Chapter summary: Well, at least I don't love the thing. That would make killing her really hard, now, wouldn't it? If I loved her, it would just destroy me to kill her, so I simply must not allow myself to love her. No matter what.

WARNING: Contains another NSFW scene. Contains blasphemous thoughts toward God. Contains our girl crying (big surprise), and contains rather surprisingly mushy romantic syrupy thoughts of one of the characters. Well, she's surprised by it, anyway.


I did not know, in my eternity, that I could feel the passage of time so acutely, but this night seemed to make me pay for each second as time grudging crawled ever-so-slowly forward.

But the worst of it was over. It had to be. I had become ensnared in the girl's song, then I was complete free from her, ... and then, in another way, in a much worse way, I wasn't.

That last part was rather crushing for me. I am a Hale; I am sufficient unto myself. I cannot, I must not, allow another's fate to entwine with mine. Especially a mortal's. Especially in this Eternal Now.

Edward was right to maintain his independence in that Cullen family: the way Carlisle's every decision depended on Esmé and the way that Esmé seemed to be attached to Carlisle was simply embarrassing. Mates, two 'dependant vampires,' was a term too ludicrous to contemplate: immortal and unstoppable beings so reduced to the mush that Carlisle and Esmé are just was an offense to what our existence served.

But then, to what end did our existence serve? More importantly, to what end did my existence serve? More importantly to me, that is, so why contemplate any other perspective? Mine was, after all, the most important, because listening to the perspectives of others was simply a waste of time.

Don't believe me? Talk with Carlisle. But be prepared for a long and patronizing talk.

...

If one were to talk to Carlisle, one would find that, according to him, everything served a purpose. That purpose? God's plan, of course.

Carlisle was quite the Godly man ... I meant: Godly vampire.

Another oxymoron: first there was 'dependant vampire' then there was 'Godly vampire.' With Carlisle, he was never satisfied with being 'just' a vampire. He had to be a vampire with qualifications and caveats. He was always limiting himself and everyone that he could come into contact with.

With Carlisle, he never embraced himself and his true nature. He was always embracing God, denying his true nature. And to what end?

I asked him about this once, after one of his daily prayer sessions. I say that so casually, having been exposed to it so often as to take the shock of it away, but, really! I mean, vampires praying?

"Do you expect God to answer your prayers?" I had asked him.

Carlisle obviously believed we had souls — he turned out to be correct about that, I had found that out to my horror this last night — but God didn't answer the prayers of every soul. The damned souls in Hell are beyond redemption: God doesn't answer their prayers. Or they cannot pray. Doesn't matter: the result is the same. So, okay, we have souls, but haven't we been eternally judged to walk the earth in this unliving state? To walk the Earth assigned to the dominion of Satan? Are we not, therefore, damned, too? Why, then, would Carlisle pray?

His response surprised me.

"I don't pray to get answers from God," he smiled kindly as he gave me this quiet answer.

So, he was agreeing with me?

"So, why ... ?" I was curious ... I shouldn't have been, knowing Carlisle.

"Rosalie, reread Job, it is God who asks the questions. We provide the answers. I don't pray to get answers from God. I don't pray to get God to change His Plan for me. No, I pray to live answers worthily. I pray, not to change God to my will, to change me to His, to live His Plan."

"But, Carlisle, we're vampires. We don't live; we don't change. We are what we are."

I really shouldn't have bothered. I really should have heard the gobbledygook he was spouting, thanked him, and spent that slice of eternity less wastefully. But no. We Hales just don't leave wrongs lying, do we?

His answer was a cryptic smile.

So much for leaving well enough alone.

We were still living in Rochester at the time when we had this exchange, so I didn't know then that Carlisle was just the titular head of the Cullen coven, but looking at his weak, ineffectual way of talking, I should have been able to have figured out that he was no leader. He didn't help at all. Not at all. He just sat there, prosing and smiling.

Men. So useless. What a waste! I wondered why God even created them.

...

Well, if Carlisle was no help, God was much less so, for He was just like Carlisle, cryptic and useless and random. If it was His Plan that I be turned to be Edward's mate then His Plan was bunk. If His Plan was something else entirely, He sure wasn't helping me understand what it was.

Please, God, show me Your Plan. What is my purpose?

Nothing.

Was it to kill Royce and his friends? Couldn't be that, because murder was a no-no. Was it to show vampires could abstain? Carlisle was a better example than me, for he was a practicing physician.

Was it to save the lives of the humans in the mid-West and Carlisle's coven from the wrath of the Volturi by carrying off this girl before she could expose us to the world? That made sense, but it didn't.

If that was my rôle, why was there all this agony for her ... and, I must admit grudgingly, for me ... associated with it?

God was just like Carlisle. He had this plan, but He was keeping it all to himself with his idiotic cryptic smile.

But I now recall hearing something from the pulpit at service that we Hales attended every Sunday. We had our own designated pews, too. After all, we had to show forth a good example for the commoners: the Hales are Godly people who attend service. You should, too, it builds character and commendable ethics: such as 'work hard,' and 'respect your betters,' and whatever else those commoners needed in order to know their place and to stay in line.

Well, that minister had said: "the image of God we have is our own fathers." The minister went on to say that we should therefore love and respect our own fathers so we have a better relationship with God, but I took away something entirely different that Sunday, looking at Father, so strong, so imposing, so perfect, so remote.

What I took away was this: God was in Heaven, and we were down here. He didn't give a fig about us, and we had to fend for ourselves, to make our own way.

And it was true. It was so true. I found that out in that dark alley between Vera's house on cheapside and our own mansion on the West End.

God didn't give a God-damn about me. And that was fine, because as I snuffed out those animals, one by one, God still didn't give a God-damn about me, and He sure as Hell better have not given a God-damn about them.

For, if I were to be destroyed, and, before Oblivion consumed me, I were to see any of those monsters' faces in Heaven, I would ... ah! ... I would rend Heaven, pillar by pillar, just as Samson did in the temple of the Philistines. I would walk right up to God, right past the Cherubim He was sitting on, right past the Seraphim praising Him, and I would rip His Face right off.

That would get His attention, all right! He would notice me then, to be sure.

But God didn't care about those monsters, and He didn't care about me. Or I thought He didn't care about me, that is, until Carlisle, the "Father" of the Cullen "family," came along.

And then I realized that God cared about me in the same perverse way that Carlisle chose to change me. God was just like Carlisle: perverse, random, "kind," but ultimately ineffectual.

Because now I did know why God created the monster that was me: my whole existence served this one purpose; this one purpose in my arms now.

I looked down at her, remembering the ... the feelings I felt while I ...

No, that's not right. These feelings were just base self-gratification. My purpose wasn't her; it was to take her away. It wasn't her at all, it was for the greater good of the people of this area and for the vampires, good vampires, as much as I hated the thought of that idea, and as much as I hated them, personally. It was for them that I existed.

I was just a tool, an instrument, for the greater good.

God was using me. That's all.

Well, God is Just, isn't He? God is Fair. I had, after all, used this girl just now for my own self-gratification. God had probably foreseen that and said, "Hey, the vampire used the girl, so I can use the vampire for My Plan."

God's Plan! God's little happy Plan where the greater good is served by this cold vampire that nobody loves and the world is better off without.

I hate God.

God, I hate God for creating me simply to serve His stupid little plan. I hate God. I hate this troublesome girl that I'm holding so gently, and ...

I hate myself.

Why couldn't I have turned out differently? Why did I have to be this heartless and cruel monster that I am? Had I ever not been this cold and this beautiful thing that I've always been? Did I ever have a choice in the matter? And if I did, would I have ever chosen differently?

"Oh, Rosalie, you can be the Belle of Rochester, admired by all, the world at your feet, or you can be this nothing girl from this nothing town with this nothing will. What do you choose?"

I mean, look at her! — but don't look at her too critically, because she'll burst into tears — all I have to do is state one thing about my nature, that I forget nothing in this Eternity, and she collapses in a heap!

Me, Rosalie Hale, collapsing because somebody says they have perfect memory? The impossibility of that occurring cannot even be imagined!

My choice in the matter is obvious.

Oh, before you cast stones, I dare you to ask that question of yourself.

Which would you choose? Have it all, or be a nothing? Be honest!

... I see honesty isn't a coin that's being minted much these days. You can put down those rocks, now. Wouldn't do you much good anyway these days, given my physical manifestation.

So I would never choose to be her, but, then, why do I feel beholden to her? This thought is totally inconceivable. I don't love her at all

... yet ...

but still I feel this ... attachment to her that ...

I must free myself of this. My judgement must be clear and unimpeded; it cannot be clouded by any external bond. Look what happened to me when I allowed myself to be aligned with Royce!

But how do I free myself when I've already imagined us together, intimately? Of course, she is not aware of my feelings and what I did; I can try to pretend that this moment never occurred, and never repeat it. But, I know my resolve: I felt it melting after I made myself that promise, looking at her beautiful, heart-shaped face. And this is when she is still asleep. I know myself, if she were awake and gave me one of her pleading looks, it would be over. I cannot seem to resist her.

But I did! During her most recent dream, I did resist her! It was during her most recent dream, her dream that started all this trouble that I was able to maintain control of myself and not wake her and not ...

Well, let's not be too hasty. Dawn is nearly breaking, so I have a few moments to recall what happened during this dream of hers and cement in my mind exactly what I did to resist her, and thereby free myself of this terrible anticipatory connection to the mortal.

Let's see. She murmured something about her affection for her horse ...

...

When she had done that, she had started tossing, and then held me more tightly to her, and then she said something that seemed odd at first: "The flowers: so beautiful!"

This made me think perhaps that she was dreaming of the bouquet that Edward, the meddling and foolish boy, had left her, but it didn't appear to be that, for she buried her head into my chest and started breathing deeply. Her scent is floral, but so is mine, and when she murmured something about honeysuckle, I knew what she was dreaming about.

Me.

Of course, I was the topic of her conversation just before she dropped off, so it could follow that I would be the topic of her dreams, but I didn't know what was my strongest reaction: pleasure at being the star of this little captive's dream, ire, ... or trepidation.

I dismissed the last one immediately: what need I fear of being in this little girl's dream? The only harm she had ever caused so far was to herself, and she wasn't very good at doing even that!

I should have paid more attention to this concern, and much less to my pride, knowing now what came.

Hm. What came.

Then she drew in a sharp gasp of air, as if surprised, and reached down and attempted to pull up my night shirt.

This, of course, I could not allow. I do not know what surprised her in her dream, but I could not see in any way that taking off my shirt would ease her troubled sleep. I held my shirt down, but then she hooked both of her hands under the shirt and pulled with all her might.

The shirt was coming up. The only question was if it would come up ripped or whole. I eased my resistance, and the shirt went up to my chest. But you can be sure I was very watchful of what she would do next.

It turns out her gesture was innocent, or appeared to be that way, for what she did next was simply to rest her temple on my stomach and then to heave a contented sigh.

Oh, yes, that's right: she had mentioned as I held her — after I had leapt to kill her, that is — that she was experiencing some kind of agony. Her temple and cheek resting on my stomach was hot — oh, so hot, so thankfully hot, that is: so thankfully above room temperature — perhaps she had a headache and the coldness that I am soothed her pain?

Such a delicate creature! It is simple astounding that a few degrees difference in their internal temperature could incapacitate or even kill. For us, we have no temperature, so that doesn't matter, and, further, rip us into pieces and each piece still functions: the hand still grasps in a crushing grip, the mouth still bites, the legs can still kick through a stone wall.

And I wondered why. Why make these creatures so frail when other higher forms, such as the angels, and their opposite, us, are immortal and indestructible?

Was this another manifestation of the perversity of God's Plan at work? Was she made weak and I made strong so that I could be her ...

No, that cannot possibly be the case. There is nothing between us, so I cannot be anything to her or for her.

Whatsoever the reason, I was strangely thankful, for the first time, of my nature ... well, of the coldness of my nature, that is. Finally there was something in me that actually helped and did not hurt in this girl's recovery process.

Healing venom — so long as it did not come into contact with blood — and a (lack of) body temperature that helps reduce fever.

But I didn't see this as anything I could submit to the Journal of the American Medical Association. And I didn't see me talking to Carlisle anytime soon about this, either, because there'd be all those embarrassing question from Edward, and Edward himself, that I'd need to dodge first.

So my coldness eased her pain, but it didn't, perversely, push her away, as it should. As it does for any other being. No, contrarian that she is, she drew closer to my coldness, my alienness.

Any separation between us would have to come from me then. For her dreams ... well, they didn't show my true nature to her, for if they did, she would awaken from the nightmare that is me, ... to me, her waking nightmare. Yes, it would be I that kept a distance, and it was her most recent dream that showed me how to do it, how to keep distant from her, even as she threw herself at me, in every possible way.

How had I done it? When she had pulled up my night shirt and rested her cheek and temple on me, I thought that temptation was hard enough to resist. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the episode.

The episode continued innocuously enough with her talking. She said: "Heaven!" So I wondered what she was dreaming. Was she dreaming of her own death? Did she see her final destination?

I hoped so. She had to die; I had to kill her. Nothing in this night changed any of this, but it did my non-beating heart some good — a world of good — to know that her eternity would be better than mine.

Why?

Why was her fate so important to me? After all, she was this nothing mortal, coming into our sphere entirely by chance. Yes, she was my responsibility now, so, in that regard, everything about her was important to me, but after I had released her from this life, that would end my responsibility, so why would I care about her final disposition?

As much as I reflected on this, I didn't have an answer to that question.

But while I was meditating on this, she said something quietly, and then she did it.

Lightning quick, her tiny hand slipped nimbly under my pajama bottoms.

Her little mortal hand was so fast, and I was so lost in my thoughts, that I didn't know what was going on enough to stop her.

And, unimpeded, her hand went right to my vagina, and my mind finally processed her murmured words.

She had whispered: "May I touch it?"

I almost killed her. I almost gasped in a breath of air from the twin shocks of what she had said and from her delicate touch. And if I had taken in the air with her scent in it? With my barely contained control? I would have lifted her up; I would have brought her neck right to my mouth and drained her of every irresistibly sweet drop of blood that I could, even before I realized it, or, even if I realized it.

That was her blood to me now: even if I cared, its call was so much more powerful than merely caring and merely control.

But she did so much more than just touch me.

I felt the knuckles of her fingers gentle brush down, gently brushing between my labia, and I froze, in shock, in place, for any sudden movement on my part would instantly crush her or cause her severe internal damage. I froze in place, but that didn't stop me from reacting. I felt my vagina lubricate, and I felt my wetness on her fingers.

Her fingers, when they had stroked to the bottom on my vagina, reversed direction, and her fingertips brush upwards ...

... and then, oh, so gently, sunk ever so slightly in.

And she sighed. She sighed in pure and serene bliss.

And I came.

For the first time in my life, I came. Not from the experienced hands of a world-wise lover, not from the power and strength and smoothness from one of our kind, but from the soft, and gentle, and sweet, and warm, and fragile, and clumsy hands of this innocent and unknowing mortal girl.

I came, frozen, locked into place, not daring to move, not daring to breathe, not even allowing the contractions, as they pushed through me, to squeeze my vaginal lips. If I did allow that? With her little fingers, inside me now? They wouldn't be fingers anymore. So I couldn't quake as the ecstasy washed over me, and I couldn't gasp or scream, or anything. All I could do is remain immobile as the waves washed over me.

And they did wash over me, and I felt ...

... cleansed.

I felt renewed, and I was awed by it.

Oh! I thought, this is how it was supposed to be. This is how it truly is.

And I now was able to see my experience with Royce and the others truly, dispassionately, for what it was. It was not sex, it was not an act of love.

With them, it was truly nothing. It truly did not matter to me.

They had touched me, but they did not touch me any more. I had thought that my revenge killings would expiate their act, but it didn't, it only made everything worse.

I now realized that hate didn't erase hate.

What they had done truly no longer touched me.

This little girl had done what I was unable to do. She had healed me. She had purified me.

And now I did want to grab her, and to bring her up to me, face to face, and to shake her roughly until she did awake, but not to drain her of her blood, but to thank her.

She had saved me from an eternity of living in this shame and agony. And I wanted to tell her this. I wanted to wake her and to kiss her and to tell her so much that I lov-...

NO!

No. No. No.

I cannot love her. I simply cannot. If I were to love her, then I would love her.

Saying that doesn't make sense, but I knew exactly what I meant, and God knew exactly what I meant, too. Are you listening, God? You Bastard! You know what I mean, don't You?

If I were to love her, then I would tie myself to her, eternally. If I were to do that, then killing her would prove to be rather difficult now, wouldn't it? Actually, it wouldn't, just a very light push from my hand on her chest, and she would be dead within seconds.

No, killing her would be as easy as it ever was. What would be difficult would be my existence afterward: I would have to find Edward, or I would have to present myself to the Volturi, or I would have to find an obliging vampire somewhere, and I would have to ask them to destroy me.

And I would have to do this before I went completely mad. Before I started crossing the world, looking for her. Before I started killing, and killing, and killing, ... unstoppably, callously, indiscriminately.

I could not love her. I could not allow myself to be tied to her. I could not allow myself to be tied to anyone. I could not allow this terrible future with this terrible and forlorn monster to happen.

I was done with her. I was done with attachments. I was grateful for what she just gave me, but that was it.

Period.

She had other plans than that, however. I may have been done with her, but she wasn't done with me. Her little hand cupped my vagina still not quaking from the orgasm, and she started to pull herself down to me, her lips reaching for my lips.

This had to stop. Right now. I was barely managed to maintain control through what was caused by the lightest of her touches ... for her to do what I think she, unconsciously, was planning to do?

My frozen hands reacted quickly, grabbed her by her shoulders and threw her struggling form down on the bed beside me.

Gently, I reminded myself, gently, oh, so gently!

She didn't know what she was doing. She couldn't know what she was doing, so I shouldn't punish her for her unconscious action, and if I wasn't gentle, I would have thrown her right through the bed.

Actually, I didn't wish to punish her. What I wanted to do was to wake her. What I wanted to do was to give her the experience she just gave me. I wanted to give her that release she gave me. I couldn't do that. I knew I couldn't do that, because she hadn't suffered as I had, so she couldn't possibly experience the redemptive release that she had just given to me. But I could return pleasure for pleasure. I could do that for her.

But I wouldn't do that, either.

Would she want me to do this? Yes. Obviously ... or so I gathered from her actions now. But were her actions reliable?

No. I had to be honest with myself: they were not reliable. She was deep into her dream. Furthermore, I had made her so inebriated that she couldn't even walk across the room. And, most importantly, she was lost in this fantasy that I was something that I obviously wasn't.

I wasn't this kind caretaker that she imagined me to be to her. I was a monster. I am a monster: a monster that will kill her.

If I were to wake her, and if I were to take her, she would give herself to me willingly now. But when she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes in the morning, when the effects of the alcohol wore off, ...

She would regret it. And she would see me for what I truly am.

A monster. A monster three times worse than Royce ever was. For Royce had taken me, forcefully, but he had taken me whilst I had still had my free will to fight him. I lost, but I still resisted, I still fought for my dignity, my self. My soul.

This girl, if I woke her now, she wouldn't fight. She would acquiesce. Willingly. And in acquiescing, later, she would place the blame and guilt squarely on her own shoulders. Squarely where it didn't belong. Because it would be I that had taken advantage of her thrice-fold weakened will.

The blame would be entirely mine. But this was one thing her giving nature would not allow, she would not release the blame for me to take. No, she would keep it all to herself, and the blame would eat her from the inside out. Consuming her. Consuming her soul, and she would die a wretched death, going to Hell comsumed with this guilt that wasn't even properly hers. My blame would send her straight to the fiery pits.

So I would not wake her now, so that I could not "thank" her, inappropriately, now.

I would not "thank" her, ever. I could not.

But I could treasure this gift she had given me. I could treasure the peace and the release she had bequeathed to me, forever.

But I couldn't do that right at this moment, because she still struggled against me, fruitlessly, of course, to try to attack me again. So I had to concentrate on keeping her off me while at the same time not hurting her while doing that. To be sure, however, I would not let her close to me, and there was nothing physical that she could possibly do to effect that.

So she changed her attack, using a tactic I would have never expected. One that I was not prepared to defend against.

"Rose!" she cried piteously.

And I absolutely froze, her wrists grasped in my steel-trap hands. Nobody called me 'Rose.' Only those who loved me, that is, nobody, called me 'Rose.' She didn't know this. She couldn't have known this.

But she had just called me 'Rose.'

She must have sensed my hesitancy, for she did it again, pressing her advantage.

"Rose," she began.

No.

"please, ..." she pleaded.

No! I pleaded right back, but to whom did I plead?

"... please let me in!" she finished.

What? She had just said 'please let me in!' What did that mean?

I realized, with relief, that it didn't matter what that meant. She had been mumbling something before about a garden or a temple or a garden temple. Whatever it was, it wasn't me. She wasn't dreaming of me; she wasn't calling to me. It was just some dream that she was dreaming. That was all.

I relaxed from my frozen position with relief. She wasn't dreaming of ...

"Rose!" she wailed again.

Not me, I reminded myself, almost desperately.

"I...I..." She was stuttering in her dream, whatever it was — not me! — it must have some powerful effect on her.

"I love you," she sighed.

No.

It was me. She was dreaming of me. She was dreaming of me, and she said she loved me.

She loved me. She really, truly loved me. She loved me with her entire being: asleep and awake.

She loved me.

And I ...

NO!

... truly ...

No, God, please! NO! I cannot love her! I cannot!

I began feverishly praying to God. Just like Carlisle, that I had so scornfully mocked the idiocy of it: a vampire praying to God! What was the point?

Now I knew the point. I knew it with all my might, and I prayed with everything that I could, but I prayed the opposite prayer the Carlisle was always praying, that idiot, that fool, God's Fool, the vampire, Carlisle. My prayer was not so that I would be changed. No, my prayer was to beg God not to change me. For there was one case where a vampire did change: when a vampire fell in love. So I prayed with all my might that God not change me.

And God answered my prayer. Exactly the way I didn't want Him to.

Why?

The question could have only come from God. It stunned me, but what was worse — what was so much worse — was I didn't have an answer for God. Why couldn't I love her? I didn't know, so I thrashed about in desperation, hoping that an answer — any answer — would suffice.

Because ... because ...

Come on, Rosalie! Come on! Think of something, anything, RIGHT NOW!

Because she is mortal, and I am a vampire; we aren't even the same species!

Love, obviously, cannot transcend species. Obviously.

God's answer was chiding: She has a soul, and you have a soul, Rosalie.

I was so proud of myself — wasn't I! — when I set Edward in his place about the existence of the vampire's soul. How could I know, smugly reveling in my victory over that smug boy, that my own arguments would now be used against me?

Besides, God continued, Love transcends All; Love permeates All.

Implied in His Lordly Preaching was the subtext: I sent my Uncreated Son to save the created things. God's "Soul," the Holy Ghost, was Love, and loved every soul in the world.

He always did have to rub that in our faces ... didn't He? The Big Jerk.

God, the Creator that transcended species, loved every species, so my flimsy excuse of her species and mine being different didn't hold any water with Him.

But, I pleaded, but ... there's no way we can have children! We cannot love if we cannot be fruitful, and I added accusingly: as You commanded.

Let's see Him answer that one!

An image of Carlisle and Esmé flashed into my mind.

Love includes procreation, but is much more than that, Rosalie.

Even God didn't love me. Even God called me 'Rosalie,' not 'Rose.'

But she loves you, He responded instantly, the sound of her 'Rose, I love you,' still making waves through this tiny cabin.

No, I demanded.

She needs you, God was relentless.

No! I begged.

Do you love her?

NO! Please, God, no! Please, please, don't do this to me! I screamed. Eternity in the thrall of this little, weak, frail mortal? That was a burden I could not bear. No vampire could, Hale or no.

Nothing. Silence.

God was gone.

God was gone, but the girl was still being held away from me by the barrier of my impossibly strong stony arms. Her struggling had ceased.

Had I changed?

No.

No, I hadn't changed.

Oh, thank God! Thank you, God! Thank you!

"Yeah ... well ..." the girl moaned in defeat. It was if she had participated as an observer in the dialogue between God and me. It was if she knew what had transpired, and she had lost all that she ever wanted, all that had ever mattered to her ... all that ever would matter to her.

But that was okay. She was safe from me, so everything was oka-...

"Nah ..." she breathed out.

No, everything had to be okay. She was safe from me, and I was safe from her, so everything could continue as if there was nothing between us. Because the emptiness inside my being told me that. There was nothing between us, and that was just as it should be. So, everything was A-O-...

"No, Pa, I'm not okay! Okay? I'M NOT OKAY!" she wailed. Then she wept into my shoulder.

No, it would be ...

Wait. She said 'Pa'? 'Pa,' as in the familiar form of 'Father'? ... as in 'Abba'?

She was praying to God, but her prayer was that of a child to her father. And what father could resist the entreaty of his little girl? Especially if that prayer came from a girl like this one, lost, afraid, sad, alone and lonely?

That was easy to answer. God would. God had ignored my entreaties as I was raped, as I lay dying, as I was changed.

God didn't give a damn about me. God didn't give a damn about anything or anyone. God was just like my father. Remote, imperial, distant.

Or God was just like my new "father," Carlisle: capricious, cryptic, not callous, just too involved in other things to care to deign to explain His confusing Plan to us lowly pawns.

Either way, God didn't care about me, and He didn't care about this little girl in my arms. So that gave me all the reason I needed not to care about her, not to love her. Not that way. "God is Love" and all that, but so what? What did that mean for us down here on Earth? What did that mean to us vampires cursed eternally to walk this Earth, separated from Him?

Nothing.

It meant nothing; just what this girl would mean to me: nothing.

...

Ah! Of course, reflecting on her dream, now I saw I could resist her charms and allurements. She meant nothing to me. I looked down at her beautiful, heart-shaped face, and looked away quickly. Yes, nothing, I reassured myself.

It was a good thing, too. When she had acted out her dream, and she had touched me there and I felt the waves of the orgasm washing through me, cleansing me, I had wanted to wake her. I had wanted to wake her, and kiss her in gratitude.

That would have been a mistake, now, wouldn't it have been? Because if I kissed her, that would've meant I loved her, and besides those two little non-kiss pecks on the her cheeks out in the forest by the Belle Fourche, I hadn't kisse-...

Oh, God. No!

Eternity is cruel. Eternity is relentless. Eternity doesn't let you forget anything. Not one thing. Ever.

For I had kissed her. I had truly kissed her. I had been repressing that image, ignoring it, but now it was right in front of me in this eternity, and I could no longer ignore it.

After our "little chat" in the forest where I had corrected her ignorant pronouncement, calling me kind ... for a vampire, I had put her to bed, and I had kissed her on her forehead, the worry lines on her brow disappearing into a calming sleep.

I had kissed her. Tenderly. Lovingly.

For I did love her then.

No, that's not right. That kiss was not the declaration of my love; it was the declaration of a love already abiding. For I loved her before that moment.

When she collapsed into a heap on the floor, that's when it happened, that's when I was changed. That's when I found out that I did have a heart, even though it wasn't beating anymore. I knew I had a heart, because it went out to her, that sweet little pile of a girl on the floor. That was the change: a piece of me, my heart, went out to her, and there it stays, forever. And I was compelled to reach out to my heart — to her — and take her into my arms, and hold her to me, her fragile little heart beating against my chest. Beating for both of us now. She had my heart then.

And she has my heart now.

I love her.

I looked down at her with this realization, confirming it.

Yes, it was true. It is true. I love her with all my heart.

No, that's not right: I don't have a heart anymore. I am now, truly, a heartless monster, for she had my heart now.

I love her with all my soul. I love her with all that I am.

I love her.

I cannot believe this. I love her. I didn't get to argue with God about me being a woman and she being a woman, for God had left me, mid-prayer. I could just feel Him slink off, muttering sarcastically, 'Figure it out for yourself, smart vampire.'

I couldn't bring up any more counter arguments, but they didn't matter anymore. What matters is that I love her, no matter how impossible that should be.

And I knew what it meant, too. It meant that I wanted what was best for her. I had thought the best for her would definitely not include me. Apparently God thought otherwise.

Apparently I had a new job: "Guardian Vampire." God was talking to me, but not to answer my plea. No, God was giving me my new job. He probably came down from Heaven to collect her guardian angel, saying that another immortal now was filling the rôle.

Great. Because I knew what the job description entailed. Getting this trouble-attractor to Heaven, come Hale or High Vampire. And I did love her, and I did want her happiness, and she could only be Happy if she was in Heaven.

And one sure way that she wouldn't get to Heaven? If she were to consummate her love for me.

But she was already attempting that in her sleep. If she were awake? If she knew my love for her?

She wouldn't even have to try. All she would have to do would be to bat her lashes and blush her blush, and I would have our clothes ripped off, hers and mine, throwing her right onto this bed from wherever she was standing in this cabin, or even if she were outside, for that matter.

She wouldn't even get to finish one of her ever available 'um's that would proceed her question of, 'Um, Rosalie,' — or Rose or whatever she wished to call me — 'what are you doing?' She wouldn't even get the first hummed syllable out before my lips sealed hers, before I pressed my body to hers, before my wanting, needing, action made it abundantly clear exactly what I was doing.

And after that consummation, what would stop the next time, ... and the next, ... and the next? Yes, what would stop her from falling further and further from Grace, now that I had forcefully presented to her exactly what I wanted from her, because now that I love her? I lusted for her all the more. This was not a platonic love, not even in the slightest. I love her, but I also wanted her. Did I ever want her! In fact, I wanted her right now. I could see now why Carlisle and Esmé were always going at it: they truly did love each other, in every way, and it expressed itself in their lovey-dovey talk, and it expressed itself very strongly in physical ways, too.

Just as it expressed itself in me in these ways, too. And at the first signal from her, I would take her, ... and she would give herself to me, in that moment of my unbridled passion. For the first time, she would give herself to me out of ... what? Her well of nearly infinite kindness? Out of her politeness? 'Oh, I didn't stop you, Rosalie,' — or Rose or whatever — 'because I felt it would be rude, and you looked so desperate, so I thought it would make you happy ...' So exactly in character for her, and all the other times that would follow? She would be giving from habit that I had created.

But in my taking her, I would defeat the perverse reason for my wretched existence. God gave me this love of her to cherish her, to protect her on this Earth so that she could get to Heaven, so she could be Happy. That's what Love is: the Happiness of the beloved. But she couldn't obtain heaven if she ... if I ...

I would just have to make sure she never sent me that signal then, wouldn't I?

But how to do that? For her dreams were already filled with acting out that love she felt for me: she would surely act out that love she felt if she knew that I lov-...

Oh, no.

Now I knew how I could keep her pure. Now I knew how I could keep her chaste. She could never know that I love her. If she didn't know I love her, she wouldn't act out on her feelings. In fact, I knew an even better way to make sure she never called to me in desire. Because if she felt the opposite ...

Because if she detested me. If she despised me. If she couldn't stand the sight of me.

If she hated me, she would never give me that come hither look. And she would stay pure. And she would go to Heaven.

I now knew what I needed to do. I needed to make her hate me. I needed to make her hate me more than anything in the world. I needed to make her hate me unto her dying breath. I needed to make her hate me forever.

I needed to make her hate me. Because I love her, she has to hate me.

For her own good.

Oh, God!

Now I knew God was a man, for He took selfish pleasure in torturing me. Men. I couldn't get away from them, even from On High.

The dawn was breaking, and she was stirring. I had to be strong now. After all, I was her guardian vampire: I had to be strong, and cold, and cruel ... for her.

But I love her.

And I only had this one second before she transitioned from the alpha of sleep to the beta of wakefulness. This one second is what I would take as my strength for the rest of the eternity from now on that would be my living hell on Earth. I gripped her tightly to me, locking my arms into place, covering her neck with them, and I sucked in a breath of air through my teeth, hoping that the less sensitive mouth, not my sensitive nose, would lessen the impact.

It didn't. My love for her had only worsened the bloodlust, doubling that desire, yet again. I now wanted her more than three hundred twenty times than what I wanted from any other human, and the agony of the need created an empty, burning, ache in what used to be my stomach, and my mouth pooled with venom. Well, since I love her, and, well, since she loves me, she wouldn't mind giving me some of her blood, would she?

No, she wouldn't, for she had said so herself.

But I love her.

I wanted her blood more than almost anything in the world, but I wanted this more than anything. In the whiteness I bent my neck until I felt my lips touch her ear, swallowed, hard o! the burn! — and I whispered so quietly I was sure she could not hear what I said, even if she were awake, "I love you."

I didn't know her name. I didn't know anything. I only knew this: I love her.

She didn't know. She could never know. But the vibration of my declaration echoed throughout the cabin. The walls knew. God knew. I knew. And that had to be enough for now. That had to be enough for eternity.

As the whiteness of my bloodlust faded as I held my breath, the breath of her in me, I looked down at her.

I was confused. Shouldn't she be different? Shouldn't she have, like, angel's wings, and be limned in light or something? Why wasn't she any different? Why was she still the just the most beautiful creature in the world? Why hadn't she changed?

And then I realized what had changed. I had changed. Those who said 'Love is blind' were themselves blind idiots who did not know true love. For love did not blind one. I had been blind before, missing her natural, innate beauty. But when had I truly seen her? I had seen her when the blindness of my conceit was lifted from my eyes by my love for her. For then I had truly seen her as she was. Beautiful. Kind. Sweet. Great-souled. Her.

And, with this realization, I wanted to do something.

I wanted to kiss her.

I wanted my lips to touch hers in the softest of kisses. A kiss of true love. And I looked down at her, and my lips reached toward hers, and ...

... and I stopped myself.

What if this were her first kiss? What if this were her first kiss, and it was wasted on me in her sleep? I shouldn't take that from her; I shouldn't take that from my beloved. My beloved. I savored those words in my mind. She should be able to give that freely to someone she loves, not stolen from her by a vampire that selfishly takes and takes and takes.

So I stopped myself. I would just have to be satisfied that I love her, and that I had told her.

Besides, she was waking now. I shoved her down, gently, to the position where she was most comfortable resting before, and steeled my nerve, and strengthened my resolve.

This was the first day of the rest of her very short life. This was my first day in my new eternity. This new eternity where I would have to make my beloved hate me with all that she was. And then, before the Volturi got to her, I would have to kill her.

For after all ...

For after all, that was the purpose of my existence.

For after all ...

I have a task to do. It is as simple as that.

Finis.