesh around it. Gently, gently I sucked in a small mouthful, allowing it to
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coat the inside of my mouth. The fire in the back of my throat was a raging inferno, but the moment this incredible drink hit my throat, it was as cool as the rest of me. The sheer satisfaction and contentment I felt when that one small swallow hit my stomach was more powerful than I had ever felt before. Yes, this was heaven. This was where I belonged. I suckled gently at the wound moaning with pleasure as the mouthwatering elixir flowed sweetly down my throat. Suddenly, I heard an answering moan from my prey. I pulled back to assess the situation. Was it still alive then? I peered into deep, dark, chocolate eyes. Those eyes triggered a sense of alarm. Something was wrong. I pulled back a little further, staring intensely at the prey. There was pain in those limitless eyes, and that bothered me. How odd. I did not like for my prey to suffer. Had I not snapped its neck like I usually do? Something else struck me. This prey had no thoughts. It was alive and stirring, but I could hear nothing in its head. The nonanimal prey always had thoughts, thoughts of fear, of guilt, of regret, of prayer. Always thoughts. Why did this . . . human . . . have no thoughts? “Edward,” the human whispered weakly. I frowned. The human did have thoughts then. Yet I still couldn’t hear them. And I had heard that voice before. Speaking that name. My name. I was Edward. The human I couldn’t hear was . . . .who? I frowned even deeper in concentration and confusion. Alarm bells were ringing up and down my body. This was important. I could sense it. There was great danger here. Something that could cost me my entire existence. But what? I looked at the human’s whole face. It, no, she bit her lip. Instantly, her name came to me. Bella. This was Bella. BELLA! My MATE! I was drinking from my MATE! I was killing her! My bloodlust disappeared as my brain recognized that my love, my life was injured, maybe dying. If anything happened to her it would be the end of my existence. I would follow her into oblivion as quickly as possible. I rapidly took in the scene, noting Tyler was still unconscious. I was glad he hadn’t witnessed any of my disgusting behavior. I reached for my phone to call 911, and saw the pile of dust that was all that remained of it. I remembered Alice had been on the other end of the line when I lost it. She had tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen. I hoped she had called the ambulance for me. I owed her one. I removed Bella’s seatbelt, and gathered her to my chest. Her eyes had closed again, but I could still hear her heartbeat. How much had I drunk? How could I have done that to her? I heard sirens in the distance, police, fire, and ambulance. Alice had called then. I carefully extracted Bella from the mangled seat, pulling her out the driver’s side door and up into my arms. I stood there, cradling her against my chest, waiting for the ambulance to arrive to take us to Carlisle.

Chapter 29: Visiting the ER
EPOV The sirens were getting closer, and I stopped to think about how things would look. I wondered if my eyes were red. Had I drank enough of Bella’s blood to change the color? I

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couldn’t allow any of the humans to see me with red eyes. I reached back into the car and grabbed a pair of sunglasses from the pocket in the door, slipping them awkwardly onto my face. I had plenty of strength to hold Bella with one arm, but she was unconscious, so I had to be careful to keep her properly balanced as well. Plus, I was concerned about jostling her too much with her head wound. I thought about how I would look, standing there holding her, with little or no effort. The humans might become suspicious if I demonstrated such strength. I moved to rest her body weight on the undamaged portion of the trunk, still keeping her in my arms. I wanted to place her on the stretcher myself, not trusting anyone else to hold her. A tiny, very tiny, portion of my brain was bemoaning the loss of my precious Volvo. It had served its purpose though in helping to protect my darling Bella from injury. I could buy a dozen more cars tomorrow if I wanted, but Bella was irreplaceable. So I let the Volvo go. Another tiny portion of my brain was ready to finish the job on Tyler Crowley. The idiot had been speeding on an icy road, downhill, headed toward a stop sign. What the hell did he expect to happen? I chose to ignore the fact that I had also been speeding on the icy road, driving with my knees, talking on the phone, and holding hands with my mate. I was a vampire, doggone it. Yet my vampire skills had been useless, and the danger my nature had presented had almost cost Bella her life. I didn’t want to take the time to look at my own faults at the moment. There would be plenty of time for beating myself up later, once I knew she was safe. For now, I’d settle for fantasizing about beating up Tyler instead. I couldn’t believe the bloodlust was completely gone. I had continued to breathe, and though my throat still burned a bit, I had no desire to quench my thirst. I wasn’t even bothered by Tyler’s blood. The majority of my brain was consumed with thoughts of Bella. I couldn’t let her die. I would change her if need be, but I would not let her die. My personal monster was firmly chained in his cage, though he was fairly satisfied at the moment, have drank the most perfect blood ever created. The first vehicle to arrive at the scene, lights flashing, sirens blaring, was none other than Chief Swan’s cruiser. He got out of the car grimly, concentrating on the wreckage and the accident scene, which told its own story. I tried to listen for his thoughts, but merely got the basic gist without the details. He had already determined the guilt of Tyler Crowley, having easily surmised that he ran the stop sign and crashed into the car that had the right-of-way. He could see by the skid marks and distance traveled that Tyler had been exceeding the speed limit, though he didn’t know by how much. His eyes were taking in details everywhere, all in a matter of seconds as he approached. His eyes then swept over Tyler, assessing the damage to his body and to his truck. Then his eyes came to us. I saw the recognition flicker in his eyes upon seeing me, and then a mere second later the connection was made, and his eyes flew to Bella’s limp form in my arms. His mind didn’t want to accept what his eyes were telling him. “Not my baby girl,” he whispered, distraught. I could sense the fear and anguish crowding his mind as he noted her stillness. “Bella?” His eyes came back to my face, though he couldn’t see my eyes through my sunglasses. “She’s still alive, though she’s unconscious. She’s hit her head. The ambulance should be here any second,” I started sobbing. He continued walking to us, needing to feel her pulse for himself, needing the comfort of her warmth, her breath, her life. “I’m so sorry Charlie. There was nothing I could do. By the time I saw him, it was too late to react. I think the side air bag may have helped, but I don’t know for sure. It did inflate. Oh, Charlie, she’s got to be okay!” I was still sobbing, throughout the speech, resting my forehead on top of hers. “We’ve just got to get her to Carlisle. He can save her. I know it. If we get to Carlisle everything will be okay. He can fix anything,” I promised softly, my words and tone filled with sorrow and desperation. “Please, Bella, hang in there. Don’t die. I need you. I love you. Don’t leave me, Bella. Please don’t leave me. Stay with me, Bella. Wake up, darling, please,” I pleaded, not caring if her father heard. I would do anything for her. Anything.
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“Edward?” she whispered weakly. “Don’t cry, sweetheart. What’s wrong?” Her eyelids fluttered, but she did not open her eyes. “Don’t try to talk, love. You’ve been hurt. Just stay with me. I’m going to get you to Carlisle, I promise.” “Edward? Don’t leave me. Promise me you won’t leave me,” she demanded, her words weak, but her determination strong. “Bella, I won’t leave you now, not while you need me, but there’s too much danger. You have no idea how dangerous it is for you to be around me.” “Promise me you won’t leave, Edward,” she growled at me. Her heart rate was accelerating. She was getting disturbed, frightened. “I promise, Bella, I won’t leave you.” She gave a sigh of relief and fell back into unconsciousness. I wanted to shake her, but I knew how disastrous that would be, so I refrained. “Wake up, Bella! Please wake up! You have a concussion. You really ought to stay awake, at least until Carlisle has examined you.” I felt Charlie’s hand on my shoulder, his other hand caressing her cheek. I lifted my head to look in his eyes, forgetting for a moment my sunglasses. I saw myself reflected back in his pupils, the epitome of grief and worry. He didn’t speak, but a new thought hovered along with his own grief and worry. Acceptance. The stirrings of familial bonding. He was acknowledging to himself the depths of my feelings for his daughter, and of hers for me. He was accepting that I would be a large part of his life with her. He dropped his hands wordlessly and approached Tyler’s van. His thought patterns had shifted into authoritative disgust and anger. He was concerned for Tyler’s well-being, but he was angry about Tyler’s reckless driving behavior that had endangered the life of his only daughter. Tyler would likely be facing a ticket or charges in addition to his injuries. Just then, the volunteer rescue squad pulled up from one side, and the fire department’s ambulance pulled up from the other. I carried her quickly over to the rescue squad, eager to get her loaded up and on her way to Carlisle. I desperately needed for him to check her out and assure me she would be okay. I would have to explain what I had done and endure his disappointment at my lack of control. He would have to determine whether or not she would need a transfusion. The paramedics had the back of the ambulance open, and I didn’t wait for them to remove the stretcher. I simply climbed up into the back and set her down gently onto the little bed. The paramedics already knew me, so with one look at her prone form and another at my face, they had no complaints. They simply climbed back into position themselves, not denying my right to stay by her side on the way to the hospital, and rushed off to the emergency room. I saw Charlie watching as we pulled away and understood that he was trusting me to see to Bella’s safety. If I had tears, they would be streaking down my face. He was trusting me, the one who almost killed her. Carlisle was waiting for us at the ambulance entrance, just as I suspected he would. I could hear his thoughts as we approached. I will take care of Bella. Alice called me. You fed from her?

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One look at my sunglasses told him the answer. I had no need for words. If Jasper had been here, he would have been on his knees from the force of my guilt and shame. Quickly go and hunt, son. How much did you take? Never mind, I’ll know soon enough. Get some contacts from the house, if need be. You’ll need to be on hand to answer questions, so go as fast as you can. I will do everything in my power for Bella. I nodded in agreement, understanding his wisdom, and trusting him like no other to provide Bella with whatever she needed. In the confusion surrounding her unloading and being wheeled into place in the E.R., I slipped away, running through the forest, moving faster than I ever had before. I was racing to get back to my Bella. Blood and contacts, blood and contacts. That’s all I needed and then I could be back by her side, where I belonged. CPOV My surgeries for the day had been cancelled due to the ice on the roads. Nobody wanted our patients to have an accident on the way to the hospital. It was unspoken, of course, but the staff was also expecting to need to deal with accident victims. It didn’t snow very often here in Forks, due to the proximity of the ocean, so the residents weren’t as comfortable driving through snow and ice as our neighbors to the north and east. I hoped nobody was seriously injured. So far, everything that had come through the E.R. had been minor, not requiring my advanced skills, so I was pretty much twiddling my thumbs in my office waiting for something to happen. Suddenly, my phone buzzed. I checked the caller ID. Alice. When would I learn to stop feeling bored? Whenever I did, something bad seemed to happen, always leaving me wishing for boredom again. “Yes?” “Carlisle!” she whimpered. Uh, oh. That can’t be good. Alice is almost never distraught. “What is it?” I snapped, the tension in my voice audible to even the most casual observer. “Bella!” she sobbed, whimpering again. Oh, no. Please, no. Edward was happy for the first time in eighty years. Please don’t let something have happened to his soul mate. “Alice,” I pleaded. I needed answers, and I needed them now. Preferably before I had a heart attack. I smiled weakly to myself at my mental joke. I heard her take a deep breath and heard Jasper murmuring to her in the background, trying to help her calm down enough to tell me what was happening. “There was an accident. Tyler ran into the Volvo at high speed, right into the passenger side door, right into Bella.” I actually felt my stomach drop at her words and braced myself for her to continue. “Her head went through the window, and she started to bleed from a gash on her temple.” Oh, no. That was bad. I could sense where this was leading. Edward had excellent control, but she was his singer. Her blood called to him, and he had only known her for a week and a half. They were in a confined space together, where her scent would be so strong, even with a broken window. I closed my eyes, my fertile imagination easily picturing the impending disaster. “Edward, he . . . well, he . . . . he lost it. He was overcome by bloodlust and started to drink from her wound. I had a vision . . . . *sob* . . . . a vision of him draining her, killing her. When he realized what he’d done, . . . . Oh, Carlisle! But then I had another vision, of him holding her in his arms, with sirens in the distance, waiting for them, and she was still breathing, though she was clearly unconscious. So I called 911 and reported the accident anonymously.” She started sobbing uncontrollably. I could easily understand her fear and concern. I was filled with it myself. My children were hurting. Edward, my son. Bella, my daughter. I could not lose either one. As long as she was
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still alive there was hope, I would cling to it with every particle of my being. I would not give up, and if I needed to change her, I would. I would do whatever was necessary. I would not allow Esme to suffer by losing another child ever again, as long as I could do anything to prevent it. I knew she already considered Bella a daughter, and would be devastated by the news of the accident. I also knew that if we lost Bella, we would lose Edward too. I didn’t need Alice’s power to know that. I had lived a long time and knew well the power of the bond between mates. “Don’t worry, Alice,” I soothed. “I’ll take care of everything from here.” “Thanks, Carlisle. I’ll see you soon.” I took a small amount of pride in knowing how much my words had comforted my daughter. She trusted me to make everything better. I just hoped I could. My brain kicked into overdrive, making plans for every possible contingency, starting with Edward. If he had drank enough of her blood, his eyes would be red. He would need to wear contacts to cover the color. Alice had hung up, so I called Esme, filling her in on the news. I asked her to find contacts for Edward and prepared her to be ready for him when he arrived. Then I went down to the E.R. entrance to await the ambulance. Once they had arrived, Edward had slipped away into the woods, and Bella was settled into her little cubicle, I began to examine her. The nurse took a blood sample to run some tests. I was amazed to find that the contusion and gash on her head were her only real injuries, aside from heavy bruises resulting from the seatbelt and the door. I knew she would be feeling the pain and discomfort in her shoulder and hip from the force of being restrained by the seatbelt, but that was a small price to pay compared to what would have happened if she hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt. She would surely have died without it. I left the nurses to attach the heart monitor and insert the IV. I returned a few minutes later with a small surgical set. I quickly cleaned her open wound, wincing as she flinched even in her unconsciousness. I stitched her up quickly, with tiny tight stitches so they wouldn’t leave a noticeable scar. I wrote orders for an x-ray and went to examine Tyler. He too was unconscious when he arrived. The EMTs informed me he had been unconscious when they found him. I looked him over carefully. He had not had an airbag as his van was an older model, so he had hit his head fairly hard on the steering wheel, giving him a concussion. He had been covered in broken glass when the windshield shattered, which resulted in multiple small cuts on his face and hands. None of them needed stitches and would heal in a matter of days. He also had bruises on his shoulder, chest, and hips from the seatbelt. Like Bella, he too would have died without it, likely being flung right through the windshield. The only other obvious injury was a swollen wrist. I issued the orders for x-rays for both his wrist and head. There was nothing to do but wait now, until the x-rays and the blood test came back, so I could discover the extent of the damage. I found myself pacing, just like a human, impatient and helpless. “Dr. Cullen?” I looked up to see Charlie Swan addressing me. He was clearly upset and looking for answers. I stopped pacing and held out my hand. “Chief Swan, I’m so sorry about the accident,” I responded immediately. He shook my hand and attempted a smile, though it looked more like a grimace. “How is she?” He cut right to the chase. “I won’t know for certain until I get some results back, but she is stable. Her vitals look good. Her head is the only real injury, other than some hefty bruises.”

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He looked relieved. “Oh, and Tyler?” He growled just a bit at the end. I really couldn’t blame him, though I knew Edward was just as guilty. I had no doubt Edward had been speeding, cocky that his vampire reflexes would keep them safe from harm. Then again, the thing that was worrying me the most at the moment was whether or not she would need a blood transfusion, which was all on Edward’s shoulders. Tyler could hardly be blamed that Edward wanted to eat his own girlfriend. “Tyler appears to be in much the same boat as Bella, plus a sprained or broken wrist and some minor cuts.” Charlie nodded, relaxing a bit. He looked around the room, including the waiting area. Then he looked back at me with confusion. “Where’s Edward? The way he had her cradled into his chest at the scene of the accident, I was sure he wouldn’t let her go. I didn’t even bother to try to take her from him. When she awoke briefly, they only had eyes for each other. Frankly, I’m shocked he isn’t attached to her side.” I smiled at him in understanding. “I had to force him away, I’m afraid. He wasn’t physically injured in the crash, nothing serious anyway, but he was in shock. Medical shock. I had to insist he get something to drink to get something into his system. Then I made him get a little rest, forbidding him to come back to Bella until Esme could tell me he was okay. I knew then he would have to rest at least as long as it takes Esme to get here from our house and make her way to him. He didn’t want to listen, but he’s a good boy and didn’t argue with me. He’s had enough time and experience with me to know I’m always right.” I chuckled and winked at Charlie to show him I was kidding about the last remark. He grinned at me. “Father knows best, eh?” “Well, nobody’s perfect, not even me, but he recognized the wisdom of fulfilling my orders without complaint.” Charlie shook his head. “I really admire you Carlisle, you and Esme both. I don’t know how you do it. I’m a bit at a loss myself, trying to raise my one and only teenage daughter. How on earth have you two managed to raise five of them? It’s beyond my comprehension.” “I guess you just learn to accept the challenges life gives you and try to make the best of whatever hand you’re dealt. Believe me, there are times I feel like running screaming into the night, yanking out all my hair in the process, but the love we all share as a family is worth all the sacrifices, the frustrations and irritations we suffer through daily. I wouldn’t trade my family for anything.” Charlie smiled at me. “I’m glad you feel that way, Doc, because I have a feeling you and I may be related someday.” “Oh?” I queried, my eyebrows raised in surprise. “What do you mean?” Charlie squirmed, feeling a bit uncomfortable. He even blushed, not meeting my eyes. “The looks I saw on our children’s faces today – the love they shared was obvious. I’m pretty sure my Bella is going to take after me, as far as love goes. She’s such a constant little thing. Once her mind is made up about something, there’s no budging it. I’ve only loved one woman in my life, Carlisle. I loved her eighteen years ago, and I love her still. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for that woman, including setting her free to find her happiness elsewhere. Even letting her have custody of our precious daughter, accepting miniscule visitation rights, just to bring her joy. Now my Bella is becoming a young woman herself, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her either. I was her age when I fell madly in love with Renee, and that love has never faltered or died. I have never even looked at another woman. I can’t regret the love
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I gave to Renee, even though she didn’t return it, because it gave me Bella. I do hope my daughter will not suffer as I have. I see that permanent kind of love shining in her eyes today, and I realized it’s already too late. She will love Edward forever. I can only hope he feels the same way about her. I couldn’t see his eyes, but his words and his body language indicated he treasured her above all else. I don’t know how you feel about that, seeing as how they’re so young.” Charlie was still blushing and looked like he couldn’t believe he said so much. I wondered briefly if that was the longest speech he’d ever made. I’d always heard he was a man of few words, but loyal and good as they come. He loved his job, his town, and his people. His honesty and integrity were well known. “Charlie, Esme and I have already come to think of Bella as a daughter, as part of our family, even though we haven’t known her long. She’s charmed every single one of us into loving her. My children, with the exception of Edward, all consider her a sister and would protect her as one of us. Edward has never had a girlfriend before. He has been approached by females desiring his company so many times I’ve lost track, so he has had plenty of opportunity. He has never been interested. Not that he’s been interested in males either, please don’t misunderstand. He was just content with the love of our family and the companionship we provided. He never seemed to want anything more. Since Bella came along though, he’s been completely different. He wants to be with her all the time. He’s joyful, playful, ecstatic. He’s happier than I have ever seen him. It’s like he was only existing before and now he’s alive. She is his whole world, his meaning in life. He greets each day with a smile now. He used to be such a loner, but he is becoming social now. He’s even made friends with some of the boys from La Push, which is something I never thought I’d see.” “Really? From La Push?” Charlie seem staggered. I wondered why. He couldn’t know of the treaty. I nodded. “Yes, apparently they’ve all decided to work through some misconceptions each had about the other and are now getting along fine. I am very happy to see it, but I’m not sure how happy the tribal elders are going to be when they find out. I’m hoping for the best.” “Good for you,” Charlie encouraged. “I’ve told Billy before that if he would just take the time to get to know you, then he’d realize his fears and superstitions were nothing but nonsense.” He clapped me on the shoulder and then had to answer a call that came in over his radio. The nurse approached with the x-ray films. Excellent! I put them up on the x-ray board and turned on the light. I sensed Edward’s approach, and he came up behind me to look at the films over my shoulder. I examined Bella’s first. This was good news. Though the bone had cracked, it hadn’t broken all the way through, so there was no real damage to the brain, aside from a bit of bruising from it colliding with the inside of her skull at the time of impact. I moved on to Tyler’s films. Also, excellent. The concussion was mild, the bone in the forehead being one of the stronger bones that encased the brain. His wrist was merely sprained, not even broken. I was feeling rather hopeful at the moment, the injuries relatively mild considering the force of the accident. One of my nurses handed me a chart with the blood test results. I held it so Edward couldn’t see it, wanting to know myself, before he could react. I started blocking my thoughts, running my eyes down the list at vampire speed. My dead heart flipped over. I looked at him over the chart, my expression blank, my eyes serious. “I am so . . . . PROUD . . . . of you, son,” I whispered. He looked at me in shock. I noted his eyes were an orangey-yellow. They would likely be back to normal with one or two more feedings. I smiled. “According to the numbers, she’s only down about half a pint, nowhere

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near a critical level. The red cross takes more than that from blood donors. You showed incredible restraint. While it was incredibly risky to taste her blood at all, and truly she could have died so quickly, you actually pulled back from the bloodlust, from your singer no less, before you did her any real harm. It’s absolutely amazing! I don’t know of any other vampire who could have demonstrated such overwhelming control.” Edward was amazed by what I was telling him. I could tell he had expected me to be disappointed. He blamed himself, seeing only what he did wrong and not what he did right. I didn’t want to argue with him here in public, so I decided to let it go for the time being. “Why don’t you go sit with her now, Edward, and see if you can coax her out of her unconsciousness. I’m going to go and give Charlie the good news.” His face lit up with the idea, not only of being with Bella, but of doing something useful to help her. He quickly moved to her side as I approached Charlie.

Chapter 30: Hospital Beds
BPOV Ugh. My head is hurting. Why is my head hurting so badly? Okay, what is the last thing I remember? I was in the car, on the way to school. There was ice and snow. We were running late, and Edward was speeding worse than usual. I couldn’t take my eyes off the speedometer as I watched it steadily climb, chanting repeatedly in my head ‘vampires don’t have accidents’. Let’s see. Hmmm. Edward’s phone buzzed. It was Alice. She shouted something about Tyler and his van. Edward assured her we had taken care of it. There’s something odd about that. But what? Oh, well, I’ll come back to it. Then Edward had looked my way and his face flashed with horror. Next, there was a horrendous sound. Yep, that’s pretty much all I remember. No wait, there’s more. A dream. A dream of Edward staring down at me with black, hungry eyes showing no recognition, only confusion. His lips had been redder than usual. I had felt him kissing my forehead, but my brain was dizzy from the feeling of a head rush. As he had continued to stare into my eyes, his confusion grew and the blackness of his pupils began to recede. But there was something wrong with the picture. The blackness wasn’t replaced by his topaz irises. No, his eyes were red! Red! I crinkled my forehead and felt tape wrinkling on my skin, right where his mouth had been. Who am I kidding? He wouldn’t be kissing my booboo to make it all better! I must have been bleeding, and he must have been drinking from me. That would explain the feeling of the blood rushing to my head. He had been sucking it out. How do I feel now? My vampire boyfriend had been sucking my blood. Actually, it didn’t sound so bad considering I had lived to tell about it. After all, I knew he was a vampire before I started dating him. I knew I was his singer, and he would have a harder time resisting my blood than any other human’s blood, yet I still chose to ride in the confined space of a car alone with him. Oh, no. He’d been drinking my blood. I knew what that meant. He’d be blaming himself, calling himself a monster, and making plans to leave me for my own safety. What a load of malarkey. If he left me, I would personally chase him down and have Emmett rip his legs off

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and hide them. I’d like to see him run away without his legs. Hah! Don’t even try me, Angst Boy! I read what happened in New Moon, and there was no way in hell I was going to let him do that to me for real. Forget it. Something was tugging at the back of my mind though. Something about Alice’s phone call. Wouldn’t she have seen my decision to call Tyler? Why would she call about that so long after my actual call? Why had she sounded so panicked, when it had already been handled? Wait a minute. Had we ever given Alice the details about the accident as described in Twilight? I couldn’t remember doing so, and Edward didn’t seem to like to divulge anything from the books to his family. Alice must have had a vision. The accident must have happened anyway! But how? The look of horror! The horrible sound! My head injury! Somehow, Tyler must have crashed his van into us, probably into my side of the car. I hope he was okay. Oh, no! The Volvo! Edward must be crushed! He has it backwards as usual. He’s the one who isn’t safe with me. I must literally be a danger magnet. How else could be deliberately avoid an accident, only to be met with a worse one involving all the original players? “Bella?” an anguished voice murmured at my side. I felt a hard, cold hand squeeze mine. It felt like lifting elephants, but I eventually managed to pry my eyelids open. I saw Edward’s grief-stricken face staring down into mine. I refused to be like those goofy people on TV who always came out of a faint wondering what happened. I had already deduced what had happened. Sure enough, the eyes staring intensely down into my own were a cross between orange and yellow. I knew he had consumed my blood, but I wasn’t burning, so he hadn’t shared his venom with me. “Oh, Edward,” I wailed. “I’m so sorry about your Volvo! I know how much it meant to you.” He looked at me in shocked surprise, clearly questioning my sanity. “It’s just a car, sweetheart. There’s hundreds more out there. I can easily get another one just like it. Besides, it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t wreck the car.” “I know, but I still feel bad. If I wasn’t such a danger magnet, nothing would have happened.” He looked irritated for a minute, but quickly settled back into grief and shame. “Bella, I have something I have to tell you. Something I must confess.” He couldn’t meet my eyes. His fingers idly picked at the blanket covering me. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Edward, if this is about you drinking my blood from the gash in my head, I already know.” His eyes flew open and gazed at me in disbelief. “You do? But how?” “I sorted through my memories and sort of put two and two together. Besides, your eyes aren’t gold anymore.” He started to sob. “I’m so sorry, Bella. I can’t believe I am such a monster to try to devour the woman I love. I need to leave, Bella. It’s not safe for you to be around me!” I glared at him, grabbing his hand with both of mine. “Don’t you even try to start that bull, Edward Anthony Mason Cullen, or I will personally kick your ass to kingdom come!” I yelled angrily. He stared at me in surprise again, shocked to hear me speak to him that way. “Do you remember New Moon? Do you? Crap, I cried just reading about you leaving me. I refuse to actually experience it. I will hunt you down to the ends of the earth. I will fly to Italy by myself, if need be and go say hello to Aro.” A strangled cry left his lips at that last threat. He continued to stare at me wide-eyed, momentarily speechless. I rather liked it, I had to admit, that I could do that to him. I decided to take advantage of the fact and continue my rampage.

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“If anything, you are the one who is in danger from me. It’s too dangerous for you to be around me. I don’t like you getting hurt.” He scoffed, finally regaining control of his facilities. “Don’t be ridiculous, Isabella,” he dismissed with a wave of his hand. As if nothing I said mattered. Well, doggone it. It mattered to me, and I wasn’t going to back off of this one. “I’m a danger magnet, remember? If I had kept my distance in the first place, your Volvo would still be intact, and you wouldn’t be kicking yourself now.” “You’re being absurd, Bella.” “Did you ever have an accident before you met me?” I demanded. He grimaced. “Well, no, of course not.” “I rest my case!” I shouted, tasting my victory. He rolled his eyes. “Okay, you’re right. You are a danger magnet. Only you could get in a car accident with a vampire driving,” he admitted. “Ha! You admit it! Fate is out to get me! So who is going to protect me if you leave? Jacob?” He growled, suddenly gripping both of my hands in his. “No! I won’t let that dog have you! You’re mine!” “Absolutely!” I smirked. “About time you remembered that little detail. I am yours. Your soul mate, your danger magnet, your responsibility. So stop moping and get with the program.” He released my hands, falling back into his chair with a groan. “Fine, you’re right. I can’t leave. But I can’t afford to be alone with you anymore. I would die if I ever harmed you again.” “You know, Edward, I’m feeling pretty good, except for some bumps and bruises, which are NOT YOUR FAULT, so really I can’t see that there was any harm done. I’m still alive, I’m still here. You didn’t drain me dry, you didn’t change me. So I really don’t understand why you’re still beating yourself up over this. It’s over. It’s done. Move on already. Sheesh. I forgive you. You’re a vampire. I already knew that. You responded instinctively, yet your humanity overcame and allowed you to pull away.” He looked at me intensely. “I can’t take risks with your life, Isabella. You are far too important to me.” Brainblast! Did I really just think that? That’s what I get for watching the ‘Jimmy Neutron’ marathon with Emmett the other day. It was pretty funny when Emmett kept comparing Jimmy to Edward, from the weirdo hairstyle, to the big head, to the know-it-all explanations. It was also pretty funny when I asked Emmett if that made him Carl or Sheen. I remembered the look on his face when I asked that question. Complete outrage. It was hysterically funny, and suddenly, he stopped making jokes about Edward. Hee hee. “Edward, we simply have to look at the problem objectively. We should use logic to solve the problem, instead of just giving up as if it is insurmountable.”

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He looked at me in surprise, then turned rather sheepish. “You’re right. I haven’t even thought there might be another solution to the problem. What other option is there? Either I stay or I go.” “Silly vampire. Use your superhuman intellect for once. I’m only human, and I have ideas. Sheesh. Now who’s being absurd?” “Look, if you’re just going to insult me, I don’t see how this could possibly be a productive conversation,” he huffed indignantly. I rolled my eyes again. He is so melodramatic sometimes. How on earth had he lived for over a century without gaining a bit more maturity? “It’s simple really. We’ll just have Carlisle take a few blood samples periodically, and then he’ll expose you and the others to them gradually in controlled environments. If he was able to become immune to blood, I don’t see why the rest of you couldn’t also. Hopefully, it won’t take two hundred years for you to master it, since I certainly won’t have blood for that long, so it would be a moot point. I’m hoping since it is only one person’s scent you have to resist, and since Carlisle discovered whichever techniques worked best for him and can help and guide you, that it will only take a few months or so to be able to resist a small wound. You simply have to train. Mind over matter, right? You’ve already managed to get used to my smell when I’m not actively bleeding. Now you just need to work on maintaining control around my spilled blood. And you know how much I really love you when I suggest this, because you know how much I hate needles.” Edward just sat there in shock, staring at me with his mouth open. I raised an eyebrow. What was his problem? Carlisle glided over just then, grabbing my hand and grinning with excitement. “Absolutely brilliant, Bella! Of course!” Carlisle exclaimed. “I don’t know why I never thought of that. I guess because we haven’t really needed it, though I should have tried with Jasper at least. We’ll get started on that right away! Thank you, dear.” He beamed at me and left again, presumably to check on Tyler. I was starting to worry about Edward. He hadn’t even moved yet. He was simply portraying a shocked statue. I squeezed his hand. “Edward? Are you okay, honey?” He finally snapped out of it enough to comment. “That’s such a smart idea, Bella. I can’t believe none of us ever even considered it. I’m really quite embarrassed. Still, though that protects you from me, it still doesn’t protect you from other dangers in my world.” He sighed, looking downcast. “Edward? Do I need to remind you again about the rapists in Port Angeles, both by the warehouse district and at the mall? There are dangers in my world too, and you and your family help keep me safe. I could just as easily get raped and murdered in the human world as get injured in your world. Not to mention I just got hit by Tyler’s van. We both know in the alternate future the van would have killed me without your intervention. Unless Tyler’s van is a Transformer or something, you can’t blame that on mythical beings.” His lips quirked at the idea of the van being a Transformer out to get me. “Maybe I should have Rosalie take a look at it,” he murmured in amusement. Then he got serious again. “Even though we changed the circumstances, we weren’t able to truly change the future with regards to the van accident. It still involved you, Tyler, and Tyler’s van. The results were different, but still similar. You ended up with a head wound. Only this time, I drank your blood too. It would have been better if we had left it the way it was.” “I’m sorry, Edward. If we hadn’t changed it, your precious Volvo would still be intact.”

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He rolled his eyes at me. “Whatever, Bella. I don’t care about the stupid Volvo. I would smash a hundred Volvos to keep you safe.” “Still, I always thought I had the worst luck. What if instead of being persecuted, I was being protected? What if the way things happened was the best possible outcome? What if changing things only makes it worse?” He closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know, Bella. I don’t have any answers for you. In fact, I’m starting to think you’re smarter than I am, even though you’re only human, and I’ve been around for over a century. Your mind never ceases to surprise and amaze me.” He opened his eyes again, staring at me intensely. “My big question is what do we do about James, Victoria, and Laurent? They’ll be here in a little over a month. I thought it would be as easy as just keeping you out of the baseball field, but now I’m not so sure.” I frowned at him in disturbed comprehension. “It’s time for a Plan B, I think. I just have a sneaking feeling that if we try to avoid the confrontation the way Meyer presented it, it’ll just happen a different way, when we aren’t surrounded by your family. We need to think this over for a few days, and then have a discussion with the whole family about it. If they’re going to be risking themselves for me, I want them to go into it with their eyes open and not be forced into it by circumstance, like last time.” “I have no problem discussing it with everyone, but do you really think any of them would refuse to protect you? You’re part of our family, Bella. It’s one for all and all for one.” “I thought you were the Cullens, not the Musketeers,” I teased. “Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up.” “Well, they do say laughter is the best medicine. Maybe we should get Jasper here and tickle him until he cures the whole hospital,” I quipped. He chuckled. “Vampires aren’t ticklish, my dear,” he protested. “There’s a first time for everything,” I muttered, determined to test it out later when he least expected it. “As fun as it is to stay in this miserably uncomfortable hospital bed, hooked up to this noisy monitor, with this annoying IV inserted into the back of my hand, do you think you could pull some strings and spring me?” He grinned. “I’ll see what I can do.” While he was away, working his magic I hoped, Charlie came in to see me. He gave me a gentle kiss on my cheek and squeezed my hand. “How are you doing, Bells?” “I’ve been better,” I griped with a smile. “I’m actually pretty lucky I think. It could have been so much worse.” “I’m glad you had Edward there to take care of you. I can see you two really love each other, but you need to be smart. I don’t want you getting pregnant before you even finish high school like Renee did. I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about your relationship falling apart like mine did, but you still need to think about the future. If you guys are doing anything, I really don’t want to know, but don’t throw your life away before it even begins. You’ve got a great mind, and I’d really like to see you go off to college, even if you and

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Edward go together,” he lectured, unable to meet my eye. Both of us were as red as tomatoes. I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation at all, much less here and now. “Dad! Please! What if somebody hears you? Are you trying to kill me?” My heart monitor was beeping like crazy, with my heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketing rapidly. “Just think about it, Bells,” he muttered sheepishly. “And calm down before you give yourself a heart attack.” Carlisle and Edward both came rushing in right then, looking from me to the monitor and back again. Edward’s eyes were wild, and he was panting, which I thought odd considering he didn’t even need to breathe in the first place. “What’s wrong, Bella? Talk to me!” he demanded, panicking. Carlisle was busy checking my vitals. I was so embarrassed. I certainly had no intention of repeating my conversation with Charlie. I was surprised they hadn’t heard it in the first place. “It’s nothing, really. Just a disturbing conversation. I guess I overreacted,” I confessed. I was calming down, and my bodily reactions were gradually returning to normal. Carlisle and Edward both glanced over at Charlie and then shared an amused look with each other. I guess they must have heard at least some of it after all. “Umm, Carlisle, can I please go home now?” I begged. He chuckled. “Aren’t you enjoying our pleasant hospitality, dear?” he teased. “Yeah, sure. Can I go now?” He chuckled again. “If you let Edward keep an eye on you until Charlie gets home, I’ll let you go. If you have any problems, I want you back here pronto, understand? No playing the martyr and pretending nothing’s wrong,” he instructed. I tried to give him an innocent expression, but he looked at me knowingly. Right. Nothing gets past Carlisle. “Just let Edward take care of you. You need to rest. I don’t want you walking up and down stairs by yourself today. With your balance and current dizziness, I’d most likely see you back here with a broken limb or worse. Nothing strenuous today. I’ll check in with you when I get off work later tonight, and we’ll see how you are then before I give you your prescription for tomorrow.” He wagged a finger at me. “No funny business, young lady. I’d better find you resting comfortably, well hydrated and well fed, when I arrive later.” I blushed and nodded. He gave me his stern paternal look, which conveyed beyond a doubt that he meant what he said, and that I wouldn’t appreciate the consequences of disobedience. There was no way I was going to disappoint him after a look like that. I thought I probably just got a glimpse of how he keeps the rest of the family in line so easily. He turned to address Charlie. “If you’ll fill out the paperwork on your end, I’ll fill it out on mine.” “It’s a wonder there are any trees left considering all the paperwork we have to fill out these days,” Charlie grumbled. We all smiled in agreement. I couldn’t wait to get out of this place.

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Chapter 31: Home at Last
BPOV Emmett drove us to Charlie's house in his jeep. Esme was already there with some food she had prepared for me. Rose and Alice stopped by after school to keep me entertained. Rose took over the phone, screening all my calls and deflecting all the nosy gossips. “Frankly, Jessica if we wanted you to know, we'd tell you. If you were supposed to know, you would have been there at the time. Since you weren't and we don't, you're just going to have to wait for the memo like everybody else,” Rose snapped into the phone. “Bella's not your friend, she's not your sister, and she's certainly not your rival, as that would imply you actually had a chance, so really, you're just not on the 'need to know' list. Actually, you're on the LIMP list, for Least Important People. So, get a life and stop trying to live vicariously through everyone else's.” She slammed down the phone, glaring at it irritably. A few seconds later it rang again. “Hello, Swan Residence, Bella Swan's Answering Service. How may I help you?” “Uh, this is Mike Newton. I was calling to check on Bella?” “She's fine. Goodbye.” “Wait!” “Yes?” “Can I talk to her?” “I'm sorry Newt but she's busy right now. The love of her life and soul mate, Edward Cullen, is feeding her grapes with his fingers while she is curled up in his lap. He's been waiting on her hand and foot all day like a lovesick slave, and honestly, one lovesick puppy is enough for any girl. Since she already has someone stronger, smarter, and better looking filling that role, you need to give up and apply for that role with some other chick, got it?” “Uhhh . . . . Who is this again?” “This is Bella's sister. I'm going to do you a favor and let you in on a little secret. Bella does not want to go out with you. She will never want to go out with you. Even if you were the only boy in the entire town of Forks, she still would not date you. So go find another girl to be the object of your obsession, because this one is already taken. I don't think there is a man alive who is more obsessive than Eddie here, so he's even got you beat there. Do yourself a favor and focus on Jessica instead. At least then you'll probably finally get some.” She laughed evilly and hung up briskly.
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“Did it work? Will he finally give up on asking me out?” I asked Alice hopefully. She went into her vision trance and came out again shortly thereafter giggling. She shook her head and laughed. “Nope! That boy's head is harder than ours! I'm not sure there's anything strong enough to knock some sense into him,” she professed. The phone rang again, for the twenty-fifth time since school let out. “Hello, Swan Residence, how can I help you?” Rose answered sarcastically. “Rose? Is that you?” “Oh, hi, Angela. Would you like to talk to Bella?” “Sure, if she's up to it.” “Well, let me see if I can sneak you past her resident bodyguard,” Rose quipped. She tossed the phone over to Bella and Edward promptly caught it, handing it to me. “Hey, Angela!” I greeted her enthusiastically. “Bella! You sound pretty good to me. Must not have been too bad then.” “Yeah, I'm doing okay. Just got a little bump on the head. No biggie. Everyone needs to concentrate on Tyler instead of me. He's in worse shape than I am. I'm pretty sure he's still in the hospital, so maybe everyone can go visit him or something.” “Hey, that's a great idea! I think I'll suggest it to Jessica, but let her think it's her idea. That way it'll be sure to be a success. Everyone can make him a card or something and hang them on the wall in his room to make him feel better.” “You're such a sweetheart, Ang, always thinking of others.” “Isn't that like the pot calling the kettle black?” Angela laughed. “Well, you obviously have plenty of help right now, so I'll just talk to you tomorrow, okay?” “Okay, sounds good. I'll probably be at school tomorrow.” “Great! I'll see you then.” We hung up and I tried to toss the phone back to Rose. It almost hit Alice in the head. If she didn't have vampire reflexes, it probably would have. She caught it with a laugh and passed it on to Rose. I had to endure a few snide comments about my pitiful aim, so I ignored them all and concentrated on snuggling up with Edward. My head was starting to throb a bit, and it felt better when pressed against his cold skin. I lay there in his arms, resting my head on his chest, letting my eyes drift closed. I listened to the conversation around me until it faded into a nonsensical buzzing. Finally, I drifted off into dream land. I woke up when Charlie came home, and all the Cullens cleared out, except for Edward who agreed to stay for ‘dinner’. Esme had been a real sweetheart and made a delicious home cooked meal of pot roast, cooked with onions, carrots, and potatoes, allowing the beef flavor to percolate throughout the vegetables. It was a genius way to get Charlie to eat some vegetables for once. At least fish is supposed to be good for the heart, considering how many

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pounds of it he consumes in the average week. She had used the juices from the roast to make a yummy gravy. She had even made a peach cobbler for desert, complete with a quart of vanilla ice cream in the freezer. When it came time to actually eat, Edward claimed he had gotten full being his mother’s official taster while she was preparing everything. Charlie didn’t mind, as it meant more for him. He moaned appreciatively throughout the meal. The pot roast was so tender it could be cut with a spoon, and it simply melted in my mouth. I had to admit it was the best I’d ever had. I wasn’t sure which spices she had chosen to toss into the mix, but I wanted to learn her secrets. I couldn’t believe that a vampire who couldn’t even smell or taste the food appropriately was still a better cook than I was. Talk about an inferiority complex. When I told Edward the peach cobbler a la mode was ‘to die for,’ I even got a chuckle out of him. Of course, Charlie gave him a weird look for laughing, since he didn’t see anything amusing in the statement. This made me lose it, and I burst into laughter. Charlie smiled at me in bemusement, clearly wondering if I was suffering the after effects of my head injury. I calmed myself down and concentrated solely on the pleasure of consuming my dessert. I found myself moaning occasionally and sometimes licking the ice cream off the spoon. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw Edward watching me intensely, his eyes black with hunger. This wasn’t hunger for my blood, but hunger for my body. My eyes widened, and I blushed as I realized how my behavior might have been viewed by an audience. Thankfully, my dad was oblivious to the electricity shooting between us. Suddenly, I was in a hurry to finish my dessert, desiring to go to bed for the night, where I knew Edward would meet me and hold me in his arms again. I finished the last few bites, and Edward grabbed my dirty dishes before I could, taking them to the sink and washing them while I watched. Charlie noticed and was smiling at Edward’s back with approval. When he finished, he came back to my chair to carry me into the living room. “Actually, I’m feeling rather tired, even though it’s not so late. I’m ready for bed now,” I announced once I was in his arms. He raised an eyebrow at me in amusement, flicking his eyes in Charlie’s direction. I blushed even worse than usual and groaned when I realized how that probably sounded in my current position. Thankfully, Charlie simply chuckled at my embarrassment, letting it go without saying anything. Edward walked into the living room, lowering me down onto the couch. I looked at him indignantly. Why hadn’t he carried me up to bed like I wanted? “Getting a little forgetful, love?” He asked with a chuckle, kissing my uninjured temple. “Perhaps you hit your head harder than we thought.” Huh? What was he talking about? Why did he always insist on being so cryptic anyway? Just then, there was a knock at the door. “Don’t worry, Charlie, I’ll get it,” Edward volunteered, rising swiftly from the couch. He opened the door and ushered Carlisle inside. Carlisle brought his little black bag of tricks with him, though he probably didn’t actually need most of the tools. “Hey, Charlie,” Carlisle greeted pleasantly as he passed by the kitchen door. “I’m just here to check on Bella. Please enjoy your dinner in peace.” “Actually, your wonderful wife made it, so please feel free to join me when you finish with Bella.” “Thank you for the offer, Charlie, but I prefer to spend dinner time in person with my wife whenever possible. She usually waits for me to be available before eating.”

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“Oh, I understand. Well, it’s available if you change your mind.” “Thanks, Charlie,” Carlisle replied as he walked over to Bella. As soon as he was out of Charlie’s line of sight, he shuddered, wrinkled his nose in disgust, and then winked at me. I clapped a hand over my mouth to keep from laughing, though my eyes teared up with the effort. “So, how are you feeling, Bella?” he asked, switching over into doctor mode. He checked my eyes and my reflexes while waiting for my reply. “I’m fine, really,” I assured him. “My head was throbbing a bit earlier, but felt better once I applied an icepack.” I smiled and indicated Edward, my personal icepack. They both grinned in response. “In fact, after my nap, I feel well enough to return to school tomorrow.” I beamed at him, trying to project the picture of perfect health. “Don’t fall for it, Dad,” Edward protested. “She just got finished complaining of fatigue and wanting to go to bed early.” I glared at Edward and poked him in the chest. “Duh!” I whispered, rolling my eyes and frowning. Carlisle watched the exchange and smirked while putting away his tools. “Well, Bella, your reflex responses are still a bit delayed, though you are much improved over this morning. I’d feel a lot better if you took it easy tomorrow too. You should be able to take care of yourself, but I think the noise and stress of school, with all the attention you’ll be receiving from the other children, might delay your recovery. I want you to take it easy, rest and relax, and allow your brain a little more time to heal before you subject yourself to the chaos and cacophony that reign supreme at the high school.” I started to protest, but Carlisle place one cold finger on my mouth to stop me. “It’s going to be sunny tomorrow,” he whispered. My eyes widened in understanding. Oh, well, that makes all the difference in the world. I sighed forlornly, for the benefit of my father in the other room. Carlisle and Edward shook with suppressed laughter at my theatrical attempt. “Well, if you say so, Carlisle. You know best, of course. I wouldn’t want to disobey doctor’s orders.” “Thank you, my dear,” he snickered, planting a gentle kiss on my forehead. We heard Charlie’s footsteps approaching, and once again his demeanor became entirely professional. He stood up from where he had been kneeling and approached Charlie with a smile. “I’d like her to stay home and take it easy for one more day, if you don’t mind, Charlie. I’ll write her a note for school, though I’m sure the whole town already knows what happened earlier. She should be fine to look after herself as long as she agrees to take it easy.” Charlie shook Carlisle’s hand with approval. “Thanks, Carlisle. You’re a good man. I really appreciate all you’ve done for my girl.” “Anytime,” he replied peacefully. “We’ve all grown rather attached to your Bella. We like having her around.” The two of them smiled at one another, in perfect accord. Carlisle walked toward the door. He stopped just in front of it, his hand on the knob. “Come along, Edward. I’ll give you a ride home, since you don’t have your car any longer.” Edward had been about to protest, but swallowed it when Carlisle pointed out his lack of a vehicle.

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“Certainly, sir. Let me just help Bella up to her room, and I’ll be right down,” he answered calmly. Carlisle nodded and went out to wait in the car. Edward lifted me up and carried me effortlessly up the stairs to my room. When we got there, I giggled and looked up into his eyes. “You know, you should at least be breathing hard after that workout, or you’re going to give Charlie an inferiority complex,” I reminded him. “Don’t worry, I know just the thing to help you.” So saying, I drew his head down to my lips and proceeded to kiss him senseless. When we pulled apart to allow me to breathe, he was panting, just as I knew he would be. “There you go, that’s more like it,” I teased, giving him a push toward the door. “Now don’t keep your father waiting.” He grinned at me, leaned forward, and whispered in my ear. “I’ll be right back, little one, and then you’ll get your just desserts.” I shivered in anticipation, as well as due to his cold breath tickling my ear. He marched downstairs and said goodbye to Charlie, before heading out to ride home with good old Dad. I knew Carlisle would pull over and let him out again as soon as they were out of sight, so I knew I didn’t have much time for my human minute. I rushed to the bathroom to get ready, eager to be back in the arms of the man I love.

Chapter 32: Sunny Day
BPOV Wednesday morning dawned bright and early. I forced my eyes open to see Edward hovering over me, looking at me excitedly. “I had a great idea for today, love! If you’re feeling better, that is.” I smiled sleepily up at him. I loved to see the sparkle in his eyes when he was happy. “Keep smiling like that, or better yet, kiss me, and I’ll be feeling much better,” I teased.

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He grinned, leaning down to capture my lips with his own. After a minute or two, when I was fully away and aroused, he pulled away. I groaned in frustration. I continued to cling to his neck as he stood, which pulled me up out of the bed with him. He chuckled, which sent electric shocks shivering through my system. “Now, Bella, your father has already left for work, and I have someplace special I would like to go and something special I would like to show you. So please get up and get ready, so we can be on our way.” I studied his eyes and his expression for a few moments, while I taxed my brain to read into his statement. He wants to go somewhere, but it’s sunny outside, so our options were rather limited. In the books, he usually took me to the meadow when it was sunny. Oh! Comprehension dawned. Of course! He must be taking me to the meadow to show me what he looks like when he is all sparkly. I grinned up at him, enthusiastic about his plans now. No doubt my own eyes were twinkling as well. I rushed to get ready, taking a quick shower, and putting on comfortable jeans and long sleeves to protect myself from the leaves and branches that would scrape me on our way there. Edward was waiting for me downstairs in the kitchen, where he had prepared a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese and turkey sausage. I had never tasted turkey sausage that actually tasted good, so I was rather pleased with the result. “Hey, Edward, how did you learn to cook the turkey sausage, because I obviously haven’t been doing it the right way,” I wondered. He smiled at the praise and was eager to share his secrets. “Well, the problem with the turkey sausage and turkey bacon is that they don’t have enough fat in them for them to cook properly. Having less fat is of course one of the main reasons they are better options than the pork versions, so one has to overcome the lack without compromising the healthiness. Since olive oil has been proven to help lower cholesterol, thus being good for you, you simply pan fry the turkey meats in olive oil. That way the turkey bacon can get crunchy and the turkey sausage can brown without getting dry. Viola!” he lectured carefully, clearly proud of himself. “Huh. Well, it certainly tastes good. It’s not the same, but it is still good. Besides, now I don’t have to feel guilty about having another one!” He grinned and brought out a small bowl of a fresh fruit salad, which I devoured wholeheartedly. I felt the blood rushing from my head to my stomach once I finished eating. This made me feel sleepy, as my body wanted me to stay still and concentrate on digesting. Too bad for it. I already had other plans. I got up from the table and started moving around, forcing my blood to circulate throughout my body. Edward kindly put away the leftovers, cleared the table, and washed the dishes. How nice to have a domesticated man. Now all he needed was an apron and a wooden spoon. Hee hee. I chose not to share my amusement with him, especially as I didn’t care for those particular chores. I decided to up the ante. Renee had taught me a few tricks about how to handle men when I was living with her. “Mmmm, you have no idea how sexy it is to see a man doing dishes and cleaning the house,” I drawled seductively. He looked over his shoulder and saw me watching him through hooded lids. He raised an eyebrow and gave me a sexy smile in return. “My pleasure,” he murmured, his velvet voice caressing my ears. Excellent! He was caught, hook, like, and sinker. I just needed to reel him in gently, and he wouldn’t even realize what was happening until it was too late.

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“I need to grab a few things before we go,” I announced cheerfully. Then I made my voice husky and smiled slowly at him, deliberately licking my lips. “I can’t wait until we get to the meadow, sweetheart, and then you’re all mine.” He swallowed hard, and his eyes glazed over. I turned on my heel and fled into the hallway out of sight. I think I just dazzled him again. I pulled an old backpack out of the hall closet and started packing it with supplies. I found an old thick blanket and slipped that in first. Then I added a couple of water bottles and some snack food. I guessed we would likely be there all day, so I wanted to be prepared. As a last minute thought, I grabbed a small first aid kit, sincerely hoping I wouldn’t need to use it. I tucked that in too and tossed the pack over one shoulder, knowing I would just be putting it in the car in a few minutes. “Okay, I’m ready now,” I called as I made my way back to the kitchen. When I found myself at the door way, my mouth opened in shock. I kept blinking my eyes, as if I didn’t trust them to be functioning properly. The whole kitchen gleamed and sparkled. Holy moly! I’d been gone for less than ten minutes. How did he do that? Well, vampire speed obviously, but still! Edward was beaming at my reaction, reading my facial expressions, while dumping dirty water out of the mop bucket. If it weren’t for the obvious indentations, scratches, styles, and color of Charlie’s kitchen, it could have passed as brand new. Shucks, I doubted it even looked this good when it was brand new. “Wow!” I exclaimed, at a loss for words. “Just wow! I am amazed, awestruck, and ecstatically happy to see what you’ve accomplished! You deserve a reward, Edward Cullen, and I’m just the gal to give it to you!" I tried to walk carefully across the kitchen floor to Edward, but the floor was now ‘slippery when wet’. Being Bella, I started slipping and sliding almost immediately. I quickly lost my balance and would have fallen if Edward hadn’t grabbed me. I was now excited and panting from my near accident, which immediately led to thoughts of other things that made me excited and panting. I pulled Edward's face down to mine and poured my love and passion into my kiss. He groaned into my mouth and reluctantly pulled away again. “If we don’t leave now, we aren’t going to make it out of the house at all today,” he protested. I smiled like the cat who ate the canary. “Quite alright with me,” I offered. He shook his head and carried me out of the kitchen, not wanting to risk any more accidents. Once by the door, he slipped on an oversized hoodie and gloves, effectively hiding all his skin under fabric or in shadows. I complimented him on his ingenuity. He led me to his Vanquish, his special occasion car. “Is this a special occasion, or are you merely driving this because the Volvo was demolished?” I asked pertly. He grinned. “Both.” On the way there, I talked to him about what kind of car he wanted to get to replace the Volvo. He mentioned several options, but since I’m not into cars, I had no idea what any of them looked like. I just pretended to listen as he compared and contrasted their various qualities. “What about you, Bella? What’s your dream car?” “A Corvette,” I promptly replied. I didn’t even have to think about this one. “I’ve always had a thing for the Stingray, though the latest model is really nice looking too. If you got an old Stingray and had Rosalie work her magic on it, that would make me drool. Any other car is just a car.”

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“Really?” he asked, clearly not pleased with my answer. After all, I’d just suggested an option even I could possibly afford. I didn’t need a 500 thousand dollar car to be happy. Especially not with my luck. The car would likely end up dented, nicked, and scratched by the end of the first day. Or maybe stolen. Or a meteor could fall from the sky and make a hole right through the engine. Okay, I’d better stop there. “Bella, baby, the Corvette only seats two people,” he grumbled. I shrugged. “Works for me! I don’t mind having you all to myself.” He grinned at that, back in a good humor again. “I can see I need to educate you about cars, my dear.” “Ugh!” I grouched, putting my hands over my ears. “Only if you want to put me to sleep or drive me insane. Sorry, babe, but the ‘Vette is the only car that does it for me.” I smirked as he groaned in defeat. He gave a resigned sigh and mumbled something under his breath. I had a feeling it was a good thing I didn’t hear whatever he had just said. But I had won the debate, so I was magnanimous in my victory. When we got to the end of the road, I seriously expected to have to hike there, like the Twilight book had mentioned. Edward just grinned. “You already know all about me, Bella. Why don’t you just hop on my back and we’ll be there lickety-split.” Hey, I wasn’t going to complain about not having to do a five hour hike through the woods where I would trip every five minutes, even if he was there to catch me. So I eagerly hopped onto his back, pressing my face into his chest. We were at our destination in less than five minutes. Edward set me down gently and held onto me until I was steady on my feet. I eagerly stepped into the meadow, taking in the beauty and serenity of my surroundings. After I had finished soaking in the scenery, I turned to watch him expectantly. He removed the hoodie and gloves, hanging them on a tree branch, then checked my expression before removing his t-shirt as well. My breath caught in my throat as I beheld his splendid form. I couldn’t wait to run my hands over his muscled contours. I crooked my finger at him, encouraging him to walk out into the center of the meadow with me. He smiled, watching my eyes drinking in his figure. He strolled casually up to me, and I stared as the sun hit his skin, causing him to sparkle as if he was covered in body glitter. Hmmm. What an interesting idea. I think I’ll get Alice to pick some of that stuff up at the body shop. Then I’ll coat myself with it on the morning of the next sunny day. That way, when he comes out into the sunlight glittering like a million diamonds, I can too! We can be glitter twins. Yeah, because I was a little jealous of how beautiful his skin looked right about now. I took off my backpack and began to set up camp. I shook out the blanket and laid it out flat on the grass. Then I took out my iPod and portable speakers and put on some soothing background music. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty yet, so I left my food supplies in the bag. Then I sat down comfortably on the blanket and waited for Edward to join me. He was watching me with a quizzical smile. He peeked into the backpack to see what other supplies I had brought and nodded in approval. “Good job, thinking of all this. I should have thought about it, but I didn’t. I’ll remember for next time.” I simply nodded, choosing not to argue about whether or not he should be able to anticipate all of my human needs after a mere week and a half. He curled up on the blanket beside me, and I took the time to examine his skin more closely. I decided to have some fun, and began exploring. I started by simply using my eyes to trace his form and features until I
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could memorize the details of his unclothed torso. Next, I began exploring with my hands, rubbing them gently over every exposed surface, trying to memorize the contours of his body, the texture of his smooth, silky skin, and the cool temperature against my warm hands. I could tell that he was deeply moved by my touches, as he had begun to make a sort of purring sound in his chest, like a cross between a growl and a roar. Finally, I daringly decided to explore with my mouth. At first, he didn’t say anything as I began planting gentle kisses up his arm to his shoulder. As I began to make my way down his chest, he put a restraining hand on my shoulder. “What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded breathlessly. I smirked down at him. “Exploring,” I purred coyly, playing innocent. “Purely for educational purposes, of course. I was using my five senses to explore the nature of a vampire.” He raised his eyebrow. “Your five senses, huh?” I grinned back. “Absolutely! Sight *running my eyes over his body*, Sound *rubbing his skin until he purred*, Touch *still rubbing his skin*, Smell *leaning close to his facing and inhaling deeply*, and . . . Taste *taking his earlobe into my mouth and gently scraping it with my teeth as I pulled back*.” He shivered and moaned in reaction to my ministrations. He fell back onto the blanket with a groan as I continued to explore his exposed skin with my teeth, tongue, and lips. “I’ll . . .sacrifice . . . myself . . . on the . . . altar of . . . higher . . . education,” he gasped out, moaning occasionally. By the time I was finally finished exploring him, he was in complete and utter bliss. I couldn’t help but chuckle at his satisfied expression. I realized I was hungry and took out my food and water. I enjoyed my lunch as Edward lay peacefully beside me, gently stroking my back while I ate. Once I had finished and packed up the trash, he pounced. I found myself on my back with my arms up above my head. My shirt had ridden up a bit to expose my tummy. His eyes were black with hunger, and I felt a shiver of fear run through me. Then he leaned down and kissed me, and I understood he wasn’t craving my blood. I felt his cool fingers slide across my exposed tummy and tensed in surprise. “What are you doing?” I gasped breathlessly. “Exploring,” he snickered. I moaned at the thought of all that implied. Well, I was game if he was. I relaxed against the blanket, knowing I would enjoy the torture he would give me after the way I had just tortured him. Sure enough, he soon had me moaning, putty in his all too capable hands. “We wouldn’t . . . want to . . . neglect . . . your . . . education,” I gasped in agreement. I moaned when I felt the vibrations of him chuckling against me. When he finally felt he had sufficiently explored me in return, we lay there together on the blanket, holding hands. We took some time to talk with one another and learn more about each other. After a few hours had passed, we decided it was time to return home. He helped me pack up the blanket and then ran with me back to his car. We rode all the rest of the home in silent, peaceful contentment, simply enjoying being in one another’s presence.

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Chapter 33: Insanity in the Family
BPOV Edward decided to take me back to his house, rather than take me home. I didn’t mind. I’d had enough couple time with Edward today to be happy about spending time with our family and friends. Esme was delighted he had brought me, and she promptly went into mother hen mode. She was fully in her element, fluffing pillows behind me on the couch, bringing me refreshments, covering me with a soft blanket and tucking me in with a kiss. Renee had never been one to fuss around me when I was sick. I had learned early on to suffer in silence and lean only on my own independence. I felt something snap in my heart, but not in a bad way. I couldn’t really explain it, even to myself, but some part of me that had remained unfulfilled was suddenly warm and happy. Intellectually, I could understand it was a result of Esme’s love and selfless, concerned mothering, helping me when I was weak and weary, trying to make me feel better, simply because she cared. I smiled at Esme, allowing my love, hope, and affection display on my face and in my eyes. This woman touched me in a way my own mother never had. She was there for me, not the other way around. It was nice to be the child for once, to release the burden of responsibility to someone else, to allow someone else take the weight off my shoulders for awhile. I had been a mother to my mother for too long, taking care of her, sacrificing my own life, pleasure, and happiness for her, losing myself in the process. “Thanks, Mom,” I whispered as I hugged her. Her face lit up like a beacon, like she had just won the lottery. I was happy to see her happy. She became even more flustered than before, practically wringing her hands, while trying to think of other ways to take care of me. I was glad when the others came home from hunting to distract her. Having never been the recipient of such nurturing, it was actually a little overwhelming. Of course, Esme’s presence was immediately replaced by the bouncing pixie. Alice had me in a hug, before I could even greet her. “So, Bella,” she murmured in my ear. “Did you enjoy exploring the meadow with Edward?” I instantly blushed redder than a stop sign, and she snickered. I grabbed her shoulders and mouthed, “Don’t you dare tell, Emmett!” She got an evil grin on her face. “Who’s going to stop me?”

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Changing the future

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I glared at her and growled menacingly, “I’ll set all your clothes on fire.” She stared at me wide-eyed. I saw her going into vision mode to check the sincerity of my threat. I quickly decided I would use gasoline and matches to torch her entire closet. I pictured myself standing in her room watching as the flames consumed thousands and thousands of dollars worth of designer clothes and shoes. She came out of her vision staring at me in absolute horror. I smiled smugly. “Don’t try me,” I growled. She shook her head, holding her hands up in front of her in an expression of surrender. Ha, ha. It was just too funny. She was scared of me, the fragile human. I blackmailing a vampire, and she was afraid of what I might do. I was busy using my brains since I had no brawn. “Fine,” she huffed, seeing my amusement in the situation. Her sly look scared me. Now what? “But I want details later.” “Alice!” I protested. She gave me one of her ‘looks’, the kind that tell you she is saying you do this or you will regret it for the rest of your life. I scowled back at her. She smirked smugly, knowing she had already won. Grrr. “So, what did you two do all day today?” Emmett boomed, sweeping me up into a bear hug. “Sit on opposite sides of the couch and make moon eyes at each other?” Edward turned his head away, his smirk was still prominently displayed. I tried to hide my face in Emmett’s chest. He pulled me away from his body, staring down at my overheated cheeks. He gently set me back down on the couch beside Edward. “Wow, you mean you actually made it to first base?” Emmett asked in amazement. Edward grinned at whatever Emmett was thinking. “I don’t play baseball,” I informed him haughtily. Emmett chuckled heartily. “By the look on Eddie’s face, I’d say you do now. Don’t worry, baseball is a Cullen specialty. All Cullens play baseball, so welcome to our team.” I rolled my eyes and heard Jasper laugh. Rose came over to look at us curiously. “So what did you two do today?” I attempted to gather up the shattered remains of my dignity. “We had a lovely picnic in Edward’s meadow, and he showed me why you guys can’t go out among humans on sunny days.” “Huh. Sounds boring,” Emmett grumbled. “I’m going to go play video games now.” He stomped over to the Wii. He turned it on and grabbed one of the controllers. He started waving the remote toward the TV, trying to get the little hand to show on the screen. “Oh, no you don’t, Emmett McCarty Cullen!” Esme shrieked. “You put that little wrist strap on right now, young man! If you throw another controller through the TV or through the window or through the wall, I will donate the entire system and all the games to charity, and you’ll never get another one. You’ve already had three strikes, and each time I’ve had to make the list of don’ts longer. So let me just make this clear once and for all. If you damage anything else by losing control of your remote, it is GAME OVER. Is that clear?” “Crystal clear, ma’am,” Emmett replied sheepishly, attaching the chain to his wrist. Rose had modified the original wrist strap for him, as the fabric would have been virtually useless.

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I was hoping this little distraction would move the conversation away from Edward and me, but unfortunately, vampires with perfect memories can always remember what they were talking about before the distraction occurred. I grumbled under my breath about the stupid vampire memories. If it had been humans having the conversation, the previous conversation would have been easily swept aside in favor of discussing Emmett’s escapades with the controller. “Did you do anything else today?” Jasper inquired casually. Edward glared at him, so I knew he must be suspicious. “No, just exploring in the forest, enjoying each other’s company,” I stuttered, my heart racing. My cheeks were practically on fire. I saw Esme, Rose, and Jasper examining my face curiously. “So, why are you so . . . worked up, Bella?” Rose wondered. “Your heart is about to burst from your chest, and I’ve never seen you so red before.” “Yeah, I’m about to keel over from embarrassment,” Jasper laughed. “Either that or go hide my head in the sand like an ostrich for a week or two. So tell me, Bella, did you enjoy exploring with Edward?” I couldn’t help it. It was instinctual, involuntary, over before I could even think about it. When Jasper drawled the word ‘exploring’, my eyes instantly flew to Edward as his flew to me. Our gazes met, and the knowledge of the secret we shared passed between us, in what is commonly referred to as ‘a meaningful look’. Unfortunately, that one look was enough to give the game away. Jasper started laughing. “I thought so. I noticed a distinct lack of a certain . . . tension . . . that has been building for the past several days, and Edward is feeling more satisfied and content than he ever has in the decades I’ve known him. Who knew our sweet little Edward was adventurous enough to go exploring with Bella out in the wide open meadow, under the clear blue sky, on a picnic blanket no less? Our baby brother is finally coming into his own, Em. He’ll finally get to join the rest of us at the grown-up table on holidays.” Emmett’s head shot up with Jasper’s speech. “No way!” he screeched, bounding back over to us. He peered into my eyes. “There something you’d like to tell us, little sis?” “No!” I shouted. “Then why are you redder than a strawberry?” “None of your business!” An evil grin spread across his face. “Emmett,” Edward growled warningly. The grin got wider. “So when are we going to have a little half-vamp baby running around here?” Emmett asked. Rose and Esme gasped in surprise, looking at me more closely, from my eyes down to my abdomen. I buried my head into Edward’s chest. “I’ll get you later, Emmett, when you least expect it,” Edward promised. “Sorry to disappoint you all, but there is NO possible way there will be any munchkins running around anytime soon. Bella needs to graduate high school before we start a family.” Esme and Rose nodded, but I could tell they were disappointed. Intellectually, they understood why it would be best for us to wait, but emotionally, they were both already in
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love with a child who didn’t even exist yet and couldn’t wait for us to bring the little miracle into our lives. Everybody was silent for a few moments, each lost in thoughts of the future. My stomach chose that moment to rumble. “Oh! Let me get you a snack, dear!” Esme offered in concern, jumping up from her place on the couch. Just then the door opened, and Jacob, Quil, and Embry strolled inside. “Did I just hear the word snack?” Jake asked playfully, giving Esme a giant hug. She gave him a brief kiss on the cheek. The other two took turns in her motherly embrace. “Oh, boys, it’s good to see you again! Come on in and make yourselves comfortable. I was just on my way to the kitchen. I baked some cookies earlier, and I made enough for all of you, just in case you came to visit. There are oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and chocolate chunk.” “Sounds awesome, Mom!” Jake exclaimed eagerly, giving her his best grin. “You’re the best!” He gave her another quick hug and dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “Please let me help you in the kitchen, Esme,” Embry begged. “I’d be happy to volunteer myself as your official taste tester.” Esme grinned and ruffled his hair. “Well, come along then. I knew there was some reason we keep you around,” she teased. “So any special reason for your visit, or did you just want to hang out today?” Rose inquired politely. Jake walked over and gave her a brief hug. “Thanks again for all your help the other day. The car runs like a dream.” Rose smiled in pleasure and nodded her head in acknowledgement. “We’re here to beat the pants off of Emmett in Mario Kart,” Quil informed us. “You wish! Like you mutts could possibly beat my super awesome vampire skills!” Emmett rose to the challenge, already loading the appropriate game into the Wii and grabbing three more controllers and the driving wheels. “By the time we’re through with you, you’re going to wish you had tears to cry, leech,” Jacob returned, grinning in anticipation. I didn’t really understand why the boys always had to insult each other when they played together. They all did it, apparently, even Carlisle, when he let himself relax enough to play with them, which wasn’t often. They all actually enjoyed the trash talking. Must be a boy thing. Jasper took the fourth controller and sat beside Emmett. “Eat my dust, pups,” Emmett howled as the game started. “Eat this!” Quil yelled, firing a turtle shell at Emmett’s car. “Son of a bitch!” Emmett shouted as the shell knocked him into a road sign. “Nah, I get it from my father’s side,” Quil drawled, racing past Emmett’s accident. We all started laughing. Jasper’s motorcycle knocked Jacob’s car off a bridge.
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“Stupid bloodsucker!” Jacob complained. “Mangy mongrel!” Jasper replied with a laugh. He was safely in the lead at the moment, but Quil was closing in fast. I was watching Jasper and Alice, chuckling softly. Edward followed my gaze and joined in my amusement. Jasper was moving his whole upper body every time he went around a curve, just like he would if he were riding on a real motorcycle. That was funny enough, but it was even funny to see Alice matching his movements exactly, as if she were riding behind him on the real motorcycle. I pulled Edward’s head down to mine and whispered in his ear, “Why don’t you get the video camera and get a recording of Jasper and Alice?” He grinned and nodded disappearing in a burst of vampire speed. Seconds later, he was back, camera in hand. Hmmm. Maybe it’s good that he’s capturing Jacob and Embry having a great time playing with Jasper and Emmett on film, in case we ever need to use it as evidence. Embry and Esme came into the room holding plates of cookies. They set them down on the coffee table, and Embry promptly plopped down beside the cookies. I reached over and snagged one of each kind. Jasper won the first round of Mario Kart, but before they could start a new game, the boys smelled the cookies. Jacob and Quil jumped up and were pushing and shoving each other in their effort to get there first. Jacob won out, but when Embry saw him approaching, he pulled the plate toward him and hunched over it, shoving a cookie in his mouth and grabbing another one. Jacob snarled and snapped at Embry, grabbing the plate and pulling it toward himself. Embry let go of that plate and grabbed the other one. Both boys hunched over their plates eyeing one another suspiciously. Quil knelt between them, quietly whimpering, his eyes going from one plate to the other. “Boys! Behave yourselves!” Esme commanded. The three of them instantly relaxed into more natural postures, the tension fading from their necks and shoulders. They eyed each other carefully, and suddenly a mad scramble ensued, with all three of them grabbing cookies by the handful. In a matter of minutes, the cookies had been devoured, and only crumbs were left on the plates. “Ugh!” Rosalie sneered in disgust. “You guys eat like animals!” “Ya think?,” Jacob muttered sarcastically. “I wonder why.” “Woof!” Quil joked, panting and holding his ‘paws’ in the begging position. Embry just grinned and began licking the crumbs off the plates without using his hands. “Boys!” Esme scolded, trying to hold in her laughter. Rosalie’s lips twitched, and when the rest of us started laughing, both she and Esme joined in too. “So, are you officially wolves yet?” Emmett wondered. Jacob shook his head. “Not yet, but it will probably happen soon. Sam and Paul are going crazy trying to keep track of all three of us. We’ve actually been having a little fun with them, trying to see how quickly we can get them off our trails.” Carlisle came in then and looked really happy to see all of us interacting peacefully together. Jacob became excited when he saw him.

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“Hey, Doc! I got that picture of Emily for you!” he enthused, running over to Carlisle and handing it to him. Carlisle looked it over quickly and frowned, studying it more closely. Jacob’s face fell when he saw the frown. “So what do you think?” Jacob asked flatly, expecting disappointment. Carlisle’s brows drew together, indicating a level of anger and frustration. He struggled to maintain a calm façade. “Did they even sew up the gashes at all or tape them or anything? Or did they just leave them to heal on their own? She has a massive amount of unnecessary scar tissue.” He looked up at Jacob then, his eyes demanding answers. Jacob shuffled his feet nervously. “Well, I believe they took her to a nurse who lives on the reservation. I know they were desperate to have everyone believe it was a bear attack, and they refused to take her to the hospital because you were working there.” Jacob rolled his eyes. “They should have sucked it up and brought her to you in the first place, but it’s better late than never, right? Can you help her?” Carlisle nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, of course. There is absolutely no need for her to have such massive scarring. My only regret is that it will be painful for her all over again.” “Well, at least she’ll have the option, whichever way she chooses,” Jacob conceded. “How is my little head case this evening?” Carlisle teased, coming over to check on me. I huffed, pretending to be outraged. “Well, I never!” “Are you sure?” Emmett taunted. “Not even in the meadow?” I glared at him for real, and Edward growled. Emmett held his hands up in surrender, but he was still smirking. Carlisle continued his physical exam without comment, though his eyes darted questioningly to Edward's face and seemed surprised by what he saw there. “Any problems?” Carlisle asked me seriously, looking into my eyes. “Only one,” I mentioned, as seriously as possible. Carlisle looked expectant, and I felt Edward tense beside me, his eyes intent on my face. “I afraid that insanity runs in the family. The Cullen family, to be precise. I’m not sure if it’s contagious, or if the nutcases just naturally gravitate toward you, though considering present company, I’m leaning toward the latter. I may be a danger magnet, but you, Dr. Cullen, are a nut magnet!” Carlisle grinned and everybody laughed. He stood up, took my hand, bowed over it, and kissed my knuckles like the gentleman he was raised to be. He looked me in the eye, raised one eyebrow and smirked. “Aren’t you glad you fit right in, my dear?” I grinned back at him. “Absolutely!” He put his medical bag away and joined Esme on the loveseat. “So what happened to your head, Bella?” Jacob asked curiously. Edward told them all about Tyler and the accident, without mentioning his own loss of control. By the time he finished, both Jacob and Embry had jumped to their feet and were pacing angrily. “That stupid idiot!” Jacob yelled. “He could have killed her! What the hell was he thinking to go speeding down an icy hill toward a stop sign? He doesn’t deserve to have a license!”

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“They should keep idiots like him off the road!” Embry growled. “He’s been telling everyone that he was running late because he was fantasizing about Bella after she called that morning expressing concern over his well-being,” Rose interjected. “What?!” Edward and I both shouted at the same time. Alice nodded in confirmation. “That’s what he told the group who visited him in the hospital.” “You called him?” Jacob asked Bella in disbelief. “Well, according to the psychic, he was supposed to have an accident in the parking lot. I was trying to prevent it by warning him to drive slowly and carefully. I prevented the parking lot accident, only to have the accident happen elsewhere.” “Some things are just meant to be,” Alice warned her. “That’s one thing I’ve learned from my gift. Some things just can’t be changed, no matter what you do or how hard you try.” I nodded in reluctant understanding. “So the idiot was warned to drive slowly and carefully, yet he deliberately did the exact opposite?” Jacob growled. He was starting to shake. “He could have killed someone, anyone, not just Bella!” Embry added in a roar, trembling all over. “I’m going to give him a piece of my mind! And then I’m going to bite his head off, literally!” Jacob screamed, losing control of his temper. His shaking was worse, looking like he was having a seizure. “What if there had been children playing there! He would have squished them flat!” Embry shouted, vibrating from his tremors. Before any of us could react, Jasper was beside them, one hand on each of them, pouring calm into their bodies as hard and fast as he could. Their shaking quickly stopped, and when Jasper let go, they both collapsed to the floor. Carlisle was instantly beside Jasper, examining them both. “Do you need to go outside? It would be safest if you transform outside. That way you wouldn’t hurt anybody by accident. None of us need a repeat of the suffering Emily has made it through,” Carlisle advised. They both nodded soberly, got up and headed out the back door. To our surprise, they ran to Jacob’s car, got in and drove away. “Where are they going?” Quil asked in confusion. “Why did they leave me behind?” Everyone was looking at each other, puzzled and concerned. I thought about what I might do if I were in Jacob’s shoes. “The hospital?” I guessed. “To see Tyler?” Several of the others nodded, acknowledging the possibility. They looked at Alice for confirmation. “Tyler’s future just disappeared!” Alice exclaimed in horror. “If they phase inside the hospital, it would be a disaster! We’ve got to follow them.” Everyone began preparing.

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“Wait!” Carlisle commanded. “Bella, you take Quil back to La Push. Quil, you try to distract Sam and Paul, try to keep them both in their human form. If Jacob and Embry phase tonight, it would be best if they don’t have to deal with Sam and Paul as well. You may be able to get Seth and Leah to help you. The rest of us will head to the hospital and work on damage control. Edward, you, Rosalie, and Jasper run through the woods. Esme, Emmett, and I will take my car. Alice, you stay here and coordinate all the groups. Let us know what is happening with each group and any important visions you have. Any questions? No? Move out.” With that, we were off, each to play our respective roles.

Chapter 34: Distracting the Wolves
BPOV Quil and I sped along to the reservation in the SUV. I didn’t even want to think about what might happen if Jacob and Embry phased at the hospital, or anywhere in town for that matter. They couldn’t afford for their secret to become known any more than the vampires could. I knew they healed rapidly, but I still didn’t want them to get hurt. I tossed my phone to Quil and he quickly contacted Leah, filling her and Seth in about what had occurred. He had it on speakerphone so I could hear them too, which I really appreciated. Leah started yelling about Tyler’s idiocy when she heard about the accident, and I heard Seth in the background, yelling, “Calm down, Leah! We don’t need you phasing and running off to the hospital too.”

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“I’m fine, Leah,” I soothed, trying to help her calm down. “Don’t worry about me.” “Don’t be silly, Bella! Of course, I’m worried about you,” she berated me, though her voice sounded calmer. “You’re the lynchpin holding everything together. I shudder to think what the wolf/Cullen situation would have been like if you hadn’t intervened to bring us together. Even worse, I can only imagine how horrible it would have been to become a werewolf in Sam’s pack and have to listen to his thoughts about Emily and to have the entire pack listening to my thoughts about him. What a nightmare. Besides, between talking to Rosalie and learning all about my future as a werewolf and imprinting, I’m ready to forgive Sam and let him go. I’m ready to forgive Emily and allow her into my heart and life again. I know now that neither of them wanted to hurt me, and there was nothing I could have or should have done differently. It wasn’t my fault, or theirs – it simply wasn’t meant to be. So, I’ll distract Sam. I’ll tell him I’m finally ready to discuss things rationally and have some closure so we can put the past behind us.” “I’ll come with you and Quil to distract Paul,” Seth volunteered. “Excellent! Now we just have to figure out where they are,” I proposed as I pulled up in front of the Clearwaters’ house. Quil flipped the phone closed, and we got out to knock on the door. We stepped up onto the front stoop, and the door was flung open. Seth and Leah both came barreling outside, nearly running into us. I gave Leah a big hug, which she returned eagerly. Then she stepped back and waved her hand in front of her nose. “Dang, girl, you stink! You smell like you’ve been rolling in Eau’ de Leech,” she complained playfully. I giggled and hugged Seth quickly, before jumping back into the SUV. The others all climbed in too. “Doesn’t smell too bad to me,” Seth admitted with a shrug. “You get used to it after a couple minutes,” Quil explained. “Just take deep breaths and allow the scent molecules to saturate your nose. Once the brain has identified the odor and concluded you can’t escape from it, it will begin to filter out your notice of it. The scent is still there, but your brain chooses to ignore it, so you don’t notice it. Pretty cool actually.” “So where should we start looking for our prey?” I asked, getting down to business. They all gave me a weird look and started laughing at me. “You’ve been hanging out with vampires too long!” Leah accused between chuckles. “Certainly, we should hunt down our victims. Let’s start with Sam and Emily’s place. It’s around dinner time, so Paul’s probably over there with them too. I know they run patrols, but it’s like once or twice a day, scouting for trails, so they’re human the rest of the time.” I nodded, and she directed me to their house. “You know, both you and Quil reek of the Cullens. I have no doubt Sam will send Paul to keep an eye on you while I talk to Sam. They are going to be curious as hell what you were doing to be close enough to a leech to be covered in their scent.” She sent me a look when I met her gaze in the rearview mirror. I laughed. “Sorry, I don’t kiss and tell, Leah.” Quil snorted. Leah rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s fine for you, but Quil is going to have a much harder time explaining himself.” Quil huffed. “Puh-leez, girl. I just had a little tussle with Emmett during Mario Kart. I certainly wasn’t kissing anybody.”

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“Who said anything about kissing, boy,” Leah sneered. “Interesting to see where your mind was though.” She smirked at him, determined to put him in his place. He growled at her. “Watch it, bitch, or I’ll have to teach you some manners.” “Ha! As if that word could bother me. It’s not an insult if it’s true. I am, or soon will be, a Grade A, number one, genuine Bitch, with a capital B. What else would you call a female werewolf? You’re so moody, Quil. Are you sure you didn’t imprint on Emmett? You two sure seem to enjoy each other’s company.” Seth started laughing, thinking about Quil following Emmett around with lovey dovey puppy eyes. “Maybe we should get him a leash for you!” Quil gave Seth the evil eye and whispered menacingly, “You’re going down, Clearwater. Just wait and see. Your ass is mine!” Seth grinned cheerfully. “Sorry, Quil, but I don’t swing that way.” I bit my lip to hold back a chuckle, but Leah burst out laughing. Quil frowned at her. He crossed his arms across his chest, the muscles in his biceps bigger than ever. “Leah, one of these days, I am going to spin you around by your tail and toss you up to the moon.” “Yeah, yeah. You keep telling yourself that,” Leah provoked. I was so happy we were pulling up to Sam’s door then. I was afraid things were going to come to blows soon. It was like being in a car with Emmett, Jasper, and Edward all competing over some silly DS game. Trash talking, testosterone, and tight spaces tended to make me nervous. It was weird hearing Leah playing into it. Maybe it wasn’t just a boy thing after all. I got out of the car and heard two growls from inside the house. Boy, they must have strong sniffers. Sam and Paul were both out the front door and facing me in seconds. They seemed rather surprised at what they saw, though they continued to glare menacingly at me. My mouth twitched as I tried to hide my amusement. “Howdy, gentlemen,” I drawled pleasantly, keeping my face bland. “So nice to meet you. Leah has told me so much about you.” They both blanched at the mention of Leah, and they finally noticed her presence on the other of the vehicle. Then they wore almost identical expressions of shock. Sam shifted uncomfortably, shuffling his feet and breaking out into a sweat. He cleared his throat nervously. “Um, hi, Leah,” he stuttered. “How can I help you this fine evening?” Paul snorted. “Actually, Sam, I’ve made a few friends who have helped me put things into perspective. I’d like to talk to you and get some closure on our relationship. I’m finally ready to come to terms with what happened and to face my future without you. I was hoping you’d be willing to take a little walk with me so we could talk it all out.” Sam was pleasantly surprised. In fact, his jaw dropped. He closed his mouth with an audible snap, but he couldn’t resist the opportunity to make peace with the woman whom he had unwillingly betrayed. He nodded and smiled tentatively. “Just a minute, okay? I’ll be right

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back.” Leah nodded, and Sam went back inside giving me a cold stare in the process. Paul quickly followed behind him. I couldn’t hear anything, but I could tell by the intent expressions on Quil and Leah’s faces that they could. Their eyes met in unspoken communication and Quil nodded. “I’m going to show Bella around the rez. We’ll be back to pick you up in about an hour, okay?” Quil announced, slightly louder than his normal speaking level. I knew it was for the benefit of the wolves inside. I got back in the SUV and pulled away from the house. “What’s the word?” I asked eagerly. “Well, Leah’s got Sam hooked, and sure enough, he ordered Paul to follow us around and listen in on our conversations. I was originally going to have us head to the beach, but I realized he would probably stay in wolf form and listen from the woods if we did that, which would completely defeat the purpose. So instead, we are going to drive into the very center of town. With the noises around us, he’s going to have to get a lot closer to understand what we’re saying. He can’t be in wolf form inside the town of La Push, so he’ll be forced to stay human,” Quil determined, as he sent Alice a text message letting her know the status of the two wolves. “Great idea, Quil!” I encouraged. “I’m proud of you. We’ll make a strategist out of you yet.” I leaned over and gave him a brief kiss on the cheek. He promptly blushed and turned to stare out the window for a few minutes, trying to hide his reaction. I pretended I hadn’t noticed. “Awww! I’m going to tell Edward you were kissing Quil! You’re going to be in trou-ble!” Seth taunted in a singsong voice. I rolled my eyes. I seemed to do that a lot these days. Ever since I came to Forks, in fact. “Grow up, Seth!” I demanded. “I’ve grown up a lot lately. About six inches in the past week. I’m surprised you didn’t notice,” Seth responded casually. I groaned and decided to just ignore him. I parked where Quil suggested, and we got out to go for a little walk around town. We had decided to throw Paul and Sam for a loop with our conversation, and I knew the boys would follow my lead. “You know, it was really nice of the Cullens to change that tire for me,” I mentioned. The boys both smiled at me. “The Cullens changed your tire?” Seth asked in amused disbelief. “I was going to take care of it for you,” Quil protested convincingly. “I know how to change a tire. You didn’t need their help.” “I can’t believe you jumped on top of Emmett, even if he did make a smart ass remark. That guy looks like a professional wrestler. I know you’re pretty built, but I think even his muscles have muscles. You’re lucky he decided not to fight you.” Seth burst out laughing. “Hey! I could’ve taken him! Even he did feel like he’s made of solid rock,” Quil complained.

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“Relax, Quil,” I said with a smirk. “It’s not your fault you couldn’t find the jack. Who knew they would hide it behind a little panel on the side in the back instead of in the spare tire compartment?” Quil growled at me, stalking toward me menacingly. I threw up my arms in surrender as I backed away. Seth just kept watching wearing a big grin. “Hey, I didn’t know it was there either! Must be some kind of Mercedes thing,” I quickly added. Quil stopped in his tracks. He snorted. “Well of course the rich spoiled Cullens would know where to find a jack inside a Mercedes. What do you expect?” “Why didn’t you just read the manual in the glove compartment?” Seth asked, inserting the voice of logic and reason. I thought we were doing fairly well, considering we were making all this up as we went along. Both Quil and I glared at him. “I was just getting ready to do that, when the Cullens came along and took care of it,” Quil explained through gritted teeth. Poor Quil. He didn’t want to look stupid in front of Paul. “I still don’t understand how they took care of it so quickly,” I interjected, with a grin. “Especially without any tools. I swear they should be part of a pit crew or something.” Both Quil and Seth started laughing then, no doubt picturing Rosalie working in a race car pit. Any race car driver would be lucky to have her working on his car. Considering the improvements she’d made on everybody’s cars thus far and the resulting maximum speeds, I’d say she’s more than qualified for the position. “By the way, Quil, did you notice anything odd about the Cullens?” I asked innocently. Both the boys immediately sobered, looking at me in surprise. “Like what?” Quil asked guardedly. “Well, they seemed to be giving you quick, nervous glances the entire time. It may have been because they thought you were going to attack them again, but it seemed like more than that. They also wrinkled their noses every time you got close to them, like you smelled bad, but you smell fine to me. Oh, and when I gave Edward that thank you hug, didn’t he seem a little stiff?” Seth and Quil exchanged a glance and Seth let out a guffaw. Quil struggled to keep a straight face as he delivered his line, “Oh, yeah, I’d say he was stiff alright when you were hugging him. He seemed to think you smelled pretty good too, but then again, so do I. I’d say you enjoyed it too, considering you couldn’t keep your eyes off of him the entire time.” He and Seth dissolved into a laughing fit then. Great. If they weren’t careful, they would give the whole game away. “There was just something about him drawing me in – his voice, his face, even his smell. As if he needs any of that,” I mused. Seth and Quil both gave me an odd look before changing the subject. They started talking about cars, which was utterly boring for me. I decided to have a little fun with them too, in addition to Paul and Sam. “Hey, I know! Let’s play the ‘what if’ game,” I suggested enthusiastically. The boys stopped chatting and looked at me consideringly. They both shrugged and nodded.

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“Okay, what if mythological creatures were real?” I proposed. “Would you rather be a werewolf or a vampire?” They both gaped at me in disbelief for a second before recovering their composure. “Werewolf,” Quil replied instantly. “What about you?” “Vampire,” I responded. I heard a growl come from behind the building on our right. “Why?” Quil asked, before Seth could say anything. I shrugged. “They’re sexier.” “Oh, no way!” Quil protested. “How could a cold, dead corpse possibly be sexier than a hotblooded werewolf?” “They’re not corpses, you know. If they were dead, how could they be walking and talking?” “They don’t have a heartbeat. Besides, a cockroach can survive for more than a week after you chop off its head. They’re like walking, talking, blood-drinking headless cockroaches,” Quil sneered. I glared at him. He better not be serious. Seth was looking at him in surprise as well. He saw our expressions and mouthed an apology, looking sheepish. I relaxed. “No, you’re thinking of zombies, silly. That’s a whole other story,” I replied calmly. “What about you Seth?” He grinned mischievously. “I want to be a vampire werewolf.” “There’s no such thing,” Quil scoffed. “It’s one or the other.” “Ha! That’s what you think,” Seth taunted. “I say if there are vampires and werewolves, what if a vampire falls in love with a werewolf? They would have vampire werewolf babies.” “It would never happen,” Quil disagreed. “They’re mortal enemies. They’d never fall in love.” “What about Romeo and Juliet?” I pointed out with a smirk. “They were mortal enemies, but they fell in love.” “Yeah, and look how well that worked out for them,” Quil snickered. “And at least they were the same species.” “Well, I don’t see why the werewolves and vampires have to be enemies,” I protested. “Sure, they should destroy the bad vampires, but what about the good vampires?” “What good vampires? The only good vampire is a dead vampire. That’s what I’ve always heard,” Quil responded with disdain. “Don’t be ridiculous. They were human before they became vampires, weren’t they? Just as there are good humans and bad humans, there must be good vampires and bad vampires, good werewolves and bad werewolves. It’s the natural order of all sentient beings,” I explained confidently. “Otherwise, there is no such thing as good or bad. It all becomes relative, and then there is no concept of morality, no inherent right and wrong.”

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Quil looked thoughtful, but Seth just looked at me with complete confusion. “Okay, I was understanding the first half of that, but then you kind of lost me on the second part. A little too philosophical for me, I think,” Seth stated. Just then I received a text message from Alice letting us know the mission had been successful. I smiled at the boys. “Time to pick up Leah, then I’ve got to head back home,” I announced happily. They smiled in understanding. “We can continue this discussion some other time.” “Great,” they groaned in unison. This time is was my turn to have the laughing fit. I couldn’t wait to get back to the Cullen house and find out what happened with everybody else.

Chapter 35: Chasing Wolves
EPOV I took off running for the hospital, desperate to get there before the wolves. I knew I could run faster than they could drive, though once I was out of the forest, I would be restricted to traveling at human pace. I could hear the thoughts of my siblings as they chased behind me. Rosalie was complaining as usual. Those mutts better not do anything that makes us have to move away. It’s bad enough Edward practically lives with his little human girlfriend, doing who knows what in her bedroom every night, but now we’ve got stinky werewolves making themselves at home in our living room. Jacob may know about cars, but he’s even more childish and impulsive than Emmett, and I thought no one could be worse than that. The two of them working together is going to be catastrophic to the peace of the rest of us. Jasper’s going to be working overtime. It’s a good thing he doesn’t need to sleep. Jasper was busy working out battle plans. He was completely aware of the floor plan of the hospital, though he rarely went there due to his bloodlust. Whenever Carlisle started a new job, Jasper would always thoroughly investigate his new workplace, making a detailed map with all possible escape routes marked, just in case Carlisle ever needed to leave in a hurry. He was using the information now to determine where Tyler was likely being held, which route the wolves would take to get there, and the best places to direct them if we were unable to intercept them before they got inside. I got to the hospital in record time and paced in the front, waiting for Jacob and Embry to show. Rosalie and Jasper caught up with me and helped keep a vigilant watch for their car. A few minutes later, Jacob’s car came speeding into the parking lot, narrowly avoided a pedestrian, and screeched to a stop crookedly between two handicapped spots. Jacob and Embry jumped out at werewolf speed and began jogging quickly to the front door. Jasper, Rose, and I moved instantly to intercept them. They both growled at me, baring their teeth, their canines extended a bit now in their anger. I held up my arms, palms out indicating I didn’t want to fight.
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“Let’s just talk about this before anybody does anything foolish, okay?” I suggested. I saw their hands trembling, but they both made a conscious effort to relax. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett arrive. Carlisle slid the Mercedes smoothly into his private parking space. “Are you calling me foolish, leech?” Jacob demanded. Just get the heck out of my way and let me do this. Rosalie grinned. “If the shoe fits, . . . .” I swatted in her direction, trying to get her to be quiet. “No, no. I’m sure you’ll make a wise decision that is best for your tribe and your pack. I do think phasing inside the hospital would likely be a very unwise choice.” They both rolled their eyes at me. “No, duh.” Do you think we’re stupid or something? I closed my eyes briefly, lamenting the fact I was dealing with extremely dangerous, possibly lethal creatures with the mentality and vocabulary of an average eight year old. What law of nature put so much power into the paws of ones so young? It was just like making immortal children, which even we vampires could admit was a big mistake, no matter how cute they were. “Look here, dipwads. We’re all mad at Tyler for his idiotic behavior. We’d all like to give him a piece of our minds, though in your case, I don’t think you can spare any. However, we all know what happens when you get angry, don’t we? So it doesn’t take a psychic to see it would be a disaster for you two to go scream and yell at Tyler right now,” Rosalie instructed. “So tuck your tails between your legs and run home like good little doggies.” I think I’ll phase now and take a little bite out of her. That would teach her better than to suggest we tuck tail and run. I’m no coward. Great, now Rose has managed to make them mad and even more resistant to reason. I growled in frustration and quickly realized my mistake. I actually saw their hackles rise, and their trembling became worse as their snarls echoed back. Jasper began desperately projecting calm again, which only helped a little. Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett came up behind them, and they were completely surrounded. This was probably a mistake, because the looks in their eyes suddenly became hostile. “Are you showing your true colors now, bloodsuckers? You planning on taking us out?” Jacob demanded to know. “Please, Jacob,” I replied, as gently and calmly as possible. “We’re just trying to protect the humans, just like you. You’re a Protector, right? Created to protect your people from danger.” I needed to break through his anger to his more rational side. He waved his hands angrily toward the hospital. “Those aren’t my people. We aren’t on La Push. And one of those people endangered a member of my family!” Embry nodded vigorously, demonstrating his full and complete agreement with Jacob. At least I understood his reasoning, even if I couldn’t agree with it. He considered Bella to be part of his family, and he wanted to protect her by taking out the boy who had endangered her life. I actually felt the same way on some level, but my maturity level allowed me to see past it to the possible consequences.

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“Jacob, I understand, believe me, I do. But I can’t allow you to endanger the rest of the population just so you can hurt the guy who hurt Bella,” I explained, hoping to get through to him. “Allow? You can’t allow me? Since when do you have the right to allow me to do something or not?” Jacob shouted in rage. “Is that what you were hoping for when you befriended us? That you could control me and my friends? Cause that’s not happening! Why don’t I start telling you what you are and are not allowed to do.” Edward, I’m doing my best, but I can’t calm him. I can’t help him now without physical contact, and I feel certain he’ll snap and phase right here if I touch him. I nodded slightly to Jasper to show I understood. Carlisle cleared his throat and stepped around in front of Jacob and Embry. He signaled for all of us to back off and give them space, which we immediately did. Once they were no longer surrounded by our family, the tension in the two boys dropped dramatically. They had instinctively felt threatened by our behavior, even if they knew intellectually that we had no intention of hurting them. I watched as Jacob’s entire demeanor changed as he faced off with Carlisle. He grew taller and his posture straightened. The lines of his face seemed more angular and defined, hinting at a greater physical maturity. An aura of purpose and strength pulsed out from him. Embry instinctively took a step back and a step closer, placing himself into the Beta position to his Alpha. Carlisle’s demeanor also changed, altering from the kind, compassionate, father figure and doctor to that of indomitable leader. The mantle of responsibility and wisdom he donned rested comfortably on his shoulders, and there was no question that he was an experienced and fearless leader. The changes occurred in milliseconds. Bella would never have been able to see them as they were made. They were no longer Jacob and Carlisle meeting in the parking lot. The Alpha of the Quileute werewolf pack was now conferencing with the Head of the Cullen vampire coven. The air around them fairly crackled with power. “You have every right to enter the hospital and visit whomever you please, Jacob Black,” Carlisle intoned respectfully. “We are here to offer our assistance in keeping your secret from the humans here, for the sake of the peace, and for the sake of your pack members and your tribe. Neither of us would wish to call attention to ourselves. I know you have no desire to cause accidental injury by phasing too close to a human being, so we would like to offer our services in reducing the risk.” Jacob’s demeanor relaxed slightly, the hostility and tension fading. His voice was deep and commanding as he formulated his reply. “We will be addressing our concerns to the foolish Tyler Crowley. That is not up for debate or discussion. We are willing to accept your assistance in reducing risk and helping to keep our secrets. What are you suggesting?” Carlisle nodded, his expression serious, but open and honest. “If you truly feel you must speak with Tyler tonight, please allow Edward and Jasper to accompany you. If you will allow Jasper to touch you, he can use his gift to keep you from phasing as he did earlier. Edward will be able to assess the mindset of the witnesses and make sure no one suspects anything out of the ordinary.” “Hey, I want to come too! I’ve got a few things to say to that bastard,” Emmett called out. He was immediately punched in the right arm by Edward, punched in the left arm by Jasper, and smacked on the back of the head by Rosalie, while Esme gasped, “Language, Emmett!” and Embry cheered. Carlisle and Jacob maintained eye contact, neither one acknowledging or reacting to the commotion.

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“I am willing to have them accompany us. In fact, you may all come if you wish, as long as you only interfere if it is necessary to prevent harm or to maintain the secrecy of either of our natures from the humans,” Jacob answered, offering his hand to Carlisle. Carlisle smiled and reached out to Jacob. They gripped each other’s forearms. “I give you my word that my family will not interfere with your mission, except to prevent harm or to maintain the secrecy or our natures.” They shook on the terms, essentially forming a new treaty between the two groups. As their arms dropped back to their sides, they were once more their regular selves, back to being simply Carlisle and Jacob. Carlisle flashed his paternal smile at Jacob, and Jacob returned it with a sheepish grin. He stepped forward, and Carlisle gave him a fatherly hug. “You’re definitely growing up on me, son,” Carlisle teased looking up into Jacob’s eyes. Jacob’s chest rumbled as he chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you in your old age, Pops,” Jake joked back. Esme couldn’t resist running over to hug them both. “Enough with the mushy stuff. Let’s go kick Tyler’s butt,” Embry hollered. He and Emmett bumped fists. “Heck yeah,” Emmett agreed. “I’m with you, dude.” The two of them headed to the front door of the hospital. The rest of us rushed to beat them there. Carlisle led us to the room where Tyler had been kept, but the room was empty. Jacob and Embry looked at us to see if we were behind this, but could tell by our reactions we were just as surprised as they were. Carlisle went up to the nurses’ station, and we all quietly chuckled to hear the heart rates of the two nurses on duty rapidly accelerate. “Oh, Dr. Cullen!” one breathed huskily. “How may I be of service?” I would love to service you any way you want. There’s an empty room down the hall we could use. She licked her lips suggestively. I groaned at the mental images she started projecting, wishing I could bleach my brain so I wouldn’t see pictures of my father doing any of those things. Having a perfect memory could definitely be a curse. Carlisle pretended not to notice as he responded. “I came to check on Tyler Crowley. Has he already been discharged?” The other nurse came over. “Yes, he went home about an hour ago. Is there anything else we can do for you?” I’d be willing to share if it meant I could get a piece of him. “No thank you,” Carlisle growled crossly. “Have you met my wife and children? They’re standing right over there, less than ten feet away.” The nurses finally noticed the rest of us, and had the decency to blush at propositioning Carlisle right in front of us. However, they couldn’t take their eyes off of us and their minds were positively steeped in sewage. I desperately attempted to block them out, even though their thoughts were practically screaming at me. Jasper was whimpering and frantically texting Alice on his cell phone. He could barely walk due to the massive lust pouring off of them. Emmett took pity on him and practically carried him outside to recover. “Can we do anything for any of the rest of you?” one of the nurses cried out after us. Jacob turned and gave them his most charming grin.

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“Maybe later, ladies,” He suggested, wiggling his eyebrows and leering at them. Embry grabbed him by the arm and started trying to drag him down the hall. “He’s only fifteen,” Carlisle warned the women, but they were still smiling seductively at Jacob. “And his father is Chief Swan’s best friend.” This time their faces fell, and they sighed in disappointment. Carlisle shook his head in disgust. Jacob pouted at Carlisle. “Man, Carlisle, what did you have to go and do that for? This is the 21st century, not the 17th.” Carlisle gave him a parental ‘Look’. “You, son, are what is referred to as ‘jailbait’, and I doubt either your father or Charlie would appreciate any aspect of that relationship. You are also the leader of your pack, and it is your responsibility to live your life accordingly. You must be someone worthy of being obeyed or you will face mutiny when you most need support.” Jacob nodded slowly, allowing the words to permeate his brain, recognizing the wisdom Carlisle was imparting. He picked up his pace to catch up to the others and never looked back. They headed over to the cars. Chief Swan was there by Jacob’s car writing out a ticket. He quickly rushed over. “Aww, Charlie, please don’t give me a ticket,” he pleaded. “You know I can’t afford to pay it.” Charlie looked at him in surprise. “This is your car, Jacob?” Charlie asked in disbelief. Jacob nodded. “You’re not sixteen yet. What are you doing driving?” Jacob flushed and ducked his head. “Uh, yeah, we get our licenses early down on the rez.” Charlie raised an eyebrow and frowned, clearly indicating he knew Jacob was lying through his teeth. Jasper sent him a few waves of peaceful tranquility, hoping it would help, just as Jacob decided to throw himself on Charlie’s mercy. “Look, Charlie, I just found out what happened to Bella. I consider her part of my family, and I just wanted to scare the crap out of Tyler Crowley for being such an idiot. I was in a hurry, because I was really mad, and the Cullens came to make sure I didn’t do anything I would later regret. But he’s already been sent home, so I was planning to head over to his house now to complete my mission.” To my surprise, Jacob’s decision was actually a smart one. Upon hearing Jacob’s plan and destination, Charlie ripped up the ticket and offered to come along, just so he could witness it. I got a text message from Alice telling us Tyler would be home alone for another 43 minutes. I shared this information with the rest of the group, at a level too quiet for Charlie’s ears, but loud enough for all the rest of us. I didn’t want to try to explain to Charlie how Alice knew that. We all quickly mobilized, cramming into the cars uncomfortably, since no one wanted to ride in the squad car with Charlie, and we couldn’t run through town. We were at Tyler’s house in five minutes. It was quite a scene with Charlie, Rosalie, Emmett, Jacob, and Embry taking turns yelling at and insulting Tyler, while he cowered into the corner of the sofa. Jasper kept a firm control on Jacob and Embry, able to keep them only mildly shaking. The rest of us enjoyed the show, applauding for particularly amusing comments and suggestions of what Tyler could do with himself. I kept a close eye on the time and got everyone out of there with ten minutes to spare. I wished we had thought to video tape it, so we could share it with all those who hadn’t

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been there, especially as Alice wouldn’t have been able to see it in her visions. To my surprise, Alice was outside, videotaping through the window. I grinned and gave her a high five. Great minds think alike.

Chapter 36: Running with Wolves
EPOV “So if you’re all here, where’s Bella?” Charlie asked in concern, standing with us in Tyler’s front yard. “She’s with Leah and Seth Clearwater, Charlie. They won’t let anything happen to her,” Alice chirped, giving him a big smile. His eyes got a bit dazed as he smiled absently back at her. “Hey, Carlisle, Esme, I hate to ask, but I’ve got to work a double shift tonight, since one of my deputies is sick. Would you mind if Bella stays with you tonight?” “Of course we don’t mind, Charlie! Bella is welcome any time,” Esme offered lovingly. “Thanks,” he mumbled gruffly, blushing under Esme’s warm regard. “Uh, I’ve got to go back to the station now. See you later.” He quickly got into his squad car and left. “Finally!” Rose huffed. “You two mutts are about to register on the Richter scale.” “Bite me!” Jacob growled. “Only in your dreams, dog breath,” Rose sneered. “Only in my nightmares,” he muttered in return, really starting to shake despite Jasper’s hand on his shoulder.

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“We need to get to the tree line now!” Jasper commanded. “Jacob, toss your keys to Esme. She’ll take your car back to our house. You’re not going to be in any condition to drive.” He used his ‘Major Whitlock’ voice, which immediately spurred everyone to action. Jacob tossed his keys to Esme as Jasper, Jacob, and Embry began running in tandem toward the forest. Rose, Emmett, and I ran after them, while the others decided to return to the house and wait. As soon as they were safely out of sight inside the trees, Jasper let go of the boys and sprang fifteen feet away in a single jump, turning to watch. Once free of Jasper’s influence, they immediately began phasing into wolves. It only took a few seconds for them to completely transform. We were then face to face with two massive, deadly, horse-sized wolves. They instinctively growled and bared their teeth at the sight and smell of us after their change. I was glad there were four of us, just in case a brand new werewolf was just as confused as a brand new vampire. We stood as still as statues, waiting for recognition to gleam in their eyes and comprehension to flash through their minds. We didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes. Whoa, that was really odd, a little painful, but mostly creepy. The vamps look weird with my new eyesight. Kind of sparkly. So, Edward. A bark came out as Jacob tried to speak. He looked rather startled with himself, which caused all of us to start chuckling. What’s so funny? Yeah, they do look kind of sparkly, Jake. Jasper’s scars are a lot more obvious than they were before. And boy do our new friends stink. It kind of burns my nose. Embry reached a paw up and rubbed his snout, whining. We chuckled again. “What are they thinking, Edward?” Emmett asked curiously, amusement gleaming in his eyes. “Embry says we stink. He says we’re burning his nose,” I relayed. Rose snorted. “Oh, well, we simply adore the aroma of wet dog they are so gallantly emitting.” I started gathering the tattered remains of their garments. “Just wait until I show these to Alice. You know what that’ll mean.” We vamps all chuckled darkly, giving our best evil genius impressions. “Shopping trip!” I sang out these words, as if announcing a new evil torture device. The wolves gave us horrified and slightly scared looks, before they sat on their haunches and started to ‘beg’. “Better you than me,” Jasper muttered with a shrug. “Yeah, sorry, guys, but we’re going to throw you . . . . . to the wolves!” Emmett started laughing so hard he fell to ground with a giant bang that shook the forest. It was pretty impressive to see the massive wolves both rolling their eyes at Emmett. How many times did your mama drop you on your head when you were a baby, Em? Jacob growled and yipped. It sounded pretty funny, like he had something caught in his throat and couldn’t get it out again. I took the liberty of translating. “Oh, please,” Rosalie grumbled. Then she got a wicked grin on her face and started singing the Star Spangled Banner in Swahili in her mind. It was disconcerting to say the least. She walked over and patted both of the wolves gently on the head. “Now that you’re all cute and fluffy . . . .” They snarled and snapped at her. She picked up a tree branch and hurled it about a half a mile away. “Fetch!” They stared at her in disbelief, and she started giggling. “C’mon, puppies, go fetch! I’ve got a box of milkbones at home for you.” I’ll show you a bone, vamp tramp. Jacob growled. Embry howled, his shoulders shaking with canine laughter. I couldn’t resist passing on Jacob’s statement.

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“Sorry, I don’t like to do it doggie-style,” Rose sneered, shaking her rear end at him. Emmett was torn between amusement and protecting Rose. Jasper was starting to get nervous. “As much as I’m enjoying this, we need to get back to the house so Jacob and Embry can phase back to their human states before Sam and Paul become wolves.” I decided to help him out. I dashed over and touched Embry’s shoulder. “Tag! You’re it. Last one back to the house is a rotten egg.” Then we all took off running. I was the fastest vampire, but the wolves were just as fast as I was, much to my dismay. Embry easily caught Emmett and tagged him with his nose. Jacob had stopped to watch and Emmett was quickly on his tail. Instead of just tagging him, Emmett chose to tackle him. It caught Jacob off guard, but soon the two of them were having a rousing wrestling match, knocking down trees and kicking up dirt. Jasper, Embry, and I stayed close by to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Emmett sent Jacob flying through the air and took off running again. He started chanting, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m a vampire man!” I heard the wolves chuffing their odd canine snickers, but I was off and running. Only seconds later, I found myself rolling on the ground, having been tackled by Jacob. I glared at him as he snickered again. He had fooled me by picturing Jasper in his mind and imagining himself pouncing on him. What’s the matter, mindreader? Your thoughts bring you down? Oh, no, wait. That was me! Ha, ha. Loser. He took off bounding for the house before I could respond. I jumped up and decided to take some of my current frustration out on Jasper. It took me almost a full minute to catch up to him. He and Embry were running side by side. I knew they were aware of me, as their senses easily gave them all the necessary information. I came at an angle to intercept and pounced on Jasper when they came in range. Unfortunately, Jasper had anticipated my move and instinctively jumped over Embry, leaving me to crash into Embry instead. We both went rolling a few feet before skidding to a stop. “Sorry, I was aiming for Jasper,” I confessed awkwardly. Whatever. Embry snorted, jumped up and sent me flying with a double back kick. By the time I was up and running again, Embry had pounced on Jasper. He and Jasper were going at it full tilt, with Jacob and Emmett cheering from the sidelines. I made sure I was further ahead than any of the others before I turned back to watch. Well, wolfboy, let’s see how fast you can run on two legs instead of four. I realized Jasper’s plan and watched wide eyed as he poured his power of calm, peace, and tranquility into Embry, quickly forcing him back to human form. Embry was disoriented from the change, and Jasper easily tossed him to the side with a laugh. In a flash, he had chased down Jacob and done the same to him. All three of us vampires were laughing hysterically as we raced toward the house, leaving the wolfboys to reorganize their thoughts. I heard them coming up fast behind us, almost as fast in human form as they were in wolf form. I was in the lead and within sight of the back porch, where the Rosalie, Alice, Esme, and Carlisle were waiting for us, watching the race with amusement, when Jacob and Embry suddenly remembered they were naked. “Jasper, you jerkoff, your wife is about to get an eyeful, thanks to you! Are you sure she’ll still want you after she gets a look at me? Cause I have no intention of being the rotten egg!” Jacob yelled. Suddenly, I felt like my legs were heavy as lead, as if I were trying to run through quicksand.

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“Phase you idiots!” Jasper shouted from somewhere nearby. I heard the strange creaking and popping noises and then two wolves blew by me to land on the deck beside Carlisle. I fell to the ground on my knees, trying to pull myself forward by my hands. I groaned, closing my eyes and feeling as if I could actually fall asleep for the first time in eighty years. “What the heck are you doing to me, Jasper?” I screamed. I heard laughter from the multitude in front of me. I heard the sounds as Emmett and Jasper both made it safely to the porch, leaving me lying face down in the back yard in defeat. “What’s the matter, Rotten Eggward? Feeling a little sleepy? Need a blankie? Should I sing you a lullaby?” Jasper taunted. I heard my whole family laughing hysterically, even Carlisle and Esme. Jasper was a dead man once this wore off, and I regained use of my limbs. Thank goodness Bella wasn’t back yet. At least she wouldn’t witness my indignity. “And cut!” Alice squealed. “That’s a wrap, people! What a perfect ending to my little film! I can’t wait to show Bella!”

Chapter 37: Inviting Emily
BPOV I checked in with Alice and discovered she had another home video to share. She also let me know Charlie had asked for me to spend the night with them. Yippee! I passed the news on to the others and they decided they wanted to join us, since it wasn’t late yet. Quil called Jared and Leah called Kim. Both of them wanted to come over also. So I picked them up from their houses. On the way back to the Cullens’ house, Quil let the others know Carlisle’s decision about performing plastic surgery on Emily. They were all ecstatic.

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

The atmosphere at the Cullen house was boisterous, to say the least. It felt like a cross between a wild teenager party and a family Thanksgiving. Edward opened my door as soon as I came to a stop, lifting me out and carrying me inside. I gave him a passionate kiss, only to be stopped by a multitude of catcalls and wolf whistles. I flushed red as expected. I really hated that annoying habit. Emmett arrived a few minutes later with ten large pizzas. I couldn’t believe they had ordered so many, but I was surprised to learn just how much werewolves and almost werewolves ate. Amazingly enough, there weren’t any leftovers. We all sat around laughing and joking, though only half of us were eating. I absolutely adored the easy atmosphere. Leah was messing around and flirting with both Jacob and Embry. She seemed to have them both wrapped around her little finger. Jared was sitting comfortably with Kim, his arm on the couch behind her. I wouldn’t be surprised if his hand drifted down to her shoulder before the end of the night. Esme made giant bowls of popcorn for me and the Quileutes. Emmett made numerous derogatory remarks about the smell of it, until the wolves held him down and shoved a handful into his mouth. He started gagging and spit it out on the carpet, which made Esme angry. Then he had to clean the carpet, and the smell of the carpet cleaner was even worse. “Congratulations, Emmett. You managed to fill the air with something worse than the combined odors of wet dog and buttery popcorn,” Rosalie complained, grimacing in disgust. “Maybe we should spray some Lysol,” Kim suggested. The vampires and wolves immediately started shaking their heads and begging against it. Poor Kim was confused. “It smells good to me.” “Headache,” Jacob groaned. The others nodded in agreement. “The combination of scents in here is bad enough already without adding to it,” Embry added. Kim shrugged. Alice finally put on the video for us to see. I couldn’t help laughing most of the way through, and I was in good company. Poor Jasper was so overcome with the combined hilarity of the whole crowd that he was curled up in the fetal position, with his eyes closed, rolling around on the floor, laughing maniacally. Emmett and Jacob started rolling him back and forth between them, like they were two toddlers playing ball. Those of us who could produce tears had them streaming down our faces, as we laughed so hard we cried. After the video, the others wanted to hear about our conversations on the rez. “I made my peace with Sam,” Leah informed them. “This was the first time I was actually able to sit and listen to him, knowing what really happened. Knowing that both he and Emily actively tried to fight it to keep from hurting me, helps me to forgive. After all, neither of them chose it. It was just meant to be. Knowing that somewhere out there is someone who is meant for me helps me to let go. Knowing I have friends and a whole new family and pack to belong to helps me to learn to live again. I have hope now, and I don’t feel so lost and alone now. I belong, even if it is to a family full of freaks and misfits. Really, Carlisle and Esme, who did you cross to deserve all of us?” We all started laughing. Carlisle smirked. “I’m not sure, but it must have been somebody fairly high up in the chain of command. Vampires and werewolves and humans, oh my!” “I thought that was supposed to be lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Jared protested.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“Stop! You’re making me thirsty!” Emmett cried, making a big show of smacking his lips. “Lions . . . and tigers . . . and bears . . . yum yum.” Jacob threw a pillow at him, but Emmett caught it and returned if faster than we humans could even see. It looked really strange, like Jacob started to throw the pillow, but hit himself in the face with it instead. “Learn to keep up, Wolfman!” Emmett taunted cheerfully. “Oh, I will, Dracula,” Jacob threatened back playfully. I let Quil explain about the conversation we had in the deserted town square to confuse Paul. Jasper was alarmed at first at the content of our exchange, but I assured him there were no other humans around to hear our conversation. Quil carefully explained how he had chosen to respond the way he would have before he met the Cullens. He knew how Paul would likely have spoken in the conversation, and he deliberately tried to answer accordingly. He didn’t want to call attention to himself or all of us before the time was right. I had understood what he was doing at the time, so it hadn’t bothered me. After discussing our options of what to do next, we all agreed we would like to help Emily. Leah decided tomorrow was as good a day as any to reestablish a relationship with Emily. Carlisle agreed to perform the reconstructive surgery the following evening, if Emily was amenable. “Friday night is the slumber party!” Alice sang. She looked around at Leah, Kim, and me. “Remember your promises!” We all nodded and agreed to submit ourselves to her mercy, as per our agreement. Actually, I was really looking forward to it, and I could tell the others were too. Thursday afternoon EmilyPOV I can’t believe Leah has finally forgiven Sam and me for our betrayal. Neither of us had wanted to hurt her, but there is a whole other world out there of which she is blissfully unaware. Sam had imprinted on me, and that was all she wrote. End of story. Now he and I had an important mission in life – protecting our beloved tribe from attack from the cold ones. So far, only Paul had joined Sam’s pack, but they were watching several others. It wouldn’t be long before our pack had new members, and my home would be filled with laughter and camaraderie. I would be able to guide new imprints. I had made sacrifices for this life, and so had Sam, but our overall purpose was greater than any individual’s sacrifice. I tried not to mind the scars on my face that marred my natural beauty. I tried not to mind people’s curious stares. I tried not to see the sorrow and guilt on Sam’s face every time he looked at mine. I tried, but I couldn’t succeed completely. Leah had asked me to stay with her until Monday morning, and I had agreed, though I would miss Sam something fierce. I hated the wedge between me and my cousin, my best friend. I would do whatever I could to ease the tension between us and regain her love and support. I needed her. I was so lonely, though I tried hard not to let Sam know. There were no other females in my position. No women, other than Leah’s mother, knew what had really happened to me. Sue was the one who had taken care of me after Sam’s accidental phasing. I couldn’t wait until there were new imprints who could share my fears and frustrations. In the meantime, having Leah to talk to, even though I couldn’t tell her the truth, would help a lot.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

Ah, there’s Leah now. She looks so different. She taller, more mature looking than the last time I saw her. She’s more confident too, but her eyes hold an air of mystery, an allure, and her hair is so short now, though the style looks good on her. I opened the door and welcomed her into my home, the home I share with Sam. She smiled tentatively and I responded with a warm smile of my own. I wanted to embrace her, but could tell by her body language she wasn’t ready for that yet. “Thank you so much for coming, Leah. I know it can’t have been easy for you.” She smiled as she took a seat on the sofa. I sat at the other end of it. We both turned to face each other. “It’s okay, Emily. I forgive you. I wish you two had told me the truth from the start, but perhaps it was better this way. I can see now that he is your soul mate, not mine, and I’m willing to wait however long it takes until I find the one who completes me.” Wow. I didn’t expect that. She has come a long way and sounds so mature. What happened to her that helped her gain this insight. I had to ask. She grinned at my question. “A very wise friend of mine helped me work through my feelings of betrayal, showed me how things could always be worse, and helped me understand that both you and Sam had no real choice in the matter and never intended to hurt me. She pointed out how lucky I was it happened before Sam and I got married and had children, and helped me believe there is someone who is made just for me waiting to shower me with all the love and affection you and Sam share. Another wonderful friend helped me overcome my feelings of self loathing, shame, and doubt. She showed me how beautiful I am, helped me determine a new look for myself, and filled me with the confidence I had been sorely lacking. Yet another friend helped me learn to love and trust again, showing me not to believe what other people tell me, but to judge people and situations based on their own merit, instead of preconceived notions. She helped me to overcome blind prejudice and learn to trust my heart and my own observations. She unknowingly taught me about unconditional love, simply by example.” “Wow, Leah, you have some really awesome friends!” I exclaimed enviously. “I’d love to meet them.” “I’d love for you to meet them. Today, in fact if you’re willing,” she offered eagerly. I can’t believe she’s offering to share them with me. A tear ran silently down my cheek. “Emily,” she began hesitantly. “I know someone who could help with your scars. A very talented surgeon who could minimize the damage so it’s not so noticeable. He has volunteered his services, so money wouldn’t be a problem. Would you be interested in having him do some plastic surgery on your face, or would you prefer to leave things as they are? I don’t know whether or not you think the end result would be worth the additional pain.” I froze like a statue in shock. Was she really offering me free plastic surgery? A way to recover some of my former beauty? To significantly reduce the curious stares? To take away some of Sam’s guilt and pain? And she was worried I wouldn’t accept a little pain? She started to fidget, which broke me out of my trance. “Oh, Leah! Really? Please tell me you aren’t kidding. I would do anything to make these scars go away. I don’t care about the pain.” “The scars won’t go away completely, you know. But the lines will be much thinner,” she warned me, eyeing me cautiously.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“I know, I know,” I assured her. “Oh, Leah. I can’t believe you set this up for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are the best friend and cousin a girl could ever have.” Tears were freely running down my cheeks now. Leah pulled out a cell phone, making a quick call. “It’s a go. . . . . Got it.” I wondered when she had gotten a cell. I noticed all her clothes were new too, and obviously high quality. Had she come into some money somehow? She stood up and began pacing, full of some kind of nervous energy. “Okay, do you have a bag packed?” “Not yet,” I admitted with a blush. I hadn’t really believed she had forgiven me. I had secretly been expecting her to come today and cuss me out. “Well, get cracking. Our ride will be here in ten minutes,” she ordered. When did she get so forceful? Her words motivated me, and I jumped up, rushing to my room. I had all my necessary belongings ready and by the front door when an expensive looking SUV pulled up in front of the house. Leah led the way and loaded my stuff in the back, while I settled on the seat. “Hello, Emily. I’m Bella Swan. It’s so good to finally meet you,” the driver introduced herself warmly, offering me her hand. I smiled and shook it. “Hello, Bella. I’m happy to meet one of Leah’s new friends.” “I hope you enjoy meeting the rest of them,” she countered enigmatically. Leah slid into the passenger seat just then, before I could ask her to tell me more about them. She and Leah exchanged a speaking glance. How odd. I had a distinct impression questions had been asked and answered, on both sides, even though neither had spoken a word. I was surprised when we stopped in front of Kim’s house, and she climbed in beside me. “Hello, Emily! I’m so glad you could join us!” she squealed excitedly. Weird. I always thought she was so shy. I smiled back, hesitantly, feeling like I was missing out on something the other three knew. “Hi, Kim. I didn’t know you’d be joining us, though I’m happy to see you of course,” I replied, not wanting to sound rude. I was strangely nervous. “Oh, yes, we’ll all be there,” she answered cryptically. I couldn’t take the strange tension anymore. “Who’s we? What’s going on, Leah?” I demanded anxiously. She turned and smiled at me. “I’m going to introduce you to my new family. We’re really all unrelated, except for me and Seth. Oh, Quil and Jacob are actually cousins too. But the rest are not blood relations.” Kim snorted and Bella stifled a quick chuckle. Leah smiled at them. “Some of them are married to each other. But basically, we are a group of friends ranging in age from fourteen to twentysix. The two oldest act as parents to the rest of us. They’re just naturally gifted that way. We are a large group of people who choose to be a family, despite our differences. They are all willing to welcome you too, if you’re willing to accept.” Kim and Bella nodded, watching me. It sounds just like what I want for the pack. Sam described for me from the legends how close the pack gets, how it is one big, happy family, though not without the occasional fights and disagreements. I couldn’t wait to meet this family.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“I’d like to meet them,” I answered honestly. They all relaxed a bit. We pulled up in front of a gorgeous three story house. I couldn’t help gawking. I guess we had found the ones with all the money. The door opened and people started pouring out. A pale bronze haired boy opened Bella’s door, Jacob opened Leah’s, Jared opened Kim’s, and Embry opened mine. We got out, and I gawked at the crowd of people all lined up in front of the house. I turned back to look at my companions. I did a double take when I realized the very pale boy had his arm around Bella, Jared and Kim were holding hands, and Leah stood in between Jacob and Embry. “Some of us you already know.” She beckoned Quil and Seth over. They stopped rough housing with two tall pale boys and walked over to shake my hand, smiling at me. Leah pointed to the pale boy next to Bella. “Edward, Emily. Emily, Edward.” He nodded graciously to me from were he stood. “He and Bella are soul mates, like you and Sam.” I nodded, seeing them sharing the same kinds of looks Sam and I did. “Okay, left to right. The blond, gorgeous father figure, ha, ha, is Carlisle. He’s the head of the family, and his word goes. Don’t worry if you have a hard time thinking of him as a father at first. That’s perfectly natural. Give it a few days, and you’ll start to feel it. Besides, he’s utterly and completely devoted to his wife and soul mate, Esme. She the one standing right next to him, who instantly makes you think of princesses, tea parties, and milk and cookies. She’s mom to all of us.” Now that I could totally see. I had the strangest urge to just bury my face into her shoulder and tell her all my worries, frustrations, and fears, while she would rub my back, stroke my hair, kiss the top of my head repeatedly and keep murmuring that everything would be okay. My fantasy was so strong in my head that I actually took two steps toward her before I caught myself. I blushed and heard somebody chuckle. By the time I had raised my eyes to find out who, they were all impassive again. Leah continued her introductions. “The tall blonde guy is Jasper. He’s the strong, silent type, except when he is trash talking with his brothers over some silly game or competition.” He grinned widely, but didn’t say anything. “The short, black haired girl is his soul mate Alice. You’ll get used to her, but I’ll warn you now she’s a force to be reckoned with. The family motto is ‘Never bet against Alice’. She’s always right.” Alice was bouncing up and down in place, quivering with excitement. “Oh, Emily, you’re going to be so happy!” Well, I certainly had no desire to bet against that. Leah grinned and continued her spiel. “The huge muscle man is Emmett. He looks scary, but he’s only dangerous to people who try to hurt his family. Otherwise, he’s really just a five year old trapped in a man’s body.” “Hey, you are going down, Little Bitch,” Emmett growled. I stepped backward in surprise. I thought only Sam and Paul could growl like that. “Who are you calling little?” Leah demanded indignantly, hands on her hips. Huh? She objects to little but not bitch? “I am. Come and get me, pup,” Emmett sneered. “I am so going to kick your ass on Dance Dance Revolution later,” Leah threatened. “Bring it, babe,” he challenged with a smirk. Both of them laughed, while the beautiful blonde girl beside him just rolled her eyes.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“Saving the best for last, this is Rosalie,” Leah announced, smirking at Rose. Rose smiled warmly back. “Rosalie and Emmett are soul mates. Rose has a full time job trying to keep Emmett in line. Alas, it’s too big a job for one person, but she does her best.” The whole family started laughing at that, while Emmett crossed his arms across his chest looking smug. There was so much love here. I could feel it and see it. The groups converged together again, mingling comfortably with one another. “I’m very pleased to meet you all. I can see how much you all love each other.” My statement was met with cheering and whistling, mostly from the other Quileutes. The group dispersed, and Carlisle and Esme made their way over to me. Leah, Bella, and Edward stayed by my side. Once Esme was close, the urge to hug her was almost overwhelming. I intuitively felt she would understand if I poured out my heart to her. She seemed to read something in my eyes, because she opened her arms to me with a look of maternal love written all over her face. I fell into her arms and started sobbing. I was embarrassed, but not enough to pull away, because she was indeed comforting me just like I had wanted. I was surprised by how cold and hard her body was, but I wasn’t uncomfortable. One of her cold hands gently rubbed circles on my back, pressing me closer in a hug. Her other hand caressed my head, face, and hair. She murmured soothingly to me while I sobbed helplessly. I sensed the others move away to give us this moment alone. After I finally cried myself out, I pulled back. I saw how wet her shirt was and felt guilty. “II’m sorry about your shirt and about losing it like that.” She smiled so lovingly at me, lifting my chin to look into my eyes. “My shirt’s not important, but you are. You’ve been through a lot of difficult changes and have had to bear the burdens of so many secrets. You’ve been bottling it all up inside, trying to present a brave front to the world. I am deeply honored that you would allow me to comfort you in your time of need.” I gazed into her honey colored eyes and read the sincerity there. How did she know? All of a sudden my brain started working again. Pale, cold, hard, yellow eyes. I gasped and jumped back. She watched me with sadness and hurt in her eyes, but made no move to come closer. I grabbed Leah’s arm, my fingers trembling. We were all in danger! “Leah!” I shrieked. “She’s a Cullen! A Cold One!” Leah rolled her eyes at me. “Yeah, I know.” She didn’t understand. The legends were real. I had seen it firsthand. “The legends are real, Leah! She’s a – ” “Vampire. Yes, I know.” My jaw dropped this time. How could she be so calm about this? We were all in danger! “If we had wanted to hurt you, we would have done it already,” Edward mentioned calmly. I saw that several of the others had joined us. Jacob laughed. “Relax, Emily. I’ve seen them around injured humans, with open bleeding wounds, and they didn’t attack,” Jacob promised. “Me, too,” Kim added. “Alice saved me from two men who had captured me intending to rape me.” I looked at her in surprise and read the truth in her gaze. “Carlisle really does perform surgery on a regular basis at the hospital. I’ve seen him do it. He never loses control, and his technique is flawless,” Embry contributed.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“Rosalie and Edward both have medical degrees,” Bella mentioned, looking at both of them proudly. “They really don’t drink human blood, Emily. There are evil vampires like the ones in our legends, but our ancestors were right to make a treaty with the Cullens. They are people just like us, trying to make the best of the hand fate has dealt them. They all have good hearts, even if they don’t beat,” Jacob informed me calmly. “Carlisle has volunteered to perform the reconstructive surgery on your face, here in the privacy of his house. Since he can use his vampire speed, it won’t take long. Perhaps an hour at most,” Leah reminded me. I needed a few minutes to process all this information. “Take your time,” Edward offered. “We’ll all give you some space and privacy to think it over. Then, if you want to go, we won’t stop you or pressure you.” They all nodded and backed away, even Leah. Good vampires. Was such a thing even possible? I thought about what Kim had said. There were certainly good and bad humans, and vampires were made from humans. I watched the vampires and the Quileutes interacting. These vampires could certainly pass for humans. They had fooled me at first. I wondered how long it would have taken me to figure it out if I hadn’t hugged Esme. I thought about Esme’s embrace. I realized how much better I felt, having let out all that emotion and having her strong, loving arms soothing me. I thought about how close I had been to her, how easily she could have killed me. I couldn’t even picture her biting me though. She could have, but she didn’t and she wouldn’t. I thought about Sam attacking Esme and was horrified. It would be a tragedy to lose her. I had just met her, yet even I would mourn her loss if something happened. My heart proclaimed what my head hadn’t wanted to admit. Yes, there are good vampires, just like there are good people. “Hey, Blond Bombshell,” Jacob taunted Rosalie, “Good job finishing that jigsaw puzzle in only six months. The box said 2-4 years!” Quil and Embry snickered. Rosalie raised her eyebrow in disdain. “Hey, Mangy Mutt,” she responded. “I just realized which superhero you remind me of: Underdog!” There were a lot of “oooo’s” after that. Rosalie and Leah exchanged high fives. Emmett scooped up Bella in one arm and Kim in the other and began spinning in circles. I heard Bella yell that she was going to hurl He set them both back on their feet and stepped back, watching them. The both took a few crazy steps, then crashed into each other and fell to the ground groaning. I heard an echoing boom as Emmett hit the ground laughing uncontrollably. I watched as Edward, Jacob, and Jared snuck up on him. Edward grabbed his feet, while Jacob and Jared each grabbed an arm. They picked him up and started swinging him. They let go at the top of the arc and he flew thirty feet through the air into a tree. The tree snapped in half and fell on his head. The tree broke again when it hit his head. Wow, he really is hardheaded, isn’t he? He stood up, shook himself off, grabbed the giant tree trunk, hefted it, and threw it like a javelin. It flew through the air and crashed to the ground somewhere out of sight. Emmett held his arms out, mimicking the stance of an Olympic gymnast who just completed his routine. Then he bowed to us all solemnly. “Thank you, thank you. Yes, you are all in the presence of greatness.” We all started laughing, including me. Yep, he was a big kid at heart. I really liked this family. I could get used to spending time like this, in their company. It was just like I had imagined the pack would be. I had made up my mind. I wanted Carlisle to do the surgery. I stood up and walked over to meet him. He was smiling at me, ready and waiting. I looked at Esme and realized there was something I needed to do first.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. She smiled and opened her arms. I threw myself into her embrace, hugging her as tightly as I could. “It’s okay, honey. I know you were taken by surprise. Thank you for choosing to come back to us. It means more to me than you know,” she murmured against the top of my head. I finally stepped back and turned to Carlisle. He was beaming at me with love and pride. I felt my heart swell. “Carlisle, I would be honored for you to perform surgery on me, and more thankful than I could put into words. I trust you with my life and my future,” I stated honestly. “My pleasure, my dear,” he replied, beaming broadly. “Everything is already set up, so let’s go inside.” Leah and Esme walked me inside and gave me a tour, trying to increase my comfort level. Alice gave me a different top to put on, just in case. I was amazed when I saw the minihospital they had set up in the guest room. I decided to call Sam quickly to tell him I was healthy and happy and would be unavailable for the next few hours while we were watching a movie. I reassured him that Leah had the best of intentions, and we were friends again. I let him know I really liked Leah’s new friends, though I didn’t give him any details. I told him I loved him more than anything and hung up. I was ready. I climbed up onto the bed and rested on my back. Carlisle set me up with an IV and injected something into it with a syringe. Less than a minute later, the blackness swallowed me, and I knew nothing.

Chapter 38: Surprising Alice
LeahPOV I still had some pangs of jealousy and insecurity in my heart, but I was trying to squash them. It was hard to give up on the dreams I had carried for so long. My talk with Rosalie had let me see that it was the death of the dreams that hurt the most. Royce had raped her, betrayed her, and essentially murdered her. She had her revenge on him, yet she still hung on to her girlhood dreams of being a wife and mother. It was obvious to me as a human third party that Rose was missing the big picture. Carlisle didn’t steal her chance at a happy human life and motherhood, nor did the change take it from her. I knew Carlisle and had no doubt that she would have died if he hadn’t initiated the transformation. I decided to discuss my revelations with her after the surgery. I had benefited so much from her wisdom, that I desperately wanted to bring her some of the same peace she had offered me. I watched carefully as Carlisle began the procedure. I knew I wouldn’t be able to help, but I wanted to record his actions in my memory, so I could share it with Sam at some point. Jacob was with me in the room, likely for the same reason. He seemed utterly fascinated by the

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whole process though. I wasn’t particularly enjoying watching Carlisle cut her open, cut away the scar tissue, and then sew her up again with teeny, tiny stitches, though Jacob seemed to be taking lessons. Maybe he’d become a doctor one day. Or maybe since he was a werewolf, perhaps he should become a veterinarian instead. I smiled to myself at the humor. He and Carlisle could start a practice together and call it Mythical Medicine. What I found the most fascinating was seeing how close Carlisle was to all that fresh blood, yet he never once lost focus, or trembled, or appeared the least bit thirsty. I watched his eyes, knowing the vampires well enough now to recognize the way their eyes changed to indicate their thirst. His eyes never changed, even minutely, from his honey gold, even though he was only inches from her bleeding wound and was breathing normally. Rosalie was assisting in the procedure, and I noticed she was holding her breath. Her eyes had darkened a bit, but were still yellow around the edges. She was under control, though it was clearly not as easy for her as it was for Carlisle. Now I fully understood what the other Cullens meant when they said Carlisle was immune to human blood. I was seeing it in action. I had a lot of respect for Rosalie too. I had seen Alice ignore the freely flowing blood of the men who attacked Kim, but it was possible it had been in the heat of the moment when her protective instincts were in full force. Seeing Rosalie calmly assisting Carlisle, regularly cleaning the blood away from the wound so it wouldn’t impede his vision, I was in awe of the restraint she was able to muster. I was now convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Cullens were trustworthy. Jasper knew he would be affected by everyone else’s thirst, so he and Alice had chosen to go hunting during the surgery. That too reinforced my trust, because he had recognized his own limitations and willingly chose to remove himself from a potentially dangerous situation. So many accidents happen on a daily basis around the world because people allow themselves to placed into situations they know they can’t handle. Edward and Bella were helping Esme out in her garden. I could see them pulling weeds and chit chatting peacefully. I thought it amusing beyond belief that Bella couldn’t stand the smell of blood and would actually faint from it, yet she intended to marry a vampire and become one herself. I wondered what would happen when she needed to drink it to survive. Would the smell still make her faint? Could vampires faint? I’d have to ask Carlisle later. Would the smell make her nauseous? Would she throw it up as fast as she drank it? I was really glad I had met Bella. She really was one strange human. She kept life from getting too boring. Emmett was downstairs in the living room playing video games with Quil, Embry, and Seth, while Jared and Kim snuggled on the couch and pretended to watch. Really, they only had eyes for each other. Bella had assured me Kim was Jared’s imprint, or else I would be really nervous for her right now. I had talked things over with the others, and we agreed to help keep each other in check to prevent breaking anybody else’s heart the way Sam broke mine. None of us would enter into a serious relationship with anyone other than our imprints. I heard Emmett cursing as he broke another controller. They paused the game to allow him to get another from the supply closet. While in there, he saw Bella and Edward outside. I had seen they were having a ‘love moment’ where they were lost in each other’s eyes. Ugh, yuck. Okay, I’m just jealous. I want someone to make me feel that way, but I have to be patient. Ugh, no fair. Esme was pretending to ignore them, but I could see she was watching them out of the corner of her eye, with a smug grin plastered on her face. She was so happy about their relationship, about the joy she brought to Edward and all the rest of us. Emmett couldn’t resist trying to ruin their Kodak moment. He opened the back door and yelled out to them, “Dang! Somebody’s bleeding like a stuck pig! Beeellllllaaa, did you fall down AGAIN? What’s with you crazy humans spilling blood in a house full of vampires, for crying out loud? Don’t you guys have any sense of self-preservation?”

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He slammed the door shut on her disgruntled glare, laughing to himself, and stomped back to the living room while opening the new controller. He froze as his eyes took in the scene before him. I knew Emmett was joking. I knew that. I also knew he could smell Emily’s blood, because I knew I could. He had been smelling it for a while now and hadn’t reacted to it at all, as far as I knew. Yet, despite that, one portion of his statement jumped out in my mind, echoing over and over again. Humans spilling blood in a house full of vampires . . . Humans spilling blood in a house full of vampires . . . Something snapped inside. Something deep and primal welled forth. Some portion of my brain recognized that Emmett was laughing, that he was still in control. But that part of my brain was not in charge. Something else was. My vision started going black. I felt something run into me hard, and then I was picked up, thrown over someone’s shoulder, and rushed down the steps to the front yard. It all happened in slow motion for me. I could sense the urgency in the one who carried me. He set me down none too gently, and I just stared blankly at him. His name popped into my head. “Jacob?” I whispered. He was watching me intently. I realized we weren’t actually experiencing an earthquake. The tremors that shook my body were coming from me. “Relax, Leah. You’re just changing into a wolf now. I’m right here to help you if you need me,” he murmured soothingly. I did relax, because for me, the scariest part had been not knowing what was happening to me. Now that I knew, I could focus on the strange sensations in my body. I felt my body moving, folding, shifting, strengthening, growing, stretching, expanding. I felt my bones rearranging themselves underneath my skin. I could actually feel my hair growing all over my body and feel my teeth growing and sharpening. I could feel a tail extruding out behind me, my tailbone elongating and actually becoming a real tail! Secretly, I’ve always wanted a tail. How cool is that? Finally, it was over, and I was a new wolf, lying on the ground panting, my clothes in tatters all around me. I could see and hear and smell absolutely everything! Jacob POV It was utterly fascinating to watch Carlisle work. My eyesight was just as good as his, and I could see all the tiny repairs he was making that a human surgeon would never be able to do. I was amazed at the sight of the different layers making up the human body. Originally, I had merely wanted to commit the sight to memory so I could show it to Sam later through the mind link, so he could learn to trust the Cullens like I do. Once there though, I was drawn to it. My attention was almost completely absorbed by it. For the first time ever, I considered looking into medicine as a career choice. I didn’t want to become a doctor like Carlisle, but maybe I should be a physician’s assistant or something. I wanted to do cool things like this, but I really didn’t want to be in school that long. It took too many years to become a doctor for my taste. Suddenly, I heard Emmett shouting. I could tell he was trying to needle Bella and Edward. Leah was looking out the window, watching them in the garden below. One phrase he used set off shocks in my system. Humans spilling blood in a house full of vampires. I felt my inner wolf well up, wanting to force a change, as my protective nature was triggered, but I was able to push him back down. I took my role as a Protector for my people seriously, especially as the Alpha, but I knew there was no threat here. Emmett’s laughter drifted up the stairs to us as he got his controller and started coming out of the kitchen. That was when I felt it. A charge in the atmosphere. I looked to the source and saw Leah trembling all over. I immediately recognized what was happening, having just gone through the change myself, so I ran to her, threw her over my shoulder, and rushed down the stairs to the front yard. I set her down and backed away to give her some space. I told her what was happening, and I could see the tension slowly drain out of her. I knew she was fine and just
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needed time to finish phasing and come to terms with her new self. Now that she was settled and safe, I needed to help Embry with Jared. On my mad dash down the stairs, I had noticed Jared was trembling just as badly as Leah was. I was quite thankful Embry had managed to keep a handle on his control like me. He was busy moving Kim away from Jared to a safe place. Our eyes met briefly before I sailed out the door. I rushed back toward the house in time to see Embry hauling a struggling Jared outside. I quickly grabbed onto him and helped Embry get him out onto the lawn. “Kim!” Jared howled in his human voice, staring at the open door where she was standing watching him. He reached his shaking hand toward her. I grabbed his face between my hands and forced him to look at me. “Kim is fine, but you are phasing into a wolf. If you change too close to Kim, she will end up looking like Emily,” I explained firmly. I saw his eyes widen as comprehension dawned. He stopped struggling and relaxed, nodding his head. He smiled tremulously at Kim and began shifting. I turned back to Leah, who was now fully in wolf form. She was looking all around her like a puppy with a whole new world to explore. She started wagging her tail, then looked back at it in wonder, wagging it harder. I chuckled and her eyes met mine. “I know, it feels great to wag your tail, doesn’t it?” I asked her. She nodded, snickering. “It’s something you really can’t explain to someone who doesn’t have one. We’ll go for a run as soon as Jared is ready. Don’t worry, Kim, we’ll be back soon enough.” I turned back to Jared and saw him up on all four paws, testing out his own tail. He looked longingly at Kim, though he didn’t step in her direction. She blew him a kiss. “Wow, Jared, you’re as big as a horse! I expect you to let me ride you some day,” she hollered. He started nodding enthusiastically as laughter poured out from all directions. Kim stopped to think about how that sounded and blushed almost as pink as Bella does. Leah’s laughter sounding like barking coughs, since she was in her wolf form. I knew Bella felt bad for Kim and decided to draw some of the attention to herself to save her friend’s feelings. That was quite a sacrifice, considering how much she hated to be the focus of attention. “Hey, Jake!” Bella teased. “You’re not superheroes, you’re Transformers. More than meets the eye!” She giggled at her little reference. Honestly, her little giggle was funnier than her joke, but we all chuckled anyway, out of respect for the selflessness of her attempt. Embry and I quickly shed our shirts, pants, shoes, and socks, leaving us both clad in just our boxers for a few seconds. “All right, team Wolfman, time to move out,” I announced. Embry and I phased into wolves, and we started running through the forest, testing our newfound abilities. Embry and I had already gotten used to each other’s thoughts from the night before, but now there were two new voices dancing around in my head. At first, all that went through their minds was the need to explore – their bodies, their senses, their strengths and weaknesses, their limitations and boundaries, and their environment. We ran in relatively quiet comfort. (Leah) I can’t believe we had to learn about ourselves from our supposed mortal enemy. Were Sam and Paul intending to just let us go through that transformation on our own, with no prior knowledge? I would have been absolutely terrified! Even after it was explained to me in my wolf body, I probably would have been freaking out for days. (Jared) Yeah, me too. I could have hurt Kim really badly if Jacob and Embry weren’t there to help me. Even after they had me, I still fought to get to her. Once Jacob told me what was
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happening, I knew I had to let her go until I was back under control. If neither of us had known what to expect, it would have been a disaster. She would have run to me, and I would have fought to be with her. I can’t believe Sam would be so irresponsible, especially after his own experience with Emily. (Embry) Well, we can’t be too hard on him. He changed on his own and tried to deal with it on his own for a long time. It was at least a year from the time he disappeared for a few weeks to the time Paul disappeared and upon return began hanging out exclusively with Sam. Maybe he just thinks that’s the way it’s supposed to happen. The tribal council definitely knows about them. I guess now I know why they cater to the two of them so much. I do think it’s wrong not to tell us what to expect though. They can’t say it’s because we wouldn’t believe them. If they had turned into giant wolves right in front of me, I certainly would have believed. I suddenly realized I’d better learn to start guarding my thoughts or the pack would be privy to every last thought that slips through my head. Some of my thoughts are so strange and whimsical, even I can’t believe I thought them. (Leah) *joyful yips* I found Alice’s and Jasper’s scent. Why don’t we practice hunting down bloodsuckers? (Jared) Nah, they’re probably enjoying a little ‘alone’ time together. (Embry) Yeah, if I have to watch leeches making love I think I’ll lose my lunch. Hmmm. Should we stay or should we go? Well, it would be handy to have Jasper around in case Leah and Jared have a hard time phasing back into their human status, and Alice always seems to have clothes ready for us when we need them. Yeah, let’s go ruin their moment. (Leah) You’re so bad, Jake. I want to show Alice my new form though. She can’t see us in her visions, so she won’t know we phased already. A light bulb went off in my head. A slow, mischievous grin started spreading across my wolfy face, baring my teeth. It probably would have scared the crap out of a human looking at it, but my companions all recognized it for what it was. You do realize, my dear friends, that we werewolves are the only ones who can actually surprise Alice. Can you think of the pranks Emmett and Jasper would be able to pull if we work together? They’ve both been so busy whining about how they can never do it, that none of us have even considered the implications of our involvement before. We could all play games and stuff together and she won’t automatically know who’s going to win or what cards her opponents have. We can help level the playing field for them, and then they’re going to owe us. (Embry) You are so bad, Jake, but I like the way you think. (Leah) So let’s go surprise them already. What are we waiting for? (Jared) Okay, but I don’t want to be out too long. I want to get back to Kim. We started running again, following the scent deep into the forest. I reminded them to keep calm, to try and minimize their emotions, so we wouldn’t alert Jasper through his gift. We came to a hot spring with a waterfall. It was gorgeous. I wanted to come back sometime when

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I could be alone to truly enjoy it. The two vampires were naked and embracing in the water. They were so occupied that we were able to surround them with ease. Okay, on my signal, we’re all going to bark. Hearing it come unexpectedly from all four directions should scare the crap out of them, not that vampires have normal bodily functions or anything, but you know what I mean. One, Two, Three, RAORWF! The simultaneous barks echoed off the trees. Their reaction was everything we could have hoped. Jasper sprang about fifteen feet straight up into the air, with Alice wrapped tightly around his body. His eyes made a rapid assessment of the situation the moment he became airborne. I saw the recognition in his eyes before he even hit the height of his jump. The four of us fell to the ground laughing hysterically. How many people could say they snuck up on and startled a vampire? How many could say the same about a psychic vampire? We were so cool. We were all rolling on our backs, kicking our paws in excess merriment. I watched Jasper on his way back down into the water. I saw our waves of laughter pass over and through him. He struggled to hold back his own laughter in response to ours. But it was his eyes that scared me as his body started sinking back into the water. His mouth might be smiling, but his eyes promised revenge.

Chapter 39: Blood Training
JacobPOV Uh, guys. I think it would be best if we leave now. Jasper’s not too happy with us at the moment. We all got up quickly and started sprinting back to the house. (Embry) Oh, that was priceless! Did you see his face? Who knew vampires could jump so high? (Jared) Man, if only we had brought Alice’s video camera! It’s time somebody catches her doing something funny and embarrassing.

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(Embry) And how are we supposed to carry the camera, much less operate it? It requires hands, you dufus. (Jared) Well, you could have come in human form. (Embry) But then I wouldn’t have been able to communicate with you. (Leah) Whatever, losers. I just want to get back to Emily and see how she’s doing. Yeah, you guys needed to stretch your limbs a bit and get a feel for the wolf, but we do need to check on her. You know Sam will kill all of us if anything happens to her. (Leah) What? You think something’s going to happen to her? Stop panicking, Leah. I don’t think anything is going to happen, but I’d feel better about being there just the same. I don’t want Sam thinking we just abandoned her there in the vampires’ lair. As we got closer to the house, I started mentally calling Edward. He flew toward us with Bella on his back, enjoying the ride. “You rang?” he drawled. How’s Emily? I asked mentally. He ran along side of me back toward the house. “She’s fine. The surgery is over, and everything looks good. She came out from under the anesthesia and was lucid, but is asleep now, resting peacefully. Personally, I think she looks better now, even though the wounds are fresh, than she did with those horrible scars.” I felt the relief and joy flood the minds of my pack. Thanks, Edward. We’re going to go and see her for ourselves now. Oh, and you might want to avoid antagonizing Jasper today. He’s not feeling very pleasant at the moment. Please warn us if you hear him coming. Please, old buddy, old pal? “Warn you if I hear Jasper coming? Why should I side with you over Jasper, pup?” (Leah) Because we surprised Alice! *pictures entire encounter* Edward almost tripped at the sight. Luckily, we had just broken through to the back yard, so he put Bella down and promptly collapsed with laughter. He was lucky. He got to see the whole thing from four different angles. No doubt he’d get another two points of view once Jasper and Alice made it back to the house.

EPOV I was rolling on the ground laughing hysterically, while the love of my life watched me, a bemused expression on her face. After a few minutes, she started to get impatient. Then she started to get angry. I desperately tried to stop laughing, but I hadn’t seen anything like that little stunt in all the decades I’ve known Jasper and Alice. “Edward Anthony Masen Cullen! Either you let me in on the joke right now or I’m leaving!” she shouted, stomping her foot in frustration. Did she really just stomp her foot? Really? I let
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loose a fresh gale of laughter. She huffed and started to stomp away. I grabbed her hand. Something about the sight of her walking away from me sobered me up immediately. “Bella, love, I’m sorry,” I wheedled, on my knees. I gave her my crooked grin and watched her get dazzled again. “I’ll tell you all about it.” She sat in my lap, and I described the scene the werewolves had shone me as to how Alice got a little taste of her own medicine, a little surprise of her very own. She clapped her hand over her mouth, and her entire torso started shaking like she was going to phase into a wolf herself, but I knew she was just trying to hold in the laughter so she could hear the entire story. Once I finished, she fell out of my lap and rolled around on the lawn in her own laughing fit. This, of course, triggered me to relapse. Carlisle and Esme came out on the deck to watch us being silly together. He put his arm around her, and she leaned into him, as they both wore indulgent smiles. After a while, we both calmed down, and I helped her to her feet. “It’s time for you to get home and cook dinner for your father, Bella.” She nodded reluctantly. “Will you stay and help me in the kitchen? I promise not to make you taste anything.” Oh, joy. The things I went through for this darling girl. I’m sure she has no idea of the sacrifices I make on her behalf. “Of course, love. I’ll be happy to help you cook dinner for Charlie,” I responded sweetly, dreading the horrible smells I would be forced to endure. I would do just about anything to spend more time in her company. She grinned widely, seemingly oblivious to my internal struggles. I am happy to have been the one to put that smile on her face though. “Bella!” Carlisle called to her. “I’d like to speak with you before you go, if you have a minute.” “I always have time for you, Carlisle,” she replied warmly, making her way over to him. “Bella, you spoke before about giving us a blood sample to help with training. I’d like to go ahead and get that, if you are amenable.” She nodded, though her cheeks were noticeably paler. My poor darling positively hated needles. She followed Carlisle inside and upstairs to his study. He settled her in a comfortable chair and told her to watch the ceiling while he prepared. A few seconds later, he advised her to hold her breath. He had the sample drawn in seconds. Before she even had time to worry about what he was going to do, he was already done. “Thank you, Bella. That was very brave of you. Personally, I admire your courage.” She stared at him in disbelief. “Are you finished already?” she wondered. He nodded, chuckling slightly. “Boy, I could really get used to having a vampire doctor. Don’t worry, Dad, I’m going to contact my insurance provider and have you listed as my primary care physician. Well, at least as long as your name is on the designated provider list for the HMO.” He started laughing and gave her a quick kiss on her forehead. “That’s okay, dear Bella. For you, it’s ‘on the house’.”

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She grinned at him and joked, “Wow, just think of all the money I’ll save on medical bills. It’s unbelievable how much it costs for a single emergency room visit. I knew there was some reason I put up with this crazy family.” “As I said before, my dear, you fit right in with the rest of us,” Carlisle teased. “I guess I was simply born to be a Cullen,” she quipped. Carlisle ruffled her hair playfully. “You won’t get any complaints from me,” he responded, more seriously. “I’m very thankful you’ve joined us.” Then he grinned again. “Even if you have afflicted me with half a dozen teenage werewolves.” “You know you love us, Papa Fang!” Jacob yelled from the living room. Carlisle winced. “Papa Fang? I know you can do better than that, Jacob,” he complained. “Papa Leech?” “Jacob,” Carlisle groaned. “Okay, we’ll just stick with Pops for now then. Unless you’d prefer ‘old man’,” Jacob suggested. “Nah, he’s British, right? Shouldn’t it be ‘old chap’,” Embry corrected. “Tallyho, old chap, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Quil offered in a terrible English accent. Carlisle rolled his eyes, shaking his head sadly. “You’ll forgive me someday,” Bella insisted with a wink. Carlisle smirked and escorted her out of the study. “Good night, Bella. I’m going to hide out in here for awhile, until it gets quieter downstairs. I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. They’re so much cuter when they’re sleeping.” “Well, you should love the slumber party tomorrow night then, Pops,” Rosalie taunted from inside her room. With a groan, Carlisle ducked back into his study and shut the door. Bella cheerily wished everyone good night, and I escorted her out to the Vanquish. On the way to her house, we enjoyed a companionable silence until we were close to her street. “I just love it when a plan comes together,” she sighed happily. I smiled at her. “Proud of yourself, are you?” “Yes, actually I am. Things are so much better for us now than they were in Meyer’s Twilight. Part of me can help but fear something is going to mess things up, that there’s no way things could be that easy for us. The other part tells me we’ve worked hard to get where we are now, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Can you imagine how Charlie would feel about you if the very first night he meets you, on our very first official date, I run away to Phoenix and end up in the hospital? It’s no wonder he was always so suspicious of you in Meyer’s books. When I think about what the other me said to him that night, it just makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t let James get the upper hand this time around.” “Don’t worry,” I growled. “I have no intention of allowing him anywhere near you.”
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“Well, Edward, fate’s a funny thing. I think it might be better to effect a compromise rather than trying to avoid it completely.” I stared at her like she had truly lost her mind. Did she really think I was going to let her anywhere in the same state as those sadistic nomads? She can just go visit her mom while they’re here in Washington. I let it go for now though. I didn’t want to fight with her. She is so incredibly stubborn. We went inside her house and strolled straight into the kitchen. Bella put me to work slicing and dicing vegetables for her homemade spaghetti sauce. I had to hold my breath to avoid gagging when she began frying the hamburger meat. Cooking meat is one of the worst smells to a vampire. Perhaps it reminds us of how easily we could become dust in the wind. Well, maybe not easily, but certainly under the right circumstances anyway. I stirred the spaghetti noodles, while she kept track of her simmering sauce and worked on making garlic bread. “How do I know when they’re ready?” I asked. She giggled. “Well, you could bite into one of the noodles and check the texture with your teeth . . .” “Or?” She giggled again. “Or you could throw the noodle at the wall. If it sticks, then they’re ready.” “Seriously?” I looked into her eyes to see if she was pulling my leg. She grinned. “Seriously! Try it.” I dipped my fingers into the boiling water and grabbed a long noodle. I held it up in front of my face and watched wiggle. I looked at Bella out of the corner of my eye and saw her watching me intently. I gently threw the noodle at the wall, being sure to use only human strength. Lo and behold, it actually stuck to the wall. I grinned at Bella, proud of myself for some reason. I turned off the burner and poured the noodles into a strainer. I thought about telling the rest of the family about this amazing property of spaghetti noodles, when my phone began to buzz. “Hello, Alice. What’s up?” “Don’t do it, Edward. The consequences to Esme’s kitchen are irrevocable if you do.” “What?! Why?” How harmful could limp noodles be? “One word. Emmett.” “Say no more.” I sighed and hung up the phone. So much for sharing my newfound knowledge of noodles. I got a mental picture of Emmett and Jacob in a spaghetti war inside Esme’s kitchen. There would be noodles everywhere: ceiling, cabinets, windows, floor, etc. If only the dogs would just clean it up afterwards, like good dogs do, it might be okay. No doubt licking spilled food off the floor is beneath them though. Oh, well. Maybe we can teach them to play ball instead. Before long, Charlie arrived home. He hung up his jacket and gun belt before strolling casually into the kitchen. He was always concerned that he might be ‘interrupting something’ when he would find me over here alone with Bella, mainly because if anything was going on between us, he didn’t want to know about it. He still liked to think of her as his little girl and would never be comfortable thinking about her being sexually active. Charlie did a double take when
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he saw the domestic scene in the kitchen. Surprisingly enough, it actually struck him harder than walking in to find her kissing me would have. I was busy setting the table and bringing the food over, while Bella was simmering the sauce. He watched us for a few minutes, noticing the graceful way our bodies moved around one another. He noticed some of the wordless communication we share and felt like we behaved more like an old married couple than a new teen relationship. There was a comfort level we shared that made it seem as if we had been working together for years. It was this, more than anything, that made him realize his precious daughter wasn’t a little girl anymore, that she was a beautiful, caring young woman, with so much love to share. He cleared his throat gruffly. “Smells great, Bells.” She looked up and smiled at him. “Thanks, Dad, but I can’t take all the credit this time. Edward has been a great help. Dinner will be ready in three minutes, so I hope you’re hungry.” “Starving,” he mumbled, watching her. She smiled lovingly up into my eyes. “We make a great team,” she murmured softly. I offered up her favorite crooked smile in response, pouring my love into my gaze. “Yes, we do.” Poor Charlie was getting overwhelmed. Visions of wedding dresses were floating through his head as he remembered falling in love with Renee at seventeen. I decided go easy on him, and wanted to escape a dinner invitation, so I made my excuses. “Unfortunately, I’ve got to head home now. Esme wants us to have a family dinner tonight, so I simply can’t stay.” Bella stifled a snort and escorted me to the door. I gave her a gentle kiss and whispered my promise to come back to her later. I savored her stunning smile, then slipped out the door to head home. As soon as I arrived back at my house, Carlisle requested my presence in the kitchen. Jasper and Carlisle were both waiting in there for me. He was blocking my thoughts, so I had to wait for him to begin. “I’ve been thinking long and hard about the blood training, and I think I have hit upon a fast and effective method. We’re going to test it out tonight,” Carlisle announced with a speculative look. Jasper and I exchanged a glance and both shrugged. “Bring it on, Pops,” Jasper snickered. “Hey, that’s Dr. Pops to you,” I teased, trying to contain my mirth. Carlisle glared at both of us, though we could see his mouth twitching with the effort not to smile. “Careful, boys, or your mom and I will be sure to hug and kiss you in front of all your friends at school and call you cute little baby nicknames, like Snugglepuss and Cuddlekins.” Snugglepuss and Cuddlekins? I was desperately hoping nobody else was home or we would never live it down. Imagining the amount of damage Emmett could do with those two names was enough to strike sheer horror deep in my soul. I looked over at Jasper and could tell he felt the same way. We looked at Carlisle with desperation. “We’ll be good, Dad,” I promised, my gaze pleading. Jasper vigorously nodded in agreement.
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Carlisle chuckled. “Ah, the joys of parenthood.” Only sadistic masochists become parents by choice. Jasper grumbled in his thoughts. He may be on to something there. I know I sure wouldn’t have the patience to be a father to this brood. There’s a reason some species eat their young. I’d have turned us all into ashes long before now if I were in Carlisle’s shoes. That’s just one of the reasons he’s my hero and role model. “Hold your breath,” Carlisle commanded. We both immediately complied. Carlisle set two small plastic sample dishes in front of me and two in front of Jasper. Each dish had several drops of blood in it. “I want you to follow your instincts please. When I give the command, you will inhale deeply and smell the blood. I want you to pick up whichever dish your gut instincts ask for and drink the blood in the dish. Do not try to think about it or resist it. Just do what your natural predator wants you to do.” Jasper and I both looked at him with raised eyebrows. Carlisle was actually recommending we drink human blood? Bella’s blood? Was he possessed? “Okay, you may breathe now.” I had to exhale before I could inhale, so I used the air to ask, “Who are you, and what have you done with our Carlisle?” He merely smirked at me, so I shrugged and inhaled deeply. Bella’s delicious scent hit me like a freight train, burning my throat with a fire as strong as the one that burns during the change. I could instantly tell that the dish on the right held Bella’s blood and the dish on the left held the blood of a deer. My inner monster had no difficulty immediately choosing Bella’s blood. I grabbed it, fast as lightening and promptly brought it to my tongue, before Carlisle could change his mind. I licked up the precious drops and for the first nanosecond it was everything I hoped for, but by the second nanosecond, my tongue was in full scale rebellion. I wrinkled my nose in disgust and began spitting out whatever I could. I started wiping my tongue with my shirtsleeve, desperately trying to get the horrible bitter taste out of my mouth. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jasper doing the same thing. I quickly grabbed the other dish, hoping for the best. The bland deer blood tasted heavenly compared to the crap I had just inflicted upon myself. I realized Jasper was mirroring my actions at the same time. Carlisle nodded impassively at both of us and collected the dishes. He placed them in the sink and gave us each two new dishes. I inhaled deeply again. This time Bella’s blood was on the left and the deer blood was on the right. The smell of the blood triggered the flames in my throat. I grabbed Bella’s blood again, but not as quickly as before. I brought it up to my tongue, but tasted it more cautiously this time. Once again, my tongue was assaulted by that horrible bitter flavor, and I gagged. I quickly used the deer blood to resuscitate my tongue. Carlisle nodded again, placing the used containers in the sink. He gave us each two new dishes. The smell caused my throat to burn, but nowhere near as badly as before. The monster within picked up Bella’s blood and brought it to my mouth. I inhaled the aroma, enjoying the glorious scent, but I could not bring myself to taste it. My mind, tongue, and stomach all rebelled at the though of being subjected to the bitterness again. I put it back on the counter and chose the deer blood instead, quickly licking it up like a cat with a bowl of cream. Carlisle’s eyes had started to sparkle. He placed two more dishes in front of us. This time, I enjoyed the aroma of my love’s blood, but felt no desire at all to bring it anywhere near my mouth. My throat did not burn any more than usual, and I made quick work of the deer blood.

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I looked over to see that Jasper had done the same thing. We smiled at each other. Carlisle placed the dishes into the sink, rinsing out the ones that contained Bella’s blood. “Well done, sons!” Carlisle exclaimed excitedly. “I decided to use behavioral management therapy, treating your situation as similar to Pavlov’s dogs. The reason Bella’s blood tasted so horrible is because I added something to it, something odorless so it wouldn’t change the way the blood smelled. I found Oderless Garlic Concentrated Tablets online. I crushed them into a fine powder and mixed the powder with the blood. They sold Odorless Fish Oil too, but I really couldn’t resist the irony of using the garlic for our purposes.” He seemed extremely pleased with himself. He reached behind himself and picked up a syringe full of blood. “One more test,” he muttered. “This is Bella’s blood. I have not added anything to it. It will not taste bitter. It will taste sweeter than you can imagine. Hold out your hand. Jasper and I both followed his instructions. He squirted a small pool of blood into both our hands. I looked down at the blood in my hand. I lifted it up to my nose and inhaled the fragrant bouquet, waiting for the resultant burn. To my surprise, my throat did not burn any more than usual, and my mouth did not flood with venom. This was Bella’s blood – the sweetest blood in the world for me. It wasn’t contaminated like the other samples had been. I remembered how wonderful it was when I drank from her in the car after the accident. I wanted to taste it, but I couldn’t get my tongue to cooperate. My tongue had absolutely no desire to engage the blood in my hand. My tastebuds were running scared. My memory from the accident was now tainted with the bitter flavor. I brought my hand slightly closer to my mouth. My stomach clenched down as if I were nauseous, and I gagged slightly. My nose was telling me this blood was the best ever, but my tongue was screaming that it wasn’t food. I could not bring myself to taste it. I didn’t want it after all. I grabbed a paper towel and used it to clean off my hand. I looked over to Jasper and saw him wiping the blood off his hand as well. Jasper looked like he really couldn’t believe what he was doing, even as he was doing it. Carlisle looked as if he was ready to burst from pride and excitement. He took the bloody paper towels from us and beamed brightly. “It worked! You resisted! Both of you. I am so proud of both of you! I doubt it will really be this easy, but you’ve both made huge strides tonight. I saw Jasper swelling with positive emotion. He looked like he felt ten feet tall from Carlisle’s praise. I realized that Jasper rarely got credit for all the good things he did for the family. Instead, the family only reacted to the negative. I resolved to change my own way of thinking. I wanted to try to focus on the positive instead of only reacting to the negative. I smiled to myself. It was time for me to see how this little experiment worked in real life. Would I really find it easier to control my bloodlust around Bella? Only one way to find out. “Thank you, Carlisle,” I enthused. “I really appreciate all you’ve done for me. Now I’m going to see if it makes it easier for me to be with Bella. I’ll be sure to give you a report in the morning.” Carlisle and Jasper both chuckled indulgently. “Certainly, son. Enjoy your time with your mate.” I didn’t wait for further goodbyes. I was off and running as soon as I was out the door. Running to my light, my life, my love.

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Chapter 40: Ode to Edward
BPOV I was all ready for bed, lounging under the covers and reading, waiting for my supercool vampire boyfriend to waltz through my second story window. Maybe I should write a book about my life. No wait, that’s already been done. Stephenie Meyer beat me to it. Hardly seems fair really. Though I’ve changed my future, so maybe I could still write it? After all, it isn’t quite the same story anymore. All the same characters, but not the same lines. Eh, she’d probably sue me though. I can’t believe she copyrighted my life, so now I can’t write about it. I’ll find a way. My story will be told, some day, some way, some how. Wow. I like that last line. It sounds like it could be a song. I’ve got it! I grabbed my journal and feverishly started writing: My boyfriend is really old. His body is freezing cold. His eyes are like molten gold. My story shall soon be told. Some day, some way, some how I think I’m gonna start it now. His body I want to hold. My lust is making me bold. I’m hoping he’s gonna fold. Baby, break out of your mold. Some day, some way, some how Wish you would start right now. Stays every night in my bed Wouldn’t harm a hair on my head I hate those vows that he said Won’t do me ‘til we’re safely wed. Some day, some way, some how I need your loving right now.

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Through the city my boyfriend sped, Fighting his feelings of dread. Saw me broken, dripping red, And all the tears that I had shed. He won’t let the venom spread. Wants to bite me himself instead, Once he has properly fed, So I don’t end up really dead. Some day, some way, some how Please make me a vampire now.

Yeah! I love it. Now I just have to get Edward to make a tune for it, and we have the next number one hit! He wrote Bella’s Lullaby. I think I’ll call this Ode to Edward. “You should make up your mind on the melody, my dear. You seem to keep changing it. In fact, I think maybe you even change genres. I think I heard everything from country to rap in your version of that song. By the way, I don’t know if anyone ever thought to mention this, but I believe you may be tone deaf. In fact, I’m quite certain you couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I still love you. Besides, all of that will change when you’re a vampire.” “What exactly is it you’re trying to say here, Edward? Are you implying that I shouldn’t become a musician and songwriter? That I should give up my new lifelong goals, dreams, and aspirations?” Edward looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Of course not, honey. I just want you to be happy, and you know you have no monetary worries, right? I promise I will always take care of you. You really don’t need to work at all.” Let’s see how deep he can dig his hole before I have mercy on him and help him out of it. “Well, it’s good to know I won’t be a starving artist. Every good artist deserves a patron. I’ll be sure to let everyone know you are the inspiration behind all my work.” He actually blanched. I had no idea he could get any whiter than he already was. “Perhaps you’d better wait until you’re a vampire like me. Your hearing will improve and so will your voice. In fact, everything will be improved – your eyesight, your intelligence, your balance, your strength, your looks . . . .” “Oh, so what you’re saying is that I’m a blind, deaf, stupid, clumsy, weak, ugly human?” “No! You’re definitely not ugly, my dear,” he hastily proclaimed.

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“But I am all the other things?” He started to shake his head in panic. “Of course not, Bella! I didn’t mean it like that!” “So, what did you mean?” He froze, desperately trying to figure out the right words to say so the whole thing wouldn’t blow up in his face. I was snickering inside that I had him on the run, cowering in fear. The big, bad vampire afraid of the frail, little human. His phone buzzed. No fair! Alice was helping him out, just when I had him between a rock and a hard place. He surreptitiously slipped his phone out of his pocket, almost too fast for me to see, except that I was specifically watching for it. I saw him give a big sigh of relief. Darn it. I had intended to get some concessions out of the deal, but Alice had to go and ruin it for me. Darn psychic pixie. “My sweet, darling Bella, what I mean is that I love you just the way you are. I will always love you, even if you never change a single thing about yourself. You are my life, my everything. Without you, my life has no meaning. So I will be there to support you no matter what you choose to do, because I am here for you. You are important to me, so anything that is important to you becomes important to me, if only to make you happy.” With that, my insides were a puddle of goo. He reached for me, and I gratefully melted into his embrace. It felt good to lean on him, both physically and emotionally. His strong arms, so gently encircling me in the safety of his embrace, reminded me I had never had a broad, capable set of shoulders to cry on before. It was such a relief to hand over some of the responsibility, some of the control to someone else. Scary, very scary, but a relief nonetheless. I was no longer alone. I was no longer ‘in charge’. For the first time ever, I was free to just be me. With a peaceful smile, I snuggled up against him, enjoying the contact with his beautifully sculpted body. We both lay down on the pillow, legs entwined together. I had intended to push his boundaries tonight, but suddenly, I was just too tired. It had been a long day, and I had been emotionally tied up in knots, waiting to find out the results of Emily’s surgery. Because Emily spent all her time around werewolves, there was no way for Alice to see her future. We were taking a big risk with this, and I was sincerely hoping it would work out, for everyone’s sake. Thankfully, it had, or at least so far. Carlisle was happy with the way the surgery had gone, which was very good news. Emily was already happy with the results, even though she was going to have to heal all over again. I could almost feel her self-confidence increase as she met her reflection. The sight of Emily’s breathtaking smile as she gazed at herself in the mirror had made all the stressing worthwhile. As long as her wounds were kept free of infection, and she didn’t do anything that might cause the stitches to tear, she should be almost good as new in a few weeks. She couldn’t wait to show Sam. I was hoping her happiness would dictate his response. I settled into Edward's chest and drifted off to the sound of him humming my lullaby.

Chapter 41: TGIF
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BPOV The first thought that popped into my head upon awakening was, 'I am going to a sleepover tonight at Edward's house. I'm spending the night in Edward's room tonight!' I opened my eyes to see Edward's crooked smile inches from my lips. My tongue darted out nervously to moisten my own lips, and he groaned, reaching over to squeeze my hip gently. I parted my lips and closed the distance between us, eager to feel his cold marble mouth meet mine. He exhaled softly, blowing his scent directly into my face. I inhaled deeply, my brain buzzing with a natural high, stimulated by his particular aroma. I ran my tongue over his bottom lip, tasting him, and moaned. He tasted sweeter than honey, and I couldn't get enough. Hesitantly, he allowed his own tongue to slip between his lips, tasting my mouth and my tongue. Our tongues danced together, learning one another's contours, teasing, lightly touching, like a sensuous ballet. I threw my leg over his and pressed my body to his, clutching him, pulling him closer to me. One of my hands was entwined in his silky soft hair, the other was rubbing his back, urging him continually closer with a light, but consistent pressure. Edward rolled on top of me, pushing my body into the mattress. I could feel every hard inch of his body pressing into mine. We both moaned at the full body contact, even though we were both dressed. The pressure alone was enough to increase my arousal, but when combined with his smell and taste, it sent me over the edge into a frenzy of eager passion. His hips bucked, and I moaned again into his mouth, sliding my hand from his back further down. I whimpered when he pulled away, both of us gasping for breath. He flung himself onto his back on the far side of the bed, his arm folded over his eyes. I rolled toward him, but he jumped up before I could reach him. I stared at him in lustful confusion. “Edward? Did I do something wrong?” I watched him, searching for answers, but his back was to me, hiding his facial expression. He shuddered and clinched his fists, obviously fighting for control. “No, Bella, don't be silly. It was absolutely wonderful,” he commented, still refusing to face me. “Well, if it was so wonderful, why won't you even look at me now?” I was feeling bitter and rejected. I knew he had his boundaries and had agreed to work at this with him. If we were moving too quickly, he simply needed to tell me, not start sulking and pout. “Remember, Edward: Communication is one of the biggest factors in a successful relationship. Whatever is bothering you, I need for you to tell me. Frankly, I feel rejected and hurt by your current attitude and position.” He turned to look at me with a hint of amusement in his eyes. “Oh, are we discussing favorite positions now? I hadn't realized we had progressed to quite that point yet.” “Edward! Don't try to weasel your way out of this one. Now tell me what is bothering you.” He moved closer to me, his voice turning husky. “But I haven't told you all about my favorite positions yet.” I felt my eyes widen as his words sank into my fevered brain. “Bella!” Charlie yelled from downstairs. “You're going to be late for school if you don't drag yourself out of bed right now, young lady!” I groaned, throwing back my covers and moving to the edge of the bed.

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“Now you know what was bothering me,” Edward whispered directly into my ear. “I heard him muttering dire imprecations. He was actually thinking of coming up here with a glass full of ice water to help you awaken. I didn't think it would be good for his mental or cardiac health to find us in that position on your bed.” “Thanks,” I muttered unhappily. I brightened with a sudden thought. “We'll just have to start over again tonight!” He grinned wickedly at me. “Assuming I can get you out of Alice's clutches long enough. She has everything planned out, down to the minute, and the list is quite long I assure you. I think she did a Google search on how to throw a successful slumber party and tried to include every single suggestion.” I looked at him in horror. That sounded exactly like something Alice would do. She was quite the party animal. At least I wasn't the only one she had her claws in this time. I would work something out with the other girls to distract her long enough for me to get my Edward time. As far as I was concerned, my Edward time was as necessary to me as breathing. Alice would just have to learn to deal with it. I rushed through my morning routine, shaving off corners whenever possible. I grabbed a banana and a Poptart on my way out the door. I didn't have time for cereal at the moment, so this would have to do. I raced over to the Volvo, managing to trip just before I reached the passenger side. My knight in sparkling armor dashed to the rescue of the clumsy damsel in distress, saving me from certain injury. I gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek, nuzzling against him like a cat. “Thank you, Sir Edward,” I trilled, trying to imitate my idea of a royal princess. I wished I had a handkerchief I could give him as a favor. He smirked and pulled off an elegant courtly bow. “My pleasure, Lady Swan,” he murmured, raising my hand to his mouth. “Where did you learn to bow like that?” I giggled. He grinned. “Ask Carlisle about the time he spent at court in England many years ago. You should see his bowing skills. He's the one who taught me, but alas, he didn't teach me everything he knows yet.” I couldn't wait to ask Carlisle about his experiences. Did he meet the Queen? Or maybe the Prince Regent? Did he wear knee breeches and hose? Did he still have any of the fancy clothes he wore centuries ago? Had he taught Esme any of the dances? Did he remember when the waltz was still considered scandalous? Now it was considered ultra tame, though I suppose the matrons of society were right to be concerned it may lead the way for future generations to become even more touchy feely while dancing. They would likely all have heart attacks if they saw the behavior of kids even at middle school dances these days, much less the high school ones. I wondered what Carlisle really thought about modern society. Has the progression been gradual enough for him to adjust naturally, or was he merely playing a part while internally squirming. I thought about how fashions had changed over the past three hundred years. Someone from his era would likely think all the girls at our high school were little more than prostitutes with the amount of bare skin exposed. If vampires didn't change without some major life event, like finding one's mate, how was Carlisle coping? What did he think about women's lib and social equality, about women voting and the downfall of slavery? What ran through his mind when working with female doctors and single mothers? All of these things would have been unheard of in his time period. How had he coped with all the changes around him? Maybe I could work in a discussion with Carlisle tonight too. Man, I needed to be a vampire. How on earth was I supposed to accomplish all the things I wanted to do in a day if I had to

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waste all those hours sleeping? It was so unfair really. It reminded me of a saying I heard once. 'God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things, and right now I am so far behind I may never die.' I needed eternity, just to get my stuff done, and if I felt that way now as a mere high school student, how would I survive once I became a wife and mother. Renee was always telling me a mother's work is never done, not that she was the one doing the work, but even so, I understood the sentiment. There simply weren't enough hours in a day, unless you happened to be a vampire. Then all of life was a single day. One long continuous Monday. How depressing is that thought – a neverending Monday? I saw Alice waiting for us on the sidewalk at the high school. She shouted to us as soon as we came within hearing range. I could tell she would be bouncing off the walls today. I began contemplating ways to focus her energy before she became nuclear. She practically ripped the car off its hinges in an effort to get to me. “Bella, Bella, Bella,” she sang excitedly. “Tonight's the night. I've got so much planned! We're going to have so much fun!!” I started desperately racking my brains. How could I distract her? “That sound's great, Alice,” I responded, less enthusiastically. “Hey, I heard you made up a schedule of events. Did you make a copy for each of us?” She appeared confused. “No, should I have?” “Well, I would like to have one, and I'm sure the others would too. You know, I'm not big on surprises.” She nodded thoughtfully. “Okay, bye! I'd better get to class so I can get started on the schedules.” With a brief wave of her hand, she bounced down the hallway, slightly more under control than she was before. By lunch time, my little pixie had fully lost it. I was ready to call the men in white coats to bring the straightjackets and arrange for the padded cell. Then I mentally kicked myself for even joking about it in my head. Poor Alice was abandoned in an asylum for real, so I knew I could never afford to make snide comments about her sanity or lack thereof without risking hurting her feelings. Fine. The men in white coats can come for me instead then, with their tranquilizer darts and padded handcuffs. Who knows? I might even enjoy it. I'd finally have time to work on my writing. I'd be safe from psychotic nomadic vampires, and I'd have a hard time hurting myself with all the padding around. Okay, so now I was the one losing it instead. The reason I was having this completely pointless internal dialogue about insanity, was because the moment I stepped into the cafeteria, Alice shouted my name as if she hadn't seen me in a hundred years. She ran up to me just slightly faster than she should have and began dancing around me in a little circle, bouncing and wriggling like an excited puppy. I expected to see a tail wagging, for heaven's sake. In fact, she was reminding me a bit of a cross between (A) Mike Newton refusing to keep a respectable personal distance from me, expecting excitement where none was forthcoming and (B) Jacob Black feeling frisky in his wolf form, trying to provoke Emmett into a wrestling match just for the hell of it. Alice grabbed my hands and began forcing me to dance around in a circle with her as if we were playing 'Ring around the Rosy'. I tried to protest, but she is so much stronger than I am, that it did no good at all. I felt so stupid behaving like little kids in the middle of the cafeteria in front of the entire student population. Angela chose that minute to enter the lunch room, and I desperately called out to her, hoping the diversion would be enough to help Alice develop some self control. Unfortunately, my plan backfired, and Alice simply grabbed her and added her to our little dancing circle. I saw Jasper start smirking, just before Emmett grabbed Ben and Edward and started dancing in a circle with them. Rose tried to stop Emmett, but he

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simply pulled her into the center of their circle. The three of them danced around her while Emmett belted out 'Ring around the Rosy' at the top of his lungs. Rose knew the real culprit, and as soon as Emmett pulled Edward and Ben to the floor on the last line, she pounced on Jasper, tackling him to the ground. In the chaos, Jasper sent Alice's own excitement back to her, doubling it, and then fed the higher level of excitement to our entire group. Before Angela, Ben, and I even knew what was happening, all eight of us were in a circle doing the Hokey Pokey. I couldn't believe I was making a fool of myself like this in front of the entire student body, but my special chosen family was having such a good time that I refused to let it bother me. “That's your left foot, Emmett! You're supposed to put in your right!” Rosalie shrieked. Emmett gave her a goofy grin. “Strip Hokey Pokey!” Emmett yelled, tearing off his shirt and tossing it into the center of the circle. All the girls in the cafeteria immediately began applauding and whistling. They were standing on tables to get a good look and pushing the human boys around them out of the way. We heard numerous catcalls, suggesting Emmett take off everything. The principal was fighting his way through the crowd with Mrs. Cope right behind him. Rosalie was busy draping herself over Emmett and glaring at all the human girls who dared to stare at his naked torso. Edward was frozen in place, staring at the scene in shock and horror, muttering, “We're supposed to blend in, be inconspicuous, inconspicuous!” Alice was staring at the mayhem with wide eyes, whispering, “I totally didn't see this!” Jasper's military background allowed him to formulate a strategy in the face of impending disaster. He swooped in and grabbed Emmett's shirt at vampire speed, helping him put it on faster than the human eye could track. Since he hadn't moved from his spot, it appeared to the human audience that one second he was topless and the next second he was fully clothed again, like the shirt simply appeared on his body out of thin air, causing them to question whether or not it had ever been off in the first place. In the next second, Jasper had made his way halfway across the room and projected his voice to announce, “Free condoms in the nurse's station to the first fifty students. No questions asked.” At that point, a riot ensued, with all the girls converging on Emmett and all the boys fighting and shoving to get to the office. The principal and Mrs. Cope were caught in the middle. In the midst of the chaos, the Cullens, including Angie, Ben, and me were all safely whisked away outside, away from the avenging fury of the principal, intent on making somebody pay for disturbing the peace. “Jasper, what the heck were you thinking?” I demanded, turning on him. “I ought to string you up by your toenails for that little stunt!” I had my hands on my hips and was raising my voice, while glaring menacingly. He tried to look sheepish, but couldn't help chuckling at me. I raised my eyebrow, daring him to continue being amused while I verbally put him through the wringer. “I'm sorry, sis, but you look like a cute little kitten, hissing and spitting and fluffing up your fur, pretending your tiny little claws could actually do some damage. You just look so adorable, it's hard to keep a straight face, when all I really want to do is take pictures and tickle you under your chin,” Jasper admitted. My jaw dropped. Stupid superstrong vampire big brother. I heard snickers from our siblings. Even Alice and Edward couldn't hide their smiles. I growled. They started laughing. I roared, curling my fingers into claws. They laughed harder. Emmett patted me gently on the head. I snapped at his hand. They hit the ground, shaking with laughter. I rolled my eyes at Angela and Ben, who were watching the scene in utter confusion, bemused smiles plastered in place.

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“Losers,” I muttered, stomping away. Edward quickly jumped up and ran after me. He pulled me into his arms. I let him, but I refused to relax against him. I stayed stiff and unyielding, radiating displeasure. Humph. It would serve them right if I decided not to attend the slumber party tonight. I was sure Mike would be willing to take me out on a date. I heard both Alice and Edward gasp simultaneously as they saw the vision of my 'decision'. Edward clutched me tightly, mumbling about never letting go. Alice jumped up and wailed, “Noooo!” She raced over to me and fell to her knees in front of me, clasping her hands together in full begging fashion. “Please, Bella! You have to come! You're my best friend! Please, please, please!” I pretended to deliberate, just to get a small measure of revenge. Rosalie smirked at me, knowing exactly what I was doing. “C'mon, there's no way you're going to leave me to the mercy of Wolfgirl and the wolfettes, considering it was your idea to invite them over in the first place. Thanks to you and your bright ideas, Emmett and I have invested our life savings in the air freshener industry.” I chuckled. I couldn't help it. That was funny. “Okay, Rose, you've been a great sport, so I will be too,” I conceded graciously. “Yippee!” Alice cried, jumping gracefully to her feet. “We are going to have the Best Slumber Party Ever!” “Slumber party?” Jessica asked. She had crept over when I wasn't looking. “Who's having a slumber party?” I looked at her sceptically. Did she really think we would answer her? “Alice is,” Angela replied. Poor girl is too nice for her own good. Rosalie snorted. I could tell she was thinking along the same lines. “Bella and I, plus a few girls from La Push are spending the night at the Cullens' house. We're going to do all kinds of fun stuff, including torturing the boys.” She clapped her hand over her mouth, though her eyes sparkled mischievously. “Oops. I wasn't supposed to mention that part. Sorry, Rose.” Rose smirked. “That's okay. Even if they have advanced notice now, they can run, but they can't hide.” Emmett and Jasper bumped fists. “Bring it on, Baby, we can take it,” Emmett challenged. Rose raised an eyebrow, then smiled evilly. “Good, then you won't mind modeling the new swimsuits Alice bought for you guys? I always did think you looked good in a Speedo.” Jessica choked, gasping for breath, while raking her eyes up and down the three Cullen boys. Edward and Jasper were both wincing, so I was certain her lust was out of control with her inappropriate fantasizing. Emmett only made it worse by interlacing his fingers behind his head and performing a hula dance. There was something about the way he smoothly and sensuously rotated his hips that made even my stomach tighten. I tore my gaze away and focused on Edward, picturing him moving that way while holding me close. Edward caught me staring at him with lust filled eyes and smirked. “Do you know how to dance like that?” I whispered in Edward's ear. Rosalie gave me a knowing glance. Edward actually leered at me. “I'll show you later, hmm,” he whispered back. I felt my heart rate increase rapidly, and he chuckled, his chest rumbling against my back.

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Jessica's and Lauren's eyes were glazed over, and they were panting heavily. Their own hips were rotating, though it looked jerky and uncoordinated when they did it. Rosalie smacked Emmett on the arm, and he stopped dancing, flashing her a boyish grin. “I'll save the rest of the dance for when I'm wearing my new swimsuit, gorgeous,” he teased Rose. She simply smiled back and raised both eyebrows. “I'll look forward to it, monkey man,” she purred. He gulped and pulled her closer. Jessica grabbed Alice's arm. “Please!” Jessica gasped desperately. “Please, I've got to come to your party tonight!” Lauren nodded, grabbing Alice's other arm. Alice gave them a scathing look. “Do you really think I'd let you within ten yards of any of my brothers? Sorry, but no sluts allowed.” She ripped her arms out of their grasps, turning her back on them both. They stared after her in shock and anger. Just then the principal strode outside and marched over to our group. He scowled at all of us. “He's looking for a scapegoat,” Edward whispered. “So, we'll have to give him one,” Jasper whispered back. Jasper strode toward the principal. “Sir, I'd like to register a complaint, bordering on sexual harassment.” The principal gave him a stern look. “What seems to be the problem, Mr. Hale?” “Jessica and Lauren have been making me and my brothers uncomfortable. They've been making sexual suggestions and lusting after us heavily, despite the fact that we have given them absolutely no encouragement. In fact, we have actively discouraged them from chasing after us, but they continually insist upon thrusting their unwanted company on us. Just now, they begged to be allowed to sleep with us tonight. This type of vulgar behavior disgusts me.” The principal looked from Jasper, who had never given him any trouble at all and was one of his best students, to Jessica and Lauren, whom he had personally witnessed engaging in slutty behavior. He was still suspicious though. He had heard something about Emmett and strip Hokey Pokey from some of the other students. He looked back at the Cullen children, along with Weber, Swan, and Cheney – all good students and well behaved teenagers. As he looked at them, he felt his trust and goodwill increase. He looked back at Jessica and Lauren and felt his distrust, disgust, and distaste strengthen. He had never felt such negative emotions so strongly toward any of his students before. He looked back at the Cullen group again. They seemed to glow with innocence and purity. Rosalie chose that moment to step forward, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “Sir, those awful girls kept chanting for my Emmett to play strip Hokey Pokey. Who ever heard of such a thing? When he refused, rather loudly, they tried to tear his shirt off of him! We barely escaped with our dignities intact. I'm tired of these brazen hussies propositioning my future husband!” She pouted delightfully for the principal, playing the virtuous damsel in distress to the hilt. I was busy taking notes. I couldn't wait until I was a vampire and could dazzle everyone to get my way. Of course, the principal didn't stand a chance against the full brunt of Rosalie's charm. He was caught - hook, line and sinker. “Miss Stanley, Miss Lauren, you have detention for a week for disturbing the peace. In addition, I expect a 10,000 page essay from each of you on the virtue of chastity,” he ordered sternly. “The rest of you need to get to class before the bell rings.

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“Yes, sir!” we answered, like good little children. Jessica and Lauren glared hatefully after us as we strolled casually away. “We are going to get them if it's the last thing we do,” Jessica muttered through clenched teeth. “It appears we'll have plenty of time after school to plot our revenge,” Lauren grumbled angrily. My siblings chuckled, completely unconcerned. Angela had watched the entire exchange between the principal and the Hales with awed admiration. She was currently feeling ten feet tall and invincible, very thankful she had chosen her friends so wisely.

Chapter 42: Ready to Party
MikePOV I couldn’t help but overhear Alice, Bella, Rose, and Angela talking about a slumber party. I could feel the drool dripping down my chin as I pictured the four of them in skimpy baby doll pajamas having a pillow fight. Maybe they would play truth or dare. I had observed a slumber party that Jessica had hosted for her birthday two years ago, and it had been quite enlightening. The girls had shared a number of embarrassing secrets for the truth portions and had shocked his socks off with the dares. They had been very curious and had explored different options, from showing each other their private areas to even playing spin the bottle with each other. I still had fantasies from some of the things I saw at that party. It was one of the best nights of my young life.
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Of course, they did boring stuff too, like playing with makeup and opening presents. They attempted to hold a séance and fooled with a Ouija board for a while. Then they took turns trying to hypnotize one another. I was pretty sure the ones who got hypnotized were faking, but I wasn’t completely sure. There was one girl, Moira, who was teased mercilessly after the party for acting like a dog while under the ‘hypnosis’. She moved away soon after. I wondered briefly if the teasing was related to the reason her family moved, or if it was just a coincidence. One of the most fascinating parts of observing the party had been discovering that girls thought about sex almost as much as boys do. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t heard it for myself. I learned what they wanted most, what they liked least, and what most frightened them. I learned about female expectations for how much intimacy was appropriate for first, second, and third dates. I learned some of the ways girls communicate their interest and about the concept of ‘playing hard to get’. I knew that was what Bella was doing now. I’ve seen the way she smiles at me sometimes. She was just trying to make me jealous with Cullen. I understood. She didn’t want to seem easily attainable. Well, I could wait. I would show her I was worthy of her time and attention. I would always be here waiting for her, and soon she would throw herself into my arms where she truly wants to be. I know she is with Cullen because of the image she is trying to maintain, and because of family obligations, but when she is ready, she will ride off into the sunset with none other than yours truly. I had every intention of crashing this slumber party. I had driven down the Cullens’ driveway one day while they were out of town on a hunting trip. Their mansion had so many windows. Once it got dark, the lights would be on in the living room, where the girls would likely congregate, and they would be highly visible from a distance. I knew I could borrow some top quality binoculars from the store and get as up close and personal as I wanted without being anywhere near the actual house. I just needed a few more details. I managed to corner Ben Chaney before he caught up to Angela at the end of the day. “Hey, Ben, would you like to hang out tonight?” Ben looked at me in surprise. He wasn’t usually part of my social circle, as I was a cool athlete and he was a geeky nerd, but I was willing to take the risk of being seen with him in order to get the inside information I needed to put my stalkerish Peeping Tom plan into action. “Um, actually Mike I already have plans. Angela is going to be at a slumber party at the Cullens’ house, and I’m going with her.” I stared at him in shock. What? He was going with her? It was a co-ed slumber party? No way! “A co-ed slumber party?” I squeaked, my voice cracking like it hasn’t since I made it through puberty. Ben blushed. “Well, not really, but half the guys live there too, and they felt if they were being kicked out of their own house for a girls only party, they would have a guys party the same night. So all the guys are going to be camping out in the backyard with tents and a bonfire and the whole male bonding thing. I’m really looking forward to it.” “Wow, that really sounds like fun,” I mentioned enviously. “But why just the backyard? Why not go someplace cooler? I mean the Cullens have lots of experience camping.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

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“Oh, yeah, well, the guys are really protective, you know,” he stuttered a bit, as if he wasn’t sure what to say. “It seems kind of weird to describe it, but it feels perfectly normal when you’re living it. The Cullen males don’t like to leave their females unattended. The La Push guys seem to be just as protective of their girls as well. It’s a little old fashioned by modern societal standards, but it feels good to just be a man and protect your woman and provide for her and stuff. I know we’re supposed to be sensitive and all, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be real men too. Jasper is more in tune with other people’s emotions than anyone I’ve ever met, yet he is a real hardass through and through. He may seem quiet and shy, but there’s something about him that just screams ‘dangerous’. I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley, and I sure as heck wouldn’t want to get on his bad side. When he feels like somebody in his family is being threatened, his entire demeanor changes. I’ve only seen it once or twice, but it’s enough to give you nightmares. When he gets mad or protective, he looks like the Angel of Death himself, come to wreak havoc on mortal men. I’ve seen that same look on Emmett and Edward. I would never stand against these guys, and I am extremely thankful they consider me a friend. There’s something menacing about the La Push guys too. Most of the time they seem like laidback happy go lucky teenagers just like the rest of us. Occasionally though, the hairs on the back of my neck will stand on end, and I’ll see something in their eyes that makes me want to hide under my covers. It’s freaking scary, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything. I love my relationship with all of them. It’s like one big, happy family. Like we’re all part of one big pack. I can’t really explain it.” Hum. Okay. Well, wasn’t really expecting all this information. Not really sure what to do with it all. Maybe he just felt the need to vent. Yeah, in one ear and out the other, that’s what I always say. So, still gleaned some important info. Slumber party is definitely tonight, but don’t get too close to the house or I might get spotted by one of the overprotective, obsessive, chauvinistic Cullen or La Push males. Got it. Gotta go, got plans to make. “Okay, well have fun, Ben. Guess I’ll go run by the store and see if my parents need any help.” “Sure, Mike. Have a good weekend.” He shrugged and hurried out of the school to find Angela. Oh, I plan to have a good weekend. A very good weekend indeed. BPOV The four of us girls piled into Rosalie’s convertible. We dropped Angela at her house to pack a bag and raced the boys back to the house. Ben and Angela would be joining us later. I went inside to check on Emily, while the other three began to get set up for the party. I expected to find her in the guest room, but was amazed to see her comfortably ensconced on the living room sofa talking to Emily. I didn’t want to interrupt, so I just watched the two of them interact for a few minutes. It struck me then how much Emily and Esme had in common. Emily was the ‘mother’ of the wolf pack in the future Meyer had seen, just as Esme was the mother of the vampire coven. If the two of them combined forces, I knew the coven and the pack would become a true family, simply through the powerful love of those two women. They both turned to smile at me and ask about my day. The nurturing instinct was so strong in both of them, it would be immediately obvious even to a perfect stranger. I chuckled. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you two were twins.” They looked at me in surprised bewilderment, then exchanged glances, each to see if the other understood, then realized both were utterly clueless, so their gazes returned to me, hoping for an explanation. I grinned. Even their expressions were identical. “You may not look alike on the surface, but I’d swear your souls were cut from the same cloth.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

I watch as my words sank into their hearts and minds, then blossomed and grew. The smiled at me and then one another, each recognizing the other as a kindred spirit. “Yes,” Esme agreed. “I see what you mean. Indeed, my soul does seem to recognize yours on some level, Emily.” Emily nodded. “I feel it too, Esme. As if I know you and have always known you. As if I love you and have always loved you.” They shared an understanding smile. I took advantage of Emily’s distraction to study her face. She already looked better to me than she had before. Carlisle had managed some actual tissue repair, in addition to the scar reduction. Her face didn’t sag the way it had before. The lines of the claw marks were reduced as thin as mere threads, instead of the deep gashes that had remained before. Even though the lines were harshly pink, depicting their freshness, they already seemed so much more subtle than the scars that had been left behind before. She was even able to operate her eyelid completely normally once again. I was so pleased with the results, and knew she must be also. I left the two of them exchanging recipes and determining what to fix for dinner for all the guests tonight, and ran to the SUV to pick up the rest of our gang. By the time I got back with Jacob, Embry, Quil, Seth, Jared and Kim, the house was fully decorated and ready to go. Leah was staying at the Cullens’ house all weekend to help Emily. She wasn’t worried about Emily’s safety from the family, but she knew she couldn’t afford for Sam to see her on the reservation without Emily and start looking for her. He would totally freak out and probably think the Cullens had kidnapped Emily and brainwashed her, if he found out she was here. He would never believe she came here of the own free will. “Okay, I’m here now. You can start the party. I know you were waiting for me,” Jacob announced as he strutted into the house. “Ugh, who let the dogs in? Who? Who?” Rosalie yelled down the stairs from her bedroom. “Aww, Blondie, you know you missed me,” Jacob taunted. “I bet you would have won that swimming competition too, if you had realized you should use your arms to do the breaststroke. Badumpum.” “Yeah, well, you probably chase your tail thinking it will help make ends meet,” Rosalie returned sarcastically. Embry chuckled and bumped fists with Emmett. “Gotta love those two, eh? Blonde jokes vs. dog jokes. Who do you think will win?” “Who knows? They’ve got all of eternity to work on it, right? I’m just along for the ride,” Emmett shrugged, his attention distracted by his current video game. “Yeah, well good thing they’ve got eternity to work on the delivery, because neither one is set to make a career out of comedy. They’d both get kicked out of the club. I say we give them about ten years to work on their timing and delivery, and then make them do the amateur comedy night at one of the clubs in Seattle. We’ll let the audience determine the winner,” Quil suggested. “You’re on!” Emmett accepted. I thought it was rather pitiful that the two of them thought they could so easily speak for Rose and Jacob. They were clearly deluding themselves. But hey, ten years is a long time, so who

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knows. Maybe by then they’ll have talked them into it. Or not. Either way could be entertaining for the rest of us, so I let it go without a word. Alice came down the stairs with a determined look on her face. “Okay, all males, regardless of species need to get out of the house for the rest of the night. If you feel the urge to relieve yourselves at any time, just use the woods like the animals you truly are.” All the male wolves started barking and howling. Quil and Seth did their best to join in, though their human barks and howls weren’t anywhere near as intimidating or as believable as the rest of theirs. The male vampires just laughed, knowing they would have no need to ‘relieve’ themselves. “Hey, why are you starting this party so early, Alice? I’m not finished with my game yet,” Emmett whined. Alice rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Take the TV outside with you, Emmett. You can use the external electrical outlets,” she recommended. Emmett’s face lit with joy. “Awesome idea, Alice! I knew there was some reason we kept you around.” “Thanks, Emmett. I love you too,” she grumbled sardonically. “By the way, Ben and Angela will be arriving shortly, in about ten minutes, so if you guys want to use your enhanced speed and strength to set up camp, you’d better get cracking.” “Darlin’, I love it when you use that Southern slang,” Jasper drawled, patting her on the rear on his way out the door and flashing her a sexy smile. She pouted until he came back and gave her a proper goodbye kiss. “Get a room!” Emmett shouted as he effortlessly carried the 60” flat panel TV out onto the deck with one hand, the Xbox carefully balanced in the other. “Enough with the tonsil hockey already.” Their audience laughed. “Maybe we should have you compete on amateur night along with Rose and Jake,” Quil suggested. “I’d beat them hands down,” Emmett scoffed. “No doubt,” Quil agreed. “I certainly appreciate your humor better than either of theirs, but then again, I’m a simple guy with simple pleasures in life.” Embry snorted. “Yeah, that’ll be the day.” All the boys started setting up camp, roughhousing and trash talking. Some of the boys worked on the tents, while others set up the bonfire. We girls watched them and chatted, while we waited for our last member to arrive. The boys’ antics were more entertaining than a movie would have been. Emmett kept trying to provoke Jacob into a wrestling match, while Jacob released his aggression by subtly sabotaging all of Emmett’s work. We gals could see Jacob had rigged it for Emmett’s tent to collapse on him the first time he entered, but we chose not to warn him. He deserved it after all his teasing. Rose finally decided to intervene before Emmett did anything really stupid. “Are you sure it’s wise to be provoking the werewolves while you’re helping them build a bonfire, Emmett?” she shouted loud enough for everyone to hear. “You don’t think that seems a touch suicidal? Are you sure it’s wise for vampires and werewolves to be in such close proximity to one another

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Changing the future

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with a roaring fire hissing words of temptation only a few feet away?” The wolves started laughing. “She’s got you there, leech. Hope you don’t accidentally trip and fall into the flames, dude,” Quil quipped. “Nah,” Emmett countered, throwing his arm around Jacob’s shoulders. They were the same height now. “Jacob’s my brother. He may try to beat the daylights out of me, but he’d never hurt me for real.” He ruffled Jacob’s hair as Jacob squirmed and tried to break away. Jacob snapped at Emmett’s shoulder, pretending he was going to bite off Emmett’s arm. Emmett stepped back, throwing up his arms in front of his chest, palms facing out. “Whoa, boy, down boy. Down boy. Good boy. Who’s a good boy?” Emmett cooed at Jacob with a silly grin. Jacob lunged for him, but he dodged to the side. He took off running, with Jacob in hot pursuit. Esme shook her head in maternal exasperation. “Well, they certainly act like brothers.” I saw the heads of all the supernatural creatures swivel toward the driveway, and nearly a minute later, I heard a car coming our way. Angela and Ben had arrived. Luckily, the camp was already set up and ready. It’s amazing what a large group of mythical beings can accomplish in only a few minutes time. “Okay, everyone, remember to act human,” I reminded my whole family, wolves and vampires alike. I heard a mixed response, from chuckles, to silence, to offended muttering. “Well, you’re used to this being a sanctuary where you can relax your restrictions and be free to be yourselves as you truly are. Unfortunately, you all need to bind yourselves up in the shackles of human limitations, at least until Angela and Ben are asleep. Then, anything goes. Well, anything Esme approves of anyway.” There was a collective groan at my last statement, and Esme smiled indulgently. Ben and Angela parked and got out, carrying their bags with them. Ben joined the guys outside, immediately gravitating toward the Xbox Emmett had set up on the deck. Quil, Embry, and Jared came to join him. Jasper decided to go find Emmett and Jacob to warn them of the new arrivals. Rose and Alice each grabbed one of Angela’s hands and dragged her upstairs to Alice’s room. Yay! It’s Angela Barbie time, instead of Bella Barbie time. I hoped Angela was enjoying herself. I couldn’t help feeling relieved she took my place in that dreaded chair, though an hours long Alice makeover is a torture I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Well, anyone I liked. I thought longingly of tricking Jessica and Lauren into allowing Alice to give them makeovers, only the end results wouldn’t be the breathtakingly beautiful status Alice usually achieved. No, Alice would help them change their looks. They’d end up looking like punk rocker clowns. Or maybe emo goth clowns, with little fake tears of despair carefully painted on their cheeks. I heard Alice laughing upstairs. “Love it, Bella! I’m definitely in, if you can persuade them somehow.” I grinned. “What is it?” Esme asked me with a gentle smile. I ducked my head with guilt, not meeting her eyes. “Um, I was just picturing getting some nonviolent vengeance on a couple of girls at school,” I muttered. “I know it’s not right.” She patted my knee. “Let’s go and fix dinner now sweetie. I know everyone will be getting hungry now.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

I jumped up, eager to please. I called up to Leah and Kim, to see if they wanted to join us, but they were busy talking wolf stuff with Emily, so Esme and I got to have a little mother/daughter bonding time. We chatted happily, while working side by side in the luxurious kitchen. I always enjoyed cooking here, as Esme had ordered the best of everything when she originally redecorated the kitchen, even though she never expected to use it. Once I had started coming over, she had gotten the rest of the small appliances, tools, and utensils needed to make the kitchen truly useful. After I had relaxed and was enjoying our happy, loving atmosphere, Esme cleared her throat meaningfully. “So tell me about your nonviolent vengeance.” I blushed and watched Esme out of the corner of my eye. She had a slight smile on her face as she pretended to be fully engaged in the task at hand. I sighed. She wasn’t going to let this go, so I might as well get it over with and endure my resultant lecture in good faith. I admitted my idea about the multi-hour makeovers with hideous results. Essentially, the makeover from hell. A fate worse than death, in my humble opinion. Esme giggled at my descriptions of the girls. I looked at her in surprise, finally daring to meet her gaze for the first time since the conversation began. “I know it isn’t right, dear, but those girls just get on my nerves. I confess that the idea of the looks on their faces when they saw themselves in the mirror for the first time after hours of primping, pruning, and ‘improving’, appeals to my darker side. It would definitely be a Kodak moment. Something like that would deserve to be captured on film for the good of future generations.” I couldn’t help myself. I burst out laughing at the thought of dear, sweet Esme poised in the corner of the room with a camera, waiting for the right moment to forever record the image of Lauren’s and Jessica’s humiliation for the good of posterity. Absolutely hilarious. Esme and I shared the laugh together, bringing us even closer, and helping me feel better. Wow. Esme had dealt with Rosalie and Emmett on a full-time basis for the past seventy years, while still demonstrating love, patience, acceptance, and forgiveness. How irritating did two people have to be to actually annoy Esme to the point she would entertain the idea of vengeance? Those two must hold a record or something. World’s Most Irritating Individuals. Maybe they should be in the Guinness Book of World Records, if only I could prove it without endangering my family. Ah, well. I guess some things are better left unknown. Esme and I served dinner to the humans and werewolves, both male and female. Despite the fact we made enough to feed an army, there weren’t any leftovers. I figured we must be feeding an army now. An army of very hungry werewolves. Good thing the Cullens were so rich. Otherwise, the wolves would likely eat them out of house and home. I was glad the Cullens’ were bankrolling the wolves, because none of them had the resources to purchase disposable clothes and mountains of food. “At least all the groceries I buy aren’t going to waste,” Esme commented to me, once we were alone again in the kitchen. “Not that they were going to waste when we donated them to the food pantry in Seattle, but now I actually get to use them for the benefit of people we know! Besides, I love cooking as much as redecorating, but never had much use for it before. Now, I get to indulge myself in another of my favorite hobbies, and it’s nowhere near as expensive as renovating houses is.” She giggled. It warmed my heart to see her so carefree and joyful. I grabbed a plate of food for myself, and we went to join the other young ladies. Angela was looking stunning, just as I expected she would. I was quick to compliment her, and she blushed just as badly as I usually did. It was cute to see, and I got a glimpse as to why my family liked to provoke that reaction in me so often.

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Changing the future

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Leah had three heaping plates of food spread out in front of her and was gradually demolishing them. Angela stared at her somewhat enviously. “How can you eat like that and stay so thin?” she wondered. Leah gave her a wink and answered, “Good genes and lots of exercise.” I snorted and promptly choked on the food in my mouth. Thank heavens I wasn’t trying to drink at the time. I would have definitely had coke spraying out of my nose. See, luck is all a matter of perspective. I chose to focus on the positive aspect. If I tripped on the sidewalk and fell, a bystander would probably consider that bad luck. I, on the other hand, would be thinking about how lucky I was I didn’t fall into the street and get run over by a car. No matter how bad things in life were, they could always get worse, so I tried to be thankful for all the small favors life granted me, rather than concentrate on all the bad stuff.

Chapter 43: Peeping Mike
BPOV I pulled Alice aside, while the other girls finished their meals. “Alice, have you seen Edward? I’m worried that he’s not here yet. I’ve been trying to pretend nothing is wrong and have been successfully distracting myself with other things, but I really expected him to be home long before now.” “You worry too much, Bella,” Alice smirked. “He just wanted to pick up something special for you, in case you two would be able to steal a few moments alone together.” I blushed. “Oh, have you ‘seen’ it then?” She scoffed. “No, he told me before we left school today. You know I can’t see anything when I’m surrounded by wolves. You’re the one who told me that. You told me how I can’t get any visions at all when I’m in close proximity to any of the wolves. Maybe if Leah was completely on the other side of the room right now, I could possibly ‘see’ something, but certainly not with her this close to me. All I get is a bad headache. Besides, I can’t ‘see’ anything whenever any of the wolves are involved. The entire Volturi guard could descend on our house tonight, and I would be just as completely clueless as the rest of you, since the wolves are with our family and would join us in the fight against them. I love the werewolves and all, but they put a serious hurting on my gift. I’m really not used to being so blind, and I really don’t like it. I’m hoping if I get to know them well, I might be able to learn to ‘see’ them, to expand and develop my talent to encompass them as well. Of course, I have no idea whether or not that will work. Do you know how I feel to have to say something like that about my own future? Ever since I woke up to this existence, I have relied on my visions of my future to keep me on the right path. Now, I have to guess just as much as the rest of you. It sucks to be normal.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

I laughed. “Yeah, it sucks to be normal, says the hyperactive, vegetarian vampire pixie who lives comfortably amongst both werewolves and humans. What the heck do you know about normal, Alice? Sorry, babe, but you don’t get to whine about being normal until you can’t jump fifteen feet straight up into the air and run faster than a jet airplane.” “Thanks for being so supportive, Bella.” “Hey, that’s what friends are for, right? To drag you out of your self-pity pit when you’ve dug it too deep?” She looked at me in surprise and cocked her head curiously. “I never really thought of it that way before.” Her expression turned mischievous. “Don’t worry, Edward will be here before too long. I refused to let him interfere with the early evening festivities, so he decided to make the trip to Seattle to get what he wanted. The way he drives the Vanquish, it shouldn’t take him long at all. I’m sure he’ll be back before 10.” I grinned and shook my head slowly. She was so ‘Alice’. MikePOV I had parked my SUV just inside the Cullens long driveway, close to the road. I had pulled it off into the trees, parking behind some bushes. I was sure that all the guests had already arrived, but I didn’t want to risk any latecomers noticing my vehicle where it didn’t belong. The last thing I wanted was to end up facing Chief Swan over trespassing charges. I had only recently earned the kind of trust relationship I wanted with my parents, and I had no desire to endanger my freedom. Obviously, I didn’t care enough to stop what I was doing, but I was certain I wouldn’t get caught. What was the good of having all the nifty surveillance equipment at the store if I never got to use it? Besides, this could easily be classified as research – trying to learn how the different equipment worked. It would help me make the sale, as I would appear knowledgeable and trustworthy to a potential buyer if I could demonstrate the proper uses of the item I was selling. It had worked for me before, in the past. So, I was really helping my parents by testing out the equipment tonight. Yeah, that sounds good, just in case. I hiked through the woods toward the house, using a GPS devise to maintain my sense of direction. I had overheard the Cullens making references to dogs at their house over the past couple of days, and I didn’t want to alert them to my presence. If the dogs started barking, someone would be sure to come out and investigate. Why did they have to get pets now, when they never did before? It’s like they were deliberately setting out to ruin my fun. I took a roundabout pathway so I would come out on the correct side, facing the wall of windows, but kept myself downwind from the house, so I wouldn’t alert the dogs. I was wearing mufflers on my feet and stepping carefully as I approached the house, knowing how excellent canine hearing is. I finally made it to my destination. I was at least a football field’s length away from the house, which should keep me effectively hidden. I looked around and saw a tree that had fallen against another tree, making a triangle with the ground. I went to the base of the trunk and started walking up it, like walking up a rough round slide. As I got higher off the ground, I went to hands and knees, lowering my center of balance. The binoculars were hanging from a strap around my neck, and I moved them onto my back so they wouldn’t bang against the trunk. I crawled up until I was about eight feet off the ground. At this height, I had an unobstructed view of the house and yard. I could see figures, but couldn’t see enough details to even pick out faces.

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I pulled my trusty binoculars around again and peered through them at the beautiful women inside the house. To my extreme disappointment, they were all simply eating dinner. They hadn’t even changed into pajamas yet. How boring. Well, on the bright side, that means I haven’t missed anything either. Speaking of missing out, I turned to look at the boys in the yard. Most of them had already finished dinner, and they were engaging in some roughhousing and arm wrestling. I saw that half of them were from La Push. How confusing. I thought the natives didn’t like the freaks. I mean, the pale faces are supposed to be the enemy, right? Well, I don’t think they’ll ever find faces more pale than the Cullens’. So how come they’re all buddy-buddy all of a sudden? I narrowed my eyes in frustration. Does that mean the perfect Cullens would start coming to First Beach now? That’s one of the places I was intending to invite Bella, since I knew Cullen wouldn’t come. Jerk ruins everything. I let loose a massive fart and smirked. It accentuated my opinion of Cullen perfectly. To my surprise, as soon as I let go, I saw almost every guy freeze and turn their heads in my direction. What the heck? I know they couldn’t possibly have heard that. I couldn’t hear the conversations they were having. It was just a freaky coincidence. Must be an animal somewhere in front of me. I zoomed in my binoculars for a closer look and saw Emmett Cullen meet my gaze. I dropped the binoculars and almost fell off the trunk. I put my hand over my rapidly beating heart and tried to calm myself. There is no way he could possibly see me all they way out here, especially in the dark. I reassured myself and lifted the binoculars back up to my eyes. I immediately noticed three of the La Push guys disappearing around the other side of the house. I looked back to Emmett and found him huddled in conference with Jasper. The two of them kept looking in my direction and then back to the house. I wondered if they were planning on doing something to the girls. I grinned. Maybe they were staging a panty raid. I saw Alice and Rose come to the window and look down at Emmett and Jasper. It almost looked like they were carrying on a conversation, but I knew that was impossible. They wouldn't be able to hear each other through the window. The girls then looked in my direction and evil grins appeared on their faces. They looked back at the guys and said something. The guys shared a look, shrugged, and then started laughing. I wondered if the girls were planning to play a prank on the guys. This was going to be such an entertaining evening. Suddenly, I heard growling coming from the woods. More growling issued from either side of me. I started trembling. The growling kept getting closer, like something was stalking me. My heart was racing, my adrenalin rushing, my hair standing on end. What the heck was out there? I rapidly adjusted the binoculars and scanned the forest in front of me, looking for the source of the sounds. I saw something and immediately wished I hadn’t. Something big with really sharp teeth was headed my way and completely focused on me. I suddenly understood what the chicken feels like when faced with a fox. If I lived through this, I was going to have terrible nightmares. I heard snarling adding to the growling and whimpered. I looked around me without using the binoculars and messed my pants. Directly in front of me and on either side of me, eyes glowed in the moonlight merely six to ten feet away from me. I felt tears running down my cheeks. What were these things? They sort of reminded me of wolves, but they were the size of horses! They must be bears! But bears don’t attack in groups. Unless this is a mother and her two almost grown cubs? Who cares what they are? I just want them gone! “Leave me alone! Go away! Shoo!” I screamed, waving my arms, hoping to scare them away. The growling and snarling was replaced with raspy coughing noises. Huh? Did they have hairballs or something? At least they’d stopped growling. “Shoo! You stupid animals! Don’t you know humans are at the top of the food chain?” I heard loud laughter booming from somewhere nearby.

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Changing the future

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“Are you sure?” a creepy voice whispered, the voice carrying on the breeze. I really started freaking out. “Who are you? What do you want?” I yelled, terrified. There was no answer, just creepy evil laughter that sent chills down my spine. The beast in front of me came forward, reared up on its hind legs, and put its front paws on the trunk on either side of me. Its mouth full of razor sharp teeth was right in front of my face. It licked its chops and opened its mouth wide. I gazed up at the gaping jaws in terror. That mouth was big enough to swallow my whole head! As the teeth slowly began to move toward me, I shrieked and fell backward off the trunk onto the hard ground. I curled up into the fetal position and slowly opened my eyes. I saw three giant mouths open, saliva dripping onto my hair, hot breath on my neck. “I’m too young to die!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs. How could the world possibly exist without me? How could fate be so cruel as to take me out of the equation in my prime? The women of the world would mourn the loss greatly. They would never get the chance to find ecstasy in my bed. My heart felt like it was trying to jump out of my chest. My lungs couldn’t fill with enough oxygen. As the edges of my vision started fading to black, I could have sworn I saw one of the creatures lift its leg and actually start relieving itself on me. Nah. Must have been my imagination. And then everything faded to black.

Chapter 44: Mike’s Makeover
EmPOV

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Changing the future

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I looked at the pathetic human curled up on the forest floor, covered in odiferous bodily fluids and waste products. I couldn’t help a feeling of satisfaction that flooded me, and I heard Jasper chuckle beside me. “Darn tootin’,” Jasper declared. “Creepy perv got what he deserved. What the heck was he thinking trespassing on our property and spying on us? The waves of envy and lust radiating from him were enough to make me sick.” “Ha! Well, he thinks humans are at the top of the food chain,” I snickered. “NOT! He probably thinks they are the smartest creatures on the planet too. Shows how stupid he is.” The wolves had phased back to their human forms and were looking disgustedly down at Newton’s unconscious form. “Coward!” Jared sneered, spitting on the boy. I rubbed my hands together. “Well, the girls want a piece of the action, so we need to get this piece of trash back to the house and clean it up a bit before we hand it over.” Jake bared his teeth unpleasantly. “You mean we have to touch it?” I nodded understandingly. “Yeah, sick I know, but we do have bleach at the house we can use to clean our hands with afterwards.” We all sighed and wrinkled our noses. Sometimes a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, whether he likes it or not. So Jasper and I each grabbed an ankle, while Embry and Jared each took hold of a wrist. Jacob was supposed to make sure his head didn’t hit anything while we walked back through the woods, but I don’t think he was terribly diligent about fulfilling his duties, judging by the state of Mike’s hair by the time we got back to the yard. We set him down in a clear patch, and I ran to get the hose while the others removed his clothes, trying to touch them as little as possible. I started hosing him off to get him clean. There was no way Esme would let him into the house in his current condition. The wolves went to share an edited version of the story with Quil, Seth, and Ben. The rest of the details would be given to Quil and Seth once Ben was asleep. Jasper nudged Mike with his foot, rolling him over so I could hose off his back. Ick. Maybe the kid should wear a diaper. None of his clothes were salvageable. Jasper tensed and backed up beside me. I looked at him in confusion until a furious Carlisle appeared in front of us. I had been so distracted, I hadn’t even heard his car come down the driveway. “Stop this instant!” Carlisle growled angrily. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Wow! I wasn’t sure I’d ever heard Carlisle cuss before. I didn’t know he had it in him. He must be really, really mad. I immediately stopped spraying water on Mike. “I was just cleaning him up, Dad,” I defended myself, hoping to save myself from serious consequences. “You know Esme wouldn’t let him in her nice clean house smelling like this.” I saw his jaw clench and heard his teeth grind together as he fought to control his anger. Yikes. I’d never, ever seen Carlisle this close to losing it before, and I didn’t want to be within 100 miles of him if he ever did. I could only imagine what over 360 years of suppressed anger and frustration would look like when it finally erupted. Mt. Vesuvius would look like child’s play in comparison.

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“Would one of you please explain to me why there is a naked boy lying on the ground in our back yard, becoming hypothermic as ice cold water is sprayed on his unconscious form, and his clothes reek of werewolf urine?!” He glared at all of us, daring us to explain this to his satisfaction. Jasper squared his shoulders and stepped forward. Dang, that boy is brave. “Certainly, sir. We found him trespassing on our property, watching our house through binoculars, with waves of lust pouring out of him,” Jasper announced stoically. “The wolves kindly volunteered to go and . . . uh . . . encourage him to cut short his visit. He was so surprised by their welcoming party that he soiled himself, fell out of the tree, and blacked out.” “And the wolf urine?” “As I was standing next to him, I felt the sudden overwhelming need to relieve myself as I thought about him panting and wanting to lust over the sight of my Kim in her pajamas,” Jared confessed sternly, obviously not even slightly remorseful for his actions. I saw a sudden comprehension dawn in Carlisle’s eyes as he considered Jared’s words. “You mean this sick jerk was hoping to catch a glimpse of my wife and my daughters in a state of undress?!” he asked in horrified disbelief. We all nodded solemnly in response. He could see the truth in our eyes. I watched Carlisle’s beast peek through his eyes as his demeanor changed. I thought he was furious before, but he was beyond rage now. His fists were clenched and he was gritting his teeth so hard I was afraid he might accidentally hurt himself. Finally, he seemed to come to grips with the situation and come to some kind of resolution. I hoped he had some kind of ideas, because I was fresh out. He held his hand out to me. I looked down and then handed him the hose. To my surprise, he changed the settings to a more forceful spray and turned the hose on Mike, washing his backside and hair clean. I looked at him in astonishment. I certainly hadn’t expected that. What had gotten into him? He grabbed Mike’s upper arm and lifted him off the ground. “Get him some boxers,” Carlisle ordered. “Sir, yes, sir!” I responded smartly, dashing inside to obey. It looked like I may escape consequences after all, particularly if I could stay on his good side. Jasper was brilliant, responding the way he did. Jared too, for that matter. Carlisle would do anything to protect his family, even commit violence. Plus, he still was a vampire, as well as a man, so it wasn’t surprising that the threat to his mate would bring out his inner monster. We vampires really can’t endure eternity without our mates, so we tend to be a bit possessive and overprotective where they are concerned. Okay, sometimes more than a bit. I flashed back down the stairs and outside with a new pair of boxers. Carlisle held Mike up in the air while I slipped them on him, careful not to come in contact with any of his bare flesh. I shuddered at the thought. Double eww. Now that he was covered, Carlisle carried him into the house, letting him dangle by the one arm. Alice squealed with excitement. “The entertainment is here, girls!” “Isn’t that Mike Newton?” Angela gasped in horror, her hand coming up to her mouth. “What happened to him? Why is he here?” “Apparently, the boys caught him spying on us with binoculars. He was hoping to enjoy ogling us in our pajamas. He was so surprised when the guys surrounded him in the woods that he

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messed his pants and fell out of the tree where he was perched. The boys removed his soiled clothes and cleaned him up, before bringing him in here,” Alice explained. “I say that since he wanted so badly to join our girls only slumber party, we should have pity on him and show him what he’s been missing. We should give him a real girly makeover,” my Rosie recommended, with an evil grin. “The full treatment – makeup, hair, clothes, nails, etc.” Bella, Esme, and Leah caught on immediately. I wondered how Esme would respond to such a suggestion. I saw Esme have a quick whispered conversation with Carlisle. She turned back to survey the group of girls. “Well, I would normally not condone such treatment of an individual,” Esme decided coldly. “However, in his case, I will make an exception. Considering that this . . . boy . . . fully intended to violate our privacy, hoping to view all of us in our unmentionables, I believe he is in dire need of a lesson.” I heard the shocked gasps as all the girls realized his intentions. I was glad I didn’t have Jasper’s gift right about now, as I was certain their emotions were not pleasant. I was also glad I wasn’t Mike Newton. “We’ll look forward to the results, ladies. Let us know when it is time for a fashion show,” I declared, kissing Rose goodbye. I went back out to the group of guys, dragging Carlisle out with me. It was time for us to have some good old fashioned male bonding time while they did their whole ‘female thing’. “I suppose that must have been Mike’s SUV parked in the bushes at the top of our driveway, near the road,” he sighed, running his hands through his hair. He looked at me apprehensively. “Better be prepared for more fireworks when Edward gets home.” My eyes widened. Mr. Drama King himself was likely on his way now. Carlisle was right. This wouldn’t be a pretty sight. Still really, really glad I wasn’t Mike Newton. RPOV I kissed my Emmett goodbye and began planning the ultimate revenge on Newton. I could see Alice getting excited by some of my choices. “So what’s the plan?” Emily asked nervously. Did she think we would actually hurt him? That would be so unnecessary. By the time we were finished with him, his complete and utter humiliation would be all the recompense we would need for his atrocious behavior. “We’re going to help Mike feel like he could fit in with us. We’re going to transform Mike into ‘Michelle’. We’re going to show him what it feels like to be treated like an object or a toy for someone else’s amusement. We won’t hurt him. We won’t do anything irreversible. We’ll just have a little fun turning our Ken into a Barbie, as a strike against male chauvinists everywhere,” Rose replied reassuringly. Alice nodded and laughed excitedly. “I have just the dress!” She ran quickly up the stairs, just barely keeping to human speed. Esme came over to stand by Emily, placing a soothing hand on her shoulder. “Emily, would you like to help me paint his nails? It may help if you think about what he was trying to do Kim and Leah.”

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Emily inhaled sharply, and then grinned. “I would be delighted to help you, Esme. After all, it is a ‘girls only’ party, right? Mike can’t possibly be here, but I’m sure ‘Michelle’ would love to join us.” Her smile lit up her face. Even I could see how beautiful she was, both inside and out. I was glad my father had been able to help her. I couldn’t imagine how Emmett would feel if he had unwittingly bitten my face in his newborn frenzy. I couldn’t believe I was sympathizing with a werewolf and his imprint. What was this world coming to these days? Alice brought down several large suitcases full of makeover materials and spread them out around the living room. I saw Esme and Emily grab the manicure and pedicure kits, as well as two different colors of nail polish. The dress Alice had brought down was absolutely hideous, but it would fit. It looked like something somebody’s bedridden granny would wear. “Where did you get that terrible dress, Alice?” I wondered, eyeing it with distaste. She shrugged. “I saw it hanging out of a dumpster last week and felt I would need it for something. I think it suits him, don’t you?” I laughed. “Perfectly. He needs some footless tights to cover up his hairy legs, don’t you think?” Alice tossed me a little box. Pixie thinks of everything. We put on his new clothing as carefully as possible. Bella and Kim had been sorting through the supplies and had finally made some selections. “What do you have there, Bella?” I asked. I was surprised to see her blush at my question. She bit her lip, like she wasn’t sure whether or not she should answer. “Well?” “Body glitter,” she answered softly. She giggled. “I thought I’d put it on his arms.” I was glad to see her joining in the festivities. It would be awful if one of them were to just sit all folded up on the couch watching in disapproval. That would really kill the mood. Alice and I started pulling out the facial make up we wanted. “How about you Kim?” Kim was initially just as shy as Bella, but now that she had gotten comfortable with us, she had started showing her sassy side. “I thought I’d work on his hair,” she responded cheekily, holding up hair gel, hair spray, and hot pink hair coloring. I grinned. Yep, she was in up to the hilt. Leah released an evil laugh – Muahahaha. I looked to see what torturous item she had discovered in Alice’s stash. She was brandishing a jar of wax. “I’m going to go and heat this up now, so I can help ‘Michelle’ with her five o’clock shadow,” she chuckled. Ahh, a girl after my own heart. I smiled. Let the fun begin. Mike roused a bit while we worked on him, shortly after Leah had ripped the wax off his face. Even I had to shudder a bit at the sight of that. He was still in a dreamlike haze as he gazed at us surrounding him, feeling all of us touching him. He started to mumble crazy things about being in heaven and how he knew we had always wanted him. I rolled my eyes. This kid was positively delusional. I was just getting ready to give him a little tap on his temple to help him go back to sleep, when the front door slammed open, the sound of heavy breathing filling the air. All of us froze, turning to the door as one, to see a furious vampire barely clinging onto his control.

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Edward. EPOV I hummed happily to myself as I got closer to my house. I was fairly certain Bella would love the gift I purchased for her today. I couldn’t wait to have her all to myself later, wrapped in my chilly embrace. I turned into our driveway, eager to get back to my one true love, eager to see her face light up the way it always does when she sees me. My headlights flashed on metal off to the side, and I could clearly distinguish an SUV parked behind the bushes off to the side. The SUV looked creepily familiar, and I lowered my window to confirm the scent. Mike freaking Newton. What the heck was he doing here at my house? I drove quickly down the drive and caught bits and pieces of various thoughts, but none were focused on the subject at hand. Jacob met me out by where I parked and showed me the evening’s activities and revelations thus far. I congratulated his good work in literally scaring the crap out of Mike and laughed at Jared’s expressions of distaste. I loved the look on Mike’s face when he thought Jacob was going to literally bite off his head. It was a memory I would treasure and frequently remember every time he annoyed me. I was incredulous at the sight of Carlisle hosing Mike down and carrying him around by one arm, but I saw the same memory in several others. Jasper replayed his and Jared’s words, and suddenly Carlisle’s behavior made sense to me. I actually thought Carlisle had been much too gentle with him. “So where is Mike now?” I asked bitterly, wanting to avenge my own mate as well. “The girls wanted their pound of flesh,” Emmett offered, maintaining his distance from me. “So we delivered him up as a human sacrifice.” His thoughts indicated he believed I would erupt and behave irrationally, so he was keeping his distance but eagerly awaiting the impending scene. I scowled at him. I was not going to overreact and start screaming. I was much too mature to throw a temper tantrum like Emmett was picturing. I searched the house for Mike’s thoughts and zeroed in on them instantly. I looked through his eyes and saw all the girls, even Emily and Esme, with their hands all over him, rubbing and caressing him. He was in seventh heaven. My jaw dropped. This was their idea of punishment? He certainly wasn’t feeling punished. He was praising the Almighty for fulfilling his lifelong fantasies. How could they? How could they do this to us? Did Peeping Toms turn them on or something? How could they all betray their lovers, their protectors for this piece of human scum? How could Bella do this to me? I was crushed. I was enraged. I was falling apart. Jasper stared at me in confused concern. “What’s wrong, Edward? Your emotions are all over the place!” Jasper demanded. I shook my head in despair. I couldn’t tell him what I had seen. I couldn’t say the words that would shatter my whole family. But I couldn’t live with the lies, the secret knowledge either. I would expose their treachery. I stormed over to the house. Emmett and Carlisle tried to stop me, but I shook them off of me. I marched up the steps to the door and threw it open with a might crash. The girls were indeed all crowded around Mike, all touching him. I saw red. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I screamed. Mike opened his eyes wide, saw my undiluted rage, and promptly fainted again. I didn’t care. The women in my life were startled and surprised by my outburst. They were even confused. Only Esme had the slightest remorse, but then her thoughts shocked me even more.

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Changing the future

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What is his problem? Is he asking us or Mike? Relax, brother dear, we’re just having a little fun. Playing with our new Ken doll. I thought this was supposed to be a ‘girls only’ slumber party. How come these guys keep coming in here? I suppose this isn’t really the most appropriate behavior, but Carlisle agreed it would be acceptable. Carlisle had agreed for Esme to be holding hands with Mike? Had he finally lost his marbles? Had I fallen into some strange alternate universe? I heard Emmett bust out laughing behind me. Carlisle and Jasper joined in the merriment. I turned around to look at them in complete bewilderment. We just walked in on our mates feeling up Newton the slimeball, and they thought it was funny? Jasper sent me a wave of amusement, which knocked out some of my righteous anger. I turned back around to view the scene again. The girls had all frozen in place with my outburst. It suddenly dawned on me that Mike was wearing a dress and tights. Next, I noticed his toenails were painted bright red. I realized Emily had nail polish in her hand and was in the act of applying it to his toes. My brain rapidly processed the items held in all the other women’s hands, and I felt like a complete fool. I assessed Mike’s condition, noting his hair was spiky with a wide swath of hot pink down the center. He was covered in all kinds of makeup and looked like a really ugly girl. He was wearing cheap clip on earrings and gaudy necklaces, rings, and bracelets that clashed terribly with the most hideous dress I’d ever seen. I finally understood that the girls had been giving him a hellish makeover, and it was only his deluded, confused mind that had made it into something else. He would find out his mistake soon enough. “Sorry. Uh, never mind. Please, carry on with what you were doing,” I mumbled in embarrassment, turning around and exiting as quickly as I had entered. “Wait!” I heard Bella call. I stopped and turned back. She ran over and gave me a quick kiss. “I missed you,” she murmured sweetly. “Where were you?” I grinned. “That’s for me to know and you to find out,” I teased. She ran her hands over my chest before slipping them around my waist, squeezing me tightly and rubbing her body against me. I stiffened, in more ways than one. I tapped her lightly on her nose with my index finger. “None of that, young lady. Behave yourself, or I won’t give you your present later,” I threatened, uncomfortable with such a display in front of my mother. She pouted up at me, but I just smiled back, gently pushing her body away from mine and trying to . “Mike’s ready now,” Rosalie announced. My eyes narrowed as I glanced in their direction. “Fine, I’ll take it from here,” I promised, a distinct edge to my voice. “Wait!” Alice shrieked. “I need pictures to document our achievement.”

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We all smirked as she got out her camera and took several pictures of ‘Michelle’. Bella grabbed my hand and looked at me in concern. “Just take him home, Edward. It’s over and done. We’ve tortured him enough for one night,” she urged. Esme and Emily nodded in agreement. After a few moments, Angela and Kim added their agreement as well. Rose and Leah didn’t look pleased. Alice had a quick vision and tried to hide her smirk. I ran a finger along my love’s cheek and smiled gently. “I love your compassionate, forgiving nature, my Bella,” I complimented her. She smiled at me in relief, failing to notice I had not promised her anything. I carried Newton out to my car and was intercepted by my brothers. “Are you really taking him home now?” Emmett asked crossly. I raised both eyebrows, allowing an evil grin to flash across my face, fast enough to alert my brothers to my intentions but too fast for any of the compassionate, forgiving members of our family to notice. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. “I do believe it is time for him to take his leave, don’t you? He has overstayed his welcome,” I answered politely, as if conversing about the weather. “Indeed,” Jasper returned formally, hiding his amusement. They decided to help me deliver Mike and his SUV, and Jacob chose to join us as well. Once we were safely away from the house, Jacob asked me what I had planned to do with Mike next. I spoke loudly enough for Jasper and Emmett to hear me from Mike’s SUV, which they were driving behind me. “I do believe Jessica and Lauren could use a new friend, don’t you?” Jacob looked confused, as he doesn’t know those two, but Jasper and Emmett were suitably impressed with my evil genius. We drove over to Jessica’s house, where Lauren was spending the night. I carried Mike over and set him down on his feet on the porch. I asked Jasper to help wake him up enough to stand on his own. He still acted punch drunk. I rang the doorbell and waited for Jessica to answer. “Edward Cullen!” she gasped, amazed to see me standing on her porch as she had fantasized many times before. Lauren came up behind her to see for herself and was shocked to actually see me there. I intentionally dazzled them, so they wouldn’t be thinking clearly and then spun my web of lies. “Good evening, ladies. I came across this young lady outside a bar, fighting with her date. Her date stormed off, stranding her there, so I offered to take her safely home. She claimed her name was ‘Michelle’, but she refused to give me her last name. She wouldn’t give me her home address either, but gave me your address instead, saying you were a close friend of hers. Does she look familiar to you?” I moved Mike closer to them so he could be clearly seen in the light spilling from the doorway. “Hey, Jessica, Lauren. What’s up?” he slurred to them, weaving a bit. I helped steady him so he wouldn’t fall. They peered closely at him, but did not seem to recognize him. Finally, understanding dawned on Lauren’s face. “Jessica!” Lauren hissed under her breath. “That’s Mike!” Jessica started to shake her head, but then saw the similarities for herself. She choked on her next breath. They both looked at me, but I projected naïve, innocent charm, pretending I had no idea who was really standing on the porch in front of me.

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Jessica smiled stiffly at me and grabbed Mike’s hand. “Thanks for bringing her over. We’ve got it from here.” I gave a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank goodness. I wasn’t sure I did the right thing. I had thought I should maybe bring her to Chief Swan instead, under age drinking and all.” I shrugged, as if I had actually considered turning him in to the police. “No!” Jessica yelped. She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of hier. Of her. Thanks again.” I wished them all a good night. We dropped Mike’s SUV off at the bar to substantiate my story and then we were all back in my car for the drive home. I snickered as I told them about Jessica’s thoughts and her plans for a few new youtube videos. They laughed, and I actually felt a stab of pity for the guy. I would never want to be at the mercy of either of those two girls. I shuddered at that thought. For now, I would let my enemy take out my other enemy and save myself the trouble. I had a hot date waiting at home for me, and I didn’t intend to waste any more time with thoughts of the Newton kid.

Chapter 45: Better than Chocolate
EPOV I scooped Bella up in my arms, stealing her away from the others, before she even knew I was there. I was already on the second story and starting up to the third by the time her brain had processed what had happened and who was holding her. I was already through the door of my

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bedroom before she was able to gasp, “Edward!” in delighted surprise. I had the door closed and locked and her sitting on my bed before she was even finished saying my name. I stepped back to allow her brain to catch up to the rest of her, and she looked bewildered as she took in our surroundings. She looked me straight in the eye and started laughing. “Not eager, are we, Edward?” I deliberately leaned in closer, staring into her eyes and exhaling into her face. Her eyes glazed over as I dazzled her. I brushed my lips against hers, light and soft as a butterfly's wings. She groaned, wrapped her arms around my neck, and pulled herself closer, pushing her lips against mine. When she tried to deepen the kiss, I pulled back far enough to look her in the eye again and teased, “That would be the pot calling the kettle black, wouldn't it, love?” She blushed, her gaze dropping from my eyes to my lips, and her tongue darted out to moisten her own. I couldn't withhold a groan at the sight, and I saw the triumph on her face before I leaned in to capture her mouth again. I proceeded with my plan to kiss her senseless, counting in my head so I wouldn't forget to allow her time to breathe. As I felt her melting into my embrace, I trailed my kisses and gentle nibbles across her face and along her jaw line, up to her ear. I allowed my tongue to trace the contours of her ear, then blew my cold breath over the moist surface, causing her to shiver in pleasure. I continued applying my mouth along her neck, tracing down to her collarbone. She whimpered with excitement as I gently sucked on the skin there, making a hickey, effectively marking her as my own. I pushed her backwards until she was lying on the bed beneath me. I slipped my hands under her shirt, caressing her ribs and sides. I pressed my groin against her hip, needing to be closer to her. I started sliding my hands under the waistband of her pajama pants, needing to feel more of her warm, silky skin, when I heard voices, which knocked me out of my passionate haze. “Hey, I've been hearing some interesting sounds from up in Edward's room. You think Eddie's finally going to become a man?” Emmett prodded. “No way! Let me check,” Jasper answered, going silent for a few seconds. “Whoah! Their room is absolutely saturated with lust, from floor to ceiling. I wouldn't be able to get within ten feet of that room, without growing a third leg. Who knew he had it in him? He was certainly never really interested in physical intimacy before. Bella has really shaken things up, hasn't she? Edward is worried about changing her, but he hasn't even stopped to contemplate how much she has already changed him. It's too late for him now. She's already attached that ball and chain to his leg, and it can't ever be removed.” “Well, he doesn't seem to mind his captivity,” Emmett laughed. The two of them were standing under my window, foolishly thinking I would be too distracted to monitor their thoughts or their conversation. I tore myself away from my precious Bella, not wanting her to be embarrassed in front of my brothers any more than absolutely necessary. She protested my withdrawal, as usual. “Relax, my dear Bella. Don't you want your present now?” I murmured gently. Her eyes opened and flashed to mine. “What is it? What did you need to go all the way to Seattle to get?” she wondered apprehensively. I chuckled. Bella was the only female and the only human I knew who could honestly get upset over being given a gift by a loved one. Many may protest, but I could always see their thoughts at the time, betraying the deep internal thrill at being shown the evidence of their
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partner's love. I figured Bella secretly felt the same way, but without being able to read her mind, there was no way to know the truth. After all, she did tend to protest more than the average person. Not that she has ever behaved like the average person. I snuck the gift out of its hiding place and handed it to her with a flourish and a bow. She took the box and studied it reverently, running her finger lightly over the raised letters on the top – GODIVA. She looked back up at me, awe shining in her eyes. “You drove all the way to Seattle to get this for me?” she inquired. I nodded in response. I was shocked when she threw her arms around me and planted a big kiss on my lips. I was positively gaping at her as she sat back down, setting the box delicately into her lap. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she squealed in excited appreciation, doing an excellent Alice impression. “Well, she certainly likes whatever he got her,” Emmett commented rudely. I wished they would go away. They're ruining the moment, even if Bella couldn't hear them. “Yeah, her emotions remind me of Alice's,” Jasper agreed. “Excitement, love, lust, sexual frustration, longing, hunger, happiness, hope, and joy. Impressive. It's hard to get that much excitement out of Bella, but she is stoked now.” Then again, they do have their uses. It was really nice to be able to get a read of her emotions. Hmmm. Obviously, expensive, gourmet, overpriced chocolate was on the list of exceptions to the 'don't waste your money on me' rule. I smirked. Everybody has a price, and I think I just found hers. “I've always wanted to go into that store, but I was too embarrassed, so I contented myself by looking through the window at the items on display,” she confessed. She looked at me and giggled. “It must have been torture for you to go into that store. You certainly never had a need to before you met me.” “Anything for you, love,” I admitted. It had been torture to have to smell the strong chocolate odor emanating from that store. “Wow! I bet Eddie went into the naughty store. I never knew he had it in him. Our Eddie is just full of surprises tonight,” Emmett exclaimed to Jasper on the ground below. Both of them pictured my face upon being confronted with a lot of sexually related items for sale. I rolled my eyes. Those two really needed to grow up. Thankfully, Bella was once again enraptured with her gift and didn't see my eye roll. She would have interpreted it as a personal affront. “I’m just happy to be able to please you,” I proclaimed. “It will bring me pleasure just to see you enjoy it.” I saw her struggling with the cloth ribbons tied around the box and offered, “Do you want me to take them off for you?” “No, thanks, I’ll do it. I’m afraid you’ll tear the cloth, and I’d rather keep them,” she answered, smiling at me as she was finally able to untie the ribbons and open the box. She gasped as she opened the lid and saw the delicacies inside. She picked up one of the chocolate covered strawberries, examining it with delight. “It’s so big! I didn’t even know they could grow this big. Trust you to get the biggest one ever.” I chuckled. “I’m sure there are bigger ones out there somewhere.” “Maybe,” she conceded. “But this one sure is a mouthful. There’s no way I can fit this in my mouth. I’ll have to alternate sides, I guess.” She took her first bite out of the huge strawberry

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and squealed, “It’s so cold!” I had been keeping them in the refrigerator so the chocolate wouldn’t melt. “It’ll warm up quickly from the heat of your mouth and hands and then it’ll get messy quickly. I have a wet wash cloth already prepared for you to clean up with afterward,” I cautioned her. “Incredible! He’s put a great deal of thought into this, hasn’t he? Already has the wash cloth ready for afterwards. Impressive!” Emmett exclaimed softly. “Isn’t the Boy Scout motto to always be prepared?” Jasper responded. I reviewed my conversation with Bella in their minds. Without the visual cues, they had managed to think of a whole different scenario to match the words we had used. I started to get angry with them for being so disrespectful to Bella and for listening in on our private moment. Bella moaned, “Tastes so good!” I heard my brothers’ mental response to her words and sounds and had a wicked idea. I dashed over to the desk and wrote a quick note to Bella. Emmett and Jasper are listening to us, standing right under our window. Her eyes flashed and her mouth tightened with anger. She opened her mouth to speak, but I held up one finger to stop her and wrote again. Want to have some fun at their expense? She nodded eagerly, grinning mischievously. They’ve gotten the wrong idea, listening to the words we’ve said and believe we are doing something ‘private’. She quickly got irritated and grabbed for the pen and paper. I handed them over without protest. If they believe we are doing that, why are they listening? They’re just as bad as Mike! I stomped down on my amusement, not wanting to give the game away to Jasper. They are hoping to gain material with which to tease us with later. How about we turn the tables? Why don’t we keep our conversation intentionally vague to encourage them to continue thinking inappropriate thoughts? Then, when the time is right, we bust them and show them what we were really doing. They’ll look like fools, get lectured by Esme and Carlisle about invading our privacy, and we’ll be able to tease them afterward. She nodded vigorously, holding up her thumb to indicate her agreement with the plan. “If you don’t mind, Edward, I’d like to try something else, something new.” I grinned. “By all means, Bella. It’s both educational and adventurous to try new things. A win/win scenario. Please, try anything you want.” She picked up another chocolate and bit into it. She started moaning and moaning. I couldn’t help getting a little aroused myself at those sounds. I was jealous of the chocolate momentarily for drawing forth the sounds of ecstasy, but then reminded myself that I was the
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one who gave her the chocolate, so I was still the one who brought her such pleasure, in a roundabout way. “It’s all yours, baby. Just for you. I want you to take all of it, enjoy all of it,” I teased, gesturing to the still full box of chocolate. “As much as you want, as often as you want. I’ll be happy to oblige you anytime.” She smirked. “Thank you, honey. You’re so sweet. I’ve definitely found something ‘to die for’.” I had to clamp down on my amusement once again. She was priceless. “Don’t talk about death so casually. You know how it upsets me!” “You’re right, honey. This is worth living for!” she exclaimed. “This makes it all worthwhile. I think I could live on this alone, it’s that good.” I heard my brothers’ minds boggling. Bella leaned over and kissed me, pouring her love into it. I let loose a groan of my own. A stray thought from Emmett, had me growling softly. Bella couldn’t hear it, but she could feel the vibrations from my chest. My brothers heard it loud and clear, but interpreted it into their mental scenarios. Bella pulled back, and I grinned at her to reassure her of my feelings. She gave an unconscious sigh of relief, before reaching for another chocolate, putting the half eaten one back in the box. “Bella!” I cried out, considering it unsanitary. She just smiled and shrugged. She grabbed another chocolate, a raspberry crown. When she bit into that one, she moaned again in ecstasy. I found myself wishing my taste buds still appreciated human food. I desperately wanted to know, to experience the flavors that could cause such feelings in her. “So you like it? It tastes okay?” It was obvious she liked it, and it tasted better than okay. “So sweet, so creamy, so yummy,” she murmured. “I could eat this every day and never get tired of it.” I chuckled at her statement, then laughed harder at my brothers’ response. Bella looked at me inquiringly. I dashed off another note. You should see their faces of disgust at your last words. They couldn’t handle it – thinking of their little sister like that. Her eyes widened as she realized what they had been thinking. Then she giggled, rolling around on the bed. I grabbed the box of chocolate before she could smush it and stood up beside the bed. “Hey, where are you going with that? I wasn’t finished yet,” she protested as she lunged for the box. I held it out of her reach. She put her hands on her hips and demanded, “Give it to me!” “Not unless you ask me nicely,” I taunted. “Dude, what is up with him?” Emmett wondered. “I guess he knows a lot more about this stuff than we thought. Must be all the things he’s gleaned from other peoples’ minds,” Jasper declared. Bella looked up at me through her lashes and pouted out her lower lip. “But it’s mine! You said it was. You said it was all mine, all for me. So how come you get to decide when I can and cannot have it.”
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I smirked again. “I’d be happy to give it to you, if you ask me nicely.” She sighed and nodded in defeat. “Will you please give it to me, Edward?” “My pleasure. Anytime,” I replied, handing the box back. She took it and inhaled deeply, “Mmmm.” She looked through the her choices and got a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. She picked up the gold foil wrapped chocolate covered cherry and gave me a coy smile. “I really want to share this with you, Edward. Please take my cherry.” She handed me the piece of candy. I looked from her to the candy in confusion. “Are you sure?” She looked me in the eye and then waggled her eyebrows and leered. “Absolutely sure. I want you to take my cherry, Edward. I was saving it for a special time, but I love you, and I want to give it to you. My gift to you tonight. I want to share this with you.” I looked into my brothers’ thoughts, and realized the double entendre. I solemnly took the candy from her. “Thank you for this precious gift, love. I hope you won’t regret it.” “I won’t,” she assured me. “Love is all about finding the balance in give and take, between two people, sharing their lives together. I want to give you this; I want you to have it.” I gently unwrapped the candy, smiling at her. I tapped her chin with my index finger. “Open for me, love.” She held her mouth open. “I’m going to put the whole thing in; I know you can handle it. I am certain it will fit.” She nodded her acceptance, so I put the candy into her mouth, onto her tongue. She gasped at the feeling of my cold fingers on her tongue. I moved my hand away, and she bit down on the candy, moaning in pleasure as the sugary syrup gushed onto her tongue. She savored the flavor, chewing slowly. I started kissing her neck, causing her heart to race, adding credence to our plot. “Do you want more, Bella?” I offered, gesturing to the box again. She caught on to what I was doing and played along admirably. “Oh, yes, please more, Edward!” she exclaimed. “I need more, Edward. It’s just soooo good. Please more, yes!” Seeing her sitting calmly on my bed, gushing over a box of chocolate, I was shaking with the effort to contain my amusement. “Careful, you might get addicted,” I warned with a smile. “I’m already addicted!” she confessed happily. I picked her up bridal style and began spinning in a circle. I concentrated on her face and it was funny to watch her eyes jerk trying to keep up with the rapid spinning. “Edward!” she yelled. “Bella!” I yelled back. “Enough! Please!” she cried. I stopped abruptly, setting her back on the bed. Her eyes kept jerking for a few minutes. She groaned, falling back onto the pillows. “I’m sooo dizzy. I just want to lie here for a while and recover.” “Whatever you want, dear,” I chuckled. I saw my brothers’ faces again, looking at each other with a mixture of awe and disbelief.

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“I’ve gotta see this,” Emmett muttered. “How did he bring her pleasure so quickly? “I need to make sure he didn’t hurt her. She’s awfully dizzy,” Jasper agreed. I heard them scaling the wall up to my window, so I grabbed Bella and sat in front of it, with her in my lap, the box of chocolates in her hands. I pointed to the window, and she understood my brothers were coming. Their heads peeked into view, and they gasped at the sight of us sitting there waiting for them, fully clothed and calm. “Come on in, boys,” Bella invited. They cautiously raised the window and climbed inside, crouching beside it in case they needed a fast getaway. “Would you care for some chocolate, boys? It’s really quite yummy, sweet and creamy,” she offered, holding out the box toward them. They did a double take, rapidly re-evaluating our conversation in context of the current revelation. “Chocolate?” Jasper asked in astonishment. “She was that ecstatic and euphoric over chocolate?” We nodded, and both Jasper and Emmett simply gaped at her in bewilderment, speechless for once, as they processed this new information. Bella giggled and then casually mentioned, “Well, they do say chocolate is better than sex.” “Who does?” Emmett demanded. “Women,” Bella admitted. “Women in general. As a societal whole. It’s one of the questions we exchange during girl talk. How does your man’s loving compare to chocolate?” She grinned at their distinct discomfort. There was a knock on the door, and I knew the wives were on the other side, so I unlocked it and let them inside. Rose and Alice strolled over to their husbands, each offering a comforting embrace to their spouse. “Don’t worry, teddy bear, I think your love is better than chocolate,” Rose reassured Emmett, rubbing his back. “Me too,” Alice agreed, kissing Jasper on the cheek. “Yeah, but chocolate tastes like dog poop to you,” Jasper pointed out in distress. “Yeah!” Emmett agreed. He hadn’t thought of that until Jasper mentioned it. The girls stood up and exchanged a look. “Yeah, we know,” Rose replied. “But we still think your loving is better.” “Absolutely!” Alice declared forcefully, nodding her head vigorously. They hooked arms together and started for the door. “Coming, Bella?” “In a little bit,” Bella answered, leaning back against me and snuggling closer.

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They nodded. “We’ll be waiting,” Alice warned. “If you’re not down in thirty minutes, I’m coming to get you.” They walked to the door, but paused briefly in the doorway. Knowing we would all hear, Rose whispered, “Good thing they didn’t ask us about blood!” “Yep!” Alice laughed. Then they raced down the stairs, leaving their husbands staring blankly after them.

Chapter 46: Shopping in Seattle
BPOV I groaned when I felt someone bouncing on my bed. “Are we having an earthquake?” I snarled, displeased to be woken up in such an unpleasant manner. I heard the musical laughter of a certain shopaholic. “You’d better not be waking me up to go shopping, Alice,” I growled menacingly, snuggling even deeper into the bed.

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“Oh, but I am!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands. “We’re going shopping!” “Ugh!” I groaned angrily. “We are not! We have guests here, in case you’ve forgotten. Sleeping guests! And I’m one of them. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’? There’s a reason for that. I just dare you to go wake up the wolves as abruptly as you have me this morning.” She laughed. “Don’t be silly, Bella. I have no desire to spend the rest of eternity missing a few body parts. I let the dogs lie, but you, my human slave, will drag your butt out of bed and get ready now, before I make you.” There was an edge of menace to her voice that made me open my eyes and look at her. It was terrifying. She looked like she was going to go ballistic. If she put all that pent up energy of hers into violence, I didn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity. I immediately went into placating mode, fearing the worst. “Okay, fine, Alice. We’ll go shopping,” I grumbled. “But I’m going to sleep in the car on the way there.” “Fair enough,” Alice agreed smugly, easy to please now that she had gotten her way. “I graciously laid out your outfit for today. You can put it on after your shower. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to play Bella Barbie today, so I’ll have to fix you up at vampire speed, once you’re dressed.” I grinned widely. That was the best news of the day so far. “You could at least pretend to be disappointed,” Alice whined, seeing the expression on my face. I laughed. “No, I don’t think I could. I have it on good authority that my acting skills are severely lacking,” I teased, throwing back the covers and sitting up on the side of the bed. I stretched my muscles, yawning sleepily. She huffed and left to give me some privacy. I stood up, stretching again, arching my back like a cat. I thought about last night and almost felt like purring. Edward and I had certainly enjoyed ourselves, particularly after we got rid of Jasper and Emmett. We figured they would hesitate to bother us again after the little chocolate stunt, so we did a little boundary stretching while they were otherwise occupied. I walked stiffly into the bathroom, beginning my morning routine. I always loved the feeling of the hot water coursing down on my skin. I considered it one of the distinct pleasures of life, one of the blessings of technology. The joys of hot, running water was something our modern society took for granted, but it was one of the reasons I was thankful I had been born in the modern age. There were other reasons, of course, but indoor plumbing was one of the main ones. It’s all well and good to fantasize about living in the past, but I know I’ve been spoiled by technology and would find it very difficult to be alive a century or two ago. In addition to technology, I would have an extremely difficult time adjusting to societal attitudes and expectations of women in previous centuries. I enjoyed my freedom and equality too much to simply throw away all I’ve been taught since I was a young child. On the one hand, I wondered how much of Edward’s attitude toward me is simply a product of the culture in which he was raised. On the other hand, Carlisle was much older than Edward, but I never felt like he belittled me or condescended to me. In all fairness, Carlisle spent more time actively involved in the human world, so perhaps that made it easier for him to adjust to modern ideas and attitudes over time. I thought about the question more deeply. Carlisle is paternalistic though, which would be consistent with his upbringing. Esme is a stereotypical stay at home mom, well, except for the vampire part. The ‘kids’ all go to school and don’t hold down any jobs. In Carlisle’s day, and even in Edward’s, it was commonly expected that the

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man should protect and provide for his family. Carlisle did exactly that, for his entire family, even though his ‘sons’ were perfectly capable of finding jobs of their own. I wasn’t Jasper, but I could sense the pride, contentment, and satisfaction emanating from Carlisle whenever he was surrounded by his family, his loved ones. Was Edward trying to do the same with me? Was he mimicking both his human and vampire fathers? He didn’t want me to get an after school job, already agreeing to support me indefinitely. He liked to procure food for me, always so proud of himself when he brings me a meal. He expected to make the decisions for both of us, and expected me to do whatever he told me. I had news for him. They’d been leaving the whole ‘obey’ part out of the marriage vows for decades now, and I had no intention of it being included in mine. Had Esme ever stood up to Carlisle? Had the Twilight books ever mentioned an argument between the two of them? Had she ever told him no? To my horror, I realized I couldn’t think of a single instance in which Esme had opposed her husband. Was that Edward’s expectation of me? No, Rose ruled Emmett, and Alice ruled Jasper, despite Jasper’s age and military status. He must see from his siblings’ relationships that it didn’t really work that way, right? I had a feeling he and I needed to have a serious talk about our expectations of one another with regards to a long term relationship. We needed to define a few roles and boundaries. There was no way I’d ever successfully pull off the June Cleaver model. I shivered, both from my thoughts and from the chill in the water. I had been contemplating these thoughts for so long, I had used up all the hot water. I thought guiltily of the rest of the inhabitants of the house as I shut off the flow. I quickly dried my body and hair with the towels, realizing Alice would be after me any second to hurry up my pace. I looked around the bathroom, but didn’t see my outfit. I groaned as I realized I had left it on the bed in the room. I wrapped the towel around me like a strapless dress and dashed over to the bed. A sudden raspy intake of breath signaled another’s presence in the room. I looked in that direction to meet the shocked but lusty gaze of my soul mate. I watched his eyes darken as he drank in the sight of me in nothing but a towel, standing beside his bed. I could even witness his internal struggle as he fought against running over, tossing me on the bed, ripping away the towel, and having his wicked way with me, right here, right now. I felt my own arousal respond to the images in my mind. As that knowledge wafted over him, he tensed, a low rumbling growl rippling through his chest. He leaned forward in his chair, as if to pounce, and I recognized my cue to skedaddle. I grabbed my clothes and bolted for the bathroom. Dashing through the doorway, I turned back to see Edward standing by the bed right where I had just been standing, staring after me with a dark hunger. My heart was pounding, and I quickly shut the door and locked it, leaning back against it while I tried to calm my breathing. I heard a chuckle from him at my actions. I knew they were pointless to an extent. After all, the lock would never hold him if he chose to force the issue, but I had faith that he would respond appropriately to it. I believed the lock would restrain him, because the gentleman inside of him would respect the meaning behind it. I put my clothes on more rapidly than usual, stumbling against the wall as I tried to put on my slacks and barely managing to stay upright. As soon as I was presentable, I flung open the door, only to find Alice had replaced Edward by the bed. I was thankful she wasn’t the empath of the family, so she wouldn’t detect the stab of hurt and disappointment I felt upon seeing her instead of him. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and knew she would take it personally. “Ready?” she asked eagerly. I gave her an indulgent smile. I really did love her. “Ready as I’ll ever be,” I admitted. She grabbed my hand and led me to her bathroom, where she performed her makeover magic at a speed too quick for the human eye. In less than five minutes, she had created a look she usually took hours to produce. I met her eyes in the mirror. “You mean you could have done this that quickly all along?” I demanded. She grinned. “What’s the fun in that?”
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I growled. “And the purpose of dragging out our sessions for hours on end?” She grinned wider, baring her teeth. “Female bonding time! How else would I manage to get so much time with you, when Edward wants to keep you all to himself?” I groaned. I suppose she had a point, in a way, but couldn’t she have picked a better hobby than that? Something I might actually enjoy too? She shrugged. “I’ll think about it.” Well, that’s probably the best offer I was going to get at the moment, so I nodded my acceptance. We darted down the stairs together, her keeping me upright, and into the kitchen, where Esme handed me a homemade blueberry muffin, still warm from the oven, and a glass of orange juice. I set them down on the counter and threw my arms around her. “You’re the best, Mom,” I whispered in her ear. She positively beamed, returning my hug enthusiastically. Over her shoulder, I could see Edward smiling contentedly at the two of us. I smiled and waved to him. Then I pulled back from Esme and thanked her politely for making my breakfast. As I scarfed down the delicious buttery muffin, I noticed it was later than I had realized. Then I noticed how quiet and peaceful it sounded in the house. How odd. “Where is everyone?” I inquired in confusion. Edward smirked. “Long gone, sleepyhead. They all wish you good morning though.” I looked around in confusion, then back at him. “Where’d they go?” “Rose and Emmett went for an overnight ‘hunting’ trip, Angela and Ben are spending the day alone together seeing the sights in Tacoma, and the La Push gang are going to spend some time working together to develop rules and regulations governing their relationships within and outside the pack,” he explained. “Wow, it’s so quiet with just the six of us here,” I commented, wondering what we would do with ourselves. Why did I have to go shopping again? “So, why am I going shopping?” I asked bitterly, wanting to spend more time with Edward. “We are going shopping, love,” he assured me, understanding my objection. Oh! Well, if he’s going too, it won’t be so bad. Did he plan to buy something, or was he just along to spend time with me? “Alice and Jasper are coming with us to Seattle. Carlisle and Esme are going to enjoy some precious alone time, that they haven’t gotten much of lately. It’s time for me to replace the Volvo, as I don’t want to keep driving the Vanquish around town. It’s way too conspicuous.” I laughed quietly to myself. They were way too conspicuous no matter what, but if he wanted to pretend they could fit in by driving a less flashy car, then I was willing to play along with his delusions. Soooo, a new car, eh? “A Vette, get a Corvette, please?” I begged, wiggling and bouncing in my best Alice impression. Edward scoffed at me.

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“A Corvette? Is that the best you can do? How about the latest model Volvo?” I snorted. As if. “The Corvette simple purrs ‘sports car’, honey. It’s the only car that calls to me. I always look twice when I see one. I always think, ‘Now that’s a car’.” He eyed me in disbelief. “And the Vanquish?” “Oh, yeah, it’s um . . . nice,” I stuttered, not wanting to hurt his feelings. “Nice?!” he nearly exploded. “Yeah,” I nodded in agreement. He looked like he was in pain, like he’d been kicked where it hurts. I patted his arm to comfort him. “So, let me get this straight, the Vanquish which I paid over a quarter of a million dollars for is ‘nice’, but the Corvette which costs a mere 60k or so is a ‘real sports car’?” he choked out, clenching his fists and gritting his teeth. “Yep, you got it,” I agreed eagerly. He winced, looking disappointed and distraught. I squeezed his arm, trying to help. “Hey, to each his own, right? Don’t worry, it’s your car, you should get whatever would make you happy.” He nodded, but didn’t look pleased. Oh, well. Can’t please everybody all the time. I shrugged, turning to finish my orange juice. Alice came dancing into the room. “Ready to go?” she asked. We both nodded and shuffled out to the garage where Jasper was waiting for us. We piled into the SUV, with Jasper driving. True to my promise, I laid down in the back seat with my head in Edward’s lap and promptly fell back to sleep. Edward decided to awaken me by tickling me mercilessly. I woke up giggling and gasping for breath, squirming and wiggling to avoid his annoying fingers. My head was thrashing back and forth and I whimpered for him to please stop. I hated being tickled. I hated feeling so out of control, being unable to prevent my body’s automatic response to the stimulation. He stopped abruptly, clearing his throat and shifting underneath me. I looked up at him and noted his eyes had darkened again. I didn’t really think anything of it, as I was simply grateful he stopped. I sat up rapidly and fled out the door on my side. Alice caught me before I could do a face plant on the ground from the force with which I flung myself out of the vehicle. She chuckled as she helped me regain my balance. I saw Edward standing on the other side of the SUV with his eyes closed, taking deep breaths. What was his problem? I looked around, taking in our surroundings. We were in front of a large Chevy dealership. I saw several new Corvettes prominently displayed and shrieked in pleasure. I grabbed Alice’s arm and dragged her over to them. She started laughing but came along willingly. “I think I must be rubbing off on you,” Alice teased. “Yeah, you looked like twins right then,” Jasper agreed, playfully taunting us. “I’m not sure the world can handle two Alices. I’m also not sure the Cullens have enough money to support the both of you, if you’re going to take up her hobbies, Bella.” Alice scoffed. “Spend all you want, we’ll make more. There’s plenty more where that came from, my dear. Besides, we’re stimulating the economy, just like all the analysts say is needed, right?”

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“You’ve got a good point,” I agreed, smirking. “It’s important to support our local businesses, keep the small businesses afloat, and help prevent rampant unemployment. Our decision to purchase luxury items, to share the wealth, is for the good of the individual, the state, and indeed the whole country.” Alice laughed gleefully. “I’ll make a shopper out of you yet!” “Heaven help us all,” Jasper muttered, not bothering to hide his amusement. Edward slipped his arms around my waist, pulling me up against his chest. He rested his chin on my shoulder and murmured into my ear, “So which one do you like best?” I looked them over. There were three of them there. “Well, the red is pretty, but I know for a fact that police pay more attention to red cars and pull them over more often for speeding. The white would be too difficult to keep looking clean. That leaves the black, which happens to have tinted windows already. Perfect!” “I can’t believe I’ve been reduced to picking out a car based on the color and because it ‘looks pretty’,” Edward grumbled. “What a disgrace. The things I do for you, Bella. The sacrifices I make. I hope you appreciate this. It goes against everything I believe about car shopping.” At first I was offended. Then I realized that despite his grumbling, I was getting the car I always wanted. So I simply patted his back, gave him a big hug, and stroked his ego a bit. “You’re so good to me, darling. I love you so much. Thank you, sweetheart, for humoring me.” It worked like a charm. He gave me his crooked grin, melting under my touch. “Anything for you, love.” A grumpy looking salesman came over to us, seeing us surrounding the black Corvette. “Can I help you young people with anything?” Alice turned to me. “Do you want to test drive it first, or do you know it’s the one you want.” I turned to Edward. “What do you think, honey?” He smiled at me. “Do you really think you’re going to change your mind?” I deliberated for a second, before shaking my head and smiling. “Nope.” Edward looked at the salesman and nodded. “We’ll take this one. Go ahead and start writing up the paperwork.” The salesman started at him and raised his eyebrow. “Are you sure?” “What the lady wants, the lady gets,” Edward answered with smirk. I looked at him and waggled my eyebrows. “Anything I want?” He chuckled. “Eventually, my Bella.” I smiled and nodded, knowing he meant it. The salesman stared at Edward, his lips twitching to hold back a smile. “Do you know how much this car costs, young man?”

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Edward grunted in disgust. “Yes, cheap little thing, but for some reason she prefers it to my Aston Martin Vanquish. She obviously has no taste in cars, as she picked it purely because she likes the way it looks.” He rolled his eyes and sighed. “I’m uncomfortable parking the Vanquish in our high school parking lot, so I offered her any car in the world, and this is what she picked. She didn’t want a BMW or a Mercedes or a Porsche. She thinks Porsches are ugly. Ugly! But I love her, so if this is what makes her happy, I’ll be happy with it.” Alice, Jasper, and I were chuckling from both his rant and the salesman’s response to it. The salesman cleared his throat, fairly certain we were pulling his leg. He decided to call our bluff. “Well, sir, I’d be happy to get the paperwork started on that. What payment arrangements did you wish to make?” he inquired indulgently. There weren’t any other customers around at the moment, so he didn’t mind our little ‘joke’. Edward smiled. “I like you, Carl. It’s nice of you to humor us when you obviously don’t believe us. You’ve been nothing but respectful and professional, despite your internal doubt and amusement. It’s your lucky day.” He whipped out his mysterious black credit card and handed it to Carl. “We’ll take it as soon as the paperwork is ready.” Carl looked at the credit card in his hand, and his jaw dropped in shock. He looked at Edward and then back to the card. “Um, of course, sir. Do you have any ID?” he asked tentatively, unnerved by the possibility that we kids actually did have enough money to buy the car outright. Edward sighed, reached into his wallet, and brought out his ID, handing it over with a small smile. Carl compared the names and signatures on the two and appeared intimidated. He gulped and looked at Edward, hoping he hadn’t offended him. “I’ll get right on it, sir. If you’ll just follow me?” Edward nodded and we all followed him inside. He offered us drinks, but I was the only one who accepted. He ran off to get everything started with the paperwork and grab the keys. He spoke briefly with the manager, who argued at first, but stopped as soon as he saw the credit card and ID. The manager left his office and came over to introduce himself and check to be certain we were being treated appropriately. “Actually, I was very impressed with Carl. He was respectful and professional the entire time. Most people judge us based on our age, not realizing the financial power we wield, and treat us poorly. Carl, on the other hand, was helpful from the beginning, despite our appearance and his belief we couldn’t afford the car I had chosen for my beloved. Congratulations on hiring such a delightful employee.” Carl blushed at the effusive praise, but the manager eyed Carl with a new respect. I stood on my tiptoes and kissed Edward’s cheek. I was so proud of him for the way he handled that. Before long, we had all the paperwork in order and were ready to bring the new car home. I looked at the keys in Edward’s hand longingly and gazed up at him with my best puppy dog eyes. “Please, Edward?” I pleaded, moving closer to him. “Please?” I reached slowly for the keys, hoping he would give in to me. He blinked his eyes at me, his vision slightly dazed. I realized I was dazzling him and took another step closer, staring into his eyes, as my fingers stealthily reached for the keys. Quick as a wink, I grabbed the keys and kissed him on the lips. “Thanks, Edward!” I turned and got into the driver’s seat. He blinked and looked down at me in astonishment. “Whoa, wait a minute,” he protested.

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“You’re the most wonderful guy ever,” I gushed, not giving him a chance to continue his protest. I started up the engine and waited for him to get in the passenger seat. Truthfully, I had been taking lessons from Alice and Rose both. I met Alice’s eyes as she and Jasper pulled away in the SUV, and she burst into laughter. Edward reluctantly climbed into the passenger seat and stared after his departing siblings. “Love, do you have any idea why Alice is laughing uncontrollably while reciting the Gettysburg address backwards?” he wondered, turning to me. It was too much. I started laughing too. He stared at me as if I’d gone insane. Maybe I had. But I was insane behind the wheel of a brand new Corvette, so who needs sanity anyway? I had a lot of fun driving the new car, feeling the purr of the engine vibrating up through the seat. I felt like I was riding in a growling cougar, so fast and cunning. After about fifteen minutes, Edward couldn’t take it anymore. “Please pull over at the next exit,” he pleaded. I looked at him in surprise. “Certainly, honey,” I replied, concerned. It wasn’t like he needed to eat, go to the bathroom, or vomit. Why did he need a break? He was over at the driver’s side door, opening it, mere seconds after I pulled into a deserted parking lot. “What’s wrong?” I asked in confusion. He gazed down at me in desperation. “Please let me drive, Bella. If you want to get home some time today, please let me drive!” I started laughing. “Was I going too slowly for you, Edward?” He shuddered and whimpered, trying to get himself under control. He turned on his best dazzling charm effects and began to ‘convince’ me to trade places with him. “Aren’t you still a little tired, love? Your eyelids are getting heavy. You are getting sleepier and sleepier. It isn’t safe for you drive right now. You want to curl up in the passenger seat and get some sleep. I will take care of you and keep you safe. When you wake up, we’ll be home, safe and sound. Sleep, my Bella.” Was he seriously trying to hypnotize me? So unfair! Unfortunately, it was working. At least I was aware of what he was doing and could take him to task for it later. Right now, I just wanted to take a little nap. Seeing my eyes closing, he gently unbuckled me and shifted me over to the passenger seat, buckling me back in safely. Then, he slid into the driver’s seat with a big grin, shifted into gear, and floored it. “He’d better not wreck my car.” That was the last cohesive thought I had before drifting off into dreamland. Stupid charming vampire.

Chapter 47: Learning to Dance

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

BPOV Carlisle and Esme met us on the porch as we pulled up in front of the house. They admired the new vehicle, teasing both of us over our small victories. “Bella, would it be possible to get another blood sample from you? I have continued working with the boys each night while you are sleeping, helping to condition them, and the rest of the family too, to be unresponsive to the scent of your blood. I have used up all that I took during our previous session, however, and I feel there is more work to be done.” “Certainly, Carlisle. Whatever I can do to help, I’m willing,” I volunteered. He smiled, giving me a paternal hug, and led me up to his study. Edward came to hold my hand again while Carlisle inserted the needle. Edward started playing with my hand, planting kisses in sensitive spots, and I nearly jumped when Carlisle announced we were finished. I had been completely distracted by my sexy boyfriend. Carlisle chuckled and Edward smirked. “Perhaps I should use your services more often Edward, when I have a nervous patient I need to hold still. I think your methods would work well on all the female patients,” Carlisle teased. “No way!” I protested, throwing my arms around Edward. “He’s mine, and I don’t share. They’ll have to find their own special someone to dazzle them. Edward’s taken.” They both laughed at me, at my words and the way I was clinging to him like a vine. “I love it when you get possessive, honey,” Edward drawled, hugging me tightly to his body. “You’re sexy when you’re jealous, but you know, Bella, you’re the only one for me. I’m all yours, and I always will be.” I momentarily forgot about Carlisle as I started to show Edward how his words made me feel, but Carlisle reminded us of his presence with a firm throat clearing. I blushed bright red, caught French kissing and rubbing against my boyfriend by my father. What a disgrace. Carlisle chuckled as I tucked my face into Edward’s chest, trying to hide from his dad. “I’ve got all I need for now, so if you two would prefer to be alone, you are more than welcome to relocate up to your bedroom to finish your previous discussion,” Carlisle suggested in an amused tone of voice. “Excellent idea, Dad,” Edward remarked, holding me closer. “We could use a bit of privacy right now. He carried me up to his room – gotta love that vampire speed. We melted into one another and it literally felt like I was burning, though in a good kind of way. I could feel the warmth flowing through my body, at complete odds to the knowledge that his touches should be making me chilly. Instead, my passion was raging through me, threatening to consume me. We fell onto the bed together, clutching one another, kissing desperately. Our hands fell to greedily exploring one another’s contours, as I lost all concept of time and space. It felt like we were in our own little bubble of space, cut off from everyone else. His hands began to slip up under my shirt, massaging my lower back, as his lips and tongue began exploring my face and neck. I was lost to all but the sensations themselves, when a small perky voice loudly interrupted, “Enough sucking face, people, we’ve got work to do.”

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Changing the future

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We both froze, breathing hard, and I felt like doing something violent. I briefly entertained myself with the idea of pouring gasoline on the clothes inside Alice’s closet and burning the entire thing to the ground. She gasped, and whimpered in a hurt voice, “You wouldn’t, would you? Isabella Marie Swan! If you so much as lay a finger on my clothes in a harmful way, I’ll make you go shopping with me every day for the rest of eternity!” I shuddered. Talk about a living hell! “Why didn’t you lock the door?” I asked Edward in an accusatory tone. He groaned in response, “I’m sorry. I thought I did.” I forced my eyes open, my gaze falling upon my evil best friend. Edward and I were still frozen in the same position we were in when she first interrupted. Maybe if I could convince her to leave, Edward and I can take right back up where we left off in our demonstration of love and affection. She grinned, seeing my ploy. “Aint gonna happen, sister. You two need to snap out of it and come join the rest of us.” Edward read her mind to see what she had planned. He pulled back to look at me speculatively and then turned on a charming grin. That reminded me about something that had been bugging me in the back of my mind. “Hey, you hypnotized me, you jerk!” I griped. Now that the kissing seemed to be temporarily on hiatus, I might as well air my grievances. He had the courtesy to appear ashamed, but then defended with an attack of his own. “Well, you seduced the keys out of me in the first place.” I grinned. “I’ve always wanted to drive one of those. It was awesome! The roar of power, feeling like you are in control of a monstrous beast.” He lowered his lids seductively. “Hmmm. You do seem to have an addiction to controlling monstrous beasts. Shall I take you for a ride, baby, and let you feel me roar beneath you?” The heat curled in my belly as my arousal sharply increased. It was so strong, even I could smell it, so I knew it was no secret to either Edward or Alice. I blushed heavily, and Alice giggled. Edward flashed a smug, satisfied smile, clearly pleased at my response to his verbal teasing. I rolled my eyes and growled, which only made them both laugh a little at my antics. He sat up, pulling me up along with him. “We’ll be down in a minute,” he assured Alice, who eyed him skeptically. “Relax, I mean it.” Her eyes glazed over briefly, indicating a vision, and she snapped back to the present. She smiled and nodded, clearly pleased with her vision. She shook her finger at me, like a mother scolding her child, and warned, “If you take longer than a minute, I’ll come get you and drag you downstairs myself.” I frowned and huffed, breaking away from Edward. “Fine!” I growled, crossing my arms across my chest in a display of unwilling compliance. They could make me go, but they couldn’t make me like it.

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I soon found that statement to be false as well. Not only could they make me go, but Jasper was perfectly capable of making me like it. Darn empath. Remind me again why I put up with all these meddlesome, gifted, stubborn vampires. Oh, yeah, because I love them. Dang, caught in my own trap. “So what was so all fired important that you had to interrupt my ‘alone’ time with my significant other?” I grouched. The rest of the family chuckled, and Jasper sent me waves of excitement and joy. I did my best to resist. I didn’t want to enjoy this, whatever it was. I wanted to be grouchy and miserable so they wouldn’t do it again. Enjoying myself would only encourage them next time. They would simply remind me that I’d enjoyed it last time, as they dragged me away once again against my will. I really needed to set some limits about not taking advantage of the weak human just because they were a thousand times stronger than me. Alice flipped on the stereo, allowing the music to fill the room, but not so loudly as to be uncomfortable having a conversation over it. “The girls’ choice dance is coming up in three weeks, and we decided we should prepare for it.” I started to panic – I could feel my heart pounding and knew they could all hear it. “I, uh, have to be in Seattle that day,” I insisted. Then I remembered the story from Meyer’s books. It was going to be sunny that day. “I mean, Edward and I are going to the meadow and then spending some quality bonding time with my dad. I couldn’t possibly reschedule that for some silly dance.” Rosalie snorted, and Emmett coughed ‘bullshit’ into his hand. Esme gave him a ‘look’ and he murmured a quick apology. Carlisle appeared vastly amused. “Has anyone ever told you you’re a terrible liar, Bella? I mean completely unbelievable, utterly hopeless, couldn’t fool a two year old, terrible liar.” I gave him a disgusted look. “It’s been mentioned before.” He grinned at me, appearing younger than usual. “What are you so afraid of, Bella? You literally start panicking when someone mentions dancing,” Jasper inquired. I sighed. “You’ve all noticed how clumsy I am. Have you ever played with dominoes, where you set them up on end and then push the first one so it knocks all the others down in a chain reaction? Or maybe you’d rather think about bowling pins. That’s what dancing is like for me. I know I’ll trip and crash into somebody, who will crash into somebody else, and start a chain reaction to take down the entire crowd. I don’t dance,” I replied firmly. I expected them to see reason. My expectations were unmet. “Well, it’s just like us and the bloodlust,” Alice explained. I was confused. What did that have to do with dancing? Other than the fact that someone would likely get injured and require medical assistance if I went within ten feet of a dance floor. “Practice makes perfect. It’s like you told Jasper. It gets easier over time the more you do it. So we’re going to help you practice until you feel confidant in your ability to dance gracefully.” “Good thing you have eternity then,” I grumbled. The whole family burst out laughing. I raised an eyebrow. I wasn’t joking. Alice tried to pull me up out of my seat beside Edward, but I resisted. She didn’t want to risk pulling hard enough to hurt me.

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“Just think of it as a socially sanctioned way to spend time in my embrace in a public place,” Edward murmured softly into my ear. I paused to ponder his remark. He did have a point there. Hmmm. Maybe I should give it a chance, here in the privacy of their house. “Okay, let’s do this. I guess worst case scenario is entertaining Emmett while I collect a few new bruises.” Emmett guffawed at my statement, but Edward sent him a dirty look. “Okay, Bella, Esme and I will be your instructors. We’ll talk you through the dance steps and demonstrate accordingly. You’ll also be able to watch the others to see the steps in action. Now, you need to pay attention to your partner’s signals, when he leads you. He will indicate which way you need to move with subtle, but unmistakable hand pressure. Now, when you feel Edward pushing lightly against you like this, what does your body want to do in response?” “Take a step back?” “Yes, you step backwards with your left foot, making space for his right. Now how about when you feel him pulling you lightly toward him?” “Step forward.” “Exactly, right into the space he has just vacated. Don’t think about what your feet are doing. Don’t even worry about the music right now. I want you to close your eyes and concentrate on Edward’s body talking to yours, leading you, guiding you, telling what to do and where to go.” Wow, dancing was rather sensual when I thought about it that way. I shot Edward a lustful look before closing my eyes in compliance. I soon felt us gliding around the room as I concentrated solely on his hands and the signals they sent me. It was ridiculously easy for me to follow his lead. After a few minutes, when I was starting to forget anyone else existed other than us, Carlisle instructed me to open my eyes. My eyes immediately drifted down to my feet, but Carlisle chided me. “Keep your eyes on Edward’s face. You will find he will send signals through his expressions as well, helping you to clarify and predict his actions once you become familiar with them.” I got lost in his sparkling topaz depths, and he pulled me closer. I felt as if we were talking without words, communicating on same basic plane. I felt the desire pulse back and forth between us, neither increasing nor decreasing, but simply there. I decided I may come to like dancing after all. Edward kept a firm grip on me, and I never once stumbled, much to Emmett’s disappointment. Carlisle was an excellent teacher, both patient and encouraging, willing to repeat a move over and over again until I got it right. I thanked my family for the lesson, hugging each and every one. “Don’t think that was it, Bella. We’ll have lessons every day for the next three weeks until you’re eager to attend the dance and show off your new skills.” I groaned at first, but the more I thought about the past hour spent in Edward’s arms, the more I looked forward to more lessons. Even if I didn’t attend the silly school function, I’d surely wish to dance at my own wedding, so the lessons certainly wouldn’t go to waste. “Thanks, Alice. I’m looking forward to it.”

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Rosalie grinned at me. “Ha! I knew you would, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take you to admit it.” I chuckled. She had me pegged. Edward started leading me back up the stairs, when Alice had another vision. She started giggling and then Edward started laughing. The rest of us waited for them to finish. As soon as Alice snapped out of her trance, she raced over to the computer, pulling up Youtube. We all clustered around her, eager to see what had caused such merriment. “Apparently, Michelle Newton is quite entertaining!” she squealed as pulled up a new video. My jaw dropped, and I watched in shock from beginning to end. Poor Mike. He was never going to live this down. I really hoped he had plans to attend college out of state. “Wow, I never realized Jessica and Lauren were so creative,” Edward mused. “I must admit I am impressed with their ingenuity.” Jasper and Emmett were rolling on the floor laughing, while Rosalie and Alice looked extremely smug. Carlisle and Esme tried very hard to appear disapproving, but they couldn’t quite hide their amusement, so they left the room without saying anything. I heard Carlisle’s laughter once they were in their room. Edward was smiling like the cat who ate the cream. I gave him a stern look. “Edward, did you take Mike straight home last night, like I asked?” Obviously, he hadn’t. He gave me his best ‘innocent’ look, the one that said he should be nominated for sainthood and given a halo as he had not ever done, said, or thought anything wrong. Wow, that was some look. If I didn’t know him so well, I would probably totally fall for it. I was certain it came in handy when it came time to get out of trouble with human authorities. He could see that I wasn’t falling for his charm this time. His lips twitched, then he spun around and dashed up the stairs to his room, with me hot on his heels. I entered the room after him, slowly and deliberately closing and locking the door. I turned around and started stalking him. “You’ve been a naughty boy, haven’t you, Edward?” I murmured in a low husky voice. I saw his eyes go black with lust. He swallowed and nodded his head. “First, I’m going to interrogate you, then you may need to be punished.” He gulped and nodded again, his fingers trembling. I loved the feeling of power that coursed through me at the knowledge of how I affected him. This boy was going down, and I was going to enjoy every minute of it.

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Chapter 48: Field Day
BPOV I awoke to the sound of Rosalie’s incredulous voice. “You bought a Corvette? For yourself? Were you high on something?” she sneered at Edward, hands on her hips. He looked rather sheepish as he admitted, “Bella thinks it looks cool.” Rosalie looked at him as if he had suddenly turned purple. “You bought a car because your girlfriend thought it looked cool? Who are you and what have you done with my brother? Have you been brainwashed? What person in their right mind chooses a car solely because of it’s exterior looks?” Edward shrugged, not meeting her eye. “I know, I know. She’s got me wrapped around her little finger. Could you please just jazz it up for me? Work your magic on it?” She sighed, running her hand over her face. “Sure. I certainly can’t let you drive that around as it is. What a disgrace. Are you going to let her drive it too?” He looked guilty. Good, he should. How dare he hypnotize me and put me to sleep so he could take over driving? Humph. “I’ll let her drive around town if she wants, but she drives painfully slowly, so any drive that takes longer than ten minutes at her speed would be torturous to me. I think I could get out and walk faster,” Edward complained. Whiney baby. I choose to drive safely and obey the posted speed limit. Of course, he considers 80mph to be a snail’s pace, but even that speed terrifies me. Charlie had made certain I knew the dangers of speeding and of losing control of the car. He had shown me disturbing graphic images of various accident scenes when I was younger. Those images still haunted my nightmares on occasion. I sighed inwardly, deciding to simply face Rosie’s wrath and get it over with now. I sat up with a groan, rubbing my eyes. “Good morning, Rose. I’m sorry about the Corvette. It’s just the car I’ve always wanted since I was a little kid.” I gave Edward a glare for whining about it, and he wisely chose to leave the room, giving me some space. To my surprise, Rose laughed and gave me a good morning hug. “Don’t worry, Bella. I don’t blame you at all. If Edward had bought it for you, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I know you don’t know anything about cars, so I’m not surprised at your decision making process. I do, however, expect more from Edward. He’s old enough to know better. Yet, he has informed me that this is his new vehicle, not yours.” She shook her head in sorrowful disbelief. “Where did I go wrong?” I stared at her in horror. “Of course, he didn’t buy it for me! I don’t need a new car, I have the truck.” Rosalie grimaced, wrinkling her nose. I knew she had no positive feelings regarding my truck, but it was sturdy and cheap – perfect for an accident prone danger magnet. “Besides, I already have the use of your SUV for trips the truck can’t handle.”

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“Obviously he bought it for you, one way or another. You’re seriously going to make him keep it? He has a reputation to maintain. He can’t go from driving a Vanquish to school to driving that thing. He’ll be a laughingstock,” Rosalie protested. “Rose, the Vanquish is supposed to be a special occasion car. I can’t believe he has been parking it in a high school parking lot, leaving it vulnerable to vandalism, theft, and accidental damage. That car cost about ten times as much as Charlie’s house! Even if you allow for inflation, the Vanquish is currently worth at least three to four times more than my Dad’s whole property! As far as I’m concerned, he would be just fine with a nice Honda Civic. He has access to the SUV for trips involving more than four or five people, and he would get great gas mileage. It would certainly be a lot less ostentatious than any of the other cars you guys drive. Do you really need to flaunt your monetary status so thoroughly? I thought you didn’t want to call attention to yourselves. Do you really think a group of gorgeous fabulously wealthy young unmarried (at least in their eyes) people would ever not attract notice? You think driving a car that costs more than most people of this town make in ten years is going to help you blend in?” Rose held her arms up in front of her. “Hey, hey. Relax, Bella. If I can’t blend in, then I want to look my best while I’m sticking out.” “Like a sore thumb?” I started laughing and gave her a hug. “Rose, you know I can’t accept a Corvette. What would Charlie say?” “You won it in a sweepstakes?” “I’m not 18 yet, Rose. It wouldn’t be legal.” “Legal shmegal. We’ve never let that stop us in the past.” “Hello! My dad’s the Chief of Police!” “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You should get some breakfast now,” Rosalie declared, changing the subject. She gave me a strange look I couldn’t decipher. “I hope you like pancakes. I hope you REALLY like pancakes. And waffles.” Before I could ask any questions, she left the room. Edward strolled back in, chuckling to himself, giving me an amused grin. “What’s so amusing?” I challenged, still a little irritated. He shrugged. “It’s going to be an interesting day today. We’ve decided to have a type of Field Day with the Pack. We’re going to be competing in various events, vampires versus werewolves. You, Emily, and Kim will be the judges and umpires.” There was a large amount of excitement from everyone as they prepared for an epic battle. Carlisle, Rosalie, Emmett, Alice, Jasper, and Edward were up against Jacob, Jared, Embry, Leah, Quil, and Seth. Esme decided to help judge, both to help even up the numbers, but also so she could catch things our human eyes and ears would miss. The participants had made a raised judges’ platform for us, allowing us to look down on the field below and see more of the action. They had even created a scoreboard we were supposed to use to help them keep track of their wins and losses. They had made a nice awning for it to protect us from the weather, either sunshine or rain. The first event was the egg toss. The wolves won that one, hands down. They had a much easier time controlling their strength, as they interacted with humans all the time. Carlisle and Edward gave them a run for their money though. I couldn’t help chuckling when the egg

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splatted in Edward’s hands. He was thoroughly disgusted. Emmett and Rosalie were the first ones out. Emmett crushed it every time. They went through a dozen eggs before Emmett was willing to concede defeat. He spent the rest of the time moping and mumbling to Rosalie about practicing. She practiced ignoring him, though I think she has almost perfected it. Tug of War was a Draw, as the chain snapped as soon as both sides began pulling on it with all their might. The vampires won the High Jump and the Long Jump. The wolves won the donut eating contest. (That one was a gimmie.) Emmett gave it his best shot, trying to swallow without tasting them. He choked down a dozen before turning green and upchucking behind a bush. The vampires also won the river swimming relay, as they had the advantage of not needing to breathe. It was still fairly close though, as the La Push boys were all excellent swimmers. As lunch time approached, they all agreed to a race to Seattle and back. If the Cullens won the race, they would be the reigning champions, as the score was three to two in favor of the Cullens. If the wolves won the race, they would get to choose the final tie breaker challenge. Since Quil and Seth hadn’t phased yet, Carlisle and Rosalie agreed to sit it out, to make the race more fair. The other eight took off when I shouted “Go!” Esme, Emily, Kim and I set about preparing a delicious buffet that would be ready by the time the wolves returned. We laughed and joked, swapping stories and recipes. Emily positively glowed, radiating happiness. She looked so much happier than she had when she arrived, though she was greatly anticipating her reunion with Sam. She was both excited and scared, unsure of how he would react. Rosalie decided to begin work on the new ‘Vette while waiting for the others to finish the race, and Carlisle took the opportunity to run some texts and experiments on Seth and Quil, knowing they would phase any day now. EPOV As I felt the wind whistling through my hair, I thought about the real reason for both Field Day and this race in particular. Alice and Jasper were ready to enact their revenge. The wolves had become complacent. They no longer watched their backs or jumped at shadows. If they thought Jasper had forgotten, then they didn’t know him at all. Jasper was merely biding his time, designing the perfect revenge. See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya. Jake chanted in his head as he flew past me, in all his canine glory, gaining the lead. Later, leech. Leah flew past me on my left, running on all fours. Eat my dust, bloodsucker! Girls rule and boys drool. Especially these boys. It’s so disgusting the way they run with their tongues flapping in the breeze. What would they do if they swallowed a bug? Eww. She began gaining on Jake. I could hear Jared and Embry on my heels, running neck and neck. It was playing havoc with my instincts. I could almost feel their warm breath on the back of my neck, giving me the creeps. I had a good concept of what the humans must feel when we get too close to them. I picked up my pace, pushing myself even faster. I could hear their voices in my mind. Well, at least we finally get to chase a bloodsucker, even if we don’t get to rip him up and burn him. This is fun! Maybe we should chase them around more often. It certainly gets the adrenalin pumping. I rolled my eyes. “So glad you’re enjoying yourselves guys. It’s lots of fun to get to play ‘prey’ sometimes instead of the usual ‘predator’. Thanks so much for obliging.”
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You’re welcome! Hey, what do you say to letting us rip off your limbs for practice? You can always just glue them on again later. We promise not to burn them. Yeah, or maybe just a few bites? I wonder if you taste as bad as you smell. I growled. “Thanks, but no thanks, brothers. Losing body parts is extremely painful, and so is the entire reknitting process. And yes, I do taste as bad as I smell. So do you, so you don’t have to worry about any of us wanting to drink from you. Your blood is absolutely no temptation for us.” Hmmm. Interesting. Okay, well I guess we won’t bite your arm off then. Not even a nibble? Man, you just spoil all the fun, don’t you? I grinned at them mischievously, as they pulled up beside me. I was running at my maximum speed. I couldn’t believe all the wolves were faster than me. Good thing they were on our side. I sure hoped they’d stay that way. “No, I don’t spoil all the fun.” Sure, sure. Whatever you say. I can’t believe we’re getting our butts handed to us by a girl. I can’t believe we’re getting our butts handed to us by Leah. It’s better than losing to a leech. Yeah, you’re right. See ya, slowpoke. A few minutes later my phone began to ring. It was Alice. “Hey, Alice.” “Are they so fast that they’re already ahead of you?” “Yeah. Scary, isn’t it? I wasn’t quite expecting them to be that fast.” “Well, if they’re already beating you, then we’ll never win. We might as well go back to the house and prepare for their return.” I thought about it for a minute. She was right. I was already running at maximum speed for me. There was no way I could beat them. I stopped in my tracks. “Okay, I’m on my way back then. We’ll simply forfeit the game.” “Excellent, I’ll inform the others.” “Bye.” I ended the call and began running back to Forks. My spirits lifted in a way they only did when I’m around Bella or anticipating time with her. By the time I made it back to the house, Jasper and Alice were hard at work, gathering the materials for their simple but devious revenge. Emmett had grabbed a few egg cartons and began trying to learn to catch an egg without breaking it. Bella was busy with lunch preparations, so I decided to join Rosalie in the garage,

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to discuss the modifications she intended to make. I spent a good forty or fifty minutes comfortably that way I got the heads up when Jacob’s mind came within range. “Wolves are back!” I announced to the house as a whole. Everyone gathered out in the yard to welcome them back with cheers and applause. Leah was the first to race into the yard. We could hear that she was quite a few yards ahead of Jacob. She looked at us in confusion. What the heck? How did they get here so fast? She ran back into the woods to phase and dress. Jacob phased inside the wood line, where he had set aside his clothes and then jogged the rest of the way in human form, knowing Leah had already taken first place. He froze when he saw me and the other vampire contestants waiting for him. “No way! There is no way you went all the way to Seattle and back unless you cheated!” Jacob protested. Leah emerged from the woods and went to stand by Jacob, her face scowling with suspicion. “Relax, Jacob,” I admonished. “You are correct. When we saw how fast you all were, we knew we didn’t stand a chance, so we returned home to help prepare a hearty meal for the winners.” Jacob was taken aback when I admitted he was correct. His astonishment grew as I finished my statement. Then a pleased grin crossed his face. “Good, because I’m starving. I could eat a horse!” “You look like you already did!” Emmett teased. “I could go for a bear myself. Horses are rather bland.” Jacob laughed. “I’d rather have a few platefuls of everything on the buffet table. What a gorgeous spread!” Leah joined the other women, who all hugged her and congratulated her on being the fastest of the fast. Embry and Jared came barreling into the yard, neck and neck. “You two tied for third place,” I informed them. “Go ahead and change, and then come enjoy the bountiful food prepared for you.” They nodded their big heads and stumbled off into the woods where they had hidden their clothes. We all sat around on picnic blankets in groups of two or more, laughing and joking, giving the wolves and humans a chance to enjoy their food. Esme and Emily were in seventh heaven with so much ‘family’ around having fun. Their maternal instincts were in full throttle. Jacob stood up and called for attention. Everyone got quiet and stared at him expectantly. “We have decided on the tie breaker challenge. We have to paddle canoes five miles up the river against the current.” “You’re on!” Emmett shouted, whooping with delight. Quil quickly protested. “Wait, our guys just ran all the way to Seattle and back. Their arms are tired. They need time to rest before we start the last challenge.”

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“Fair enough,” Jasper agreed. “How about we play one more game to help settle your food, then you can take a nap? After your catnap, you can have dessert, and we’ll do the final challenge. Does that meet with everyone’s approval?” Everyone quickly agreed. “What game were you thinking of, Jasper?” Emmett asked curiously. “A form of Tag. We’ll let Leah start as It, since she won the race. The first It doesn’t count against the person starting. When you get tagged, you become It. The new It must freeze in place for three seconds to allow the former It time to get away. The second time someone tags you as It you’re out. You get to name the new It from amongst the players. Whomever is named, that turn as It doesn’t count against him or her.” “Sounds like fun,” Embry rumbled. “Okay, so basically it’s tag, but the second time somebody tags you, you’re out, and IT has to give everyone a three second head start, right?” Seth asked. “Exactly!” Jasper agreed. “Nice summary.” Seth grinned and nodded. Quil and Seth joined in the game, but both Carlisle and Esme chose to sit out with Emily, Kim, and Bella. After about twenty minutes, the ones who weren’t playing started putting away the perishable foods. After forty more minutes the game was finally called. Alice and I were the last ones left. Surprise, surprise. We accepted a tie. At this point, the wolves were exhausted after so much running. They curled up in a pile, just like real dogs, in their canine forms, resting their chins on their paws. The ground was much more comfortable to their bodies this way. I laughed at the irony of the dogs taking a catnap. Jasper and Alice let them sleep for 45 minutes. Then the gloves came off. Before the rest of the family even knew what was happening, Jasper and Alice appeared behind the wolves, holding white plastic five gallon buckets filled with a viscous fluid. In one smooth, coordinated motion, they splashed the contents all over the four wolves, who were jolted awake as the liquid hit them. Alice and Jasper set the buckets down and then rapidly escaped to the roof of the house, where they could watch the results without losing any limbs. “Jasper, Alice, what did you do?” Carlisle demanded angrily. Kim, Emily, and Esme were staring at them in shock and dismay. Bella had run over and was sniffing the buckets. “It’s syrup!” she announced. “They poured syrup on the Pack!” The wolves were growling up at the roof. “They started it, Carlisle!” Jasper defended. “Alice and I were in a private place having private mate time, and they snuck up on us, surrounded us, and then all barked at the same time. It startled the heck out of us and really killed the mood. Then they split like cowards without a word of apology. They knew this was coming. They have no right to complain. All in all, I think I went pretty easy on them, considering they got to see the two of us naked.” The atmosphere had relaxed considerably and quite a few people were laughing on both sides, understanding this was merely a prank war and not serious. The wolves had all stopped growling as soon as Jasper started to explain. They had been expecting retaliation. Now they were receiving equally disapproving glares from Esme and Emily, who weren’t happy with either group of miscreants. Carlisle looked over at the wolves, noting that none of them wanted to meet his eyes. He knew Jasper was telling the truth then, but he asked anyway, curious if they would admit it. “Is this true, Jacob, Jared, Leah, Embry? Did you play a prank on Jasper and Alice?”

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All four of them nodded their heads dolefully. Carlisle seemed to grow in his chair, as if pulling in power from the air around him. When he spoke again, his voice was full of authority, and not a single person present wished to cross him. “Well, it seems you reap what you sow. However, I do not want an escalating prank war in my house, and I will not allow it. If anything occurs to cause injury or property damage, you will all be in trouble, do you understand?” Carlisle’s voice felt like it resonated in our very souls. We all responded in the affirmative, even Esme and Emily, which one part of my brain found highly amusing. It was highly unlikely they’d be drawn into a prank war. Carlisle resumed his seat next to Esme, confident he’d gotten his point across to all of us. The male wolves were trying to lick the syrup off their fur, but from their faces, they weren’t enjoying the task. Leah was frozen in place, her voice wailing in my head. Ick, yuck. Syrup in my fur! Disgusting! Sticky, icky, yucky yuck! Get it off! Ewww. I hate it. I’m going to bite him. I swear I am. Her too. This isn’t over. We’ll just have to keep it low profile. But they will pay. My beautiful, soft, silky fur! Sticky and matted. I can’t even phase like this! Strong enough to stop a vampire, but taken out by a bucket of syrup. How ironic. Have to get this off, NOW! Yuck, yuck, yuck. Leah threw her head back and let out a loud, mournful howl. It made her feel a little better, so she did it twice more. Rosalie took pity on her and led her inside to the shower, using the hot water to melt the syrup and wash it down the drain. “Well, at least your scent of wet dog, will finally be earned,” Rosalie quipped. Leah growled halfheartedly. The rest of us laughed. Then we heard it. A sound we weren’t expecting. From off in the distance, somewhere in La Push, we heard two mournful howls responding to Leah’s. I exchanged a look with Carlisle and another with Jacob. If we don’t reply to his call, he may leave it alone. Jacob was hopeful. If he comes this way, we’ll go ahead and meet with him and explain the situation. I repeated his suggestions to Carlisle. Carlisle nodded in agreement. We have done nothing wrong. We should not have a problem. We need to get this syrup off if we are going to meet Sam. I would prefer not to explain its presence. I laughed and led Jacob inside to my bathroom. I directed the other two to bathrooms as well, starting the water for each of them. Alice took pity on them and made sure they all had new clothes to wear. Once they were all situated, I went outside to wait. The womenfolk started bringing the food inside and putting it away. I stole Bella away and danced with her around the yard, humming a tune in her ear, enjoying the feel of her in my arms. For a few minutes it was just her and me. Nobody else existed beyond the two of us.

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

Chapter 49: Sam I Am
SamPOV I was on routine patrol, mainly running around moping, while counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until my beloved Emily returned from her weekend trip with Leah. I loved hearing the sound of her voice over the phone, but it couldn’t compare with actually holding her in my arms. I felt so lonely, though Paul was always around. Paul had enjoyed having to place to ourselves at first, walking around naked like it was a bachelor pad. However, he soon missed Emily’s cooking, and by today, he had realized how much Emily’s female touch adds to our lives. I had a feeling he’d be a lot more welcoming of her presence from this day forth. That would make Emily so happy, to develop a familial relationship with Paul. She longs for the day the others change, so she can have one big happy family. I knew she couldn’t wait until she had another imprint to keep her company and share secrets with her. Whenever she called, I could tell she missed me, but I could clearly hear the joy and excitement in her voice. Every now and again she would start giggling or laughing. She wouldn’t tell me what was occurring, just that her new friends were a blast to be around. I was so happy she made new friends. I hated that our lifestyle makes it so hard for her to get close to anyone else. She was such a wonderful person, it felt like a crime to keep her so isolated. She was also really shy now because of her scars. She hated the way people stared at them. I hated the way it made us feel every time someone reminded her of them. I was positively thrilled she had found friends who didn’t make her feel self-conscious about them. When I was with her, I didn’t really see them when I looked at her. I just saw Emily herself. I refused to ignore the scars, like the elephant in the room, and would frequently assure her of my devotion and my promise to never lose control like that again, by kissing her scars. I wanted her to know I loved all of her, not just the unblemished parts. More than anything, I was thrilled for Emily to be able to be friends with her cousin again. Both of us had hated hurting Leah, but the imprint was too strong. I had to let Leah go, because my first priority would always be Emily, and that wasn’t fair to Leah. I did still love Leah and wanted her to be happy, but I knew I could no longer be the love of her life. Emily was my whole world now. I had some measure of peace with the past though, now that Leah had forgiven both me and Emily. It had broken my heart to come between them. It had been such a rough transition for both of them, yet they had both lost their lifelong best friend and confidante at the same time. They had always been so close before, only needing each other, not having much of a social circle outside of themselves. I hated being a werewolf, and I blamed the Cullens for all the pain in my life. If they hadn’t come here, my life would have stayed on track. I would have married Leah, Emily would never have been injured, and the two most important women in my life would still be best friends. Nobody would be hurt and miserable. Damn bloodsuckers ruined my life. I tensed as I heard a mournful, angry howl miles away, over the boundary line. It reverberated in my chest, rattling my ribcage. I knew that sound. It was another werewolf. One of the others must have changed while over the border! They would be feeling lost, scared, and alone, as I did my first time. I needed to go and help him. I wondered which of the boys I had been watching had been the first to change. He must be out of range, since I couldn’t hear him inside my head. As I thought about it, I heard two more howls from the same wolf. Poor guy. I raised my own howl to summon Paul. Then I howled again to let the

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other wolf know I would find him. I was surprised not to receive a reply, but figured the other wolf was likely frightened. He wouldn’t know what had happened to him and wouldn’t know if other wolves would be a good thing or a bad one. I waited for Paul to join me in wolf form. What is it, Sam? A bloodsucker? No, another wolf. I heard him howling. Oh, man. He’s probably out of his mind right now. Which way? Over the border, sounded like Cullen land. Cullen land? What if the leeches get him? He’s violating the treaty by being on their land! I know, but it’s worse. If he meets up with any of them, he will instinctively attack and they will defend. Only one of him and seven of them. He doesn’t stand a chance. If they kill him then, it wouldn’t even be a violation of the treaty as he was where he didn’t belong. I don’t care, I’d kill them anyway. Don’t be a fool, Paul. If we fight them, not only would we likely die, but then they would be free to enter La Push and feed here! We’re strong, fast, and powerful, but there are seven of them, and they have had decades to practice their fighting techniques. We cannot afford to fight a war now. We must wait until the pack is larger. Yes, you’re right. We will wait for the others before we attack. Well, we still need to go and retrieve our confused brother. I just hope we find him before they do. Let’s do it. We began racing toward the land where I had heard the howling originate, eating up the miles under our paws. This was one of the few advantages of being a werewolf – being able to run like the wind, feeling the breeze whip past me as I effortlessly sped through the forest. I knew from our legends we were even faster than the bloodsuckers. If they ran from us, we could catch them, even if they got a head start. We could rip them to pieces with our sharp fangs, werewolf and vampire teeth being the only substances strong enough to pierce stony vampire skin. Then we would burn the twitching pieces so they couldn’t grow back together. I couldn’t wait. Me neither. I soon realized the howl had come from the Cullen house itself. I hadn’t been over there as a wolf, but it was one of the things the young teens of La Push had dared each other to do before the Cullens had actually returned – to go explore the Cold Ones’ house. It was a macho, immature show of bravery. By the time I was a teenager, none of us really believed the legends were real. So it was more of a joke than an actual terror. Yet one day, the Cold Ones had returned, and the Tribal Council had forbidden all Quileutes from wandering in the woods over the border. And one day, I found out the hard way that the legends were real, as I became one of them.

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This was bad. This was very bad. I could only hope the Cullens were away this weekend. They frequently took ‘camping’ trips out of town. We needed to move as quietly as possible as we approached the house, lest we signal our presence and start an unnecessary war. We also needed to stay down wind, as they would smell us a mile away. We came close to the edge of the tree line, identifying the scent of a vampire and a human up ahead. We focused our eyes on the sources of the scents and saw a vampire holding a human in his embrace. It was the one called Edward, one of the originals on the treaty. He certainly couldn’t claim ignorance of the terms. He appeared to be dancing with a beautiful human girl, humming quietly, with nobody else in sight. Before our very eyes, he lowered her into a dip and bent over her, placing his lips against her neck. She moaned, and he began to suckle. I felt the fury rise up in me. He was feeding on a human right there in front of us! We crouched, poised to leap out of the forest, preparing to bound over there to kill the leech and save the girl, or kill her too if necessary. Then we heard a shriek that turned my heart to stone and froze the air in my lungs. Emily! Emily was inside the Cullens’ house, while one of them fed on a girl outside in the yard! Emily was shrieking for help in a house full of vampires! My whole universe came to a screeching halt. Screw the girl in the yard, I had to save Emily! GO! We pounced out of the forest and raced toward the house at full speed, intending to crash right through the door and up the stairs to the second floor. I was going to kill them all! KILL THEM! Suddenly, three vampires seemed to materialize in front of the door. The one known as Carlisle, the leader, the original; the one known as Emmett, the massive one as big and tall as me; and the new one, the scarred one. “Please, stop Sam and Paul! We mean you no harm and wish to settle this peacefully!” the leader spoke soothingly in a calm voice. I felt a strange calmness trying to creep over me, but I pushed it away. Paul and I stopped a few feet away, tense and angry, trying to figure out how to get past them. I would die if need be. “Their thoughts are full of incomprehensible rage. I can’t see past the desire to kill us.” The Edward one murmured. “Yes, they are murderously angry, full of rage, but there is also fear, agony, and despair,” the scarred one added. I heard the quiet sob sound that Emily always makes when she is anxious or distressed. THE LEECHES MUST DIE! LeahPOV I relaxed as the warm water from the shower poured down on me, slowly rinsing the syrup from my fur. I had considered phasing, had even started the process, but the millisecond the fur started withdrawing into my skin, I felt the syrup being sucked in with it. There was no way in hell I was going to live with syrup under my skin. Disgusting! I would never get clean! So I stayed in my wolf form, allowing Rose to help clean my fur. Emily joined us there in the
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bathroom and shampooed my fur for me. It felt great when she rubbed the shampoo in, like it does when the stylist at the hair salon shampoos my head and massages my scalp. But my fur was all over my body, not just on my head, so I was embarrassed to admit my animalistic appreciation to being ‘petted’ in wolf form. I knew Emmett would never let me live it down if I said anything, trying to make something sexual out of it, but in truth it was like a full body massage, like a day at the spa. Once I was fully clean and rinsed, Emily turned off the water and held out a towel. My fur hung heavy all around me, dragging at my skin. I stepped gracefully out of the tub, and Emily began to pat the fur dry, soaking up the majority of the excess water dripping off of me. After a minute or two of her careful ministrations, I couldn’t take it anymore. I pushed her away gently with my nose, tore the towel off with my teeth, and proceeded to follow my instincts to shake, shake, shake the water off my fur. I heard Emily shriek as the water droplets from my fur landed all over her, as well as the ceiling, walls, and floor. I laughed internally, both at her response and the feeling of my little tail wiggling. The air outside was suddenly filled with furious growling. I raced into the bedroom, looking for a window to see what was happening. I saw two wolves racing across the yard. Sam was here! I listened tensely to the conversation between the Cullens and the responding growls of the new wolves. I heard the sound of running feet and paws on the stairs as my pack and the other vampires raced to provide support to the team facing Sam and Paul. I stayed in wolf form so I would be able to hear the others, but Emily and I weren’t supposed to be here, so I stayed upstairs with her. When Jasper described how Sam was feeling, I heard Emily give a distressed sob, so I began phasing to my human form. Immediately after Emily sobbed, Sam roared an attack growl. “He’s reacting to Emily!” Edward shouted over the roar. I finished phasing back to my human form, and grabbed Emily’s hand. “Stop him, Emily!” I cried. To my intense relief she seemed to understand exactly what I was saying. “SAM, STOP!” she screamed. “PLEASE STOP, SAM!” Outside, everything got eerily quiet. “Please come downstairs, Emily,” Carlisle requested calmly. “Please reassure Sam that you are perfectly fine, unharmed, and here of your own free will.” “Of course, Carlisle, your family has been nothing but good to me. I will be right down. Please calm down, Sam. I have some very exciting news to share with you,” Emily responded serenely. I threw on a shirt and shorts and went to escort her downstairs. We saw Kim waiting for us in the hallway. The three of us went downstairs together. Bella came through a door from the outside and promptly joined our group. The four of us proceeded outside, working smoothly together as a unit. SamPOV The door behind the leeches swung open and more bodies started pouring outside. Three female vampires came to stand behind the males, lending support to their mates. The bigger
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shock was the three werewolves that jumped out of the house and went into defensive crouches on either side of the vampires. I was still growling angrily, but part of my brain was working in overdrive. Who were these new wolves? Why were they standing with the Cullens against us? Had they been brainwashed? It made no sense to me. “He’s reacting to Emily!” Edward shouted over my roaring. “Stop him, Emily!” Leah cried from upstairs. What were the leeches doing to them up there? “SAM, STOP!” Emily screamed. “PLEASE STOP, SAM!” I froze in place and issued an order for Paul to do the same. Then two more figures raced outside the house. It was Quil Ateara and Seth Clearwater. They both were shaking terribly and fell to the ground, beginning their first transformation right there in front of us. “Please come downstairs, Emily,” Carlisle requested calmly. “Please reassure Sam that you are perfectly fine, unharmed, and here of your own free will.” “Of course, Carlisle, your family has been nothing but good to me. I will be right down. Please calm down, Sam. I have some very exciting news to share with you,” Emily responded serenely. The Cullens had been nothing but good to her? What the heck? Was this all a dream, a nightmare? Because nothing was making sense anymore. Nothing. “Jacob!” Quil shouted in agony. “Edward!” Seth called, writhing around as his bones shifted. The huge russet wolf walked over to the changing boys and settled down on the ground between them. Edward also glided over to them. I growled menacingly. The bloodsucker had better not hurt my boys or I would take off his head myself! “Remember what Jacob told you,” Edward reminded them gently. “You’re just going through your first transformation. This is the worst one, and it gets easier from here. You’re safe, we’re all here for you, and we’ll see you on the other side. I guess this means you’ll get to participate in the canoe paddling competition after all.” What the heck is he talking about? To my shock, both the boys on the ground grinned wholeheartedly. They were grinning during their change? Were they insane? Had the Cullens been taking advantage of them somehow? Did they know some kind of black magic? I was done with speculating. I wanted Emily, and I wanted her now! Just as I thought that, she came strolling through the door, flanked by Leah, Kim, and the human Edward had been feeding on when we arrived. Except there was no wound on her neck, and she seemed perfectly fine. I looked more closely at her neck, where I had seen Edward put his mouth and noticed a hickey. A hickey? Since when did vampires give out hickeys? I concentrated on Emily, my Emily. She was glowing with happiness and excitement, more beautiful than ever before. I instantly calmed down and order Paul to stand down. I couldn’t risk Emily getting caught in the middle if we started to fight. Emily approached me confidently, her smile radiant. The Cullens all pulled away to allow her to pass through them, like the parting of the Red Sea. I held my breath as she strolled through their midst, surrounded by them. She passed through unscathed, unmolested. In fact, they all smiled affectionately at her

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as she walked by them. She reached up and caressed my wolfy face, and I leaned into her hand. She looked deeply into my eye with a magnetic intensity. “The Cullens are wonderful people, Sam. You’ve got them all wrong. There are bad vampires, who care nothing for human life, but the Cullens are like us. They’re on our side, protecting and helping the humans in the area. They don’t harm humans. They’re really not all that scary. I’ve been living here with them since Thursday, and I feel better now than I have ever felt before. I love them, and they love me. Esme and I are best friends. Dr. Cullen fixed the mess of my face that Sue was unable to repair. Just look what he did for me, for us!” She turned her head so her scarred cheek was right in front of my eye. I felt my jaw drop. My enhanced eyesight was able to see teeny tiny stitches holding her skin together. She smiled and I saw that the muscles in her cheek now pulled her mouth up properly. All the muscles and tendons in her face had been repaired. In addition, even though the lines were still the angry pink of fresh wounds, the lines were so thin that they resembled mere cat scratches. I was guessing that once they faded to white, they would virtually disappear. Now I knew I was dreaming. This was impossible. I phased back to human form without thinking. “Sam!” she squealed, quickly trying to conceal my naked body with her own. I held her closely, reveling in her embrace after days apart. Someone threw me some clothes, which I hastily donned, using Emily as a privacy shield. Then, I noticed our audience had stepped away and now surrounded Quil and Seth, giving us some privacy. “This is the craziest dream ever, sweetheart!” I laughed, spinning Emily around. She put her hands on either side of my face. “You’re not dreaming, Sam. All of this is real,” she declared. I raised an eyebrow, looking at her in disbelief. She huffed, leaned forward, and bit my bottom lip. “Ow, you little vixen,” I protested. “It’s all real!” she insisted, having proven her point. “It’s real?” I asked incredulously. She nodded firmly. “Wow!” Carlisle stepped calmly toward me, his arms up in front of him in a gesture of peace. He smiled at me. “Shall we talk?” Talk to the bloodsucker like he’s a civilized person? I looked at Emily, at her face, at her expression. I sighed in resignation. I met his caring gaze and nodded once in the affirmative. “Let’s talk.”

Chapter 50: Wolves Walking and Talking
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PaulPOV I can see where this is going. All my tribal brethren are turning traitor. They’re falling under the bloodsuckers’ spell, joining ranks with the enemy. I can’t believe Sam was stupid enough to phase to human form within striking distance of the leeches. They’ve even brainwashed Emily. Well, they’re not going to get me! I will not be a slave to the bloodsuckers! I’m out of here. I carefully slipped away while nobody was looking. I slinked into the shadows of the trees and bolted, flying on silent paws. I was vulnerable in wolf form, as Sam could force me to return against my will using his Alpha command. I put as much distance between us as I could before shifting to human form. I raced to one of our hiding spots and slipped on some clothes. I continued running to La Push, slower than a wolf, but still much faster than a human. I managed to make it to my car without anybody seeing me. I ran inside to grab some necessary items, threw them in the car, and then floored it out of the reservation. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I didn’t plan to stay around here to watch the destruction of all that I loved and held dear, or worse to participate in that destruction. We were a weak generation to be able to be turned against our own people, unlike the Protectors of old. I was disgusted with the other wolves. How could they help the bloodsuckers over the humans? What a disgrace. My cell phone rang, but I ignored it, knowing it would be either Sam or Emily. They were my family, my friends, my life since my first transformation. Now they had been sucked in by the enemy. I would come back for them. I couldn’t leave them at the mercy of the bloodsuckers, but I couldn’t afford to get sucked in myself. I needed to get away so I could think. I needed to plan my strategy. I needed help, but where could I possibly find any? EPOV This is so bizarre. I don’t know up from down anymore. I hope something starts making sense soon. “Before we talk, I want to make sure Quil and Seth are okay,” Sam declared. I can’t just abandon them when they must be so upset and confused. I need to explain to them what has happened. “Certainly,” Carlisle agreed smoothly. “Shall we, ladies?” He escorted the women inside, knowing when all the wolves phased they would be naked. Alice raced inside and came back a few seconds later with an armload of clothes. She giggled. These should come in handy. “Thanks, Alice,” I commented, smiling at her. She waved and went back inside to join the other females. I’m a wolf! I have a tail! I can run and jump and bite! I can’t wait to test out my new skills! Quil was positively ecstatic. Finally, I’ll be able to join in with everybody else. I haven’t enjoyed being in the human group. It made me feel left out, especially since my sister got to join the Pack before I did. I am so totally going to kick butt in the canoe paddling competition! Seth was please as well. “Relax, Sam. They already knew what to expect, so they’re not scared. In fact, they’re both thrilled and ready to try out their new skills,” I declared calmly, wanting to help put Sam at ease.

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Embry, Jared please escort these two into the woods and help them test their skills appropriately. I’m going to join the talk with Sam and Carlisle. Jacob requested. He didn’t like using the Alpha command unless absolutely necessary. He wanted his wolves to do things of their own free will, rather than feel forced to do their duty. He was a smart boy. He would earn their trust and loyalty much more quickly by using the Alpha command sparingly. Embry and Jared nodded their huge wolfy heads and stalked over to stand next to the young wolves. All four of them took off into the woods. I saw Sam staring after them. “Don’t worry, Sam, they’re in good hands . . . er . . . paws. When they get back in an hour or two, Jasper will help them phase back to human form if they have any difficulty.” Jasper? How will Jasper help? Sam thought in confusion, staring at my brother. “He can help calm them to the extent it’s easy for them to phase,” I explained. Jacob phased and got dressed from the heap of clothes on the bench. Jacob is the true Alpha, but he’s so young. Is he really ready to lead the Pack? Sam thought, watching Jacob carefully. We went inside, where Sam was relieved to see Emily curled up on the sofa speaking animatedly with Bella and Kim. Carlisle rose from his position beside Esme and asked us to join him in the dining room. Jasper, Bella, Leah, and Emily joined Carlisle, Sam, and me at the table. The rest stayed in the living room where they would hear everything, but would be less intimidating to Sam. Carlisle cleared his throat to get everybody’s attention. He turned to face Sam. “How would you like to start, Sam? Would you like to ask questions, and we can answer them?” Sam nodded thoughtfully. I could hear him trying to prioritize his list of questions. “Why have you had Emily here? Why did you fix her scars?” “We felt it would be a good faith gesture to your Pack to show that not only do we not wish you any harm, but we would like to share a mutually beneficial relationship. Good relationships are based on give and take, on compromise. It’s the basis for the idea of ‘You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.’ There is no need for us to be enemies. We’d prefer to be friends, family even.” Jacob was mentally picturing us all scratching his back when he was in wolf form. He was enjoying it and wished we’d do it for real. He saw me looking at him and grinned, knowing I was reading his mind. “So what is it you want from us?” Sam asked cautiously. This is the catch, the fine print. “Well, besides your friendship and companionship, we would appreciate your help fighting off rogue vampires that pass through this territory. You can continue patrolling La Push, and we will patrol the area around Forks. You are welcome to cross the border onto our land any time you wish, as long as you do not mean our family any harm. We would request permission to cross your border only under three conditions: The first is if we have been invited by someone who lives on La Push, and we are willing to inform you in advance and have a wolf escort the entire time. The second is if I am requested to perform emergency medical services for any of the wolves or other members of the tribe. Once again, I would be willing to have a wolf escort and would do my best to provide as much advance notice as possible. The third is if we are in active pursuit of a human drinking vampire, our intent being to prevent loss of human life at the hands of said vampire. We would be willing to break off pursuit as soon as you guys take up the chase, but would not want them to get away while waiting for you. We would then

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return to our lands as soon as you were in pursuit of the vampire. Would these conditions be acceptable to you?” Carlisle extrapolated. Hmmm. All of that sounds completely reasonable. It’s well thought out and offers solutions to any objections I would have raised. I’m still having difficulty reconciling these guys with the Cold Ones of our legends. Can they really be that different? Emily seems to think so. Sam wondered. He was clearly undecided and looking for the hidden catch. “Why don’t you spend a few hours getting to know us this afternoon? I think you would be better able to make an informed decision after watching our interactions with the other Quileutes and interacting with us yourself,” I suggested. He looked relieved. “That sounds like a good plan to me. I still have a few questions though,” Sam replied. Carlisle gestured for him to continue. “Why is Bella Swan here? Why was she making out with a vampire?” I’m really not cool with that. What if he slips and bites her? “She’s my soul mate,” I declared. I squeezed her hand gently and lifted it up to kiss her knuckles while smiling at her. “I would never hurt her.” “How can you be soul mates with a human? You’re not even the same species!” Sam complained. “We vampires were all human once, before being changed. Bella will be transformed one day too, but we are not in any rush for that to happen,” I answered. What? They will break the treaty if they change her! This must be the catch. Sam turned to Jacob. “And you are okay with that?” he asked skeptically. Jacob gave him an absolutely serious look, and spoke with authority. “We have already discussed the issue. Vampires imprint like wolves do. He could no more stay away from her than you could stay away from Emily. It would be devastating to both of them to separate them. I would never want Bella to be a Cold One like the ones of legend, but I have a lot of respect for the Cullens, and I don’t mind if she becomes one of them. Besides, they know how to perform the change without biting her, so we really can’t prevent it. The treaty doesn’t cover non-biting willing conversions. As far as him hurting her, there is always an inherent risk, just as there is with you and Emily, but Bella is willing to accept that risk to be with him, just as Emily is willing to accept that risk to be with you.” Sam looked floored by Jacob’s logic. “Well, when you put it that way, I have no objection either. I guess I understand a lot more than I thought I did.” He smiled down into Emily’s eyes, their love shining between them. Then he looked up and saw the same type of gaze being exchanged between Bella and me. He really does love her. They must be different. The monsters in our legends would never feel that way about a human. “Are the vampires of our legends real?” Sam wondered, starting to question everything he thought he knew. “Absolutely,” Jasper responded. “There are vampires who consider humans little more than cattle. They kill them without any guilt or remorse, feeling much as you feel when you eat a steak. Those vampires tend to be cold heartless killers with no respect for life at all, including vampire life. They dispose of other vampires just as mercilessly, like discarding a used tissue.” Hmmm. So the legends are real, but the Cullens are different. “Why are you different?”

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“We respect all sentient life, whether human, vampire, or werewolf. This sentiment has led us to choose to feed from animals rather than people. As a result, we are able to spend time around humans and keep permanent residences. We are not as hostile or volatile. This enables us to form deeper bonds than human drinkers. We consider ourselves a family, rather than a coven,” Carlisle explained. Sam nodded, allowing the information to sink into his brain and add to the framework of his knowledge. “How can I tell the difference, preferably before it’s too late?” “Human drinkers have red eyes, while animal drinkers have gold eyes. All newborns have crimson eyes, regardless of diet, but all newborn vampires are unstable and should be properly escorted. If you see a newborn on its own, consider it highly dangerous. If we have a newborn in our care for some reason, we will be sure to inform you directly, so any stray newborns you come across should be disabled immediately. You can always check in with us before you burn the pieces. If it was a mistake, we can put the newborn back together under proper supervision,” I recommended. “Jacob, you are the rightful Alpha. Are planning to take over me and Paul?” Sam asked apprehensively. I’m not sure if I want him to say yes or no. Jacob eyed Sam carefully. “I have thought long and hard about this very issue, and I have discussed it with the rest of my pack. We would prefer to keep two separate packs for logistic purposes. You probably don’t realize it, but Leah is a werewolf too.” “Leah? A female wolf? There’s nothing in the legends about that!” Sam interrupted. “I know, but it is true nevertheless. I have seen it with my own eyes, and heard her in my own head. I believe both you and Leah would be more comfortable if you two are not sharing thoughts about the intimate details of your lives.” Sam looked positively nauseous as he thought about it. He nodded in quick agreement. “Additionally, if you decide to become friends with the Cullens, Jared would like to join your pack. He is the only one in my group who has found his mate, and he would feel more comfortable in your pack, sharing his thoughts with you, since you and Emily are a mated pair.” Sam nodded. “That makes sense to me. I know I’ve unintentionally made Paul uncomfortable a few times. Poor guy. I wonder which Pack he would prefer. Speaking of Paul, where is he?” In all the excitement, he had only just noticed Paul’s absence. Jacob shrugged. “Maybe he joined my pack in the woods. When they get back, we have a little unfinished business with the Cullens. We’ve challenged them to paddle a canoe upstream against the current. It’s a race. The first one to Ichi’s rock wins the vampire vs. werewolf competition.” Sam smiled. “Do they know that is one of our traditional rites of passage in order to be allowed to take a boat out alone, so we all know this river like the backs of our hands?” Jacob grinned. “All’s fair in love and war!” He bumped fists with Sam across the table. Sam gave Emily a quick kiss and then grinned back at Jacob. “Count me in!”

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Chapter 51: Working it Out New
BPOV I was pleased to see how well everything was working out according to Edward’s and my plan. We had the wolves firmly on our side, except for Paul who had unexpectedly disappeared. I knew how to take care of Paul though. All we needed to do was introduce Jacob’s sister, Paul’s imprint, into the picture, and Paul would become peaceful and compliant, not to mention, firmly tied to Jacob. So, I wasn’t terribly concerned about Paul’s absence. I watched with amusement from my high perch as the two groups tried to work out the details of the final competition. The werewolves had decided on their teams: Jacob and Embry, Sam and Jared, Quil and Seth. Leah was angry that none of the guys wanted her on their team, seeing her as the weak link, simply because she was female. The vampire teams were: Carlisle and Esme, Jasper and Alice, and Emmett and Rosalie. Each vampire naturally chose their mate, believing they would have the best teamwork. After all, paddling a two person canoe was all about working together. If the two were not well matched, they would actually end up working against each other. Edward was frustrated, believing his mind reading skills would give him a distinct advantage in being able to work well with a partner. The wolves contended that it was good he wouldn’t be competing as he should not be able to use his advantage to win the competition. I suddenly had a great idea. “Listen up, everyone,” I shouted to the crowd below. They all stopped and looked up at me. “I’m going to introduce one final team. If my team wins, I get to make the final verdict. Agreed?” “Who’s your team?” several of them shouted up to me.

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“Edward and Leah. A vampire and a werewolf working together toward a common goal. I bet you all they will win.” They started laughing at me. “Yeah, right. Okay, sure, Bella. That’s fine with us.” I saw Edward and Leah exchange a glance and then look back at me. I motioned for them to come up and talk to me. They both climbed up the ladder and approached hesitantly. “Look, both of you have something to prove, right? Leah, are you really going to let them dismiss your strength and prowess like that? To say you’re not good enough because you’re a girl? Edward, don’t you want to show them just how useful your mind reading can be? How it can help you prevail even when your partner is someone you don’t know well and is actually your natural enemy? I have faith in you, Leah, that you are just as strong and talented as the rest of the pack, and I have faith in you, Edward, that you can decipher Leah’s intentions and accurately respond accordingly so that the two of you make the best team possible. Honestly, though, most of all, I want to show both groups that we are stronger together than we are separately. So, what do you say? Can you go kick their butts for me, and show them all that what we have all been working towards in terms of becoming one big family is the best possible choice for all of us? We are better together than apart. Besides, imagine how stupid they’ll feel when you blast by them.” Edward and Leah both grinned at me and at each other. They nodded and bumped fists. Both of them gave me a hug and a kiss on the top of my head, before enthusiastically discussing strategy on the way back down to the river. The race started and the wolves immediately took the lead, all being comfortable and familiar with the canoes, the paddles, and the river. Edward and Leah were on their heals. The vampire couples had to work harder at establishing a compatible rhythm. Carlisle and Esme were the first to get the hang of it. As the wolves pulled out in the lead, Alice was able to start using her visions again to anticipate Jasper’s moves. Once she did that, they quickly started gaining on the wolves. Unfortunately, once they got within close proximity again, Alice’s visions once more became dark. They were better than they had been now that they had at least tasted true cooperation. Emmett and Rose were having a very difficult time. They weren’t working together at all and actually started going in circles. They started yelling at each other, each blaming the other for their lack of progress. Jasper sent them a wave of calm to counteract their anger, and then sent them a wave of lust, just for fun. “Screw the canoe competition!” Rosalie griped. “Let’s go find someplace private.” Emmett had a sudden epiphany. “No, Rose, that’s it! It’s just like sex! If we don’t bump and grind at the same time, it’s awkward and ineffective. Our thrusts have to be matched to the same rhythm. Think about last night. We’ll go through the memory at the same time, and match our paddle strokes to our hip thrusts. That’ll have us matching rhythms the way we do best!” Rose got a big grin on her face. “Brilliant, Emmett! We are rather talented at matching our rhythms together, aren’t we? Let’s do it!” They began thrusting their paddles through the water in perfect synchrony. Their eyes were glazed over, and it was clear to observers that half their minds were elsewhere. They started out slow and steady. Stroke . . . stroke . . . stroke . . . stroke . . . stroke. After a few minutes, the pace increased. Stroke stroke stroke stroke stroke stroke. After a few more minutes, their paddles were blurs. Strokestrokestrokestrokestroke.

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They were both breathing hard by that point, seemingly unaware of anyone else around them as they pursued their goal with single-minded focus. As they neared the finish line, their paddles were moving at maximum vampire speed, faster than the human eye could process. As they crossed the finish line, they both screamed out “Yeessss! Oohh, yeessss! Yes, yes, yes!” With a few final strokes, they let the canoe glide gently over to the bank. Both of them seemed a bit spent, as Emmett jumped to the bank, pulled the canoe out of the water, gently picked up Rose into his arms, cradled her close to his chest, and reverently kissed her lips. Both of them moaned a contented sigh. Only then did they become aware of their audience, all of whom were caught between disgust and amusement. Emmett shrugged and grinned. “Hey, it worked, didn’t it?” We all started laughing. To my immense satisfaction and everyone else’s surprise, Edward and Leah easily took first place. The combination of skill, talent, speed, strength, and knowledge won the day. Jacob and Sam and Emmett and Rose tied for second place. Jacob and Sam could have won if they hadn’t gotten distracted by watching Emmett and Rose at the end, but then again, Emmett and Rose could have won if they had used their technique from the start of the race. I was happy it had turned out the way it had. “Okay,” I announced. “I hope this shows you all that werewolves and vampires are fairly evenly matched. Each side has strengths and weaknesses. Each individual brings different skills, gifts, and talents to the table. We are better together than we are apart. We may not need each other, but we are better off with each other than without.” I could hear the murmuring of the crowd as they commented on my observations. I could only hope they were agreeing with me. “So, we need to accept each other as equals, as friends, and as family, and stop trying to one up each other all the time. Mix it up. I’ve been thinking about it, how we can identify one another as needed. All of us together are the Forks family. The vampires plus me are the Cullen family. Sam, Jared, Emily, Kim, and Paul are the Push Pack. Jacob, Embry, Quil, Leah, and Seth are the Black Pack. Additionally, Emily, Kim, Angela, Ben, and I are part of the People Pack. What do you think?” Thankfully, everyone seemed to agree with me, and we went our separate ways in peace and harmony. I was happy to be alone with Edward for a while. We had been spending so much time and energy into forging this alliance and making sure it worked, that we hadn’t had as much couple time as I would have liked. Edward was on the same wavelength. “Alone together at last,” he whispered into my ear. “Whatever shall we do?” I grinned up at him and gave him a gentle kiss on his smiling lips. “It’s getting late. I need to get back to my house, fix dinner, and make sure I have everything ready for school tomorrow.” He groaned as he rubbed up against me. “How about we go pick something up for dinner, my treat? Then we’ll have a little extra time to concentrate on each other.” My first thought was to protest, but a little voice in my head reminded me that I was supposed to be learning to accept gifts. Plus, I really, really wanted to have that extra time with him as much as he did, so I gave in gracefully. We picked up some Chinese food in town and had everything laid out and ready when Charlie got home. Charlie was thrilled, as I never usually picked Chinese. It wasn’t one of my favorites, and I never realized my father had a taste for it. I felt a bit guilty. After all, I personally disliked rice, which made many dishes unappetizing to me right off the top. Charlie didn’t share my aversion however, and had missed it a bit, for in truth, I rarely used it in my recipes. I preferred using shredded tortillas instead. After dinner, I quickly got caught up on my homework and prepared everything for school the next day. As I finished my nightly routine, Edward appeared through the window. He shut the window behind him and joined me in my bed. I had turned on the electric blanket when I first

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got upstairs, so the bed was already nice and toasty warm. We snuggled close together and talked about how we felt the day had gone and what we felt the Forks family should do next. “Our next major issue is the baseball game and the nomads,” Edward mentioned worriedly. “I had planned to take you out of state at the time, but after the van accident, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to try to completely avoid the situation. I hate the idea of you in danger though.” “I think we should invite the wolves to join us in our game of baseball. Then, when we know the nomads are close, we’ll have the wolves hide in the woods down wind. As soon as the three nomads get close, the wolves will move into place to surround them. You and I will stay back behind the other Cullens. Once the nomads are surrounded, both groups will attack, kill James and Victoria, and let Laurent go find Irina. I think it is possible that without Victoria to draw him a way, he would have eventually gotten comfortable with the Denali’s lifestyle, and I would hate to deprive Irina of the chance to have a mate,” I suggested. “I’m not sure about letting Laurent go, love. In Meyer’s book he tried to kill you.” “I know, but he wouldn’t have left Irina if Victoria hadn’t guilted him into it.” “We all have choices to make. His choice in that universe demonstrates a weakness of character I cannot like.” “The same could be said of you, dear Edward, on multiple occasions in that universe. Laurent had nothing against me personally and would never have come after me without Victoria’s interference. Besides, this time around you’re not going to leave me alone and defenseless, right?” Edward looked rather embarrassed by my arguments. He couldn’t deny them. “Laurent deserves a chance to change his ways. Maybe this time around, with witnessing the deaths of James and Victoria and our alliance with the wolves, he’ll be more determined to join us, through the Denali coven, rather than defy us. If he sees you in a position of power fighting and winning, rather than running and hiding, he will have more respect for you and a stronger desire to imitate your lifestyle.” Once again, he agreed with my arguments. I was thankful I was so much less intimidated by him, knowing he wasn’t perfect and was just as in love with me as I was with him. It allowed me to come into my own, to express my thoughts and ideas without fear of being rejected or belittled. One of the best results was the respect I was garnering. I knew that without the confidence I now had that my relationship with both Edward and the Cullens would last forever, I would be much too shy and intimidated to express my thoughts so freely. Knowing the kind of person Stephenie Meyer had predicted I would become, someone strong enough to take on the entire Volturi family and guard without flinching, helped me to grow into that person so much faster. I expected myself to be strong and confident, due to the account I had read of my stand off with the royal vampires over my daughter’s health and safety. Having those expectations of myself helped create a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I became the person I expected myself to be. Why did I always go off on these deep meaningful tangents at bedtime anyway? To lighten things up, I decided to joke around with Edward a bit. “So, Edward, as the youngest baseball player in your family, does that make you the ‘bat’boy?” He raised an eyebrow. “You seriously thought that was amusing?” I glared at him. “Well, yeah. I don’t think a little vampire humor is amiss.”

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He sighed, resting on his back and throwing his arms over his eyes. “Fine, give me your best shot.” “Is this going to be like Rosalie is with blonde jokes? Are you going to be a spoilsport?” He peeked at me out from under his arm, before covering his eyes again. He nodded his head. “Probably. I think Emmett has already told about every vampire joke in existence.” “A challenge! You’ve issued me a challenge!” He groaned and shook his head. “Heaven help me.” I laughed. “Suffer, batboy. You didn’t laugh when you should have. Hey, wait a minute. Does that have anything to do with Emmett’s obsession with Batman – you know, the whole vampire/bat thing?” Edward pursed his lips but refused to say anything. “Okay, so since we’re dating now, does that make me your ghoul friend?” He groaned. I smiled. This was fun. “Or are you happy with your ‘bat’chelor status.” He groaned louder, but his lips twitched a bit. “I’m not a supermodel or anything. I’m just the girl necks door.” He actually chuckled a little at that one, before quickly suppressing his amusement. “I’m glad you’ve got such good self-control. If you’d lost control when we first met, we could easily have suffered love at first bite.” He frowned at that one. Hmm, okay, take that one out of the comedy routine. If Emmett, Rosalie, and Jacob were competing, I figured I wanted a chance too. “What’s your favorite holiday, Halloween or Fangsgiving?” He simply shook his head. Gotta toss that one too I guess, rats. “So tell me how does sheep blood taste? Is it baaaaad?” He grinned at that one. Ah, a keeper! “I’m kind of surprised you prefer mountain lions. I would have thought your favorite animal would be the giraffe. Badumpum.” He shook his head, but he was smiling, so I knew it was still a good one. Okay, so one more. “So, now that the wolves are friends with the vampires, do you think we should call them blood hounds?”

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Edward started laughing. Yes!! I did it! I got him! He removed his arm, placing it around me instead, so he could look me in the eye. “Not to their faces!” he replied with a grin. I laughed too. We enjoyed a few kisses before I finally had to give up the fight and let sleep take me. As I started to drift off, I thought about Mike and wondered what the repercussions would be at school tomorrow. I listened to Edward humming my lullaby and figured he’d see me through it no matter what. So with a happy smile and a peaceful heart, I drifted off in the arms of the one I love.

Chapter 52: Back to School
BPOV We were sitting around the lunch table, waiting for Edward to explain what had happened with Mike/Michelle on Friday night. The poor boy had been having a rough morning. Almost every kid in the school had seen the Youtube video, and those that hadn’t watched it on their friends’ internet enabled electronic devices, such as cell phones and palm pilots. Mike had been getting propositioned and jeered on all sides, being called Michelle most of the time. Even the teachers seemed to be having a hard time keeping a straight face as they tried to maintain order and address him as Mike. I was starting to feel bad for Mike, despite what he had done, and it was clear Angela was upset as well. “How could you leave him with Jessica and Lauren like that?” she demanded of Edward. Edward shrugged. “He confessed to having been a Peeping Tom for several of their slumber parties, and he got much more of an eyeful there than he did at our house. I felt it was only fair for the girls to dispense their own justice, though I didn’t tell them what he had done.” Rose appeared outraged on behalf of females everywhere at the news. Edward hadn’t told anyone else about that. “Bastard got what he deserved,” she muttered angrily. Angela had been appropriately shocked and appalled at the news. She took a few moments to collect herself. Then she realized that she herself had attended some of their slumber parties, and her anger grew. “You mean that jerkoff has spied on me before and seen me in my nightclothes?”

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Edward nodded, giving her a sympathetic look. “On second thought, I want to thank you, Edward, for what you did. I believe what comes around goes around. He’s just finally getting what comes to him.” Everyone at the table agreed, given the new information. It was past time for Mike to learn his lesson. “Okay, so tell us all the juicy details from Friday night, Edward,” Emmett coaxed. “We want the inside story from Jessica’s and Lauren’s viewpoints.” Edward grinned. “Okay here goes: Jessica recognized Mike almost immediately, despite the makeup, due to her enduring crush on him. She told Lauren, and the two of them began hatching evil plots. They helped him into Jessica’s living room and sat him on the couch. He was still a bit groggy, but starting to come out of it. He recognized them, but didn’t realize his own clothing was amiss. Jessica set up the video camera, while Lauren distracted him. Once it was recording, Jessica put on some music and then asked Mike to perform a strip tease. He eagerly agreed, but halted in confusion when he realized he was wearing a dress. At that point, he decided he must be having a vivid dream, as he couldn’t recollect dressing that way or going over to Jessica’s house. Upon deciding he was dreaming, he really cut loose, releasing all his inhibitions. He performed the strip tease until he was down to his boxers. The girls told him to stop and leave them in place. He was disappointed, but complied. Then the girls told him he shouldn’t have been wearing panty hose with hairy legs. They insisted he shave his legs. They provided him with shaving cream and a razor and sat down to watch. Figuring it was a dream, albeit a strange one, he complied. The strip tease was caught on tape and posted on YouTube, but the leg shaving was not. Now Mike is dreading gym and is desperately trying to come up with excuses not to dress in his gym uniform, knowing the shorts will expose his remaining secrets. Jessica and Lauren teased him a bit more, making him say all kinds of silly things, which they managed to record, but are saving for a later date. Then Jessica kindly took him to pick up his SUV, which was parked at the bar where I left it. He drove himself home in nothing but boxers, tucked himself into bed, and slept peacefully for the rest of the night. Jessica and Lauren have been spreading the story of how Mike’s lover left him at the bar, and he was so distraught that a neighbor, not recognizing him in drag, had brought him to her house, as he kept saying her name. That pretty much sums it up and brings us up to speed.” Alice’s eyes glazed over as she processed a vision. She came out of it with a huge grin, one that was matched on Edward’s face. “Okay, what is it?” I asked impatiently. Obviously, something hilarious was going to happen soon. “Everybody meet up outside the back door of the gym right after school lets out, okay?” Alice suggested. Everyone except Angela and Ben started grinning and nodded their acceptance of the plan. “Why?” Angela asked in confusion. “You won’t want to miss the show!” Alice exclaimed excitedly. With that as her final note, she dumped her uneaten food in the trash and danced off to class with Jasper at her side. Rosalie and Emmett also chose to head out of the cafeteria. The rest of us stayed a few more minutes to finish eating, before heading off to Biology.

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“What show?” Angela asked me as we walked to our building. “Angela, have you noticed anything special about Alice?” I asked cautiously. “You mean how she always seems to know things? How she gives you things before you ask, how she answers the phone before it rings, that sort of thing?” I had to give Angela credit. She was more observant than the Cullens had realized. I saw Edward looking at her in surprise. Apparently, she had even kept her suspicions on the subconscious level whenever she was around us for him to have missed them. I nodded. “Exactly. Well, she sometimes gets strong vibes about things, and she’s always right! So, if she thinks something interesting is going to happen behind the gym after school, then she is most likely correct.” In biology, the teacher put on a movie. It was a boring one about cells that I had already seen in Phoenix, so I took advantage of the time to have a little fun with Edward. I looked over at him as soon as the teacher rolled the TV cart into the room. He gave me his crooked grin, and I knew he was operating on the same wavelength. As soon as the lights were out, we scooted our chairs together until our thighs were touching. He slipped his hand on my knee, and I slipped mine on his. He slowly started rubbing circles on the inside of my leg, and I copied his behavior. He clapped his legs together to stop my hand from moving, so I did the same. He smirked down at me, since my legs were not strong enough to stop his movement, but he had effectively trapped my hand between his. “No fair!” I breathed, knowing he would hear me fine, but no one else in the class would. “Someone once told me life isn’t fair,” he whispered directly into my ear. I shivered at the feel of his lips and cool breath on my ear. I dug my fingers into his leg, where he had my hand trapped and he chuckled. “Release my hand!” I demanded under my breath. “Sorry, beautiful, but I’m keeping it prisoner,” he teased. “That’s kidnapping!” I protested, pretending to be upset. “Actually, I think it’s handnapping. Besides, the hand was trespassing.” “Your hand is trespassing!” “Ah, but your traps are not as good as mine,” he taunted, sliding his hand further up my leg, halfway between my knee and my private area, and resumed rubbing in circular patterns. “Release my hand, or I’ll call the cops,” I mock threatened as my heart rate increased. “Charlie’s busy right now. If you want your hand back, you’ll have to pay the ransom,” he replied slyly. My imagination immediately went running wild. “What’s the ransom?” I asked, blushing heavily. His grin took on an evil tilt as he waggled his eyebrows. “Do you agree to pay it?” “I don’t know what it is. I’m not agreeing to paying a ransom that I don’t know what it is,” I protested.

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“Then I guess I’m keeping this hand,” he murmured, squeezing it gently between his legs. “Mine doesn’t reattach so easily if you remove it,” I griped. “Who said anything about removing it?” “So I guess you’ll be going into the girls’ bathroom with me then?” I arched a brow. Yeah, that’ll be the day. “What makes you think you’ll be able to go anywhere?” I growled very quietly in frustration. “I’m going to tell your mommy on you,” I threatened. He laughed under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear. “Is that the best you can do? Isn’t that something a first grader would say?” I mock punched him with my other hand, not wanting to injure myself. I knew another one that usually worked with first graders. “I’ll be your best friend . . . .” I promised. He looked at me in amused disbelief. “Alice would be so disappointed.” “C’mon,” I whined, tugging on my hand. “I want it back. Don’t make me throw a temper tantrum. I can regress even further, you know.” He started edging his hand higher on my thigh, subtly like I might not notice. “Are you ready to pay the ransom?” he asked, his velvet voice tickling my insides. “What’s the ransom?” “If you give your word of honor to pay it, I’ll tell you what it is on the way home. I’ll release the hostage to you on my faith that you will keep your word.” This was insane! Who would take a deal like that? It would be like handing him a blank check. At least it was Edward and not Emmett. Making that kind of deal with Emmett would be tantamount to suicide. Did I trust Edward to make his prize a reasonable one? Did I trust him not to take advantage of me? I didn’t like those questions. They made me insecure. I realized there was another way to look at it though. Truthfully, was there anything I wouldn’t do for him if he asked me to do it? That one was pretty easy to answer. I would do anything for him, even if he did take advantage of the situation. That was my answer. “Okay, Edward, I give you my word of honor to pay your ransom demand,” I agreed resignedly. He opened his legs just enough for me to withdraw my hand. “Muahaha, I’ve got you now, my pretty!” “And my little dog too?” I asked, recognizing the line from the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. “Let’s leave Jacob out of this, shall we?” he drawled.

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I giggled. “I don’t think he counts as a little dog. More like massively huge.” He smirked. “I know how to take your mind off of him,” he tormented, brushing his knuckles against the crease in my jeans. I gasped and closed my legs tightly around his hand, but that only increased the sensation. I felt myself lubricating and saw him sniffing appreciatively, wearing his crooked smile. I got lost in his eyes and clutched his arm with my hands. “What were we talking about?” he asked, lightly brushing his lips against mine. “Hmmm?” I moaned, unable to concentrate. I shrugged. I was sure it wasn't important whatever it was. He chuckled at my air of distraction. Suddenly, he turned my head to face the television, put my hands on the table, withdrew his hand from between my thighs, put both of his hands on top of the table, and stared fixedly at the television. All of that only took a second or two. My mind was still whirling, trying to process what had happened, when I saw the teacher get up quietly and start to make a circuit of the classroom. He nodded approvingly at us as my eyes met his. He noted our proximity, but also saw both of our hands up on the table in plain view and smiled benignly. He continued his patrol and caught another couple doing things similar to what we had been doing just moments before. They didn’t have the advantage of mind reading on their side, so they were caught red handed and red cheeked. He sent them to the office with a referral of inappropriate PDA (public display of affection). I breathed a sigh of relief that we weren’t the ones making that walk of shame. I definitely didn’t want to have to face Charlie if I ever got one of those. “I knew there was some reason I wanted a mind reading super fast vampire boyfriend,” I teased. “Guess it does come in handy sometimes after all.” He grabbed my hand and intertwined his fingers with mine. “Careful, my dear. It wouldn't be wise to provoke me before I collect my ransom.” I stuck my tongue out at him. He chuckled again and whispered, “Don't stick it out unless you intend to use it.” Quick as a wink, I leaned over and licked his neck, following the lick with a love bite. He growled lightly in response to the sensation. Then he looked down at me with a superior expression and quipped, “Stop being such a pain in the neck.” “Bite me, batboy,” I growled in response, hiding my amusement. “Oh, I will,” he promised seductively. “Believe me, I have every intention of fulfilling that request.” “Promises, promises,” I snarked. He leaned over to me and snapped his teeth right below my ear. “If you play with fire, expect to get burned,” he warned. “Well, I am a danger magnet,” I replied saucily. “With no sense of self-preservation.” He grinned. “That you are, my dear, that you are.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

A few minutes later, the bell rang and we headed off to our next class. Edward escorted me to the gym, as usual. He caressed my cheek and lightly pressed his lips to mine. “I look forward to seeing you after school. I hate to be parted from you, but you're always in my thoughts. Think of me too, love,” he murmured against my lips. I returned his kiss with all the love in my heart. “I always do,” I whispered as he took a step back. I watched him walk gracefully backwards to his class before slipping into the locker room to change into my gym uniform. Poor Mike had a tough time of it when everyone saw his bare legs. Several of the guys whistled at him, making him blush. To his credit, he ignored everyone and tried to pretend there was nothing amiss. The PE teacher soon had everyone settled down and busy, and Mike got a temporary reprieve from the teasing. As soon as gym let out, I took the back door out of the locker room. Edward was already there waiting. Alice and the others soon joined us, and Alice showed us where to stand. A few minutes later, Mike came out of the back door of the boys locker room. Before he got more than ten feet away from the gym, another boy exited from the same door Mike had. His name was Shawn Adams, and his father was one of the local ministers. Shawn was quiet and reserved, but he was oddly feminine for someone 6'4” tall and 220 pounds. He looked like he ought to be on the football team, but he preferred the drama club. Mike was visibly upset by the difficult day he had today, and he didn't even notice Shawn behind him. Shawn grabbed Mike before he reached the corner of the building and wrapped him in a hug. “Don't let them upset you Mike. You have nothing to be ashamed of here. You should be proud of who you are. After all, it's not a choice, you're born this way. I'll help you through it.” Mike pulled back and looked up at Shawn in surprise. “Thanks, Shawn. At least somebody is on my side.” Shawn grinned at him, grabbed his face with both hands, and passionately kissed him. As soon as he let go, Mike stumbled backward in shock. His mouth was moving, but no sound came out. Shawn took the initiative again, and threw his arm around Mike's shoulders. “Don't worry, Mikey. Anybody who wants to hurt you has to come through me first, and I don't let people mess with my boyfriend,” Shawn promised. We could hear Mike's panicked whimpering, but he made no move to correct his protector. As soon as they were out of hearing distance, we all burst out laughing. “Looks like Michelle has found herself a man!” Rosalie exclaimed with amusement. “Living proof that even ugly people can get dates.” “Well, we can't all be drop dead gorgeous like you are, Rose,” I complained. “Besides, I think Edward and I already prove that theory.” “Yeah, Edward is pretty ugly, at least compared to me,” Emmett teased. “Why, Bella, I feel quite insulted. Who knew you secretly considered me ugly?” Edward continued. “Get real!” I protested. “Obviously, I am the plain one.” “If you're trying to make me feel better, it isn't working,” Edward grumbled. “We all know you're the beauty, so I guess that makes me the beast.” I shook my head. He was so silly sometimes. “Fine, you're the beast. You do realize that as soon as the girl loved him he turned into a handsome prince, right?”

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Changing the future

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He grinned. “I thought it was when she said she loved him and then gave him a kiss. Maybe you should try that.” Before I could agree, Alice interrupted our banter. “Yes, he has been a veritable beast for a long time, but ever since he met you, he's gradually becoming human again. Way to go, sis, for taming the wild and savage beast.” We all snickered at that as Edward gave a bow to his sister. “Thank you, thank you, you're too kind. No really, thank you, thank you.” He was really hamming it up. Emmett was watching him in awe. “Dude, I never realized you actually have a sense of humor! Where on earth have you been hiding it?” On that note, we all left to go home. Angela and Ben stopped to thank Alice for the show. “I wouldn't have wanted to miss it!” Angela admitted with a twinkle in her eye. On her way to her car, she gave Jessica a Cheshire grin, reveling in the knowledge that she had a juicy tidbit of gossip that Jessica would have killed to get her hands on, but that she had no intention of sharing with her. Jessica stared after her with a frown, wondering what Angela knew that she didn't. She looked at us and our smirks and knew we knew something interesting and newsworthy, but that we didn't intend to tell her. She nearly tore her hair out in frustration. Ahhh, the pleasures of being a Cullen.

Chapter 53: The Ransom
BPOV I sat nervously in the car next to Edward, waiting for the sword to fall. He stared straight ahead with a smug smile on his face, thought I knew he was watching me from the corner of his eye. I fidgeted in my seat, getting more and more anxious as the minutes ticked by, and he seemed to be getting some sick sense of pleasure out of my agitation. He must have been taking pranking lessons from Emmett. I expected this sort of torture from Emmett, but this was a first for Edward. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “What is the ransom?” I blurted, clenching my fists. He started chuckling, eyeing my heaving chest, my red face, and my sparkling eyes. “You’re beautiful when you’re agitated,” he murmured smoothly. I growled, not appreciating his amusement at my expense. He gave me his innocent cherub expression, and I couldn’t help smiling. I forgot for a second and got lost in his melting pools of liquid topaz. I forgot everything but him and how much I loved him and enjoyed being in his company.

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“Breathe, Bella,” he whispered with an amused smirk. I took a deep breath and blinked. The blink cut off the connection long enough for me to drop my gaze. After a few more seconds, my reasons for being upset came rushing back to me. “No fair dazzling me, Edward Cullen!” I raged. “Stupid gorgeous vampire.” “But you were dazzling me,” he protested with a grin. “I figured turnabout was fair play.” I scoffed. “I don’t dazzle you!” “Oh, but you do, my dear,” he declared quietly, completely serious this time. “You make me forget everything and everyone until I want nothing more than to give you the moon.” “Really?” He gave me a half smile, but it wasn’t amused. “Really. I don’t think you have any idea what you do to me or how much power you actually wield over me. I’m not sure I want you to know either. You are a very dangerous creature, my Bella. I do believe you will be the death of me.” At first, I was intrigued and enamored of the idea of wielding power over him. I wanted to experiment with that power, mainly in the age old way of women conquering the devotion of the men they love. With his last statement though, I became instantly angry. “I can’t be the death of you, Edward, as you are already dead!” I spat, hissing like an angry kitten. He smiled patiently at me. “Actually, love, I believe you will be the death of the ‘me’ I was before I met you. Everybody seems to prefer the new Edward Cullen anyway, including me. I’m definitely a lot more fun to be around. I’m even better than the Edward in Meyer’s books. Don’t you think?” I thought about how overprotective and annoying that Edward could be. Obsessed with keeping me human, obsessed with maintaining strict boundaries, always keeping secrets from me. Yes, this Edward was much better, but I didn’t want to feed his ego too much. “Perhaps,” I allowed. “But I still see some room for improvement.” He grinned. “Just like a woman. Ask Esme, and I’m sure she’ll tell you that she loves Carlisle more than anything else, that he is absolutely perfect, but that he still has room for improvement. Try to narrow her down on what exactly he needs to improve, and she’ll just narrow her eyes and tell you it’s none of your business. For the first fifty years, she could always come up with an answer to that question, and he would always work on whatever it was, but now she will never tell. She slipped once in her mind though. She loves him just the way he is and ran out of complaints, but she doesn’t want him to get complacent and take her for granted.” “Humph!” I grumped. “I wonder how many decades it’ll take you to get to that point. Carlisle was pretty perfect already by the time he and Esme got together. It looks like you’ll be busy for next several centuries.” He laughed at my complaint. “Just be glad you’re not with Emmett.” I paled and gulped at the thought. “Poor Rose! She’s going to have answers for millennia!”

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Changing the future

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He laughed again. I noticed we bypassed the turn to go to my house. Later, I noticed we bypassed the turn for his house. “Where are we going?” “To the meadow. I thought we could use a little alone time together.” He heard my heart rate increase, as I released an anticipatory moan. He wagged his finger at me. “Not like that, my wanton fiancé. I wanted to be able to talk to you without being interrupted or overheard.” He could see the huge look of disappointment cover my face. He reached over and gently squeezed my leg. “Though I suppose if you’re a really good girl, we might find time for other things as well.” I grinned at him and arched my brow. “Other things.” “Hmmm, yes perhaps we’ll do a little cloud watching, or pick wildflowers,” he suggested with amusement, trying to push my buttons. “Or perhaps we’ll just make mad, passionate love under the clouds on top of the wildflowers,” I countered smoothly. I saw him swallow heavily at my words and shift in his seat uncomfortably. Hah! Two could play this game. I could torture him as much as he tortured me. He groaned. “Bella, you know I don’t want to go that far until we’re married.” “Are you going to play the whole chastity card again? Because as far as I’m concerned, once we’ve made our vows to one another in front of witnesses, then we are married. The Bible doesn’t say anything about requiring a big ceremony or a piece of paper to make it official.” “Bella, are you forgetting how fertile we are together?” “Have you ever heard of birth control?” “It’s not 100% effective, and I doubt any of it has been tested against vampire sperm.” “True. Hmm. Vampire sperm. Think how fast those little suckers must swim. Not to mention how strongly they would attack the membrane around the egg. Have you ever studied them under a microscope? Do they look like human sperm on steroids? Do they look like human sperm stuck on fast forward? Do they look like human sperm at all?” He gave me an odd look. “I’ve never thought to study it,” he admitted, looking a bit uncomfortable. I started bouncing in my seat, rubbing my palms together. “Oooooh, I can’t wait to talk to Carlisle! What time does he get home tonight? We are going to have so much fun! Finally, we can bond over something other than me getting injured and him fixing me.” His discomfort increased significantly. “You’re planning on bonding with Carlisle by studying the characteristics of vampire sperm with him?” “Yep,” I replied, nodding eagerly. “And where exactly were you planning on getting this vampire sperm?” he asked pointedly. I blushed. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. “Weeellll, I suppose I could help you provide a sample for us,” I suggested calmly.

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Changing the future

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He choked and started coughing. “Excuse me?” “You heard me,” I accused grumpily. “I don’t need to repeat it.” “Have you lost your ever-loving mind?!” he shouted. I glared at him, folding my arms across my chest. “You want me to provide a sample of my reproductive substances so you and my father can play with it? Do you realize how sick that is?” I glared at him some more, but he didn’t back down. “Fine! I’m sure Emmett will be all too willing to help us out in the name of science.” “What?! No way! NO freaking way! You are not going to ask Emmett to give you his sperm! Are you utterly insane?” He was practically frothing at the mouth. “No, but I think you are,” I sneered. “Are you sure you didn’t drink from an animal with rabies on your last hunt?” He stared at me in shock, opened his mouth and then shut it again. He pulled to a stop at the end of the road leading toward the meadow. He rubbed his hands over his face and took a few deep breaths. “How about we talk about this idea later, okay? This isn’t the discussion I brought you here to have,” he begged, willing me to let it go for now. I didn’t want to fight with him either, especially during one of our few alone moments. I smiled at him. “Sure, honey. Let’s go ahead and get to the meadow. This other discussion can wait,” I agreed. He gave me my favorite crooked smile. “Thank you, Bella. Besides, I still have a ransom to collect.” My heart beats started pounding in staccato. “Mmmm. So you do, Mr. Cullen, so you do.” We got out, and he helped me onto his back. The speed still made me nervous, so I closed my eyes and tucked my head into his shoulder. In no time at all, we were there in the beautiful, peaceful place that was our favorite getaway spot. He spread out a blanket for us to sit on, and gestured for me to have a seat. I smiled my thank you, then grabbed his hand and pulled him down with me. I knew he wouldn’t have budged, no matter how hard I pulled, if he didn’t desire it, so I gave him a kiss once he was on my level again. He grinned and kissed me back. After a minute or two, I pulled back and looked at him through my lashes. “So, Mr. Cullen, it appears we have some business to conduct. A little matter of ransom?” He grinned again. “Indeed so, Miss. Swan. I have thought long and hard about what I wish to ask for in return for your hand. Several of my ideas would definitely spark your blush, my dear, but I don’t ever want to have physical intimacy be a bargaining chip between us. Rose does it all the time with Emmett, and I feel like it demeans the act and the feelings behind the act. It boils it down to a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded. I want our physical acts of intimacy to always be freely given expressions of our love for one another, never forced or obligated or withheld purely out of spite. I then considered asking you to accept the Corvette as your own and donate the truck to Leah.” I started shaking my head. He smiled knowingly.

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Changing the future

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“I guessed you would balk at that idea, though it would be nice. I then thought about deciding that for an entire month I could spend money on you to my heart’s content, anytime, any amount, anywhere, and you would agree not to utter a single complaint.” I grimaced hoping he hadn’t decided on that one. He laughed at my expression. “You look like you just swallowed a bug. Finally, I decided I want you to agree to the whole Prom experience, not just no complaints, but actively trying to enjoy it.” It was my turn to look at him like he was crazy. “Define the ‘whole Prom experience’.” “The fancy clothes, the fancy dinner, the fancy car, the dance itself, the pictures, and the after-Prom party.” “What about the other Prom tradition?” I asked carefully. He was confused. “What other Prom tradition?” I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure you’ve heard it in others’ thoughts. Have you seen the movie American Pie?” He thought about it for a minute or two before his expression darkened. “Isabella Marie Swan, we’ve already had this discussion. You and I will be signing the Prom promise cards. That is part of the whole Prom experience.” “What are the Prom promise cards?” “The cards they pass out at school before the prom, on which you give your written promise to abstain from sexual activity on prom night.” “They really have those?” “Yes, they do. I’ve seen them at the past three high schools I’ve attended.” “Bummer!” He growled at me. “It is not a ‘bummer’.” He started singing, “We don’t have to take our clothes off to have a good time. Oh, no. We could dance and party all night and drink some cherry wine. Uh,huh.” I giggled. “So you’re going to drink some cherry wine?” He rolled his eyes. “Of course not.” “So you’re going to let me drink cherry wine?” He frowned. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.” “Oookaaay, so the song doesn’t really apply, does it?” He growled again. “So change it to cherry soda.” I snickered. “Then it wouldn’t rhyme.”
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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

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“Well, time and wine don’t rhyme anyway, so who cares?” “Soda has too many syllables. It throws off the rhythm.” “So change it to lime. Time and lime both rhyme and it has only one syllable.” “Drink some cherry lime?” “Yes.” “That doesn’t make sense.” “It’s short for cherry lime juice. Or cherry limeade.” I just stared at him. He shrugged defensively. “What difference does it make?” he asked, aggravated. “Whatever.” He shook his head again. “You drive me crazy, and I can’t help myself,” he sang. “You brought me here to serenade me with ‘80s music?” He took a deep breath and sighed wearily. “No, I came here to talk about Prom, remember?” “Are they having an ‘80s theme? Or music of the previous century theme?” “No, it’s going to be a cruise ship theme.” “Like the Titanic?” “Very funny.” “So who’s organizing the after-Prom party, as if I have to ask? It wouldn’t happen to be my best friend, would it?” He grinned. “Got it in one. She wants your help planning the theme.” I groaned. Stupid future seeing, party loving, shopaholic pixie. No doubt she had already picked out our prom dresses. I wouldn’t put it past her to have already ordered my wedding dress, for that matter. “Well, at least you aren’t going to have a broken leg,” Edward remarked comfortingly. “Hush, don’t say that. At the rate we’re going, I’ll probably be in a wheelchair instead. Don’t tempt fate, Edward. I don’t think it likes me very much.” “If you were anybody else, I’d laugh at you right now, but somehow I can’t help but wonder if you’re correct,” he mused. “I just wish I knew what I did to make it mad in the first place.”

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Changing the future

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“Well, honey, you’re so unpredictable, maybe you just caught it off guard. I’m not sure fate would like that very much.” I laughed. “Yeah, you’re right. Catching fate off guard. Talk about an oxymoron.” “Like ugly vampire, fun high school, serious Emmett, and intelligent werewolf.” “Watch it, Cullen. No insulting my friends.” “Didn’t you get the memo, Swan? You’re allowed to insult your own family, but nobody else is allowed to say anything against them.” “I see.” “I’m glad you do.” “I see you’re full of bull.” “No, I can’t say I’ve ever tasted a bull. I doubt their blood tastes any better than cow’s blood, and I’ve tried that.” This time I shook my head. How on earth had we gotten on this topic anyway? “Okay, Edward, do you have anything interesting to say? Because I’m not getting dragged into a discussion about cow’s blood.” He smirked. “You were about to give me your word of honor to willingly and actively participate in the whole Prom experience.” I wrinkled my nose. Ugh. He frowned. “You agreed to pay the ransom, Bella. Are you going back on your word? Am I going to have to hold your hand hostage again?” “Well now that we’re here without witnesses, I wouldn’t mind giving you my hand back.” “So you’re breaking your promise?” “Fine, Edward. I will willingly and actively participate in the whole Prom experience, but in exchange, I get to pick the theme for the after-Prom party.” He frowned. “I’ll have to check with Alice.” “I pick the theme or it’s a no go.” “We’ll see.” “Not good enough.” “Fine, you pick the theme, I’ll take care of Alice.” I smiled and kissed him. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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Chapter 54: Guess Who is Coming to Dinner
BPOV Edward helped me prepare dinner for Charlie. Well, actually, he kept me company while I prepared it. He stepped up behind me, his arms around my waist, and rested his chin on my shoulder to watch me putting things together. When it came time to cut the veggies to be included in the sauce, he insisted on being the one to wield the knife. I giggled at the expression on his face when he saw the knife in my hand. I had to admit his precautions were reasonable, considering my accident history. The funniest part was watching him slice and dice at vampire speed. It made me think of a commercial – Don't have a food processor? Just use your handy dandy neighborhood vampire! I chuckled to myself. It was a good thing Edward couldn't read my mind, or else he'd be scared away by all the random, bizarre thoughts that pass through my head in the course of a day. Sometimes I even scared myself. As I started making the layers, he moved his hands to my hips, started humming, and helped my hips move to the rhythm. I moved in place enjoying the contact of my body with his. Well, since I had committed myself to attend Prom, I guess I needed to learn how to dance. As I placed the lasagna into the oven to bake, I heard a gentle knock on the kitchen door. Edward smoothly went over to open it. “Who is it?” I asked, closing the oven. “Surprise!” Alice shouted, bounding into the room and giving me a big hug. “We came to keep you company for a bit.” “Good evening, Bella,” Jasper greeted me, strolling calmly and quietly into the room. “Hey, Alice and Jasper!” I smiled and nodded, amused by the contrast between the two. They were definitely a case for those who believed opposites attract. Come to think of it, so were Rosalie and Emmett. But Carlisle and Esme were a case for those who believe like attracts like. In some ways, Edward and I were opposites now, but we wouldn't be once I was changed. Huh. I wonder if that will make a difference in the way Edward feels about me. Well, according to Meyer, we become even closer after the change, so I'm not going to worry about it. We were opposites in superficial ways: predator vs. prey, vampire vs. human, dead vs. alive. I chuckled internally again. Let's not forget our most significant opposite: man vs. woman. That's what it all boils down to in the end. I love Edward the man, who just happens to be a vampire, and that's why it doesn't matter what he is. All that matters is that he is Edward, and there is no one else for me, nor will there ever be.

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Changing the future

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“Soooo,” Alice began, then looked at me expectantly. “So what?” I responded, deliberately pretending to be obtuse. “So is there anything you want to tell me?” Alice demanded. I pretended to think. “Hmmm, nope can't think of anything.” Alice sighed in exasperation. “Obviously, I know all about your little talk in the meadow, Bella.” “Uh, huh,” I agreed as if I were merely humoring her. She waited for another minute, but I just stared at her wearing a peaceful smile. “Uggghh! You are so frustrating!” She raged. My smile became a little smug. “Me? Frustrating? I can't imagine how you might find me frustrating. How about having a best friend who forces you to go shopping when you hate it, buys you clothes when she knows you hate her spending money on you, drives more than double the speed limit when she knows it scares you, dresses you up in fancy clothes when she knows you are more comfortable in jeans and sweats, carries on silent conversations with her family members, which she knows annoys the heck out of you, answers questions before you ask them, and makes you suffer through repeated makeovers. None of that is frustrating, right?” Alice scowled at me, knowing I had a legitimate case, but not wanting to change her ways. “Isabella Marie Swan, make a decision on the the theme for the after-Prom party right now, or I will give you a makeover before school every morning for the rest of the school year!” Oh, my. Alice was looking a bit frightening. Maybe I shouldn't push her anymore. “Only if you can block your thoughts,” I conceded. She was all smiles again as she solemnly swore to keep her vision from Edward. Once she indicated she was successfully blocking, I made my final choice. She received the vision, her eyes glazing over. She came out of it with a squeal of pure delight. “That's perfect! Absolutely brilliant! Oh, we are going to have so much fun!” She rushed over and spun me around in a circle, radiating her glee. Jasper picked up on it, and sent it out to Edward and me, so that we were all dancing around the kitchen like we had just won the lottery and been granted world peace all at the same time. It was into this chaos, that Charlie bravely entered, pushing Billy Black in his wheelchair. Jasper and Alice were toe steppin' Texas style, with a lot of fancy moves, while I was wrapped around Edward, my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist, as he spun effortlessly in circles, making me dizzy. All four of us were laughing loudly, caught up in the moment. Alice was the first to notice Charlie and Billy staring incredulously at the four of us. “Charlie!” She shrieked, running over and grabbing him up in an embrace. He appeared completely bemused. “Your daughter is a genius!” “Really?” Charlie asked. “Well, you know, she gets that from my side of the family.” He winked and chuckled, hoping he could help diffuse some of the tension.

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Changing the future

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“Thanks, Dad,” I said, wanting to roll my eyes, but realizing I hadn't quite recovered from all the spinning yet. I laid my head on Edward's shoulder and closed my eyes, hoping the dizziness would pass quickly. Edward placed a gentle kiss on my neck, and I heard a hiss from the doorway. Edward tensed, and I lifted my head to locate the source of the noise. Billy was staring at the two of us with wide, fearful, angry eyes. He turned and looked in disbelief to see Charlie with his arm around Alice's small shoulders. “In or out, Charlie!” Jacob called from the hallway. “You're blocking the doorway!” “Sorry, Jake!” Charlie quickly rolled Billy over to the table. “Sorry to surprise you, Bella, but Billy was hoping to catch the game with me tonight. I invited them on over, but forgot to let you know. If you haven't made enough for all of us, I'll be happy to call for pizza.” “Something sure smells good!” Jacob exclaimed as he sauntered into the room, wrinkling his nose at the scent of so many vampires in such a small space. I laughed, as his expression was the complete opposite of his words. He grinned at me, having guessed at the source of my amusement. “Well, it smelled better by the front door. In here, it's mixed with an overwhelmingly sickly sweet smell. Maybe it's time for you guys to stop wearing such a noxious perfume.” We all grinned. Charlie looked at us in confusion. “It smells just fine in here to me.” “Me too,” I agreed with a smirk. “So, what's up, dog?” Edward asked Jacob. “Hey, that's Alpha dog to you, leech,” Jacob taunted playfully, drawing himself up to his full height. Edward set me gently on my feet, steadying me to make sure my dizziness had passed. I flung myself into Jacob's arms, and he gave me a bear hug like Emmett usually does. After he released me, he did the same for Alice. I was watching Billy now, and his eyes looked like they were about to bug out of his sockets. Then Jake bumped fists with Edward and Jasper. Billy couldn't take it anymore. He began rapidly speaking to Jacob in Quileute. Jacob shrugged and grinned. He answered in Quileute. Billy looked shocked and horrified. At one point, both of them looked at Edward and me. Billy was gesturing and his tone was hostile and angry. Jacob remained calm, even though his father was clearly trying to provoke a fight. Billy began to appear uncertain as Jacob remained calm and rational in his replies. He finally fell back in his seat with an air of confusion, carefully looking at all the people in the room. “Why don't we just enjoy the evening together, and you can judge for yourself, based on your own observations?” Jacob suggested. “Is this about those superstitions of yours, Billy?” Charlie growled. “I'll have you know that I've grown rather fond of that family in the past two weeks, particularly Alice and Edward. Edward and Bella are perfect together, almost as if they were made for each other, and Alice is Bella's best friend. Bella has even participated in a sleepover at their house with some other girls, and they all came home safe and sound. If the Cullens wished her any harm, they've had plenty of opportunity. She goes over there every day after school. Blind prejudice doesn't do anybody any good. I would think you would already know that.” Billy nodded, slightly embarrassed.

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“Okay, well, there's about fifteen to twenty minutes left on the lasagna,” I announced, hoping to smooth over the awkward moment. Charlie left to turn on the game on the TV. Billy took advantage of Charlie's absence to call Sam. “Hello, Sam, this is Billy Black.” “Hello, Billy, what can I do for you?” “I just found out that Jacob has been hanging out with the Cullens.” “Yes, I know. They are such a nice family, really. They're not at all like others of their kind. Emily spent four days with them this weekend.” “She did?!” “Dr. Cullen performed reconstructive surgery on her face for free. He fixed everything so you can barely even tell something happened.” “He did?” “Yeah, she and I are both so thankful. Emily doesn't feel so self-conscious anymore, and I feel so much lighter too.” “Oh, well, that's great, Sam.” “Yeah, we've worked out a better treaty arrangement too. The Cullens are our allies. They work to protect the local humans from vampire attacks like we do. We'll be working together against the human drinkers.” “Um, okay, so, we need to talk about the new treaty arrangements with the tribal council tomorrow. When did you work all this out?” “Yesterday.” “Oh, well, a heads up today would have been nice.” “Sorry, Billy. I was so caught up in Emily today, that I didn't even think about telling anyone other than the wolves.” “Okay, well, please don't make any other changes without alerting the council first.” “Sure, sure. I'll hook up with you tomorrow, Billy. Thanks. Bye.” Billy pressed end with a dazed look in his eye. His world had just been turned on its head. “So, I guess I just need to make my own observations.” “Good for you, Dad!” Jacob encouraged. Bella called Charlie back in from the living room as soon as the lasagna was ready. “Wow, homemade lasagna! This is quite a treat, Bella,” Billy remarked politely, but sincerely.

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“Yeah, I bet Charlie's really glad she decided to move here,” Jacob teased. “Though his uniform might start getting a little tight in another couple of months if she keeps feeding him like this. I do think it may be our solemn duty to share his burden by relieving him of some of the delightfully delicious meals she cooks.” Suddenly, Jacob's cell phone went off, exposing his new ringtone. Little Red Riding Hood, You sure are looking good. You're everything that a Big Bad Wolf could want. Arroooooo. Jacob practically ripped his own pants off trying to get his phone out of his pocket. He blushed so red I could see it even with his skin tone. He flipped the phone open and practically growled into it. “What? . . . Yeah, I know. Thanks for the heads up though. . . . Okay, see you tomorrow. Bye .” I couldn't help laughing at the perfect irony of choosing to use that song as his ringtone for Sam. He glared at me. “Way to be supportive, Swan,” he growled. “Sure thing, Jake. Anytime,” I replied. By the end of the evening, Billy was much more comfortable around the Cullens. He at least agreed to keep an open mind and continue his observations another day.

Chapter 55: Bella Barbie
BPOV Things had calmed down considerably over the past few weeks. I was closer than ever with the Cullens and truly felt like one of the family. Additionally, our relationship with the wolves was firmly cemented. Once the tribal council had gotten a look at Emily’s new look and heard the testimony of the wolves about the times they had personally witnessed the Cullens resist flowing human blood, there was no further objection. All of the Quileutes were actively encouraged to take medical issues to the Forks hospital. Carlisle was given free range to enter

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La Push in official medical capacity and was recruited as the formal physician for the wolf packs. A new treaty was drawn up, which allowed for ‘living will’ vampirization of individuals in case of imminent death. This meant that individuals could give written consent to allow the change as a ‘life saving’ measure in case if emergency. One copy of the consent form would be kept by the tribe and one by the Cullens. The form had to be signed by the individual and witnessed by Carlisle or Esme and by Jacob or Sam. No vampires were allowed to hunt within the boundaries of the reservation. This was simply a measure of caution to protect stray humans from being accidentally targeted by vampires when they were acting on pure instinct. The treaty also allowed the Cullens to enter the reservation, at any time while not hunting, with prior authorization from any member of the wolf packs or the tribal council. Any human drinking vampire who bit a human or drank from a human within a hundred mile radius of La Push was automatically marked for death by the tribal Protectors. If a human drinking vampire was found within a hundred mile radius before he or she fed, he or she could be given warning not to hunt in this region and escorted out of the area. Any animal drinker found unknowingly hunting on Quileute land would be given warning and escorted to the border. The wolves would not attack any animal drinkers, but were allowed to defend themselves if endangered. Any newborn vampires found during times of peace would be dismembered and turned over to the Cullens to determine whether or not they could be taught to drink from animals instead of humans. Any newborn vampires found during times of war would be immediately destroyed for the safety of the humans in the area. Charlie was still getting along great with Edward and had actually started bonding with all the Cullens. He and Emmett like watching games together when they were each rooting for opposite teams. Though Charlie pretended to dislike Emmett, he really enjoyed their good natured jibes and competition. They would make small bets on the scores and winners and yell at the screen in excitement or disgust as the game progressed. Alice used to try and nudge Charlie in the right direction without him being aware of it, but Emmett quickly caught on to what she was doing and forbid her from interfering. Charlie and Jasper would sometimes discuss weapons technology and police tactics. Upon finding Jasper’s excellent battle planning skills, as well as his ability to put himself in the mindset of the criminal, Charlie had even begun consulting him about difficult cases. Each time, Jasper’s ideas had led the criminals conveniently into a trap, causing the steel jaws of the law to clamp down on them. Charlie absolutely adored Alice and Esme. He was putty in their hands, a sucker for their smiles. Rose kept her distance, not terribly comfortable with him, especially in his role as an authority figure. Charlie had the utmost respect for Carlisle and frequently would engage him in discussions of moral vs. legal ethics. Tonight was the night of the Sadie Hawkins dance, the girls’ choice dance. Just thinking about that made me laugh, remembering the way the boys of the school had seemed to completely miss the point. I had several of them come up and ask me if I was going to ask them to the dance. I couldn’t believe their nerve. I had been with Edward since my first day at this school, and it was well known he was my fiancé. The only humans I willingly entered into conversation with were Angela and Ben. The rest of them, I ignored just as easily as the Cullens did. I couldn’t understand where those human boys got the idea I would ever be interested in going to the dance with them. What were they thinking? I would rather get a root canal. The girls and I had made a Hit list with the names of all the girls who had dared to ask our men to the dance. Emmett, Jasper, and Edward were all obviously ‘taken’, ‘spoken for’, yet they had the nerve to try to ask them out on a date. I mean, what kind of girl would ask out a man who is clearly happily committed in a long term relationship? We had a name for those girls – homewreckers. These were the girls who would someday come between a husband and wife, who would steal away a married man from his wife and children by lying and cheating. They would flatter a man, praising him and tempting him, slowly undermining his resistance. Once they had successfully captured the men, they would change into clingy, vindictive nags,

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knowing that if the men had been drawn away once they could be led astray again by another of her kind. These were the human succubi, seducing the menfolk with their womanly wiles, only they were far less honest than the vampire kind. Thus, our Hit list, Homewreckers In Trouble. All’s fair in love and war, and this was both. As far as we were concerned, those girls had declared war with their actions, and we would defend our loved ones by dispensing our own brand of justice against the perpetrators. Besides, some of them had actually been brazen enough to ask Edward right in front of me, ignoring his arm clearly wrapped around my shoulders. I had a sneaking suspicion the boys had a list of their own, but I chose not to pry. I didn’t think Edward would approve of our actions, so I didn’t want to explain to him about my own list. I figured what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. I would tell him about it after the fact and could find out then how he had dealt with the boys who asked me out. Each of them had waited to single me out during the few seconds each day I was alone. None of them were brave enough to actually ask me in Edward’s presence, considering his glare was frightening enough to send them cowering into the corner. Alice and Rose were playing their favorite game at the moment: Bella Barbie. I had spent the past hour modeling different dresses for them. Both of them had finally agreed on a dress, but spent another twenty minutes haggling over shoes. Now, Rose was working on an intricate hairdo, and Alice was working on my make-up. “Alice, I’ve got a question for you. Why does it take you guys so long to do my hair and makeup? I mean, if you worked at your normal speed, you’d be done in no time at all, yet you manage to stretch it out for hours on end. What’s up with that?” Rose met my eyes in the mirror, surprised by my question. “Why would we rush through something we obviously enjoy? I mean, sure you could do a quickie, a ‘wham, bam, thank you, ma’am’, and there are times those are necessary or desired, but you wouldn’t want a steady diet of those. Personally, I enjoy spending hours making love with my husband, so why would I want to tell him to ‘hurry up and get it over with’, instead of extending it as long as possible? It’s about more than just the end result. The time I spend being intimate with my husband is a time of bonding, of growing closer, of learning more about one another, of meeting each other’s needs. If all I wanted was satisfaction, I could achieve that all by myself, by my own hand. So, the analogy is the same. If all I wanted was to braid hair, I could braid my own hair. It’s not just about playing with your hair. It’s about spending time bonding with you, about giving of my time and expertise to help you look your best, about getting to know you better. We spend this time talking amongst the three of us. It’s a shared experience.” “Wow, Rose, I never thought of it that way. I must say, it does help me resent it a lot less. Once I’m a vampire, we’ll take turns being the one in the chair though. Sound fair?” She nodded. Alice cleared her throat. “That was a lovely response, Rose, however I do believe she asked me. Bella, the answer is really quite simple. While the friendship and love and bonding, yada, yada, yada, is all true, there is another factor. Your face is like a canvas, and the make-up is my paint. Each time I give you a makeover, I am creating a masterpiece, a work of art. Don’t you know you can’t rush art? My delicate masterpieces only last a few short hours, which is why I am always careful to capture the creation on film. So you see, my dear friend, tonight you shall be a living, breathing work of art, stunning to behold, and the attention you garner is merely a tribute to Rose’s and my genius. So hold your head up proudly, as you shall be the only human sporting a Rose and Alice original.” “I see, Alice. Feeling humble today?” Rose laughed out loud, and Alice gave me a stern look. “Merely stating the facts, Bella.”

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Chapter 56: Plotting and Planning
BPOV While Rose and Alice were getting me ready for the dance, we talked about what we should do to the girls on our Hit list. Each of us had two girls on our list. Jessica and Lauren were on mine. “Picture day is coming up soon,” I mentioned. “I'm thinking purple or green hair dye in the shampoo bottle would be a good one for one of mine.” “I know just the product to use!” Rose eagerly admitted. “I can obtain it for you next week. It requires a full twenty washes to come out, so if we plant it the day before, there's no way she'll get it out in time to avoid the picture day.”

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“Ooohh! What about poison ivy? We could rub poison ivy onto Tatiana's pillow,” Alice suggested. Tatiana was on her list. I shook my head. “No, Alice, that would be cruel and unusual punishment. I couldn't agree to that. It wouldn't just make her skin red and blotchy, it would hurt and itch too. She would be absolutely miserable for days. What she did was wrong, but doesn't deserve that severe a penalty.” “How about putting some of that tanning dye on her face while she's sleeping? She'll wake up with orange skin,” Rose offered. Alice nodded enthusiastically. “I like that. How about we cut all of Bree's hair off on one side?” Bree was the other girl on her list. I objected once again. “Alice, it would take months to grow out again, maybe even years. It's one thing to do something to cause embarrassment that does no physical harm, but that lasts for a few days, and quite another to do something that lasts for months. We want to teach them a lesson about respecting others' boundaries, not scar them for life.” Alice pouted. “Well, I don't hear you coming up with any bright ideas.” “Well, what if you hid all her clothes, or maybe made them all wet or something, in the middle of the night, and then lay out an atrocious outfit for her to wear for picture day. She would have to wear it because it would be the only option available,” I recommended. She pursed her lips and then nodded enthusiastically. “Okay, I can work with that one, but you still need one more.” “Don't forget about me,” Rose interjected. “I don't have any plans for mine yet.” The girls had finished with my hair and make-up and were now painting my nails. We were each lost in thought for a few minutes, brainstorming. “There's the old favorite – adding Ex-lax to their food,” Alice mused. “I don't think Carlisle would approve of that, from a medical standpoint,” Rose reminded her. “I don't know how possible this is, but maybe for one of Rose's you could get a couple of whoopie cushions and place them under her in each of her classes as she sits down. If you work at vampire speed, no one should be able to see you do it, and then you could remove it at vampire speed too, when she stands or lifts up to look underneath of herself. Everyone will thinks she has really bad gas, and the more she denies it, the more they'll believe it,” I postulated. Rose grinned. “I think that's a winner! I'll get Emmett and Jasper to help me with that one.” Alice's eyes glazed over, and she started laughing. She came back out of it and could barely speak, as she was laughing so hard. “Oh, that is going to be absolutely hilarious. Definitely a winner!” We continued thinking about it. Alice's eyes lit up with excitement. “I've got one! Tiffany always packs her lunch, right? So, we could replace her usual lunch with baby food or something.”

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“Good one!” I encouraged her. Tiffany was the second girl on Rose's list. “They make these Gerber Graduates foods. There's also Dora yogurt and Elmo juice boxes. Since she doesn't have any younger siblings, she'll have a hard time explaining to her friends why she has it.” “Okay, but I'm also going to put an open bag of Depends in her locker, set to fall out when she opens the door,” Rose decided. “I'll have that happen just before lunch, and I'll include a note in her lunch, supposedly from her mother, saying if she's going to keep wetting her pants like a baby then she's going to be treated like one.” I winced. “Remind me to never get on your bad side.” “Ooohh! You could bring a water gun and make sure she has an ‘accident’ after lunch,” Alice added, enjoying her mental picture of the event. Rose grinned wickedly. “You’re really getting the hang of this, Alice. We’ll make a prankster of you yet.” “Guys, I’m starting to feel a little uncomfortable about all of this. I’m not sure I can go through with it. We’ve really gotten mean,” I mentioned with a grimace. “I wouldn’t want anyone to treat me the way we’ve talked about treating them. Aren’t we just lowering ourselves to their level?” “Bella, get a grip. Sometimes you are just too nice for your own good,” Rose complained. “These girls know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our men are all taken. As far as Jasper and Emmett are concerned, they’ve witnessed our dedication to each other for over two years now. Yet, they still had the audacity to try to break up our relationships. Edward hasn’t given any of them the time of day in over two years, and he is finally happy with you. Instead of letting him enjoy his happiness, they simply throw themselves at him even more, as if you’re just breaking him in for them. He’s not a wild horse being broken to bridle, for pity’s sake.” “Okay, fine,” I conceded. “You’re correct. So we have one more gag we need to line up for Lauren.” “You wouldn’t believe some of the things she’s done,” Rose commented disdainfully. “We could fill her locker with condoms, so they all spill out onto the floor when she opens it,” I offered. “Nah, that’s been done before. It’s too obvious,” Rose decided. “Used condoms!” Alice suggested gleefully. “Ew, gross! Where are we going to get used condoms?” I protested. Rose and Alice exchanged a smirk, and I put my hands over my ears, just in case they were going to volunteer their husbands to assist with that task. “Nevermind, I don’t think I want to know.” Rose laughed and pulled my hands away from my ears. “They don’t have to actually be used, they just have to look like they have been. I’m sure we could whip up some concoction in either the kitchen or the bathroom that will approximate the consistency well enough to fool the casual eye.” I grinned. “Now you’re talking. Except, I’ve never actually seen it – virgin, remember. Are you sure vampire stuff looks the same as human stuff? That reminds me of a conversation I’ve been meaning to have with Carlisle, sometime when Edward is on a hunting trip.”

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“Bella, trust me. After all these years in high school and college, we’ve seen way more things than we could ever possible have wanted. Not to mention that each of those unpleasant experiences of TMI (too much information) are forever burned into our perfect memories. Forgetting is actually a luxury and a natural defense of the mind. Some things are better off being lost to the mists of time,” Alice explained. I nodded. There were a few memories of my own I would like to erase, and I was certain Rose had memories she would much prefer to surrender to the blackness of oblivion, to the thought graveyard. “Instead of putting them in her locker, we put them in her jacket pocket, with one hanging out just enough to call attention to it, and when that one is pulled, the others would come out too,” Rose plotted. “And unopened ones in the other pocket, so it looks like she is planning more escapades,” Alice added. “Wouldn’t that be ‘sexcapades’?” I quipped. “How about flavored condoms instead of regular ones.” They both grinned at me. “Now you’re getting the hang of it,” Rose encouraged. “That’s the spirit! So half a dozen used ones and half a dozen unopened.” As we wrapped our planning session, the girls put the last minute finishing touches on me – their masterpiece. I couldn’t help grinning at that thought. “I’ll try to make you proud, oh great artistic geniuses,” I teased. I gasped when I finally got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. They really had outdone themselves. “Hey, instead of the usual ‘ugly duckling’, I finally actually look like a ‘beautiful swan’. I can finally live up to my name!” I realized. “Thanks, guys. You’re totally awesome.” I waited the requisite ten minutes for Rose and Alice to make their own preparations. I was immensely grateful they were coming to the dance as a show of support for me. My thoughts drifted to Mike. “So, Alice, is Mike coming with Shawn tonight?” I wondered. I heard her laughter from the next room. “No, he finally got up the courage to tell Shawn he thinks of him like a brother. Poor Shawn. I must say, I’m impressed that Mike had the guts to stand up for himself like that. Maybe there’s hope for that boy yet,” she responded. “Have you seen anything about his future?” She strolled into the room where I was waiting and raised her eyebrow. “Why would I? Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I have to do it. I would never get anything done if I wasted my time looking at visions of people unrelated to this family. I’m not the least bit interested in Mike’s future as long as it doesn’t negatively affect ours.” Rose chose that moment to join us. “C’mon, girls, don’t waste any more breath on Newt. We’ve got much better things to do with our time. Our guys are waiting for us.” That last sentence was enough to snap us out of it and send us scurrying down the stairs to throw ourselves into the arms of our beloveds.

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We would enjoy ourselves tonight, for tomorrow was the day we would go play baseball in the clearing. Tomorrow, we would find out just how much of our fate was fixed and how much could still be changed. Tomorrow, I would come face to face with the nomads.

Chapter 57: Sunday Preparations
EPOV Sam, Jacob, Jasper and I were all out scouting around the baseball clearing. Alice had done projections earlier to predict the wind direction at various times during the future game. In addition to figuring out the best hiding places downwind, we were also determining how far away the wolves had to be from the clearing before their scent was undetectable, knowing the wind would change direction in the middle of the confrontation. If James made the decision to hunt, neither he nor Victoria would ever leave the clearing. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. They would become one with the earth once again. As we returned back to the house, I lost myself in peaceful memories of last night. Bella had been so beautiful, blushing delightfully as I complimented her appearance. I ushered her into my Vanquish, and she wisely made no complaint. We zoomed off to the dance, followed by my siblings, who were coming along in a show of support. I really loved my family and was thrilled they loved my mate almost as much as I did. Jessica and Lauren had tried to be mean toward my Bella, but she just snickered at their attempts. I wasn’t sure what she was mentally picturing each time she looked at them, but by the evil grins on Rosalie’s and Alice’s faces, they had an idea. I think the girls had been plotting against the pathetic humans who had foolishly asked us guys to the dance, but I wasn’t sure. Emmett, Jasper, and I had been hunting while the girls were getting ready. It just didn’t take us guys that long to get ready, especially at vampire speed. Eventually, Bella’s obvious amusement in the face of every snide comment they made got to Jessica and Lauren. They stomped off angrily, uncomfortable and unsure with what could be so amusing that Bella could totally blow off their veiled insults. They also hadn’t missed the fact that Rose and Alice were just as amused as Bella was. In fact, the three of them kept sharing glances, before breaking out into fresh snickers. Later that evening, Jessica and Lauren had tried to anger Bella again, being more overt in their insults, deliberately attempting to provoke a response. Bella had started outright laughing in their faces. She turned to me and grinned. “I almost feel sorry for them, Edward. Almost, but not quite. If they only knew what was in store for them, they’d hardly be so complacent. Each comment they make only digs their hole deeper. Just make sure you duck when the ‘you know what’ hits the fan. They’ll be drowning in manure! Don’t bother arguing with them, love, they’re going to get what they deserve soon enough,” my Bella announced happily. I could hear the sheer panic in Jessica’s and Lauren’s minds at Bella’s words. They made the connection to Rose and Alice and were suddenly quite fearful. They went pale and clutched at each other’s arms. Bella just laughed in their faces again as we waltzed away. Those two left the dance early, jumping at shadows. I had a feeling they intended to watch their backs very closely for a long time.

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Bella was waiting for me when I got back to the house. Jasper sent her waves of calm, as she was practically jumping out of her skin. “I know you’re nervous, love, but you know we will not let them hurt you. There are many of us and only three of them,” I reassured her. “I’m not worried about me, Edward! I just don’t want any of you to get hurt while trying to protect me,” Bella answered. What a foolish girl. Would she never understand? “Silly Bella! None of us will get hurt. Even if someone suffers a minor injury, it will heal almost instantaneously. Stop wasting your energy worrying about the supernatural creatures. Keep your worry confined to the mortal ones,” I suggested. She rolled her eyes. “As much as you want to consider yourself immortal, the fact of the matter is that you can die. Therefore, you are not immortal. You are merely ‘hard to kill’. The same is true for the wolves. They can die even more easily than you can. Your cockiness may be your downfall someday, so please try to be careful and keep yourself safe – for my sake,” she implored. I gave her my crooked grin and agreed. How could I deny her anything? “Okay, well, everyone in the house is all keyed up, and it is driving Jasper crazy, so let’s play a game to help distract our minds from what is to come,” I recommended. To Jasper’s relief, everyone agreed. Everyone in the Forks family was here, except for Angela and Ben. With nomads in the area, the wolves wanted their imprints nearby. “How about a quick game of ‘I never’?” Embry called. The vampires shrugged. It wasn’t much fun for us to play by ourselves, because we already knew everything about each other. With the humans and wolves playing, it might actually get interesting, especially with the wolves highly developed sense of competition. We sat around in a circle. “Okay, no restrictions for this first go around, except of course that you cannot repeat what someone else said, or what you said, nor can you lie,” Alice declared. Everybody nodded. “Now hold up your ten fingers. If the statement is not true for you, then you have to put away one of your fingers. If the statement is true for you, you may leave your fingers up. The winner is the last one to have any fingers standing.” BPOV I had never played this game before, but it sounded like it could get interesting. I was elected to start, but I wasn’t feeling very creative. “I have never been a male.” The group groaned at my lame attempt, and all the guys put down one finger. Edward was next, and he rolled his eyes. “Time to level the playing field again. I have never been a female.” All the women dutifully put down one finger. “How original,” I muttered. “Well, that was a waste. Let’s make it more interesting, shall we? I have never tasted human blood,” Sam challenged. The vampires gasped, uncomfortable with responding, especially with the wolves watching so closely. Carlisle and Jasper were the first to drop a finger, followed by Edward. Then came Esme and Emmett. Before the tension could mount, I realized how foolish the question was. I laughed. “Well, considering that I’ve bitten my tongue more times than I can remember, that one definitely doesn’t apply to me.” I very deliberately put my finger down. Rose looked at me gratefully, smiled and then laughed.

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“I don’t remember doing that in my human life, but I know babies bleed when they are cutting teeth, and I have a mouth full of teeth, so I’m certain it doesn’t apply to me either.” Everyone started laughing, and once again everyone put down a finger. Now we were all tied, displaying eight fingers. “At this rate, we’re all going to win or lose at the same time,” Emily teased. “I’ll have to think of something better. I have never turned into a giant wolf.” The wolves all put down a finger. “Traitor!” Sam growled. She just laughed and kissed him. “I have never been to medical school,” Jasper added. “You always do that one,” Rose complained as she dropped a finger. Edward and Carlisle did as well. “I have never been to First Beach,” Alice proclaimed with a sly grin. All the Quileutes, plus me, put down a finger. I stuck my tongue out at Alice, and she threw a pillow at me. Edward caught it and put it in his lap so I could lay my head on it if I chose. I smirked over at Alice, and this time she stuck her tongue out at me. It was now Seth’s turn, and he laughed heartily. “I have never had sex.” All the vampires, except Edward put down a finger. The wolves looked at Edward in surprise. While they were distracted, Sam and Emily both put down a finger, blushing profusely. Everyone decided to ignore it for their sake, even Emmett. I gave him a big smile of thanks and encouragement. Maybe there’s hope for that boy yet. He winked at me, discerning the direction of my thoughts. “You’re still a virgin, Edward?” Jacob asked in disbelief. Edward nodded, looking completely embarrassed. “Aren’t you like, over a hundred years old?” Embry added in surprise. Edward nodded again. “And you’ve never?” Edward shook his head. “Wow!” Quil exclaimed in shock. “Vampires mate not just for life, but for eternity,” Edward murmured quietly. “And I had not yet met my soul mate.” The wolves nodded in understanding, as they mated for life. They shot glances between Edward and me. “I see now why Bella is so important to you. You’ve been waiting for her for longer than most humans’ lifespan, haven’t you?” Sam inquired thoughtfully. Edward nodded. A new level of comprehension drifted into the wolves’ eyes. “Enough with the mushy gushy stuff!” Leah protested. “We’re supposed to be playing a game here and it’s my turn. I have never moved from one house to another.” She looked triumphant as all the vampires and I put down a finger. Sam and Emily also put down a finger. Carlisle smiled thoughtfully, tapping his finger on his chin. “I have never doubted the existence of God.” Edward, Jasper, Alice, and Rose immediately put their fingers down. After a moment’s thought, Leah, Jacob, Embry, Quil, Kim, Sam, Emily and I all put a finger down. The only ones who didn’t were Carlisle, Esme, Emmett, Jared, and Seth were the only ones who didn’t.
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Esme grinned triumphantly. “I have never eaten at McDonald’s.” “Oh, boo, Mom! So unfair,” Jacob whined. The Quileutes and I all put a finger down. I was surprised to see Emmett put a finger down too. “Emmett, you’ve eaten at McDonalds?” I joked. He grinned and nodded. “Hell, yeah, Bells. Hasn’t everyone?” he responded. We all looked at him like he was crazy, well except for Jasper, Alice, and Edward who were all smirking. “Emmett?” Rose prompted. He hung his head. “I lost a bet and had to eat a happy meal.” We all burst out laughing. He shook his head in remembered disgust. “I don’t know how you guys can eat that crap. That stuff was nasty! Do you even know what’s in those things?” I stuck my fingers in my ears. “La la la, I don’t want to know, la la la!” Everyone laughed again. “My turn!” Jacob crowed. I’ve got a good one. I’ve never had my heart stop beating.” Rose glared at Jacob. “Talk about unfair.” The vampires all put down a finger. Embry chuckled. “I have never been to college.” The vampires groaned and all put down a finger again. Rose glared at them again and snorted. “I have never worn second-hand clothes.” “Oooohh, cold!” Quil griped. Everyone except the vampires put down a finger. Jasper and Emmett also put down a finger. “I had older brothers, so I wore hand-me-downs as a human,” Emmett explained. Jasper shrugged. “When you’re fighting a war, you don’t care where the clothes come from, as long as they cover you.” “Oh, boy! It’s my turn now!” Emmett yelled excitedly. He appeared deep in thought and counted everybody’s fingers. “I have never been a leader or second in command.” Carlisle, Edward, Jasper, Sam, Jared, Jacob, and Embry all put down a finger. “Gotcha!” Emmett appeared pretty proud of himself. “I have never gotten married,” Kim reported shyly. “I’m out,” Jasper announced, putting down his last finger. The rest of the vampires, except Edward, all put down a finger. “I have never voted in an election,” Jared declared.

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“Good one!” Quil encouraged. “I’m out,” Sam announced. “Me, too,” added Carlisle. “And me,” Emmett said sadly. Esme, Rose, Edward, Emily, Alice, and Leah all put down a finger. “Hmmm, it’s getting close now,” Quil mumbled, lost in thought. His eyes lit up as he thought of something. “I have never gone more than 48 hours without sleeping.” “Pitiful!” Rose scoffed. “I’m out.” “Me too,” Alice reported glumly. “C’mon, Bella it’s your turn again. Avenge me!” I laughed. Nobody was really playing fair, but we humans were benefiting from it. “Fine, I’ve never run on four legs.” “Humph! Traitor!” Quil grumbled, as all the werewolves put down finger. “She’s not a traitor. She’s loyal to me!” Edward taunted with a chuckle. “I think all the nonvampires have been having it too easy. I have never cut my hair in the past twenty years.” Everyone except for him and Esme had to put down a finger. Jacob, Embry, and Leah all shouted “I’m out!” at the same time. Emily grinned. “I have never used a urinal. Girls rule!” We ladies all laughed as the remaining guys dropped a finger. Jared, Quil, and Edward dropped out on that round. Seth smiled eagerly. “It’s up to me to avenge the guys. Give me a minute to think. Ooooh, I have never worn a bra!” Now it was the guys turn to laugh as we ladies groaned and all put down a finger. Esme and Emily dropped out. Kim looked around the circle. Seth and I only had one finger left, whereas Kim still had two fingers up, and it was now her turn to make the statement. She was obviously trying to think of a way to take us both out at the same time. “I don’t know. I have never gone skinny dipping.” I looked at her and shook my head. I had never gone swimming naked either, but I knew Seth had, because all the wolves had swum in the river. “Okay, well I guess I’m out then,” Seth sighed. “I have never kissed a werewolf,” I announced. I was feeling victorious, until I realized the flaw. Kim still had one finger left, and it was her turn. I knew what was coming next. She would simply turn my phrase back on me. Kim had obviously figured out the solution as well. “I have never kissed a vampire!” she squealed happily, her victory in sight. At the moment she said the word vampire, Emmett, who was sitting right next to her, leaned over at vampire speed and kissed her on the lips. She put her hand up to her lips. “What the heck was that, Emmett?”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“You’ve kissed a vampire too!” Emmett crowed in delight, very proud of himself. “Now you both have to put a finger down and nobody wins!” He started doing a little victory dance. “I’m going to kick your butt for kissing my girl, Emmett!” Jared threatened. He wasn’t really angry because he knew it had just been done in fun and there was nothing other than brotherly affection behind it. Rose reached up and smacked him on the back of the head. “Oh, I know, but it was worth it!” Emmett laughed. “Besides, I think it’s safe to say the humans won. How often do you think they’ll be able to have those bragging rights? The humans beat the vampires and the werewolves. How pathetic is that?” We all started laughing again. Esme fixed a hearty dinner for the humans and werewolves. After dinner, it was time to go play baseball. Seth was elected to stay back at the house to guard Kim and Emily, who would not be coming with us. He whined about missing out on all the fun, but he was promised to get a turn next time. “Sometimes it sucks to be the youngest,” Jacob empathized. I remembered he was the youngest in his family too. That reminded me of his sister and Paul. “Has anyone heard from Paul yet?” I wondered. “No, not yet,” Sam replied. “He’ll come back when he’s ready.” I nodded, though I wasn’t quite convinced. Maybe once this thing with the nomads was over, we might want to send somebody out looking for him. Carlisle asked Esme to stay behind as well, just in case the nomads came to the house. We figured it was better safe than sorry. “Wait, aren’t there three of them?” Sam asked. We confirmed it. “In that case, I want Jared to stay here too. If there’s even the slightest chance of them coming here, I want better odds on our side.” Jared quickly agreed, feeling safer guarding his imprint himself, rather than leaving her for someone else to protect. Edward loaded me into the Jeep and adjusted my harness. The rest of them took off running. Edward drove as close as he could and then helped me out of the Jeep and onto his back. I closed my eyes, hiding my head into his shoulder. In no time, we were on the field. I wasn’t too surprised to see everyone else was already there. They could all easily run faster than a car. They had even already set up the bases and picked teams. “In the spirit of camaraderie, we decided not to play werewolves versus vampires. Instead, we will mix up the teams. Alice has agreed to sit out and referee for us,” Carlisle declared. “The teams are Edward, Leah, Jacob, Jasper and myself versus Emmett, Rose, Quil, Embry, and Sam.” The teams took their positions on the field. They all turned to look at Alice. “It’s time,” she announced.

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

As soon as she spoke, a deep rumble of thunder shook the forest beyond us, and then crashed westward toward town. “Play ball!” she shouted eagerly.

Chapter 58: Mad Nomads
EPOV The wolves and vampires had a great time playing baseball together. Though the wolves mainly played in human form, they would sometimes change into wolves to run around the bases after batting, or to chase a ball. Jacob was exceptionally quick at changing, so he tended to do that a lot. It was fascinating to watch him change back to human form just in time to catch the ball. The teams were fairly well matched and were tied 5 to 5 when Alice registered the nomads' decision to seek out the players. The wolves went to make themselves scarce, hiding downwind as they had been told. The bat they had used was carried downwind as well. Before Jacob and Sam left, they ran over to give Bella big sweaty hugs, one from the front and the other from the back. Jacob wiped his arm on Bella's hair. “Eww, Jacob! Ugh, you two are all sweaty! Yuck. Now I'm covered in wolf sweat,” she complained holding her arms out from her body. I couldn't help chuckling as she looked so disgusted. She glared at me. “Why don't you let them hug you, Edward? I'm sure you'd like to be drenched in werewolf sweat too.” I laughed along with Jacob and Sam as they quickly disappeared into the forest. “Darling Bella, what you don't realize is they deliberately drenched you in their sweat. We are hiding your human scent, since we know that didn't go over well last time. Now you don't smell edible anymore.” I wrinkled my nose. “You definitely don't smell edible anymore. I don't think they are going to want to get too close to you.” My family all looked at me as if I was a genius, which of course I was. I soon picked up on the nomads' thoughts. (James) Do you smell that? There are werewolves here!

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

(Laurent) How many? (James) At least two, maybe more. The trail is a few hours old. There are vampire scents mixed with them. (Victoria) What do you want to do? (James) There are definitely vampires up ahead. We can hear them. We should talk to them and find out what's going on here. There may be an infestation of werewolves around here. (Victoria) Is it dangerous? Maybe we should go? Remember the one you fought in Siberia. Is it worth it? (James) Think, Victoria! It is daytime! Children of the Moon can only change at nighttime around a full moon. Right now, they are in their weaker human form. We can easily exterminate them while they are stuck, unable to transform and defend themselves. (Laurent) I agree! We will have the other vampires to help us too. I do not want a bunch of werewolves following our scent when we leave here. You know they love to hunt down vampires and kill them for sport. (Victoria) Of course, you're right, James. I'm with you whatever you decide. (James) Laurent, when we approach these vampires, I want you to take the leadership position. While they are focusing on you, I'll be assessing them to determine how much of a threat they present. Besides, you have more patience for the whole diplomatic thing. (Laurent) As you wish, James. Though if they are playing games as we suspected, I am guessing they must be mostly friendly. I relayed their thoughts to the rest of the family and the wolves until they came within hearing range. They popped out of the forest, with Laurent taking the forward position. They approached us carefully in defensive crouches. As their eyes took in our clean and civilized appearance, they relaxed a bit in surprise. (Victoria) Look at their clothes, their shoes! How do they keep them so clean? (Laurent) Look at their hair, their skin! How do they keep themselves so clean and comfortable? (James) Look at their jewelry, their watches. These vampires have some serious money! “Hello,” Carlisle spoke softly, waiting for them to state their intentions. “Hello, we heard you playing and wanted to ask to join you. We noticed you have a werewolf problem in the area. Is that why there are so many of you in one place?” Laurent inquired politely. “No, we maintain a permanent residence in the area. This is my family,” Carlisle announced, sweeping his arm in our direction to indicate all of us. “A permanent residence? How do you do that? There are not enough humans in the area to feed so many of you without someone taking notice!” Laurent was shocked.

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“We do not feed on humans. We feed on animals. This allows us to blend in better with the humans, thus allowing us a more permanent lifestyle. We can stay in one place for five or six years before the humans start to notice we aren't aging. We find it to be a much more comfortable way of life,” Carlisle explained. Laurent looked intrigued. Animal blood? I never would have thought of that. I thought we had to drink human blood to survive. (Victoria) Animal blood. That's disgusting. Why bother? (James) I hear a human heartbeat. Did they bring a snack or a pet? I can have some fun with this. Even if we are outnumbered, animal drinkers are pansies. “How long have you lived this way, drinking from animals?” Laurence asked in fascination. “I have never drank human blood. The only time I have ever tasted it was when changing my various family members. I have lived this way for over 360 years with no difficulty. I lived amongst the Volturi for eighty years and still maintained my diet of strictly animal blood,” Carlisle admitted. Laurent's eyebrows rose. “Impressive. You're really serious about this then. It really does work.” “It does work, yes. The animal blood does not taste as good, nor is it as satisfying, but we find the benefits outweigh the detriments,” Carlisle responded. “It is not easy to stick to this diet faithfully, but we believe it to be worth it.” (Laurent) I think I'd like to try it. I would like to be able to stay in one place for a while and be clean and comfortable. I wonder how I'd look with yellow eyes instead of red. I'd like to see how the 'other half' live. (Victoria) Whatever. (James) I think it must be the brown haired girl. I've seen everybody else's eyes, and they're all yellow, so it must be her. Suddenly, the wind shifted, blowing Bella's scent forward. The nomads inhaled deeply, then froze in surprise. “You have a werewolf with you?” Laurent wondered. Why? Bella's heart began to pound furiously as all three nomads focused their intense glares on her. “We'd be happy to exterminate her for you,” James offered with a smirk. Instinctively, I growled in response. “No thank you,” Carlisle politely declined. “She's with us.” “You have a werewolf for a pet?” Laurence demanded, shocked once again. “Are you crazy?” “She is not a pet. We have adopted her as one of our own and consider her our daughter,” Carlisle declared matter-of-factly.

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

(James) That's freaking hilarious! Vampires with a werewolf daughter! Ha! Obviously, drinking animal blood is hazardous to your sanity! This is even better than a pet! I'm going to hunt her down and tear her apart right in front of them. They can't even change her to protect her from me as our venom is poisonous to werewolves! I see the one prey that got away from me is here. I killed the old vampire who changed her before I could eat her. I see she gravitated to other human lovers, yellow eyes, like her sire. Killing their wolf will be adequate punishment for the short girl for changing before I could taste her delicious blood. “But isn't that dangerous?” Laurent asked, confused. “Not for us,” Carlisle confessed. “She loves us and we love her. She won't hurt us, nor will we hurt her.” (Victoria) These creatures are disgusting. They don't deserve to be called vampires. Not only are they weak animal drinkers and human wannabes, but they are also werewolf lovers. We should put them out of their misery. (Laurent) These vampires are beyond strange, but they seem so happy. I want to know more. (James) I'm going to pick this group off one by one and enjoy every minute of it. I'll wait until the very end to burn their body parts so they can watch each other be tortured and die. This is going to be so much fun! I could use a little challenge to while away a small piece of my eternity. “No, James, we are not going to give you the chance to hunt us, much less torture and kill us. As of now, it's game over,” I snarled. I knew the wolves would hear me. James smirked at me in contempt. “You think you can take me, wolf lover? Come and get me!” He laughed at me, full of confidence. Victoria started edging backwards away from us. Laurent held up his hands to indicate peaceful surrender. “We don't want to fight!” he protested. “Yes, I do!” James growled. Laurent frowned at him. “Are you insane, James? We are vastly outnumbered. Are you feeling suicidal?” James laughed derisively. “I'm not afraid of a bunch of animal drinkers. Everyone knows that animal blood weakens you. And I'm not afraid of their little pet werewolf either. She's practically defenseless, since she can't transform in the daytime. Everyone knows werewolves can only transform during the time of the full moon.” Just then growls filled the clearing as five giant wolves burst from the forest, effectively surrounding the group. “Oh, shit!” James muttered. “How the hell can they be out in the daytime?” “They're shape shifters, not really werewolves, though their ability to kill a vampire is just as prevalent as it is for real Children of the Moon,” I explained, thoroughly amused by his terror. “Get us out of here!” he commanded Victoria as the wolves tightened their circle, drawing closer and closer. Victoria had frozen at first glance of the five wolves, but was now frantically looking around them, trying to find an escape route. “The girl!” she shrieked, her voice painfully high. “Grab the girl!”
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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

Laurent was shaking with terror. We're dead! We're going to die! Wait - why aren't the other vampires scared? Instead, they're . . . amused? Because they're werewolf lovers! They're friends! Somehow they've made friends with the werewolves! They're not scared because they know the werewolves won't hurt them! Laurent hit his knees and began begging. “I surrender! I surrender! I don't want to fight! Please don't let them eat me! I don't want to die!” Carlisle offered him a hand, indicating he was welcome to join us. He eagerly and gratefully accepted. Meanwhile, James and Victoria both leapt into action, trying to jump over our heads to get to Bella in the midst of us. Jasper and I caught James and threw him to the wolves, while Emmett and Rose did the same for Victoria. James hit the ground and bounced, landing on his back a few feet away from Jacob and Embry. Jacob and Embry immediately pounced, gleefully tearing off his arms and tossing them to the side. Victoria hit the ground and rolled right up to Sam. He instantly went for the neck, ripping her head clean off her body. Quil and Leah grabbed hold of her legs and started pulling. I ran over to help Jacob and Embry with James. I had the distinct pleasure of ripping off his head, holding his jaw shut so he couldn't bite anything in the process. Rose and Emmett ran over to rip off Victoria's arms, as Quil and Leah pulled on her legs. A sound like ripping metal filled the clearing, bouncing off the mountains in the distance. Jasper and Carlisle were guarding Laurent to make sure he didn't try anything, keeping a close eye out for unexpected danger. Sam had phased back to human form, and he and Alice were gathering piles of kindling. They stacked the kindling near the side, so it wouldn't mar the baseball field. Rose, Emmett, and Sam started piling Victoria's body parts on top of the kindling. Alice dragged Victoria's head over to the woodpile by her flaming red hair, face down so her mouth, nose, and eyes would get filled with dirt along the way. Jasper was grinning with relief that the evil murderers had been quickly dispatched without any injury on our side, and Laurent just sat there frozen and numb. His most recent companions had just been neatly disposed of in mere seconds. If he hadn't chosen wisely to surrender, he knew for certain his body parts would be littering the field as well. Jacob phased to human form and started kicking James' head toward the pyre, while I finished dismembering his body. I began dragging body parts over to the wood pile, with the help of Sam and Embry. “Watch out for the teeth!” Carlisle shouted in warning to Jacob. “The venom can still poison you!” “Sure thing, Dad!” Jacob yelled back. “I'm open!” Emmett screamed, waving his arms over his head. Jacob laughed and skillfully sent the head rolling his way. Emmett kicked it high up into the air and it smashed down right in the center of the pile of body parts, landing on top of James's arms, which had been busy wrestling each other. Jacob made a victory sign with his arms. “He shoots, he scores!” “C'mon baby light my fire,” Emmett started singing. “C'mon set the night on FI-RE!” A bunch of us whipped out lighters. “Wait!” Bella cried, blushing as all eyes turned to her.

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Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

“What?!” I asked in horror, silently praying she wouldn't want to just forgive them and let them go. There was no way I would agree to that, but I knew Bella was foolishly forgiving enough to pull some crazy stunt like that. “I'd like to help light the fire,” she admitted bashfully. “Hell, yeah!” several people chorused. I wasn't the only one who had feared Bella might be feeling sorry for the bad guys. “Good for you, girl!” Leah cheered, handing Bella her own lighter. We gathered around the pile and at the count of three, set the thing ablaze. We relaxed as we watched the flames lick toward the sky, relieved and happy to have those evil vampires out of the picture without any damage to Bella. Of course, I spoke too soon, even in my own head, as Bella's danger magnet kicked into effect. I heard a loud pop and a glowing ember shot out of the fire and landed on Bella's jacket. “Stop, drop, and roll! Stop, drop, and roll!” Emmett screamed. I tore my shirt off, pushed Bella to the ground, and began beating the flames with it. Rose grabbed a bottled water we had brought for Bella's comfort and raced over to pour it on her. “Now, roll! Roll! Roll!” Emmett chanted at the top of his lungs. Rose dumped all the water out, successfully dousing the flames. Alice, wanting desperately to help her best friend, began rolling her over and over. My shirt was slightly charred, but still usable, so I slipped it back on and went to help my love. “Stop! Stop!” Bella was yelling. I grabbed Alice so she couldn't roll Bella anymore. “Way to go, Alice!” Emmett cheered encouragingly. Rose rolled her eyes. “Yeah, way to go, Alice,” she muttered, looking at Bella's filthy muddy shirt. She looks like a drowned rat. I thought she looked more like a muddy, wet kitten – messy but still adorable. Alice was surprised to see the mess she'd made of Bella's shirt. She bit her lip, a habit she had picked up from Bella. “I guess rolling her around in the dirt when her shirt was wet wasn't the most brilliant idea, huh?” I nodded. (Alice) Sorry! Just trying to help. I nodded and smiled a bit. “Thank you, Rose, for your timely intervention. It was highly effective at dousing the flames.” She beamed, happy to have been so instrumental in saving Bella this time. I checked Bella's skin underneath the charred shirt, but she was lucky enough to have come out unscathed. Her skin was warm and red, but she didn't have any blisters or anything. Jacob shook his head in resigned amusement, staring into the dying flames emitting purple smoke into the air. “Only Bella.”

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DeydreamBeliever

Changing the future

23/ 10/ 09

We all nodded in agreement. That was all he had to say. We all understood exactly what he meant. Sam had called Jared, and Carlisle had called Esme, to relay the information that all was well. We made sure the body parts had been completely burned to ash, with no hope of resurrection, then gathered up our equipment and made our way back to the house, ready for an impromptu celebration.

Chapter 59: Heading Home
BPOV Laurent was carefully surrounded as we made our way back to the house, with Edward monitoring his thoughts for any hint of betrayal or escape. Laurent was using the time to ask questions of Carlisle about his choice of lifestyle. Now that the stress was over, and we were victorious, I relaxed against Edward’s back as he ran with me. I looked over to the wolves who were pacing us and started giggling. My laughter caught the attention of the group, and they all looked at me, wanting in on the joke. I blushed to see all their eyes on me and clapped a hand over my mouth. “Too late now, Bella!” Jasper teased. “What are you thinking to cause such waves of mischievous amusement?” With that, he sent out waves of my emotions to all the others. In combination with their own feelings of euphoria and relief, the entire group, including Laurent was soon snickering, giggling, and chuckling. Emmett, true to form, was giving a characteristic evil scientist laugh – mwahahaha – and rubbing his hands together, while wearing the look he usually gets when plotting a particularly devious prank. I shook my head, refusing to admit my thoughts, though my own amusement was now doubled thanks to Jasper. In fact, I was laughing so hard I nearly fell backwards off of Edward. This was enough to immediately sober Edward as he quickly moved his body to adjust my center of gravity. “Darn it, Bella!” he growled in irritation. “Do I need to make a backpack for you like parents carry their babies in, or can you please hold on to me? I wouldn’t have dropped you, but it would hurt you if you suddenly found yourself upside down with the back of your head slamming into the back of my legs!” I could see it in my mind’s eye and shuddered, sobering up as well. I hated being the target of Edward’s displeasure. I didn’t intend to tell him how scared I had gotten, or how my heart had sunk all the way down to my toes while my stomach had been doing a full Olympic gymnastic routine as I felt myself falling. Had to love those awesome vampire reflexes that allowed him to adjust his own body to accommodate the sudden imbalance of my own.

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Changing the future

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Jacob phased quickly to add a snide comment. “Hey, we’d be happy to make a giant cradleboard for your little papoose!” Okay, that’s it. He’s going down. “Fine, I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I think you wolves should perform Swan Lake for us in your cute little tutus,” I taunted. The sounds of snarls and growling filled the air, drowning out the chuckles. “Good one, Bells!” Emmett cheered. “I can see it now. Horse sized wolves dancing around on their hind legs in frilly pink tutus! Awesome!” Alice got a funny look on her face, one Jacob had already learned to recognize. “Oh, no you don’t, Alice Cullen! You can just forget it right now. There is no way in hell you will ever get me into something pink and frilly!” Alice got an evil grin on her face, one that should have struck terror into Jacob’s heart. I know it would mine if it were directed at me. She began searching the future. “Oooohh! A challenge!” Rose smirked. “Don’t you know the family motto? Don’t bet against Alice. I wouldn’t have challenged her like that if I were you. Now I can’t wait to see you in something pink and frilly.” At Rose’s remark, Jacob realized what he had done. The look of sheer horror and fear on his face was hilarious. He knew, sooner or later, he was going to meet his doom. Alice would continue searching the future until she knew what series of events she could put into place to prove that she could get him into something pink and frilly, and she would never forget. It could be ten, fifty, a hundred years, some day she would prove him wrong. Edward started laughing at whatever Jacob was thinking. Alice grinned again. “You can run, but you can’t hide, Jacob Black.” He blanched at her words. Obviously, he had been considering that option. Quil phased and shook his head sadly. “Really, Jacob, I thought you would have been smart enough to figure out by now – never tell Alice she can’t do something. Even Jasper wouldn’t dare do that.” Jasper barked out a laugh. “You’re right! I’m not that stupid!” Leah phased to put in her two cents worth. “You guys are all such wimps. Little Alice has you all wrapped around her little finger.” “And that’s just the way I like it!” Alice laughed. “So don’t ruin it for me, Leah.” Leah grinned. “Nah, I’m just taking lessons. You’re my new role model.” “Hey!” Rose protested in amusement. “I thought I was your new role model.” Leah nodded solemnly. “Oh, you are, Rose, you are. After all, now that I’m a true bitch, I’m taking lessons from the best. After all, you’ve had decades to perfect the art.” Everyone froze for a second. Emmett let out a nervous titter. “Female dog, bitch, yeah, funny.” All eyes were on Rose, waiting for her reaction.
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Changing the future

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“You have chosen wisely, my padawan,” Rose intoned. “It is indeed an art, one few can truly master. One must be dedicated and spend many long hours practicing. The inclination or desire is not enough. Once must have inborn talent as well to become a Bitch deserving of a capital B. One must be in tune to the bitch energy of the universe, tapping into it, for your words and looks to have any real power. Are you certain of the path you have chosen? It is a long and arduous journey, fraught with violence and peril.” Leah bowed formally. “I shall study hard, your Bitchiness. I will keep my tongue to the grindstone to sharpen my rapier wit.” I couldn’t hold it in any longer. My laughter broke the spell, and everyone started running again. Rose smirked at Leah. “May the force be with you, young one, as you have much to learn.” Leah flicked a glance my way, a wicked glint in her eyes. “O’ Wise One, I think we should allow Bella and Angela to participate in your lessons. Clearly they have neither talent nor inclination, but they are both much too nice for their own good. I believe they could both benefit from your teachings.” Rose grinned, but before she could respond, Edward did. “No way, forget it! I forbid it! I like Bella just the way she is, thank you very much!” I wished I could see the expression on his face. Judging from everyone else’s reaction, it must have been a sight to see. I met Rose’s eyes, gleaming with laughter, then winked and nodded. Edward turned to look at me in astonishment. I immediately freaked, grabbing his head and trying to turn it to face forward again. “Look where you’re going! Are you trying to kill me?!” I shrieked in panic. He rolled his eyes at me, but turned to face forward again. “Did you just wink and nod at Rose?!” he asked indignantly. “Who me?” I responded innocently. Rats. I forgot he could see me through other people’s eyes. So much for going behind his back. Time for distraction. We were almost home, so I only needed to buy myself a few more minutes. I knew once we got there, I could safely hide behind Esme’s skirts, and Edward would be unable to fuss at me. “So Jacob, how do you like your new skirt?” “It’s not a skirt!” he shouted, growling at me. “And it’s not a tutu!” I laughed, enjoying my torment of him. I know, shame on me. But it was saving my tailfeathers, so I wasn’t about to stop. “Well then, what is it?” I challenged. “It’s . . . uh . . . . a . . . . um,” he stuttered, searching for a term he could accept. “Kilt?” Carlisle suggested. “Uniform?” Quil offered. Jacob shook his head in frustration. Suddenly, his face lit up, and I knew he had an inspiration. “It’s a loincloth.”

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“Man, Jacob! I thought you guys gave up wearing those hundreds of years ago!” Emmett teased. “It’s pure genius, that’s what it is,” Alice stated sternly. “My design is flawless, as usual. It doesn’t shred or tear during transformation and allows comfortable movement of the tail. The elastic waist allows it to fit comfortably in either form, and the multiple flaps of fabric allow it to mold around the wolf form, while covering the necessary parts to allow for a bit of modesty in the human form. Quite brilliant, if I do say so myself.” “Actually, it reminds me of those Hawaiian things,” Emmett responded. “You know, the grass skirts they wear. Oooohh! We should have a luau! Yeah! Watching werewolves perform a hula dance is almost as good as watching them dance ballet! Of course you wouldn’t be able to juggle the flaming torches, unless you were in your human forms.” Laurent gulped and looked at Emmett like he belonged in a mental institution. “Do you really think having a bunch of werewolves juggle flaming torches around a bunch of vampires is a good idea, my friend?” Emmett made his ‘thinking’ face. “Yeah, perhaps not. Especially if Bella is within fifty feet.” “Thanks, Emmett,” I retorted sarcastically. Everyone had a chuckle at my expense, but I didn’t really mind. My distraction plan was working well. Alice clapped her hands excitedly. “A luau! I would love to put one together!” “Uh, oh,” Edward moaned. “Now look what you’ve done.” “We could play limbo,” Jasper suggested, smiling indulgently at his wife. “I wonder who would win at that game.” “Not me!” I cheerfully replied while the rest were considering it. Everyone laughingly agreed. “Yeah,” Jacob added with a smirk. “We want Carlisle to be able to enjoy the party too. With you around, he’s always on duty. Good thing the dude doesn’t need to sleep.” Carlisle grabbed one of my hands and kissed the back of it like a gentleman. I clutched Edward tighter with the other hand, slightly frightened to be going so fast and only holding on with one arm. Carlisle released my hand, and I relaxed. “While I sincerely would prefer if you did not need my services, my dear,” Carlisle responded. “I am always honored to be there for you when you need me.” I blushed and smiled lovingly at him. He was such a good, caring father. “Thanks, Carlisle.” “Yeah, at least life’s not boring anymore. Never a dull moment with Bellie around!” Emmett boomed. “Aint that the truth!” Jasper declared, grinning back at me. “You’ve got to give the girl credit,” Rose snickered. “She’s performed a miracle. She’s actually made it bearable to live with Edward. I’m sure Jasper’s thankful, which means Alice is too.” “Yeah, I don’t have to go around feeling like I live under a dark cloud of despair anymore, wallowing in loneliness, envy, and self-pity,” Jasper agreed.

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“I wasn’t like that!” Edward protested. “I was happy enough when I didn’t know what I was missing.” The family all snorted in disbelief. “He says to the empath,” Jasper countered, rolling his eyes. We had finally made it back to the house.

Chapter 60: Victory Celebration
BPOV [For those who didn’t understand – when Edward listens into a person’s mind, he can hear both sides of the person’s physical conversation as the person’s mind processes what he or she is hearing and saying, as well as what the person is thinking. The stuff he heard from the nomads was all taken out of their minds, but some of it was things they were thinking and some was things they were hearing each other saying. Does that make sense? I’ll go back and make it more clear in the scene itself later.] Esme had wisely kept herself, Emily, and Kim busy preparing a feast for our return, anticipating a celebration. She had put Jared and Seth to work outside, setting up tables and chairs, manning the grill, and other preparatory tasks. They all ran out to greet us as we approached. Emily and Esme eagerly approached their lovers, finding themselves wrapped up in their mates’ embraces, happy to be safely back together again. Laurent unconsciously took a step toward Kim and Emily, but was stopped by a chorus of growls. “Humans?” he asked in disbelief. “You keep human pets along with werewolf pets?” “We’re not pets, leech!” Sam snarled angrily. “We’re friends.” Laurent just looked confused, glancing from Carlisle and Esme to Sam and Emily. “Friends? With humans?” “You were human once too, Laurent. Don’t forget that,” Edward reminded him. “Would you feed on and kill your own mother, your own child? Every human is somebody’s child, somebody’s family. Human’s are sentient beings and without them, there would be no vampires. It is important to preserve humanity. Besides life is a lot more interesting with humans around.” He smiled at me, then kissed me gently. Laurent gasped and wrinkled his nose. “You are intimate with a werewolf? Doesn’t the smell alone