Author's Note: The characters in this story belong to Stephenie Meyer.

I really thought I was done when "Primal Desires" wrapped up. I was spent. But after a few months this story began to write itself in my head. I wrestled with whether I should write on this again. But to be perfectly honest, it had to be exorcised from me. So I put pen to paper as it were, and here we are....again.

"My-Bella" has been instrumental in helping me with this and we only hope that as usual you keep an open mind and enjoy the ride! For your viewing pleasure, the pictures that have inspired different scenes of this story are being posted on My-Bella's website - you can find the link on her profile page. We will be updating it periodically. There is so much in my head this time I needed visual aids!

We will be posting once a week, usually sometime during the weekend. Thank you again for all of your support!

~Velvet Blood Roses~


Sitting lazily in an armchair across from the open French doors, I let the sun bathe my face in its light. A smile captures my face as her voice floods my mind.

I close my eyes listening to her humming to herself in the garden just outside. The long flowing curtains dance in the light breeze and carry her scent to me…haunting, intoxicating…all freesia and lavender—all Bella. My Bella.

I am filled with the warmth of her smile. I see her in my mind's eye in her white sundress and sandals. Her skirt dancing in the light breeze is poetry. Her skin is sparkling like little diamonds set ablaze as she collects roses in the afternoon sun. I open my eyes and peered through the gaps in the curtain, watching her and wondering how the reality of her could be so much more than my thoughts…Even after all of this time, she still took my breath away.

Tiny specs of dust dance along the rays of sunshine before me as I replay the times she and I have shared in this home. It has been a period of healing. She and I have been able to cope with how things ended in Forks and we have been able to grow closer because of it.

In the beginning, there were times when I had to hold Bella as she sobbed tearlessly—her body shaking and her mind wracked with guilt over what we had done to get out of Forks. She mourned for her parents most of all. She knew that in order to keep them safe, we would have to leave and the cleanest break would be the most painful. But with each passing day and night spent without separation, those moments of despair became less and less as she began to move forward. She, of course, still had rough moments but she was able to carry on.

Living here has been not only a blessing but the most peaceful time in our lives. We have enjoyed ourselves by exploring the vast grounds together and even venturing into town on occasion. We have also spent time apart pursuing our separate hobbies. It has been very important for me to make sure Bella has had her space and time alone to reflect on everything that happened.

And then there were the moments like now in the garden, where she enjoyed her time alone with the knowledge that I was only a mind touch away. Our connection was growing stronger day by day, and I could no longer tell where I ended and she began—we are one.

My mind floated on the last few notes of the classical piece that filled the room from the stereo behind me. I was lost in thought and couldn't be happier. Lately, I found myself feeling as if I were in a dream and that at any moment, this would all be over. That sort of thought would have tortured me relentlessly before, but now I took things a day at a time, enjoying this life for what it was. I'd entered this utopian state where I scarcely recognized myself. I was more relaxed than I had ever been—this time alone with Bella had changed me more than I could say. I liked to believe we were both happy with those changes.

We had been in the manor house on our own for almost a year, and the rest of our family was finally on their way home and would be arriving shortly. Bella had decided that she wanted to fill the house with fresh flowers from the garden for Esme. We were all so excited to be together as a family again.

Carlisle, Esme, Rose, and Emmett had stayed behind in Forks after our "accident". I would forever be in their debt for everything they had done for Bella's parents. Renee was so grief stricken that she couldn't bear to stay in Forks too long after the funeral and retreated back to Jacksonville, leaving Charlie to fend for himself for the most part. Esme called Renee in the beginning to make sure she was truly moving forward—it didn't take long for Renee to throw herself into other projects and move on with her husband. Bella said it was due to the short attention span her mother had always had. Personally, I thought it was a survival tactic and I respected Renee for that. She was stronger than I would have been had I lost Bella in Italy.

My family pulled together and made sure that Charlie was okay after the funeral. Esme and Rosalie worked together to make him meals a couple of nights a week while they taught him to cook. There was a short brush with drinking, but as soon as it was discovered, both Carlisle and Emmett spent a few weeks with Charlie, setting him straight.

Carlisle and Esme even went with Charlie to see a grief counselor twice a week for a few months. Soon after, though, their presence became unnecessary. Charlie met a young woman by the name of Mary in the waiting room there and they hit it off. Only when Charlie was finally coming around to face the reality of Bella's death and sought solace with his new friend, did Carlisle and Esme think it the right time to leave. Carlisle told Charlie that he was moving the family to the east coast, thanks to a promotion at another hospital. My father made it seem like Forks held too many memories for his family, which Charlie readily accepted since I had "died" as well. My family made sure Charlie had all of their numbers and they promised to visit often.

As for Alice and Jasper, they had stayed on with the others for a few months but then decided to go on a little vacation before coming to London. Alice needed to regroup after everything that had happened—we all did. I knew both my sisters still felt an enormous amount of guilt over my trip to Italy, and I hoped that being reunited and having them see how happy I was would erase that from their consciences.

I was thrilled at the thought of having them all under one roof again. I'd found that after all those years I spent brooding and wanting to be alone, I truly hated to be separated from those closest to me. Bella was the only thing that had made their absence easier for me. It was our collective love for her that had rendered my family willing to pay any price for Bella's happiness. She had changed all of us: Esme and Carlisle had gained another daughter, while Jasper, Alice, Emmett, and Rose had all gained a new sister. And I had finally found the missing piece to my soul—Bella was everything to me.

My thoughts were interrupted by the soft sound of her giggle. She leaned down over me and kissed my forehead as her hair cascaded over either side of my face, hiding us both from the outside world.

"I thought vampires didn't sleep," she teased as she reached one elegant limb behind me and turned off the CD player.

"I am not sleeping, love. I'm simply resting and dreaming of you," I responded, kissing her lips.

"You, sir, are lost in thought and are being very calm for someone who is reuniting with his family after so long," she chided between kisses.

My arms wrapped around her pulling her to sit on my lap. "I am relishing in the peacefulness now because you know as well as I do that Alice will be whisking us off to do God knows what, God knows where, soon enough."

Bella's laugh filled the room as she disappeared from my arms and moved to the piano. She lifted up the vase from the piano and buried her little nose in the brightly colored flowers.

I felt bereft immediately. "Where do you think you're going, young lady?" I asked in a playful voice.

"Edward, they'll be here any minute and I want everything to be perfect," she responded as she rearranged the roses in the vase. "I'm going upstairs to make sure the rooms are just right…again," she added, already heading upstairs.

It was quite sweet how concerned she was with having everything just so for our family's arrival. Alice had called me last night and forewarned me that Bella would be in this state so I'd made sure to stay out of her way and help wherever I could.

I finally removed myself from my chair and started for my piano. As soon as I was seated, I let my hands caress the keys lightly and fill the room with my love's lullaby. I hoped the soothing sounds would help calm her.

My reward was instant as I could feel her smiling in my mind. I closed my eyes and just let the music take me over as that piece ended and another flowed from my fingertips.

A familiar scent stirred me, pulling at my heart, drawing me away from the music and back to the present. "Alice," I whispered to myself, smiling.

I was at the foot of the stairs at the same time Bella reached them—we opened the wide double doors together and ran outside. I didn't get far before Alice pounced on me; that peace and contentment I'd come to know with Bella doubled with the feel of my little pixie sister in my arms again.

Alice slipped from my arms and wrapped her nimble limbs around Bella as they both shrieked at one another in that falsetto all women seem to reach when they get excited. I smiled at the sight as Jasper gave me a one-armed hug, both of us chuckling at how the girls were carrying on.

A sudden barrage of honking and cheering filled the air as the low rumble of an engine rushed through the gates of the property. We turned and took in the sight of Emmett and Rose half hanging out of Emmett's new Hummer. They parked and more hugging and female shrieking ensued.

"Are you girls looking to burst the windows and communicate with all the dogs in the vicinity?" Emmett joked as he wrapped Alice and Jasper in a bear hug. Before they had a chance to reply, he'd moved on, sharing his signature hug with me. He looked over my head and his thoughts relayed that he'd spotted Bella.

We all remained motionless as Emmett made his way over to Bella. He towered over her, but she didn't seem to notice as she smiled up at him. His entire face relaxed as he smiled back, neither of them saying a word nor needing to. Bella practically disappeared in his arms as he held her so tenderly. I instantly remembered the last time he had looked at her that way; it had been that last day in Forks in his Jeep. Before staging the accident, he'd assured Bella that everything would be okay—he'd kept his word.

We had all been through so much and were overwhelmed at finally being reunited; I knew if any one of us were capable of tears we would all be a mess as the hugs and words of love continued to float around us.

I was hugging Rose when Alice suddenly shrieked. "Mom and Dad are home!" She took off, running toward the car that was just turning into the driveway.

"Alice, let them park at least," Jasper laughed. He chased after her and she let him catch her, bringing her back to the rest of us as we eagerly waited for our parents to get out of the car.

Carlisle had barely parked before Esme was embracing as many of us at a time as she could. "Finally, we are all together again!" she said excitedly. The wall of family members parted and she captured my face in her hands, staring into my eyes as if she would fall into them. "Oh, Edward, you look so happy!" she cried.

"I am" was all I could respond as I beamed back at her.

She turned to Bella just as Carlisle got his arms around Alice and Jasper. "Bella, look at you! You are a vision in white," Esme gasped.

Bella could no longer blush, but she had a tell for when she was embarrassed—her eyes would find something extremely interesting about the patch of ground in front of her. I reached for her hand and attempted to calm her with my thoughts. 'She's right, love. You look beautiful today.'

'You say that everyday' her thoughts chided as she rolled her eyes at me.

'It's true' was my response as I shrugged.

"You both look so amazing. It's in your eyes. You both look so…so peaceful," Esme continued, love and happiness coloring her words.

Bella's embarrassment faded away as her desire to properly welcome our family returned. She ushered the family inside and there was a collective gasp as they caught their first glimpse of her handiwork.

"Bella, what have you done?" Rose cried in amazement.

"Wow!" Emmett added.

Esme had the most shocked look of all. "This house has never looked so beautiful!" she exclaimed.

In my relaxed state, I had failed to notice everything Bella had done this morning. But as I surveyed the foyer and den with my family, I realized Bella really had filled the house with flowers. She'd even gone so far as to update the family pictures with all of the ones Alice had been sending us. The house truly looked as if none of us had ever been apart—Bella had transformed it from a mere house to our home.

Carlisle put his arm around me as he led us all to the den to sit together and catch up. Conversation flowed freely as we updated each other on various activities.

Rose's voice suddenly became the loudest in the room. "Bella, what have you done to our Edward? There isn't a trace of the old angst-ridden, sullen, crabby, Edward," she chuckled.

I shook my head at my sister as I waited with the family for Bella's answer. I could have just plucked it from her beautiful mind, but I never did. Bella's thoughts remained private unless she wanted me to hear them.

"That, dear sister, was nothing that the love of a good woman couldn't cure," Bella responded, giggling as she kissed my cheek.

I rolled my eyes at both of them.

"They fall right back into it, don't they?" Emmett retorted, tickling Rose's side and chuckling at me.

I was smiling despite myself. I had missed the banter and sounds of my family—even Rose's sarcasm.

"Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I am starved," Jasper announced.

"Yay!" Alice cried. "Let's go hunting together like we used to."

It wasn't as if we needed any convincing; we were all enjoying this reunion too much to let it end just yet.

We headed towards the back of the house with Rose and Alice each holding one of Bella's arms as they stepped into the garden, giggling and being playful. Emmett, Jasper, and I followed with Esme and Carlisle walking hand in hand behind their "children".

"You up for a run, little brother?" Emmett bellowed as he slapped me hard on the back and yanked Jasper's cap off his head.

Emmett didn't wait for a response before speeding off into the trees. Jasper and I were in immediate pursuit, loving how easy we fell back into old patterns. Emmett knew the best way to push our buttons and took full advantage; like getting under my skin by teasing about our difference in stature.

I monitored the thoughts of the rest of the family to make sure they were headed in the same direction as us; being their protector was also a role I slipped naturally back into it seemed.

Emmett led us straight to our prey, choosing the Elk that roamed freely in the woods on our property. We would save the fiercer game for another time.

Bella and I hunted almost in unison, having grown accustomed to partnering to take down our kill. It was another facet of the intimacy we shared, and this fact did not go unnoticed. I could see in Carlisle's content face and hear it in his approving thoughts.

It was dusk when we began to walk lazily back toward the house, meandering through the large gardens as we each held our loved one. The night was taking over the sky and the air around us was dotted with fireflies while the stars were out in force. It all came together as a beautiful backdrop to our reunion.

"Why don't we all go for a swim?" Esme suggested, having spotted the pool in the distance. With the canopy of dazzling stars overhead and the warm summer breeze, this really was the perfect time for night swimming.

"That's a wonderful idea, Mom," Jasper replied, immediately picking up Alice and getting her to squeal.

"Let's all change and meet at the pool," Esme said, smiling at each of us in turn.

Back in our room, Bella changed into her blue bikini and became playfully annoyed when it seemed I wasn't paying any attention to a single word she was saying. She was going on about how happy she was that everyone was home while my lips showered her waist and stomach with soft kisses.

"You are impossible," she said breathily. Her hands gripped my hair, signaling that she'd given in to my desires.

My victory was short-lived as Alice's giggling voice carried through the door. "Come on, you guys, enough with the sexy time!" She squealed loudly and we heard Jasper chuckle as his bare feet slapped against the wooden floor of the hallway outside, carrying her away.

"I guess she must have seen where this was going, huh?" I chuckled as I stood and embraced Bella.

"Yeah, I guess you were right about her whisking us off," Bella replied with a grin.

We made our way downstairs and over to the pool. It was attached to the side of the house and started just inside the solarium double doors. It spilled out into the lush garden beyond, giving it a distinct Middle Eastern flair. The pool was rectangular with Moroccan style arcs and curves on either end. It was about twelve feet deep and completely heated—it was one of my favorite parts of the house.

Rose and Esme had lit the Moroccan lanterns all around the pool and turned on the twinkle lights in the surrounding trees. The heat caused wisps of steam to come off the surface.

Esme and Carlisle were in the shallow end of the pool, leaning against the wall while the rest of our family was playfully swimming around one another in the deeper end. Bella and I entered the pool, joining the others. The scene felt slightly ethereal to me and I wasn't sure if it was the setting or the happiness that was radiating off of everyone. I had spent nearly a century as a member of this family and never had I seen any of us so content, so fulfilled. We were truly a family, a complete unit now—we would never let anything destroy that.

Bella slipped under the water and pulled me under with her as we swam to the others. The warmth of the water was exhilarating as we glided through it, barely disturbing the surface overhead. I emerged behind Bella and wrapped my arms around her, kissing the side of her wet neck tenderly. Water had always made her sweet scent stronger and tonight was no different.

"How do you like the house, Bella?" Jasper asked as Alice playfully swam around him in the water.

"It's like a dream," she replied with a wide smile. "In a strange way, it felt like I belonged here immediately."

"Bella, in one way or another, you have always belonged with us," Rose said, surprising everyone. I looked at her, completely incredulous of how soft she had become.

"Was our little Rose abducted in my absence?" I joked. "Where is our little spit-fire?"

Rose chuckled and splashed me in retort. "For your information, Edward, I am perfectly capable of being caring towards those I…love." Her pause might have seemed odd to anyone outside of our family, but it was normal to us. Rose had never been one to wear her heart on her sleeve. "Besides you know you love it when I kick you around," she continued. She poked her tongue at me and then dove under the water, swimming toward Bella.

I took advantage of my sister's position and picked her up, tossing her back into the water a few feet away and earning a few cheers from the others.

Rose surfaced with a huge smile on her face and pointed one long finger at me, her dark red nail polish sparkling under the lights. "I will get you back for that later."

"Just stay away from the Jaguar," I told her.

Most of the evening passed the same way, with us being silly in the water and enjoying each other's company. Bella was the first to exit the pool, causing me to stop in mid-sentence and marvel at her grace and loveliness.

"She is beautiful," Carlisle stated.

"There are times, Dad, when I feel I will burst from happiness," I replied, not breaking my stare.

Bella turned at the sound of my voice and smiled coyly at me as she wrapped herself in a dark blue sarong. 'Behave' her thoughts chided.

The women followed her lead and all got out of the water.

"Ladies, how about we all go inside and catch up? I have some things for each of you and this is the perfect time," Esme suggested.

"Mom, what gives? Nothing for us!" Emmett shouted indignantly.

Esme smiled down at him. "You will get your turn, Em. Be patient, son."

Bella knelt by the pool as I swam to the edge; there was no need for words between us for me to know what she wanted, not with the connection we shared. I kissed her and the world melted away as it always did.

Much too soon, she pulled away and smiled. "I'll see you inside," she whispered.

"Mhm" was all I could offer back as I nibbled on her lower lip.

She laughed, letting her fingers trail across my cheek as she stood. With a flirty little wave and a swing of her hips, she joined the rest of the ladies and disappeared into the house

Only a few yards between us and already I ached for her. I shook my head at my own self as I turned to find Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper leaning against the pool wall with goofy faces.

"You guys are so mushy," Emmett teased, puckering his lips at me.

"I'm sorry, Emmett. Was that not NC-17 enough for you?" I joked as I joined them in leaning against the side wall

"Ah, it's good to be home," Jasper said with a smirk.

"All kidding aside, I have something to say," I started.

Carlisle's relaxed pose immediately stiffened, expecting the worst. It wasn't as though I hadn't given him reason to react that way, but it still bothered me. Hopefully, my words would set him at ease again.

"I hope you know how grateful I am to all of you for what you've each sacrificed for Bella and me," I began.

"Edward, you don't have to—" Carlisle interjected, but I raised my hand to let him know I wasn't finished.

"Please, I need to say this," I told him, keeping my voice soft to help ease his worry.

He smiled and nodded for me to continue.

"It hasn't been the easiest year for any of us. I often feel like I am the most selfish man that ever lived for all the havoc I have caused: falling in love with Bella, almost exposing us, nearly getting my family killed, turning Bella, and uprooting all of you as well as Bella. As if that was not enough, my actions made it so that the only way out was for us to all be apart just so the wounds could heal. I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused, but I must tell you, I can't say that I would change any of it. If I could spare anyone any pain, of course I would, but I cannot imagine my life without Bella in it." I took an unnecessary breath as I looked at my brothers and father.

Jasper smiled kindly as he put his hand to my shoulder. "No one has struggled internally as much as you have. Though we couldn't see it at the time, the decisions you made were the right ones for you and Bella. She has given us all a new appreciation of the life we chose to lead and for each other—we love her as our own, Edward. It's why we fought for the unity of our family and why we would do it again in an instant."

"Yeah, Bro," Emmett agreed, nodding his head enthusiastically. "We may not always understand you, or what gets your panties in a bunch, but we always love you and back you up. We do what we have to do to survive as a family. And besides, you managed to pick a girl who was able to soften my Rosie. Now if that isn't worth kicking some Volturi ass, I don't know what is!" he laughed.

I ran my hands through my wet hair as I took their words in, momentarily left speechless by the depth of their devotion to both Bella and me. "I owe you all just the same," I finally managed.

Carlisle smiled and put his arm around my shoulders, his thoughts full of admiration for the bond between his sons, and love for each member of his family.

Esme's distinct "voice" filled my own mind for a brief moment. "Mom would like for us to join them," I announced.

We were out of the pool, somewhat dry, and in the den in seconds. The girls had all changed and were lounging on the overstuffed couches. In one fluid motion, Alice was up from the sofa and had bounced over to Jasper, showing off the new locket and blouse Esme had surprised her with.

Rose showed Emmett the very expensive heels and bag she was given, careful to keep them from his massive body. He hadn't dried off as well as the rest of us and water droplets covered his hair and shoulders.

Bella sat the closest to Esme and had that look she got whenever she was gifted something she felt was too much. I sat next to her and cupped her chin. "What is it, love?" I asked.

She leaned down toward the large box at her feet, pulling out a flannel shirt and hugging it in her arms. The scent from the shirt swirled around us and I smiled at the little piece of Charlie my mother had brought to Bella. I sifted through the box, seeing that it was filled with many of her belongings from her room, including CDs and the pictures she'd had of us. There were also pictures of Bella's parents—it seemed Esme had thought of everything.

"It smells like him," Bella whispered, sounding as stunned as I felt. "Esme, there is nothing I could possibly say to fully thank you for this. This is more than I could have imagined," Bella said softly.

"You are most welcome, dear girl," Esme replied, patting her cheek. "But there is also something new for you in this." Esme reached into the box and pulled out a smaller one before Bella could reply. "This one is from Carlisle. He saw this on the way here and could not resist."

Bella fingers trembled slightly as she opened the cardboard box. She gasped softly as I helped her to remove her gift. It was a jewelry box made of dark cherry wood and emblazed with a very intricate swirl carving. A small silver oval sat in the middle, embossed with the words "Bella Cullen".

She gasped again as her fingertips lightly brushed over her name.

"Open it, Bella," Carlisle urged as he sat on the other side of her, placing his hand on her back.

Bella bit her lip and then slowly lifted the lid. "Claire De Lune" began to play as a little white swan came into view and swirled to the melody. I was surprised by how much this gesture to the woman I loved affected me.

Once again, Bella had reason to gasp. Nestled in the soft red velvet of the box was an exquisite titanium bracelet with the Cullen crest shining out at us. She lifted the bracelet carefully, turning it over in her hands. Our eyes were drawn to the three initials engraved on the underside of the crest.

Bella looked up at Carlisle about to ask what they stood for, but I answered before she could part her lips. "Isabella Masen Cullen," I said as Carlisle and I helped her to put it on.

She then reached over and hugged Carlisle tightly. "Thank you Carlisle," she whispered into his neck.

"I know I'm not your father, Bella, nor would I ever be able to replace such a great man. But you are like a daughter to me now, and well, I wanted you to have something that represented that from me." He smiled and kissed her forehead. "We all welcome you to our family whole-heartedly and look forward to a long life together."

"Thank you. All of you," Bella said softly, sitting up to face the rest of us. Her warm eyes were filled with emotion and she very humanly wiped at them, knowing in her mind that her hand would come away dry, but feeling too much in her heart to still the gesture. "I am so grateful to all of you for everything you have sacrificed for me and for Edward. Taking care of Charlie when I couldn't was more than I could ever ask for. Thank you," she said, smiling for everyone.

"Bella, we're family and this is what family does for one another," Alice replied sweetly.

"We did what had to be done to ensure that we could go on living as we do, and that all of those we care for were safe. That included Charlie and your mom," Jasper added.

"We will always make sure that they are cared for and safe from harm," Carlisle finished. "Thankfully, the wolves are a great help in that department."

Bella slipped her arms inside of her father's shirt and then nestled herself against my side. 'I miss him, Edward.'

'If there had been any other way, Bella—'

"I know, Edward. But is he really safe? Is Renee?" she asked aloud.

"Well, boys, here are your gifts from us," Esme interrupted, sensing that Bella was beginning to sadden at the thought of her parents needing more protection. Esme handed each of us a box, focusing the attention in the room onto our gifts.

Jasper and Alice opened his large rectangular gift, revealing a Civil War chess set. "This is amazing!" he exclaimed, taking it fully out of the box. "Bella, can you play chess?"

"No," she chuckled. "But I bet Edward and Alice can."

"They cheat," Jasper said, frowning at Alice and me.

"It's not cheating," I defended. "We just have unique advantages that don't turn off."

Emmett finally ripped into his gift, somehow managing not to damage the more delicate box that had been hiding inside. He lifted the lid and revealed a set of collector's knives. The hilts were made of buck antlers and had a Grizzly Bear hand-carved into each one.

"Whoa, this is badass!" Emmett bellowed, spinning the knives in his hands masterfully.

"Emmett, watch your mouth. And yes, yes they are bada—wonderful," Esme said, laughing at her almost slip-up.

I opened my own gift and found the most exquisite cufflinks. Set against a thin sliver of topaz was a lion's face, made of shiny titanium. The lions appeared to be roaring as they looked out with their sapphire eyes.

I smiled wide as I passed them to Bella and regarded my parents. "Thank you both. They're beautiful."

Esme's smile covered her face completely. "We hope you all enjoy your gifts. Carlisle and I wanted to make sure you all knew just how much we missed each of you." She leaned to the side and caressed Rose's cheek, beaming at her daughter. "This time apart has made us all acutely aware of how precious our family is."

Once we'd all passed around our gifts for the others to see, Carlisle stood and cleared his throat. "Well, it's been a long day for all us. I think I'll head up to my study and unpack."

"Good idea, honey," Esme agreed. "And I should see to the rest of our luggage."

With a few more hugs, kisses, and gentle words, our family dispersed into their own separate quarters, leaving Bella and me alone in the den. My head rested on her lap as she lounged on the couch, running her fingers through my hair.

"Today was a very good day," she said softly.

"Indeed it was," I replied, kissing the back of her free hand. We continued to lie about, content to just be with each other.

Before I knew it, dawn was creeping into the windows across from us. I leaned my head back to look at Bella and she smiled at down at me, caressing my chest.

"Careful, my love, you might start something there," I sighed.

A mischievous grin formed on her beautiful face as her tiny fingers continued to stroke my skin.

I slid a hand behind her head and pulled her down to me, kissing her lips in earnest. Her eager response spurred me on and I turned, managing to pull her body under mine at the same time. She sighed with pleasure at the contact.

"I love you Edward," she whispered breathily. Her words, so soft and tender, made me stop for a moment.

I caressed her angelic face, letting my fingers ghost against her silky smooth skin. "I adore you, Bella. For the rest of my days, I will love you," I promised kissing her sweetly. A soft sound from outside garnered my attention and I smiled as an idea quickly formed in my mind. "Let's go outside," I suggested.

"What, now?" she asked, bewildered that I would interrupt this intimate moment.

"Trust me, Lady," I said, wiggling my eyebrows and getting her to giggle.

We stepped into the garden just as the sun rose high enough to illuminate the grounds, turning the visible sky a light pink. Rain clouds loomed overhead and a light mist surrounded us, giving the feel that we were hidden in this part of the garden.

Bella giggled as she dashed away, hiding behind a marble statue in the middle of the rose bushes. Her mahogany hair managed to shimmer even in this dim light. I playfully chased her around the garden and under the low hanging branches of the outlying trees.

I finally caught up to her as the rain started to fall a little harder; still only a strong drizzle. I held her in my arms, the world around us disappearing as I gazed into her loving eyes. We began to move slowly in a small circle, dancing to our own tune.

"Bella, thank you," I said before I even realized I was going to speak.

"What for?" she asked, her eyebrows drawing together from her confusion.

"For giving me the life I never thought possible for myself," I replied.

"Well then I should thank you for the same," she said, kissing me softly.

My thoughts relayed my amusement as I alerted Bella of the change in our little world. 'It seems we have an audience, my love.'

'I know. She's been watching most of the time,' Bella thoughts informed me as she continued our kiss.

We both looked up to the second story balcony, not surprised to find Alice smiling coyly at us. We were, however, curious about the envelope she was waiving around in her hand.

"What are you up to now, little sister?" I called out.

"You guys should get out of the rain and come take a look at this," she replied as she turned and pranced back into the house.

I lifted Bella's hand from my shoulder and pressed a kiss to the back of it. "Shall we?"

"Please," she replied, giving me a little curtsy.

I kept her hand in mine and led her back into the house to join the others. Alice met us at the door, tossing each of us a towel.

"This was just delivered," Alice chirped, spinning in a circle so that everyone saw the envelope. "It's going to be so much fun!"

"For God's sake, woman, what is it?" Emmett asked gruffly.

Alice's smile broadened and her golden eyes twinkled in the early morning light. She seemed very pleased with whatever news was contained within that envelope—and determined to make me wait with everyone else to find out.