Bree Denali-Masen celebrated her second birthday on a rainy freezing day in February. She sat on her mother's lap and opened a dozen or so gifts and even clapped her pudgy hands in approval of some. Edward sat with his eyes closed and watched through the minds of his parents and Tanya's. His back rested against the trunk of the tree he was using for cover, and his body shook with need.
All he wanted was to lift little Bree into the air and make her cackle. He wanted to hold his mother and tell her not to cry. And he wanted Tanya. He wanted the life they could've had, the one they'd been robbed of.
He sat in the rain and waited until every guest had gone and his family was sound asleep. He used the key Tanya's parents had always kept hidden under a garden gnome. He stopped at Bree's room first. She was sleeping on her back in a crib, sucking her thump in her sleep. Thick eyelashes rested on her cheeks, and curly bronze hair stuck out in every direction. Edward watched the rise and fall of her tiny chest, mesmerized by his baby girl.
It was soft crying that pulled him away.
He crept down the hall and paused at Tanya's bedroom door to make sure she was sleeping. She whispered his name in the dark and touched his cheek in her dreams. He was at her side in an instant and ghosted his lips across her forehead. He stopped at the door to memorize her scent and stared at her pale face in the moonlight.
A strange noise carried him back to the nursery, and movement from the crib turned his last ounce of willpower to dust. Bree rubbed her eyes and rolled to her side to look at him. She chewed a finger and watched him inch closer. He stopped at the rail and looked down into her face. Her arms flew up, and he obliged, pulling her from the blankets to hold her for the first time. He inhaled and pressed a kiss to her hair. She tucked her head into his neck and closed her eyes.
Edward swayed on the spot until her breath evened out and her thoughts of him and Tanya and her pink birthday balloons faded to nothingness. He eased her down onto her mattress and forced himself to walk away.
He took his time returning to the coven. Chelsea's pull was there, strong as ever, but knowing it was hers and not his helped him manage the discomfort and stay away longer each time he left.
Isabella found him within minutes of his return. Every time. Usually she'd say hello, ask where he'd been, and if the hunting had been good. Her disdain for his diet was on constant display.
Jasper could feel her hostility, but she never let it show.
Something changed when Edward got back from seeing his family. Isabella walked right up to him and stopped when her chest brushed his. "You've been gone for a while." She glanced at Jasper, then Emmett, and returned her gaze to Edward. "It's not like you to hunt alone."
"I needed to clear my head."
She smiled. "I bet."
Edward swallowed and tried not to panic. It wasn't the first time he was sure she knew, but there was no way he'd be the first to crack in their sick dance. He would never confirm it out loud.
He tried to step around her, but she stopped him by taking his arm. "Pack a bag," she said. "We're leaving in an hour."
Edward shook his head. "I just got back," he said.
Her grip tightened. "And we're leaving in an hour, so get what you need."
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"Vegas. There's a Gaga show tonight. Most of us are going. Jasper's already packed. You got back just in time."
Edward looked around and noticed dozens of his undead siblings were dressed in flashier attire than they normally waltzed around the cave in. "The coven is taking a field trip to go to a Lady Gaga concert," Edward said.
Isabella whipped her sunglasses off her face, and red swirled in the chocolate brown of her eyes. "Yes, we like music. We go to concerts. It's not all killing, all the time. You've been with us for two years. You should know this by now."
"James is staying with Victoria and the others who can't control their thirst yet. I think Demetri and Kate are staying, too. They're not fans."
"To be honest, neither am I," Edward said. "I'm going to pass, but thank you for the invitation."
He felt her stare on his back until he turned the corner. He halted at his door when Chelsea's hold wrapped around his middle and tugged. Jasper met him at the threshold and pushed a wave of calm to assist his friend.
"You're really going?" Edward asked.
Jasper shrugged. "I want to do something that feels human so I can remember."
But Edward sat alone in his corner for hours after they'd gone, wishing he could forget.