Hey, everyone. Here's another story—one of those plot bunnies that popped into my head and needed to be written. Instead of leaving it to gather dust on my laptop, I thought I'd share the beginning with you. This one shouldn't be very long. I've written a chunk of it already. Anyway, with my new work schedule, I have a lot more time to write nowadays.

If you enjoy these shorter stories, please let me know. For those who are wondering, I haven't given up on "Beneath the Weeping Sky", but sometimes it's nice to work on other projects.


**IMPORTANT** There are flashbacks in this story. They are written in italics.



Bella's insides were knotted in a clump of emotions, from joy and nervousness, to excitement and the fear of making a gigantic fool of herself.

Tonight was the night.

After years of pining after Carlisle Cullen, and nearly ten months since she had last seen him in person, Bella was finally going to gather her courage, and tell him how she truly felt—that she was head over heels in love with him.

Just don't lose your nerve, she kept telling herself as her old Chevy truck navigated the long, sinuous road that would ultimately lead her to the Cullen family home.

Just a few more minutes, she thought. Just a few more minutes until she saw him again. As her heart soared, Bella thought back on the path that had led her to here, to this decisive and intimidating moment in time.

It began seven years ago, when she had been in high school. One snowy day, when Bella had found herself in the path of an out-of-control van, one of her classmates, Edward Cullen, had stepped in to save her life, shielding her from the impact with nothing but the strength of his arm. It'd been a shock for sure, learning that the quiet guy in her science class wasn't human but a vampire. But instead of a blood-thirsty monster, Edward was just a regular guy—one who fed on the blood of animals, but still.

Her introduction to his world had been quite jarring to be sure, and it had caused quite a stir within his family. But as the two became good friends, it hadn't taken long for her to be introduced to the rest of his coven.

She would never forget that day, meeting Alice and Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie. And she would never forget how she had nearly fallen on her ass when she had first seen Carlisle.

Now it was true that the Cullens were all gorgeous. But to Bella, Carlisle was the most beautiful of all. Looks aside, he was a smart and caring man, with interests that matched her own. That being said, she had been rather young at the time, so it had taken nearly five years for them to develop a true friendship.

But as time went by, and the physical age gap between them had narrowed, Bella had found herself wondering what it would be like to be with the kind doctor who so often engaged her mind. Because she had been a chicken shit, though, the wondering had remained exactly that. Even with all the hours spent in his company, strengthening the bonds of friendship that had formed between them, Bella hadn't done a damn thing to test the waters or to outwardly indicate that she might be developing a teeny tiny—and by that she meant huge—crush on him.

By that point, Bella had grown infinitely fond of the close-knit vampire family. So much so that the idea of her possibly joining them in immortality had been floated around. While Rosalie and Edward did not agree with such a move, Alice had been all for it. Jasper and Emmett as well. Carlisle, on the other hand, had kept his cards close to the vest, and hadn't revealed his opinion until late one night, exactly one year and one day ago.

It was night.

The two were perusing the large bookcase in the back den when Carlisle surprised her by saying, "Happy birthday, Isabella."

Puzzled by his words, she turned to see that he was holding a small velvet box. "Um, thank you?" Her mouth quirking in a smile, Bella frowned a little. "But… my birthday isn't until tomorrow."

"I am aware of that," he said, his smile brightening when she finally took the proffered box.

"Well, Alice is throwing me a party tomorrow night. Why not give this to me then?"

Carlisle motioned to the sofa before the fireplace. "Would you sit with me?"

"Of course." Acquiescing to his request, Bella settled on the sofa, her knees unconsciously angled toward his.

"Please, open it." He indicated the box.

Doing as he asked, Bella gasped at the item inside. "Oh, Carlisle. This is beautiful."

A bracelet. Silver and delicate, it bore a single charm with the Cullen crest pressed into it.

"Since you've graduated from university, now seems like a good time to discuss your future with us. Is it still your wish to join our family?"

"If you're asking if I still want to be changed, the answer is yes." Bella had never wavered on that.

His mouth curved in a delicate smile. "If that is truly what you want—"

"It is. One hundred percent." With hopeful excitement, she asked, "So you'll do it? You'll change me?"

Realistically speaking, he was probably the only one with enough restraint to change her without killing her. But more than that, she trusted him, implicitly.

When he finally answered, Carlisle spoke with nothing but warmth. "I would be happy to."

Her joy was such that she flung herself into his arms without really thinking. "Thank you, Carlisle. Thank you, thank you."

They had set a date after that, agreeing to wait until January 2nd so she could spend the holidays with Charlie one last time. But, unbeknownst to her and the Cullens, fate had very different plans.

It all came tumbling down on November 27th, shortly after nine o'clock.

Bella, Carlisle, Alice, and Jasper were enjoying an evening in the living-room, listening to Edward play the piano when he stopped playing all of a sudden.

With everyone immediately on alert, she watched in puzzlement as they shot to their feet.

Thinking they had heard something, Bella asked what was going on. But no one answered. Instead, they all darted out the door with the exception of Carlisle.

"What's happening? Tell me, Carlisle."

A frown knitting his brows, he turned to her. "You need to stay here, alright Bella? I'll be back later. I'll explain then."

"No, wait! I'm part of this family. Whatever this is, I should be coming, too."

"I'm sorry, not this time. I don't know if it's safe for you. I can't risk it."


"Bella," he cut her off, anxiety lacing his voice. But he cocked his head just then, listening. For what, she didn't know.

Turns out it was Alice, her voice pitched loud enough for him to hear.

"Very well," Carlisle said to Alice. Back to Bella, he explained. "She says you can come, that it'll be fine."

With that, he grabbed her jacket, allowed Bella onto his back, and off they went.

Wind whipped her face, and she clung to Carlisle's body. At last, as they neared their destination, Emmett's voice cut through the darkness, loud enough for human ears. "Over here!"

Carlisle veered slightly just then, his feet ultimately slowing as they finally arrived.

Thanks to the moonlight, Bella discerned the Cullen family, standing in a circle around something or someone. Dismounting from Carlisle's back, she accompanied him to where his family stood.

At first, her vision was obstructed by Edward, but as he cleared a path, her gaze fell on the reason for all this chaos. A woman, trembling and writhing on the snow.

In full doctor mode, Carlisle was already crouched by her side. "What happened here?" Sniffing the air, deep concern settled over his features.

It was Rosalie who answered. "We were coming back from a hunt when we stumbled on to her. She wasn't alone. A nomad was here. From what we could tell, he had just started feeding."

"Where is he now?" Carlisle demanded.

"He got spooked when he saw us. He took off that way," Emmett supplied, nudging his head to his left. "There's an idling car over by the road beyond those trees. He must have snatched her there."

"What do we do, Carlisle?" Rosalie asked.

"There's only one thing we can do. Humans can't know about us. We have to hide her car and let the change happen." Clearly saddened by the woman's fate, he gained his feet, and declared, "We need to get her to the house."

"What about the treaty," Edward interjected. "It'll be null and void if the Wolves find out about this. They'll think we did it."

Alice's eyes narrowed into a faraway gaze. "Edward's right. They'll find out if we stay. And they'll blame us."

"Plus, she'll be a Newborn." Jasper spoke for the first time. "She can't be anywhere near a town or a human until she's calmed and settled into her instincts."

Bella's stomach dropped at these words. She knew what it meant.

The woman cried out in pain just then, and all eyes turned to her.

"So, it's settled, then. We'll head to Canada, to our cabin in the Yukon," Carlisle said, his mouth thinned in a line. "If we hurry, we might make it there before her heart gives out. Edward, take Bella home. Emmett and Rosalie, can you guys take care of her car?"

The pair nodded in unison, and darted off.

Panic had settled into Bella's core by then. "Wait. You're all leaving? Now?"

With nothing but a glance, Carlisle wordlessly tasked Edward to remain by the woman's side, while he went to Bella.

Hand on her shoulder, he regarded her with a profound look of regret, his voice low when he said, "I'm sorry, but we have to. I promise, we'll be back as soon as we can."

"How long will that be?"

Pain crossed his features. "A year, maybe two. It's impossible to say."

Carlisle surprised her just then, by wrapping her in his arms, and lingering.

"I'll miss you," Bella breathed into his neck.

"I'll miss you, too." Reluctantly easing away from her, he peered into her eyes. The emotions on his face not only startled her, but they gave her hope. Maybe her feelings for him weren't one-sided after all. "We'll be back. I promiseEdward?"

"Come on, Bella." He, too, sounded sad.

That was it. That was the last time she had seen them. Because there were no phone lines or cell signals at their remote cabin, Bella had only heard from them sporadically.

As her best friend, Edward had called first. But Carlisle had called her a few weeks after as well, when he had been able to slip away for a brief time. Much to her chagrin, their conversation hadn't been very long. But at least, he had said that he missed her.

"I miss you, too," had been her answer, delivered as her hopeful heart had quickened in her chest.

Ten months had passed since then. They'd spoken a few more times. During those conversations, she'd managed to learn more about the woman they had found that night.

Her name was Esme Anne Platt. Though everyone called her Esme. From what Carlisle had told her, she had adopted the family's "vegetarian" diet from the get-go, and had successfully smelled a human from afar without running after the man as if he had been prey.

"I should warn you, though. She's still new to all of this. We'll have to be careful when you meet her for the first time. I think you'll like her, though. Esme's really nice and caring. She's part of the family now."

Though a part of her felt selfish and horrible for thinking it, Bella couldn't help but resent the woman a little, for the disruption and heartache her arrival had brought into her life—not seeing the Cullens for so long... That being said, Bella wasn't totally heartless either; she felt bad for her, too. For unlike her, the woman hadn't asked to be changed.

Over these long months, Bella had often wondered how the woman was adjusting to her new existence. Finally, less than a week ago, Edward had called to give her the news.

Esme had made enough progress, and they were all coming back. "Just in time for your birthday."

It was now an hour past dusk. Since there were no street lights on this stretch, the only illumination came from the odometer and the truck's headlights. Nervous as she was, Bella couldn't smother a smile, thrilled that she was finally going to see her friends again.

Given the circumstances, however, Carlisle and the others had thought it prudent to host their gathering outside instead of in the house. It'd be easier on Esme, they'd all reckoned, for Bella's scent wouldn't be as concentrated in the great outdoors.

Her eyes darting to her bracelet, Bella tried to envision her evening, what it might bring. It would be a no-fuss celebration and heartfelt reunion, with just her and the family and the warmth of a campfire.

Recalling her resolve to tell Carlisle how she felt, Bella vowed not to waste the opportunity.

The Cullen's driveway was just up ahead, shooting off from the right side of the road. Softly pressing on the brake, Bella turned into the driveway, and kept on driving.

When the lavish house finally came into view, her heart was beating so fast, she feared it would burst from her chest.

This is it. Finally.

By the time she had parked the truck, and was getting out, most of the family had already gathered on the front steps.

"Edward!" Bella said while running up to him.

"Hey, Nugget," he replied as he wrapped her in a hug, and lifted her clear off her feet. "Missed you."

"I missed you, too. All of you."

Once Edward had released her, the reunion continued. First with Alice, then Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie.

Wiping at her tears, Bella laughed as she looked at them each in turn. While vampires were oblivious to cool nights, they had donned jackets nonetheless.

Dressed just as warmly Bella said, "God, it's good to see you guys."

"We're happy to be back," Alice said. "Things just weren't the same without you."

With a sniffle, Bella had to ask, "Where's Carlisle?"

She didn't have to wait for an answer, for his voice reached her, as soft and soothing as she remembered. "Hello, Isabella."

No sooner had he spoken, than their eyes locked at a distance. Carlisle stood near the home's front door, with a fondness she had been aching to see.

But even as she drank him in, Bella's vision expanded to take in his arm, his hand. Hands, she was startled to see, for Carlisle was holding hands with someone, with Esme, the woman who now stood to his right, with a welcoming smile on her heart-shaped face.

So here was chapter 1. As always, reviews are much appreciated. In fact, they're writing fuel. ;-)