Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, but yeah, maybe the *better* storyline? Whatever...

A/N: I'm glad that the response for the last chapter was cool. I try to reply, but FFn is being fail most of the time. Loved every single one of those reviews, even the anonymous ones. :)

So yeah, here's the chapter...

"Have you given up on—" Leah's words caught in her throat, dying into a grunt of effort as Jacob crashed right into her, cradling her in his arms as they tumbled on to the carpet of thick grass.

He heaved himself up on his hands, adjusting his body over her like a protective cage as he surveyed their surroundings for any sort of threat. However, he was suffering a lot of distraction on her part. Her parted legs and heaving chest did nothing to help him. It was as though she was striving to distract him.


"Shh…" he hushed her quickly, attempting to rid himself of the baser thoughts that she was evoking.

Whispering footsteps, barely audible to even his own ears, seemed to be approaching the small clearing, where he lay with Leah. Whoever it was, was too quiet for Jacob's liking. A human being could never achieve this kind of stealthy silence.

Immediately, Jacob's combative instinct took over, causing him to shudder violently, signalling the oncoming alteration of his body.

A war of contradicting thoughts was churning inside his head. His instincts were arguing for the transition, but he was also worrying about phasing in front of Leah. She did not know about the truth behind the tribe's legends.

Sensing the approaching danger, he made the decision to push away from her in order to take his new shape.

Just as he moved away from her inviting form, a figure broke into the clearing: deathly pale … with dark maroon eyes.

Maroon was close to red… close enough to leave no doubt in Jacob's head, close enough to cause an instinctive spasm to ripple through him.

"What do we have here—" The creature stopped short, his smooth voice dying down under the wonder of what he was witnessing.

In an instant, the human form of Jacob was replaced by a colossal figure. His ripped clothes lay in a heap of tatters around him as he transformed into a giant wolf, ready to tear apart the pale creature, limb from limb.

Leah's expression was that of pure horror, but, even in her stunned state, she was sensible enough to slink away. She slipped behind a thick-trunked tree, her watchful, anxious eyes regarding Jacob in all his rust-brown, fur-coated glory.

The pale creature gasped aloud, his stance changing into a crouch in the blink of an eye. Jacob could literally taste his apprehension; he was certain that he had never seen a giant wolf of such proportions.

At a distance, two members of Jacob's pack, Quil and Paul, caught his thoughts through their mutual gift of pack communication. They were already heading in the direction of the clearing, instinctively prepared for a battle.

A loud growl erupted from within Jacob's chest, causing the creature, a Cold One for certain, to shake in fear.

The Cold One muttered something in a foreign language, reminding Jacob of his tribe's legends about these vile creatures.

From the corner of his eye, Jacob could see Leah trembling. Comforting her at the moment was not a wise thing to do, regardless of how much he ached for the chance. As much as he didn't want this confrontation to happen in front of her, it was becoming clear it was unavoidable.

In a bid to surprise his enemy, Jacob sprang in a wayward manner, not giving away his plan of attack. The creature jumped back, clearly shaken.

Then, a loud howl was heard from one side of the clearing, announcing the arrival of Paul and Quil.

Three against one, the creature was surely outnumbered. Hence, he made a dash for an escape, away from the clearing and into the dense forest.

However, Quil and Paul were quick to halt his getaway as they blocked his path and caused him to scamper in the opposite direction. The Cold One lashed out at them, concentrating more on Paul, for he exuded more untamed strength.

Paul shifted to the side, giving Quil a chance to swipe the creature, but the creature was fast and changed his approach dramatically. Though Quil was able to tear a scrap of the pale skin, he ended up with a wound himself. There was a deep gash across his shoulder, which was healing fast.

In a forward leap, Jacob forced the creature to back away, wherein Paul was waiting for another chance to tear him apart. Finally, the two wolves were able to corner him, pushing him towards the middle of the clearing. In his desperation, the creature became an easy quarry for Jacob.

A quick pounce, and the creature's arm was off, followed by his leg, rendering him disabled and vulnerable to further attacks. Odd ripping noises echoed about the clearing, akin to colliding boulders. His shrieks of pain were ear-splittingly loud, but they did little to hinder the three wolves.

All too soon, the wails choked to a stop as Jacob let Paul rip their adversary's head off. He gave them the instructions to burn the heap of torn, pallid limbs, which they enthusiastically promised to follow.

Jacob could hear the excitement in their thoughts and the pride at their achievement, and he let them bask in its glow.

He wasn't bothered about the accolades that his pack would receive from the elders. It was his duty to protect his tribe, to protect Leah. Praise was only a burden of words.

Upon thinking of Leah, he had to repress his thoughts, for his pack members were still in wolf form. He was not happy about the way everything had concluded in the clearing, especially the part where Leah had seen the gruesome, cruel side of him.

His beady wolfen eyes searched for her, but she was nowhere in sight. No wonder she had run away.

He was certain that Leah would be apprehensive of him and that their quick camaraderie was now perpetually severed.

Paul and Quil transformed back into their human forms while they collected the wood from inside the thicket for the last rites of the now dead monster. Jacob was glad for their intrusion to be gone.

Now fully clothed, the two pack members arranged a bonfire, and, after a nod of approval from Jacob, they lit it. A dark plume of smoke arose from it, signalling the end of the pale creature.

It was time for Jacob to turn into a human again, and, with much dread, he phased back. Being an animal kept the more evolved emotions at bay, but now that he was back into his human form, those emotions were whirling within him again.

With a weary shake of his head, Jacob ordered Paul and Quil to head back home and inform the elders of the incident. Their faces showed confusion upon his command, for they had assumed that he would divulge everything himself.

Jacob repeated his command, knowing that it would be followed this time without any hesitance.

As Paul and Quil made for La Push, Jacob sank to the ground and sat on his haunches, wondering how Leah would treat him, now that she knew.

He was grunting regretfully, his face in his hands, when he felt a tentative brush of fingers on his bare shoulder.

Surprised, he raised his face, only to see Leah's willowy form sitting across him. She gave him a tentative, yet playful smile as her hand travelled along his arm to finally clasp around his hand.

Her silence spoke a very ancient language to him, the one he intuitively understood. He didn't hesitate to answer her in the same.

It was unearthly, the bond that joined him with her. He could feel it strengthening as Leah's eyes conveyed acceptance and love and understanding.

Jacob never knew a joy as delightful as he felt in this moment with Leah.

Edward watched with intent eyes while Isabella slept beside him, lost to her dreams. A part of him dearly wanted to know of her dreams, for he had forgotten his own. Others' dreams didn't interest him, even though he was privy to them. He only craved Isabella's silent labyrinth of a mind.

The events of the previous night had left him in wonder. Isabella was far more observant than he had anticipated. It was his own folly, he knew, to have disclosed even a sliver of truth to her. Though, he did realise that he was actually powerless to stop it from spilling out. After all, for how long could he have kept mum?

Isabella needed to know at least that much of the truth; otherwise, he feared her to not trust him or any of his words. He needed her trust.

She stirred slightly, stretching her limbs, pushing the duvet downward. Edward drank in the resultant revelation of her creamy skin, appreciating the way it responded to the cool morning air.

Were it not to disturb her precious slumber, he would have reached out and caressed her luscious, yielding swells. He drew in a shaky breath as his perfect memory recalled their entrancing joggle, all while she writhed atop him.

Gingerly, so as not to disturb her, he pulled the duvet over her, in order to keep her warm and comfortable.

Edward considered how much of a distraction her charms were, for he was able to nearly neglect his concerns about his thirst last night. Yes, he remembered the burning ache all through his throat, but it was easily overcome by the jolting pleasure entailed in his union with Isabella.

The fear, the absolute lack of control that he felt a week ago, was entirely forgotten. When Isabella confronted him, all he could remember was the alacrity with which he craved her. His own premeditated argument was forgotten, leaving him vulnerable to her accusations and attacks, neither of which did he mind at that instance.

His sole absorption was in calming her aroused temper. Bloodlust didn't even cross his mind.

Now he knew why Alice was absent from his company the entire time he was with the rest of the Cullens. She must have seen Isabella's outburst… and the rest of the events of the night as well—much to his dismay.

It was indeed heartening to realise that Alice had the sensitivity to keep away, to maintain a semblance of dignity, for both his and her own sake. Besides, her visions wouldn't have been expedient to his cause; the end would still have been more or less the same.

By all means, Alice's immediate absence served the purpose it was meant to; it meant that there was no need for worry regarding his bloodlust. Had Isabella been in any danger again, Alice would certainly have warned him in advance.

Currently, his only lamentation was a lack of hasty communiqué. He wished there were better means of communication present, for it would certainly ease his anxiety regarding Isabella and himself. Alice wouldn't be needed to dash all the way from Port Angeles just to notify him.

The brush of warm hands across his torso alerted him to the present, and he realised that, amidst his intense contemplations, he had failed to notice Isabella's rousing.

One of her hands settled on his tightening stomach as she turned, smiling to herself. Edward tensed as she shifted closer, ensconcing him in her body's heat. He felt apprehensive regarding her temper. After all, she could still be holding a bit of the previous night's rancour.

A small sigh left her lips as she blinked sleepily, her eyes still cloudy and unfocussed. "You were so peacefully asleep a while ago," she garbled, her voice husky and thick with sleep. "I wish I could wake up with such regularity."

He chuckled at her remark, congratulating himself for his perfect charade of sleep. He had imitated the human trait well; lying sprawled on the bed two hours ago, when Isabella arose to relieve herself of another human need.

His eyes had feasted on the vision of her unclothed form while she stumbled about sleepily. Furthermore, he was delighted when she chose to climb back into bed without wearing any fresh clothes. They lay unused on the chaise beside the bed, where he had left them last night after tucking her in.

Her blinking eyes grew more awake with each blink, and he saw that she was, perhaps, expecting him to say something.

"Good morning, Bella," he greeted her softly, pushing a few wisps of hair out of her eyes. "I suppose it's selfish of me to wish that you sleep more than me, since you wish the opposite, but I'd rather watch you awaken every day than catch another hour's sleep."

Her eyes narrowed at him, but he could see that she was fighting a smile. He wanted to add to his greeting, but it would be too mundane for such a unique occasion. This day was special, and he wanted to bid a pleasant surprise to Isabella. At the moment, he decided to settle for a simple kiss.

Her hands crawled across his chest, leaving a trail of heat as he moved over her. Regardless of his intent, the simple, sweet kiss changed into a needy, ardent one the very moment their lips locked.

The familiar, hellish fire greeted his throat, and he received it with gratitude, for it gave him the pleasure of Isabella's proximity.

Isabella was eager in returning his affections. She draped herself around him, uttering little noises of pleasure as her bosom brushed against his chest. His mind was set free of all the worries, for her lure rendered it ineffective and incoherent for the time being.

Isabella was caught in wonder, as she tried to wrap herself closer to her husband's glorious form. How come she was always so hungry for him, so in need. She had never considered herself a creature of lust, that is, prior to her marriage… prior to Edward.

Now, she was shamelessly zealous in her desire for him. Even though she knew there were more pressing issues to be resolved still, more questions to be asked, she couldn't care much about them in this moment. After all, Edward wasn't about to leave for anywhere soon, and there would be plenty of opportunities to cajole him into a discourse.

Her legs parted willingly, welcoming him between them. Both of them hissed at the resultant contact of their excited flesh.

Then, surprisingly, Edward backed away and fell on his back. This didn't sit well with her.

"Breakfast," he rasped, eyes closed shut. "You must be hungry…"

"I don't feel hungry… yet," she stated, tugging at his arm. "Have you already eaten?"

"No," he answered, opening his lids to stare back at her. His gaze was molten desire.

"Then stay," she implored, slinking herself over him, "and we can eat breakfast together… later."

From where this newfound valour came, she did not know, but she was glad for it.

"I thought you ought to be tired"—she heard him say, as he lifted her shoulders, making her look directly into his eyes—"after what happened last night…"

The damnable blush of hers began to rise upon her face slowly. She bit her lip, wondering what to say in her reply. How could she even give a reply, when she herself did not know it?

"I don't know… how or why," she said honestly, clutching his shoulders in an effort to bring stability in her voice, "but I believe you're at fault."

Edward gave her a lopsided smile in return. "Good heavens, have I corrupted you!"

She giggled at his inference as she sat back, imitating her actions of the previous night. His gaze fell lower down her chest, and she fought the urge to cover herself. He was intimately au fait with her body, and hiding from him would be contrary to what she sought.

Abruptly, Edward arose onto his knees in a sitting stance, making her gasp in surprise. She nearly toppled back, but his firm hands kept her seated in his lap. With no clothes between them, she was able to discern his growing excitement. It pleased her to no end.

Edward reached between her legs, and she opened herself for his explorations, disregarding her imbibed instincts of modesty. Her flesh prickled and tightened where their chests met, the familiar coldness of his skin sending jolts of pleasure through her breasts.

He didn't squander any precious time in addressing her warm bosom, which she was impelling towards him like an offering. The shock of his cold lips on her stiffened flesh was a welcome one, ticklish and pleasurable, inciting a few giggles from her.

She realised, with wonder, that she craved his lips on her body as a thirsty wayfarer craved water in a desert. Still, his lips only served to ignite a more pressing need to invite him within her, to feel the divine pleasure of having him fill her.

As though he could sense her yearning, he caught hold of her waist and lifted her slightly, only to press her onto himself. All her giggles died then, making way for her trembling sigh of contentment.

Cradled in his arms, Isabella gazed into his eyes as she slowly accommodated him inside her.

Edward's eyes tried to remain focused on hers, but soon they shut tightly, just as a whisper of a growl quaked down his chest. She followed suit, closing her eyes in immense relief. They remained still for a while, enthralling in their coming together. It seemed new every time, and more intense than before.

Slow and mellow, they began to sway unto each other.

Unexpectedly, Isabella's eyes wandered around the room as she caught movement, only to be left staring back at herself. The massive mirror in Edward's room was reflecting them both in all their concupiscent glory.

Edward became urgent then, vigorous in his movements, so much that the bed creaked. His face was nuzzled in the hollow of her neck, his nippy breaths blowing wild on her skin.

Breathing heavily, Isabella blinked profusely as she looked into her own eyes, unable to assimilate this moving image of herself, which was hardly reminiscent of her. She was shy, modest, and always the proper lady; the woman in the mirror was anything but.

Yet, it was strangely arousing, seeing herself being ravished at the hands of her husband.

His lips hunted for hers, marking a path from her throat to her lips, but she digressed. Instead, she guided his searching eyes towards the mirror.

Edward froze, as though the vision in the mirror had arrested him. His astonished eyes stared back at her through their reflection, frenzied and hungrier than before.

"Never expected such a draw from a mirror," he admitted hoarsely, brushing his long fingers across her torso, from her neck to her thigh.

His eyes never left the mirror as he continued to caress her, from front to back… down and upwards. One hand held her steady while the other moulded around the swell of her breast. Her ears seemed to catch fire as she stared back him, urging him on with her imploring eyes.

Edward gently kneaded her soft flesh, while diving low to capture its stiff peak between his lips. He teased her, slow and deliberate, gliding his tongue out to tickle her sensitive nipple, his eyes intently observing his own actions.

"Enchanting," he murmured on her skin, planting fervent, capricious kisses as he renewed his rhythm within her. Isabella hummed in approval, which seemed to please Edward, for he drew her closer still.

"Oh God," she cried, clutching his bronze mane while he watched her in the mirror, his head resting on her bosom. "When does it end? Will I ever stop craving you?"

"I hope not…," he all but whispered.

Her body danced in his arms, uncaring and removed from her prior timidity. No one else could see her like this, except for him. It was solely for his taking, this newly discovered wanton, lustful part of her.

The ensuing shudders of her peaking pleasure were exceptionally intense, so much that Isabella felt she might faint. Edward's controlled strength, his whispering lips on her body, all served to ignite a white flame inside her.

The morning… their already late breakfast… everything was forgotten then, as they enjoyed each other thoroughly, lost in their cocoon of bliss.

Although Edward immensely enjoyed Isabella's discovery of the surprising exploits of his bedroom mirror, he didn't want to squander this entire day away to their carnal impulses.

He was already bathed and dressed while Isabella was still in her bath, understandably so. Waiting till she was dressed and prepared for the day, he ordered various fruits and food to be delivered to her room, where he joined her for their joint breakfast. He ate his portion without complaints.

Then, promising to return soon, he left her to her sewing, which she insisted on taking up again. Yet, for his apprehensions, he couldn't stoop so low as to curb her wishes. Instead, he decided to employ this opportunity to visit his study.

Blithely, he greeted the members of his house staff as he progressed down the stairs. Charles was waiting for him when he entered the study. His thoughts were exponentially mute today, which Edward found rather amusing. He wasn't much keen on his wife's uncle's thoughts, for most of the time they were heavy with contempt towards him.

"Charles," Edward addressed him pleasantly, taking his seat, "I suppose you'd want to be free by the eve."

"Yes," came Charles's gruff reply, "I came to ask for your leave."

"Of course, I'd be happy to grant it to you." Edward gave him a genuine smile. "Also, it'd be a pleasure to be your host."

Charles seemed uncomfortable with Edward's offer of an olive branch. Hence, he didn't stay put for long. Mentioning a trivial work related task, he made to leave.

Edward had just about managed to control his resultant mirth when another arrival came upon the Masen estate. His repressed amusement died quickly, for he hadn't expected this particular visit.

Within seconds of reading the person's mind, it became clear as to why this visit was being made.

A member of the house staff announced the pastor's arrival soon after.

Edward asked for the priest to be seated in the grand hall while he mentally prepared himself for this impromptu meeting. Impromptu, that is, for himself.

It was the same priest under whose blessings he took his wedding vows, but, regardless, he certainly was uncomfortable in facing a man of God. A certain part of him felt sacrilegious towards God in interacting with a holy man. He had thought that he would never need to be in the priest's presence again, at least for a long time.

Alas, here he was, preparing for the very meeting he was hoping to avoid.

Upon entering the grand hall, Edward greeted the clergyman with as much civility as one would hope from a God-fearing gentleman.

The priest eyed him suspiciously while returning the gesture, adding a blessing to it as well.

Edward's sensitive ears picked the hasty footsteps of Isabella as she descended the central staircase, her heart fluttering rapidly in her chest. She had been informed of the clergyman's visit, thus, her resultant nerves.

"Father Franklin," she sputtered slightly, as she made towards the two men.

The priest blessed her as well, then turned his attention back on Edward, his mind brimming with curiosity and bolts of instinctive fear.

Edward made sure not give him any such inkling that might taint him in the clergyman's eyes. Instead, he fixed his gaze on Isabella, who looked to be very discomfited.

"I-I asked for an audience with him today," she began explaining on her own, "as… as it is my birthday today."

The disclosure didn't surprise Edward, but it did serve to ruin his pleasant mood. He hadn't expected her to reveal this information in such a way.

"I had especially asked for his blessing…" Isabella looked at Edward with guilt-ridden eyes, her hands clasping and unclasping in her characteristic nervous quirk.

She wasn't lying, but she wasn't being entirely truthful either. Edward wondered if she knew how awkward she had made this situation for him.

Stiffly, he suggested for her to take a joint blessing with him, for a pleasant future together as man and wife. She agreed as well, though lacking enthusiasm.

Father Franklin was still intent on Edward, observing each of his mannerisms with hawk-like regard. Albeit, he was only a human, and Edward knew his mind. It wasn't so hard to make the priest believe of his innocence.

After giving his blessing, Father Franklin expressed his wish to obtain a tour of the whole of the Masen estate, offering to grant his blessings and purify their land. This ought to have surprised Edward, so he acted suitably.

"Surely, Father, I'll escort you myself," he offered without resistance, glancing towards Isabella to see her reaction. She had, after all, voluntarily invited the clergyman to observe the premises.

Edward deliberately asked her to accompany him for the tour, wanting to see the manifestation of her intentions. By what he had seen inside the mind of the priest, he was rather surprised in her deductions of his supposed behavioural misgivings. He had never at all thought about himself in such a light, and Isabella's perspective was all but amusingly refreshing.

They began with the front lawns, where Edward purposely halted upon seeing one of his gardeners, telling him to tend to a rose bush in a far corner. It was an attempt at giving Isabella a chance to converse with the clergyman, without the bother of Edward overhearing it. She didn't disappoint.

"Father," she approached him meekly, "I must confess to you, that I must have been under a misapprehension."

"What misapprehension, my child?" he asked in a hushed voice.

"I believe that my husband is innocent, that he's not under the influence of a demon, as I had earlier assumed him to be."

"What made you think so, shall I ask?"

She chanced a tentative glance towards Edward, who acted accordingly, appearing to be engrossed with the gardener.

"His behaviour is perfectly fine ever since he returned from his tour. I am inclined to believe that it was my own anxiety, regarding his condition of seizures, which led me to think him possessed."

"My child, you are not in the wrong to have approached me, as you can always take solace in God for all your anxieties. I'm glad to see your improved disposition after last eve's visit," the priest observed, appreciating the healthy glow on her face, which contradicted her pallor of the previous day.

Edward wanted to laugh in his face for believing the change to be induced by her confession.

"Yes, Father, I'm feeling much better after confessing my fears. But I'm afraid, they were unfounded. As you can see, my husband is perfectly well-mannered and agreeable. Nothing in his conduct suggests any irregularity."

"Yes, but still, I have said my prayers for both of you. May all evil be banished from your lives."

She thanked him profusely and politely asked him not to broach this subject with Edward on any account. It was only embarrassment in her plea, which she would suffer from such a disclosure. Father Franklin assured her the utmost secrecy of her confession, adding that he never intended to mention it to Edward since he was quite an atheist in refusing to attend the church.

Isabella seemed thoroughly embarrassed on Edward's behalf, but said nothing in his defence. She had nothing to say, it seemed. After all, what excuse could she give, for she herself didn't know the cause of such transgressions of her husband.

During the rest of their tour, Edward observed the priest closely, just the way he himself was being observed. Silent prayers and blessings resonated in Father Franklin's mind all throughout their trek of the front lawns, the back gardens, the pathways in the adjacent wood, and finally inside the manor itself. It was his thorough attempt to rid the area of any harmful or evil force that may have taken shelter there.

Most notably, the priest had said his earnest prayers for Edward, whom he believed to be under the influence of such evil forces. Though his observations returned fruitless, he couldn't disregard the description given by Isabella. She had appeared much hassled and perturbed at the time she had professed her plight to him.

Beside the obvious given reasons for mistrust towards Edward, there was the natural inclination to keep distance from him. The fear seemed misplaced, but Father Franklin couldn't shrug it away as a mere apprehension of evil.

Edward reminded himself to keep the charade of utmost gentlemanly countenance in front of the priest, to quell all the suspicions which were being harboured against him.

As for Isabella, he was undecided as to whether or not he should approach her regarding this matter. He wouldn't be able to explain his means to the truth, which would bring about a horde of questions from her. It was an undesired topic of conversation—akin to Pandora's box. If he could help it, he wouldn't want Isabella to dwell on it ever again.

At the end of his visit, the priest wished them both the very best of luck for their future, and concentrating entirely on Isabella, he told her that he hoped to see her soon at the church. Edward was fast to note his displeasure towards him, for he entirely avoided anything and everything related to the church.

Once the priest left, Isabella turned to him and spoke in a curious, enquiring voice. "You knew of my birthday!"

Edward didn't deny it, though he let the discontentment seep into his expression at the awkward disclosure of this information.

"You didn't even wish me," she accused him coyly, taking his hand in her delicate ones.

"I was hoping for more opportune a moment, but you've nearly ruined it now," he admitted, attempting to keep the gloom out of his tone.

Isabella smiled sheepishly, lowering her eyes as a delicate blush painted her cheeks. Edward took the opportunity to hold her chin and tip her face back towards his.

"Happy birthday, Isabella, my lovely bride," he spoke in a mellow susurration, almost upon her lips. "I will do my best to make this day memorable for you, even though you've done your share for its attempted ruination." The last part of his loving confession was complemented with a chuckle, just to tease her.

Likewise, Isabella laughed with him, but her eyes still remained contrite.

Seeing that the magic of this special day was still preserved, Edward decided not to turn it sour by enquiring about the priest's visit, or worse, her own visit to the church. Edward knew the details, and that nothing could be gained from any interrogation on his part.

In actuality, Edward reminded himself how Isabella had obscured the pastor's doubts regarding him, which, though she herself had raised, she endeavoured to repress for the sake of her husband's dignity.

He didn't know what made her act the way she did, but he was glad for it. For one, it meant that she trusted him and whatever he had revealed to her the previous night. He must have satisfied at least some of her own doubts for her to defend him this way.

"Edward?" she questioned, looking into his eyes. "What are you thinking?"

Her musical voice brought him out of his meandering thoughts, warning him against self-absorption. Correcting his approach, he resolved to concentrate on her and her alone, for this was her day.

Just as he was about to reply, he heard the loud chorus of thoughts that filtered from the entrance of the manor. It nearly gave him a headache.

Isabella was about to enquire again, when a sharp, nearly squealing voice echoed from the main vestibule.


Edward couldn't help but shake his head in surrender as he made way for the ever effervescent Alice, so that she could give Isabella a hug.

Shocked out of her wits, Isabella just about managed to return the embrace; her eyes startled upon seeing his entire family.

The rest of the Cullens soon gathered around his wife, each vying for an opportunity to wish her good health and merriment on her birthday. All, except Jasper, that is. He believed it too close a call to go so near a human as to kiss her hand in greeting.

We meet again, brother, he nodded to Edward from afar, and I'm still waiting for your thoughts about our cricket kit endeavour.

Edward made a face, not sure whether he wished to laugh or to be annoyed by his brother's perpetual entreaty for a cricket match. The only trouble was… normal cricket equipment would turn to sawdust at their hands. That was why both Jasper and Emmett were keen on trying other ways, like creating a kit out of metal, namely, self-manufactured steel.

"I don't want to entertain you on that account, not today," replied Edward, crossing his arms in defiance. He was mindful of speaking in a low voice; much below his wife's hearing abilities.

Emmett looked at both of them after he was done wishing Isabella. He wasn't surprised at Edward's disinterested disposition; he considered him to be entirely engrossed in his wife for the next hundred or so years. Edward didn't want to discuss such a subject, since Emmett always seemed convinced that Isabella would be turned, regardless of when.

Edward concentrated on others' thoughts instead, which gave him mixed feelings.

Esme, who was chiefly still engrossed in Isabella, was delighted to finally see Edward and his wife together again.

Carlisle was all mute contentment. He gave Edward a simple greeting through his thoughts, and thus remained at a distance. Interaction between them had become much more strained over the last two months, almost the same as a few decades ago when Edward had estranged from his family. Any communication between Edward and his creator was essentially need-based. It was the reason Edward never confided in Carlisle any longer, and instead chose either Alice or Jasper for the same.

She certainly looks happy, Rosalie observed in her mind, demanding Edward's attention. I must congratulate you for such an unexpected effect, Edward. I'm all astonishment…

Edward gave her a tight smile, not missing her sarcasm in the least. He had learnt to tolerate her acerbic, bittersweet remarks, for he knew that at heart she always meant well. She was still concerned about her family's welfare, but her mind was warring over what she found most just: Isabella's humanity or their safety from the Volturi—who certainly wouldn't spare them for having a human in the know.

All the varying thoughts in the room rendered Edward a little weary, for they were coloured in varying moods. He dearly felt for Jasper, who was feeling more of the same.

He simply smirked at Edward, tipping his hat slightly in acknowledgement.

Soon, Alice announced to Isabella that the evening would occasion a special gathering, all in her honour. Isabella was instantly perturbed, as crowds made her uneasy, but Alice assured her that no such occurrence would take place as would cause her to be nervy.

The matter had already been succinctly discussed between Edward and Alice, where for Isabella's sake, Alice was careful enough to keep away any ostentatious fair. Thus, Isabella's fears were put to rest in informing her that no more than close family relations would be present.

"I must apologise, for I didn't think it right to invite the Webbers, seeing that Mr. Webber is so severely ill," Edward put forth earnestly, knowing, from Alice's vision, that it would not arouse Isabella's displeasure. "Would you still like for me to invite your friend, Miss Webber?"

"That's fine by me, for I believe that Angela's attending to her father is more important than any celebration. I fear for Mr. Webber's health," Isabella admitted, looking concerned. "I hope to hear of his health soon, from Angela herself."

"I'll check on them, if you wish," Edward offered, inciting curious, taunting thoughts from his two brothers.

"Please do, for I think Angela would be unable to visit me during his illness."

Edward smiled benignly, promising to fulfil her wish.

"Who'd 'ave thought 'im the thoughtful kind, all servitude for his dear wife," Jasper muttered under his breath, which everyone but Isabella could hear. A deathly glare from Alice was enough to curb his further oncoming snide remarks.

"I'm so glad to have you all here," Isabella said, her eyes alight with sheer joy, "and that too, in time for breakfast."

Everyone stiffened at the mention of breakfast, visibly perturbed by the very notion of eating food.

"Ah, breakfast," uttered Alice with false jollity, "we already had ours en route, early morn."

"Oh, but that must be hours ago," Isabella observed, shaking her head. "I'm sure the lengthy journey has worn you out. I always became ravenous after a trip to Port Angeles."

Everyone chuckled, though with a nervous edge. Isabella wasn't backing down, she was incessant that they all eat breakfast.

"Let us be your hosts today," she continued, waving towards Edward and herself, "and have another round of breakfast."

Jasper and Emmett chortled rather loudly, stealing glances at Edward. Such asinine behaviour earned them a whispered reprimand from Esme, after which they promptly stopped and behaved themselves.

In Alice's visions, it was clear that Isabella was decided upon serving them breakfast and that no amount of persuasion would make her yield.

Hence, reluctantly, everyone agreed upon having breakfast, much to Isabella's delight. Edward couldn't but find it amusing, especially when he saw the resigned faces of Rosalie, Jasper, and Emmett.

Watching them eat the awful smelling food was going to be quite an entertainment.

Okay, so I know I could have deleted the lemon and added it as an outtake, but I'm lazy. :P (Also, I kinda promised one very adorable reader of mine that there would be some unconventional *use* of Edward's gigantic bedroom mirror.)

I did my foreshadowing bit in this chapter. I don't know if anyone caught it or not. My dear ole beta did. haha...

Also, an earnest request to my beloved readers - Tell me about the quotes that you all love from this story. The very cool (and kind) Ms_Ambrosia is making me a blinky gif for MS, so I need to know what quotes you'd like to be added in there. I'd love to take your suggestions on the matter, since I'm Fail at deciding what quotes are deserving.

A word of thanks to my PTB betas, Bailey and Mistyfate. They are both fast and awesome, and are very encouraging. I love them to pieces.