Bella’s POV: I woke up to Edward gently massaging my thigh. I sighed and sat up to escape the slow torture.

It was officially September now. The only definite plans I had today were to see off Ben and Angela when they left for Seattle this afternoon. All the freshmen were moving into the dorms this week. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t see each other again until January. “So you and Jasper seem to be getting along well,” Edward observed with distinct suspicion. They were his first words of the day. “Uh-huh,” I agreed as nonchalantly as possible. “Now I just have to win over Rosalie,” I scoffed, trying to change his focus. His forehead creased but he did not reply, so I retreated from the bed and headed for the shower. Who knew that one hug could cause so much Cullen family drama? Jasper was a good guy and sometimes I think he felt left out. It was common knowledge that Emmett was Edward’s favorite brother. There were many logical reasons for this: Emmett was playful, funny, and Edward knew him longer. But I still felt bad for the obvious preference. Not that I wasn’t playing favorites myself. I much preferred Alice to Rosalie, but that was a little different because Rosalie loathed me back. I smiled when I realized that I just considered myself part of the family. In any case, even though I had a favorite sister, I didn’t have to choose a favorite brother. Jasper probably thought that I already chose Emmett as my favorite and in a subconscious way, I suppose I had. Emmett offered bone-crushing hugs and Jasper offered nods. But that didn’t mean that he didn’t care about me. Probably the opposite. He was being careful. And his family no doubt pressured him to be overly careful. And by family, I mean Edward. I ran a towel through my hair to soak up any extra moisture before brushing it out. I wrapped myself up and walked back into my room to retrieve my outfit. Edward was still on the bed with a contemplative face. I withheld a sigh and opted to get dressed in the bathroom like old times’ sake so I could avoid any more questioning. After I was dressed, I was seriously contemplating blow drying my hair to waste more time when Edward knocked on the door and I heard his rather frantic voice. “Bella? We have to go.” ___________________ Edward’s POV: Bella opened the door immediately and the look in her eyes nearly crumpled me. It was the look she had the night of the baseball game, the look in that Port Angeles alley, the look when Jane was torturing me. The fear was palpable, and the worst part is that I couldn’t do a thing to relieve it. “The Volturi,” I breathed. It all happened quickly yet impossibly slow. I grabbed her before she even had time for a panic attack. Then we were at my house. Everyone was hugging Bella which only made her more afraid. Then Esme babysat her in the kitchen while we formed a plan in hushed whispers, a few rooms away. Bella yelled at us, demanding to be included in the planning. But we all over the place. Alice’s vision only showed them arriving: Demetri, of course, a blurry male, and two females that must be their guards. There were no visible outcomes, even when we decided how we would

hide Bella. Of course, that was because of our escort choice. “Jacob?” Bella called, walking out of the kitchen after she heard him greet us. Her face was confused. “Hey Bells.” Jacob shifted uncomfortably, knowing from the phone call what we needed from him. Alice was focusing all she could on the blurry male in her vision when she gasped. “Alec,” she choked. “The fourth person is Alec,” she told no one in particular. Bella looked concerned and confused by Alice’s reaction. “What gift does Alec have again?” “It’s unimportant,” I interjected. Great, just we need.. She scowled. “So what’s the plan?” she asked defiantly. “Bella..” I started. She was going to hate this. “We’re going to hide you.” “No!” she yelled. “I told you no hiding! I said that months ago.” And I never agreed. Demetri can’t track you or Jacob, so he’ll escort you,” I continued. “I’m not going,” she said stubbornly. “Just change me! It’s inevitable anyway. It will just speed things up.” Carlisle shook his head and decided to step in. “Bella, none of us are in favor of an emergency transformation if it can be avoided. You decided to travel and attend years of college as a human and we have every intention of making that possible. It’s unanimous among us.” “Everyone?” she clarified, looking at Rosalie. Bella knew that Rose valued humanity, but she probably expected a snide comment about her endangering the family like always. Heck, I expected it. But she just nodded. Even her thoughts weren’t offensive. Huh. Ice Bitch was melting. “Well I’m glad everyone’s vote matters but mine,” Bella mumbled. I sighed and continued my instructions. “We acquired a modest house a few months ago that no one knows about. Jasper bought it in cash with a false name in case we ever needed a hiding place nearby. Jacob will take you up to the guest room where you will stay until this is over. It’s the only room with a bed in it or seats at all, actually. We’ve only just started to decorate the house. But there is some food in the cabinets that Jacob can get you when you arrive.” I glanced at Jacob for confirmation. He nodded. I left out the part about Jacob’s responsibilities after they arrived because that really would not help to calm her. After checking with me in her thoughts, Alice slipped behind Bella and gave Jacob a set of handcuffs. She also whispered instructions in his ear. I’m glad we had the cuffs laying around for some reason, even though it pained me to think of my love restrained like a criminal. But Bella can be feisty when she is determined. I know that better than anyone. Bella was still shaking her head and refusing to go, completely missing the exchange. I was pleading for her to cooperate, but she was going regardless. “There’s no point to this! I can’t live without you!” she yelled. “I’m not dying today, Bella,” I said softly. “But if anything did happen to me..yes, you can,” I said evenly. “And you will,” I added firmly. “People care about you.” I nodded my head over her shoulder, toward Jacob. “I care about you. I need you to exist, even if I’m not there to witness it. Promise me.” She can’t ever harm herself. Not my angel.

She shook her head bitterly. “What if I want to be a coward? I’m sure it’s my turn. It’s only fair.” “Bella,” I warned. “Jacob needs to take her now. We don’t have time for this,” Alice said sadly. ‘Don’t worry, Edward. I wouldn’t let her do anything stupid,’ Alice assured me in her thoughts. “Alright, just let me say goodbye,” I murmured, moving toward Bella. She backed up slightly. “No.” “What?” I whispered. “I’m not saying goodbye to you,” she declared as she brushed by Jacob’s shoulder and headed toward the front door. “Wait!” Alice exclaimed, throwing herself at Bella to form a hug before kissing her cheek. Bella looked at her pixie sadly before turning her body to face the rest of the family, giving them a weak wave. Jacob pulled Bella out the door as she whispered “I love you all.” After the door shut, the family started pacing or strategizing. I, however, had not moved a centimeter since she refused my goodbye. I definitely had new motivation to get my family and I through this. I had to be able to make amends after this was over. _______________________ Bella’s POV: Jacob ushered me into his Rabbit and took off as soon as my seatbelt was in place and my wrist was attached to the center console. I was furious to say the least. I’m not a child. They can’t keep making these decisions for me, putting themselves in danger for me. “You know,” Jacob said, breaking the silence and running his fingers over the handcuffs, “It’s too bad these aren’t fuzzy.” He smirked at me, trying to lighten the mood. “Can it, Jacob. Unless you want me to repeat that comment to a certain blond Yale wannabe.” I was in no mood for his antics. Jacob scowled in reply. “You could be nicer. I left her in the middle of a fucking date for this and she’ll have to find a ride.” His harsh words lacked venom. I felt a little bad for Jacob but I quickly pushed it away. I had to keep the anger inside of me for as long as I could. Because once I let the sorrow take over, I knew there was no coming back from it. I swallowed. “Where did they get the handcuffs anyway? Why did they have them already?” I asked to distract myself. I would have totally blamed it on a certain sexed up couple in the house, but I knew Emmett or Rose could snap them off with a flick of their wrist. “I don’t know why your bloodsuckers do half the shit they do, don’t ask me.” I sighed. Maybe the silence wasn’t so bad. His phone kept buzzing every 5 minutes and it was starting to get annoying. But every time, he just looked at the Caller ID and winced.

We were driving for about 30 minutes before we arrived. We pulled onto a street called Maple and soon after, we were in the driveway of a yellow house. I took in my surroundings briefly. It was a nice house. Much smaller than the Cullen’s main house, but still bigger than Charlie’s. I was gawking at the embarrassing mailbox when Jacob tugged me toward the door. He led me upstairs and opened a few doors until he found the bathroom. “Go now, you won’t get another chance,” he warned. I hesitated and he sighed. “I’m in a hurry. As soon as you’re settled, I have to go back to help the pack. So no funny business, okay? You have 2 minutes or I’m coming in there.” He pushed me lightly through the door. I was bummed that my stalling would do nothing but humiliate myself, so I hurried the best I could. I heard him through the door, talking to someone on the phone. “We’re here. Yes. Bye.” When I left the bathroom, he pulled me into what must be the guestroom and placed his phone on the dresser. Then he locked me to the bed’s metal headboard once I was sitting comfortably. Luckily he kept his fuzzy handcuff comments to himself. I was already on the verge of blushing. “Jacob?” I asked timidly when he was done. “Yeah?” “Is Sam going to help the Cullens if things turn ugly?” Jacob looked at me sadly. “I don’t think so, Bells. We’re probably just going to guard La Push and Forks in case they decide to go hunting. Alice is advising us to lay low. And I imagine Sam will agree and say that he refuses to sign us up for a suici--” I flinched and Jacob reached out to pet my hair. I felt a tear trail down my cheek despite my best efforts to stop it. He wiped it away with his blazing fingers. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. His phone’s vibrations interrupted us and he immediately answered, but kept it an inch or so away from his ear. Judging by the booming voice I could hear from the other end, that was the correct instinct. “I’m sorry. I’m leaving now and will run there so you guys can catch me up on the way.” He hung up and frowned nervously. “Alice filled the pack in as soon as we left so they wouldn’t be surprised. I had to ignore them until I got you here safe, so they couldn’t talk me out of it.” He wasn’t looking at me when he said this; he seemed to be a world away. Then he removed the contents of his pockets, probably worrying about losing stuff in the woods. It would be bad enough to carry jeans in your mouth as it is, or whatever the hell he does with them while he is furry. He sent me one last apologetic look and a promise to come back, and then he was gone. I finally let the sobs overtake me, crying even harder when I remembered that no one was here to make me stop. _______________________ Edward’s POV: For a moment my family stared, tensely silent, at the visitors in our living room until Alice thought that I should do the talking. Had she gotten another vision? I was so focused on the Volturi’s fruitless thoughts that I might have missed

something. I would have to play better attention to her and accept this advice in the meantime. “Hello Demetri. Alec,” I said as politely as possible. They nodded while their guards stood behind them, unmoving. “So to what do we owe the pleasure?” Alec laughed lightly without menace. “I’m sure Alice told you. That’s why your Bella is no where to be found. We tried to stall making a traceable decision, but alas..We have her home address of course, but I’m sure you came up with a more original hiding place.” He paused. “So I guess you did not change her? I smell human all over this place,” he mused. His face had an odd expression on it that I couldn’t place. “And how do you know it’s her scent?” I challenged without hope. “Come don’t think I could forget freesia, do you?” he smiled. I cringed internally. If only I hadn’t been a suicidal wuss, they would have never even known about Bella. At least she’s safe at the moment. __________________ Bella’s POV: I finally slowed my sobs and looked around the room helplessly. There wasn’t much in here except for a dresser, the bed, and the things Jacob left behind. The things Jacob left behind. Holy shit. I reached for his cell phone on the dresser but the arm closest to it was the one handcuffed, so I had to turn my body the best I could and try to grab it with my toes. If the family could see me now.. My toes don’t exactly have much grabbing power, but I was able to push it off the dresser, onto the bed. I grabbed it and dialed 911. I asked for the fire department to bring something that could cut through handcuffs. I was going to ask the police but considering that these handcuffs look a lot like Charlie’s, Alice might have snatched them from the station. I didn’t want them to recognize the brand or something. Plus, I really didn’t want my dad to hear about this through the grapevine. “So there is no fire, correct? Your cell’s built-in locator shows that you are on Maple Street but do you know the house number?” “No I’m sorry, it’s not my house. But the house is yellow and it has a really stupid cat mailbox.” I could tell the operator was stifling a laugh. “Alright, they can still find you from the coordinates if they need to, don’t worry.” “Okay thank you, bye.” I told the operator that there was no foul play, but I knew the firefighter would want some kind of explanation. How could I get out of here without anyone getting in trouble? Well there is one way-- No! Too embarrassing. But when is my life not embarrassing? I sighed and started to undo my pants with one hand. I saw the truck pull up outside a few minutes later. Slow fire day, I hope. “Up here!” I called when they barged through the door. I could already feel myself blushing. A man in his 20s walked in the room with a pair of super cutters. Damn, he was cute, too.

He looked at me, alarmed. Of course, how else should he look when I’m handcuffed to a bed with only my shirt and underwear on? I didn’t let myself answer that. “Did someone hurt you?” he asked immediately as he rushed over to me. “No. No one did anything wrong.” He cut the chain connector between the cuffs and took my wrist is his hand, raising an eyebrow. “What happened, then?” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a key. Thank God; I didn’t want this dangling on my wrist. “Umm my boyfriend and I got a little carried away with the whole bondage thing,” I choked out. The fireman’s lips twitched. “And he uh lost the key and had a family emergency, so he gave me the phone to call.” I coughed. He unlocked it and freed my hand. “Thanks,” I smiled. “No problem. We keep a variety of generic keys at our disposal. Surprising as it seems, we get quite a few calls about handcuffs. Though most involve kids locking themselves up.” He was unable to stop the small chuckle that came out of his mouth. I blushed more as I grabbed my pants and got off the bed. He was gentlemanly and looked away as I pulled them on. “Well thanks again. I better get going.” I grabbed Jacob’s keys and paper with directions while he stood up. “So you’re okay? No need to press charges?” “No,” I said quickly. “I’m fine.” “Do you want to--” he cut himself off and shook his head. I heard him mutter something like “bondage boy.” He smiled and settled on “Have a nice day” before walking out the door. I left immediately after him, hoping I could get there in time. For the first time in my life, I sped. ____________________ Edward’s POV: Empty pleasantries were coming to an end when I was suddenly focused on a new vision from Alice. In it, Bella was driving Jacob’s car, speeding toward Forks. I bit back a growl. Then her vision showed Bella approaching the house but our visitors were already gone, thank God. I would track her down on the road right now, but I can’t. Why can’t she just listen for once? “Well we have good news for you,” Demetri told us. I raised my eyebrow. When does the Volturi have good news? “We’ve decided that Bella can stay human after all. She seems to be keeping the secret well enough, for which we are thankful.” I gaped at him for a moment. “Thank you, but why?” I asked hesitantly. He shrugged and Alec interrupted. “Can’t we do something nice?” He was trying his best to sound offended. I looked in his mind but could not see any reason why. But he did let one thought slip through. ‘I’m glad we got here in time. Aro wants nothing but peace right now.’ Relief. So that was the expression I could not place earlier. ____________________ Bella’s POV:

The trip was agony. All I could think was ‘I can’t believe that I didn’t say goodbye. I’m such a terrible person. If anything happened to him--’ I drove even faster once I was on the secluded roads. When I pulled into their driveway too quickly, I didn’t even care that Edward looked pissed as he stood near the door. I was just glad that he was standing there at all, whole. I got out of the car and wrapped my arms around his stiff body. He pulled back after a moment. “Bella!” he scolded. “What have I told you about running off to meet with sadistic vampires?” “Are they gone? Is everyone okay?” “Yes, but--” “Then shut up and kiss me,” I demanded. He complied. But when he did it was angry. It was impatient. It was desperate. Like he was trying to teach me a lesson with his mouth. But all it made me do was want more. I bit his lip and he growled. I could tell that he wanted nothing more but to bite me back this time. A throat cleared beside us. I really didn’t care and they seemed to leave after a while. When we finally pulled away, his eyes were still scorching. “I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye,” I whispered after I caught by breath. He nodded in an unforgiving manner. “Me too.” I looked down at the ground. “Carlisle wants to fill you in on what happened,” he informed me as he tugged my hand in the direction of the house. We walked into the living room and five pairs of golden eyes were on me. The other two were having a silent conversation. No one was talking so I decided to ask the first question. “So..why did they leave so easily?” “Why don’t we start with why they came here to begin with,” Carlisle suggested. Edward nodded. “They came to tell us that you are allowed to stay human, indefinitely.” “What? Why? And why would they come all this way just to deliver a message?” “They don’t exactly trust the post office with important messages,” Carlisle said. His voice was kind but I still blushed. “And they wanted to know for certain if you were still human.” Edward added. “I don’t understand. They said they didn’t care if I stayed human.” “Not exactly. They said that you could stay human. Which means they want you to.” “Why? Am I that much of an embarrassment? Not worthy enough to be immortal?” I asked, hurt. Edward chuckled despite himself. “No I’d say it was quite the opposite. They must be scared of you. Of what you could become.” I stared blankly at him. “Your gift,” he clarified. “Your blocking ability is already quite strong. I’m sure they don’t want it to get stronger, unless you join them of course.” “Oh,” I whispered. Carlisle spoke up again. “I’d say this was good news at the moment. You’ll be able to finish college without any problems from them, it seems.” “But after?” I whispered. “They didn’t prohibit me from changing, did they?” Edward shook his head. “But they probably thought that would have the opposite effect, curiosity and all that. Besides, they knew how against changing you I was in Italy. They might think I won’t allow it now that there is a choice.” “We’ll just have to figure that out when the time comes,” Carlisle said calmly.

I nodded solemnly. The Volturi better not screw up my forever. “Of course, this is all just my theory from what I witnessed. The..visitors were not thinking of why they want you to be human. My guess is that the Volturi didn’t tell them on purpose so I wouldn’t know it. They probably weren’t even supposed to act relieved when they found out you were human, but they slipped up.” It was silent for a long moment as everyone mulled over their thoughts. “Thank you all for caring about me,” I said after a moment. “I obviously didn’t agree with the methods today, but I still appreciate it. I didn’t mean to seem ungrateful.” “You’re welcome, sweetie,” Esme smiled. Edward’s phone buzzed and he growled when he saw who it was. “Hey Jacob,” he said coldly. “Yeah, we have her. How the fuck did you let her get away?” he spat. I flinched. There was a long pause as he explained. “Whatever. We’ll talk about this later,” he said before hanging up. He turned his glare on me. “How did you get out of handcuffs, anyway? I blushed lightly as I remembered. “Funny story, actually..” He cracked a small smile at my recollection, while the rest of the family was shaking with laughter. But Edward was still not really talking to me by the time we arrived at my house. “I was supposed to say goodbye to Ben and Angela today,” I offered, trying to spark some form of communication. “I’ll drive you to Seattle sometime this month to see them,” he answered flatly. I nodded. “Are you coming in?” I knew that either way, he would be watching over me. He looked at me like it was a given, and I was a little relieved. “Do you want me to?” he asked. ‘I always want you,’ I heard myself say intensely in my head. Trying not to cringe at the memory, I willed it away so I could finish the conversation. “Of course,” I answered instead, honestly. He headed to the kitchen after we went inside and started to rummage through cabinets. What he was searching for, I had no idea. He turned his head toward me. “Jacob didn’t get you food, did he?” I shook my head slowly. He nodded and turned back to the canned goods. “He probably forgot, just like he forgot to keep his phone out of arm’s reach,” he said with reproach. Foot’s reach, actually, I amended to myself. I crossed my arms and answered in his same tone. “I don’t really enjoy eating with just one hand anyway. Besides, you’re lucky he helped you at all. He left Aubrey and risked his pack’s safety and trust to get me out of there in time. They’re probably kicking his ass right now.” I frowned at the thought. He didn’t answer. Instead he stirred the soup on the stove and stuck a poptart in the toaster. I bit my lip. If he’s willingly serving me so much salt and preservatives in one sitting, he must be distracted. After the food was warm, he set it on the table and pointed to a chair. “Eat.” I looked at the bowl and focused on the tiny chip in it.

“I don’t really have an appetite,” I muttered truthfully. “Eat,” he repeated. We stared at each other for a few minutes until he started breathing deeply. I just wanted to go to sleep and forget this terrible day. But I didn’t want to waste any more time standing here, and he’d probably force feed me if he needed to. So I sat down and ate, not really tasting anything. The soup may have burned my mouth. I didn’t notice. I trudged up the stairs and plopped onto my bed, shoes and all. Charlie was working late today so he didn’t have to know that I was going to bed at 7:00. Edward pulled off my shoes and pants so he could put my sweatpants on me. I was out a few minutes later. I woke up at 5:43 with my head resting on Edward’s chest. I turned on the dim light next to my bed so I could see him better. Luckily, his face was softer. “I’m sorry that I was so cold earlier. I was just frozen with worry.” He paused. “Why didn’t you listen?” He asked with pleading eyes, all anger gone. “Because I should have a say in things, too. I’m sick of feeling like the Cullen family pet!” I whispered harshly, my frustration returning. “You’re not! We just were in a rush and we didn’t really have time to talk.” “Even if we did, you guys would have done the same thing,” I mumbled. He didn’t deny it. Instead he stared straight ahead. “Bella..we all miss our mortality so much. We just couldn’t let you throw yours away in a rush. You deserve all the time you want.” “I understand that, but you shouldn’t be taking these risks. It could have turned into a disaster.” “But it didn’t. Aren’t you glad that we used my plan?” He had the nerve to sound a little smug. “You would be burning up with venom right now, otherwise, for nothing.” I frowned. “You were just really damn lucky that your plan worked. Because logistically, we were screwed.” “Fair enough.” “Just..let me give some input next time, please.” “Next time?” he asked wearily. “There is always a next time with me,” I concluded grimly. He sighed. “I’ll try.” A silent moment passed before I thought of an earlier question. “Hey, what’s so special about Alec, anyway?” Edward hesitated for a moment. “He..can immobilize people, like Jane. But a group of people all at once. Painlessly.” “What! Are you crazy? You just walked into that? They could have easily killed you all,” I said too loudly. He shushed me. “But if they did that, they would have never found you. And you are who they wanted.” I suppressed a shiver. “But you would have refused to tell them and they would have been pissed. They might have killed you off one by one until someone told,” I choked out. “I don’t think they would have. They don’t like to upset large covens unnecessarily. And they don’t like to kill them off completely, either, when there is another large coven to avenge them, like in Denali. And if they off’d too many of us, it would gain negative attention for them. All that destruction for one

human who never even told a soul? Plus, Carlisle knows them, and Aro wouldn’t want to destroy Alice or I because he wants our talents someday.” “Still..shit.” He chuckled lightly. “Shit indeed.” His momentary humor died and he looked pained. “Of course, Aro is interested in you as well so I doubt he would tell them to destroy you. The more likely outcome probably would have been them trying to take you with them and change you themselves as punishment or something. It’s the one time they might get away with completely forcing membership. Most vampires are eager to join, or they persuade them however they can.” I was horrified by the idea of being taken, especially as a human. Being the Cullen family pet is much more preferable than being the Volturi family pet. “You really think they would?” My voice shook. “I thought that they would just change me when they saw me; that’s why I rushed home. It seemed like a simple solution. I didn’t think they would kill me, either,” I said softly. “Honestly I don’t know, Bella. Maybe not, since dedication and loyalty is necessary for them.” “And if that was their goal, wouldn’t they have made sure to find me this time or in the near future?” I fidgeted. He paused. “Maybe they’re watching you like a tropical storm. They want to know right away if you become a hurricane. Every member of the Volturi is a hurricane, able cause massive destruction.” I shivered at his detached tone as he continued. “Tropical storms can usually avoid attention in the early stages. Flying under the radar if you will. But they require frequent checkups once detected.” He looked at me pointedly. “So they’ll check on me, but they don’t want me before I’m changed,” I guessed. “Unless they need a hurricane right away,” Edward concluded softly. “But Aro wants peace with us for now.” For now. I fought for my mind and body to remain steady. ______________________ Edward’s POV: I know I scared her by talking about my theories, and I wished I hadn’t. “You don’t have to worry about it,” I tried to assure her. “I won’t let them take you. But I would appreciate some cooperation in future..plans.” She nodded sheepishly. I felt a pain in my chest when I realized her other option. “Or you could choose to stay off the radar of course. But you’d have to stay away from all hurricanes for that to work.” She shook her head fervently before excusing herself to the bathroom. I sighed in both relief and defeat. Bella returned from her human minute and snuggled against me, seeming more

cheerful. But she leaned away a moment later. I raised my eyebrow in question. “No shirt, no shoes, Mr. You know the drill.” I laughed in a whisper and pulled my t-shirt over my head. “Much better” she murmured before returning back to my arms. I felt fiery kisses trail down my chest and sighed contentedly. “You aren’t tired?” I asked reluctantly. “I slept 11 hours, Edward.” She sounded amused. She pushed her hand against my stomach and I groaned as quietly as possible. “Bella, your father is home.” “Uh-huh.” She continued the path with her mouth. “Bella, stop,” I said half-heartedly. She did but leaned up to whisper in my ear. “No service?” she asked innocently. Oh hell. I grabbed her waist and attacked my lips with mine. Then I tugged on the hem of her shirt and moved my lips to her throat, drinking in her scent. “You’re breaking your own rule,” I whispered before pulling it off and unhooking her bra. I palmed her breast and she moaned loudly. Too loudly. So I put my finger to her lips. She took it in her mouth and sucked it. Sucked it! I was unsure whether I should get an award or be sent to hell for corrupting such a beautiful creature. It didn’t have much time for debate though, because Charlie decided to come check on Bella after hearing a noise from his room. So I grabbed her discarded clothes, covered her up to her neck with the blanket, turned off her light, and hopped out the window within a second. While Charlie checked on her, I looked down at the clothes I was still holding. In my haste, I guess I didn’t pay much attention to the undergarment she was wearing. It involved several shades of blue but the amount of material was not very generous. I swear, Alice is trying to kill me. “Edward,” said a whisper from upstairs after Charlie entered the bathroom to get ready. I sighed. Alice will have to get in line. _______________ Bella’s POV: Edward refused to touch me until Charlie left for work at 7:15. So I sent him to the rocking chair so I wouldn’t be liable for jumping him. I stared at the clock, cursing the current system of time. Edward’s eyes were closed. Maybe it had something to with the fact that I left my shirt off. Oops. As soon as Charlie’s cruiser was driving down the street, the rocking chair was empty and my sweatpants were a distant memory. “That wasn’t very nice of you,” Edward murmured against my chest. “Maybe now is a good time to find out where to mark you.” My heart stuttered as he sat up to gaze at me. His scorching eyes raked in every inch of my pale skin. “” He kissed right above my left breast. “Or..” he kissed right under my ribs. I took a deep breath. “Roll onto your stomach,” he requested as he barely brushed over my belly. After I complied, he swept the hair away from my back and trailed his pointer finger down my spine. I shivered. He kissed my hip right above

my underwear, letting his lips linger. He pulled me onto my back and trailed his fingers up my leg slowly. Then he pulled my legs apart and kissed my inner thigh. I whimpered so he took the opportunity to suck lightly. I squirmed and begged without words for more direct contact. He pulled back and sighed. “I guess that’s not right either. I’m looking to pleasure you, not torture you. Well..mostly,” he smirked. Edward trailed his hand under my belly button before landing in the small indent next to my hip bone. His eyes lit up and he brought his lips to the soft skin. I sighed at the contact so he started sucking, harder than before. I moaned as my hips jerked slightly. All too soon his mouth released me, leaving a mark in its wake. Edward smiled and kissed it. “Mine,” he breathed in a way that managed to sound loving. I sat up and pulled him to me, our lips meeting urgently. My arms gripped his shoulders while his wound around my waist. I pulled back to stare into his darkened eyes. “Yours.” After he looked into my soul for what seemed like hours, he kissed my neck and brought his lips to my ear. “Which part is mine, Bella?” he asked with his velvet voice. My breathing was ragged. “Every..part,” I surrendered before scratching my nails down his back. He hissed and silenced me again with his lips. Then suddenly he pulled back and cursed. “What?” “Jacob,” he spat. “What about him?” I asked, trying to bring him back on top of me. Maybe he really was going for torture after all. “He’ll be here in a minute to talk to you,” he complained. I groaned as he moved away of me, getting clothes for me to put on, including new underwear. Bless him. After I was dressed, the doorbell rang repeatedly and Edward growled in annoyance. What the hell? “Stay here, I’ll be back up soon,” I told him with a kiss on the cheek. I opened the door to greet (or yell at) Jacob and gaped. He looked like hell and was wobbling a bit. “Jacob? Are you drunk?” I asked in disbelief. It was 7:30 in the freaking morning. “Aubrey and I had a fight.” Ah, the universal reason for a drunken, unannounced visit. I stepped aside so he could come in. We plopped down on the living room couch. “What happened?” I asked gently. I told her why I just disappeared yesterday, and she was pissed that I was with you. Thinks I’m cheating on her. As if I would tell her I was with you, if I really was cheating,” he scoffed. “I’m sorry. It’s my fault.” “No it’s not. You didn’t ask for me to kidnap you. Quite the opposite.” We sat there for a minute, both fumbling with our hands before he spoke.

“I-- I’m not sure that she’s my imprint.” “What?” I gasped. “Maybe I imagined it..forced it. We’re no Sam and Emily.” “Maybe you just need time.” “No, it’s different. Sam and Emily would go crazy if they lived 30 minutes away from each other and usually only saw each other on weekends. But we survive. I think about her all the time but the distance is bearable. I think I’m making myself think of her.” “Why?” “Isn’t it obvious? I was tired of being alone,” he chuckled darkly. He held his head in his hands. “I’ll never find a girl like you,” he mumbled. I meant to reply faster so I sounded believable, but I was pretty taken aback. “Sure you will, Jake. I’m really not that special,” I laughed weakly. “Don’t worry, Bella. I know you’re happy. I won’t encroach on that.” Encroach? I should talk to drunken Jake more often if his vocab is this stellar.. “I know, Jake,” I whispered. “But you must have liked Aubrey, to pick her out of a crowd. And she must like you back.” “So? There was nothing behind it like I told myself.” “So what?” I asked belligerently. “Huh?” “So what if it wasn’t some ‘love at first sight’ crap. How does the rest of the world find their mates, Jake? Maybe you just have to do this the normal way.” “” he asked skeptically. I nodded. “Date who?” “Well you could start with Aubrey.” Duh. “There must be something there. Win her back.” “How?” “You’ll figure it out. You should give yourself more credit. Like that CD you gave me? Girls love that shit.” “Okay, I’ll give it a shot,” he stood up but I pulled him back down. “Please tell me you walked here, Jake.” He nodded. “Do you wanna crash for a little bit? You’ll want to sober up before you try to impress her or form a plan. And you’ll definitely want to shower,” I said, laughing lightly. “Good idea. Thanks Bells.” “Anytime.” I patted his shoulder and stood up. “Oh and Jake? You know I’m not a big Aubrey fan so I’m only suggesting her because it sounds like you like her. So if you realize that you don’t like her after all, just get back out there and I’m sure you could find a nice girl. Preferably one that doesn’t hate me,” I added with a grin. “But I’m here for you either way. Oftentimes, you can’t help who you fall for. That’s true even without an imprint.” He smiled and nodded. Then he lay down on the couch and I made my exit. When I got back upstairs to my room, Edward was still on my bed, looking murderous. “What the hell was that?” he spat. I pointed to the window and put on my shoes. “You’re not the only one with great hearing,” I hissed. He grumbled but picked me up almost roughly and we jumped out onto my lawn.

We walked at human pace, not touching, until we reached the forest’s curtain. Then I was clinging to his back again. Before long we reached a unfamiliar little clearing. I had barely climbed off before it started. “I can’t believe this. He still wants you!” “Edward, he’s drunk--” “A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts,” he informed me. “That’s not always true. I would know,” I said wryly. He ignored my sad attempt at a joke and kept fuming. But we were both sexually frustrated so I just let him vent. “And I locked you up in a house with him! I gave him handcuffs for God’s sake! What if he tried something?” He paused and looked even angrier. “Did he try something?” “Jacob would never attack me, Edward, be fair. He’s my best friend.” “I can’t believe I ever bought that ‘friend love’ crap you guys sold me. He’s always been in love with you. He never stopped. He fooled me by filling his head with Aubrey. And now that he mentioned it, it makes sense that she was never his imprint. He was obsessed but not nearly enough. I saw other pack members’ minds that night at the diner. A few had real imprints that I can compare now with Aubrey. They must have been afraid to say something to him, to crush him.” “Why do you care if he’s in love with me? I’m with you.” “Are you in love with him?” “No! How could you ask me that?” “Were you ever in love with him?” he asked quietly. I thought that over for what seemed like forever. I shook my head. “I don’t know. Maybe when you were gone. He wasn’t quite a friend but he was no you either so I don’t have a name for that.” I looked down at my feet. The silence between us was deafening. I sat down on the grass and held my legs against my chest, afraid to look at his face. Damn me and my honesty. “I just want him to be happy,” I whispered as I cried silently. “But you should know by now that he won’t find that with me. I know that. Even he knows that.” Edward sat down next to me and rubbed my back. “I’m sorry I yelled. It’s not your fault that you’re so desirable.” I laughed breathlessly, even though there was no humor in his voice. “And it’s not his fault either,” he sighed. “I like Jacob, I do. I just freak out at the thought of losing you.” He wrapped his arms around my waist and kissed my forehead before settling his face in my hair. The strawberry scent always seemed to calm him. “Edward..” “Hmm?” I took a deep breathe. “Nothing,” I whispered. He lifted his head. “Bella, you know I can’t stand that.” “It’s meant a lot that I chose to sleep with you. I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t thinking of forever. God forbid you ever lose me, it won’t be from my doing. How else can I prove that to you?” My eyes were stinging. “Oh Bella.” He held me tightly to his chest. “It meant the world to me, too. And you don’t have to prove anything. I know you love me. I just have insecurities; I

still can’t believe I’m blessed enough to have someone amazing like you.” “Time, I suppose, will be the way to convince you,” I said with a small smile. He laughed. “I believe I have heard that before.” I reached my neck up to kiss his cheek and then locked in his eyes. “It convinced me.” I moved to plant my lips on his neck. “And,” I murmured against his cold skin, “I do believe we do have an endless amount of it.” “Bella?” I let my teeth graze his skin. “Hmm?” “Do you think our meadow would be offended if we cheated on it, just this once?” “No,” I kissed his lips softly and moved off his lap so I was on the ground in front of him. “Our meadow is very forgiving.” He grabbed my hair greedily and brought my face to his for one heated second. “I completely agree,” he murmured before he yanked off my shirt. ______________ Edward’s POV: Sadly, sex glow does not last forever. For human girls like Bella, apparently it only lasts a few hours until the brooding returns. I mean shit. Doesn’t she know that I’m the brooder around here? It was the day after our romp in the meadow, and we were driving to Port Angelus for lack of something better to do. It had been completely silent the whole trip so I flipped on the radio. / What’s the point of the map we’ve been given When the lines and the dots are all hidden Follow me leave your blindfold behind you Sharpen your senses else we’re all gonna get screwed Who can you trust when your shadow’s been cheatin’ Making shapes of unfamiliar people There’s nothing left so let’s hope for a new one When all else fails we can plant one and grow one Buckle up ’cause this ride’s getting faster Like a train on a path of disaster / Bella turned the radio off roughly, then jerked her head back toward the window. “He’s going to be okay,” I said softly. She looked at me with wide eyes. Like she thought for a moment that I got inside her head. But I just had lots of practice reading her. Not that reading her right now would be very difficult for anyone. Her eyes were back to their previous sadness now, having figured that out. She was staring straight ahead. “Good things happen to good people..and werewolves,” I insisted without humor. She made no response, aside from turning back to the window. I sighed. “Bella?” I asked less than a minute later. Nothing. I slammed on the brakes so we were stationary on the empty road. She gasped. “Get out of the car.” “What?” she asked, exasperated.

“Get out!” “That’s not going to make me talk to you. Or feel better.” “I don’t care. As long as it keeps you from looking out that god damn window! Now GET OUT OF THE CAR!” She looked at me, bewildered. Then finally she reached for the handle and stepped out. I rested my head on my steering wheel for a moment before following suit. I went around the car so we were five feet from each other. “Look, we have been through so much crap to get here. Do you honestly expect Jacob to get his happily ever with no work or trouble? Well I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. Not without an imprint, anyway. He needs to suck it up and get Aubrey back somehow. And then they’ll still have trouble. That’s love. It’s wonderful and terrible and maddening and raw. And if someone can’t take that, they have no business asking for it. Jacob will be fine. Your sulking won’t help a bit. Do you plan on actually doing something to help or not? If so, get back in the car and don’t stare out the window again.” She hesitated before finally climbing back in. I put the radio back on, daring her with my eyes to turn it off again. / How many times have I told you Never forget who you really belong to / Fucking Jacob. He’s very close to getting knocked off my speed dial. _________________ Bella’s POV: It was silent for a bit while the trees whizzed by. Well I assumed that the trees were whizzing by, but I’m not allowed to look out the window. Sometimes vampires can be real freaks. “Call Jacob and tell him to meet us at your house. We have things to do.” Jacob was there as promised, waiting on my porch. We went inside but none of us felt like sitting down. I was tired of sitting and trying to take things in stride. Standing wouldn’t make things better either, but it somehow felt more proactive. “Jacob, you need to apologize to Aubrey. And we can help,” Edward told him curtly. “Right, I’m sure you’re great at apologizing. You’ve had to do it so often,” Jacob muttered. Any cordialness between the two of them had slipped away when Edward scolded Jacob on how poorly he “contained” me. Then there was the whole love triangle thing.. Edward growled before speaking. “Do you want Aubrey back or not? I feel for you Jacob, I really do. And I still consider you a friend. So I want this to work out for you. I would have let you figure this out on your own, but it’s upsetting Bella and I’m sick of it. So I want to fix it right away.” “What do you have in mind?” Jacob asked flatly. “Well I need to know something first. I know you still wish you were with Bella,

but Bella seems convinced that you know it’s not going to happen. Is that true?” “Yes, I’m not going to try anything. I’m trying to get Aubrey back, remember?” he spat. “I know. But my plan won’t be very easy for you if you’ve still got feelings left for Bella here. So you’ll need to try to let them go.” “What’s the plan?” Bella interrupted with suspicion clear in her voice. “Well it involves a lot of PDA.” “You’re not saying that I have to make out with Jacob, are you?” “Of course not! I’d rather shoot myself. No offence.” “None taken,” Jacob scowled. “No, Bella. We’ll be all over each other in front of Jacob and Aubrey. Jacob will act all cool with it, knuckle punch me and whatnot when we leave suggestively. Then she’ll think that it doesn’t bother him that you’re taken.” He turned to Jacob. “Of course, I know it will still bother you a little. But if it bothers you a lot, Aubrey will notice and then this will all be for nothing. So can you do this?” he asked him. “Sure, I can do it. I’m not sure about Bella, though. She’s a terrible actress,” Jacob grinned. “Leaving suggestively might be too much for Bella to fake,” he teased. Neither of us replied to that. Jacob looked at us and his eyes widened. “Don’t tell me..ugh you guys have had sex?!” “Jake, that’s none of your business.” My blush was probably covering my whole face. “He could have squished you!” “Well he didn’t.” “You’re supposed to be letting go, Jacob, remember?” Edward sighed. “Still, I don’t need to know all the details. God.” “Can we get back to the plan, please?” Edward asked. “Sure. I’m not sure about the knuckle punch. Those are for cads,” I said. “I am a cad if you haven’t noticed,” Jacob countered. “I’ve noticed,” Edward muttered. I sighed. “How is this going to help anyway? She’ll just think I’m a whore. She probably already does.” “No she doesn’t,” Jacob disagreed. I rolled my eyes. “Oh that’s right, only you do.” “I didn’t mean i--” “Alright children, that’s enough!” Edward yelled. “Fine. If this flawed plan somehow manages to work, it will prove that me and Jacob don’t have relationship plans. But what about casual sex or making out? She’ll have no way of knowing that we haven’t done those things.” “Are you opposed to faking an STD?” Edward asked me. “Edward! No way.” Wasn’t he supposed to be protecting my honor? “What about mono?” he asked. “I see where you’re going with this but it won’t work. I don’t get sick, remember?” Jacob interrupted. “So the absence of a fake illness won’t prove anything to Aubrey. Besides, she wouldn’t notice an STD,” he mumbled. “ guys haven’t..?” I trailed off. “No. We just started dating and she wanted to wait a while,” he said defensively. “Well that’s perfect. I can make virgin jokes and we all win,” I said wickedly. “You could be lying,” he argued. “True. So I hope you blush as much as I do. They never lie.” “I’m not sure I like this plan,” Jacob muttered. “I do,” Edward said cheerfully. “I’ll help you come up with jokes, love.” “Well make sure they are only directed at me. Aubrey’s still a virgin too and offending her won’t help any.”

I nodded. “No worries.” I glanced at a smirking Edward. This was going to be fun. ====== Note: Just to clarify, Aubrey and Jacob are in love, but she is not his imprint. If she was, he would not have been able to ditch her on their date to go help Bella. I didn’t see it going this way at first, but everything worked out this way. And once again, there are no hybrids in this story, so no Renesmee.

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