Readers, it's been a while since my last new story. I thank you for finding your way to this one.


Prologue

The smooth mahogany conference room table glides beneath my fingers as I pace its border. It's hard and strong, weathered and aged, yet it stands as a testament to the man who commissioned it. It is his marker, his challenge to his sons to fulfill a promise, a legacy engraved both by word and by deed.

IMPROVING THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE THROUGH INNOVATION

The gold leaf inlay marking his credo forms an indelible contrast against the dark wood. Both brilliant and defiant, it is a challenge, daring anyone with the guts to try, to step forward and make their mark on history. I did that. I took my turn. I reached for the brass ring and grabbed hold of it. My journey was no amusement ride. The music sounding in my ears when I reached toward history was not a happy carnival tune, but a steady tattoo as I stood upon a scaffold, ready to take the final step of my life.

I think back to that day, the end of my old life as Dr. Isabella Dwyer. My finger falters as it edges the outline of a perfect "O" in the Cullen family credo. Would I have continued on this path if I'd known the outcome from the beginning? My gaze travels down my skirt, to the pink blush of a scar upon my knee that reveals my answer, my solid truth. The memory of gentle hands, warm, tentative breaths and soft lips upon that wound rushes over me. It guts me like a knife and exposes why I'm here. It engraves the words I must speak upon my tongue so that I may say them to those who'll fill these empty seats within the hour.

I have been a scientist for as long as I can remember, always searching for an answer, always exploring the untraveled path. My life was dedicated to finding a way to bring humanity one-step closer to a more perfect existence. I was not foolish enough to search for immortality, but only the chance to stave off the inevitability of age and decay.

For thirty years, Carlisle, Esme and I lived and breathed that dream. Then on a fateful day last fall I glanced up at bright operating room lights with the knowledge that I must take the final step alone. It would either offer me a future or leave me dangling in thin air with a noose about my neck.

Today I rest heavily in the chair at the head of Eleazar Cullen's table. I will voice my decision; they will hear that noose around my neck was not death but a future without a real life.

My fingers deftly sweep over the lone scar on my knee, thinking of the man who mended it. Because of him, this body is now mine to command. Because of him, my heart is not; it was already his long ago.


Thanks for reading