Hey guys, I am SOOO incredibly sorry that this has taken so long. I owe you about a hundred giant chapters. Thank you guys for all of your amazing reviews and sticking with me even though I've been so bad about updating. So now I present to you.... the long awaited chapter 22!!!!

PS. Almost everyone guessed who the three mysterious figures were. Little bit obvious but oh well :D

Disclaimer: don't own anything.

Just to let you guys know, I go by the book with my villains. Laurent has dark hair and olive skin, and James has lighter brown hair.

Bella's POV

A few seconds later, Edward came to an abrupt halt in a small clearing. It was different from the meadow he had showed me before. There was nothing special here.

He slid me off his back and I struggled to keep my balance on the solid ground.

"Edward," I tried again. "What's happening?"

He didn't meet my eyes when he answered, but stared intently at a point in the forest. "I'm sorry, Bella. This was never something I wanted you to face. I'm so, so sorry for putting you in danger like this." His voice was low and anguished.

"What are you talking about?"

But before he could respond, three figures emerged into the clearing. Edward sank into a defensive crouch in front of me, a feral growl ripping through his throat.

My entire body trembled in fear as Edward positioned himself between me and the strangers.

"Good evening," said the man with dark hair, clearly the leader of the little group.

Edward did not reply. Instead he let out a feral growl, inhuman and terrifying. Instinctively, I took a step backwards, bracing myself against a tree for support. Edward turned his head and, for one brief second, his eyes met mine, his expression unreadable. Before I could register whatever he was trying to communicate to me, his attention snapped forward again.

"Tut tut," said the leader, shaking his head mockingly, "not one for pleasantries, I see"

"Don't. Touch. Her." Edward snarled and all three pairs of blood red eyes flashed dangerously.

The woman with long wild hair, the color of fire, licked her lips and subtly glanced at the lighter haired man, as though seeking permission for something. With a tiny nod of his head, the two moved forward. The man I had originally assumed to be the leader stepped back and the other man stepped up to lead the little pack.

Edward seemed to be expecting this as he was already focused on the light haired man. Although, I'm not sure that 'man' was the correct term. They were obviously far from human.

"And who's going to stop me?" asked the true leader. At this, the woman let out a cruel chuckle. Her eyes appeared excited, as did both of the men's.

Edward's only response was another deep growl.

"Have it your way, then," the light haired man replied, smiling sadistically. I couldn't remember ever being so scared in my entire life. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion, as both men sank into low crouches and launched themselves at Edward.

Then, all of a sudden, everything was happening too quickly to comprehend. All I could see was a blur of white bodies and hear the horrible snarls and what sounded like giant boulders crashing together.

"EDWARD!!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, my voice was high, rough, cracked, and desperate.

No no no no no! This can not be happening. I thought to myself. I can't lose him. I can't. I can't.

Then I felt a sudden breeze brush past me, light as a butterfly's wings.

"No need to yell, sweetheart," whispered a harsh, girly voice in my ear. I cried out in panic before her hand clamped over my mouth, her skin just as unnaturally cold as Edward's was.

I thrashed and kicked against her, but she held my wrists with one hand. She was strong; much too strong.

I heard a grunt of pain and I could tell it came from Edward. I cringed back, closing my eyes. His pain cut through me like a knife.

The woman laughed again. "Did you think he cared about you, hmm?"she sneered in that baby-like voice, and then let out another cold, hard laugh. Murmuring in my ear, she said "You're nothing to him. Just a silly little human who smells absolutely scrumptious."

I heard her lick her lips and inhale deeply. Hot tears pricked at my eyes, making it impossible to see.

She gasped in delight, "Oh this just keeps getting better and better! You love him, don't you? Hate to break it to you, Honey, but he's only keeping you around so that he can—"

But she was cut off by a huge crash. The dark haired man had been thrown into a tree, splitting it in half. But in the second that it had taken Edward to hurl him away, he was tackled to the ground by the other man and pinned there with no chance of escape.

XxXxXxXxX

My heart stuttered in my chest and my breath cut off. All time seemed to stand still.

"Well, well, well," said the man who was holding Edward down. "That was not nearly as much fun as I had hoped it would be." He seemed disappointed but his voice maintained that slightly sarcastic tone.

This was it. We were both going to die here in this little clearing in the middle of nowhere. The reality of the situation began to set in and I stopped struggling against the woman's hold. There was no chance of escape.

The leader spoke again, "So what are we going to do about that, now?"

Edward did not respond. His expression was probably the mirror image of mine. He, too, knew that this was the end.

A small sigh escaped the lips of the leader. "I suppose it really wasn't a fair fight. How on Earth could I expect you and one measly human to beat the three of us?" He let out a chuckle of amusement.

"James?" The woman spoke sharply and suddenly from behind me, making me jump in fright. "You know that we are all just dying for a little drink. You can't seriously be thinking what I think you are."

I didn't know what the man, James apparently was his name, was supposed to be thinking about. All I knew was that the woman didn't sound pleased at all. That had to be a good thing for Edward and I.... didn't it?

"Oh, but I am, Victoria." He jeered happily. "Smell! He has friends. Several of them, it seems to me. Would it not be so much more satisfying to beat them all? In a fight that was even? You know we could do it, you know we could."

"No!" She practically shouted. "I can not accept this!"

"It is my word, Victoria." James responded darkly. His eyes, which had been lightening steadily, suddenly turned pitch black again. "And you will not disrespect me like this, ever again. Do I make myself clear?"

It reminded me a little bit of how Charlie usually spoke to me. I felt a stab of something almost like sympathy for the terrifying creature who was pinning my arms behind my back.

"Release her!" James ordered. My arms were freed at once and Victoria stepped away, her head bowed.

"And as for you," He continued, looking down at Edward. "We will be back for you when the time is right. But now I suggest you have your little snack, before I decide to that I should have her instead. You see, I do not usually show mercy, and she does smell quite lovely. I might just change my mind and keep her all too myself." He finished his statement with a malicious sneer, and a startling glint in his eye.

And with that, he let go of Edward and retreated gracefully into the trees with the other two following him.

XxXxXxXxX

The clearing was filled with a silence so intense, neither of us seemed to be breathing. I could hear every sound in the surrounding forest, chirping birds, and snapping twigs. But none of it mattered right now. My legs were shaking so badly that I crumpled, my knees meeting the hard ground with a forceful thump.

Edward was still laying on the ground where James had left him. He stared up at the canopy of leaves and branches above us, unseeing.

We stayed like that, neither of us moving. Both were afraid to break the stillness that had fallen.

Finally, I just couldn't take it anymore and I spoke. "E-Ed...Edward," my voice was tense and strained. It was hard to just simply speak his name. My throat was choked up and I felt as though I might cry.

He didn't even stir at the sound of his name so I tried again. "Edward," it was easier to speak clearly now. Then I asked the question that had been resting at the tip of my tongue for much too long. "What are you?"

"Bella...," He sounded broken and torn. I hated to hear him like that and I ached to make him feel better. But there were some things that I needed to know.

"Please, Edward. Please just answer me. Don't I have the right to know?"

"You do," He continued to stare straight upward. "Of course you do. I'm so sorry, Bella. So fucking sorry. I should never have done this, any of this. I put you in danger and it isn't fair to you."

"Just answer the goddamn question," I almost growled. He was avoiding it but I had to know.

There was a long pause and then finally, "I am a monster, Bella," he said slowly, taking care to pronounce every single word. "A real one. The kind you read about in books. The kind that haunt the nightmares of small children. I am so, so sorry."

"Please stop apologizing," I was beginning to grow impatient. "Edward, I am so confused right now. All I need is for you to give me a straight answer. What. Are. You?"

Once again, he remained silent for a long moment before opening his mouth and uttered the one word that would change everything, forever. "Vampire."

I froze for a moment. I said nothing, I don't even think I was breathing. I just paused to let that sink in.

Vampire

Vampire

And all of the sudden, several thing clicked into place all at once; his ice cold skin, the changing eye color, the fact that I had never actually seen him eat real food, his impossible speed and agility, and come to think of it, I have never even heard his heart beat. It all made sense. He was telling the truth. Edward Cullen really was a Vampire. And that meant....

"Oh," I whispered in a faint little voice. I let out a long breath in relief. Of course.

That finally got a reaction out of Edward. He sat up just as gracefully as ever and turned to face me. "Oh?" He asked in a tone that bordered on hysteria. "Oh? That's really all you have to say?"

I was shocked. He usually sounded to cool, calm, and collected. This Edward was not the one I was used to.

"Well what do you want me to say?" I responded. I knew exactly what was going to happen now. I accepted it, almost welcomed it. "It's alright, Edward. I get it now."

"So why are you still here?" I couldn't put his tone into words. He sounded so angry, but at the same time, so sad.

"Even if I tried to run, I don't think that it would do me very much good. I think that I would be right in guessing that you could catch me without much trouble." I spoke like I used to before I had met Edward. I was detached, emotionless. Completely logical. Thinking with my head instead of my heart.

"I wouldn't follow you, Bella." All of the anger was gone now, and it had been replaced with pure raw sadness. His eyes burned into mine, just as pitch black as Jame's had been. They told me that he only spoke the truth. "I would let you leave."

"Ha," I laughed without any humor. "It's okay, Edward. Honestly, I really just wish that you would get it over with already."

"Get what over with?" He sounded genuinely confused, but then again, I am sure that he must have been a fabulous actor. After all, how many times had he lied to me in the rather short amount of time that I had known him?

"You can drop the act now. I'm serious, it's okay." I didn't care anymore what happened to me. I welcomed my fate, accepted it with open arms.

"Bella, I'm serious. I do not have the slightest clue what you are talking about. Life would be so much easier if I could just read your damn mind. But I can not. So you are going to have to explain yourself."

"Well, it's just like those two were saying," I stated matter-o-factly. I didn't know how much longer my calmness would last. I could tell that I was only an inch away from losing my head. "I never meant anything to you, did I? Just a little snack, a little human whose blood you wanted to drink. God, Edward." I was starting to lose it now. I had to fight to talk `through the growing lump in my throat. "I just want to know one thing, first. Why did you do it? Why did you have to make me fall for you? Couldn't you just have gotten it over with that day you found me with the gun at my head? Did you honestly think that it would be better this way or ---"

"Bella!" He cut me off sharply. I suddenly became aware that there were tears streaming down my face but I made no effort to stop them. What did it matter anyways?

"Bella," he said again, softer this time. "Bella, I'm not a killer. I was never going to harm you in any way. My family and I, we don't feed off of humans."

"Y-you don't?" I choked out.

"No. I was never my intention to feed off of you. Ever."

"But... But that woman... Victoria, she said that.....," I trailed off uncertainly.

"I don't eat humans, Bella. But those three do. To them, I'm sure that you would be nothing more than a snack. But not to me... never to me."

"So why have you spent all this time trying to convince me that you're dangerous?" My thoughts were swirling through my head. It was so hard just to decide which question to ask. For every one I thought of, there was another, even more important one that I needed answered.

"Because I am, Bella. Why can't you grasp that?" He sounded strained and exasperated. He dropped his head down into the palms of his hands and sat there in anguish. "I could kill you so easily, without even meaning to. Every time I touch you is putting you at risk. I have to be so careful... if I were to lose control at any second..."

"Edward," I whispered his name so quietly but I knew that he had heard. I couldn't stand seeing him like this. Slowly, I got to my feet, still trembling, and made my way towards him. Each step I took was measured carefully. I didn't know what was going to happen now. I thought he was just going to eat me, or suck my blood, or whatever... but this had thrown me off completely. Maybe everything he had said to me wasn't a lie after all...

I plopped myself down beside him on the cold forest floor. Then I took both of his hands in mine forcing him to meet my gaze. Sparks of electricity flew between us just as they always had. This couldn't all have been a lie. But still... I had to be sure.

"Edward," I said again.

"Bella," His eyes blazed with too many emotions for me to recognize. "Bella, I---"

But I cut him off my pressing my lips against his. He kissed me back softly with quivering lips. My arms snaked around his neck and pulled him closer but Edward pulled away rather sharply.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Rejection pierced through me like a knife as I let my arms fall back to my sides limply. "I'm sorry," I looked a the ground sounding weak... pathetic.

"Bella," He placed a cool finger under my chin and lifted my face up so our eyes met. "Bella, listen to me. You shouldn't be doing this."

"What do you mean?"

"How on Earth are you still here? Any normal human would have ran away screaming by now."

"When have I ever been normal, Edward?" I asked with a weak smile.

"So you just accept it? The fact that I'm a monster." He questioned sardonically.

"Of course not," I said. "I'm not that insane. How could you not have told me about this? You let this go on for so long without saying a thing. Were you ever planning on telling me?"

He remained quite. I took his silence as a no.

"God, Edward. How is that fair?"

"It's not, Bella." He didn't meet my gaze as he spoke. "I'm so, so sorry. I guess I was just hoping that you would figure it out or something. Or maybe listen to what I was saying about how I was dangerous and how I was no good for you. I was terrified of telling you. I wanted you to be safe but at the same time, I couldn't bear the thought of not having you."

"So you were never going to tell me?" I was getting angry now.

"Not unless I had to, Bella. But you have to understand that I wasn't planning on staying forever. Not at first."

"What so you were just going to leave me once you got bored? Is that it?" I spat. Tears filled my eyes once again.

"No, Bella. No, no, no." He shook his head fervently. "I was just going get you out of your father's house. I was going to stay until you were safe. I couldn't let myself get involved with a human. But I did. And it's too late to change any of that."

"You do realize what would have happened after that don't you?" I asked him, still not accepting his many apologies. "I would have ended up right back where you found me, with that gun pressed against my skull. Or perhaps at the edge of a cliff. It doesn't matter. I would have found a way to end it all. My life doesn't mean a thing without you in it. Before I met you, I was so tough. Nothing could phase me. I thought with my head. Well congratulations because you fucked all of that up."

"Bella...,"

But I didn't let him continue. Now that I had gotten started it was hard to make myself stop. "And none of that even matters to you, does it? I was just some silly little human girl that you 'got involved with'. I fell for you so hard and you were just going to leave me! I can't believe that I trusted you. Everything you ever said to me was a big fat lie!"

"I never lied to you, Bella." His face was filled with ancient grief.

"Bull shit!" I yelled. My heart raced and my breathing was erratic.

"I didn't tell you about what I was because my world is not safe for you. You saw what happened with those three. You could have been killed so easily, and all because of me. Because I was selfish."

"I don't give a fuck, Edward." I was beginning to calm down now. We were both being stubborn and we were both being stupid. "Nothing matters as long as I can be with you."

"You shouldn't feel like this. I shouldn't have let this go so far. I shouldn't have let myself get so attached to you."

"Listen to me," I said, placing my hands on either side of his face and making him look at me. "I. Do. Not. Care. I don't. I don't care what you are or how much danger I'm in. You're the only thing that gets me through the day, Edward. Without you I would be dead."

"Bella, that is so stupid," He said. I couldn't believe this guy. Here I was pouring my heart out to him. Practically telling him I was in love with him and all he could say was that I'm stupid. My eyes continued to leak, a steady river of tears was flowing down my face. I had never felt so broken or vulnerable in my entire life.

Bet he continued speaking anyways, "You can't feel like that. I'm no good for you."

"Edward," I was almost sobbing now and it was becoming difficult to talk. "I've told you how I feel. Now I need you to do the same. If you don't want me, I promise I'll go. But if you do, then we owe it to ourselves to at least give this a shot don't we?"

"How on Earth could you doubt my feelings for you?" He asked incredulously. "Haven't I made it quite clear that you mean more to me than anything in the universe?"

"I... I---"

He took my face gently between his big strong hands and said clearly, pronouncing every syllable, "Bella Swan, I am completely and utterly in love with you."

WHEW!!! jeeze, that was my longest chapter yet! Hope that makes up for me neglecting my stories at least a little bit. Too Late is up next! I lost my outline for that story so i'm making a new one. Next chapter should be up by the end of October!

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