Prologue

"Bella, you are the love of my life, the girl of my dreams, and I love you. I have always loved you. Marry me, Bella. Be mine."

Jacob was beautiful. He sat next to me on our picnic blanket on the beach. It was the same beach that we had played together on, shared our first kiss on, declared our love for one another on in the exact same place where we now sat as he asked me to be his wife. It was our spot. The special spot was a sweet and sentimental icon in our relationship, and that he was proposing now in that spot was both unsurprising and very endearing. Jacob, my Jacob, was so comfortable and so predictable.

The sun was shining, a rarity in our small Washington town. It shown against his smooth and toned copper skin. His well-built chest, stomach, and arm muscles were accentuated by his tight black tee shirt, and his chocolaty-brown eyes were full of love and adoration. I had never had to wonder what Jacob was thinking or feeling—his face was an open book.

I smiled at him, his face alight with love and joy, my heart warming and my legs shaking as his large hand slipped into the pocket of his jeans, retrieving a small ring. The gold band reflected the sun's rays and the light bounced off of the petite, solitary diamond in the center.

I could only manage a nod as hot streams fell from my eyes and down my cheeks. Jake's responding grin was triumphant as he slid the ring onto my finger.

"I love you, Bella. With all my heart, I love you."

"I love you, too, Jake." My voice cracked with the incredible emotion of the moment, and his lips crashed down upon mine in a rough passion.

***

"Bells—" I was startled from the dream-like memory of that beautiful afternoon by my father's nudging of my shoulder. His voice was gruff, as it always was, but he was trying to make his words gentle as his concerned eyes seemed to cut through me like a knife. "You really should eat something."

I shook my head, cutting off my brief glance at him, my eyes training back to the still form beneath the white blanket on the bed before me. The florescent lights bounced off of the white bedding, the white walls, the shiny, white linoleum floors, and the harsh glare they created was starting to give me a headache again—or maybe it was the constant beeping of every machine that was plugged into Jacob. I sighed, rubbing my fingertips against my aching, throbbing temples. "Not hungry, Dad. Besides, I need to be here with him."

I'd left only when I absolutely had to. It had been three weeks...three excruciatingly long weeks since Jake's accident. I had refused to leave him. I showered in the private bath of his hospital room, and I slept in the chair next to his bed. I hadn't left the room in days; I wanted to be there when Jacob's beautiful eyes opened—I wanted to be the first face that he saw when he was freed from his imprisoning coma.

Charlie nodded at me; I doubted that he'd expect anything else, really. He left the room mumbling about needing something to eat, and as he left, I let my eyes rake over Jacob's form, praying for a change. My heart ached in its familiar way as my every ounce of wishing he would awaken was wasted, his body remaining unchanged. His beautiful body had been tattered; both legs and a few of his ribs had been broken in several places—his right arm had been complete smashed beyond form.

They'd been able to put all of those injuries back together, however. It was the injuries to his head that kept him there in the horrible bed, under those horrible florescent lights, surrounded by horrible hospital smells—that kept him trapped inside of himself.

I let my weary body lean forward from its beside vigil onto Jake's left shoulder, one of the few places his body hadn't been harmed. The tears fell freely again, burning my eyes and cheeks and soaking through the thin blue material of his hospital gown."Oh, Jake...please wake up," I sobbed into his shoulder over the muscles that had so often wrapped around me and had been my comfort, my safety, my home.

I'd begged and pleaded over the last few weeks. Desperate to have him back, I pleaded with Jake; I pleaded with fate; I pleaded with whatever god may or may not exist, but it was all in vain, because he had never woken. Jacob was eerily tranquil and unresponsive as the silence devoured both my pleas and the unrelenting and harsh beeping of the machines, if that were possible.

It took several minutes to put myself back into check. I swiped the back of my hands against my damp cheeks, wiping away the salty tears. My bones ached from sitting in this chair next to his bed for hours on end. I honestly wasn't even sure what day it was anymore, or who had called to cancel the church, the caterer and the cake. Thoughts of our missed wedding brought another round of hysterical sobs from somewhere deep within me. We would have been back from our honeymoon by now. But ultimately, I didn't care about that—not any of it. If only Jake would wake up and be okay; it was all I wanted now.

Something changed within a split second, and my mind registered that the machines were beeping too fast before I could wonder why. The room was suddenly filled with two nurses and a doctor, all three of whom were familiar to me. They'd all taken care of Jake at some point during the three weeks he'd been here. They created a busy whirlwind around me, and I watched in a mind-numbing fear as their faces stretched in stress, reading the machines and looking at my Jacob.

"Wheel him to the OR!" The doctor yelled the order, and I was pushed out of the chair and away from the bed.

"What's going on?" My panic had flooded my voice, my heart, my legs, my soul...as my stomach convulsed with dread.

None of them answered me as they moved around with the speed of a flying bullet. The three of them worked together to move him and some of the machines out the door more quickly than I could process the scene. I wanted to follow them and to demand that they tell me what was happening. But I was paralyzed with an ominous dread, because in my heart, I knew the answer. Jacob was gone—and I was alone.