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"What's wrong?" I had been enjoying the feeling of his lips on mine, and by the way he was breathing, I could tell he did, too.

Edward leaned forward, his forehead in his hand, his head shaking side to side. His words came out in a low growl. "She has the worst timing."

With that, I could hear footsteps running up the stairs, and down the hall. I turned just as the door to my bedroom burst open, and a lithe figure hurled itself at me, arms catching me about the back pulling me into a crushing embrace.

"Oh, I am so happy you two finally figured it all out!" Alice squeezed me tighter once more, before pulling away, grabbing my hand, and pulling me off the bed.

"Alice! What are you doing?" I exclaimed angrily. I look back at Edward, an amused smirk on his face as he watched his sister yank me from the room.

"You have to tell me all about it!" she gushed. "I only get to see bits and pieces, but I want the full story! We've been waiting forever for this!" We were running down the stairs toward the back door of the house. I looked around quickly and couldn't see anyone else in sight.

"And what if I don't want to tell anyone about it?" I was thoroughly annoyed at being interrupted, but now I was expected to kiss and tell? This wasn't fair.

"Come on, Bella, we've all been waiting for this for so long! Much longer than you seem to realize." We were out the door and past the garage.

"We?" I asked warily.

"Of course, 'we'," Alice replied hastily. "Rose and Esme are waiting for us."

Chapter 16: Bonfire


'I promise it'll be just a few minutes, Edward! We've been trying to be so patient, but you know I can't wait forever!' Alice chided in her mind as she pulled Bella downstairs.

Having known Alice this long, I was not surprised that she would interrupt my time with Bella at exactly the wrong moment. I would be perfectly happy to give Bella up to the nosy females in my family, but just not quite so soon after realizing that we were still very much in love. If I was being honest, I wanted to keep her in my arms for hours, to refamiliarize myself with every square inch that was Bella.

To pass the time while they were gone, I decided I would tune the Grand Piano in the Great Room. It had been years since I'd played up here in Denali, and I wasn't sure what condition I would find it in. Surprisingly, it wasn't as out of tune as I had expected, so after a few minor adjustments, I began to play Esme's favorite composition, losing myself in the complex melodies.

Esme had always worried that I was too young before I was changed, and that I wouldn't have the chance to experience the emotions that the rest of my family had towards their spouses. I laughed at that now, having experienced all those emotions and then foolishly pushing the love of my life away. To be given a second chance with Bella was a miracle, if such things existed, and I would never allow myself to do her wrong again. I would prove every day for the rest of our existence that I was hers and she would always be the only one I'd ever want.

As the piece I was playing came to an end, I could hear my brothers walking in through the back door, bickering about something.

"No way dude, I totally had him!" Emmett boasted as he kicked the door shut behind him.

"Sure, you totally had him, until he pinned you to the ground with one leg and had you practically begging for mercy," Jasper said incredulously.

"Whatever, man. Remember it how you want," Emmett huffed, sprawling himself on the loveseat by the bay window.

I got up from the piano bench and relocated to the large sofa in the Great Room, settling in for the tale of Emmett's latest wrestling match. This distraction was a welcome one, since I couldn't get my mind off of Alice kidnapping Bella and when they would be home.

Apparently Emmett thought it would be fun to challenge the still-newborn Riley to a friendly wrestling match while they had all been at Tanya's home. Riley might have been physically half Emmett's size, but his strength would be double even Emmett's for at least a few more months.

Images were playing through Jasper's mind of how the fight actually went, and I snickered seeing the way things happened. Watching Riley easily take Emmett down was something I'd like to witness for myself, if the opportunity arose.

"Next time, I'll just have to compensate for how fast that little bugger moves." Emmett was pondering his game plan for his next match, which of course would be one of his top priorities.

'Edward?' Jasper looked at me thoughtfully, raising his eyebrows. 'Where is everyone? Is everything okay? Do you want to talk about it?'

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat; hadn't Alice filled them in? "Everything's fine, Jasper. The girls took Bella for a walk, but I don't know what's taking so long."

"Hmm, 'girl talk'. We should just be glad we're missing it." Emmett frowned for half a second. "I'm thinking it might be cool to build a bonfire, you guys up for that?" He bounced up from the loveseat, heading back out the door he had come in.

I glanced at Jasper, who just shrugged and followed Emmett. Bella would be back soon, and the idea of holding her by the fire sounded nice, so I jumped up to join my brothers.

Emmett had a small blaze going when I walked into the large yard behind the house.

"Hey lover boy, so glad you could join us!" Emmett said as he stoked the fire with a tree branch.

I snorted, and folded myself onto the ground by Jasper. "I was going to help you get some more wood, but now I think I'll just watch."

"Don't mess with my fire-building skills, little brother," Emmett smirked through the growing flames.

I sighed and ran both my hands through my hair in frustration. Emmett was prattling on about their time up at Tanya's home, something about Eleazar's airplane collection, and how he decided he would be buying a plane of his own and getting his pilots license. As much as I normally enjoyed my brothers' company, I was becoming anxious. I had been without Bella in my arms for too long, and now that we had realized our true feelings, it was painful being away from her.

The sounds of my sisters' thoughts began to register at that moment, and I knew they would be home soon. I exhaled as relief washed over me. Jasper picked up on my reaction and chuckled quietly under his breath without looking in my direction. I was glad he didn't draw any attention to me; it seemed Emmett was more than willing to rib me in any way possible tonight. This made me look forward to having Rosalie rejoin him; he needed a few good backhands.

Within minutes, I could hear their approach, and Jasper and I strolled over to the edge of the garage where they would be appearing. He squeezed my shoulder lightly, letting me know he understood how I was feeling. I knew now, better than ever before, that Bella was like a drug for me, and I was in absolute withdrawal from her.

Alice zipped around the corner and into Jasper's arms like a bolt of lightning while the others walked over to us at a casual pace. Bella was behind Alice and Rose with Esme, her face angled down slightly, looking up tentatively at me. Her shyness was adorable and I grinned widely at her. Once she noted how relieved I was to see her, her eyes brightened and she picked up her pace. I opened up my arms and she melted into me.

"I survived," she teased, still smiling.

"I'm glad you're back," I murmured into her hair, kissing the top of her head.

As she snaked her arms around my waist, she whispered into my chest, "I missed you."

A shudder rippled through my body as I felt her breath through my thin cotton shirt. I bent down to kiss her under her ear before I whispered, "Me, too."

Bella began to pull away, but I didn't let her get far, wrapping my arm firmly around her waist to lead her over toward the fire. As we walked I heard Esme's thoughts bursting with happiness over my embrace with Bella. I couldn't help but smile at that. Happiness, that a short while ago seemed impossible, was now surrounding me.

"Did Carlisle stay with Eleazar?" Esme asked.

"Yes, he did. They were discussing some things in his study when we left. He shouldn't be much longer now, though," Jasper replied, looking up at the sky.

We were all sitting casually around the fire making small talk when we heard Carlisle return.

"This is a nice scene to come home to," he said as he kissed Esme on the cheek, taking his place by her side. Glancing in my direction, I heard his thoughts. 'I'm glad things went well for you, Edward.'

It really was nice to be here like this, my family was so comfortable, and I no longer felt awkward and self-conscious around Bella. It was as if all the months of despair had never taken place; it was right. I glanced down at her, and she was laughing at one of Emmett's stories. The firelight was reflecting off her mahogany hair, hinting at red highlights. She looked positively glorious, and I hoped she felt as complete in this moment as I did.

Emmett was enjoying reminiscing about Bella's human days and she was humoring him gracefully. "…I think one of my favorite human-Bella moments was last spring when she figured out she was being taken to the prom. Remember, Edward? I've never seen a human's cheeks flush such a dark red! Priceless…I bet you're not sad to be missing it this year, eh Bella?"

She laughed quietly in response, as Emmett launched into another one of his anecdotes. Within moments, I felt her body stiffen. Sensing her distress, Jasper glanced from Bella to me. I hoped Emmett hadn't taken this too far. She had just opened up to me tonight regarding her feelings about the parts of her human life she had left behind. I was certain that the Forks Senior prom wouldn't be high on the experiences she would be upset to have missed, but the story of our Junior prom seemed to have caused her to react much more negatively than any of the others.

"Everything ok?" I whispered softly, squeezing her hand, letting her know I was here for her.

"Everything's fine," she muttered in response. I knew she wasn't being honest, however, when she drew her knees up to her chest, releasing my hand and wrapping her arms around her legs.

"Well, since the sun will be coming up shortly, I'm thinking about heading in. Will you join me, Bella?" I stood, reaching my hand out to her. I was desperate to keep anything from getting in the way of the happiness I had felt with Bella a few hours ago, and needed to know what was on her mind. The thoughts of my family echoed my concerns. Particularly Emmett.

'Oh, man…I'm sorry Edward, I didn't mean to upset her, you know that right?'

I nodded slightly in his direction to let him know I understood.

Alice pursed her lips as she watched us saying our goodnights. 'We'll talk about this tomorrow, ok Edward?'

After acknowledging Alice, we made our way into the house. Bella walked slowly beside me, staring blankly ahead, not meeting my eyes as I glanced over to see her expression.

"Will you watch a movie with me?" I asked hopefully as I led her to her bedroom, trying to find an excuse to continue to spend time by her side, hoping she wouldn't shut me out of whatever she was feeling.

"I'm not really in the mood to watch a movie right now, I hope you don't mind." She looked up at me with a sad smile on her face. I hesitated at her door, but as she opened it, she pulled me behind her.

"Of course not. What's wrong? It's ok to tell Emmett to shut up when he starts going like that, you know. The sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be." I sat down on her bed, pulling her onto my lap, where I was able rub her back in an effort to comfort her. She curled into my embrace, resting her head on my shoulder, her hands fidgeting in her lap. We stayed like that a while before Bella spoke, her voice barely a whisper.

"Emmett didn't do anything wrong. It's just that his mentioning the Prom made me realize that it'll be time for graduation in a few weeks. Then I thought about all the friends I'll never see again, and then ... I thought about Charlie." Bella started to sob a little bit when she mentioned her father. "I hope this isn't too hard on him. I know he was looking forward to seeing me graduate. He mentioned once that it would be his first 'official' appearance as a father." She chuckled darkly through her sobs. "I really wish there was something I could do, it feels awful just sitting here while I know he's hurting, you know?"

"I suppose you wouldn't be you if you reacted any other way, love. Charlie has a lot of people who care about him, and friends that are looking out for him right now. I hope you know that," I said as I held her close, kissing her softly on the top of her head. This seemed to calm her for the moment.

"Thank you." She sighed and wrapped her arms around my neck, and I was filled with relief that she was allowing me to comfort her. I wanted nothing more than to take her mind off the course it was headed down. I pulled back slightly from our embrace, looking deeply in her eyes, hoping I still had the ability to "dazzle" her. I felt her tremble and her eyes began to slightly glaze over. I exhaled slowly trying not to break her from whatever hold I had on her. While I ran my hands gently up and down her arms, I began my favorite trail of kisses down her jaw line to below her ear, and slowly down her neck. As I made my way back up to her ear, I whispered "I love you, Bella... forever."

I felt her hands loosen from my hair as she placed one on either side of my face. While looking into my eyes again she whispered back, "Forever."

She leaned in and caught my mouth with her own. I closed my eyes, relishing the feeling of her lips on mine. I couldn't help but gasp as I felt her tongue trace my lower lip. I reminded myself that I didn't have to be careful with Bella now. With a sigh, I parted my lips in response. Without the pull of her blood holding me back, I lost myself in the sensation, reveling in the way it felt to move my lips with hers this way, as I had only dreamed of. I simply couldn't get close enough to her; wanting to feel every inch of her against me. I leaned back, slowly pulling her with me to lie down on her bed. Her eyes fluttered open.

"I just want to feel you in my arms, Bella. I'm in no rush," I whispered. She smiled and immediately pulled me back to her. We held each other until the sun began to peek through the windows.

"So, I guess that's what vampires do for fun, hmm?" She teased as she pulled away from me.

"I can't think of anything I'd rather do," I said as I brushed my fingers across her cheek.

She went to stand up, and froze in place. She began to speak, but snapped her mouth shut, and shook her head.

"Bella?" I asked, as I struggled to understand her behavior.

"Hmm?" She said, appearing in a daze

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"I don't know…sometimes I just get these strange feelings, I don't know why, but my stomach clenches and I feel tense from head to toe. It's been happening on and off for awhile now." She looked up at me tentatively as I walked over to take her hand in mine.

"That is strange. Maybe we should talk to Carlisle." I offered, thinking maybe it had something to do with her being a newborn, not quite understanding her heightened senses.

"I'm sure it's nothing. I'm probably just over-reacting," she said, waving her hand dismissively.

"Well, we should bring it up just the same," I said as I led her out of her room and down to see what the rest of the family was up to.

"Hey there," Alice smiled at us from her spot on the large couch where she was tapping away at the keyboard of her laptop.

"Good morning, Alice," Bella said as she dropped down to sit next to her.

"Jasper was hoping to speak with you, Bella. I think he's looking for a hunting partner today," Alice said nonchalantly, but looked up at me meaningfully. 'I need to speak to you Edward, so please go along with me.'

"Hmm, I guess that would be a good idea. Unless you need to go, Edward?" Bella asked.

"No, no. I went a few days ago with Emmett. You go ahead, just promise to hurry back." I winked at her.

"Bella, Edward, good morning." Jasper walked into the room and sat on Alice 's other side. He kissed the top of her head, draping his arm on the back of the couch behind her. "Did you have any plans to go hunting today, Bella? Alice said it's been a while since you last went?"

"I'll come along. When were you thinking of going?" Bella asked.

"Whenever you're ready, anytime." He answered.

"What will you do while we're gone?" She asked me, squeezing my hand.

"I was thinking of tinkering on my piano, actually. I started to tune it yesterday when Alice swept you away, and I'd like to finish what I started," I replied, laughing as Alice stuck her tongue out at me.

"All right, let's go then!" Bella stood, kissing me softly before turning to Jasper and they headed out through the kitchen.

"What can I do for you, Alice?" I asked, although I knew exactly what she wanted to talk about.

"Like you don't know. I think everyone saw how Bella reacted to the story from last year's prom. Did she say anything about it?" Alice began nervously wringing her hands in her lap.

"Well, when she realized that it would soon be time for the senior prom, it clicked with her that it would also soon be time for graduation. And, of course she is worried about Charlie and how difficult this will be for him." I said, shaking my head. "She's upset that there isn't anything she can do to ease his pain."

"Now I understand," Alice said as she stared blankly ahead.

"What do you understand?"

"Edward, we need to do something. I've seen her trying to go down to Charlie, and it doesn't end well. In fact, her future sort of…disappears," she said nervously.

"Disappears, what does that mean?" I almost shouted, trying to keep calm, but failing.

"I don't know. Maybe if I go visit Charlie, it will stop her from making that decision," Alice said, hopping off the couch now, pacing.

"I should go. I need to check in with the Quileutes, to find out if they've had any visitors to report," I said.

I heard someone moving towards us in the house, and picked up Carlisle's thoughts before he entered the room. "What's this I hear about going to Forks?" he asked.

Alice filled him in on our discussion, and I repeated that I'd like to check in with the wolves.

"Well, it certainly wouldn't be a good thing to let Bella do something she would regret later on," Carlisle said, rubbing his chin between his thumb and fingers. "Perhaps we should go. I'd like to speak with the Quileutes myself."

Alice stared ahead unseeingly. "Your futures both just disappeared. Why is that? Whenever the wolves are involved, I lose my vision, I just don't understand it." She was clearly not happy about this, as she continued to pace.

"Hmm, I'm not sure why that would be. But, everything turned out ok last time, Alice," I stated evenly, hoping to calm her down.

"You're right; I just don't like not knowing." She frowned.

"We will have to discuss this later; we have company arriving. I'm sure once we tell Bella that we will see to Charlie that will help ease her mind," Carlisle said as I focused on who our guests would be. Alice and I looked at each other, neither of us wanting to delay the conversation.

The voices of Kate and Riley, walking down the path that led to our house, became clearer with each step they took.

AN: Sorry this chapter took longer than expected to get posted ... lets just say that I, for one, will be happy when the kids are back in school and life can get back on a regular schedule! ;)

We've received a few inquiries as to whether or not we're abandoning this story – NO we aren't! The story still has a way to go, and we plan to see it through to the end! Thanks to all of our readers who have enjoyed the story so far! We hope you continue to enjoy it – because things are going to get very interesting very quickly! wink

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