There are motivations behind every decision, every choice, every action. Whether it be cooking dinner or asking someone on date or extinguishing someone's life with your bare hands, there's a primary reason behind each of them. Some people assume others act for love, money, greed, need, or any of those things. They're not completely off base, but they are wrong. Everything and everyone is motivated by one thing and one thing only: Fear.
It's not desire that drives a man to pursue a woman. It's fear that someone else will get there first. It's not greed that drives someone to make money without concern for ethics. It's fear of not having enough, not being able to compete with a rival, not being able to win.
Hunger—whether it be for someone or something—is nothing more than the fear of starvation.
As I hold Bella, asleep, in my arms, I know that this is true. My actions have been guided by nothing but since we met nine months ago. My fears drove me—still drive me—more than anything else. Fear of Bella rejecting me, fear of losing her to any number of things from other men to acts of God to my own foolish nature, fear of never being enough, fear of her leaving me…To prevent it from paralyzing me, I let it guide me. If I fear her rejecting me, I become whatever it is that she wants. If I fear for her safety, I do anything to protect her. If I fear losing her to someone else, I do anything and everything to make her mine.
"Edward," she whispers, snuggling against my chest. Not for the first—or the last—time, the full force of how much I love this woman surrounds me, makes it hard to breathe. Her perfection overwhelms me. I'll gladly let it suffocate me so long as she's mine.
I hold her more closely and stare out the window. I'm not sure what time it is but it is still dark. Every second that passes leads me closer to the time in which the worst of my fears will be a memory. Soon, there will be nothing anyone can do to take her away from me. And everything that has brought us to this moment will have been worth it.
Chapter 1: The Walls My Father Built
It was raining. Again. I looked away from the windows, bored, and instead over the pile of untouched homework on my desk and pondered whether it was worth the effort to get up and start it, knowing that lack of intellectual stimulation would scarcely justify the physical exertion. There were only five days left of school before summer vacation. I didn't think I could handle much more than that. At least during summer, there were no annoyingly persistent high school girls with their shameless and inept attempts at flirting. I only had to suffer through one more mind-numbingly dull year of high school and then I was free to go to any college I wanted and perhaps those classes wouldn't leave me bored after five minutes.
Blindly, I reached for the remote to my sound system. Perhaps some music would alleviate the boredom, even if for only a moment. Chris Cornell's voice filled the room and I allowed my mind to drift from the unfinished homework, the unwashed laundry, and the unrelenting weather outside to fantasies of graduate school.
Neither of my parents would be pleased to see me waste my time this way. And, normally, neither would I. However, lately, it seemed harder to muster the appropriate enthusiasm for much of anything.
Somewhere between Cornell falling on black days and the day he tried to live, I managed to finish the damned homework. It wasn't pretty to listen to my mother if she caught me at dinner still needing to do it.
"Edward!" I looked up to see my twin sister, Alice, standing in my doorway with an amused smile on her face. I was surprised that she was acting so pleasantly. We argued the last three times we spoke.
She came in my room without waiting for an invitation, but I said nothing about it. I was free to do the same, but no power on earth could make me enter the evil lair that doubled as her bedroom sans blackmail or bribery.
"I can't wait for school to end," Alice commented, staring at my stack of books. "Is it just me or did this year feel endless to you? Senior year has got to be better."
I nodded. "I'm not sure I can take another year of it. I have Newton and Mallory in all of my classes."
Alice smiled at me, then, and I had the feeling that she had good news. "I figured out how to hack into the school computers."
"Did you, now?" I felt a smile twitching at my lips. "And are you willing to part with this information?"
"For a price." Hard bargains were a part of being in this family. I'd have been insulted if she just gave me what I wanted without a fight.
I raised my eyebrow at her, indicating I wanted to know what this information would cost me. "A date."
"Stuffed or candied?" I ask, bemused. Why the hell would she need me to get her something she could get herself? Unless she it was some ridiculously overpriced delicacy made by some obscure chef overseas.
"Don't be so obtuse," she chided. "I want you to go on a date."
"A date?" I repeated, not quite understanding why Alice would care. "With whom?"
"I don't care about that," Alice said, waving her hand dismissively at me. "I just want you to do it."
"Time frame?" I asked, knowing that Alice would find someway to get me to agree to this ridiculousness even if I turned down this exchange. She was relentless.
"By Halloween." That was pretty fair, as far as Alice was concerned. I was surprised she didn't insist on it being next week.
"I wouldn't ask you to fulfill your end before I do my own. So, of course, it'd have to be after school started."
That made sense. I nodded again. It wouldn't be too bad. I'd ask the most unpopular girl I could find, take her somewhere lame, and ensure she was so bored that she'd never bother me again. No problem at all.
"Not that I want you to leave or anything, but why are you here?" I ask, finally, because she had yet to get to the point of her visit and she didn't seem like she was going to do so anytime soon.
"Dad wants to talk to us." Alice smiled brightly at me and got to her feet again.
I raised an eyebrow at her. It was unusual for our father to be home at this time of day. There were few things that Carlisle found more important than his career. And, much to our chagrin, he expected all of his progeny to follow in that model.
"About?" I asked, unable to quell my curiosity. The last time Alice and I had a big talk with our father was when we turned thirteen years old. It was then that he insisted that we picked the field in which we wanted to work and began preliminary studies. I had always, as soon as I heard of it, wanted to become a criminal profiler for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Alice chose the incredibly boring field of stock market analysis.
From that day, we had to dedicate at least two hours a day to studying our chosen professions. For Alice, it meant tracking the ebb and flow of multiple stock markets and one-on-one tutoring in college level micro and macroeconomics. For me, it meant criminology, psychology, and political science as well as physical training and small arms proficiency.
"I think it has to do with our upcoming birthday," Alice said with a slight shrug. Ah, yes. That made sense. Alice and I were turning eighteen and that meant more than voting and ignoring the right to purchase cigarettes and lottery tickets.
I got to my feet and followed Alice down the hall to the dining room. "Does this mean you're not mad at me anymore?"
Cocking her head to the side, Alice shot me a glance. "I suppose I could forgive you for planning to ditch our birthday party if you go shopping with me later this week."
"Is that all?" I laughed. "If I knew it would be that easy, I would have stopped going to those ridiculously large bashes years ago."
Alice gave me a look that told me I'd regret my choice of words, but I wasn't too worried about it. Anything she asked me to do would be a break from the monotony.
"Alice, Edward, please sit down," Carlisle said as soon as we entered the room. We complied quickly and gave him our full attention. He demanded nothing less. "In one week, you will finally be of age. Each of you will acquire the ability to access your trust funds. However, even though you can, it doesn't necessarily mean that you should. I expect you both to show the maturity and responsibility expected of a Cullen. You should maintain earning your own private incomes and continue using those earnings as your discretionary funds."
"Yes, Dad," we both answered automatically. I never gave much thought to my trust fund. My siblings and I were earning our own money by the time we were fourteen. It was expected of us.
Our father was such a dichotomy at times. He was from old money. Some of it blood money. I wasn't quite sure exactly what my ancestors were into, but my father wanted a different life. He worked hard, went to school, became a doctor, and started a family. We lived in the small town of Forks, Washington, and acted as if we were just like any other family. He tried hard for us to stay under the radar and did so by spreading our assets around, legally and illegally. Still, despite our father being inherently a good man, he still had that one trait—the Cullen Family Trait—that tied him to his old way of life: the mentality of want, take, have.
"This conversation is merely perfunctory. I know that your mother and I have raised you to be hardworking, trustworthy adults. Now, I'd like to hear about your progress."
Alice smiled proudly at him and launched into a long discussion of her various activities. "And," she said as she finished, "one of my designs is going to be included in the fall collection."
"That's wonderful," Carlisle said, delighted. Unlike most parents I'd seen over the years, Carlisle took genuine joy in all of our accomplishments. "Edward?"
I grinned. "I improved my time in dissembling and reassembling my gun. My studies are coming along. My tutor and I are still engaged in a debate about "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" and the validity of Jorges Louis Borges' view on perception and existence."
Laughing, Carlisle asked, "That's so very like you, my son. Aren't you leaving something out?"
I knew what he was getting at, but I didn't want to sound like I was bragging. My mother drilled modesty into me since I was three. "Well, they liked the songs. They've got a new band they want to promote, so they're going to start recording this summer."
"Wonderful, wonderful," Carlisle said, clapping me on my shoulder. He smiled at me, but his expression soon turned pensive. "Dating anyone?"
I scowled. This was one subject that I really didn't like to discuss. I wondered if Alice's request had something to do with it. A quick peek at her told me she had nothing to do with it. Good. I'd hate to start fighting with all over again. She wasn't just my twin sister, but my best friend. "No, Dad."
"Perhaps you just need to give a girl a chance? Surely not everyone in town is all that bad," Carlisle reasoned. I hated when he was being reasonable. It made my reluctance seem irrational.
"I'm not going to date just anyone. I'll know her when I meet her," I said, nodding to give credence to my statement. Of everyone, my father should understand that. He met my mother during the first year of his residency at the hospital. She was engaged to some abusive bastard. My father was instantly taken with her and the Cullen Family Trait reared its head. Within two weeks, her fiancé was dead from an overdose—accidental, my ass, and my mother and father were married.
"Sorry, Edward, it's just that your brother and sister are already married and you've yet to even go on one date. I guess it makes me have unrealistic expectations."
Alice gave me a sympathetic look before touching our father's arm. "Edward will meet someone soon. I have a good feeling about that."
"That's good to know. Ah, is that the time?" Carlisle said, looking at his watch. "I'm sorry for having to cut this short, but I need to get back to the hospital. I'll see you later." With that, he got up and left us alone in the room.
"You know, if you didn't pay Emmett to take your place during last year's twincon, you wouldn't be in this mess," Alice said, amused with my disgruntled expression. Alice always loved going to the Twin Days. I hated it. Last year, I figured I could get Emmett, a year younger than us, to pose as Alice's twin and I spent the time at the many museums and armories around Ohio. It was there that they met Rosalie and Jasper Hale. The Cullen Family Trait struck again and Jasper and Rosalie came home with us. Carlisle worked his magic and in less than three months, Jasper and Rosalie married Alice and Emmett and they became a part of our family. In school, they still went by their maiden names—their marital status hidden—and we let the student body assume that Rosalie and Jasper had been adopted.
Our family was fairly good at keeping secrets.
"Where is Emmett, by the way? He usually doesn't like it when we discuss any family business without him," I asked, finally noticing the lack of Emmett's figure lurking in the shadows of the hallway.
Alice played a bit with the placemat on the table. "He's with Rose. They're celebrating. His new knife design is selling really well."
I smiled. Emmett's knives were things of beauty. I had one of each of them on display in a glass cabinet. Some of them were unique, made just for me. "Jasper?"
"He's reading another boring account of some war that happened before any of us were born," Alice said with a sigh. I personally thought that if Jasper was willing to put up with Alice's affinity for shoes and dresses by designers I could scarcely pronounce, then Alice could put up with Jasper's obsession with war.
"Any plans today, Edward, aside from brooding away in your room?" Alice asked with an impish grin. I scowled at her. Brat.
"I'm going for a run," I said as I got to my feet, waving goodbye to Alice. "And, I'm sure you're grateful that I hate crowds," I added, leaving Alice laughing behind me as she presumably went to go bother Jasper.
Running was the best time for me to think without a world of distractions. The house was always filled with my family doing various activities—none of which were quiet—and there were few places that weren't swarming with the rest of the aimless youth of the town.
I really needed to get out of this town. If it weren't for the fact that it would break my mother's heart, I would have graduated from school early and went off to college already. It would be hard enough to leave next year. She, like all mothers, had perfected the guilt trip, using it shamelessly whenever she feared one of her children were in danger of flying the coop.
The rain was coming down hard now and even the bravest of the Forks residents had scurried back in doors. It was a surprise, then, to see someone outside as I neared the end of my route. They were nothing more than a blur under the torrent. The person hadn't said a word, but I still slowed down instinctively.
"Oh, it's you, Edward." The voice sounded familiar, even through the rain. I inched closer and finally recognized the man.
"Chief Swan," I greeted, "nice day."
"Ha," Charlie replied, laughing, "yeah, perfect beach weather. Only you would run around in this downpour. Isn't there a saying about not having enough sense to come in out of the rain?"
"At least I'm in good company," I said, hoping that Chief Swan would ease my growing curiosity as to why he was out there.
The smile on Chief Swan's face was encouraging. "I just found out some good news and I was about to head out to La Push to share it with my friends."
"Yeah, my baby girl is finally moving back home."
"You have a daughter?" Everyone knew that he did, but it was rude to admit to listening to gossip about it to his face.
"Isabella, but don't call her that unless you want her to bite your head off. She insists on Bella. She'll be moving here later on this summer. In time for school. She's your age."
"That's great. I'd be glad to show her around when she gets here," I said, my mother's lessons of manners and etiquette coming forth.
There was a brief flash of suspicion that crossed his face. Ah, the protective father gene. I wanted to tell him he had nothing to worry about. If I hadn't liked any of the girls in school so far, I doubted that his daughter would be any different. However, if I insinuated that his daughter wasn't good enough for me, I'd be facing a different sort of irritation. I chided myself to keep it casual and move on to a different topic.
"Well, my mother will kill me if I end up coming down with the flu before my birthday. I should get going. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Edward," Charlie replied, annoyance vanishing, as he got into his cruiser. "Give my regards to your father."
I began running back home, smiling, as I thought of this newest bit of information. Perhaps I could use the thrill of new gossip to get out of shopping with Alice. Though, it was risky to barter with her. Anytime someone new showed up, it spread around the town like wild fire. One would think they were getting a visit from the damned president the way everyone always reacted. The response to Jasper and Rosalie coming here would have been comical if it weren't so damned annoying. It was probably going to be the only time talking about the new girl wouldn't annoy me.