This is the final chapter. I am very excited to be finished. I would like to thank everyoen for being patient I knwo this ahs been a long time coming. Sometimes life takes over.
Thanks, of course, to sillybella for her great beta and encouragement to finish this piece.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No copyright infringement is intended.
Bella wanted me to change her just like Carlisle had suspected. I could do it, I knew I could. Now that I knew what Bella wanted, I thought about what I wanted. The answer was simple. I wanted Bella to be my wife, to be mine in every way. Never before in my existence had I felt so strongly for anyone. I didn't always consciously know I had feelings for Bella, but from the beginning I had always wanted to protect her. That single instinct had grown into a love that was unparalleled. Bella looked surprised at my reaction. She had probably expected the same angry reaction I always had when talking about her soul. Things were different now, the choice was not my own. I was going to make the best of this situation no matter what. I looked deeply into her eyes calculating my next move.
"What would you be willing to trade for that?" As hard as it was, I stayed composed waiting patiently for her answer.
"Anything." The word was out of her mouth before she had even thought about what I was asking. A faint smile crossed my lips. She had inadvertently given me the upper hand, not that it would help much. Bella was stubborn, and she wanted this existence more than anything.
"Five years?" I knew she would never agree but when bargaining you always have to start higher than what you would settle for. Her face twisted in horrific shock. The age thing, it always went back to that. Even though I couldn't read her mind I knew that look. "You said anything," I reminded her gently.
"Yes, but…you'll use the time to find a way out of it," She said accusingly. "I have to strike while the iron is hot. Besides, it's just too dangerous to be human - for me, at least. So, anything but that." I frowned. Danger, it followed her everywhere because of me. I had invited her into a world that wasn't safe. MY world was no place for a human, but I couldn't help myself; she called to me. She was everything I never knew I wanted.
"Three years?" I could try, but I knew she wouldn't buy that either.
"Isn't it worth anything to you at all?" I feigned shock at her rejection. I watched her closely. There was a flash in her eyes that told me just how much she wanted this. She contemplated her next move.
"Six months?" I rolled my eyes at her poor attempt. That time frame didn't put her much past graduation. I wanted her to experience so much more as a human.
"Not good enough."
She bit her bottom lip making her next decision carefully. "One year, then. That's my limit." She had given more than I ever thought she would. She really did want me to change her more than anything else. If I had a heart it would have leapt at the thought. But I had to try and push for more.
"At least give me two years."
"No way. Nineteen I'll do. But I'm not going anywhere near twenty. If you're staying in your teens forever, then so am I," she said indignantly. A new thought had crossed my mind. There were things that I wanted more than Bella remaining human. I feared what she might say, that it would be too much, too soon. I was a creature who could not be destroyed by normal means, but without her I would shatter, become a shadow of what I really was. I decided it was worth facing my fear. She was worth everything I had in this existence.
"All right. Forget the time limits. If you want me to be the one- then you'll just have to meet one condition." I held my breath watching her delicate features for a response. She looked at me skeptically.
"Condition?" she asked flatly. "What condition?" I felt shaky and weak. Vampires were not supposed to feel that way. I inhaled deeply, steadying myself before I spoke.
"Marry me first." The words came slower than I had intended; nerves were definitely taking hold of my normally infallible façade.
She stared at me, somewhat in shock. I waited patiently for her response, my anxiety rising with each tick of her heart beat, which quickened at my proposal.
"Okay. What's the punch line?" I sighed and looked away from her. She really didn't believe me, or she didn't want to believe me. I wasn't completely sure which.
"You're wounding my ego, Bella. I just proposed to you, and you think it is a joke."
"Edward, please be serious." I stared at her. She really didn't think I was being serious. I was slightly wounded by her response.
"I am one hundred percent serious." I continued to stare at her, thinking about how to recover from what was now sure to happen. Bella would reject me and kick me out; after everything that had happened this was too much.
"Oh, c'mon," Bella sound slightly hysterical. Her heart raced faster. "I'm only eighteen."
"Well, I'm nearly one hundred and ten. It's time I settled down," I said laughing internally. In all my years no one had captured me the way Bella had. She looked out the window. She was definitely beginning to panic. Her heart raced, so easily giving her away.
"Look, marriage isn't exactly that high on my list of priorities, you know? It was sort of the kiss of death for Charlie and Renee." She was speaking rapidly, obviously nervous. I found it ironic that she had used the term kiss of death because that is exactly what it would be for her. If she married me I would change her. We could be together forever.
"Interesting choice of words."
"You know what I mean," she replied, frustrated.
I inhaled deeply trying to figure out if Bella was really rejecting me or if she was just scared. It was hard to tell. More than ever I wanted to be able to read her thoughts. She was willing to give her soul up for me but not willing to marry me. It was truly unbelievable. "Please don't tell me you're afraid of the commitment."
"That's not it exactly," Bella inhaled deeply trying to explain. "I'm…afraid of Renee. She has really intense opinions on getting married before your thirty."
"Because she'd rather you became one of the eternal damned than get married." I laughed darkly. Bella never said what I thought she would. Becoming a vampire, she was all for it. Getting married scared her to death.
"You think you're joking."
"Bella, if you compare the level of commitment between a marital union as opposed to bartering your soul in exchange for an eternity as a vampire…." I shook my head. It was hard to believe that she was so willing to be with me forever as a vampire but not as my wife. I was a bit confused. "If you're not brave enough to marry me, then-" Panic crossed her face.
"Well," she interrupted trying to think of something to regain the edge. "What if I did? What if I told you to take me to Vegas now? Would I be a vampire in three days?"
I smile widely. She was lying, testing me to see if I were serious. "Sure, I'll get my car."
"Dammit." Bella muttered, not expecting me to call her bluff. "I'll give you eighteen months." Marriage must really terrify her if she was willing to give me that much time.
"No deal," I grinned. "I like this condition."
"Fine. I'll have Carlisle do it when I graduate," she said indignantly.
"If that's what you really want." I shrugged indifferently at her attempt to force my hand. I smiled at her.
"You're impossible," she whined, "a monster." I laughed lightly, another interesting choice of words.
"Is that why you won't marry me?" I leaned toward her, taking in every inch of my beautiful Bella. "Please, Bella?" I knew I was dazzling her. It wasn't exactly playing fair, and she knew it. She stepped away from me and shook her head.
"Would this have gone better if I'd had time to get a ring?"
"No! No rings!" Bella nearly shouted the words at me, and Charlie had heard her.
"Now you've done it," I whispered softly. Not that Charlie would ever catch me, but if he even suspected I was here things would be bad for Bella.
"Oops." Bella bit her lower lip.
"Charlie's getting up; I better leave." I sighed heavily. The last thing I wanted to do was leave Bella ever again. Bella's response was more than I could hope for. Her body told me she didn't want me to leave. The expression on her face was fear. "Would it be childish of me to hide in your closet, then?"
"No," Bella shook her head eagerly. "Stay. Please." I smiled at Bella and ducked into the closet. I thought about all that had transpired in the last day. Bella was so determined to be one of us, and I had finally started to resolve myself to the possibility. There was an inner struggle that still gripped me. Her soul was so precious it couldn't possibly be worth giving up for me. I felt torn.
I could hear Charlie's thoughts as he approached. This was going to be unpleasant for Bella. He was furious. As he entered the room I didn't focus on his words, his thoughts were much more interesting. He showed me things I had heard about but not seen this clearly. Bella curled up on the floor, unresponsive. Oddly the place where she laid was exactly where I had left her things hidden. Charlie thought about the time he had called Renee to help Bella. It was so hard for him, reaching out to Renee. She doubted Charlie's ability to take care of Bella, especially after Phoenix. Bella fought the move, and Charlie knew why: she hoped I would come back. He was grateful in his own way, but worried more than ever that I would return. After Renee left, Bella walked like a ghost through the house daily; she looked lifeless. These memories pained me. I couldn't believe the damage I had done. I meant to give Bella a new chance at life, but all I did was damage her.
Charlie's thoughts suddenly changed from despair and anger to hope. When I saw why I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Jacob Black. Charlie held out hope that Jacob would take her from me. He remembered Bella and Jacob holding hands and her smiling for the first time. He had so much hope for them. The flood of memories Charlie had of Bella and Jacob together ripped at my very being. Charlie's voice brought me back to the current conversation.
"Were you trying to kill yourself, Bella?" He sounded frustrated and scared of the answer. I still wondered about this myself. Bella had said she was only cliff, diving but she was doing it to hear my voice. Something about it didn't seem right.
"No, of course not. Just having fun with Jake." Jake, she said his name so casually. He definitely had a place in her heart; I could tell from her tone. This was going to be difficult. Bella didn't understand the danger the werewolves posed. They were volatile and had no control. I worried more about this new complication than I had before. Jacob was firmly implanted in this family, and I wasn't sure how that would resolve itself. I didn't see us being friends anytime soon. Bella's voice brought me back to the current situation.
"Look, I'm not going to give you any more ultimatums tonight-or I guess it's morning. Just think about it for a few days, okay? But keep in mind that Edward and I are sort of a package deal." Charlie was fuming. He thought of many ways to handicap me and even a few ways of how to dispose of my body. It was going to take a long time before Charlie even came close to trusting me again. He left Bella's room stomping down the stairs and cursing me in his mind the whole time. I swiftly moved out of the closest and into the rocking chair.
"Sorry about that," Bella whispered, slightly embarrassed by Charlie's rage. I understood. He had every right to hate me.
"It's not as if I don't deserve far worse," I mumbled, more aware now of all the damage I had done. "Don't start anything with Charlie over me, please." I didn't want to be the reason for the downfall of their relationship, although that seemed more and more inevitable.
"Don't worry about it," Bella breathed heavily as she gathered her shower things. "I will start exactly as much as necessary, and no more than that." Bella widened her eyes in false alarm. "Or are you trying to tell me I have no where to go?"
"You'd move in with a house full of vampires?" I was slightly shocked at Bella's willingness to move in with me.
"That's probably the safest place for someone like me. Besides, if Charlie kicks me out, then there is no reason for a graduation deadline, is there?"
I clenched my jaw at her words. She was so stubborn on this matter. "So eager for eternal damnation."
"You know you don't really believe that," she said smugly.
"Oh, don't I?" I replied furiously. This topic still didn't sit well with me.
"No, you don't," she sounded sure of this. I was beginning to wonder if she would read minds now. I went to speak, to refute her allegations, but she cut me off.
"If you really believed that you'd lost your soul, then when I found you in Volterra, you would have realized immediately what was happening, instead of thinking we were both dead together. But you didn't- you said 'Amazing, Carlisle was right.'" She reminded me of that brief moment when I truly did believe that we were both dead and somehow, even without a soul, I could be with my angel. "There's hope in you after all." I sat there speechless, as she looked at me triumphantly. "So let's both just be hopeful, alright?" Bella suggested softly. Hope it was such a simple word yet it filled my being. "Not that is matters. If you stay, I don't need heaven." She was so beautiful, and she never ceased to amaze me. I rose slowly, even for a human; I stood in front of Bella and place my hands on either side of her face. The warmth of her face penetrated through my skin to my very being. I stared into her rich brown eyes, still slightly shocked by her statement. Bella had grown in the time we were apart, and I wanted nothing more that to be with her.
"Forever," I spoke the word softly, the shock still resonating with me.
"That's all I'm asking for," she replied happily, stretching up on her toe to kiss me. This was my heaven. I wouldn't need anything more as long as I had her. The past mistakes faded from my mind replaced with thoughts of a beautiful future.