A/N: A short little drabble from Edward's POV after the first time he tells Bella he loves her.

Disclaimer: A few lines taken from Twilight, which I don't own. Those lines are in italics, if you don't recognise them straight off!

"I love you. It's a poor excuse for what I'm doing, but it's true."

Of course I noticed Bella's heartbeat spike and her cheeks flood with that oh-so-tempting blood. I was alert to everything she did, every tiny change in the pace of her breathing, every minute increase in the dynamic of her pulse as it pressed vainly against the translucent veil of skin at her throat. It didn't take long for me to work out the cause of her reaction, either. I ran my words through my mind again and quickly realised that it was the first time I had said to Bella, in so many words, "I love you."

I had made it quite clear how I felt before. Thanks to a faultless vampire memory, I could remember every sentence that I had said to Bella, and would remember the inflection of every single syllable I spoke to her for the rest of her life.

"And so the lion fell in love with the lamb."

"You are my life now."

"You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever."

And yet I had never told her "I love you".

Actually, that wasn't quite true. I had said those exact words to her less than twenty-four hours ago. The reason Bella was unaware of this was that she had been asleep at the time.

The first time Bella had told me she loved me had been when she was unconscious and dreaming. She had felt no pressure to speak and she had been unable to speak anything but the truth. She had spoken her thoughts unedited, as I had so longed to hear. I could not keep myself from reciprocating immediately.

For that one, perfect moment, I fully believed that my heart had begun beating again.

Why, then, had I not returned the gesture when Bella was awake to hear me?

Firstly, foolishly, I doubted it would mean the same thing to Bella as it did to me. In a world where every letter, email, text and phone call was ended with "love you," how could those words mean anything more? Back when I was alive, though, the phrase "I love you" was tantamount to a proposal. One didn't say it unless it was the indubitable, unchangeable truth. Therefore, I reasoned, the phrase would mean very little to a twenty-first century human girl, no matter how extraordinary she was.

My second reason for procrastinating was the same reason that I had ignored Bella Swan for all those weeks, and it was harder to put into words. It was the feeling that this should not, could not, and therefore was not happening. No matter how I deluded myself, aided by my overenthusiastic family, I was not in love with a human. I could see now, of course, how wrong I had been.

In addition, I think I was scared. I was frightened of so many things, some more rational than others. I was scared that even if I did love this girl, then she did not truly feel the same way, and she would laugh me out of suit. I was scared that if I told her I loved her, she would become clingy and possessive. I was scared of the whole notion of being in love, never having felt anything like this flood of emotion before. And I was scared that if I said those words, the chain of events would unfold whereby sweet, innocent Bella would become a creature of the night, like me.

It was laughable: a vampire, an immortal monster, afraid of three little words, and of the girl I so desperately wanted to say them to.

Of course I longed to tell her exactly how I felt. I would have written pages of my love had the notion not been ridiculous, would have broadcast it on the news had the idea not been outrageously dangerous. I found myself wishing that she could hear my thoughts as I wished to hear hers, or that she could borrow Jasper's talent, to feel exactly how I felt.

Now, though, I realised my daydreaming had been pointless, my fears unfounded and my scepticism misplaced as I listened to Bella's heartbeat, my Bella's heartbeat, flutter and dance at that one tiny phrase.

"I love you."

In that instant, I resolved to tell Isabella Swan that I loved her whenever I could. After all we had at most one lifetime together if I could keep her human. One lifetime full of 'I love you's. That was when I decided that our one lifetime would be enough for forever.