****

The lounge couldn't have been more breathtakingly beautiful. Ben and Angela's wedding reception was held at Brightwater House, a lush ballroom in Forks where a number of weddings and other social events were held. Angela's mom opted for a lush, romantic outdoor scenery. Cherry Blossoms circled the lofty garden with silk draperies entwined through their trunks. Mossy vines cascaded the roof and columns of the gazebo. Past the falling blossoms stretched an immense lake - silver under the moonlight.

"Having fun?" whispered an unmistakable voice from behind me.

Jacob's warm fingers filled the spaces between mine. Standing almost seven feet tall, with wide set shoulders and dressed in black-on-black suite and tie, Jacob looked like he was ready to walk down the red carpet on Oscar night. He had been looking forward to this evening for weeks now. Our first formal dress up date although our friends and family had already grown so use to our duet this past year. We were inseparable. Joined by hip.

He handed me a dry martini, as he pulled me close to his side.
"It sure is something." I nodded.

He rubbed my arm from shoulder to elbow twice and paused.
"Are you cold? Your arm is covered in goose bumps!" he chuckled.

I wore a long emerald silk chiffon dress with delicate spaghetti straps. Its neckline gathered elegantly across my chest and plunged deeply to the small of my back. My hair hung in loose waves. I was out of my element. Just the thought of the cozy warmth of my tattered sweat pants and time-worn tee waiting for me back home sent a small wave of impatience through me.

"I'm fine. Just wanted to step out for a moment and get some fresh air".

The reception hall featured a huge deck to allow room for dancing. It was even more romantically adorned than the garden. Flowery vines dripped from all around the roofing and the stage held a miniature orchestra consisting of violins, cellos and a few more musical instruments. On the corner, right before the stage, was a beautiful mahogany grand piano, covered in petals.

"You look amazing, by the way. Almost put the poor bride to shame" Jacob whispered in my ear.

I could feel his hot soothing breath wash over the right side of my face, and the heat from his arm spread along my back, down to my waist where it rested. This was definitely better than the thought of my sweats waiting for me at home. I nudged his ribs playfully, not that it would do anything to him. He looked stunningly handsome tonight.

Jessica, Mike, Lauren and Tyler all stepped down from the deck to join us. With school finished and college looming a couple of weeks away, I barely had the chance to see them. We exchanged polite hugs and kisses and then casually divided into to two groups, the men off to one side.

"OH MY GOD! Your dress is unbelievable! It looks great!" squealed a tipsy Jessica.

Angela picked out my green ensemble. She wanted a 20's inspired wedding and although the bridesmaids all wore a delicate and less revealing sage dresses, her maid of honor got the crème of the crop. I'll admit... it was beautiful and quite flattering against my less than flattering frail figure.

"Thanks Jess. You both look fantastic." I replied. Jessica managed to emphasize her bust line more than the dress intended...perhaps in an effort to stand out from all of the other bridesmaids.

I sneaked a quick glance over to the boys to find Jacob looking at me. He smirked knowing the torture I was about to endure from Jessica's rant, then winked and trotted off to the bar with the rest of the guys. I grimaced and braced myself for what was sure to be a non-stop blabbering from Jessica on every iota of the wedding ceremony. I kept my eyes on her and gave a mechanical smile or nod of the head every now and then though I couldn't honestly say that I was indeed registering what she was saying.

My mind drifted around the night's surroundings instead. Champagne glasses clinking musically, the falling cherry blossom petals swirling majestically on the ground, the laughter... all pleasant sounds muting the endless rant coming from Jessica and Lauren.

In the background, someone began to warm up on the piano... a slow and calculating prelude. The bride and grooms' dance I suppose. I shot a quick glance to the deck and sure enough, there were Ben and Angela, looking completely engrossed in love, taking the dance floor. Angela looked amazing. She wore a vintage slip that looked like it was crafted for the gods. Her hair spilled down her back in long waves. I smiled. Once they were in the center of the floor, Ben spun her once in admiration. Angela's smile was streched from ear to ear, but as she came around to face Ben, her head did not make a full turn. Her gaze was locked on something. Ben pulled her close to him and remained unaware of her reaction.

Angela wore an odd and surprised look on her face. Surely she can't be suffering stage fright with how well she dances. Years of ballet classes couldn't be matched by anyone here tonight. But she wasn't looking at Ben. Her attention was still diverted towards the corner of the stage, perhaps at someone goofing off.

I turned my attention back to Jessica who was now commenting on the best and worst dressed of the evening when suddenly, my attention was spun back towards the deck... almost violently. The piano began its course with a melody sure to captivate the crowd and hypnotize the bride and groom. It was a distinctive melody, a hauntingly familiar one. My heart skipped a beat.

It couldn't be.

I listened closely, holding my breath, my heart rate rising. I couldn't see the piano from where I stood so I excused myself with a quick smile and headed for the dance floor. I walked through a pair of couples, careful not to spill my drink, or fall flat on my face. As I reached the steps to the deck, I realized that Angela's face was one of shock. Ben was unable to see her from his position. I followed her gaze and froze at what I saw.

It was as if I just ran through an imaginary wall, knocking the air out of me. My body froze but my heart beat drummed loudly. I stood there frozen, cup in hand, and utterly stunned.

It was him. Inexplicably and absolutely him. His pale and perfectly carved face focused intently on his gliding hands. His hair… a rich deep bronze contrasting his ivory skin. It was him. And he was playing my lullaby.

Everything else was suddenly silent all around me, although I was sure I could clearly see people in my peripheral vision laughing and sharing toasts... weren't the champagne glasses making that clinking sound just a minute ago? The only other thing I could hear was my heart pounding against my chest. It was then I realized that nothing around me had stopped, I was the only one rendered immobile. Just then, I was in Angela's point of view and she gave me a look between shocked, puzzled, and happy all at the same time. Her surprised face was enough for me to know that she had not mailed out an invite for him. I ignored her.

It's been a year since I last saw Edward. A year since he took me to the forest and left me... discarded me... leaving me for dead to be more accurate. I remembered his words far too well for my own good. I had tried desperately to scrub them out of my mind, to convince myself that there was another reason for his choosing to leave me... a mutual, agreeable and certainly an amicable one. But he left no reason at all other than he no longer wanted me.

I fought with the ghost of him and his words that haunted me for months after. In time, I was able to numb it all... acknowledge that the wound was still there, but suppress it enough to permit me to live normally, or so I thought. It was my defiance that gave me the strength I needed to move on and now, as I stood here frozen in place, I felt my walls being shaken by a fierce pounding.

I was aware of someone leaning in towards me to whisper "he plays beautifully...I wonder how much they paid for the musicians". It wasn't a voice I recognized so I ignored it. At that moment, he closed his eyes shut and his nostrils flared subtly... as if pulling in the air. He then opened his eyes and stared at me... without pausing to search through the crowd, as if he knew where I stood all along. My scent, of course. It surprised me how he was able to pick it up from a distance. I would've guessed it would have lost its appeal to him with time.

His eyes were warm and his lips were slightly parted with a hint of a smile on the corner of his lips. Not once did he miss a key. He continued to stare at me with the same odd look on his face as he slowly brought the song to an end. My jaw tightened and anger flooded me. I took a quick chug of my wine, swallowing it all in one gulp and placed the empty glass on a nearby table as I stormed off. I needed to get away before he could finish the song. I needed to escape, to breathe... to collect myself.

I walked to the far end of the yard where a pier shot out onto the lake. As my breathing slowed, I thought to myself, 'how long should I stay here in my recluse? What should I do? What would I do?' A hurricane of emotions washed over me clouding my mind. I tried to convince my self that all I felt was rage and I would have probably believed it if only my heart didn't beat so violently within me and if I didn't have the urge to go back there and stare at him, even if from a distance.

It was him. He was really here. But why? Who had invited him? Everyone knew he left along with his family. Everyone knew Jacob and I were so close now. Who would have invited him? Why was he here? I felt a soft chill wash over my shoulder. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, pulling in his once too familiar minty scent and turned to face him. I could never prepare myself enough to look at him, to take in the gloriousness of his face. His beauty was unmatched.

"Edward." I said behind clenched teeth. I tried to sound pleasantly surprised. It didn't work.

His face was creased with pain. I tried not to look him in the eyes for that would probably have me undone. I quickly turned away and faced the lake.

"I'm sorry, Bella. I won't waste any time in expressing my intent. I was a fool. A coward. I thought I was doing what was right... for you. But I was only fooling myself. To even think that I had the slightest confidence that I could endure being apart from you... for your sake... was insane. Yes, I realize that was selfish of me and forgive me for my self-gratification but I can't live without you... if this is called living. There's no reason left to exist without you."

I felt like imaginary currents were pulling me in. And I knew I had to get away but all I could do was stand there. Frozen. I struggled to find my breath and I braced myself before I turned to face him. His eyes were black as night and surrounded by purple rings. Even with their blackness and depth, they were sad... torn. I squared my shoulders and swallowed.

"So now you feel it's time to come back and wisk me away?" I mentally winced at my words and he seemed to do the same.

"Pick up where we left off, you suppose?"

His anguished look changed to a cold and hard stare. I was momentarily confused by his reaction. He was looking past me now, his jaw clenched and a quiet growl coming from his chest. Instinctively, I heard someone call my name from behind me.

"Bella?"

I shut my eyes and pursed my lips. Great. I turned around to find Jacob standing nearby though not close enough to hear our conversation. He looked both shocked and enraged. He stood tense... rigid, almost. I gave him an exasperated look and called out, "I'll be right there."

I turned once again to face Edward who's gaze was suddenly intense. He looked deeply into my eyes and seemed to struggle to find words.
'Am I too late?" his voice nearly cracked as he looked deep into me.

His eyes stared back at mine, searching. His pale face seemed to go a shade lighter and pain visibly marked his face.
"Bella, please tell me" his voice was almost a whisper now. "Have I truly lost you?" His moved rapidly between my eyes.

"I have to go" I managed to choke out.

I turned and started to walk quickly towards Jacob, who to my surprise did not move a single step although the hatred for Edward was clearly stemming off his body. I hoped that Edward had not decided to follow me as it would be the end of this party as we know it. I stole a quick glance back at him. He hadn't followed me. He stood there, his face still looking at the same spot where my face was a moment ago with the same intense, almost strangled look on his face. Something deep inside my vaulted heart suddenly nudged at me and for a brief fraction of a second, I wish I could smooth out the frown lines from his face.

I turned away and continued my way towards Jacob who was at danger of losing it. Once I reached him, I put my hand on his chest and said "Let's go."
"NO!" he growled. I shot another glance at Edward who now returned his look, anger igniting his face.

Under my hand, I felt Jacob's skin burn and tremble. If I didn't get him away from here now, there would soon be mayhem on this field and everyone would be running for dear life, knocking everything down on their way. I could not and would not allow Ben and Angela's wedding to be ruined. Desperately, I put more force to my hand and tried hopelessly to push him the opposite direction. I might as well have been pushing a mountain.

Jacob grabbed my wrist with force and flung it off his chest as he took a step forward. At that same moment, almost simultaneously, Edward appeared, within inches from Jacob's face.

"Mind yourself. I'll kill you right here and now if you touch her that way again" Edward snarled behind clenched teeth.

People were beginning to stare. I had to stop this fast. I couldn't do this to Angela. Not on her wedding day. I quickly stepped in between them placing my hands on each of their chests. Fire and ice. I looked Jacob straight in the eyes and growled "I SAID LET'S GO....NOW".

It all happened at once. First, I felt a cold hand cover my own, and I could see through Jacob's dark brown eyes, that Edward had looked down at my hand on his chest and slowly pulled his hand up to touch mine, at the same time, Jacob pulled me, or rather wrenched me to his side.

"GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OF HER!" Jacob snarled.

My heart drummed loudly against my chest. I waited for the worse. But after a brief pause, Jacob swiftly turned us away. His grip was hurting my waist and his body was trembling more than before. Edward took a step towards us but paused seeming depesperatly undecisive. Jacob literally dragged me to the car that was parked across the street. We reached the car and he slammed the door shut behind me. He threw it with such force that a small crack ran across the passenger window. Once he got in the car, he started the engine and floored the gas. The tires peeled away from the concrete and we sped into the night.

"JAKE, SLOW DOWN" I shouted over the roaring engine. He ignored me. His eyes were on fire and his body was still trembling.

"JAKE, DAMMIT!!!"

"WHAT IS HE DOING HERE? WHAT DOES HE WANT?" he demanded.

"He only wanted to talk, Jake. Now would you please slow down? Please. Calm yourself." I pleaded.

"WHAT DOES HE WANT FROM YOU?" he glared at me, spit shooting from his lips.

"Nothing Jake, I told you, he only wanted to talk. NOW THE FUCK SLOW DOWN!!!" I demanded.

He was going way too fast. The speedometer read 142 mph. It didn't help that he was driving a Charger that I knew he must have upgraded its engine to a more monstrous machine built for speed. His body was shaking really bad. He was losing it. I needed to think of something quick.

Almost out of no where, and immediately, there was a blinding light ahead. It illuminated every corner, every shadow of the car's interior. Jacob's eyes widened in horror and he jerked the wheel to the left as he slammed on the brakes, the force slamming me against the passenger door. At the same time, another force pierced right through me from my right side, slamming me the opposite direction. In that split second, I felt several of my bones snap. I felt like popcorn... popping up and around in its bag, never landing in one spot... never landing at all. Part of me registered the car turning and turning over on its side repeatedly. Another part of me felt my skin being ripped open, my skull cracking, and glass pricking me everywhere.

The car came to a final stop... the strongest jolt yet. I felt an unnatural jab in my abdomen. I fought to open my eyes but when I did... all I saw was red. I opened my mouth to scream, and instead of my shrill cry, I heard a thick gurgle coming from my throat. I couldn't speak. I wanted to move badly but couldn't. The more I tried, the more tired I became. Something dark and ominous hovered over me. It came closer and closer. I fought to see through the red but the more and more I tried, the darker it got. Blackness slowly crept back towards me and when I didn't fight anymore... it covered me.

***

I found myself in a dark and thickly covered forest. Massive redwoods sprouted out from the ground and stretch endlessly into the sky, their trunks covered in moss. It was cold and moist. I can taste the soil in the air. The moon shone brightly between the trees and I tried to get a sense of where I was and how I got here. The cold made me shiver violently and made my teeth chatter loudly. It seemed like any ordinary forest in Washington yet there was something eerie, something wrong with the scene. I stood very still and took in all my surroundings. I was alone. Not just alone, no. It was lonelier than that.

I heard the wind whistle and howl, but the leaves didn't rustle. The ferns remained undisturbed. There was the sound of a constant drip somewhere nearby but no stream in sight. Everything was so still. Too still. I heard the loud cries of eagles passing by although there were none in the sky. Odd. Did I sleepwalk? Sure I couldn't keep my mouth shut as I slept - an embarrassing habit of mine but sleepwalk?

I turned to look for a trail to lead me out of the forest. As I turned, I saw him standing there. Still as the trees. He looked at me with gold and anxious eyes. Are all angels as beautiful as this? Does it get any better than this? He held his arms out as if beckoning me to go to him. I wanted to run. Run as fast as my legs would carry me and crash into him. Take in his sweet scent and feed on his cool lips. But I couldn't move. My legs were tangled against something… vines? My eyes remained locked to his hypnotic gaze as I tried feebly to free my legs from their restraint. They didn't budge.

There was a sudden change to his cherubic face. He looked panicked, a sense of urgency in his eyes. He didn't move. I couldn't understand this sudden shift of emotion emanating from him. I fought harder to free my legs and fell while I struggled. I landed on something soft, hot and lumpy. As I looked down, I realized that there was nothing holding my legs. I pushed myself up from the dark form. Something wet and hot covered my hand. It was blood.

Blood?

I pushed the dark mound at my feet looking for the source of the blood. What I found was far worse than anything I have ever witnessed in my life. I screamed in horror at the sight of Jacob's lifeless staring eyes.

I looked back at Edward and this time he was screaming, veins taut against his forehead and neck, his hands balled into tights fists. His fury was so powerful that it resonated through him though he didn't move from his place, and more disturbingly, no sound came from his mouth. My eyes drifted back to Jacob.

At the same time, a pain shot through my chest, sharp and deep. It pulled against my chest wall painfully. I heard the eagle's cry yet again and the wind whistled softly. The moon seemed to have exploded for its light was everywhere, blinding me. Another sharp and penetrating pain seared through my chest.

"We got it back". "30 cc's ready for IV, vitals are weak" said a flat and unfamiliar voice. Then there was a new voice… a frantic urgency... Bella! Please fight!... Stay with me!"

The voice broke through to me like the morning's ray. I understood now. There was no wind. It was the sound of Edward's voice and the paramedics speaking urgently. There was no eagle. It was the sound of the siren blaring through the street. There was no stream. It was the IV's drip releasing the morphine. I couldn't feel anything. I couldn't see anything. At times I couldn't even hear anything. I drifted in and out of consciousness though never awakening.

I tried to piece it all together. There had been a celebration. I couldn't remember what was being celebrated though. There was Edward and Jacob. But something went wrong and I left. My mind was foggy and my memory was battered. A speedometer read 142 mph and there was angry shouting. What was it about?

The sudden realization sent my heart flying and the paramedics squirming for their tools and medications.

Jacob!

His eyes wide in horror… the blinding light of the tractor trailer… my scream. I wanted to scream now. I wanted to get up and tear off all the tubes connected to my body. But I couldn't. All I could manage was making my heart beat erratically in my chest. I needed to see him. I needed something that would prove that it had only been a nightmare. That he wasn't dead. But I couldn't do anything. I was immobilized. Imprisoned by my own broken body.

Heat rushed through my right arm as they injected what was sure to be some sort of sedative. I drifted back into darkness searching desperately in my sleep for the forest. I never found it.

*****

I drifted in and out of sleep, from dreams to nightmares then back to reality, though my reality was not far from a nightmare. I was aware I was in a coma. Although I could not wake, I can sometimes make out the sounds around me, the voices, the sound of the heart monitor. I tried to listen for any news of Jacob but it never came. Neither good or bad. It unsettled me and sometimes threw me on the verge of panic, making my heart rattle. The nurses would rush to sedate me to, slow my heart rate down. When will I break free from this? How long have I been comatose? It seemed like an eternity.

I was acutely aware of Edward's presence. He stayed with me for as long as I could recall. I felt every touch, every kiss, every breath, and every stroke of my face. He described what the day looked like, what types of flowers adorned my room, he hummed my lullaby, and quite frequently, he apologized. He apologized for leaving me, for putting me in danger and allowing Jacob to drive me home that night with all his rage. He wasn't certain that I could hear him but he wouldn't give up trying.

Alice had visited. I'm not sure whether it was yesterday or today as I had lost track of time. Edward begged desperately for her to tap into my future but for some unknown reason, she couldn't. I heard the pain in his voice.

"How can that be? She's alive! Her heart beats. Why can you not see her?"

"I'm not sure why, Edward. I told you, for months now, I've slowly been losing track of her. It's gone from sporadic visions to none. Initially, I thought it was because of the wolves, since she was always around them, but for weeks now, she's been here with you."

Weeks.

"I can't understand it. I know she will be ok, she will awake. I'm not sure how I know it but I do. I just don't know when. I'm so sorry Edward. I know this must be driving you mad….not knowing."

"What's happened to her?" he said in a muse more to himself. He was stroking my hair and then my cheek. The coolness of his skin sent a ghost shiver through my body. My head began to spiral dizzily and I slowly drifted back into darkness.

***

I don't remember when I awakened or if I really did. I was in Jacob's house, curled up on his sofa. There was a draft somewhere, pulling in the scent of pine from the trees outside. The last of the sun's orange rays were beginning to withdraw. The TV was on with its volume turned so low that you couldn't make out the roar of the stadium when the Jets scored the winning touchdown. I laid there, absentmindedly watching the TV though not paying any attention to the game.

There was a new scent. Correction – a tantalizing aroma coming from the far left side of the living room. Something was cooking…..Steak? My stomach growled at the smell of it. How long had I been sleeping? I sat up and looked around the room. It always amazed me how at home Jacob's house made me feel. It held such a warm and cozy appeal.

I stood up suddenly, rocked by panic. Dread flushing through me. I needed to know. I quickly made my way toward the direction of the appetizing scent, stumbling twice over my boots that were lying on the floor. As I reached the kitchen's archway, I braced myself for whatever... whoever, was there and I hoped with all my heart that I was wrong. Wrong about the image that haunted me.

I turned quickly into the kitchen and at first saw no one. There was a sizzling skillet on the stove, herbs and condiments scattered on the counter but no chef. A small light reflected off my eyes. I turned to the right where the door of the stainless steal refrigerator stood wide open. Someone was rummaging thru it. I took a step closer and came to a halt when Jacob took a few steps back, closing the refrigerator door with his foot and holding an assortment of veggies with both his arms.

"Agh! Damn, this is cold!!!! Good afternoon sleepy head. Wanna give me a hand here?" he said as he gingerly hopped towards me.

I threw myself to him, ignoring the vegetables between us, and wrapped my arms around his waist the way a child would embrace their teddy bear. He wasn't wearing a shirt and his skin was hot, as if he just walked out of a sauna. He dropped the veggies almost instantly and in slow confusion wrapped his long arms around me.

"Whoa, what's wrong?" he said anxiously.

I pulled back just a little to look at him but he pulled me right back towards his chest.

"I didn't say let go" he chuckled.

I hugged him harder. "Oh, Jake! It's really you! I knew it, I knew it!"

"Knew what Bells? What are you talking about?"

This time he was the one to pull back. He held me by my arms and looked at me anxiously and half smiling. His teeth were white as snow against dark wooden skin. His eyes were the color of rich dark chocolate and deeply set. His hair was short now, black and ruffled in every direction... a beautiful mess. His strong jaw was sharp and angled. I can stand here, mesmerized as I am, for a lifetime.

"Bella? Seriously, you're starting to freak me out! Are you okay?" he said urgently.

"Yes" I croaked out, my face dumbstruck.

"What do you mean 'you knew it'?" he persisted.

"That you were okay." I didn't want to get into any details. He looked at me with dubious eyes.

"Are you sure you didn't fall off the coach and hit your head?" he said with a smirk.

"No, you idiot!" I frowned and wrapped my arms around him again.

He held his arms out momentarily not knowing what to do. Then he slowly wrapped them around my back keeping his head above me, looking down at me. We stood there for about a minute or two when he removed one arm and lifted my chin to face him. He paused for a moment, a frown creasing his forehead, seeming to struggle for words but instead, he pulled my face to his and kissed me. First, two soft and short kisses, and then he slid his hand across my face and buried it in my hair and kissed me more eagerly... hungrily.

My inner self fought to stop - to resist. This wasn't right. Not what I wanted right now. But my body conquered all my defenses. I returned the passion in my kiss. His tongue was hotter than mine, as if he just finished eating something blistering hot. His skin warmed my hands a by a few degrees. My mind was going... pleasantly. He held me tight with his one arm around my waist and the other gripping me behind my head, as if to ensure I wouldn't escape. His hot skin burned thru my clothes.

He took a few steps forward, forcing me to retract, though our kiss never broke and our bodies never detached. After a few steps, he stopped and with the hand he had my hair fisted in, he reached to the stove and shut the burner and moved the skillet to another burner. Now both his arms were wrapped around my waist and he took a couple more steps forward as I followed backwards.

Suddenly, he lift me up and sat me on the far end of the counter. He grabbed my legs pulling me closer to him, my legs on either side of him. My heart raced and my veins burned. My heavy breathing did not embarrass me. I pushed him away and began pulling my shirt over my head. Instinctively, he grabbed both of my breasts in his hands with greed and kissed my collar bone while he felt them roughly and then slid his hands behind my back to undo my bra. I tossed my shirt behind him and reached for my belt.

I don't know where it came from but all of a sudden I heard Carlisle's voice.

"Be reasonable, Edward! Think about the implications it would've caused."

"Implications or not, it was immoral....criminal! She's the only one keeping him alive. All I need is one word and he will cease to exist".

Realization came crashing down on me. Dammit! It was only a dream. Figures. Jacob and I didn't have that kind of relationship, although I have summoned the thought many times before as I am sure he has also, Jacob was a part of me, and because of that, I couldn't bring myself to it. Not that I never would, but I wanted to be sure of it. Did I really want him as a friend or lover? I didn't want to jeopardize anything. I had already lost far too much and I wouldn't set myself up again.

'Please, think this through. They have as much a right... "

"NO! a savage growl came from Edward. "They have no claim over her. Death will come to them if they so much speak her name in front of me. Their tongues deserve not even her name. I know that I hurt her, betrayed her, but I never ... "

I blinked. It suddenly went quiet as if my blink were the power button on the TV remote control. I blinked again.

"Did you see that?" asked Edward. I flinched at the sound of his voice. "Can it be?" Cold fingers wrapped around my wrist.

"Bella, if you can hear me, blink your eyes"said Carlisle. I blinked in response without opening my eyes.

"Bella"whispered Edward, his cool sweet breath blanketing my face. He was holding my left hand and stroking my hair with the other.

"Bella, if you can feel my hand in yours, squeeze it."said Carlisle.

Edward held my left hand, Carlisle - my right. Could Carlisle stop talking! I was having a moment here. Edward was at my side, holding my hand in both of his. I never thought I would feel this again. He never left my side. He stayed here with me. I squeezed Edward's hand as hard as I could and he gasped.

"I'll get the nurse to get all her vitals checked"said Carlisle. Then I heard the door swing quietly shut.

'Bella, love.....I'm so sorry. Please, please know that. I am not asking for your forgiveness for I don't deserve that. I only want you to know that have lived in my own personal hell, damning myself for everything I've done to you. Please know that I am truly and eternally sorry. And please know that I love you…that I've never stopped loving you. My love for you has never wavered. I am yours to keep if you still want me and I am yours to keep if you wish to torture me. Do what you will with me, but please believe that I am sorry, love.

Some things never change. Here is the most beautiful vampire of the world, begging to be tortured in return for my believing that he was sorry. I struggled with all my might to open my eyes. I managed to make them flutter, taking in the bright light briefly between the blinking. It burned my eyes. When I was confident that I could open them, I turned my head towards Edward's direction to shade my face from the blinding light and I slowly opened them.

His beauty numbed my burning eyes. I had memorized his face many times before and still, he was able to rock my soul with his intense eyes. They were black. This much I would've guessed. He was here with me every time I woke, unconsciously. He looked tired and worn but his smile was genuine. I made no effort to move or blink. He was hypnotic and all I can do was stare idly.

We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. He kissed my forehead, then my nose. I turned my head the other way when i sensed that he'd kiss me. The horror of my not brushing my teeth for days, weeks, probably even months. snapped me out of his enchantment.

I struggled to talk but at first nothing came out of my moving lips. He quickly reached for a cup of water and lifted my head up gingerly as I sipped from it. I turned away when I didn't want anymore and he carefully laid me back down. I felt weak, like jello. I found I could move my arms and legs but only with strained effort.

"How long have I been here?" my voice croaked sounding like a strangled frog.

"6 weeks" he murmured as he pushed a strand of hair off my forehead. "Most of your wounds have healed. Your bruises are gone and so are your stitches. You were"…he paused, "hurt really badly. All of your ribs on your right side were broken, two on your left. A broken ankle, fractured spine and pelvis and a small skull fracture" he finished with hurt clear in his eyes.

I looked at him in shock and disbelief. "Is that all?" I asked.

"And a few scratches here and there" he smiled his crooked smile, sending a ripple through my heart. Time couldn't anesthetize what he meant to me no matter how angry I was. I broke free from his gaze once again to ask him what I wanted to know.

"Jacob."

He flinched and his eyes narrowed. He looked away from me and focused his attention to the wall across him.

"Is he ok?" I asked anxiously when I got no response. He still didn't answer. His face had gone cold and hard. His lips pressed into a fine line.

"Edward! Answer me!" I asked franticly. "Is he ok?"

He turned to look at me with anxious eyes now. He seemed to struggle with his thoughts. His lips formed a straight line again and spoke behind clenched teeth.

"Do you not remember anything from the crash?" he asked.

I looked at him, puzzled. "Yes" I said. "He lost control of the car and we collided with a truck."

He closed his eyes, his face pained as if he was trying to clear the images from his mind.

"Is that all you remember"? he growled.

"Dammit, Edward! Where is he…......is he ok!? What's happened to him!?" My voice was now panicked and impatient as I forced myself to sit up. He gently stopped me half way and looked me in the eye, still angry.

"The dog is fine" he snarled and slowly pushed me back down.

I let myself melt back into the pillow, my eyes never leaving his. Jacob was all right. He lived. I was wrong. I knew it. Relief rushed over me. I didn't know what I'd do had the news been otherwise. A small and frail nurse walked into the room. Edward, still frowning in anger, retracted a few steps away to allow her room to examine me.

"Well, if it isn't sleeping beauty finally awakened. Good afternoon, Ms. Swan" she said animatedly. I gave her a half-assed smile.

I hated hospitals and all it entailed. She worked quickly and skillfully. First she checked my eyes with a light pen, and then she took my pressure, temperature and changed my IV bag. She checked the feeding tube that was jammed through the side of my stomach and concluded her observations.

Horror racked my senses upon realizing that I had been incapable of stepping foot in a bathroom since falling into coma. For all that was holy, I hoped Edward was gentlemen enough to step out of the room during those humiliating moments where my sheets needed to be changed.

I felt my face flush scarlet and I quickly glanced at Edward. He stood, hands in pockets, looking out the window and did not return to my side when the nurse left. He stood there for a couple of minutes. Silent and far away in thought. I didn't want to disrupt his trance but I couldn't fight the urge to ask him what I've been meaning to ask.

"Edward?"

"Yes, love" he murmured before turning to walk towards my bedside. He sat on the chair by my bed. He kept his head down, as if expecting what I was about to ask and trying to keep his calm and I readied myself for the furious wrath that was sure to come.

"I'd like to see him, to know that he's ok".

The explosion never came. Instead, he looked up and stared at me with curious eyes. After a long moment he asked, "Why?"

"What do you mean why?" I asked incredulously. "Edward, we almost died. I need to see him."

"Exactly." he said in a stony voice. "You almost died."

There was a phone on the nightstand next to him. I sat up a little and went to reach for it when his hand quickly and lightly, grabbed my wrist and stopped me.

"Edward, let go if me". I said behind clenched teeth. He did, immediately.

"Don't you remember anything else, Bella?" he asked, beseechingly and frowning deeply in confusion.

"What are you talking about!?" He paused and didn't say anything at first. His frown lines cleared and his face recomposed itself to a blank and unreadable look.

"He left you, Bella. He left you for dead."

The silence in the room seemed to stretch on. His words hung there in the air. Like the words spoken from the operating surgeon in the hospital waiting room after a failed rescue attempt.

"What?" my voice was almost inaudible.

"He escaped. Naturally, he heals so he was not in any mortal danger. He was gone before the ambulance arrived. The driver of the truck was the one who called the ambulance. Carlisle called me once he received the call. I almost went out looking for him that night, to finish the job myself. But when I got there, to the scene of the accident, and saw you..." his voice trailed off, "...all broken and covered in blood, I couldn't leave your side. And I haven't since. I couldn't risk leaving you for a single moment. Not knowing if you'd slip in your sleep and die. I needed to be here with you. And if you went, I'd be ready to follow you."

Tears welled in my eyes. Not because of Edward's words rather what the words meant. He betrayed me? My Jacob? He left? Simply got up and walked away? Did he rather see me dead than to see me with Edward again? A sudden flicker of memories played through my head. Us laughing at the campfire, painting his garage, racing each other on motorcycles, shielding me with his jacket in the downpour, teaching me to play hockey...

Tears streamed down my face. "No, no, no" Edward whispered anxiously. "Don't waste your tears on him. He's not worthy of them. Please don't cry, love. I'm sorry to have laid that all out there that way. It was reckless of me. This is not how I wanted you to find out. I'm so sorry."

"He left me?" I said my voice breaking and tears beginning to well my eyes. He stared at me for a long while, pensively. I couldn't read his emotion. After about two minutes, he started:

"I won't keep from you all the rest." He hesitated then continued in a flat tone. "He wants to see you. He was just as worried as I was. Sam claims that they had no choice but to pull him from the wreck before help came. The truck driver was already calling the police when they got there. They heard the crash through their minds and were there within minutes. Jacob was half phased and unconscious by the time of the crash. They worried of being exposed. If the ambulance came and saw a half man-half wolf, there's no doubt he would've been shipped off to some remote top secret military base for experimenting. Shame that they didn't. So they collected him and sped off."

Anger flashed through his eyes.

"If the truck driver had been unconscious as well, if that call never came in... it could've been too late for you" he said with eyes that looked like they were about to tear, but of course, never would. "Your heart stopped beating in the ambulance. I almost lurched on you then and there. Selfishly, I was convinced I'd change you, not knowing whether you still wished for that, not caring about the paramedics. They tried desperately to resuscitate your heart while my sanity hung by a string. And when your heart took that first beat...," he trailed off. "Well, there's nothing to describe what I felt."

"Charlie arrived to the hospital only minutes after they rolled you into the ER. He was hysterical. My being there didn't help either. I believe he assumed I did this to you and jumped at me the minute he laid eyes on me. Three security guards had to hold him off. Once they were able to calm him down, Carlisle sat with him and went over what happened... or at least what he wanted him to believe that happened. To my disgust, Carlisle explained to him that you and Jacob had a disagreement and you took off in his car, alone. You lost control of the car and crashed with the truck.

This is the same story Jasper gave the police when we were questioned. Jasper was certain that Jacob's disappearance wasn't ill intent. Of course, the alibi got to Jacob sooner than the police did and it was easily believable seeing that the car was a mangled mess, as were you, and Jacob didn't have a hair out of place. Fate has a sick sense of humor at times. He's asks for you every day and he wants to see you but I won't allow it. His pack won't allow him either. They know he'd be walking straight into his death should he even come within a foot of this hospital."

All of it seemed so much to grasp. It wasn't betrayal after all. They were protecting him… their legend. It made sense. What didn't make sense was Edward's hold over me.

"Why have you denied him visiting me when you know he didn't mean for it to be this way?" I demanded.

"Because his inability to control himself around you is what almost killed you Bella!" he glared. "Can't you see that? He is a danger to you, whether he chooses to believe that he will never hurt you. It's in his nature!"

"And you?" I retorted. "You are no danger to me? Why? Simply because you say so? Simply because you believe you will never hurt me? Just how close were you in changing me without knowing whether I wanted that anymore?"

I hit home. He stared at me, speechless for once.

"You are no less a threat than he is. Jacob is part of me whether you like that or not. If you kill him, you might as well kill me". He flinched. "I want to see Jacob dammit! I need to see him and you are not getting in my way".

His lips formed a hard line and he stared hard at me. After a few seconds he stood up and walked away, rubbing his temples in circles. He stopped and looked down at me.

"As you wish" He said coldly. "But I stay here. See, I'm sure you can understand my unease at the situation as I am sure you can acknowledge the fact that I have never brought you to the verge of death. James was your idea. I did everything to make you safe and your stubbornness did otherwise. Against my wishes you walked right up to death's door. I'm sure you can also recollect how it was a vampire who sucked the venom out of you to save your life… a vampire who had a number for you blood exclusively. Yes, I am a vampire, Bella. Remember that."

"BELLA!!!!" exclaimed a jubilant Alice. I didn't hear her come in. She carried a huge white teddy bear and a dozen white roses. She ran to me and hugged the oxygen right out of me.

"A-lice" I choked.

"Oh, I'm sorry" she said absently. "How are you!!? How do you feel?" she asked in that high octal voice.

I tore my eyes away from Edward who was still staring at me intensely. His words rattled me. Though he did save my life and though I was the brainiac who thought it heroic to face James alone, my blood was still his number one desire… his weakness. What was it that he called it once?… his personal brand of heroin. He failed to catch my point entirely, and his words stung me. He's never taken that tone with me. I may have underestimated his patience.

"As good as can be expected" I answered back at Alice as soon as I was able to catch my breath again. Jasper, Emmet, and Esme were the next to walk through the door. Rosalie wasn't present, to no surprise.

"Pinky!" bellowed Emmet as he planted a kiss on my head and shoveled my hair.

I hadn't forgotten how he called me the most absurd names of endearment. Pinky….for my blushing cheeks. I grimaced. "Hello Emmet".

Something washed over me. I felt suddenly comforted, at ease, like the buzz after a few glasses of wine. Then Jasper walked over to me and kissed my forehead. Of course. He must've sensed the tension between Edward and I and put his charm to use. It must feel good to never walk in to an awkward situation. I never really thought about it before, but his ability to saturate the atmosphere with his numbing calm must be a very handy tool. How could he ever be the target of an attack when he'd always be a step ahead? It explains why Alice never seems to be upset with him for too long.

"Bella" he greeted in a low and silky voice. "Welcome back" he smiled widely revealing a line of shiny white teeth. Esme shoved Jasper and Emmet to the side and placed both of her cool hard hands on the sides of my face. I shivered slightly at the sudden cold sensation. She missed my reaction.

"Oh Bella, sweetheart! I'm so glad to see you awake. We all worried so much about you. I'm so sorry if our return was what led this all." She shot a quick glare at Edward. "We should've never left…"

It was Edward who cut in. "Esme, please."

She looked back at him, this time with apologetic eyes. "I'm sorry" she said to him and then turned back to face me with a dazzling smile. "Carlisle tells me you're going to be okay and you should be out of here in a week if no complications arise".

A week, wonderful, I thought to myself.

As if Esme could sense what I was thinking, she smiled conspicuously and whispered, "Don't worry, we'll see to it that you get out of here much sooner than that". She leaned forward to kiss my forehead.

"I brought you some minestrone soup. Carlisle tells me they will be removing your feeding tube shortly and I'm sure you could use a nice warm and hearty meal."

"Mmm, thanks Esme" I said smiling. "You really didn't have to go out of..."

"Oh, none of that sweetheart. It's the very least I could do. I do hope you allow me to visit you when you are released. I know Italian is your favorite and there aren't any great restaurants in Forks". She knew Charlie's cooking expertise included a cold ham and cheese sandwich and scrambled eggs.

"Thanks. Sure you can visit. Any time you want." I replied. It was so good to see them again. Each of them looked incomprehensibly beautiful. I could only imagine what I looked like in comparison. Alice had picked at my hair a moment ago, her face pinched in concentration as she tried to finger comb my locks.

"Charlie is on his way here as we speak" said Alice. "I wish you could've seen him when Carlisle called him to break the news" she said, as if I had paranormal super powers. "He sound like a poor man just learning that he won the state Lottery."

"Wow. It's so..." I searched for words "....awesome to see you all here!" I managed to say. "I'm really happy to see you guys. I've missed you all so much". From my peripheral vision, I saw Edward drop his head.

"Oh sweetheart, we missed you too" said Esme in an angel's voice. Alice was sitting on my bed, cross-legged and fidgeting with my fingernails.

"Goodness, your nails look awful! I should've brought my manicure set. I'll make a note to pack it tomorrow".

"She's in the hospital, psycho" Emmet snorted. She glared back at him.

I really did miss them. I didn't resent them for leaving a year ago without saying goodbye. I know that it was Edward's carefully orchestrated idea. They respected him as they profoundly respected one another. The Brady bunch was no match for the Cullens. They were perfect in all ways possible.

Carlisle walked into the room after a couple of minutes.

"Bella! I can see your shaping up quite well." he said with a brilliant smile.

He too leaned forward to plant a kiss on my forehead. I began to worry that my breath wreaked and that they intentionally tried to stay as far away as possible from my mouth. My first post-coma baby steps will be towards the bathroom to brush my teeth and take a nice hot shower.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Great." I exaggerated. I couldn't fool him though. He gave a quick laugh and jotted some notes on his clipboard as he spoke.

"Jackie briefed me on your vitals which I'm happy to say were excellent. Most of your bones have healed but will require therapy. Internal bleeding has ceased and your skull seems to have healed properly. We've gradually weaned you off the morphine and I expect to discontinue its use entirely by today. I was concerned of muscle atrophy but seeing you as you are, I'm sure there is nothing to worry about and I expect you to make a speedy recovery. I recommend that you stay under observation here for at least another week."

"Is a week really that necessary? I asked, hoping he would reconsider. Another day in the fluorescent lighted hell would be impossible to bear.

He chuckled and flashed a dazzling smile. "Let's play it by ear for now, shall we?"

I grimaced.

"Well everyone, let's go." Alice announced. "Charlie's in the elevator now. I'm sure he wants time alone with Bella." She eyed Edward at the end of her announcement. His eyes narrowed the slightest bit and looked me. I knew him well enough to note the disappointment in his eyes. It's a good thing his talents did not involve invisibility or my privacy would've been out the door. They all gave me a quick peck on the cheek this time and marched out of the room. Edward was the last one left.

"Bella, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say..."

"You didn't say anything that was not true, or that I didn't already know." I intercepted. "I know exactly what you are. I'm not afraid of you and I'm not afraid of Jacob. That is what I meant to say."

"It's not a question of what you fear, for I know you do not fear neither me nor him, it's more of the manner in which you compare me to him. I merely wanted to point out the fact that although I am indeed a vampire, I take merit in knowing I can control myself as I have proven so in the past. I am no Carlisle... not by a long shot, but neither am I a murderous and sadistic vampire... at least not to you." He said darkly before recomposing himself. "I love you Bella, intensely so. Please understand that."

Before I could respond, Charlie burst through the door. "Bells, hun? You're awake!" He lunged forward, oblivious to Edward who was still standing in the same spot staring at me. I've never seen Charlie so animated. He reminded me of crazed scientist in the midst of a new discovery. He hugged me tightly. I felt like a feather. I was too week to return the same hold.

"Hi, dad" I smiled, trying not to wince at the pain in my ribs.

"Tell me, how do you feel?" he asked eagerly. He caught the quick glance I shot behind his shoulder. He turned around and straightened to stand in front of Edward. Edward's eyes were still locked on mine when Charlie said "I think your family is waiting for you outside, in the hall". His tone was not polite. It was authoritative. Edward stared at me just a few seconds longer before shifting his focus on Charlie.

"Chief Swan" he greeted softly.

He looked at me once more and said "I'll be outside if you need me" and he turned and walked away. Charlie didn't move until Edward was out the door.

"Hmmph" Charlie huffed and then turned around and sat on the edge of my bed.

"What's the story with him? I thought they moved out of the country" he asked.

"Yeah, they did" I murmured.

He waited for more and when I offered no more, he said "Bella, hun, listen. I don't know what's going on with you guys but I don't trust him. He left you and I saw what that did to you. I don't trust that he won't do that again."

"I know dad."

"You and Jacob have become so close and although I know he's not your boyfriend, well, I wouldn't argue it if he was".

I began to protest when he held up one finger.

"Wait, let me finish. Jacob is a great kid. You guys grew up together. I can see the way he is with you and I can tell you this with all certainty… that boy is hung on you. Sure, he doesn't drive a fancy car and doesn't wear designer clothes" he made a sour face towards the door and I winced at the way he perceived Edward. "But he has a good heart and I know that he can protect you".

As if I lacked protection, I thought to myself.

"Dad, I'm not having this conversation with you. I love Jacob, but not the way you'd like me to".

"Are you still in love with that boy?" he asked, referring to Edward. My heart skipped a beat. I know without a doubt that Edward was listening in and I wasn't going to lay my emotions out on the table.

"I was, but he left" I said in almost a whisper.

Charlie seemed to like my response and took that as a happy ending to that topic. He moved on to my mom, Renee, who he said was driving up to see me. She and Phil have been staying at a hotel here in Forks at the news of my accident. Charlie said she visited me often although I could not remember hearing her voice in my half-sleep. He told me she was worried sick which I could've easily guessed. Ben and Angela had also visited. They postponed their Hawaiian honeymoon when they heard about the accident. I felt terrible. I ruined their wedding. I was beginning to think I was a like bad omen or something.

"How's Jacob?" I asked.

"He's in pretty bad shape. He thinks it's his fault that you were in that accident. He wished he would've stopped you from driving off alone that night."

Sure he did,I thought to myself.

"He too, has visited you."

This I knew was not true. It was just a formulated lie to keep up with the story.

"Hey, when you see him, can you ask him to come see me.... again? I asked. At the same time I heard a loud bang outside, surely the sound of Edward's fist on the wall.

"Sure, hun" Charlie smugged contently.

Charlie's visit was short as were most of our conversations. Time and distance had made its mark in our bond. Although I loved him and he loved me in return, there was always that awkward gap between us. It didn't bother me at all. His candidness allotted me privacy.

Mom arrived with Phil while Charlie was still in the room. She brushed right past him as he did with Edward earlier, ignoring him for the moment while she threw her arms around me and grabbed me all over as if assessing my injuries. After exchanging a few words, she turned around and greeted Charlie as if he was an old high school friend she hadn't seen in years. I could've sworn I saw something flash behind Charlie's eyes but it was so sudden that it was gone just as fast as I had noticed it. He politely said goodbye and left.

Once the nurse had removed the feeding tube from my stomach, Renee helped me to the shower. It was such a weird feeling standing and walking after being immobilized in a bed for over a month. Walking was like trying to write while laughing. I literally had to will every muscle to work.

I flinched at my haggard reflection in the bathroom mirror. I had expected to be bone pale - paler than I already was. What stared back at me from the mirror was a hideous witch with yellow skin and teeth and dark grey circles all around the eyes. My hair looked like fine dreadlocks. Ugh! I remember the words Edward told me earlier... I love you Bella, intensely so. If he could say that, knowing what I looked like, then he's probably been confined here for too long.

Edward was back in the room by the time Renee helped me out the shower. He quickly walked over to help me walk. He hunched down a bit to allow me to put my arm around his shoulder and he placed one arm around my waist and the other under my elbow. His body felt hard against my side and he smelled... divine. At my bed, he wasted no time and gently scooped me up and laid me down. If there were any teams forming, Renee was definitely on Team Edward, all right. She smiled at him and not just any smile, it was a hopeless-romantic smile. I rolled my eyes and kissed her on the cheek goodbye.

"I'll be by tomorrow. I love you" she said to me and then turned to Edward.

"Edward, you have my number. If she so much as coughs, no matter what time it is, call me."

"Yes, I will" he smiled crookedly. How I hated that I loved that smile. He quickly and conspicuously took a step back and coughed lightly into his hand several times in an effort to prevent Renee from kissing him on the cheek.

"And take care of her" she added as she turned to walk away.

"As my own life" he murmured.

I was glad that everyone was gone. Not that I didn't want to see them or be bothered, but against my better judgment, I was glad to be alone with him. There were a few things I wanted to discuss. He stood there for a few moments, his head slightly tilted to one side just gazing at me, with a faint smile on his lips. I wondered what he was thinking. He took a seat next to me.

"You should try to eat something" he gestured towards the food that the nurse had brought in. It was criminal to feed patients some of the stuff that the hospital prepared. I didn't move to inspect what it was. Instead, I reached for Esme's bowl of minestrone soup.

"You know, you shouldn't really be eating that. It's....."

"Edward!" I warned.

He retreated and smiled. I stirred the soup with my spoon absentmindedly and I stared back at him for a few moments before asking "So, how long are you staying?"

"Why, until you are released of course." he said sounded shocked.

"I mean in Forks."

He pursed his lips, a small frown pulling his eyes together.

"You really don't believe me. You think I'm going to leave again."

I stared at my soup as I whirled the contents round and round. That's exactly what was happening to me. My head was swirling round and round, though not with a spoon but with his words.

"Bella, I need to ask you something. It's been burning in my mind since the night I saw you."

"What is it?"

He struggled for words. "When I saw you there, on the pier, you're face was hard… angry. No doubt that I deserve that and I need no confirmation to know I was the cause of your sudden temper. But I felt your guard sway at the sound of his voice."

He watched me with searching eyes.

"Am I too late? Has he... claimed you?"

I didn't respond. I kept swirling the pieces of pasta and tomato in circles. That's what I was doing, wasn't I? ...spinning both Edward and Jacob in circles, each one bumping each other along the way.

"I hope that it is not fear of hurting my feelings that keeps you from answering. If he has claimed you..." his voice was almost a whisper. "...if you've taken his hand, know that I wouldn't hurt him. I know that doing so will hurt you and I will give no hand to your pain".

I looked up at him. "Jacob and I are friends. I love him" was all I could say. I didn't want to lie and say that we were something more than that but I couldn't let him think that he had an open ticket.

"As you loved me?" he asked.

Loved. I didn't miss the past-tense. So he really didn't know how I felt. I'm not sure how that made me feel. Childish I suppose, because I didn't want to confess that I never stopped loving him but neither did I want him to feel that I didn't. I know too well how that felt. And although I should give him a taste of his own medicine, I found that I didn't want him to taste it's bitterness.

"No" I croaked.

Relief seemed to soften the features of his face. We didn't speak any further. I ate my soup savoring each mouthful. When I was finished, he took my bowl and placed in next to the untouched platter and twisted open the cap of a water bottle. I chugged it once then remembered something I heard while I slept that puzzled.

"While I was out, I heard you speaking with Alice" I began.

His brows raised high and he looked at me black wide eyes. "You heard me?" he asked and then slowly began to smile as he realized that his voice had indeed been heard through my sleep.

"Yes, I did. On and off though. Sometimes it took some mental effort to differentiate what was reality and what was a dream, but after a while, it would become clear to me."

"Interesting. I will have to let Carlisle know" he said more to himself.

"One day, you and Alice were talking about me" I continued. "You wanted to know if I was ever going to wake. She told you she didn't know. She told you she'd been losing track of me for months now and that she could no longer see me". His forehead creased and he looked like he was deep in thought.

"What did she mean by that?" I asked.

"I was hoping you could answer that for me."

"I don't understand. How would I know?"

He hesitated for a moment and seemed to focus his thoughts. "Bella, please do not take offense at what I'm about to ask you. It is simply a theory I have. And please don't mind my feelings. I need to know the truth to put the pieces together, if you will."

"What do you want to know?"

He pursed his lips and looked me deep in the eyes. "Bella, have you...." I waited.

"Have I what?"

He tried again. "Have you... given yourself to him?"

"WHAT?!" I nearly shouted.

"Bella, Alice can no longer see you. In the past, that only happened when you were with him. But after the accident, I have not left your side. None of the Quileute have stepped foot here and still she cannot see you. I truly doubt that you have become a werewolf, love. You smell far too delectable. This is the only theory I can come up with."

I thought back to the dream I had just before I woke. Jacob lifting me up to the counter top. A pang of guilt hit me behind the head.

"Of course I haven't! What part of friend did you not get?

At first, he did not move. Then out of no where, his lips were an inch from mine. He scanned my face wildly with his eyes, talking in all my features. My heart began to flutter like a humming bird's wings. He tilted his head slightly to my left, near my heart and closed his eyes. He didn't have to lay his head on my chest to hear my heart pounding.

"Mmm….I missed that" he whispered.

He slowly turned his head back to me so that the tip of his nose grazed my jaw line then my lips. A small tremble escaped me and he paused, taking in a deep breath before rolling his eyes upward and backing off with a growl. At the same time, Jackie, the petite nurse, came in.

"Time to check your vitals dear" she said almost singing.

Nice I thought bitterly. She stuck a thermometer in my mouth and took my pressure at the same time. She frowned at my readings.

"Your pressure is a little high."

"It's just me" I said handing back the thermometer. "I was just.....arguing" she shot a glance at Edward "...on the phone" I quickly said.

"Ms. Swan, you shouldn't be arguing with anyone in your delicate state" she scowled.

"I know. I'm sorry".

"All right then, everything looks good. My shift will end soon. Tomorrow Andrew will be the one to examine you. He will examine your pelvis to make sure it's healed properly". I could've sworn I heard a growl. She took off jotting notes on my chart. I needed to get to the bottom of this before he picked up where he left off.

"So, what else could it be? Why can't she see me?" I asked.

"I don't know. She thinks it might have to do with the bond you have with him, unless... he's doing it. I couldn't see how though."

"And this is why you refuse to leave me alone here?" I asked.

"It's the secondary reason" he murmured.

"Secondary?"

"I'm here because I want to be. Because I love you and I will spend the rest of your life telling you that, unless of course you wish me to leave."

"Would you?" I bluffed.

"Leave the room, of course, as you command" he smiled that damn crooked smile again.

My eyelids were heavy and he noticed it.

"Why don't you sleep, love. You look tired."

"Haven't I slept enough"?

He leaned over and once again paused just an inch from my lips. His breath was intoxicating. I could already feel the coolness emanating from his skin. My heart went soaring and my face flushed scarlet. He smiled, surely expecting my reaction and then leaned in for the kiss. How can lips as cold and hard kiss so softly. He taste was irresistible. My eyes never opened again that night.

****

To my pleasant surprise, the week had gone by faster than I had expected. My muscles strengthened more and more each day. By Tuesday, I had already begun my therapy and pleased Carlisle enough with my progress that he decided to shorten the sentence.

"You're eagerness to leave here has shown through your progress. I've never met anyone in my 300 years that has loathed a hospital more than you. You truly are something else." Carlisle teased as he shook his head although he was pleased at how quickly I was recovering.

I felt 80%. There were still little aches here and there but they were tolerable. Another week would definitely give me an added 10%. Then I'd feel almost complete. That was as far as I can physically go. The last 10% missing was not physically attributed. That gap may possibly go missing for good.

Edward stayed by my side every step of the way. I had thought it would become rather annoying considering that things were not all patched up between us and probably never will be. Not to say I had stopped loving him. That was an impossibility. But that I trusted him was a whole other ball park. He was a bucket head... scooping up all the guilt along the way. How can I be certain that his dutiful watch over me these past few weeks was not because he felt he owed me this much? He believes that hadn't he been there that night, at the reception, had he waited for me at my room instead, that I wouldn't be here struggling to walk on my own.

I hated that he thought this way. It really wasn't his fault. And as much as I tried to blame myself for the cause of the accident, I couldn't. I hadn't contributed to this. Despite my discontent, the reality was that Jacob brought this upon us. I remember thinking that night, that he was making a big deal out of nothing. Edward hadn't even touched me. Sure, I understand what must have been going through his head the moment he saw Edward talking to me by the lake, but to have acted the way he did was... out of control. His rage was more than I could tackle and inevitably caused the wreck. Anyone would think I'd want his head on a plate but actually, I felt terrible for him for I'm sure that his guilt must be tearing him to pieces. The thought of it formed a small puddle in my eye.

"What's wrong?" asked Edward worriedly.

I ignored the question and continued initialing all the highlighted spots on the medical release forms the nurse had given me. I didn't stop to see what I was signing in agreement. For all I know, the conditions could've stated that I was never to bath again, never to drive again, never to use a phone again, sign my soul to the devil even... I didn't care, just as long as I was out of here.

"What troubles you?' he insisted.

"Nothing" I said hastily, flipping the pages one by one making sure I didn't miss anything. I carefully and inconspicuously raise my palm to brush a strand of hair off my face at the same time I blinked and the puddle broke releasing its tear. I caught the teardrop with my palm and hoped that he didn't catch it. Wishful thinking, of course. I'm sure he knows the exact number of pores on my face.

He didn't ask again although his concerned frown remained. I tossed the forms to the side of the bed and began to reach for my sneakers on the floor by my bed when they disappeared.

"I got it" said Edward already loosening the strings and gently wedging my foot into the shoe. How much longer will I be babysat? Although his intentions were well meant, it was beginning to get to my nerves. Charlie walked in without knocking and gave Edward a cold look before turning to face me.

"Are you ready?" he asked with a smile from ear to ear.

"Yes" I smiled backed. Edward finished tying my shoes and reached for my large duffle bag and the huge stuffed bear Alice had gotten me.

"I can take that" snapped Charlie.

"Certainly" said Edward innocently. "I'll help Bella to the car" he said as he fought back a smile. Charlie seemed to re-assess the circumstances and held his arm out to me for support instead.

"Never mind. You can carry the bags" Charlie scuffed. Edward flashed a quick smile and winked at me when Charlie wasn't looking.

Outside, the air rushed thru my nose and I felt the chill fill my lungs. It carried the scent of evergreens and soil. I paused, closing my eyes and took another deep breath, pulling the morning's dew with it. Six weeks felt like a year. Charlie helped me to the car.

"I got it from here dad. Thanks".

He seemed reluctant to let me go but he did. He made his way around to the driver's side while Edward dumped my stuff in the trunk. He walked over to me but made no move to help me in the car. A gust of wind blew my hair all around as he closed his eyes and smiled, looking like an addict taking in the high. I pulled my hair to the side and held it there. I had complained, mentally, about his constant babysitting but standing here now, a hard lump formed in my throat. I didn't want to leave not knowing if I'd see him again. I bit my lip to obscure the quiver that threatened it. He stood there. Hands in pockets, head slightly tilted to one side, with my favorite crooked smile on his painfully beautiful face.

"I'll see you soon" he said in his signature velvet voice. I simply nodded, afraid to speak and expose my nerves He leaned in and hugged me. His firm body did a number on my heart. He whispered close to my ear, "Leave your window unlatched. It's cold outside".

My heart wanted to tear out my chest. Heat spread through my face. He smiled to my embarrassing expense and he leaned in and kissed my forehead, the icy chill still fresh on my skin as he pulled away and helped me in the car. He shut my door and took a step back. Charlie wasted no time and began to pull out of the driveway. Through the side view mirror, I caught a flash of something in face before he washed it away with a smile. It did not reach his eyes though. I would see him again and that was all I cared about right now. I didn't want to let myself hope but I couldn't stop myself either.

Charlie and I didn't speak on the ride home. The deep set frowns on his face served as confirmation that he was not thrilled about the fact that the Cullens had decided to move back to Forks. Although he didn't have a problem with any of the Cullens for that matter, I couldn't say the same for Edward. Charlie's discontentment was clear in his eyes whenever he looked at him. He saw what his leaving did to me and I wish I had been stronger, that I hadn't been so dejected, at least for Charlie's sake. But how could I be when the very reason for my existence vanished without a trace? I shivered at the thought. Now here he was, out of nowhere. His very presence pounding and threatening the walls I've built around myself because of him. Here he was tormenting my emotions while disrupting the steady and healthy beat of my mended heart, a heart that Jacob had pieced together one by one.

Jacob.

"Dad?" His thoughts were somewhere else, somewhere far. My voice didn't register to him yet.

"Charlie!" I said louder this time. He lunged back to reality and blinked ferociously before facing me.

"Yes" he said, clearing his throat.

"I want to see Jacob. Can you take me to his house first?" I asked, knowing he'd jump to the opportunity.

"Are you sure Bells? We can always call him and have him come over. I mean, you just left the hospital. I'm not sure if the doctor wants you out and about so soon."

"I'm fine dad, really. I won't be long. I just want to see him." He seemed to weigh his indecision for a moment before smiling and saying "Sure! I'm sure he'd be stoked to see you again".

Excitement radiated through my veins. I felt like a kid heading to Disney World for the first time. I was going to see him. Alive. The trip from the hospital to La Push couldn't have dragged on any longer. When we arrived to Jacob's house, I didn't wait for Charlie to help me out of the car. I had removed my seat belt just before we turned in to the driveway and swung my door open before he put the car in Park and shut it off. I began making my way towards the house when Jacob opened the door. A look of shock and awe set in his face. I ran, until I slammed into him, wrapping my legs around his waist and my arms around his neck. He hugged me tight and spun me around once laughing.

"Bella!" he breathed in both relief and exhalation. His body shivered against mine. He buried his face between my hair and my neck and gently rocked me back and forth for about a minute. His arms stayed locked behind my back when he finally set me down. Tears ran down his torn face.

"I'm so sorry Bella" he whispered as I wiped his hot tears.

"You have nothing to be sorry about. The pack was right in taking you away. We could've lost you had you stayed with me. I could've lost you".

"I don't care what they would've done to me if they'd seen me. It was a stupid decision on the packs' part. What if help would've never come for you? You could've died." He pulled me to his chest and held the back of my head as he kissed my forehead.

"I'm sorry I didn't listen to you and that I lost control. I thought I had already lost you when I saw you standing there by the lake. I wanted to take you away from there. Somewhere far away. Then I would return to... to kill him" he said darkly.

My body froze and so did my breathing. I pulled away to look at him. His eyes were cold and distant.

"NO! You will not. Edward didn't mean any harm." I said, angry now.

"He's already harmed you, Bella."

Before I could protest, Charlie walked up to us. "Don't let me interrupt" he teased and walked into the house calling for Billy.

Jacob took me by the hand. "Come on." he smiled as he led me inside.

Time flew by as we all laughed and ate dinner together. Billy cooked a mouthwatering pot roast with vegetables. Even after our plates were empty, we all stayed at the dinner table just catching up. Charlie's radio began chirping. He excused himself and stepped outside to the porch. When he was sure he left, Billy turned to look at me.

"Bella, I haven't had the chance to apologize to you for what happened that night. I'm sure Jacob must've already told you." he said in a low tone.

"Yes, he did and you have nothing to be sorry about. You all did what was right." I assured him. Before he could say anymore, Charlie came in with an annoyed expression on his face.

"What's up officer?" asked Billy.

"I'm afraid we'll have to start wrapping up" he said towards me. "I'm on call this month until Sheriff Smith gets back from his vacation. I just got a call from headquarters. Apparently, they need me down at the station. They brought in two suspects for the double homicide in Port Angles. Since they're in my jurisdiction, I get the pleasure of interrogating them."

"Hey Charlie, is there any way Bella can stay? I can drive her myself when you get back and save you the trip" asked Jacob.

"No son, it may be morning before I get back." answered Charlie.

"So then let her stay for the night" said Jacob. "It's not a good idea to leave her home alone especially after being release front the hospital."

Charlie seemed to mull over the idea. "Sure, why not." Jacob flashed a huge smile.

"Bella can have Jacob's room. Jacob can have the sofa" said Billy.

"Well, I gotta get going. You take care of yourself" Charlie said to me.

"Will do. Take care out there!" I replied.

Jacob walked Charlie to the car and retrieved my bag leaving Alice's teddy bear in the trunk. I got up to help Billy clean up the table when Jacob grabbed my wrist. "What do you think you're doing?" he chuckled.

"It's OK. I got it" I insisted.

"Bella, don't be stupid will ya?" he snorted. "Why don't you go lay down for a little bit while I help clean up the kitchen?" And he led me towards his bedroom. The room was dark but warm and cozy, not to mention messy. The comforters were all mangled on the king sized bed. It was a massive bed. It was simple in design - a low wooden platform bed. Because of Jacob's size, he needed something without a foot board. To the far right of the room, between two windows, laid an array of crumbled paper on a wooden desk. I uncrumbled one of the paper balls expecting to find a flawed drawing. What I found instead was a letter, addressed to me.

Bella, I'm sorry that I brought you to this. That filthy bloodsucker fueled my......

That was all of it. All of them began similarly but cut off at mid-sentence. Through the window, I saw darkening clouds spreading slowly ahead. Will he really be at my window tonight? I thought to myself. I sighed deeply. I felt like my body was being pulled in opposite directions. I wanted to be there with him, in the cool embrace of his arms but I also wanted to be here with Jake. I tried to imagine what he would do when he did not see me there. Would he know where I am? Would he rage and go out looking for me. I sighed and raised the window as high as it would go and climbed out onto the deck.

It was beginning to get chilly but I didn't mind. I sat there staring out to the vast forest ahead, my thoughts just as far as the trees in the distance. I recalled the nightmare I had the night of the accident and I shuddered. I don't know what I would've done if Jacob had died that night. He was the one who put me back together again when I thought that I had died almost a year ago. To have him taken away would've been suicide for me. From behind me, I heard a thump. I looked back to see Jacob climbing out the window.

"You know, I do have seats inside. As clumsy as you are, a rooftop is not an ideal spot for you" teased Jacob. He sat behind me, his legs to either side of me and pulled me closer to him where I leaned my back into his chest. He rested his long arms over his bent knees. I could feel his hot breath flush behind my left ear.

"Aren't you cold?" he asked.

"I was, up until you intruded." I snickered.

"Thanks for coming. I really didn't expect it." he said.

"Yeah, well. Sorry I didn't give you a head's up".

"As if I would need one" he chuckled. "You're welcome to come here whenever you want." We sat quiet and still for a while. Although I could not see his face, I felt his eyes boring down to me.

"Bells?"

"Yes?"

"What are you gonna do now?" I knew exactly what he meant.

"I don't know." I admitted.

He remained silent for what seemed like hours. I didn't say anymore either. My mind had been dissecting the question he just asked. I truly did not know what would happen. As much as I convinced myself that Edward would never return... he in fact did return and I never prepared myself for that. The sky began to crack and raindrops began to drum against the rooftop.

"Time to go" said Jacob as he stood up and held his hand out to support me. The rain sped up in only a fraction of a second. We quickly made it back to the window. I was the first to crawl in. I wiped raindrops off my face and my arms and turned to face Jacob when suddenly; he grabbed me around my waist and pulled me towards him with such force I didn't have a chance to gasp. His lips locked on mine as he held my shirt in fists behind my back. His kiss was overwhelming, exhilarating. I did not resist. How could I? Why would I?

He pulled back an inch from my lips to look at me. His eyes were desperate, as if this was a farewell of some sort. His hair was dripping and the water ran in streams down his face and formed a puddle in the hollow of his collar bone. This time I was the one to go for the kill. I locked my lips to his and wrapped my arms around his neck. Our tongues danced and fought with either. Every now and then, I'd bite his bottom lip to allow a quick breath back into my lungs without risking losing his lips. The heat soaring through me wasn't due to the touch of his scorching skin. Something incomprehensible took over me.

I reached to his waist and pulled his shirt off as high as I could. He let me go for a brief moment to shrug the tee off over his head and immediately grabbed me again, pressing his lips on mine. He backed me towards the bed. My heart felt like it was about to explode. I felt the bed pressing behind my calves. He stopped there and pulled away, short of breath as was mine. His eyes were intense and I felt them gazing deep into me. He slowly reached for my lips once more. This time, his kiss was tender, soft and caressing. He did not wrap his arms around me this time. Instead, he began unbuttoning my shirt.

My hands reached up to the edge of his sweatpants, shakingly and I paused. He was down to the last button of my shirt and he too paused and looked into my eyes again. My head was spinning, my heart was swelling and my skin was burning. He studied my face, my eyes, and without leaving my eyes, he slowly brought his hands to my shoulders and gently slid my shirt off. He slowly pulled me close to his chest and kissed my shoulders while he glided his fingertips up and down my back. His touch warped me through time, to the day Edward had first kissed me.

His kiss was cool and intoxicating. It numbed all my senses. I remember how careful and calculating he was. His lips tasted something like peppermint and I remember thinking stupidly how this could be when he never chewed anything. When I returned his kiss, he glided his cool hand down my rib cage to my hips where he grabbed firm hold of me and gently pushed me to the bed, his hands never leaving my hips. I thought then, that I would've fainted, that I wouldn't be able to survive his touch. If I was in any danger of losing my life to a vampire right then and there, I didn't care. I welcomed it.

The feeling of Jacob's scorching body pressed against mine sent shivers through me, pulling me from my daydream. I was on Jacob's bed, bare-chested. He was kissing me softly on my chest bone making his way towards my left breast while softly gliding his fingertips along the side of my right breast. I knew I had to stop this though I fought with myself on this decision. Jacob's body against mine, the heat of his skin, the firmness of his groin against mine just made it all the more impossible to resist. He wanted me in ways that every woman fantasized about. Ways that had wished Edward would want me. Edward.

I gasped just as his lips reached my breast.

"Jacob, NO!" I cried out. He pulled back immediately, eyes wide, though only bringing his face to mine. His body was still pinning me down.

"Why, Bella? I love you." His eyes told the truth.

"And I love you Jacob. I really and truly do. I just don't know if it's the same kind of love you have for me. I can't do this".

"Bella..."

"Please Jacob." I said as I squirmed to cover my breasts with my arms. His jaw clenched and flexed. His eyes seem to darken.

"It's because of him. The bloodsucker, isn't it.?" I just stared back at him, wide-eyed.

"ISN'T IT!" He shouted.

"Jacob, you're scaring me. I need you to get off me right now". I said behind clenched teeth.

"Do you think you can get this with him? Do you think he can make your flesh burn, your face flush with blood, your skin sweat? Do you think you can achieve any of that with him?" he said in a menacing whisper. His face was twisting into anger. "Well, in case you haven't noticed....he's a corpse, Bells."

"Jacob, it's because of me. I don't want this now. Please believe me and please get off me!" I said sounding a little too desperate.

"YOU LIE!" he snarled and quickly pressed his lips to my neck kissing with intensity and pressing his teeth into my skin. "Or is it the bite that appeals to you?" he said quietly and scathingly. "I too have a bite, Bella. Except that mine won't kill you. Or is that what you really want?" he pulled away to look at me. Tears ran down my terrified face. My face was bone white in the reflection of his eyes. This is not my Jacob. This is the monster that lives within him... taking control of his senses. The monster that almost had me killed.

"Please." I pleaded in a whisper that could barely be heard. Like a light switch, Jacob's face blinked into reality, snapping him out of his demon.

"Bella" he said breathlessly. "I'm so sor....."

"Please, get off me" I whimpered. He quickly lifted himself off me and took two steps back, shock clearly in his face. He held his head between his hands and paced back and forth. I scrambled for my shirt while covering my breasts.

"Bella, I'm so sorry." I ignored him and stuffed my bra into my bag. I made for the door.

"No, wait." He grabbed my arm.

"Don't fucking touch me." I hissed as anger became to swell through my veins. Instantly, he let go of my arm as if he just touched a burning iron.

"Bella, please stop. Let's talk" he pleaded as he followed me down the stairs. I continued to ignore him and made my way to the front door.

"Wait! Bella, at least let me take you home. You can't walk it!" He cried out.

I realized that the distance was quite a stretch from his house to mine but I figured I can get there in little than 2 hours by foot. I continued my trial. Suddenly, he was towering in front of me. I tried to escape him but couldn't.

"Jacob, get out of my way" I yelled, tears streaming down my face.

"Like it or not....I am taking you home. If you want to throw a fit, scream, kick, punch or yell.....FINE! But I am not in any way letting you walk off on your own" he growled. He flipped me over his shoulder and made for the truck. I pounded his back with my fists as hard as I could to no avail. He tossed me into the front seat and clipped the seat belt over me. He slammed the door and went around to the driver's side.

We drove in silence. I kept my gaze towards the passing trees edging the side of the road. The fury boiling in me had not subsided. There was also another feeling starting to surface - the feeling of guilt and regret. Although Jacob was the first to initiate what transpired in his bedroom a few minutes ago, I allowed myself to feed into it, erasing any doubt that he may have had. I invited him in. I guess I had known all along that I had to stop, that it was wrong. But I couldn't bring myself to it. His touch was irresistible and his embrace was unbreakable. He had me caught up in the moment.

But that wasn't what had me raging mad. It was his selfishness, his inability to control himself that disgusted me. Where there had been a strong belief that he would never hurt me, cracks began to appear, leaking doubt into my head. Indeed he loved me....perhaps more than I give him credit for, but what was his love for me capable of? I cringed at the thought.

"Bells" he asked softly. "Are you all right?"

"NO, I'm not all right. Just what were you thinking?" I snapped. His worried frown took a snide twist.

"The same thing you were thinking... or so I thought" he said apparently thinking this was a joke. That did it.

"You caught me off guard Jacob! How was I supposed to react? So I, for a moment, fell for it. Why didn't you stop once I realized it was wrong and asked you to get off me?

He pursed his lips into a hard line and said nothing.

"Jacob, listen to me... I love you, more than you give me credit for but it's not the same kind of love that you have for me. I'm sorry if I led you to believe otherwise, it's just that you love me in the way... well, the way I want to be loved... but not from you."

"Who then?" he sneered. "Him?" he hissed.

I stared at him for a long while before turning to face ahead. I had often compared the two of them – Edward and Jacob. Their differences were like night and day. Edward was ever the traditionalist… a little too old fashioned at times but he was eloquent, respectful, and reserved. Jacob was the outgoing one. The daredevil. He was rambunctious, funny, and carefree but harbored a fury that was unsurpassed. And that response right there came from the one part of Jacob that I loathed.

I turned my face away from him and continued to stare out my window wondering how in the world I ever came upon this situation. A year and a half ago, while I was sitting in my room in Phoenix wearing nothing but a tank top and undies, trying to beat the heat, I would've never imagined in my wildest dreams that about a year later, I would be the center of attention for a wickedly beautiful vampire and a sinfully gorgeous werewolf. What were my odds back then? I mentally chuckled at the thought.

After a few minutes and as we were approaching my house, he reached out to touch my hand. I flinched it away. I could see the remorse on his face from the reflection of the passenger window. I hated to be this way with him. I knew this was something that was hard fro him to control but it didn't help to ease my rage. We pulled to a stop across from the house. I was already half way out the door when he came around to my side, both hand up towards me, begging that I stop from moving forward.

"Bella, please stop and listen" he said as he blocked my path. "I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to. I respect you and I know I can control myself. What happened back there wasn't a matter of losing control... at least I don't think so. I think if you gave us a chance, to grow into something more, you'd see that I can be the one for you. With me, you can have a future, and children, something you can never achieve with that bloodsucker. I can keep you safe and..."

"Jacob, you're talking non-sense. Now get out of my way." I said as I pushed my way around him. I took only three steps when he suddenly grabbed me by the arm to stop me. Then it all happened at once. As I turned to face him and wrench my arm back, Edward appeared out of thin air between us, facing Jacob, his head tilted to one side and his arm stretched out behind him as if protecting me.

"Bella?" he asked smoothly without taking his eyes off Jacob who was now seething. "Are you ok?"

"Yes, I'm fine" I stammered. "Jacob was dropping me off".

"Is that so?" he mused. Jacob let go of my arm. He inhaled deeply and I could've sworn his chest grew two sizes. Edward did not move.

"So I gather you should be on you way then, Jacob" said Edward in the same smooth voice.

"And leave her here alone with you? Not a chance." Jacob said as grinned. My heart began palpitating loudly. Edward heard it.

"Easy, love. Calm yourself. I'm not going to harm him. Not now at least. I can control it... unlike others."

To my surprise, Jacob backed a step and chuckled, crossing his arms in front of him. "Self control?" he mused. He said nothing more. He just stood there and stared at Edward with a grin on his face. Edward stood too still, like a statue. Suddenly he looked down and turned to look at me with horror struck eyes. His face twisted in pain. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on.

"JACOB! STOP!" I yelled as I realized what was happening. He used Edward's ability to read minds to show him what just happened earlier in his bedroom. Terror and rage overtook my senses. I threw myself towards him. A cool arm wrapped around my waist pulling me back.

Jacob's grin changed into an anxious frown. "I'm sorry Bella" he said as if he just snapped out of his altered ego. I struggled to free myself from Edward's hold. He turned me around and pulled me closer to him, holding my head to his chest as if blocking my sight of Jacob. My eyes flooded with tears and I stopped trying to free myself. I just sobbed, defeatedly, into in his shirt.

"Easy" whispered Edward. "He doesn't play fair. Perhaps he acts out of desperation," he said as he composed himself and stared back at Jacob, "knowing that there is no game, no fight, for I already possess what he most desires." he said in a flat voice. "And what's worse is that he knows that I keep no cage to hold you."

"The fact that I have not ripped your maggot head off should be a token of my self control." snarled Jacob.

Edward chuckled then kissed the top of my head. "You're welcome to try anytime you wish. This would be sufficient excuse to kill you. Self defense, of course" he said slyly.

After a few seconds, Jacob turned and got into his truck. He slammed the truck into gear and sped off. My tears soaked Edward's shirt as he carried me up the front porch.

"Let me down! I can walk." I said lividly.

He put me down at once. I stormed in through the front door and marched up the stairs to my room. I grabbed my towel and made way to the bathroom. Once in the tub, I let all my tears gush out. I scrubbed my neck and chest as hard as I could. Though Jacob was nothing dirty or vile, I felt disgust by his touch. I knew it was anger-driven but somewhere in my delusional state of mind, I thought I could wash away what took place this evening.

After I was done rinsing away the soap, I shut off the water and just stood there, crying uncontrollably. A few moments later, the shower curtain opened and Edward was standing there, towel in hand. I made no effort to move. My being naked did not embarrass me at the moment. I'm sure he got more than a peek at me naked through Jacob's rendition. He held the towel open wide and wrapped it around me in an embrace as he gently pulled me from the shower. He walked me to my bed and I curled up into it, still wet and wrapped in a towel. He covered me with the blanket and laid close behind me.

"Please don't cry, love. Sleep and wake up new. You've done nothing wrong." he whispered.

"Yes I did. I allowed myself to fall for him" I gasped.

"You're only human, Bella" he smiled half-heartedly. I continued to sob into my pillow. After what seemed like hours, he gently turned me to face him.

"Can I ask you something, though you don't have to answer if you'd prefer" he asked, not waiting for my response.

"Why were you so angry with him? I'm confused. In his memory, I didn't see him taking advantage of you." I winced at his words. I knew he must've seen the eagerness that took over me.

"So why were you so furious with him when he dropped you off?"

"Oh isn't it obvious? Didn't you see what I did? I did this. I let him get the best of me. I got caught up in the moment and allowed myself to succumb to him. I don't know what I was thinking. Then when I asked him to stop, he ..."

"Stop?" he asked confused.

"Yes. After coming back to my senses, I asked him to stop. We never really did anything... at least that much I'm happy for." After a moment of clarity, I added "but of course he didn't show you that in his mind, did he?"

"He really doesn't play fair" he said more to himself as he shook his head back and forth. He looked down at me now.

"Bella, I can't let you out of my sight. Alice can no longer see you. We still don't understand why. If you don't want me near you," he paused "then I will honor your wishes, though I will still keep a careful watch from a distance. I love you Bella. And I don't know how I'm going to prove it to you, how I'm going to gain your trust back but if I have to fight for the next 600 years to prove myself, then I will."

I said nothing. Just the fact that here he was, by my side, was enough to rattle my emotions. Unmistakably, I loved him but as much as I wanted to believe that he wouldn't leave again, I found myself foolishly challenging the thought. My eyes began to narrow though I fought to keep them open.

"You're tired. Sleep. I'll be here when you wake." he murmured.

****

I tossed and turn most of the night. I kept having intermittent images from some of my past dreams and nightmares and a couple of new images as well. I didn't recognize some of the faces I saw. There was a strawberry blond goddess-like vampire, standing next to a dark skinned man, perhaps Native American. There were figures in dark cloaks walking through a foggy forest. I'm not sure what these images meant but they frightened me. As one of the cloaked figures raised his hood over his head, I caught a glimpse of scarlet eyes. I woke, startled and panting.

"Bella? Are you all right?" asked Edward anxiously. The digital clock read 3:33 AM. I scanned the room frantically, disoriented at the sudden tranquility of my bedroom. My breathing slowed.

"Yes. Just a nightmare." I managed to say.

"A nightmare? What was it about?" he asked dubiously.

"I don't want to talk about it". I laid down again, my back turned to him. He put his cool arm around me and smoothed my hair away from my face. My life was a giant ball of stress, rolling through my conscious and unconsciousness, growing as it collected all my troubles. He pulled me closer to him and rested his cool face against mine. I could feel a chill between his body and mine. We both laid there, still for a long while.

"Bella?" he asked softly.

"Yes"

He turned me to him so I could face him. His thoughts seemed to strangle him, like he was choking on words he couldn't speak.

"What is it?" I asked.

He seemed to stop struggling and looked me deep in the eyes. Slowly he moved closer to me and began kissing me very softly as if testing my lips for the first time. The coolness of his lips reached deep within me. I felt goose bumps rise on my skin. My heart began its frantic pounding. He laid his head over my chest and listened for a while, until my heart slowed its beat. Then he slowly moved his lips to my neck and kissed it back and forth.

"I love…" he whispered as he kissed my shoulder… "I love…" he repeated as he kissed me at the hollow beneath my ear… "I love you… profoundly so" he said as he kissed my head and held me tighter. How I hate that my foolish heart accelerated every time he said this. It gave me away each time. He laid his head back against mine. I took his arm and tucked it under mine against my chest.

"I could spend the rest of my existence here with you, tangled in your embrace" he murmured.

"Could you, really?" I asked trying to hide the cynicism in my voice. He caught it. He sat up to look at me, frowning as if he was having trouble solving a math problem.

"Bella, what would I give to make you believe that I love you, every iota of you and that I will never leave you… ever. If there is anything at all that would provide me with the chance to illustrate this for you, please… please… tell me what it is and you will have it."

I thought about that for a while. Indeed, I love him, more than he gives me credit for and more than anything imaginable, all I want, all I've ever wanted since I first laid eyes on him was him. To be with him and have him by my side always. Comically, only my luck would have it that I would feel like this for a vampire who will never cease to exist. But even so, I still want to remain by his side, for as long as he exists, indefinitely I acknowledge. But would he ever subject me to "eternal damnation" as he so eloquently put before.

"Please, tell me what you're thinking." he whispered.

"That beyond my better judgment, I love you."

"I'm sorry to disappoint you" he smiled quietly. "But they're exactly the words I wanted to hear."

"However, there is the issue of trusting you."

"I can understand how this is an issue for you. How I resent that I've brought you to this."

"Can you understand how difficult it is for me to believe that you will never leave again, that you won't play the judge on what's right or wrong for me'?

"I can" he said solemnly. I figured it's time I put his will to the test.

"Edward, I love you. I've never stopped although I fought against it and tried to find a way to hate you. I failed. Miserably. And now you're here again and I want nothing more than for you to stay by my side, always…"

"It's a done deal, my love" he said as he kissed my cheek.

"Wait, I'm not finished yet."

"I'm sorry. Go on."

"What I was saying was… I want nothing more than for you to stay by my side… for me to be able to stay by your side… indefinitely." I felt him stiffen. His breathing stopped. I waited for his refute. When he said nothing, I continued.

"Being able to co-exist with you is enough conviction for me."

"Bella, love… I… don't… want to end your life!" he said. "Surely there can be a more reasonable condition than this. What you ask of me is far too incredulous to commit."

"Yes, incredulous is fitting for how well I believe that you would stay, let alone, stick to your word. You just told me you'd give anything to make me believe. So what exactly constitutes as 'anything' for I believed that the term leaves no room for exceptions." I scowled. He thought about this for a minute or so before adjusting himself, propping his body weight on his arm.

"So you want to become a vampire? This would be my token of truth?" he said quizzically.

"Bella, at least…"

"At least? 'At least sounds like another exception'." I retorted.

"Please let me finish." he whispered. His eyes dropped and again he looked like he was struggling with some difficult thought. Only this time, worry seemed to crease his brow.

"Bella…" he said as he looked up at me. Determination set in his gaze.

"Would you do me the honor of being my wife… before I condemn you to… before I change you"?

"What"? I asked disbelievingly.

"May I ask for this much? I want to know that you belong to me and no one else. That although I took your life, in change, I gave you my name, for all it's worth… if for anything at all."

I thought about this and I can see how hard this is for him. He loathed what he had become which is why he strived to be different… a better person than all the rest. To have to subject me to become like him, is torture for him. I can understand his offering. Why wouldn't I want to marry him? What I am asking for is more binding than an oath to 'love and never to part for as long as we both shall live'… only the oath would void, for I would never part with him and him with I.

"Yes" I whispered.

I had expected him to smile, but what he did next was better than I could have expected from him let alone imagine. He took my face in both his hands and kissed me, softly and lavishly. He paused when he heard my heart splutter and smiled against my lips before locking them to mine again, urgently this time.

He pulled his face away a few inches from mine, his eyes dancing wildly as he looked at me. His hand skimmed down to my hip and clenched the blanket into a fist. I pulled his face to mine and kissed him back. I tried not to let myself believe that I'd get anything out of this for I was sure that at any minute he would stop. This was the complete opposite from what I felt earlier with Jacob. Back then, it was my body asking for more and my heart begging to stop. Now, my heart was thudding loudly begging for more.

He slowly began to peel away the blanket. The towel I wore had loosened and was only partially covering me. He stared down at my body in wonder and possibly amazement. He reminded me of an art gallery and how fans would just marvel at the masterpieces adorning the walls. He slowly moved the last of the towel off my body and traced it with his eyes, taking in all my features. I lay there still, amazed at his sudden curiosity and sedated by his gaze.

He brought his hand up to my lips and traced them with his fingertips. His lips replaced his fingers and he kissed me, very tenderly. His hand slid down my throat slowly and gingerly. He traced the curve of my breast and continued down my torso, over my belly button, to the side of my hip then down my thigh where he paused there while he kissed me more urgently. His hand, even slower still, slid up my inner thigh. His cold fingers reached my womb and I gasped breaking away from his kiss. His fingers slid slowly against the warm moist of my lips, sending violent shivers through my bones. My teeth involuntarily chattered. He swiftly removed his hand and brought it up to the side of my head and buried his fingers in my hair. He began to kiss me lavishly when he suddenly disappeared. I sat up, dizzily and out of breath to find him sitting beside me.

"I'm sorry." he said quickly. "I got carried away."

"No".

He looked back at me with wide eyes. How long have I wanted this? I thought. I wasn't about to let him go. I may never have the chance again, whether he really did decide to stay or not. Did I want this though? Knowing that he might not stay? I stared at him. His face glowed dimly in the dark as if the moon had found refuge in my bedroom. His bronze hair glistened through the darkness and his eyes.....golden....hypnotic. Oh screw it! If he left, it would probably destroy me, but I wanted this. I got on my knees and moved closer to him as he, too, got on his knees slowly, not knowing what to expect.

We looked at each other, eyes moving wildly, taking in each other's every feature of our face. He held my face with both his hands and kissed me. I wrapped my arms around his waist as I moved myself closer to him. Could I do this? Would he stop me? There was only one way to find out. I reached for his belt and began to loosen it. My heart froze when his hands left my face. I didn't open my eyes right away. I knew it was too good to be true. Then his arms were around my back and a new feeling sent me soaring. It was the feeling of his cold bare chest against mine. The touch should've made me flinch, but it didn't. I had already undone the belt and moved on to the jean's button. Once I was thru with that, I paused for a moment, checking to see if he had paused. He didn't. He kiss remained unbroken. I pushed the pants off as he laid me back down to the bed. He pushed of the last of the jeans and they fell on the floor with a soft thud.

Here we were. Completely stripped of all our clothes and our defenses. His eyes locked on mine as he moved a strand of hair off my face. He kissed me again, softly as he shifted his weight on me. His body was hard yet smooth. My lips quivered but not because of his skin. As I wrapped my legs around him, I felt a cold pressure against my womb. The sensation was thrilling. He paused and moved an inch away to look at me, deep frowns of urgency in his face. His haggard breathing cooled my face. Then he slowly pressed into me. A moan escaped my lips as I felt a sharp pain deep within me. It was the strangest sensation I have ever experienced. Although it hurt a bit, I found that I enjoyed it. The coolness I felt within as he slowly slid in and out slowly and deeper made my eyes roll back and my back arch involuntarily.

Moans came from deep within my chest. His breathing was strained and he kissed my throat then back up my chin again. "Bella" he breathed and slid is tongue deep into my mouth. His kiss was suffocating, delectable. When I couldn't groan from my mouth, I'd breathe heavily from my nose. My legs wrapped tighter against his waist. He slid his hands behind my back and gripped me by the back of my shoulders. He pulled me into him at the same time he pushed himself deeper into me. Our bodies fit like a custom gloves. I felt his legs spread beneath me as he pulled me up so we were sitting. Me on his lap. My head swirled and my heart pounded my chest wall. My legs were still wrapped around him and his were crossed beneath me. Although we were now sitting, I can still feel him sliding in and out, only it was deeper now. He gently pulled my hair back exposing my neck as he kissed his way down my chest and covered my breast with his cool mouth. His tongue did circles around my nipple and he nibbled it with his teeth. I was breathing louder now. I felt like I would pass out. Our bodies rocked a little faster now and I felt him harden in me and go a little deeper.

My body began to convulse and a strange feeling grew in me. I felt as if my body, internally, was fluttering... quivering. Something was rising deep within me, threatening to explode. It felt... riveting. I didn't want him to stop what he was doing, afraid it would go away. He must've felt it too because he was holding me tightly to his chest pulling me into him more forceful and faster as he buried himself deeper inside of me. He too was moaning. Then something broke through in me, a wave of electricity that made my limbs jolt and tremble. My mind and body felt disconnected. All I can feel was... everything. Every living cell, every living organism, every vein....I felt it. It was such a high - one I didn't want to come off of. Pain pressed deeper in me as he gave a final tumultuous push into me. This time he didn't slide back out. He held me there, without moving, breathless and groaning, holding me tightly to him, his faced buried in my bosom. I hugged him tighter, my nails clawing his back while he glided his lips across my neck.

His teeth pressed onto my skin lightly at first. Then the pressure intensified and pain started to spread through my neck. I gasped. I knew what he was doing and at the moment, I didn't care. He could drain me if he liked. He began thrusting into me once again, more roughly. I squeezed my arms tighter around his back. I felt something warm running down my chest. He had bitten me. I waited for the burn, almost welcomed it. But it never came. The sensation emanating from me was indescribable. I could feel my blood rush to its exit as he sucked, the cool stiffness building up inside me, sliding back and forth, back and forth, his muscles flexing with every movement, his lips pressed firmly on my neck as he drank my blood….his drug. My head began to spin and my eyes began to roll back. At the same moment, he pulled away, panic in his eyes, blood dripping from his chin.

He gently pulled me off him - our bodies disconnecting. I felt a sudden urgency wash over me. I didn't want him to stop. It was as if my body now needed him in order to survive. I tried to pull him closer but my arms were weak, my thoughts were dazed. My vision began to fade.

"Shh, shh. I'm so sorry, love. You'll be all right. I promise. I promise…."