All the characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, but I guess you've heard that before . . .

I lay quietly in my bed in Edward's strong embrace reliving in my mind our conversation with Charlie from the previous night. Thanks to Edward, it had gone much better than I expected.

In spite of the discussion Charlie and I had yesterday, his first reaction to the news of our engagement was not promising. Based on what Charlie had said then, I thought he was at least somewhat prepared for our announcement. But when Edward and I had sat on the couch together, Edward holding my increasingly nervous hand in his cold one, and told Charlie we were engaged to be married, and that the wedding would be in August, Charlie had turned red and started sputtering. He recovered pretty quickly, although he clearly wasn't happy. "Well," he just kept repeating.

I was shocked when Edward asked if he could speak with Charlie alone. My surprise was clearly reflected on my face as my head swung around to his, my eyes wide and questioning. "Please, Bella," he said softly to me. "There are some matters that are appropriate for just Charlie and I to discuss. Please wait upstairs," he practically pleaded.

I nodded and hesitantly exited the room, wondering how far away I'd have to get before Edward started talking. There was no way I was going to miss this. I made my way to the stairs and started up slowly – excruciatingly slowly. About two-thirds of the way up, I stopped and sat down on a stair. I was sure Edward knew I wasn't out of ear shot, but I didn't care.

"Charlie," I heard Edward begin, "I want you to know that I love Bella more than life itself. And," and here Edward hesitated, "I want to apologize to you for the pain I've caused her and, by extension, you." I gasped softly, feeling a slight echo of that pain we never spoke about, but also because I couldn't believe Edward was raising it with Charlie. Did he want to get shot?

Being out of the room, I had no way of gauging Charlie's reaction. All I could do was strain with all my might to catch Edward's quiet words. "I think I owe you an explanation," Edward continued. Just how was he going to explain this?

I heard Charlie respond in an equally quiet voice, "Go ahead, Edward". I wasn't sure if I heard only politeness or if there was a hidden challenge in his voice.

"I believe I knew, from almost the first moment I met Bella, that she was all I wanted, all I would ever want, in this world." Was it my imagination, or did Edward's voice actually tremble? I re-focused my attention. "After the first few months, I became increasingly concerned that I was much more serious about our relationship than Bella. Of course, I know now that that was not the case. But at the time, I began to worry that our relationship would end up depriving Bella of many normal experiences for a girl of her age. Although all I wanted to do was be with her, I didn't really want her to feel the same way – I wanted her to have more exposure to people, to life, to the world, before any life altering decisions were made. When my family left town, I sincerely believed it was in Bella's best interests to make a clean break – to allow Bella to move on with her life and have those experiences. I stupidly concluded that I felt more for her than she did for me. Charlie, my motivation was good, but my reasoning was . . . flawed at best." I could practically hear Edward shaking his head, could practically see the look of self-loathing on his face. Charlie hadn't said a word, yet.

"The months I was away from Bella were . . . intolerable for me, as well. However, I would not begin to compare my pain to hers, since I was solely responsible for its making. Bella has forgiven me, of course, since it is her nature to be so generous. I won't ask you to forgive me Charlie, and you should know that I have not forgiven myself. What I do pledge, to you and to her, is to do everything within my power to keep her safe, make her happy and never, ever, hurt her again." Edward's voice throbbed with emotion.

"But to get back to the subject matter at hand, there are other things I would like you to know. Both Bella and I are fully aware that we are young, although I'm fairly sure neither of us would qualify as a typical 18 year old. Both of us are mature beyond our years. And although we are both still young, there are certain stresses common in most marriages that will not be a factor in ours.

"First, we do not plan on having a family anytime soon;" Or ever, I thought with relief, "so, very little will change in that respect. We both still plan on attending college and doing everything that young people normally do. Which brings me to the next subject.

"Let's not be shy about this. You are absolutely entitled to know that financially, I am more than capable of taking care of your daughter – of giving her anything she desires. Of course, I desire to give her much more than she has been willing so far to accept. There can be no question of her motivation on this point. But her tuition for college and anything else she needs is not an issue in any way. My natural parents left me very well off, and Carlisle has supplemented my wealth since then. Our investments have been both conservative and fruitful. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned on this point, but I think it's important for you to know that Bella will never want for anything." Charlie still remained silent. I wished again that I could see the look on his face.

"And, speaking of old-fashioned," and here Edward hesitated, "I think it's of consequence to note that Bella and I waited to find each other." I wondered if Charlie understood what Edward was saying. "It's important to both of us to do this the right way." There was another pause. "To wait until our union has been blessed." Yet another pause followed. Did I hear Edward sigh?

"Other than that, Charlie, I just want to express my heartfelt thanks to you – for raising such a wonderful daughter – for taking care of her when I didn't – for being tolerant where I am concerned. We want nothing more than to have your blessing, and Bella wants nothing more than to have you give her away at the wedding."

I suddenly realized I was holding my breath and wiping tears from my face at the same time. I desperately wanted to hear what Charlie would say, but Edward's words, the sincerity in his voice, had moved me so much. I bit back a sob and waited along with Edward to hear Charlie's response.

"Edward," Charlie finally said, and I could hear the emotion in his voice. "I appreciate your coming to me like this, having this talk with me without Bella here, like a man. Like you, I guess I'd like to see Bella do more, see more of the world. But, having lived with her in the last two years," another pause, "through both good times and bad," and here I cringed understanding the message he was sending to Edward, "I do see how much she loves you. And perhaps its better that you're together, that you're tied to her in this way. For her sake, I'm not sure I could refuse my blessing. But, I will say, for your sake, that I believe you do love her. Maybe I've been too hard on you," and Charlie's voice died away.

"No Sir," I heard Edward state with enthusiasm, happiness spilling from his voice. You haven't been too hard on me - far from it. Thank you, Sir! I promise you will never have reason to – I mean you'll never – I'll do everything I can to make her the happiest woman in the world."

"Okay, okay son. Maybe we should get Bella back in here before she bursts," Charlie laughed. I rose from my position and quietly made my way to my room, fooling only Charlie. There was no question Edward heard me.

I felt brave suddenly. Edward had given me courage. Why not get it all over at once, I thought. So, before either of them had a chance to call my name, I picked up my phone and dialed Renee's number. "Hi Mom," I yelled into the phone. I felt giddy.

"Hi sweetheart, how are you?" Renee replied enthusiastically. "You sound so happy!" Oh, if she only knew.

"Mom, I have news," and before she could interrupt, I added "good news".

"Oh honey, I'm so glad. And I'm so sorry we couldn't make it to your graduation."

"How's Phil?" I asked, since we seemed to be off topic already, and it required a lot less bravery on my part.

"Oh, he's better. Still pretty much bedridden, of course, but not in so much pain anymore. How are you?" Renee asked.

"Mom, I'm fine. But I called for a reason," I emphasized. I really needed to get through this.

"Well, what is it baby?" Renee inquired. "Is everything okay?"

At just that moment Edward chose to enter my bedroom. Okay, that wasn't too much of a distraction. I turned my back to him and continued.

"Mom, Edward and I are engaged, and we're getting married in August," I blurted out. Quickly, I added, "And I'm so happy!" Did I actually hear Edward snort?

"What?" Renee asked, almost shouting.

"Mom, Edward and I are engaged. We're getting married in August," I added with emphasis. I took a quick look in Edward's direction.

Even Edward couldn't keep the grin off his face when he heard Renee shouting through the phone, "Are you pregnant?"

"No. No. No, Mom, listen to me. I'm not pregnant. And I have no plans to get pregnant. I'm just very, very, very much in love." Edward reached for my hand and kissed my palm. My heart skipped a couple of beats, which, of course, he heard.

Apparently I had shocked Renee into silence. I waited. Eventually, she asked the inevitable, "So then why are you getting married?"

"MOM!" I yelled. Then I felt Edwards hand stroking my hair, trying to calm me. "Edward and I are in deeply in love and we want to be together, in all ways. We're still going to college and we're going to do everything else young people do. We're just going to do it together," I ended.

"I don't understand," Renee added, her voice confused. Luckily, I had enough experience dealing with Renee to take over from here.

"Mom," I started softly, "you were absolutely right when you saw us in Jacksonville. Edward is the planet around which I revolve. I love him more than I can say. Mom, you know this – you saw how it was with me". I couldn't say anymore on that subject. "And he loves me the same way. He wants to be with me for all time – forever. This has already been decided. I don't want to disappoint you – but I want you to know that this is truly what I want." Something Edward had once said to me came back then. "I supported your choices, and Mom, I want you to support mine."

"Well, all right, I guess," came Renee's uncertain reply. I knew though, that this wasn't the last time we would have that particular conversation. Quickly changing track in a very Renee-like way, she added, "I guess we need to work on a wedding then." She still sounded somewhat stunned.

"Mom, all I want you to do is be here to support me. Alice is planning pretty much everything so you can stay there with Phil. Alice lives for stuff like that, and the wedding will be very small. But, of course, I want you to be here, hopefully a few days before, so we can spend some time together," and my voice seemed to catch at this point. "Mom, I'm very happy. Please share that with me," I added softly.

"Of course, darling," Renee sounded breathless.

"Mom, we'll talk some more in the next few days. I just wanted you to know at the same time as Charlie."

"How did Charlie take it?" Renee asked doubtfully. I looked directly at Edward for the first time since he entered the room and he gave me a wide smile.

"Edward and Charlie had a long talk tonight, and Charlie is fine," I ventured. "I'm tired Mom. We'll talk more soon. Just know that this is my choice and I'm very happy. By the way, Mom, wait until you see my engagement ring," I added, I thought for Renee's benefit, but I found myself admiring it. "It belonged to Edward's mother and it's beautiful."

"Well, I'm happy for you darling, I suppose," Renee ended. "Talk to you soon. I love you. Bye".

At that point, I turned to Edward and hissed "What are you doing in my room?"

"I'm in your room every night," he answered casually.

"You know what I mean – why did Charlie let you come up here?"

He gathered me into his arms and said "I didn't ask – I just came," in between planting stray kisses on my face. But now, I think, we'll take it easy on Charlie and I'll leave for the night." He must have heard my heart beat falter, because he kissed me quickly and whispered, "I'll be back soon." Edward exited through my bedroom door - rather a novelty I thought.

Although I was reluctant, I thought it best to go downstairs and face Charlie – see how bad it would be. I crept into the living room to find Charlie watching the scores on the news. I didn't say anything, just took a seat and looked in his direction. He abruptly flicked the remote, turning the television off and looking my way. His question was blunt, "How did Renee take it?"

I smiled. "She'll get used to the idea."

"Where will you live?" Charlie asked, perhaps thinking about Renee and Forks. "Wherever I want – Edward will be happy anywhere as long as he's with me," I asserted confidently.

"Actually," giving a more thoughtful answer, "we're trying to decide between Alaska and New Hampshire – either the University of Alaska or Dartmouth. Edward wants us to go to Dartmouth, but I haven't decided yet." I wanted Charlie to understand this was my choice – Edward would be happy doing whatever I wanted to do.

"Bella, did you get accepted to Dartmouth?" Charlie asked somewhat in awe.

"Yeah, Dad, guess I forgot to mention it. Of course," I added quickly, "it's only an option because Edward can easily pay our tuition. I'm just not sure I want him to spend so much money."

"You forgot to mention it! My daughter got accepted to an ivy league school!" Charlie was clearly elated. "Can Edward really pay tuition for both of you?" I had overhead their conversation, but apparently Charlie was still having a hard time believing it.

"Yeah, Dad, and anything else I could possibly want. But all I want is Edward. He thinks Dartmouth is a better option than Alaska, but I haven't decided yet."

You'd never thought I told him I was getting married tonight. He kept musing, "My daughter's going to an ivy league college."

"Maybe, Dad. I'm tired so I'm going to bed," which really meant, I've had enough time away from Edward now and I'm going to go see him. "I really love you for supporting us in this," I added.

Charlie finally seemed to realize I was talking to him about the wedding. "Bella, is this really what you want? Are you sure?" He looked resigned.

"Of course, Dad. I love Edward with all my heart. And I guess you know better than anyone that I can't live without him."

Charlie sighed. "Yeah, I guess." He hesitated. "He really impressed me tonight, Bella. It's weird. I don't want to like the guy, after what he did to you. But he's really won me over. I do believe he really loves you - and appreciates you, too. Not that he shouldn't, or anything, but I just . . . wanted to hate the guy. I did try. But somehow he makes me think that he loves you and wants to care for you even more than I do. It's hard for a father to object to that kind of thing. So, if he's who you really want, I won't stand in your way Bella."

"Of course," Charlie mused, "for a while there, I thought Jacob would be better for you." To my surprise, Charlie looked a little ashamed. "He did make you happy, or happier, anyway. But I have to admit, I'm not sure I was thinking straight about that. I was so mad at Edward that I grasped at the first straw. I can see now, Bella, that he really is way too young for you. Okay, I admit it. Edward is better for you."

I felt tears forming in my eyes. It felt so good to at least have one person on the planet understand. Part of me wanted to stand up for Jacob and yell at Charlie, but only a small part. The fact that my dad could see what I always knew, that Jacob, my Jacob anyway, might have been my sun, but Edward was my whole universe, felt like such a relief. I couldn't help myself. I threw my arms around Charlie's neck and said, "Thank you Dad. I love you."

So now, the morning after, I found myself curled up against Edward, strangely at peace in spite of all the uproar.

"Are you awake, love?" Edward softly asked, knowing all the time I was. I lifted my eyes to see Edward, a wicked smile on his face. Uh-oh.

"What did I say?" I asked with a groan.

"Pretty much the usual," he laughed. "You said my name numerous times, of course, with a few "I love yous" thrown in for good measure."

"What else?" I asked nervously. I could tell something was different.

Edward rolled on top of me and nuzzled my neck. "You said you wanted me," he whispered into my ear. Of course, he felt my embarrassment. I was sure I turned beet red up to my hairline. "Bella, don't be ashamed, love. You've certainly made your feelings on the point very clear on many occasions. Of course I knew you wanted me. But hearing you say it in your sleep and wondering what you were dreaming about, it was . . . exhilarating," he chucked lightly. "And just so we're even," and here he lifted his head to look directly into my eyes, "I want you, too – more than you know." He said the words with utter sincerity. And then his lips came down on mine before I could respond. He stilled after a few minutes, trailing off with light kisses on my face and neck as my breathing slowed.

"Will you tell me what you thinking about for so long this morning?" he asked.

"Yes, I think I will. But there's so much. I can hardly straighten it out myself. Is Charlie gone?"

"Yes, about an hour ago."

"Good. I want to be able to speak in a normal tone of voice." I hesitated a moment. "Where to start - with the good news or the bad news?"

"Start with the bad," he stated flatly. "And please don't spare me." Did his voice actually quiver? It was impossible to think that he could still be unsure of my feelings.

"It's so complicated. The bad part, I guess, is that I really, really, really want to be able to tell you everything I feel, without being concerned about hurting you. After all, we are practically married." I felt his arms tighten around me.

"That's not bad," he stated. But I was so afraid of hurting him again. And so I held my thoughts.

"Bella," he said pleadingly. "I want to know all of your thoughts, unedited and unreserved. What you leave unsaid can't hurt me as much as all my imaginings. Even though I know I haven't fully earned it yet, please trust me. Please tell me." And with his eyes trained on mine, his breath fanning my face, there was no way I could refuse, and how he knew it.

I took a deep breath. "Okay. I think you should know. I want to be able to tell you. What I don't want to happen is that you take on all this guilt." I pushed him to roll on his side and propped my head up on his chest, looking him in the eye. "I need to be able to talk to you about . . . the dark time." His eyes tightened. "Please, Edward, just listen to me. Don't feel guilty or I won't be able to talk about it."

"Tell me, Bella. I want to know."

"Okay, this is just so complicated. I need you to understand about the other night - about my feelings. I need you to know first of all, that I wasn't crying about leaving Jacob. Well, I mean, I was, but it was a small part of a big picture. I think I was mostly crying about hurting him, because he helped me so much when I was hurting." I felt Edward's muscles stiffen. "And I am so not going to be able to talk about this if it gets you upset," I added.

His face relaxed and he politely urged, "Please go on."

"Okay." I had to sit up to go on. "Understand that the other night, I was crying about a lot of things. It just took me a while to get it all straight. Yes, I was crying for Jacob, or what was or even perhaps what could have been. But mostly I was crying because I knew I couldn't make him happy, and because he was in pain. I was filled with self-loathing. It seems like all I ever did was take from Jacob, when I knew, I knew I could never give even a fraction as much back to him. But I still did it – I kept taking."

"You didn't do anything wrong, love," Edward whispered.

I just shook my head. "You don't know. Yes, I admit, I told Jacob that I didn't feel the same about him as he did about me. And he said he didn't care. But I knew he was falling in love with me and I let it happen. And that was so unfair." Edward started to interrupt again and I stopped him with a show of my hand.

"It was wrong, Edward. I understood the whole time that it was wrong. I really never expected to see you again after you left. And yet I still knew I could only ever feel for Jacob a fraction of the love I felt for you. Jacob deserves to be loved in the same way I love you. He deserves to be someone's first choice – not a consolation prize. So, a big part of my melt down the other night was just the utter contempt I felt for myself." Edward kept silent, but stroked my arm in a show of comfort.

"On top of that, I kept realizing I was hurting you, causing you pain, and that made me feel worse than anything. I just knew you didn't deserve that. So every time I started to get control, I recognized that I was unnecessarily causing you pain, and that made me cry all the harder." I almost felt like I was at tears again, and that just wouldn't do. I really needed to get through this.

"And you said you had never seen me in such pain," I added softly. "But, you really need to know that what I went through the other night was a combination of a lot of feelings. And . . ." and I stopped and hid my face in his chest at this point, and then couldn't go on.

"Bella, tell me please. I want to know."

"I just don't want to hurt you," I murmured into his chest.

"The only thing that could hurt me at this point is you not finishing your thought," his voice calm, although his arms tightened around me. "Please, Bella, tell me," he pleaded.

"I don't want you to think that my feelings for Jacob ever even began to compare to what I feel for you. You have to know . . . that pain was nothing in comparison," I couldn't go on but I was sure he knew what I meant.

Edward pulled me up to face him again. His hand stroked my face. "Bella, I know what I did was wrong. I won't ask for your forgiveness but I swear to you that I will do everything in my power to earn it," he vowed.

"But I'm not telling you this to make you feel bad – in fact, that's why it's so hard for me to talk about this at all. So please, don't get me wrong. Please understand that I felt just as bad for the pain I was causing you that night. You didn't deserve to see that, but I just needed you so much. Can you forgive me?"

"Bella, love, there's nothing to forgive. I want to be there for you. Selfish as it is, I want you to need me." His hands held my face and he looked deeply into my eyes. I saw nothing but tenderness in his. My eyes closed and I sighed in relief.

Suddenly, Edward's cool lips grabbed mine fiercely as he laid us back on my bed. He kissed me urgently for several minutes, whispering my name into my lips, my face, my neck. I grabbed at his arms, responding to his need, pulling him closer to me. My hands moved to pull his shirt from the back of his jeans and I stroked upward, luxuriating in the feel of his bare skin. He kisses slowed, and I opened my eyes to see him still, his jaw clenched and eyes closed, but I knew it wasn't my blood that tested him anymore.

After a moment, he opened his eyes and smiled at me, his control restored. "How about breakfast?" he said, with a quick kiss to my nose.

"But I haven't told you the good news, remember?" I felt relieved when he smiled widely.

"Oh yes, that's right. Please tell me, then its feeding time for you."

I wasn't quite sure how to start. "Something happened that I didn't expect." He raised one eyebrow in question, but didn't interrupt. "I didn't expect to feel . . . happy . . . about the wedding," His smile grew wider.

"You're happy about it now?" he asked disbelief evident in his voice. "I did notice that was the first time you mentioned our wedding without cringing," he laughed.

"Yes, I'm feeling . . . happy," I repeated lamely, "and excited, too." I couldn't help smiling hugely in response to his. "I feel really stupid about this, but I guess a big part of my reluctance was my terror at having to tell Charlie and Renee. Now that it's done, and you don't have any bullet holes in you, I'm starting to realize that I feel . . . happy," I finished with a silly lilt in my voice.

"And the gossip?" he asked.

"Ugh! That's the part that makes me feel the dumbest. I can't imagine how I ever thought it was important at all. Right now, I couldn't care less – let them all talk and speculate! Let's give this small town some excitement," I said with a laugh. "Do me a favor though – don't tell Alice. I don't want to give her any encouragement to go overboard." Edward chuckled with glee, positively radiating happiness. It felt so good to give him this and really mean it.

"Don't worry – I won't out you to Alice," he promised. "It always makes me happy to see you happy, but to find that we're both happy about the same thing – and such a thing! – it fills me with joy." And that emotion was written all over his face. "And now we should go get you some breakfast so you can face the hardships of the day." He kissed me quickly, and then pulled me to my feet to lead me to the kitchen.

"What hardships?" I asked suspiciously on the way to the kitchen.

"You did mean what you said, that you're happy about the wedding, right?" he asked cautiously.

"Yes, why?"

"Alice wants you to approve the wedding invitations," he admitted with chagrin.

"I thought she said she was going to do all the work," I whined while grabbing some cereal.

"I'm not sure, of course, but I think if you spend five minutes with Alice nodding yes to whatever she suggests, you could probably spend the rest of the day with me, if you like."

And his tone reminded me of our early days, when it seemed that he was always leaving me room to decline his invitations. "I think I could grow to like that idea," I said with a smile.

He smiled his crooked grin back at me, and my heart leapt again. Jeez, was I ever going to get over that? It was still just as embarrassing.

After breakfast, I left Edward in the kitchen while I went to get cleaned up. I was surprised when Edward let me drive my truck over to his house, but since every time I looked over I caught him staring at me with a grin on his face, perhaps he was just enjoying the view. We had been silent all the way to his house, but as we pulled up in front of it he asked me for the second time that morning, "What have you been thinking all this time?"

I turned off the truck and hitched my right leg up on the seat, turning to look at him. I narrowed my eyes and appraised his face.

Edward took my hand in his and asked, "What happened to our newfound honesty?"

"Okay," I responded seriously. "I'll tell you – but it's pretty random." He waited patiently. "I think Jacob will imprint," I blurted out.

"What makes you think so?" he asked, his face a smooth mask.

"Well, and maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I think they all will – the whole pack – or at least most of them." Edward really did look curious now that he realized this wasn't just about Jacob. "Go on," he urged.

"I realize I'm no scientist, but it just makes sense, doesn't it?" His look told me he wasn't following, so I added, "Its genetics. It seems to me that the only way imprinting makes any sense is if it's the gene trying to make sure that the mutation survives. Jacob said they were surprised when three of the pack had already imprinted, because their legends made it seem like it was very rare. But clearly it's not that rare. And it makes perfect sense when you think that in order to prolong the mutation, breeding must be pretty selective. If the gene was diluted too much, it would disappear eventually. I wonder if that's why Sam and Emily imprinted while Sam was still with Leah. I mean, both Sam and Leah are werewolves – maybe having both parents with the mutation would be too much. And think about the fact that Quil imprinted on a two year old girl. A two year old! That's pretty specific. Why would he need to imprint on that particular girl who was clearly no way ready to be his mate?" While I spoke I had gotten caught up in my own line of reasoning. Now I turned back to see Edward staring at me intently. "Anyway, it makes sense to me that most, if not all, of the pack will eventually imprint because it just seems like nature taking its course."

Edward smiled broadly at me. "You're brilliant," he stated. "It does make sense and it seems almost obvious when you think about it that way. If you are right, it's interesting that you arrived at that conclusion before the pack did." He came around to open my door for me and lifted me out of the cab. "Do you have any more wonderful insights this morning?" he asked, leaning his forehead against mine.

"I just might," I murmured, getting a little dizzy inhaling his breath.

Edward chucked, sure of his affect on me, and putting his arm around my waist he directed me toward the house. "Five minutes with Alice, then we're locking ourselves in our room." I wondered if Edward noticed the "our" before "room" – I certainly did, thinking how incredibly nice it sounded.

We actually spent 15 minutes with Alice. For politeness sake, I did try to look interested as she reviewed fonts and colors, but eventually I just followed Edward's advice, smiling and nodding here and there. I'm not sure I fooled Alice but she seemed content when Edward finally dragged me off upstairs. I smiled my thanks at him.

We passed Emmett in the hallway, and he surprised me by ruffling my hair. Edward growled playfully at him before picking me up and sprinting the rest of the way to "our" room. It seemed he didn't want any interruptions today. He dropped me on the massive bed and rested lightly on top of me, moving his face to my neck.

"So," I asked with a grin, "since this is 'our' room, does that mean this is 'our' bed?"

"Of course - I bought it for you." I could feel Edward's smile against my skin.

"So then, I guess I ought to have a say in what we do in it." My breathing was becoming more irregular as I spoke.

"Your wish is my command. Are you implying that you're prepared to eliminate your rules?" Edward asked, lifting his head to give me a wicked grin. "Because if you are . . ." he trailed off and assaulted my neck with renewed vigor.

Oh crap. I had forgotten. Those were my rules now. Edward had lifted all the barriers and I was the one . . . "Edward!" I gasped.

"Anything, love," he whispered, his mouth moving to mine. He kissed me for several minutes, my body trembling and my resolve faltering badly. One hand grasped my waist, holding me to him, while the other tangled in my hair, lifting my head to position my mouth for him. He stopped and rolled away the minute my hands put slight pressure on his chest. He was breathing heavily, but he still managed to say, "I should feel sorry, but I don't," repeating my own words of a few months ago back to me.

"You are so wicked," I finally managed. "You're lucky I love you so much Edward Cullen, because otherwise you'd be in big trouble." He reached over and snuggled me to his side, giving me a chaste kiss on the forehead. "Yes," he agreed seriously, "I am lucky."

Edward and I spent the rest of the day in his room – correction, our room, lying on the bed talking about random subjects and listening to music. I spent some time looking over his CD collection for the umpteenth time. He caught me shaking my head and asked why. "I still can't quite get any system of organization that has opera next to punk. I don't think I'll ever figure it out."

He walked up behind me and snaked his arms around my waist. "After we're married, you can reorganize them any way you like," and when I turned my head I could see him, his angel's smile beaming from his face. My stupid heart skipped another couple of beats and Edward chuckled happily.

"I'll wait until we move to Alaska," I stated. "There's no sense in changing things now." I thought I heard him sigh and when I faced him directly, his smile had disappeared. "Edward, what are you thinking?" I demanded, although I was sure I already knew.

He looked at me warily. "Honesty, remember?" I prompted. He still didn't respond. I plopped down on the bed and pulled him to sit next to me, keeping his hand in both of mine. I started tracing the lines on his palm as a not so subtle reminder of how far we had come together. "Where is your soul?" I asked after a minute.

"What do you mean?" he asked defensively.

"Well, you've told me you don't think you have a soul, right?"

"To be honest, I really don't know," he said, his faced closed. "I don't think so." He wouldn't look up at me.

"Okay, so where did it go?" I asked, truly curious.

"I still don't know what you mean," and he tried briefly to pull his hand away. I was having none of that.

"Edward, I know you've given the subject matter more thought than this. I know you must have some theories on this point after 80 some years. If you don't have a soul, what happened to it?" I pressed.

"It died when I did, when I was 17."

"Edward, I know you're smarter than that," I said softly. I hoped I wasn't causing him pain, but I needed to explore this. "You died at 17. You were an innocent boy with an innocent soul. So only one of two things could have happened - either your soul went to heaven when your human life ended, or you still have it. Which is it?"

"I could have just lost my soul when I traded it for immortality," he stated uncertainly. I was wondering why I had never called him on this before – his position seemed ridiculous now.

"But you didn't trade your soul for anything. You had no say in the matter. So how could you be punished for it?" I asked softly.

"I still became an unnatural being – a predator – an animal," and I flinched at the scorn in his voice.

"But that's not true. You yourself told me that you believed the same God that had created the killer whale and the baby seal, could very well have created your kind. I mean, the first vampire had to come from somewhere or evolve from something, right? So if that's true, if God created you, or put your creation in motion, why would you be damned?" I really needed to hear his thoughts on this now. I was on a roll. "Besides, all carnivores are predators of some kind. Humans are the worst predators there are," I stated with feeling.

"Yes, but we feed on humans". His eyes looked bleak and I mentally kicked myself for bringing this up. But we needed to have this out once and for all.

"You don't," I emphasized.

"But I have, too many times to count."

"Okay. Let's skip the fact that all humans have committed sins and believe it or not, some much worse than yours. Just exactly when in all this did you lose your soul? When you died as an innocent boy? How could you have lost your soul then? When you killed human predators? I don't know much about religion, but even the worse death row murderer, with the blood of multiple innocent victims on his hands, seems to be entitled to salvation when he confesses his sins and asks for forgiveness. And I know you regret your sins, if sins they are. But remember that when faced with the greatest temptation of your life, you chose to protect me and love me. Does that sound like the act of a soulless being?"

He looked at me a little sheepishly. "No," he agreed. "It doesn't." He lifted his hand to smooth a piece of hair from my face and looked lovingly into my eyes. "How come you're so smart today? Revelation after revelation – I'm literally dazzled," and his smile was without constraint.

"Let's just say I'm inspired by the love of a truly good man," I smiled back. "What you're going to do for me – it's a gift, not a curse. I need for you to stop beating yourself up over it. I need to know that you want this as much as I do. Because there is nothing I want more than to be with you forever – to love you forever."

"Bella," he breathed as if the word was ripped from his lungs. And he pushed me back on the bed and started kissing me fiercely once again. I wasn't sure where I would find the will to stop him this time.