A/N edit: Hi everyone! I've been back to this fic because some mistakes and incoherencies were bothering me after finishing the trilogy, so this is the edited version! Hopefully without so much grammatical errors... I still haven't got any medical knowledge, so please forgive my eventual mistakes ;)

Anyway, I just wanted to say once again two important things about this fic. First, there will be a cliffie (small or big) at the end of every chapter, for suspense. And second, please be patient with Bella. She'll be quite disoriented for some time, but she has very good reasons for it.

Thanks for all the awesome people reading, favoriting and following this fic! And huge thanks for all of you lovely people who left me reviews. You're the best!

Enjoy, and please review!

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, or any of its characters. They belong to Stephenie Meyer. I'm just playing with them a little bit ;)

Warning: This fic is rated M, for adult readers only!

Chapter 1

When the alarm bell woke me up, I was exhausted and short-tempered. Edward was away hunting with Carlisle and his brothers for the weekend, and I of course was still grounded for the little trip to Italy, so my father was supervising me very closely. He still came to my bedroom each night around midnight to check on me, Edward having to retreat to the closet when he was there, making us laugh. But today, I didn't want to laugh. I missed Edward. I missed him so much. It was as if the hole in my chest had opened again, leaving me aching and panting and feeling angsty. I couldn't wait to see him again. Hopefully he'd be back by mid afternoon, but it was his first hunting trip since Volterra, and I knew his family wanted him to enjoy himself and ease his anxiety. He was afraid of leaving me. And I was terrified of him leaving me. But we had no choice. He had to feed, and I had to learn to live away from him for short periods, until I became a vampire myself, even though I felt like our time apart was slowly killing me.

I heaved a sigh, my lungs hurting me, and went to the bathroom. Even the hot shower couldn't ease the knots in my sore muscles, so I resigned myself to having a bad day. A long, endless shining Saturday loomed ahead of me, and I wished I had accepted Alice's invitation to go shopping in Seattle with her and Esme. Yes, I was that desperate. As it was, I was alone at Charlie's, and the only Cullen in the vicinity was Rosalie, not my biggest fan, and certainly not someone who'd invite me for tea just to feel cozy. Even though the whole Italy fiasco had somehow erased part of her hostility towards me, my becoming a vampire was still a strain in our everyday encounters, so she avoided me as much as possible. No Cullen to the rescue today, I groaned internally while dressing.

And when I made my way downstairs, my mood dropped even lower. Charlie was still there, feigning watching TV but stealing poorly-disguised glances at me, his fishing trip obviously cancelled. I greeted him with a "Hey, Dad", and went straight to the kitchen to try and swallow some breakfast, ignoring his opening mouth. I indulged in a Pop-Tart and a glass of orange juice, cringing when I heard the springs of the recliner. Not now, Dad, I implored him in my mind. Not today.

Charlie appeared in the doorway, visibly hesitating. He appraised me with a neutral expression on his features, only his brown eyes reflecting his uneasiness. I didn't want another lecture on ground rules, or Jacob, or anything. I missed Edward. I was in pain. I couldn't take anything more.

"Hi Bells," he said with a cautious voice. "Sleep well?"

I glared at him, watching him squirm in discomfort. He knew as well as I did that I didn't sleep well, at all. I had relived my old nightmare three times, the one during which I roamed the woods in search of Edward, and never finding him. I had slept a good total of two and a half hours, and I was feeling cranky, to say the least.

"No," I snapped at him, eating the last bit of breakfast and chugging down my juice.

"Oh... well... I thought so," he stammered, fidgeting. Usually I would be smiling at his squirmishness, but not today. I rose up and washed my plate and glass in the sink, and behind me Charlie cleared his throat. Here we go, I thought.

"I wanted to go down to La Push today," Charlie said slowly, "and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me."

"I'm not grounded anymore?" I asked in disbelief, drying the china and putting it back in the cupboard. "I can leave the house at last?" After three hellish long weeks? I added for myself.

"Well..." he started nervously, and I turned to stare at him.

"Well?" I echoed him, highly suspicious. I kinda knew where we were headed here, and it was so not the day for this conversation.

"Well, no, you still are," he blushed, rubbing his neck. "But maybe you want to go and see Jacob?"

I inhaled a deep breath, then released it slowly, thanking all the gods in heaven that I was still human at this moment. If I were a vampire, my dad would be headless already. Of course, if I were a vampire, I wouldn't be here at Charlie's at this moment, so it was a moot point.

"Dad," I started as calmly as possible, "Jake doesn't want to see me. He doesn't answer my calls, and wants to have nothing to do with me. I'm with Edward, and Jake cannot accept it. He wants more; I don't, and I told him so. He's my friend, but I can't force him to forget his feelings for me. So it's better if we stay apart for some time."

Of course, I didn't tell Charlie of the whole vampire/werewolf feud, or the treaty, or the fact that Edward didn't want me to see Jacob. But I was fed up. I had tried to talk to Jake on the phone, again and again, sent him a note through Charlie, even cried over the loss of him, but he had made it clear that I had chosen sides, and thus irrevocably ended our friendship. I was sad about it, really sad, but I couldn't do anything else. I had Edward back in my life, along with the Cullens, and I didn't need Jacob. If he didn't want my friendship, then I had nothing more to do with him. He had made his choice, however difficult it was for me to accept it.

But Charlie was stubborn, and since he disapproved of Edward, he tried again, as the biased father he was. "Bells, Jake is miserable right now. He misses you."

"He has a strange way of showing it, then," I snapped again, my temper flaring. "Not talking to me and all. Are you sure he's the one who wants to see me, Dad? Or is it you who wants me to see him?"

Charlie's cheeks reddened a little. Busted, I thought with a smirk.

"Look," he said after a few minutes, "you can't cut all ties with him like that. It's wrong, Bells. He needs you."

"He's the one who betrayed me, ratting me out with the bikes. Besides, he wants me to be in love with him," I contradicted him, trying to stay calm, "but I'm not. I'm in love with Edward, Dad, and that's not going to change."

"Until Edward leaves you again," he muttered dejectedly to himself, starting to turn away. Unfortunately for him, I heard him.

"What?" I shouted, anger erupting suddenly, surprising the two of us. "What did you just say?"

"Nothing," he stammered, eyes wide at my outburst.

"Do you really think that Edward will leave me again? After all he told you? After all I told you? When you can see every day how much in love we are?"

"I don't trust him," Charlie admitted at last, his voice rising. "He made you go through hell, Bells, and I can't forgive him for that."

"I forgave him," I stated firmly. "And that's between him and me. It's no one else's business."

"Don't think I don't have my say!" Charlie shouted, beet red and eyes flashing murderously. "You're my daughter, Isabella! And you live under my roof! So Edward will not have a field day here! I won't have him breaking you again! My rules, young lady!"

"I've followed your rules, Charlie!" I roared in fury, my emotions spiralling out of control. "Every single one of them! Your stupid curfew, your horrible visiting hours, even you driving me to school! Isn't it enough? What do I have to do to make you see that you can't separate Edward from me, Dad? I will never love Jacob, and Edward is my life, so suck it up already!"

"Don't talk to me like that!" he yelled, looking mad and taking a step towards me. "I want nothing but to protect you, and if I have to send you to Jacksonville or a military school to make you stay away from him, then I won't hesitate any second!"

"I'm an adult, Charlie!" I screamed, beside myself with anger and tears pooling in my eyes. "I make my own choices, not you! You don't tell me anything I have to do!"

And suddenly, my head jerked away to the right. A resonating slap still echoed in the air as I tumbled to the side, and fell into the kitchen countertop. My head bashed against the edge of the upper cupboard, and my ribs cracked on the countertop. I fell to the floor, breathless and dizzy, my head aching and spinning.

"Bella!" I heard Charlie's panicked voice, right beside me. "Bella, I'm sorry! Are you okay?"

"Don't touch me!" I growled, pushing his hand away and struggling to get to my feet. A hand to my temple confirmed that I was gushing blood, and I stopped breathing through my nose. I would not faint now. I was too aggravated. "Don't touch me, Charlie."

"Bella, I'm..." he faltered, very pale and trembling, his hand still extended halfway towards me. "I didn't... I never..."

"You hit me," I murmured, still angered but mostly exhausted and lost. "Because I don't have to obey you and want to be happy and live my life, you hit me."

"Bells, I swear I... I didn't want to do this! I never could've hurt you!" he shaked his head in obvious denial.

"But you just did," I exhaled, my voice flat.

I wanted to call Edward. I wanted out. I couldn't stay here. I carefully stepped around my father, ignoring his sobs and his arms, and made my way to the stairs. My head was swimming, but my mind was set. I wouldn't spend another minute here.

"Bells, please..."

"No," I said calmly, my back on him. "You didn't just hit me, Charlie. You want to make me miserable again. You want me to suffer again, away from the love of my life. You want Jacob to be with me, and you can't accept that I love another man, a much better man, and that I can live my life as I see fit. Well, that's it, then. Thanks for everything. I'm leaving, and I'm moving out."

"No!" he shouted in despair, his voice breaking further. "Please, Bells! Don't go!"

He grabbed my left arm and made me turn around, but I just stared at his hand painfully squeezing my bicep. After a few seconds he let me go, and I looked at him. In front of me stood a broken man, cheeks wet and splotchy, still heaving sobs. But I wasn't in a better condition. My tears were running too, my lungs seemed perforated, my chest was hurting me badly, my head was throbbing, and now my upper arm would bruise. And my just healed heart felt like shattering again. I couldn't stand anymore pain.

"I'm moving out," I repeated through my tears. "You don't want me to live the life I've chosen, and you can't let me be. Then so be it. I'll call Edward, and I'll pack. Please leave me alone. Goodbye, Charlie."

I turned again, and this time he let me go. I tried not to think of his broken stance, his eyes full of remorse and pain, his helpless demeanor. It is better that way, I thought dimly, swaying slightly as I reached the second floor to my room. A clean cut. Now I would be a vampire, and Charlie would be out of my life for good. All I had to do now was to convince my bruised heart that it was for the best.

I locked the door behind me and collapsed on my bed. I wasn't feeling well. My trembling hand reached in my pocket for the cell phone Edward had given me just a week ago, and I dialed him. He answered immediately.

"Bella, love?" he greeted me, his voice frantic. "Are you all right?"

"I don't really know," I hedged, closing my eyes, my room spinning madly around me.

"Alice called me," he said as I heard a rushing sound around him. He was either running or driving really fast. "We're on our way back to Forks. We'll be here in twenty minutes. Will you be all right?"

"If I don't faint first," I admitted reluctantly, putting a very heavy arm on my forehead. "I'm... I don't know if I'm still bleeding, but..."

"Bella," I heard Carlisle's calm voice in the phone, reassuring me. "If you're still bleeding, I want you to grab a cloth and put it on your wound. You don't want to lose too much blood."

"I'll... I'll try," I said, rolling to my side and trying to get up. When I reached a sitting position, a wave of nausea hit me, and I vomited my breakfast on the rug next to my bed. Through the phone I could hear Edward's distress, and Jasper's and Emmett's voices, trying to reassure him. I wiped my mouth with my sleeve, then put a hand to my aching temple. When I looked at it, it was still marred with blood. I feared I would pass out right then, but the thought of Edward helped me stay focused.

"I'm still bleeding," I announced calmly, reaching for a discarded hoodie at the foot of my bed and putting it against the wound. "I'm okay, Edward, don't worry."

"You can't ask me not to worry, love," he cringed, his voice barely controlled. "Your own father hit you, you're alone with him right now and you're hurt. I never should have left."

"You had to," I sighed, swaying again. "You can't put your life on hold for me at all times. It was an accident, Edward. But I'm moving out. I can't stay here. Will you help me pack?"

"We'll all help you, Bella," he vowed, obviously struggling to stay calm for me, and maybe with a little help from Jasper. "You'll come home with us."

"Carlisle?" I called him out faintly, black spots starting to dance in front of my eyes. "Do I need to do anything else or can I lie down now?"

"Lie down," he ordered me kindly, and I complied immediately. "Do you still have nausea? Dizziness?"

"No, and yes. Black spots in my eyes."

"Blood loss," Edward stated worriedly, and I vaguely heard Carlisle's concerned voice asking Rosalie to stock up on blood for me from the hospital.

"Almost there, Bella," Edward said tersely. "Is Charlie still here?"

"I don't know," I answered honestly, my mind spiralling downwards. "My... door... is locked..."

I knew my voice was becoming weaker, and the phone seemed to weigh a ton.

"Bella?" Edward's voice reached me from far away, anguish seeping through his velvet voice. "Bella, do you hear me? We're reaching Forks, love. Stay awake a little longer."

"Edward..." I tried to say, but my voice betrayed me. I fell into a blissful nothingness.

Another awakening, but this time only soft murmurs reached my ears. I tried to concentrate on them, and soon recognized the smooth, velvet voice of Edward, still marred by worry. "… can't let him come back here again. He hurt her. I don't care what he says, father or not."

"Don't worry, Edward," Alice's voice perked up, more subdued than usual. "He knows that he can't do anything about it now. And Bella can still press charges against him, if she wants."

"She won't," Edward said, "but maybe she'll change her mind about him. She's so selfless and forgiving."

"Not this time," Alice simply said.

And as I was fighting my eyelids to will them to open, I had to agree with her. Not this time. I loved Charlie, but he had gone too far. I could've put up with his prejudices and his blatant preference for Jacob, had he not declared that I couldn't make my own choices, not to mention that he harmed me. And it hadn't been a simple slap. Even now, lying on a soft bed under warm blankets, I felt my head throbbing and my ribs aching with every breath. I was hurt, and not only physically. My heart was torn. I had lost my father, I knew it. But I had to be strong. I had lost Edward once, and it had nearly killed me. I would survive Charlie's loss, with Edward at my side.

I won against my rebelling eyelids, and my eyes opened at long last. I was in a guest room at the Cullens' house, with light blue walls and a floor-to-ceiling window facing the forest, with the Olympic range in the horizon bathing in the midday sun. The view was breathtaking. Then I looked at the two vampires flanking my bed. Alice was casually smiling at me, eyes warm but cautious. And Edward was sitting right beside me, his features tight, concern swirling in his butterscotch eyes.

"Hello, love," he said softly, his voice melting my worries. His hand gently wrapped mine, and I sighed in contentment. I was with him, where I wanted to be.

"Hi," I smiled. "I missed you. Hello, Alice."

"Good to see you, Bella," she said with a smaller smile. "You had me worried for a few minutes this morning, but you're okay now."

"Yeah, it seems," I groaned a little, trying to move but lying back on my pillow again. "I wouldn't bet on how much, though."

"Careful, love," Edward advised me, putting his hand on my cheek, still holding the other in his cold embrace. "You've got bruised ribs, a swollen cheek and a light concussion. You're pretty banged up."

"And the bleeding?"

"Nothing too worrisome, fortunately. You didn't lose too much, so Carlisle just stitched you back. I handled it pretty well," he added with a sad smile. I was impressed.

"Wow, that couldn't have been so easy," I said.

"It was," he assured me, his eyes looking away from me. "See, I... Your blood doesn't appeal to me the way it used to."

"What do you mean?" I asked in disbelief.

"Later," Alice intervened calmly, exchanging a meaningful look with her brother. "For now, Bella, we must know what you want to do from now on. But first, what happened this morning?"

I told them about the quarrel with Charlie, the blow, my hitting the cupboard and countertop, and my telling goodbye. I was hurting all over again remembering my father's demeanour and violence. Edward and Alice squeezed my hands comfortingly, and Edward kissed me repeatedly on my forehead. I could tell he was trying to stay calm for my sake. But now it was my turn.

"What happened after I passed out? What did Charlie do? And what time is it?"

"A quarter past one," Edward told me soothingly, sensing my rising distress and gently caressing my knuckles with his hand. "When you lost consciousness, we were arriving in Forks. It took us two minutes to reach your house. When we knocked on the door, Charlie was distraught but furious. He wouldn't let us in, especially not me. He..."

His voice trailed, and again Alice shot him a glance. "Tell her, Edward. She needs to know."

"Okay," he exhaled, caressing my bruised cheek too, obviously trying to soothe the already there and the coming pain. He was so much in control, mastering his emotions, that it unnerved me. I tried to remain calm. "He wouldn't step aside, even when I told him that you had called me and I knew he had hit you. He went berserk. So Jasper and Emmett had to... physically restrain him while I ran upstairs to get you. I... broke your door," he added with a contrite smile.

I chuckled weakly, my mind reeling. I was having a hard time picturing my father beside himself, but I had seen first hand that he had fallen over some edge this morning. And it hurt. A lot. My throat choked with tears, I motioned with my hand for Edward to go on. He took a deep breath.

"I admit I panicked a little when I saw you sprawled on your bed, unresponsive and covered in blood. But Carlisle was right behind me, and he took care of your wound. I packed your things, to keep myself busy and out of Carlisle's hair, and then I carried you downstairs. Carlisle went to speak with Charlie, who had cooled down a little. Emmett took care of your bags, and Jasper... well, he couldn't stand being too close to you, so he ran home to get this room ready for you."

"Did..." I choked on the words, tears spilling out this time, "did Charlie say anything when you took me away?"

Edward rose and went to lie down next to me on the bed, hugging me carefully. Alice shot me a sympathetic smile. Bad, I thought. Edward kissed my cheek, sighed, then confessed the sad truth. "He said that we had no right to take you away. That he would fight to keep you away from me. He was blind to what he did, he wasn't thinking rationally. He loves you, and his mind can't accept the fact that he harmed you. Carlisle had to tell him that it was your choice and that if he didn't comply, he would urge you to press charges against him. Charlie crumbled down, then, but he's still intent on having you back."

"He's delusional," Alice piped up with a forlorn expression. "In his head, he only pictures you with Jacob, Bella. And he won't back down. For him, we are bad people, and Edward is devil's spawn. He's very intent on protecting you," she huffed in irony.

"He'll get Jacob involved, then," I said, my heartache taking my breath away. "What... what are we going to do?"

"Breathe, Bella," Edward ordered me gently, his hands running up and down my arms.

But I was starting to hyperventilate. Too many emotions overwhelmed me, too much worry roaring in my mind. It was all my fault. Maybe I had started a war. My head swam. Next to me, Edward sat up, taking me gently with him, and put his hands on my cheeks. "Breathe, love. Take deep breaths. Everything's going to be fine, I promise. Breathe with me."

I dimly noticed the door opening, and Carlisle and Jasper entering the room. A wave of calm settled over me, making it easier to breathe in sync with Edward. My ribs hurt, but I tried to take smaller breaths, concentrating on Edward's voice, obeying his commands, and after a few minutes I felt better. "Thanks, Jasper," I told the blond vampire, thanking Edward wordlessly with a squeeze of my hands.

"Anytime, Bella," Jasper smiled at me, a few feet away from the bed, keeping his distance. He wasn't breathing, and one look down told me why. I was still covered in dried blood. "Sorry for this," I told the four vampires around me. "I'll go have a shower in a few minutes."

"Take it slow, Bella," Carlisle told me kindly, sitting on the bed beside me. "How are you feeling?"

"I've been better," I admitted shamefully, leaning against Edward's soothing presence, who hugged me a little tighter.

"Don't you worry," Carlisle said calmly. "You're family, Bella. We'll take care of you."


I didn't know what to say. I knew I wanted to be with Edward and be away from my father, but what did it mean for the Cullens? Would they accept me? A human, among seven vampires? Could I live here from now on? Could I still go to Forks High, with Charlie in town? Would I have to leave for good? And what about the werewolves? Would they come for me, siding with Charlie?

"Bella," Alice said seriously, as Esme, Rosalie and Emmett entered the room, serious looks on their faces. "I can see the turmoil in your head, you keep making decisions and remaking them. You're not going anywhere without us. You're with Edward, Bella. You're one of us. You're a Cullen. We won't let you go away, and we'll face what we must to protect you. The rest is up to you, but you're not going anywhere. Oh, and don't worry about the money. If it reassures you, I'll sell a few stock bonds for you that'll be rocketing tomorrow."

My eyesight was blurry with all the tears that I was shedding, and the sobs did nothing to ease the pain in my ribcage. But Edward was right here, holding me against his cool body, murmuring his undying love in my ear. Carlisle took my hand, and Esme went to take the other with a warm, loving smile.

"We won't leave you alone, dear," she said. "As Alice said, you're one of us."

"Welcome to the family, little sister," Emmett said, gently touching my leg, more composed than I'd ever seen him.

"You're family, Bella," Rosalie added, hostility gone from her features, replaced by some kind of resignation.

"We'll deal with everything," Jasper finally said, sending the love he felt on all of us. "Don't worry, Bella. You're safe with us. Even with me," he added with a chuckle.

"Thank you," I whispered, knowing that they could hear me better than myself. "Thank you all, for everything." I couldn't say more. I had no words.

"Do you want to eat something, love?" Edward asked, rubbing my back in a tender gesture.

My stomach rumbled, and I blushed as all the vampires stifled laughs. "I'm on it," Esme said, looking delighted.

"Bella?" Alice asked me gleefully. "Will you stay here with us?"

"If you're not scared of us big vampires, that is," Emmett added with a mischievous grin, only to wince after a loud smack on his head from Rosalie. "Ouch! Rosie!"

"Idiot!" she hissed, before appraising me with a shadow of a smile. "Having seven vampires for roommates can be unsettling, Bella, at the very least. Are you sure you want this?"

"I feel safer here than anywhere else," I told them truthfully, earning rolling eyes and more chuckles. "But do you really want to have a human here?"

"Of course, love," Edward replied immediately with a soft kiss on my lips.

"You're much welcome, Bella," Esme said with a tender smile.

"I'll manage," Jasper sighed, as Emmett clapped vigorously with a delighted boyish grin.

"Yay!" Alice exclaimed, bouncing happily. "We'll have so much fun!"

"What about school?" Carlisle asked me.

"I want to go and finish the year, if I can," I answered him seriously. "I'm only a few months away from graduation. But if it's simpler for me to move..."

"No, love," Edward said, exchanging a loaded glance with Rosalie. "No need to move now. Charlie won't be a problem. And the wolves will behave."

"Do you think so?" I asked, worried.

"Yes," he nodded emphatically. "And if not, we can leave immediately. No need to start a war. Even though they aren't many."

"Six," I told him, and seeing that this was bad news for my family. "Edward, I don't want to make you all leave on my behalf. And I don't want to be a burden."

"You're most certainly not a burden, and we won't have to leave," he assured me. "We'll find a way."

"Well," Alice said, jumping on her feet, eyes wild with excitement, "let's move, people! We have work to do!"

"What work?" I asked her, puzzled. But she started rattling orders, to which the rest of the family complied. How strange.

"Jazz, rent me a truck. We're going to Port Angeles in an hour. Rose, please go pick up Bella's truck. Em, clear this room and put Bella's things in here while we're gone. Esme, please cook something for Bella. Carlisle, we need groceries, so to the Thriftway it is. Edward, go to Newton's and tell them that Bella quits. Bella, in the shower. Chop chop!"

"What?" I finally stammered as everyone except Edward left the room. "Edward, what...? Why...?"

"Let me explain, love," he said adoringly, gazing at me with his molten golden eyes, dazzling me yet again. "Alice, Jasper, you and I are going shopping in Port Angeles. Not for clothes," he reassured me immediately, seeing my distress. "We're going to buy you new things for this room, paint, furniture, and whatever you need like toiletries and stuff. A new computer too. That is, if you're up to go," he added with a concerned frown. "Carlisle would rather you stayed here, and so would I, but it's your choice. Alice saw it would be okay, but if you want to rest more, we'll stay here. "

I dimly nodded, but I was dumbstruck. We were going shopping...for me? However he went on, ignoring my reaction. "A small way of welcoming you, love. This," he gestured around us, "is going to be your room. Mine is right next to it, and you have your own bathroom through that door."

He was indicating a door opposite the glass wall, and I shivered. Too much, my mind started to chant. He kissed me gently again.

"Emmett will clear your bedroom so we can set it up to your liking. And of course, we need more food for you, so Carlisle's on his way. He rarely goes shopping, so it'll be quite the experience for him. And even more if some of his patients come and swoon over him and his cart!"

Even in shock, I giggled quietly at the picture of Carlisle solemnly pushing a cart in the alleys of Thriftway. That was an unexpected twist in the situation. But soon reality came crashing down on me.

"This... this is gonna be my room?" I asked uncertainly, eyeing my surroundings with apprehension.

"Yes, Bella," Edward hugged me tighter, comforting me in the best way possible. "You won't be far from me, and of course I'll come sleep with you as usual, if you allow me. But you need your own space, if only for props, and for all the clothes that Alice is planning on stocking up for you."

I groaned loudly, and a floor down Alice's laughter trilled happily, making me chuckle again. Yes, no privacy here. I forgot. But I had lingering doubts. "Edward, I... I don't want to be an inconvenience for you or your family. Are you really sure about all this?" Are you sure you want me? I wanted to say but didn't dare, my old fears resurfacing.

He let me finish out of pure courtesy, that much I saw in the tight set of his jaws and his raw eyes, but when I was done he kissed me deeply, love pouring through his cold lips on mine.

"Bella," he breathed against my lips, grazing his fingertips against the sides of my neck, making me shiver and burn with longing. "I've never been surer of anything in my life. You are my life, my Bella. And I want to spend every single moment of eternity with you. I won't let you go away from me. I love you too much."

My lips crashed on his, then, and I kissed him with all my might. God, I loved this vampire! But much too soon, he pulled away gently, pecking me on the lips, the nose and the eyes, making me giggle yet again.

"I have to go, love. A great day it is when I don't have to endure Mike Newton."

I laughed at his disgruntled tone, but the question was burning my tongue. "Why do I have to quit my job?"

"First, you don't need it anymore. I have money for you. And second, and more importantly, we can't allow Charlie to come and see you there, or the wolves," he explained softly, his velvet voice oozing love and understanding. "If you don't want to see them, then we have to be cautious. At school you're with me or Alice at all times, so it's okay. But..."

"I understand," I told him, my voice laced with gratitude, even though the money issue didn't sit well with me. But that was a fight for another day. "Thank you, Edward. That's very thoughtful and considerate."

"I'm happy to know it," he confessed, his crooked smile on, making me melt even more. "I was afraid you'd have my hide, telling me I was a meddlesome control freak."

"My control freak," I told him seriously, leaning in for a few more kisses. After a few seconds, I giggled at a sudden thought. "And it won't hurt if I'm finally free of Mike's attention, will it?"

Edward only growled, and I laughed out loud, as much as my bruised ribs allowed me. I loved his protective side. "I'm off to a good long shower, then," I said, carefully getting to my feet, wincing a little at the dull pain in my ribs, but it was manageable. I'd had worse. With a slow movement, I went to take off my sweater. Edward helped me, and then froze, a snarl erupting in his chest. I jumped a little, startled.

"Edward?" I asked him, noticing his pitch-black eyes and his bared teeth. He was focused on my upper arm, and I shot a look. A large bluish bruise had blossomed there, unnoticed among other parts of my body aching more. "It's nothing, Edward," I pleaded, however useless I knew it was. "It's okay, I promise you."

The feral snarl had alerted Alice and Esme who ran into the bedroom, alarmed. "Edward?" Esme asked, putting herself between me and her son. "What's the matter?"

"Look, Mom!" he growled loudly, pointing at my arm. "Look what Charlie did!"

Esme and Alice appraised my bruise with concern, but I simply smiled. "I don't feel it," I assured them. "But I wouldn't mind some Tylenol for my head, if you have any."

Alice ran out and was back in a second, two pills and a bottle of water in hand. I accepted them gratefully and chugged the whole lot down, feeling better. Esme was patting my intact shoulder. "We'll watch over you, Bella," she said firmly. "Don't worry, and don't be embarrassed. We love you, and you belong here with us."

"Thank you, Esme," I murmured, dissolving into her loving embrace. How had I longed for such a motherly gesture since a long time ago! I blinked back tears. Edward took a step forward and, very gingerly, put his hand on my bruise. The relief was instantaneous, and I heaved a huge sigh.

"Thanks, Edward," I told him with a smile. "It helps a lot."

"One of the few advantages of having such a cold skin," he told me, his smile not reaching his eyes.

"We'll leave you now," Alice trilled, undeterred. "I have to plan our shopping, and Esme has to finish your meal, Bella."

"Esme," I called her back before she left. "I... Thank you for the room, but... All these things... the furniture..."

"Don't worry, Bella," she stated with her mother bear smile. "These things will be donated for needy people. We want you to be home here, dear. Please let us indulge in spoiling you, for once. You deserve it. We want to take care of you, in every way we can. Do you want another color for your room?"

I shook my head, admiring the walls. "Blue is fine. I love it."

"Of course, dear," she smiled tenderly. "Blue is such a wonderful color for you."

Speechless, I only nodded, cursing myself for slowly turning into a human sponge. My tears barely stayed inside, and when the two women left us, I melted into Edward's embrace. He held me for several minutes, I didn't know how many, my arms around his waist, but he pulled away at last.

"Go shower, love," he whispered against my neck, making me shiver. "I'll be back soon."

"Do I have a clean outfit ready?" I asked wearily. The last thing I wanted was to bury myself into the bags packed for me.

"Alice picked up some comfy clothes for today. We're not going to a fashion gala, and you'll feel better that way."


He smiled at me, telling me with his eyes how much he loved me, and I tried to reciprocate. With a small grimace he dropped my hand and left the room, and soon I heard the purr of his Volvo going farther away. With a sigh, I went to the bathroom. It was too much, of course. A large tub, a shower stall with jets and a showerhear larger than a Thanksgiving serving dish, a vanity with my bag of toiletries, a toilet and a closet full of fluffy towels and supplies. Heaven, I thought while washing away the shock of the day. I was still a little numb from the pain, physically and emotionally, but the hot water helped me.

I took the time to take stock on my injuries. My ribs were blue and aching, but I couldn't do anything more about them except taking it easy for the next few days. The wound on my temple was very neatly stitched back, courtesy of Carlisle. The cheek where Charlie had hit me was swollen and bruised, but fortunately my eye or teeth hadn't been damaged. Good thing. And of course, that left my arm. I sighed and put some cream on my bruises, then tried to block the images flashing under my closed eyelids. Not now, I told myself.

I soon put my clean clothes on, and felt grateful for Alice's gift. Comfy jeans, a nice shirt and a hoodie, with Converse. Perfect. I was just making my way into the living room, where most of the family was gathered and smiling at me, when Edward opened the door, his face grim. I opened my mouth to ask him what had happened at Newton's when the phone rang. Alice was puzzled. "I didn't see... " she started, when her eyes glazed over, a disturbing expression on her features, and Edward snarled again, scooping me up in his arms.

"Edward? What...?"

"Jacob's calling," he growled, his chest rumbling in anger.