Author's Note: I'm updating again because I thought I wouldn't be able to do it again for a while. I hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.


Chapter 23

I paid the moving men the correct amount and a generous tip. Though they had looked wary of me the entire five hours that they'd been working, they had also shot me appreciative looks. I did not miss that their eyes were generally on my chest, or my bottom. Typical men.

Although I did not need moving men to help me move, I thought it wise to keep up appearances. I had moved into a rather large house in a small neighborhood, but I knew from experience that humans gossiped. They gossiped a lot.

Of course, I would keep my distance from them, perhaps saying hello occasionally. But I would have to take care to maintain my human charade, or I would have to move again, even before I started college.

"Thank you," I told them. "I'm impressed. That was quick." I shot them a careful smile, but they looked dazed.

"It was our pleasure, ma'am," one of them managed. "Good luck in your new house."

"Thank you," I said weakly. Even after decades, the effect of vampire beauty amazed me.

"Looks like you've got another new neighbor," the other one said, nodding in the direction of the house beside mine.

A new neighbor?

The men drove away, and I stepped out onto my porch curiously. Sure enough, there was a huge truck that was parked in the curb of my new neighbor's house. What a coincidence.

The truck moved slightly, as though there was movement inside. A huge, burly man jumped out, carrying the sofa. Alone.

My eyes narrowed. I was not happy.

I managed to close the door behind me as I moved in vampire speed out of my backyard. I was too impatient to confront them. I walked up to the huge house purposefully, my face hardened.

Emmett was just coming out of the house when he saw me leaning against the fence casually, looking cross. He shot me his easy grin. "Hey, Bella. Finally found out, huh?"

"What are you doing?" I growled.

Jasper appeared next to him, grinning just as slyly. "Helping Edward move in, of course. He's inside, organizing his room. Want me to let him know you're here?"

I took a deep breath. "I'm sure he already knows. But what I meant was: Why is Edward moving into the house next to mine?"

The brothers exchanged looks, then began laughing. "Whew!" Emmett guffawed. "She looks angry, bro!" he called behind him. "Maybe you should talk to her. 'Cause she looks ready to kick my ass in a wrestling match!"

I heard a low chuckle coming from the house, and I nearly lost my temper right there. I swallowed, took five deep breaths, and then looked up at the second floor window. "I know you're listening, Edward, so I'll talk. I don't appreciate you stalking me like this, and you know that. You'd better have a good excuse for moving into a house that's next to mine, or I'm not speaking to you. That's not a threat; that's a promise."

"Scary," Emmett snickered.

I shot my angry glare at both of them. "I thought you were in North Carolina."

"Not yet," Jasper said. "We stayed behind to help Edward move. You know, to keep up appearances?" He chuckled at my glare. "She does feel a little antagonistic today, doesn't she?"

"Edward," I warned in a low voice. "Get down here, or I will not be reasonable."

He was instantly there, shoving Emmett out of the way. He looked at me pleadingly. "Bella, please. Don't be angry with me."

"Hey, watch it." Emmett mockingly scowled. "You wanna go, bro?"

Edward ignored him. "Bella, let's talk about this reasonably," he said in his compelling, velvety voice.

For a moment, my anger started to dissipate. How could he do that to me? Just look so beautiful and handsome – so dazzling – and not expect me to be affected?

And then, I was abruptly angry again. It should be a crime to do that to anyone. Yes, I was unreasonably angry with Edward Cullen, and I knew it. But silly as I was, I was going to keep being angry with him until he agreed to move. Because I certainly wasn't going to move.

"You two," I said in a menacing tone, gritting my teeth. "Out."

I had to admit, it was amusing how Edward glanced uneasily at his brothers. Edward Cullen, afraid of Isabella Swan? It was completely unheard of, especially since I remembered how scared I used to be during his mood swings.

"Good luck, bro," Emmett said, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "She does not look happy."

"You're on your own," Jasper agreed. He tried to shoot a wave of calm toward me, but instantly stopped when I shot my death glare at him. "I tried. Bye."

They sidled past me nervously, which was wise. I radiated anger right now.

They got into the truck and waved as they drove away. And I was left alone with an utterly impossible, gorgeous man...which was probably quite dangerous to me. After all, nobody was more affected by him than I was.

"Bella?" Edward said softly.

I squeezed my eyes shut, then walked past him. "Excuse me for intruding," I said coldly, and stepped inside.

I could instantly see that Esme had touched the place up. The atmosphere was light and airy, a signature trait of a Cullen house. Everything inside had already been neatly organized, as though someone had been living here for years.

Edward watched me carefully as he closed the door behind him. Trapped. Physically and metaphorically, I was trapped.

Was there no way out of my life? Why did it consist of the same repetitions all the time? I lived forever – surely, there should be some variety? But no, it was always the same. Edward, Edward, and more Edward. Was there no other choice for me? Was I destined to be stuck in bitterness forever?

You can always let him back in, a little voice inside me whispered. You still love him. You know you do...

"Shut up," I mumbled.

"I'm sorry?" Edward looked bewildered.

Shoot. "I wasn't talking to you."

"Then to whom?" Edward sat across from me, smiling amusedly. "Do you still talk to yourself, even if you can't sleep anymore?"

I scowled. "Why are you here?"

He was instantly serious. "Because I want to be," he answered simply.

"I want you to move."

"I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because," he said, then paused. "I'm paranoid. My anxiety increases each day when I'm not with you. It makes me feel better, knowing that you'll be right next door."

"You're a stalker."

He grimaced. "I'm being selfish, yes." His eyes turned pleading. "But you don't seem to understand that I can't leave you alone anymore. It's not about trust or stalking issues." He became quiet. "It's about my fear, my paranoia of leaving you again. I know it'll affect you again, despite your denials, and I know that it will affect me too. I don't want to make the same mistakes, Bella."

I glared at him. "I don't want you here."

"It's not about you," he reminded me softly, looking pained. "It's about me. I'm selfish – you've known that for years."

He was such a liar. He was the most unselfish person I knew. That hadn't changed, despite my hardened feelings for him.

"I don't like it," I shot at him harshly. "Don't you think you've caused enough pain for me, Edward Cullen?" I rose from my seat to leave.

He was suddenly right in front of me, his hand on my wrist and holding firmly so that I could not escape. I started to struggle, but I caught one glimpse of his smoldering eyes. I froze.

"Are you very angry with me?" he whispered, his sweet breath fanning my face lightly. "If you want, I'll move."

And I knew he would. He would do anything for me – I knew that. I didn't doubt his love for me. What I doubted was myself.

He was shaking me up really badly. My firm resolve to stay away from the Cullens had failed horribly. I kept seeing them, kept relying on them. I found myself missing Edward against my wishes, and when I thought about him, he seemed to be appearing out of nowhere.

This was hopeless. Deep down, somewhere, I knew that. I knew that the Cullens would be in my life forever, because they would refuse to remove themselves from my sight. Edward would be even more stubborn.

Renesmee, I thought. Think of Renesmee! She's your motivation. She's the reason why you're refusing to be with him right now. She's your excuse! Say your excuse again!

And yet, I found myself unable to speak. My breathing became uneven, and my heart constricted with pain as I stared at his worried expression. How could one man bring so many emotions to one woman? Was this really love?

If this was really love, it wasn't fair. It wasn't right. It was annoying, and it was irritating. It caused pain, and theoretically, it was probably unhealthy. I didn't want to do it anymore, but it would not leave me alone. I wanted to shake it off, but he was there, making me hold onto it.

How could I ever escape this man?

"Please answer me," Edward pleaded. "Are you very angry with me?"

I was confused. So, very confused.

What will you do, Bella Swan?

I hated myself. And I hated the world. I hated Edward Cullen for making me feel things that I didn't want to feel.

I forced myself to respond. Be truthful, Bella. How do you really feel?

"No," I said quietly, dropping my eyes slightly. "I'm not angry."

I hated how truthful the statement was.

Edward looked visibly relieved. "Will you allow me to stay?"

I gave a stiff, curt nod. "I won't stop you. You're going to be stubborn anyway."

He smiled gently. "You're right," he agreed. "I would've eventually found a way to stay close to you."

I was still aware of his touch. "Um, will you let me go now?"

He looked surprisingly disappointed. "I'm sorry," he murmured, letting me go. He watched me as I touched my wrist absently. His touch had left a tingling sensation.

"Is there any point in me asking you to change your major?" I asked, trying to sound irritated. "I don't want to have to see you every day in my classes."

He cracked a smile. "No. Don't even try talking me out of it."

"You already have three medical degrees." I sounded extremely disgruntled.

"You have one too," he countered. "And yet, you're getting another one. So am I. It's the same thing."

He was getting on my nerves. I had to leave before I said something incredibly stupid. I needed to think – he was so goddamn confusing.

"Whatever," I muttered, turning to leave.

Again, he was there, blocking me. "Don't leave," he said quickly. "Stay with me. Please."

He was extremely close. I gave him a wary look. "What would I do here?"

"Talk to me," he suggested softly, his hand reaching up to tuck a lock of my hair behind my ear. I felt a chill go down my spine. "I want you to stay."

Stay? Bad idea.

"I'm not good company," I said dully.

He smiled. "You're excellent company," he disagreed. "Especially for me."

Yes, stay. Stay, Bella, my inner voice whispered. The words were seductive and persuasive. Like him.

This was a mistake. This was going against every vow that I had made about the Cullens. About Edward. Renesmee. Think of her!

But I was only thinking of this impossible man in front of me, who smiled hopefully at my silence and led me back to the sofa. Dazed, I sat down, and I watched him sit beside me blankly. What was going on?

I wanted to shake myself awake from the spell that he had me under. How did he do that? If only I could affect him as much as he affects me...

"Let's talk," he said. "I want to know why you don't want me."

I glanced at him, his question jerking me back to reality from my dream state. That was a very forward question. Or rather, statement.

"That's not a question," I said frostily.

"Fine," he amended. "Why don't you want me?" Pain shone through again. It didn't match well with his handsome features. He shouldn't be hurt all the time because of me. I wished for the millionth time that vampires weren't permanent.

I had to look away. His intense gaze was affecting my brain. It was time to be truthful. He had a right to know.

"I..." I bit my lip, trying to find the right words.

He waited patiently. Sweetly. Almost innocently.

I sighed wearily. "I do want you," I admitted. "But it's just hard for me, Edward."

He looked relieved. "So it isn't that you've fallen out of love with me," he asked softly. "It's because I left you?"

I found myself staring hungrily at him, as though I was trying to memorize his face. He noticed, and he leaned toward me.

"I know what I did wrong, Bella," he said. "I keep telling you that. But I'm selfish enough to keep wanting you. Can you understand that I can't leave you anymore?"

I was under his spell. I couldn't move. "Yes," I whispered, my voice breaking.

Pain was returning. Agony – it was getting almost harder to breathe, not that I needed to. Get away, Edward. I can't need you. It hurts too much.

He didn't seem to be noticing what he was doing as he leaned closer. His face was inches away. His breath fanned my face as he spoke. "Won't you give me a chance?"

Renesmee. Renesmee, I need you. My savior, the little girl that had brought me out of my constant misery and had posed as my distraction. I needed her to distract me like she always did.

"I...Renesmee," I mumbled.

He froze, and I watched dejectedly as his face fell. "Renesmee..." he muttered. "I love her too, Bella. But I don't when you keep reminding me that she's the reason that you can't be with me."

"I have responsibilities," I replied. "And she is my priority. I made a promise."

"Is that the only reason?"

I felt almost ashamed as I looked at him. "No. She means everything to me."

"And I don't?" He was suddenly closer. His tone was almost...seductive, like he was trying to make me forget about reality.

My breathing ragged, I tried to lean away, but he only came with me until I was lying down on the sofa, and he was on top of me.

"Edward..." I protested weakly, unable to focus.

This scared me. I didn't want to get hurt again. And the best solution for that was to escape Edward. But he was here, right now, and there was no one around to interfere. His family was long gone, and there were no wolves, no parents, and no Renesmee. It was just Edward and Bella, who happened to fall in love decades ago, and who still could not let each other go.

"Why?" Edward whispered at my weak attempts at shoving him away. "I want you. Now."

How can I escape this? This...this fate? I loathed myself so much, for not being able to find the closure that I'd needed to escape all this. I resented life, my immortality. I would give anything to be human again, to grow old with Renesmee, to truly be her mother. I wanted children of my own, a human husband to grow old with, and I wanted release. Death.

Edward or Renesmee? Love or responsibility?

My answer may differ a hundred years from now, but I knew what I chose at that moment. I couldn't be with her if I chose him. He would get in the way of my everything.

"I didn't choose you," I said softly. I sounded so broken, so vulnerable. "I chose Renesmee. I don't care if my answer is different long after she's gone. Right now, I choose her."

He paused. His smoldering golden eyes were bright in the growing darkness, and he looked so torn, so hurt. I could see the love and desire in his face, and I could tell that he wanted to touch me, to kiss me senseless. He was grabbing my left wrist and his other hand was on my shoulder to secure me.

We stared at each other for a very long time. Finally, he closed his eyes and gave a little groan. He sighed before his forehead touched mine gently.

"Why am I not surprised?" he muttered to himself. "Of course, coming from you, you would choose her over love."

I swallowed. "Will you get off me now?"

He reopened his eyes, and his eyes glowed again, the only source of light in the room besides mine. "Not yet," he murmured. "Despite your choice, I'm not finished with you."

"You said you wanted to talk," I accused. "Now you're getting physical."

He couldn't help but smile in amusement at my statement. "Do you want me to get physical?" he teased lightly. "Because, believe me, I can. I'm merely restraining myself from jumping on you."

"You're already on me. I fail to see any restraint."

"Hm..." He leaned even closer, if it was possible. His lips hovered over mine, only a couple inches away. "I am not happy with everything you're saying right now. I'm tempted to silence you, actually."

Silence me, silence me! My inner self was betraying me. My heart would've been beating incredibly fast, had I been human. I was thankful that he could no longer hear the change of pace of my heart. We were equal.

"If your choice was supposed to make me leave you," he said huskily. "Then I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. Because I will never leave you, Bella. Even if you chose another man, even if you made me go through hell a million times, I can never let you go."

Stop, I wanted to beg. He was overwhelming me, making me lose sense.

"I love you, Bella," Edward said in a soft, but sure voice. "I'm yours. Do whatever you want with me."

Do whatever I want? That was incredibly tempting. Why wasn't he giving up? I was so frustrated that I was seriously considering telling him to go away and never come back again.

But I knew him too well. He would protest at first, but if I insisted, if he saw that it was truly what I wanted, he would do exactly that. But was that really what I truly wanted? I wasn't strong enough to not see him again either. The only reason he had refused to leave my side until now was probably because he saw something in me that convinced him that I was only lying for my own benefit. And here, I thought I'd gotten better at lying.

I sighed. It was no use. Thinking gave me a migraine. And his presence never helped matters. He was too intense. He had too much control over me.

"Anything I want?" I clarified.

He smirked at me lazily. I was annoyed that nothing affected him anymore. "Anything."

"Then get off me."

His smirk widened, and he did exactly the opposite, grabbing onto me tighter. "Okay," he agreed. But he kissed me instead, shooting a huge thrill through me.

I melted. He'd always had a talent for making me lose all sense when he was kissing me. He affected me in the worst way possible, bringing out emotions that I'd rather not share.

When he finally pulled away, I could see his triumphant smile lighting up his face. "You didn't specify," he said smugly. "And I know that you can't push me away either."

I gazed up at him helplessly, trying to slow my breathing. "And how would you know that?"

He kissed my forehead lightly. "You kissed me back. And I could see that you still love me. You don't choose me now, but I can wait. Knowing that your feelings for me hasn't changed is enough for now."

He retreated, then pulled me into a sitting position. "Better?" he teased.

I eyed him suspiciously, wondering if he really was okay. He did seem happier, if anything, and he seemed to have accepted my choice. Really, was there anything less perfect about him?


AN: Our heroine is growing weak! Leave me lots of reviews!