Author's Note: So I REALLY need to finish Curtain Call, but I keep getting sidetracked with these Twilight one-shots... What can I say, I now have two loves! Don't worry, though... I have plans for both Harry Potter and Twilight stories to start again, soon... And I mean ACTUAL stories - not just one-shots! So with that said...
The Blood Drive
I moaned, squeezing my eyes even tighter together as I sensed the slightest bit of sunlight pouring through my window.
"Come on, Bella," the same voice said in a low, soothing tone, moving closer to my ear with each word. "It's nearly noon."
I tried to form a coherent sentence, but it came out as a mumble, nearly inaudible. Instead of attempting to restate my words, I rolled over.
The voice seemed to follow me, hovering somewhere above my head.
"You can't escape me," it said. I could sense a slight smile in the voice, as if they were hiding a laugh. "I think I'm slightly faster than you are."
I was finally awake enough to make a response to this comment. "That's only because you're a vampire," I muttered, still managing to keep my eyes closed. "But just because you have superhuman abilities doesn't mean you can tease me about my lack of special talents."
I heard a soft chuckle. Then I felt the sudden chill as the sheets on my bed were pulled out of my grasp.
"No," I groaned, curling into a ball the moment the cool air in my room swept around me, making me shiver. "That's not fair."
There was a soft squeak from the springs of my mattress and then the voice was speaking directly into my ear. "It's not my fault you decided to stay up until three in the morning."
My eyes instantly flew open at this statement. I was staring directly back into Edward Cullen's sparkling, golden eyes, merely inches away from my own.
"Not true," I whispered, unable to speak at a normal volume. It was much harder to take in a proper breath when I was lying so close to him. "You were with me every minute – and you never told me to go to sleep."
A small smirk formed on his lips. He then moved his head forward, pressing his forehead up against mine. "I was being selfish," he admitted. My heart sped up at these words. "I didn't want to stop talking to you."
We stared at each other for quite some time before I felt an icy cold hand snake around my waist, brushing against the bare skin just below my shirt. Then, before I could gasp from the sudden temperature change, his lips were on mine, sending pleasant bolts of electricity down my spine and throughout my entire body.
I lifted my hand, running it up his chest and around his neck. But, before I could attempt to do anything more, he pulled away, letting me take in several shallow gasps of air.
"Good morning," he whispered, grinning.
I couldn't help but respond with a smile just as big. "It most definitely is," I said, licking my lips. "I wouldn't mind this sort of a wake-up every morning."
Edward laughed. "I'll see what I can do tomorrow, shall I?"
I scooted closer, pressing my entire body up against his. "Is this morning's wake-up over?" I asked, sounding disappointed. I stretched my leg out as far as I could so that my foot reached just below Edward's knee, and then I rubbed my toes against his leg in what I hoped was a seductive motion. "I sure hope not…"
"Bella," he said in a firm tone, "you have things that you need to do today."
I kissed Edward, trying to keep him from speaking. "I can have five minutes, can't I?" I whispered between kisses as I rolled on top of his chest and straddled his hips.
"Bella." I was proud to hear his voice come out in a slight gasp. "You know how hard it is for me to control – "
"Then don't," I told him, bringing both of my hands up to the side of his face as I tried to distract him with a kiss. I started to run my fingers through his gorgeous, bronze-colored hair at the same time that I could feel one of his hands in the middle of my back and the other – with a pleasant shudder of surprise – running up my thigh.
I melted into his arms at his touch, letting my head fall onto his shoulder as he broke away from my lips and continued to make his way agonizingly slowly down my neck. It was a weakness that I had – this inexplicable feeling I got when he touched me like this – but it wasn't one that I seemed to regret very much at the moment.
His hand stopped sliding up my leg once he had traveled as far up as he dared. The moment he slowed his movement, his fingers spread out and nearly encompassed my entire thigh, holding it firmly in his strong grip.
I subconsciously lifted my leg further up his body, silently urging him to explore a bit further, but he never moved his hand any higher than it already was.
I swallowed, feeling Edward's lips tracing the bottom of my throat. I could start to feel my control waning the longer his tongue did what it was doing to me. The moment he let out a soft breath of cold air, I instantly knew that I was entirely in his hands, now, unable to think clearly. My body relaxed into a puddle of goop. I didn't have the strength to lift any of my limbs.
Which was why it surprised me that I had been able to summon up enough energy to try to roll off of Edward.
Unfortunately, I rolled in the wrong direction.
One moment, I was pressed up against Edward's cool chest, and the next I was hovering off the side of my bed, about to fall onto the floor.
I screamed. At least, I remember thinking that I was screaming, but it could have just been a small squeak. I hoped it was a squeak – a full-fledged scream would have been more than embarrassing.
But before I could decide which sound it was that I had made, I realized that I hadn't hit the floor at all. I opened my eyes, noticing that I had clamped them closed once I thought I would fall to the floor, and I was met with Edward's piercing gaze, watching me with amusement.
"I guess the wake-up call is over," he said with a small smile.
I slowed my breathing, glancing around. Then I could feel the coolness start to spread through my body again. Edward's hands were still held tight around my back and my leg. He had caught me before I fell.
I swallowed, regaining a normal heartbeat. "It doesn't have to be," I tried once more. I scrunched my face up into what I hoped looked like a pleading look. "Five more minutes?"
Edward laughed, carefully pulling me back onto the correct side of the bed beside him. "Maybe if we use my bed next time," he said, kissing me softly on the lips. "Mine's bigger."
I considered the possibilities, smiling inwardly. But, before I could convince him to stay with me any longer, Edward was on his feet and standing by my bedroom door.
"Get dressed," he told me. "I'll meet you downstairs."
He left the room before I could get in another word. Then, reluctantly, I threw my legs over the side of the bed and got to my feet. I stretched my arms high above my head, mere inches away from reaching the low ceiling. Then I shuffled into the bathroom, somewhat annoyed that I had been so clumsy and ruined such a wonderful moment between us. Me and my stupid balance issues…
After several minutes, I had climbed in and out of the shower and dried my hair. I quickly threw on the nearest shirt and pair of pants that I could find, and then skipped merrily down the stairs and into the kitchen.
"Morning," I said once more, wrapping my arms around Edward from behind. I pressed my face into his shoulder, not quite tall enough to see over it, and inhaled his familiar scent with a smile on my face. I heard a small sizzling sound and I instantly grew curious. "What are you doing?"
I peered around Edward's arm once a familiar smell floated to my nose.
"You're making breakfast!" I cried with delight. I watched with a slight sense of stunned disbelief as Edward seemed to expertly flip over a piece of bacon. He then turned to another pan and stirred the scrambled eggs.
"Does it look alright?" he asked, eagerly anticipating me response. "I'm not burning anything, am I?"
"No, it smells wonderful," I gushed, standing on my tiptoes in order to kiss Edward's cheek.
"I've been practicing," he told me proudly. "Esme helped – she gave me a few pointers."
I smiled. "Is that so?" I asked, moving away from him and circling the counter so that I was standing across from him.
Edward nodded. "I had Alice drop the food off this morning before you woke up," he admitted, watching me carefully as I climbed up into the tall kitchen chair and sat with my legs tucked beneath me. "I was going to surprise you before you got downstairs."
"You did?" I asked with a bit more enthusiasm than was needed. I leaned forward on the counter so that I was hovering just above the food and less than a foot away from him. "I had no idea that you – wait, Edward, don't let the eggs sit on the bottom of the pan for too long."
"Oh – sorry," he quickly apologized, scraping the bottom of the pan with such vigor that he accidentally snapped the plastic utensil in his hand in half.
"We have extras," I quickly assured him, pointing towards the drawer behind him. "Just throw that out."
Edward frowned, tossing the broken pieces into the garbage. "I'll replace it," he told me.
I knew better by now to just not argue with him about this sort of thing. I would insist that it wasn't necessary and that I didn't need another one – but he would still buy one.
I slid out of my chair and went to the cupboard to grab a plate along with a fork from the drawer. I then pushed the drawer closed with the side of my hip and walked back to the counter, setting the plate down and climbing back up into the tall chair.
Edward scooped a pile of eggs onto the plate and added a few strips of bacon to the side. He then circled the counter and came to sit beside me in a second chair, watching my reaction to his cooking with eager eyes.
"Doesn't the chef want the first bite?" I asked in a teasing tone, knowing how anxious Edward must be right now as he waited for me to try a bite of his food. I held a clump of eggs on the edge of my fork, waving it around in front of him.
"Funny," he muttered, raising an eyebrow. Then he pulled the fork from my hand and turned it towards my mouth. "Open," he commanded.
I eyed him with a curious look. What if I didn't open my mouth? What then? How long could I tease him by not trying his cooking before he got upset?
The answer, I quickly realized, would be not very long.
I opened my mouth.
The eggs weren't bad! I hadn't been expecting anything too spectacular, but they were definitely far better than average!
"So?" he asked, leaning forward with a small glint of excitement in his eyes. "How are they?"
I swallowed them. "Hot."
Edward's eyes narrowed, disappointed by my initial reaction. "Really, Bella."
I smirked, leaning forward and placing one hand on Edward's knee. "They're great," I told him, patting his leg reassuringly. Then I opened my mouth again. With a small chuckle, Edward scooped up another bite and fed another mouthful of food to me.
Once Edward stood to clean the dirty pans, I picked up the fork to finish off the eggs without his help. The moment I did so, I spilled them down the front of my blouse.
"Ugh." I reached for the closest napkin and began rubbing at the material. "I spilled."
Though Edward's eyes were occupied, looking down as he cleaned the dirty dishes in the sink, I knew he was smiling at my clumsy accident.
"I need to go wash this," I muttered, staring down at the stain to see how bad it was. The napkin, if anything, had made the grease spot even worse. "I'll be right back," I grumbled, stomping towards the stairs to my room.
I peeled off my shirt as I walked into my bedroom, letting the door hang open. With slightly more anger than was probably necessary, I threw my shirt onto the floor and stood in front of my closet with my arms crossed over my chest and my hip jutting out to the side.
This was ridiculous. That must have been the third shirt that I ruined this week with food-related accidents! I knew the stain would come out – but three shirts? That had to be a record.
I eyed a lightweight dress hanging at the back of the closet that Alice had bought for me on her latest shopping spree. Definitely not my normal everyday wear – but Edward had said he thought it would make a nice outfit.
Maybe – I'd wear it for him…
With a small sigh, I undid the button on my jeans and dropped them to the floor, stepping out of the pant legs. Just as I was about to reach for the dress, there was an interruption at the door.
"Bella, are you – "
I spun, facing my bedroom door in nothing more than my underwear and bra. I stared back into Edward's stunned face, watching as his eyes quickly moved across my entire body from head to toe. He didn't move, frozen in the doorway. Then he blinked, breaking himself out of his momentary trance.
"Oh – wow – I'm sorry," he stuttered, stumbling over his words. It was one of the rare occasions that he was having trouble with his speech; he usually seemed so calm and collected in every situation.
Immediately, he turned on his heel. He remained in the doorway, but was now facing the hallway rather than inwards towards my room. "Your door was open," he quickly defended himself. I had to strain to hear him because he was talking in such a rapid, soft tone. "I didn't realize – I thought you had already – "
"Edward, it's fine," I insisted, snatching the dress off of its hangar and tugging it over my head. The short, flowery-patterned dress hugged my torso and my hips, but flowed loosely to my knees; if I had spun in a circle, I was sure the material would have flown up past my thighs. "It's not your fault."
"No," he corrected me, remaining firmly planted in the doorway and, now, staring at the carpeted floor. "I should have known – I just assumed that you were already dressed." He clenched both of his hands into fists before swallowing and saying, "I should go."
My breathing stopped at these words. "No," I gasped, sprinting to the door. I slid past Edward's broad shoulders that nearly took up the entire doorway and stopped directly in front of him, putting my hands on his chest.
I could see him visibly relax once he saw me dressed in another outfit. He let out a slow, steady breath and dropped his shoulders into a small slouch – something I had never seen Edward do.
"Don't go," I whispered, watching carefully for a reaction. "It's not that big of a deal – you didn't mean to – it was an accident!"
He closed his eyes and put a hand to the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "You just caught me off guard – that's all."
I smiled, somewhat flattered by the effect that I seemed to have on Edward; usually, the roles were reversed. "People wear less than I do when they swim." I lifted an eyebrow. "You do know that, don't you?"
"Well, of course I know that," he scoffed, glancing above my head, still appearing somewhat uncomfortable after seeing me half-naked. "But – it's just – " He stammered, at a loss for words. "You didn't mean for me to see – "
"I don't mind," I hurriedly interrupted him, almost eager to prove how much I didn't care. I had been trying to get to the next step in our relationship for quite some time, now – but I also knew how much Edward opposed the idea until after marriage. I quickly amended my statement, trying not to sound pushy. "I mean – its fine. It's alright."
Edward didn't speak. When he did, it was in a very low whisper.
"I'm sorry," he apologized for a third time. "I guess – I could live for over a century, but I still have the mentality from the year 1918."
I smirked, sliding my hands up Edward's chest and linking them around his neck. "That's what makes you so wonderful," I assured him. "Because most guys don't think like you do."
Edward lifted an eyebrow, amused by my statement. "Most guys are also human."
I rolled my eyes and lifted myself onto my tiptoes to give him a kiss. When I pulled away, Edward looked down at my outfit. "You look good," he told me.
I blushed. And, even though I knew he must be talking about my new dress, I found myself hoping he had been talking about what he had seen before I put my dress on. "Thank you," I said. "Alice bought it for me."
"I know," he answered, fingering the lightweight material of my sleeves. The silky fabric seemed to slide smoothly between his fingers with ease. "I asked her to."
My eyes widened at this statement, surprised. "You did?" I asked, letting my hands fall back down to my side. "Why?"
His eyes followed his own hand as he dropped it from my sleeve and trailed down my arm to my elbow. There, he started to rub his thumb in a circle over my skin. "Because you never let me buy anything for you myself."
I tried to refute his statement – tell him that it wasn't true – but I also knew that I would be lying if I did. Instead, I tried another approach. "Well, I'm glad you asked Alice to get it for me," I said, backing away from Edward so that I could give him a small twirl. "Because I love it."
Edward smiled, reaching out to grab my waist when I stopped spinning. He pulled me up to his chest, flattening his hand against my back. "Good."
His smile disappeared and his face grew serious once more. He lifted his other hand, gently placing his finger beneath my chin, and directed my face to look up at him. When I did, he lowered his head and covered my lips with a soft kiss, almost too light to even notice.
Just as my heart started to beat wildly from his loving touch, he pulled away. Before my eyes had a chance to open, he whispered, "You're going to be late."
I buried my face into Edward's chest. "For what?" I grumbled, wrapping both of my arms around his middle. "Because all I have planned for today is to stay with you."
I felt two hands grip mine, pulling them away. I looked up, questioning Edward's actions. "You're meeting Charlie today," he informed me, linking his fingers through mine. "Remember? You agreed to have lunch with him."
I groaned, dropping my head to my chest. "You're right," I muttered. Then I looked pleadingly up into Edward's eyes. "Could you call and tell him I woke up sick this morning?" I begged him, jutting out my lower lip into a pout. "Tell Charlie – tell him you called the house and I didn't answer the phone," I invented. "So you rushed over to see if I was alright, and I had a horrible temperature! And I was so tired I wouldn't wake up!"
Edward started to laugh at my ridiculous story. "I see," he said in his soft, musical voice. "You don't want to meet your dad for lunch – you'd rather he rush home and sit by your bed all day, worried about your health."
I sighed, shaking my head. "Well, you could come up with a better story," I mumbled, crossing my arms over my chest. "You know I'm a horrible liar."
"But I won't cover up for you," Edward replied, grabbing my shoulders and turning me towards the staircase. "Come on – I'll drop you off."
Within minutes, Edward had steered me towards his silver Volvo, parked in the middle of the driveway, and was driving me to the Forks police station. During the entire car ride, I must have given him one hundred different reasons why I should stay home rather than meet Charlie for lunch, but he dismissed all of them.
"Your dad is the sheriff," Edward sternly told me when I had suggested that someone might try to mug my father and me in a dark alley while we were walking to lunch. "I highly doubt anyone in Forks would ever try to mug the sheriff. Besides," he added as an afterthought, "I don't think dark alleys even exist in Forks."
I reluctantly nodded in agreement, fully aware that Forks was almost too small to have any crime at all.
"Then – just come with!" I begged in a last attempt to avoid leaving Edward's side. We were pulling into the parking lot of the police station. "Come and have lunch with us!"
"Bella." Edward sighed, almost pained by my words. "I can't," he whispered, pulling his car as close to the doors as possible so that I wouldn't have to walk very far in the drizzling rain.
"Why not?" I asked, truly puzzled. I undid the passenger seatbelt and turned in my seat so that I was facing Edward.
He gripped the wheel, tightening his pale fingers around the rim, and then loosened them slightly. "Bella," he started softly, "I'm taking you by the end of the summer."
My breath caught in my throat at these words. They sounded so possessive – but I loved to hear that in his voice. He was taking me – he wanted me.
I tried to nod and show that I understood his explanation to my question – but quickly realized that I had no idea what he was talking about.
Almost as if he really could read my mind, he elaborated.
"This is the last that you'll be able to spend time – I mean really spend time – with Charlie," he explained. "Once I bite you – it won't be the same."
I could nod this time. I understood why he wanted me to do this.
"I don't want to take any more time away from him. It isn't fair," he whispered, finally turning to face me. He lifted his cold fingers to my cheek, gently stroking the blush that was slowly appearing beneath his touch. "We're already keeping your future a secret from him – this is the least you could do."
"Alright," I answered.
Edward smiled, revealing a line of perfectly straight, white teeth. "Thank you."
I leaned across the manual gear shift, kissing Edward, and then climbed out of the car and into the rain.
I sprinted towards the building, holding my hands above my head in an attempt to block the rain. By the time I was standing beneath a small overhang above the front doors, I turned to wave goodbye to Edward. When I did, however, he wasn't there; he had already pulled out of the parking lot and was driving at top speed in the opposite direction.
With a small sigh, I turned and opened the doors and walked inside.
Once I passed the receptionist sitting in front of the door, I spotted several small, wooden desks that cluttered the room. I glanced at each of the name plaques as I passed, recognizing some of the names of Charlie's co-workers, but I already knew where I was headed.
At the back of the room, beside the water cooler, was my dad's small desk, covered with different colored stacks of papers – but without my dad anywhere in sight.
I approached the small space, glancing curiously around the room. Maybe if I just waited for a minute, he would be back. He probably just stepped out to go to the bathroom.
I was about to sit in Charlie's swiveling chair when I recognized the man walking towards me.
"Bella!" the tall, slender man beamed. He stepped under a fluorescent light, causing the bright beam of light to reflect off of a small bald spot on the top of his head. "It's so good to see you – it's been too long!"
I smiled and nodded. "I know," I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster while I frantically tried to remember the police officer's name. "I stopped by – my dad invited me down to have lunch today."
"Oh, that's nice!" The man grinned. He sat on the corner of Charlie's desk, folding his arms over his chest so that his badge was hidden. "Now, Bella, tell me," he said, changing the conversation topic entirely. "Is it true that you're getting married?"
I took in a deep breath and blushed, looking down at the glittering wedding band on my left hand. "Yes," I replied, trying to smile politely when all I wanted to do was hide from embarrassment. "In August."
"Wow," the man said in a shocked tone. "That's so soon – next month!" he exclaimed, causing several heads to turn and look in our direction. My blush deepened under their penetrating gazes. "Who's the lucky man?"
I swallowed. The answer to this question tended to evoke the same reaction from everyone. I silently braced myself as I said, "Edward Cullen."
I watched as the police officer's body tensed up at the mention of the name. "Oh," he said with a mild sound of surprise – or disgust. I could never tell which. Possibly both. "Wow – Edward? Dr. Cullen's son?"
"Yeah, that's him," I answered, trying to plaster a fake smile to my face.
"Well – that's great!" he said, trying to sound happy for me, though I knew all he was thinking about was how bizarre the Cullen family was. They never got into any trouble, but they kept to themselves far more than any normal person would. As if this fact alone didn't raise enough suspicion; now that Edward and I were practically joined at the hip, the entire town was curious as to why I was the one exception – why I was the only one to develop any sort of a close relationship with the Cullen's when no one else had been let in.
I didn't blame them. Sometimes, I was still surprised why Edward had picked me – just your average, ordinary girl. Why would I – of all people – be the only one that the Cullen's had let into their family?
"I'm really excited about it," I told him, trying to lessen the awkwardness of the situation. "Almost all of the planning and preparation is done." I didn't mention that Alice had been the one to do everything – she had offered to, after all. "It should be a lot of fun."
"Yeah – I'll bet." The man was starting to look uncomfortable, now. That was always the final stage of everyone's reaction when I told them who my fiancée was. So, instead of making him suffer any longer, I helped him escape from our conversation.
"Have you seen Charlie?" I asked, glancing once more around the room. "Will he be back soon? He told me to meet him here at noon, but I'm not quite sure where…" I trailed off, waiting for the man to give me some piece of helpful information.
"He's just down the hall," the police officer said, immediately pushing off of Charlie's desk and pointing me in the right direction. "In the cafeteria, I think – on your right."
"Oh – well, thanks," I said, frowning slightly.
The cafeteria? I guess I had assumed that when Charlie invited me to go out for lunch today, we would actually go somewhere – not just eat in the cafeteria at the police station.
I waved goodbye to the officer, trying my best to ignore the puzzled look that I knew he would be giving me once I turned my back on him, and then walked away down the hallway, further into the heart of the police station.
I passed several familiar faces. I nodded and smiled towards each of them – partially because I was being polite, but also because I wasn't sure who I had or hadn't met before.
Soon, I reached the end of the hallway and turned to the door on the right. I was already halfway into the room when I realized what was happening.
I felt sick to my stomach.
"Bella!" Charlie cried, waving me towards him. "You made it – come on in!"
I stood still in the center of the room. My mind was in a fog – the only object that was clear in my mind was the needle sticking out of Charlie's arm.
"There's a blood drive today," my dad explained when he saw me looking at his arm and the bag of blood attached to it. He started to sit up on his bed before the nurse beside him gently pushed him back down. "I'm almost finished."
I wasn't quite sure how I managed to do it, but I swallowed and started to breathe. "Alright," I whispered, unable to remove my gaze from the many red bags of blood. There were several people – dozens of people – each with their arms extended out in front of them and with a needle protruding from their skin at odd angles. "Then – lunch?" I felt queasy just trying to think about eating, now.
Charlie nodded. "Sure – where do you want to go?" he called. Then, seeing that I was still standing several yards away from him, he beckoned me closer once again. "Bella, come here," he told me. "I don't want to shout across the room!" he added with a jovial laugh, clearly in a very good mood.
I shifted forward, trying my best not to disappoint Charlie. I stepped towards his makeshift bed, trying my best to ignore the scent of blood that filled the room and entered my nose. I nearly made it – but couldn't move any further when the nurse pulled the needle from his arm.
"You know, Dad," I croaked in a strained tone, "I think I'm just going to wait outside for you to finish up. Come find me when…" I couldn't finish my sentence. I was already headed towards the exit, stumbling over my feet.
"Bella?" Charlie sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He held a small strip of gauze up to the spot on his arm, pressing down on the place where the needle had been just moments before. He looked concerned, now. "Are you alright? You look ill."
I tried to shake my head, hoping to discourage Charlie's worried thoughts, but the small movement would have been too much for me to handle. I felt all of the blood drain from my face – I was sure that I must have looked paler than Edward at that moment.
I could just barely spot the exit through the haze. Everything was doubled and beginning to spin around the room in chaotic blurs. I held out a shaky hand, reaching for the doorway, but found that there was nothing there. I reached out with both hands, swiping frantically through the air, searching for something – anything – that I could grab onto to hold myself upright, but I found nothing.
My legs lost all feeling. I couldn't walk any further if I had tried. And then, as if I was watching everything in slow motion, I knew that I was going to fall. My knees gave out and I closed my eyes, dreading the impact of the floor meeting my face.
There was a sharp sound of glass breaking – like someone had dropped a plate – and then arms were wrapped securely around my waist just as my vision went black.
When I regained consciousness, I wasn't lying in the cafeteria of the police station. And I actually felt somewhat comfortable – almost hungry because of the meal I must have missed.
I let my eyes wander around, taking in as much detail as I could. As I gazed upward, I found nothing but a black ceiling above me. I let my head roll to the side and, to my surprise, spotted Edward, staring straight ahead.
"Edward," I whispered, smiling. I hadn't been expecting to see him again so soon.
Immediately, he turned to look down at me. His expression relaxed and he started to breathe. "Bella – you're awake," he murmured, placing one hand on my forehead. He began to stroke my hair out of my face. "I thought you might have hit your head."
I frowned, trying to remember why I would have hit my head. I couldn't. Instead, I studied Edward's movement and realized that he was driving and I was lying beside him in the reclined passenger seat. "Where are we going?"
"Home," he replied, returning his focus to the road as he swerved expertly around a car.
"Why?" I asked, puzzled. Instantly, I remembered the rest of the Cullen's plans for today and started to worry. "Is your family back from hunting already – did something happen?"
Edward dropped his nervous expression, only to be replaced by one of confusion. "My family – no, Bella," he quickly corrected me, realizing my mistake. "We're going back to your house – nothing happened to my family."
"Oh." I turned red. I had just assumed that "home" was the Cullen's house – not mine. I tried to erase my embarrassment by changing topics. "Where's Charlie?" I lifted myself onto my elbows, trying to turn to look into the back seat of the car for my father. There was a slight pressure on my shoulder from Edward's hand. He was trying to keep my lying on my back, discouraging any movement on my part.
"He'll be coming," he finally answered, clenching his jaw. "Don't worry about that."
I could sense the unease in Edward's voice. Something was wrong.
"What is it?" I asked, this time trying not to sit straight up in my chair. "Edward, what happened – what's wrong?"
He did not answer. The only movement he made was to keep his hand planted firmly on my shoulder, eliminating the ability to sit up and move around freely.
I didn't have to wait long in the tense silence. Before I knew it, we were back at my house and Edward was out of the car, opening my door. I tried to undo my seatbelt and climb out on my own, but he was much quicker. In seconds, he had lifted me effortlessly out of the car and was carrying me inside, cradling me protectively into his chest.
"Edward," I said in a soft voice the moment he had walked through the front door, "you can put me down. I can walk."
"No." He was able to close the front door with a soft tap of his foot and then proceeded up the stairs to my bedroom. "You just passed out – I'm not going to let you walk."
"I'm fine now," I protested, slowly beginning to recall a few details of what had happened before I blacked out. "It was just the sight of blood – there was too much. I couldn't handle it."
Edward wasn't listening. "It's been less than two minutes," he told me. And then, in a quieter voice, he said, "I shouldn't have even removed you from the police station." All I could see from my cozy spot between Edward's arms and his chest was the view of his neck, but I knew that something was wrong the moment that the muscles there seemed to seize up. "I had to."
I felt guilty, now, realizing something that I had missed before. "I'm sorry," I apologized, burying my face into his pleasant smelling shirt. "I shouldn't have feinted in a room full of blood. It must have been extremely tempting."
My apology caused a slight chuckle from Edward. "That's not your fault," he told me, carefully laying me onto my bed. "Besides," he added with a faint smile, "after controlling myself around you for so long, that much blood concentrated in one room was hardly a concern of mine."
Edward made to pull away from me, but I didn't remove my fingers from the collar of his shirt, silently begging him to join me on the mattress. He did so, but he was no longer smiling.
I frowned after realizing it wasn't the blood at all that seemed to bother Edward. I lay on my side, sharing my pillow with Edward as he looked back at me with sad eyes.
"You're upset," I stated as a fact. I reached out with my small hand, cupping his statuesque face. "Tell me what happened."
He rolled away from me, lying flat on his back with his hands behind his head and letting out a soft sigh. My hand fell away from his face as he moved, falling to his chest; I kept it where it had landed.
"Edward, you're scaring me," I whispered. I scooted forward, pressing myself into his side and resting my head on his arm, even though he had rolled away. "Is something wrong?"
This question elicited a small reaction. It was just a nod – nothing more than that – but it sent a horrible shiver down my spine.
Before I could drill him with anymore questions, he started to speak willingly.
"I was a few minutes away before I tapped into Charlie's thoughts," he told me, sounding apologetic. "I wanted to check to make sure that you found him already – then I realized he was giving a blood donation."
I nodded, burying my face into Edward's shoulder. I lifted my hand from its spot on his chest to his face once more and touched his jaw with my index finger, slowly tracing over it and up to his cheekbones.
"You don't handle blood well," he commented, as if I didn't already know this fact. He turned to gaze down at me with a soft smile. "I tried to drive back in time to warn you, but by the time I was in the parking lot, you already found Charlie." He hesitated before continuing, sucking in a large breath of air. "I could see – through Charlie – that you were about to pass out." He shrugged. "And I overreacted."
I frowned, still not quite sure what had happened. "You – overreacted," I repeated, trying to piece together his words. "What does that mean – exactly?"
Edward turned back to face me, hugging me close to him as he spoke. "I tried to save you," he whispered into my ear. "And when you're in danger – I forget about every other consequence that might have on me."
I was alarmed by his words, now, and I was sure he could sense my rapid heartbeat.
"It was an impulse," he said, stroking my hair with his hand. "I dove through the window and caught you before you did any real damage to yourself."
"You jumped through the window?" I repeated incredulously. I gently pulled my head back and lifted myself up onto my elbows, looking down at him with a mixture of shock and horror.
"And not even an open window," he added softly, almost sounding amused. "It was closed – and I broke through it." He paused, looking up at me. He waited for me to say something in response. When I didn't, he informed me, "Most of the Forks police department suspects some sort of vandalism. They didn't see me – I was too fast."
I let out a sigh of relief. "Good," I said, relaxing back into Edward's arms. I pressed my head into his chest, brushing my face against his icy skin just above the collar of his shirt. "That was a close call. Charlie could have – "
I paused, confused. "He did – what?" I asked. Had he known what I was about to say?
"'Charlie could have seen me,'" he stated, finishing my incomplete sentence, resting his head comfortably on top of mine as he spoke. "And I said that he did."
"No – he didn't," I tried to correct him. I slipped my head out from beneath Edward's chin, somewhat frantic, now. "There's no way – you just said you were too fast – they all think it was vandalism – you said!"
Edward shook his head, watching me with wary eyes as I pulled my hand away from his face and lifted my head off of his chest. "Except for Charlie," he explained in a steady tone. "He was the only one watching you before you fell."
"Impossible," I said, sitting up all the way. I refused to believe what Edward was trying to tell me. "There's no way – no one else saw! And – maybe Charlie doesn't even know what happened – we can convince him that he made it all up! Or – "
"Bella, he saw me," Edward repeated in his calm, soothing voice. He sat up as well, grabbing my shoulders with his strong hands. "When I caught you, I looked up, and – he saw me, Bella." He swallowed, glancing down at the bed in defeat. "I saw his thoughts."
I was practically shaking; I was terrified. "What was he thinking?" I asked, dreading the answer.
Edward didn't remove his hands from my shoulders. "He knows I'm not human," he said. I must have made a face or reacted to this statement in a way that Edward did not like. He elaborated, leaning towards me. "When he watched you fall down, no one was nearby – and suddenly I appear out of thin air to catch you! Do you remember your reaction when I did the same thing to you?"
Of course I remembered – how could I not? Edward had blocked me from an oncoming vehicle, saving my life. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be alive today.
My reaction to his rescue, however, was not one that he could have predicted me to have. I knew there was no way that he could survive the impact of a skidding, full-sized van without getting so much as a scratch – as a result, I stubbornly insisted that he was different from everyone else until I finally uncovered the truth.
And, I instantly realized, I had to have inherited my stubbornness from someone in my family.
"Oh, god," I whispered, suddenly hopping off of my bed. "Charlie – if he doesn't know now, he'll find out," I said, darting across the room to my closet. I threw the doors open and dropped to my knees, digging around. "He could tell everyone – he'll spill your secret, Edward." My voice grew muffled as I stuck my head into the small area. I found what I was looking for and dragged it out.
"Bella – what are you doing?" Edward asked, unsure of what my plans must be. He studied my determined face, trying to read my expression, and then dropped his gaze down to the suitcase in my hands.
"We need to get away," I told him, as if it were obvious. I pulled all of my clothes out from my closet – hangars and all – and threw them into the large bag on the floor. "Help me," I hissed at him when he didn't move from his spot seated on the edge bed. "Charlie could be home any minute! And you know how bad I am at lying – come on, Edward!"
"No," he said in a remarkably calm tone, especially compared to my high-pitched squeaky one that I seemed to be using at the moment. "Bella, I'm not running away."
I stopped my frantic packing, turning to stare at him in disbelief. "Why not?" I asked, dropping a photo album onto the heaping pile of clothes and books. I sped back over to Edward and put my hands to his face. "Your family is in danger," I told him, trying to steady my voice. It didn't do much good. "Charlie won't stop until he knows your secret," I said. "We can't stay!"
Edward swallowed and shook his head. "I'm tired of running away," he whispered, almost inaudibly. He blinked several times, averting his gaze. "I think he should know the truth."
My knees gave out. Edward's hands shot forward, grabbing my waist before I could crumple to the ground. He eased me onto his lap, wrapping his muscular arms around me and gently rocking me back and forth.
"I've been thinking about this for quite some time," Edward told me, speaking directly into my ear. I could feel his hand on my cheek, stroking it slightly. He then started to brush stray pieces of my hair out of my face. "I really shouldn't take you away from Charlie without giving him a reason why."
"We're getting married," I replied, feeling far too weak to fight against Edward's hold on me. I had just revived from a feinting spell, after all. "Isn't that enough closure? If we told him the truth, he would just try to stop me!"
I felt Edward let out a low breath, tickling my ear as he did so. With a hint of an apology in his voice, he said, "I wouldn't be telling him just for you, Bella."
Some of my strength was coming back to me. I lifted my head off of Edward's shoulder and looked up at him, confusion etched in my facial expression. "What do you mean?"
Edward locked his eyes with mine: his gold ones met my brown. "I would feel guilty for the rest of my life," he said, speaking with such certainty that I was almost convinced I felt the same way. "I can't just steal you away from Charlie like that – he should know, Bella."
I shook my head. "No, you can't," I said, fighting the tears that were already welling up in my eyes. "You don't know how he'll react – how he'll take the news!"
Edward stood on his feet, setting me down in the rocking chair in the corner of the room. "He already knows part of the truth," he corrected me, kissing my forehead. And then, straightening up and walking towards my bedroom door, he added, "It's time to tell him the rest."
My eyes widened as I realized the full meaning of his words.
"No," I gasped, sprinting after Edward. I easily caught up to him in the hallway, but he didn't stop walking as he proceeded down the stairs. "You can't tell him – just – wait – let's talk about this!" I shouted, stumbling behind Edward.
He could have shrugged me off. He could have easily pushed me away without a second thought – but he didn't. He calmly listened to me beg and plead with him to not follow through with his plan while continuing to walk towards his intended target.
"He could ruin everything!" My voice cracked, but I ignored it. I was desperate, clutching onto his elbow and trying to hold him back as I dug my heels into the staircase, but he kept forging forward without the slightest bit of hesitation, dragging me effortlessly along behind him.
Sucking in a deep breath, I leapt off of the last step and landed directly in front of Edward, staring straight up at him. He appeared much taller than usual, because he was still standing on the stairs and I was, now, several feet below him. I must have looked like a dwarf compared to his towering figure.
"If he tells anyone about your secret, the Volturi could hear about it," I told him, terrified of confronting Edward like this, but unwilling to back down from my argument. "He could get himself – or you killed! If the Volturi hear so much as a whisper that another human might know about your family – "
"He won't tell anyone," Edward responded with a soft sigh. He reached out and placed his hands on my shoulder. He gripped them with such strength, but it felt as if he was hardly touching me. "He wouldn't do that sort of thing, Bella. Put some trust in your own father," he advised me, carefully lifting me up with the greatest ease, and moving me out of his path.
"But you can't be sure!" I shouted, quickly spinning on my heel to follow Edward into the kitchen. I reached out a hand in my final attempt and grabbed the soft material of his shirt within my grasp, and gave it a soft tug. Slowly, he turned back towards me with a solemn expression: unwavering and set in stone.
"Please," I pleaded with him, putting my hands on his shoulders. I felt the tears that had been building in my eyes – the ones I hadn't realized were even present – start to fall, streaming across my cheeks and down onto my brand new dress. I lifted my fingers to his face, touching his cool skin as I pressed myself into his chest. "Please – don't. Don't do this."
I searched his face, praying for any chance that he might back down from his fight. But I knew he wasn't listening to me anymore – his mind was made up, and he wasn't changing it.
Before he could even speak, I knew his answer; I had known his answer all along, but had refused to believe it.
My knees shook beneath my already fragile body. I knew, soon they would lose their ability to hold me upright much longer, so I chose to drop softly to the ground, kneeling on the kitchen tiles. It wasn't long before Edward joined me on the floor, facing me straight on. He wrapped his arms around my waist, holding me in his protective embrace, and pressed his forehead to mine.
"Bella, I need to do this," he whispered, looking down at me with a look of utter desperation. "Please," he begged me. "Understand why I'm doing this." His golden eyes held that familiar, intense gaze, searching for acceptance. "For me."
My heart stopped – I was sure it had – because I had never seen this type of emotion radiating from Edward. Never, not once, had he ever asked for anything selfish in his life; too many times – more than I could count – Edward gave in to my own requests, but he had never had to beg for my approval.
And then, realizing how much this meant to him, I lifted a hand to his chest, just over the place where his heart would have been, and nodded.
We stayed there, kneeling on the floor, for what felt like several days. I closed my eyes, wishing to feel nothing but the pleasant touch of Edward's hands on my lower back, but we were both acutely aware of the situation; I knew that, as much as I hated his decision, I supported him fully.
Far sooner than I had hoped, Charlie burst through the front door – eyes blazing – and slammed the door closed behind him.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Edward did not drop his hands from my waist, and I didn't move. If I hadn't been expecting Charlie's sudden entrance, I might have flinched, but I was already awaiting the worst possible outcome from this situation.
"Dad," I said, keeping my forehead pressed against Edward's, "it's alright."
"No, it's not alright – Bella – do you know what you're doing?" he bellowed, storming forward. Before I could turn to ask what Charlie was going to do, he reached out and grabbed my arm, just above my elbow, and dragged me away from Edward.
"What are you – Dad!" I cried, surprised by this sudden use of force. He was dragging me across the tile, and the silky fabric of my dress made it far easier for him to slide me across the slick surface without any resistance. "Dad – knock it off!"
"Bella, you don't know what he is!" Charlie shouted back. He released my arm, letting me drop unceremoniously to the floor, and then stepped protectively in front of me with his hand hovering at his hip: just beside his gun.
"You're insane," I hissed, sitting up. I was about to stand and confront Charlie face to face when I glanced across the room towards Edward. He hadn't moved from his spot on the floor; he was still kneeling on the ground, his hands resting on his thighs and his head bowed.
"Edward," I whispered, frightened by his unusual behavior. What was he trying to do? He wasn't going to stand up to Charlie? I started to crawl across the floor, eager to get back to Edward. "Edward, are you alright?"
Charlie's hand lashed out, grabbing my shoulder before I could move very far. He was holding me back. "Don't do that, Bella," he warned me, speaking in a low, serious tone. "He's dangerous – don't go near him!"
"He's not dangerous!" I shouted, shoving Charlie's hand off of my shoulder. "He's the furthest thing from it!" I was free of my father's hold on me. Just as I was about to spring across the room once more, Edward spoke, freezing me in my spot.
"Don't lie to him, Bella," Edward whispered, still in his spot in the middle of the floor. He lifted one hand and held it palm up, studying it carefully, as if he could see something that we couldn't. He suddenly closed it, clenching his fingers together to form a fist. "I'm the most dangerous person in this room."
I swallowed, knowing what was soon to come.
Don't, I silently pleaded with him, hoping Edward might change his mind, even though my thoughts were futile. Please don't tell Charlie.
"You admit it," Charlie hissed, narrowing his eyes on Edward. He looked confused, but didn't seem to let that control his actions; he was still crouched in a pouncing position – similar to how I had seen Edward stand several times before – but he appeared a bit more terrified than Edward ever did; unlike Edward, Charlie always wore his emotions on his sleeve.
Like father like daughter.
"Of course I admit it," Edward countered. He finally moved, climbing to his feet with the elegance of a swan. At the sudden movement, Charlie grabbed his gun from its holster at his hip and held it pointed directly at Edward's chest.
"Don't move any closer," Charlie warned, trying to steady his voice. "Get away from my daughter."
I glanced across the room to watch Edward's reaction to this change of events. The corners of his lips twitched, as if he were about to smile, but they immediately stopped and he remained solemn. He must have been about to laugh at the thought of a gun killing him when the impact of a full-sized van didn't even leave a scratch. Apparently, he thought it was wiser not to irritate Charlie by smiling in such a tense situation.
"Dad," I groaned, sounding more bored than frightened. "Stop it – just put the gun down!"
"Bella – stay out of this!" Charlie growled, refusing to break his alert stance. He lowered his head in order to aim more accurately with the gun. "What the hell are you?" Charlie hissed, unwilling to remove his eyes from Edward. "What do you want?"
Edward stood still like a statue without shifting so much as an inch. His shoulders were pulled back and his chin was lifted. Any sudden movement and I was sure Charlie would have fired. Then, Edward spoke in a soft voice, almost as if he were trying to remind Charlie of something. "You already know."
My eyes widened at this statement. He didn't know – he couldn't have known! I looked up from my spot on the floor, taking in Charlie's face for the first time. His jaw was clenched, his eyes were narrowed, and small beads of sweat were pouring down his face, looking as if he had just run a marathon. He sucked in a shallow, shaky breath and whispered the last words I wanted to hear: "A vampire."
Edward did not appear startled by the extent of Charlie's knowledge.
I, however, was another story.
"No," I shouted, staring openly up at Charlie. I scrambled to my feet and stepped back, running into the wall behind me. I tried to laugh at the answer, making it sound as ludicrous as I could. "That's funny, Dad!" I cried, clutching my hands over my stomach as I laughed twice as loud as was normal for me. "A vampire – really?"
My laughter stopped immediately. I shifted my gaze across the room where Edward was watching me with a frown. I could feel his disappointment course through me. Suddenly, I felt very guilty of committing a heinous crime.
I swallowed, dropping my hands from my stomach. This is what he wants, I quietly reminded myself. "Sorry," I whispered.
Charlie finally ripped his eyes away from Edward and looked at me, confused. "For what?" he asked softly, worried about the sudden change in my behavior.
"She doesn't want me to tell you."
Edward's unexpected speech startled Charlie who instantly turned back to realign his posture, straightening his arm so that he reminded Edward of the gun in his hand. "Tell me what?" he barked.
"That I'm a vampire."
Charlie had already said the words aloud – he had already accused Edward of being a vampire – but I was sure he hadn't been expecting such an immediate confession.
The room rang with an empty silence. The silence was broken only by Charlie.
"Bella," he whispered, clearly trying to speak soft enough so that Edward didn't hear him. Unfortunately, Charlie didn't realize that Edward's hearing was several times stronger than the average person. "You knew?"
"Of course I knew," I hissed, stepping towards my dad. I crossed my arms over my chest, now feeling incredibly annoyed by the situation. "Edward told me – but how did you know?"
"Billy," Charlie answered simply, his eyes darting back and forth between my surprised expression and Edward's calm one. "I didn't really believe him – not until today."
We broke eye contact with each other, immediately returning our gazes to Edward. He hadn't moved an inch.
"Billy told the truth," Edward replied. He held his hands clenched at his sides, taking one slow step forward. Charlie gasped upon impulse, readjusting his aim on his moving target. "Our families haven't gotten along for years."
Charlie backed up, strategically maneuvering so that he was shielding me. I rolled my eyes at the precaution my father was taking. "Dad, put your gun away."
"Billy just wanted to warn you, didn't he?" Edward asked, speaking over my words. "He broke the treaty and told you about me – that I was dangerous for Bella – but you didn't listen to him."
I saw Charlie's finger twitch on the trigger of his gun. "Yes," he said softly. I could visibly see the muscles in my father's back relax as he started to lower the gun a fraction of an inch. "How did you know?"
Edward didn't respond. He just stood still, staring back at Charlie.
"Dad, please," I whispered, stepping out from behind his protective stance. I touched the hand that he was using to hold his gun. "Would you please put your gun away? It won't help you."
My words seemed to wake Charlie out of his temporary stupor. "Bella, get back," he demanded in a commanding tone. He held one hand out in front of me, pushing me back behind him and into the wall with a slight thud. "He could attack at any minute."
Had it not been such a bizarre situation, I was sure Edward would have rolled his eyes at this statement.
"Dad, we've been dating for over a year," I reminded him, trying to push Charlie's arm away. "He hasn't tried to kill us yet!"
"Exactly," Charlie countered. "Now that we know his secret – he won't want us telling anyone else, will he? Just – stand back, Bella, it could get – "
"Dad!" I cried, screaming directly into his ear. I was sure he would be temporarily deaf for several minutes, at the least. "You're not listening to me!"
"Bella, you're infatuated with the boy!" Charlie growled, beginning to turn his anger on me. However, he still managed to keep me pressed up against the wall behind him. "You aren't thinking clearly – he's dangerous! He could kill you!"
"That doesn't matter!" I shouted back, beginning to feel my blood boil. I gave one final shove, pushing my father just far enough away from me in order to slip out of his hold on me. Then, I quickly darted to the other end of the room and ran directly into Edward, wrapping my arms securely around his waist and burying my head into his chest.
"Bella," Edward whispered, holding me close. He dropped his head down so that he was speaking directly into my ear. "You should be behind Charlie – you could get hurt standing beside me."
I shook my head. And then, just loud enough for my father to hear, I said, "If he wants to try to kill you, he'll have to get through me first."
There was a soft gasp of shock behind me. I turned my head and peeked through stray wisps of hair, watching as Charlie weakly lowered his gun to his side, looking defeated after my comment.
"Mr. Swan," Edward said, taking advantage of the situation while Charlie was no longer fueled by his rage. He removed his hands from my back – most likely trying to avoid getting into more trouble with my father – and gently removed my locked grasp around his waist. "I can explain everything – you just have to listen."
And so he did.
Within minutes, Edward had directed us into the living room and was seated on the couch beside me and across from Charlie's armchair. He started to talk, revealing as much information as was necessary to calm Charlie's fears.
"I drink blood," he confessed quietly, most likely answering one of my father's silent thoughts, "but not human blood. My family and I feed off of only animals. And, yes, everyone in my family is a vampire as well."
It was quiet during the entire conversation, but not as tense as it had been earlier. Charlie seemed to be nodding at every word Edward told him. His hands were folded together to form a fist and were held directly in front of his mouth. Edward was rubbing his thumb over the back of my hand in small, consecutive circles. I was sure that this movement must be a nervous habit of his that I must have never witnessed before; of course, I had never seen Edward so nervous before in my life.
"And," Edward concluded, glancing over at my face for the first time in over twenty minutes of explanations to my father, "I really do love your daughter."
My heart swelled. Sure, I already knew that Edward loved me – but I hadn't seen this coming. And it certainly didn't hurt to be reminded of this fact every now and then.
"I would never do anything to hurt her." Slowly, Edward lifted my hand to his lips and gently kissed the place where he had been rubbing his thumb. "She's the most important thing in my life."
This was the only statement that Charlie did not nod at.
"Bella," he spoke suddenly, surprising both Edward and I with his raspy tone.
"Yes?" I asked, leaning forward.
"Did you know – about Edward – did you know all along?"
I nodded, smiling sadly. "Before our first date," I said. "I figured it out."
"But you still went out with him?"
Again, I smiled, but not without a slight chuckle. I tilted my head to the side, just far enough to see an identical smile on Edward's face. "He warned me not to," I said, recalling past memories. "Edward told me I could be putting my life in danger, but I wanted to be with him."
Charlie nodded, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground. "And now you're getting married."
Edward's hand froze within mine. I knew his thoughts were mirroring mine; he dreaded where this conversation was about to travel.
"Yes," I answered in a soft whisper. I lifted the hand that wasn't already holding Edward's and reached across myself to touch Edward's forearm. I gave it a slight squeeze and rubbed the bare skin below his rolled up shirt sleeve, reassuring him that we were in this together, no matter what would happen; I was there for him.
Charlie took a moment, swallowing before he continued. "And you're probably not coming back – are you?"
Tears welled up in my eyes as I processed Charlie's soft, saddened demeanor. So many things in the past hour hadn't gone according to plan – I wasn't sure what to expect, now.
Charlie continued speaking. "You'll be changed," he stated, as if it were a fact and not a matter of debate. "You're going to become a vampire, too."
I nodded, letting the tears fall freely from my eyes. "Yes."
I watched Charlie as he slowly let his hands drop from his chin and he leaned backwards, falling into the cushions in the back of the chair. And then, with the slightest movement, he nodded. "Alright."
"Oh, Dad," I sobbed, releasing Edward's hand. I leaped up from the couch and jumped into my father's lap like I had as a child. I wrapped my hands around his neck and wept openly into his shirt.
Edward watched in silence as my father cradled me, rocking me back and forth, just as Edward had earlier that afternoon. He rubbed my back and stroked my hair, almost as if he were trying to calm me down rather than the other way around.
"I'm so sorry," I hiccupped, taking in a shallow breath in between sobs. "You weren't supposed to find out – we were just going to leave so you wouldn't have to know."
"Why wouldn't you tell me?" Charlie asked softly, continuing to hold me close.
"I don't know." I exhaled, trying to calm myself down. "I thought it would be easier for you."
He pressed his lips to my forehead – the most fatherly gesture he had done since I arrived in Forks. "I'm happier now that I know."
This created a fresh batch of tears, streaming nonstop down my cheeks.
The moment my sobs died away, Edward softly cleared his throat. I could feel my father's head pull away from my own, looking up at the sound.
"Thank you," Edward said in a soft voice. "I can't tell you how much your acceptance means to me."
The room was silent. I was almost sure my father was about to contradict this statement and try to find some reason to argue with Edward again, but I was wrong. He gently tapped my arm, snapping me to attention. I lifted my head off of Charlie's chest and looked up questionably. He then gently slid me off of his lap and onto the arm of his chair before moving to his feet. Edward hesitantly followed this motion, standing to face my father eye to eye.
And then I watched in shock and awe as Charlie extended his right hand.
Edward couldn't have looked more relieved. He immediately thrust his hand into the air and took Charlie's, shaking it.
"You stole her heart – forever," Charlie said in a hoarse whisper, chuckling humorlessly at the last word.
Edward did not respond. He just stood with his hand in Charlie's, still as a statue as he waited for my father to say something more.
Charlie quickly broke off eye contact, looking down to stare at his feet in order to regain his composure. And then, with a small sniff, he looked back up with tears in his eyes.
"Take care of my little girl."
Edward swallowed and nodded. His eyes sparkled, as if he, too, were about to shed a tear.
Author's Note: Not quite sure if I've seen a story where Charlie finds out... so maybe this is a first! That'd be pretty cool, huh?
Thanks for reading!