Childhood living is easy to do

The things you wanted, I bought them for you

She lay curled up in the center of my bed, nose buried in the book I had presented her with this morning. I lay beside her, entranced, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she flipped a page. Just air, circulating in her lungs, something I could mimic when needed, but for her so necessary.

Her skin was still as pale as it had ever been, a porcelain that was almost translucent showcasing the slender blue veins running beneath. Ironic that they were the carriers of the thing that I should desire most about her, and yet I could not fathom how I was going to do the thing she'd asked of me.

I would want you to change me.

Bella wanted me to be the instrument of her damnation. I knew on some level that she was serious, that transformation into one of our kind soon was something she believed absolutely vital, and that even my family had now endorsed.

Yet every time I thought about it, about the agony she'd experience, the burning pain, the uncontrollable lust for blood that would overwhelm her when her heart finally slowed and stopped and hardened into the stone we were, the thing within me that Carlisle might term a soul screamed in protest.

I could not make her a monster. Not yet, not when she still had so much of life yet to see, so many human experiences still to try.

And so we remained at an impasse. Her ridiculous fears that her aging would somehow lessen my desire for her were ludicrous. I would love her no matter what her age, and whatever it took I would delay her death for as long as possible. I would resort to whatever bribes or lures or threats it took to keep the melodic sound of her heartbeat next to mine.

She refused to acknowledge it, but she . . . she was my salvation, my life now, and her heart beat for both of us.

I smiled as I watched her eyes droop, her breathing slow and regular as the book drifted to her chest and she slid into sleep. I would have to take her home soon, before Charlie's shift ended, but for now things were perfect. I let my own eyes slide closed as I focused again on the sound of her heartbeat and let it lull me with its beautiful rhythm.

The dense foliage of the forest surrounded me again, verdant and cool. I stopped and breathed deeply, letting the scents of the rich soil and fresh rain lingering on leaves fill my lungs as I stepped clear of the forest and into the bright moonlight. The concept of home had become transient over the last century, marked by people, not places. But this spot, our meadow, was different. This was home.

My nostrils flared with another scent, the tang of rich blood throbbing through its life-giving path and calling to me. I closed my eyes, resisting for only a moment, then I was off, giving chase through the forest as I gained on the bounding feet ahead of me. My lips curled back in a half-smile that bared my teeth, sharp and ready for the moment when the thick liquid would burst forth and down my throat, slaking but never quenching my undying thirst.

My prey stumbled and crashed to the ground, wobbly legs exhausted from the chase. Doe eyes found mine as I slowed as well, relishing the bouquet now laid before me, a small gash from the fall marring the beauty and bringing forth my beast as the crimson trickled across the delicate skin.

"Mine," I growled as my lips descended, tongue swirling through the blood and igniting the most primal instincts inside as she screamed beneath me.

I jerked up from the almost trance-like state I'd been in. The vision that could only come from one place flashed back through my mind in fractured bits and pieces as I jerked away in horror from Bella's still sleeping form and rushed towards Alice and Jasper's room.

She was trembling on the floor, her head in her hands with Jasper curled around her, rocking her slowly back and forth.

"Alice, what was that? I would never-"

Jasper silenced my diatribe with a growl and resumed his soothing motions as he stroked her head. The waves of tranquility he was projecting touched me as well, and the contrast between my relaxed physical state and the turmoil of my mind left me feeling disconnected.

"I don't know where that came from, Edward. It hit me from nowhere. I know you would never do that to Bella, hunt her down like an animal."

Alice's lip trembled as she watched my face for reaction to her thoughts. I paced over to the windowed wall and stared out into the woods.

"But you had a vision. It could happen," I stated, without looking at her.

I listened to the rustling behind me of Alice rising, her quiet murmurs to Jasper reassuring him that she was better before she crossed to stand beside me. She touched my arm gently.

"Edward, you know the visions are subjective. They can change. You love Bella. You would never intentionally hurt her." She paused for a minute, almost as if reluctant to form the thought.

"Have you maybe had a fantasy, a stray thought since you've been back? Her blood does smell so nice, and maybe your resistance isn't quite built back up, it's only been a few days . . ."

I snarled and whirled away, clenching my fists to keep from hitting something or someone. The suggestion that I would even for a moment dwell on Bella in that way, as some sort of prey, when what I wanted most was to keep her safe and whole and alive, was ludicrous.

"Maybe it's one of you," I snapped at her. "You're the ones so eager to have her die."

Alice flinched and Jasper glared at me as he pulled her back to his side.

"Don't blame Alice, Edward. You know she can't control the visions anymore than you can control what others think. And we don't want Bella to die. We want her with you, as part of the family."

I turned away again, bracing myself against the window.

"Maybe you're just nervous about it happening, but it's too late now, Edward; you know that. The Volturi-"

I cut her off. "The Volturi won't think about her for years. She's not a real threat. Unless Aro gets bored and wants something to play with, she'll be out of sight, out of mind for them if she doesn't cause trouble."

Alice sighed. "And what about the rest of us, Edward? Jazz is right. We want her in our family. It's not practical for her to stay with us as a human, and it's not what she wants. You need to accept that it's going to happen once she graduates."

I slammed my hand against the sill, wincing at the crack of the wood as it splintered beneath my fingers before I turned around to face them. "Alice, just because we're all damned, she doesn't have to be. We didn't have a choice. If you had, would you have really chosen this at 18? Would you have regretted it at 30?"

She cocked her head, and then turned to meet Jasper's eyes. Those looks they shared had always stirred a longing inside me, an envy of the kind of connection I never dreamed I could have before Bella. I didn't need Alice's gift of sight to know what she was going to say before she even thought it.

"For Jasper, I would have. No regrets."

I turned away and moved towards the door. "I'm taking Bella home."

Graceless lady, you know who I am

You know I can't let you slide through my hands

The seven months away had not changed the Forks cafeteria at all. Tuesdays remained meatloaf and mashed potatoes day, with the same small groupings of students huddled around their tables together. The shifts of alliances and teenage passions had resulted in only a few shuffles of bodies here and there.

And we were once again the new kids. The whispers and stares were obvious enough, even without the ability to read the minds of others.

"I heard she ran away looking for him. Dad said the chief was furious at the station when he found out she was gone."

"He's still so beautiful. No wonder Bella was such a zombie when he left."

"Did he come back for her? Why bother? She's so ordinary."

I resisted the urge to growl in Lauren Mallory's direction, as she flipped her hair over her shoulder and returned to a feeble flirtation with the Tyler boy. Bella was twirling a fork in her mashed potatoes, her long hair a curtain hiding her face from those around us.

I reached into my pocket and retrieved the apple I'd gotten for her. "Here," I said, as I pulled the molested meal away. "Try something edible."

She raised her head, her smile so bright that the rest of the cafeteria seemed to fade away. The rumblings and gossip faded to a mere hum in the back of my mind as she reached out and took the apple from my hand, a quick squeeze of gratitude from her warm fingers triggering my own answering smile.

"Thanks. I think you have to have a cast iron stomach to eat that stuff." She sunk her teeth into the apple, the crunch as she cut through the skin and into the flesh beneath audible.

Suddenly Alice stiffened beside me, and I felt her hand reach out for my arm in a lightning quick motion. The onslaught of her vision began to run before my eyes and I closed them as the images assaulted me.

Bella was dressed in pure white, her already pale skin even more translucent as she lay before me, unmoving. I searched for a heartbeat, a shallow breath, some small sign of life. But there was none.

I leaned forward, caressing her skin, now cool and firm to the touch. Like mine. I could see it now, the healed wound in her neck over her jugular, a matching scar on one wrist lying beside her head.

It had happened. She was one of us.

Her eyelashes fluttered and I steeled myself for their opening and the loss of her beautiful brown eyes. She was mine now, my mate and my love for eternity. I would make this as painless for her as possible.

I recalled the devastating force of my own thirst when I had first awoken and my mind raced with plans. I would take her with me right away, deep into the woods to slake her thirst. The thought of hunting with her, stretching and exposing every bit of who I was to the creature who owned my body and whatever soul I still possessed filled me with no small sense of excitement and longing. This was not what I had hoped for, but a part of me couldn't deny the overwhelming desire that welled inside. We were equals now, in every way.

I traced her cheek again, whispering to her softly, "My love, Bella, wake for me."

Her lashes fluttered again, opening slowly to reveal the bright red of her newborn eyes. She blinked a few times, focusing on my face. I smiled, leaning in to softly kiss her forehead, when I felt a hand placed firmly in the center of my chest that flung me across the room with unexpected force.

I crashed against the opposite wall as she bolted upright, her eyes darting wildly around as she surveyed her surroundings. When she spoke, her voice was cracked and dry, as though she'd been parched for days.

"Who are you?" she demanded. "What am I doing here?"

Before I could respond, the sound of a car door slammed outside, and like a hunting dog trained to point, she whirled, nostrils flaring.

The smell hit me seconds later, but she had already bounded ahead, crashing through the window and to the ground below. I raced after her, landing on the ground in time to see my beautiful Bella already covered in the blood of her dying father, her eyes cold and lifeless.

The vision broke as Alice dry heaved and staggered from the table.

I was on my feet as well when Bella caught my arm. "Edward, what was that? She looked . . . and your face. You both looked as though you'd seen something terrible."

I tried to open my mouth, but I couldn't think of a response, the vivid vision of her bloodstained mouth, of the monster I would make her into etched so deeply that I couldn't utter a sound.

"Should I go check on Alice?" she asked, dark eyes full of compassion and concern. How could I take that from her?

I shook my head, trying to focus. "No, she saw something about . . . about a close family friend. I'll go check on her. We may not make it back this afternoon, alright? Can you tell Mrs. Cope that Alice was sick and I had to take her home?"

"Absolutely," She rose, walking beside me to the door of the cafeteria and stood on her toes to kiss my cheek. "Call me and let me know if things are alright, please?"

I nodded, turning away,my heart aching at what I'd seen. On impulse, I stopped and pulled her back to me, cradling her face in a kiss that ended with her breathless and me aching, to the backdrop of a few wolf whistles and catcalls. She smiled at me and sighed, blowing me a last goodbye kiss as I walked away.

For Bella, I would do anything. Even save her from herself.

Alice was waiting in the Volvo, curled in the backseat, her head buried in her arms. I'd rarely seen her so disturbed by a vision. I started to open the backdoor when I caught the slight shake of her head.

"Just take me home, Edward. Please. I need Jasper, then we'll talk."

I slid into the driver's seat, starting the car and heading for home as quickly as possible without drawing attention. She was right. We needed to talk, but the Forks High parking lot wasn't the place.

Within minutes we were there, and I watched as Jasper appeared at the window, no doubt puzzled by our early arrival. He was through the door and down the steps to the car in a flash, easily carrying Alice into the living room and sitting with her on the couch. I followed behind, lingering by my piano and staring sightlessly at the sheet music piled there to create some facade of privacy as Jasper rocked her in his arms, murmuring to her soothingly.

After a few moments, I heard her voice in my head.

"Edward. I'm ready now."

She looked fragile in a way that Alice rarely did when I turned. I swallowed hard and knelt carefully at her feet, almost afraid to ask the question.

"Alice, have you seen that before? Is she, is that how she's going to be? Was it because she was a newborn? Or will she . . . will she not know me?"

Her face crinkled and I knew that she would be crying if we were capable of tears. "Something's changed, Edward. Before, when I saw Bella with our family as one of us, it was always good." She stared at her manicured fingernails for a moment, as though the carefully shaped half-moons and shades of delicate pink could answer these questions. "In those visions, you were the one who turned her, almost always it was you, and she wanted you to. And afterwards, she was like us. It was almost like she didn't have to struggle with the need for human blood. She just wanted to be with you so badly. Every time I saw her, she was so happy – it was right, Edward."

I leaned forward, taking her hands gently in mine. "What's happened? What's different now?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. The vision I showed Aro was the same as it has always been. She was golden-eyed, playing with us on a hunt. But since we've been back, since after the vision with you . . ."

I closed my eyes, fighting the image of myself ripping Bella's throat out as she lay beneath me in the woods. "I remember. Go on."

"Since then, I've only had a few visions of her turning, but it's different now. In one, she ran away before we could stop her and we couldn't find her. In another, she was like me when I woke up. She couldn't remember anything, Edward, and she was so scared." Her voice broke, and I glanced at Jasper, who pulled her onto his lap again.

"Are there more?" I asked.

She stared at me for a long moment.

"Edward, you're not going to like this one."

Fear ran down my spine, but I ignored it. "Show me, Alice."

She stared at me, exquisitely beautiful, her face defiant. Her eyes were a deeper crimson now, I registered. She was older, no longer bearing the tale-tell bright red eyes of a newborn.

"Bella," I called, stepping towards her, my hand reaching for her face.

She narrowed her eyes. "Stay away from me, Edward," she hissed, turning away. "Surely you can't still imagine that you could give me what I need?"

There was another vampire a few feet behind her, a man with red hair I'd never met before, his face young, with crimson eyes that matched hers. She turned to him, drawing his face down to hers as she kissed him passionately, his hands moving obscenely over her body. She moaned and broke away, pulling him after her. "Come on, Colin, let's go."

My nails pressed into my skin with a biting force as I tried not to react to that vision.

She finally raised her head, my own pain mirrored in her eyes. "The one today though, her killing Charlie . . . Edward, we can't let that happen. She would never forgive herself for that."

"No, she wouldn't." I got up and paced back over to my piano, idly picking out notes with one finger. Her lullaby. "And neither would I. We can't do this."

Jasper frowned. "Can't do what?"

"Can't turn her right now. None of us can, not while Alice is having these visions. Maybe later, in a few years. I'll take her away; we can start at college somewhere together. I won't leave her again, but she doesn't understand what she's giving up. And now, with this," I shook my head. "We can do it later perhaps, when it's safer. These visions, we're still here in Forks when she's changed, aren't we?"

Alice nodded. "Yes, it seems that way, although I can't always tell." She frowned. "I suppose it could be that, something about the timing and the location. The visions did start to alter when we agreed to change her after graduation. Maybe that is it, Edward. Something about that time isn't right."

I pressed my point. "So you're agreed? I know that she'll go to you if I refuse her, Alice. You or Carlisle."

She nodded her consent, but remained pensive. "She's not going to be happy, Edward. How are you going to tell her?"

I frowned. "I don't know. I don't want her to know what we saw today, Alice, that she would do that to her father. I will, but only as a last resort if she can't be persuaded otherwise."

"So what are you going to do?" Jasper asked.

"I don't know. I think I'm going to need to try a bigger carrot to persuade her to delay this time, she's so determined now. When I . . . well, I've already tried bargaining with her to delay, but I haven't had much success," I replied. "There must be something I could offer her that would persuade her."

Alice was silent for a minute, and then started to giggle. I looked at her confused, until my eyes widened at the vision she revealed.

I was lying on Bella's bed, in her house and she was moving towards me, garbed in a few bits of satin and lace that revealed more than they covered. Her scent was divine, but that wasn't what I was responding to at the moment.

One knee was planted on the bed, and she winked at me before beginning a seductive slither up my body. Her warm hands caressed me as she explored my chest, her own curves molding themselves to me. Her mouth pressed against my ear, pleading as she whispered all the things she was desperate for me to do to her.

It was enough to make a vampire blush. And need a moment alone. I looked away from Alice sharply as she laughed again.

"I'd say that's something she really wants, Edward. Trust me, I've been assaulted by more than one of her little plans, even though she seems to always chicken out. Thank goodness, too, I'll have to find a way to block you two when you finally are in flagrante delicto. I've already been scarred by Rose's visions of naked Emmett romps. But I think you see what kind of carrot she's after."

I swallowed hard as Jasper glanced between us. "Care to share?"

Alice looked at me again, then gave a delicate snort as she keeled over. "Edward's going to have to use his, um, big carrot, to persuade Bella to wait to become a vampire."

I frowned, fighting my body's reaction to that vision of Bella and the desire in her eyes. "Alice, I don't want to, to, well . . . rob her of her virtue."

"I don't think she'd feel robbed, Edward," Alice replied, rolling her eyes.

"It's not that I don't want . . . I do . . . I just feel that it would be better to wait until later to . . . plus, it could be dangerous, and . . ." I winced, stopping myself from further awkward ramblings. "Surely there's another way."

Alice sighed. "You can leave her virtue intact, Edward. Just give her a little more . . . attention, that's all. And try to remember what century we're in, okay?"

Jasper finally deduced the type of carrot in question and started chuckling, as Alice began to giggle again. Apparently the humor at the situation was contagious, because within minutes the two of them were cackling together like a pair of hyenas.

"Fine, I'm glad Bella's fate is such a source of amusement to you," I muttered. "And I expect your assistance on this, Alice. I need to know if something I plan can hurt her."

"I'll be happy to throw some tips your way as well, if you need them," Jasper added.

"He's got lots of great tips," Alice chimed in. "I can vouch."

I picked up a pillow off the couch and threw it in their direction. "Trust me, I already know more than I ever wanted to about both your techniques."

I felt the mood shift in the room as the two of them locked eyes, and I slipped out and up the stairs to give them as much privacy as possible. I had plans of my own to make.

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain

Now you decided to show me the same

Two weeks. It had been two weeks since Alice's vision in the cafeteria. My appeals to Bella's sense of reason had been nothing short of colossal failures. Short of sharing Alice's more gruesome visions, I found myself with only one option. Exploring her more pleasant one.

I knew my siblings has an amused view of my reluctance to engage with Bella physically beyond a certain level, though I also knew they assumed that her fragility was the primary damper on my desires for her. Jasper has noted more than once the strange mix of fear and lust that I projected when around Bella. But it was more than that. Carlisle understood, more than the others. I'd been the party to his courtship with Esme, brief though it had been, and there were certain formalities they'd observed that I found myself wishing to replicate. As my mate and future wife, Bella deserved that.

That's something she really wants, Edward. Alice's thoughts lingered in my head, along with the bold suggestions that Bella had whispered in my ear. Clearly, what I felt that Bella deserved and what she desired were not the same.

So tonight, to the best of my abilities, I would be open to those desires, if she would in turn grant me just a little more time. Granting Bella her desires. Oh the burden. I let the smile that had been threatening to overwhelm my face the entire day finally break through as I let me own mind wander to the possibilities.

I was as prepared as I could be. I had taken off the day before on a hunting trip to gorge myself, and my eyes were the lightest topaz now. I strummed my fingers on the steering wheel lightly. I had Bella all to myself this evening and it was time to put my plan into action. Let the games begin.

The fallout from this past year made nights like these few and far between of late, but apparently some sort of fish that called to Charlie were running high at this moment. He'd given in to Bella's urgings that he make one of his periodic all weekend fishing trips with his friends after she swore that she wouldn't run away to Phoenix, hop a plane to Los Angeles, or engage in any extreme sports while he was gone. He'd agreed on the condition that I not be allowed in the house the entire weekend, which Bella had rather poutingly agreed to.

She could be quite the convincing little actress when she wanted to be.

But in the spirit of the agreement, I'd planned an evening out for us, an attempt to give Bella more of the human experiences she seemed so blasé about embracing. I suspected that she would enjoy this one, however. I chuckled to myself as I turned on to her street and pulled into the drive behind Charlie's squad car, parked for the weekend.

She was waiting at the door as I cut the engine. Her eyes lit up with a sparkle that made me wonder if she possessed some magical ability to make my frozen heart start to function at the mere sight of her. At times like these, it felt like it. I took a moment to steel myself for the onslaught of her scent, her voice, her soft delicate skin. With some semblance of calm I exited the car, trying to slow my feet to a normal pace rather than flying to her at the lightning speed I wished.

"Edward," she breathed, smiling up at me as she tugged me through the door and into the living room. She was up on her toes before the door even fully latched, eager as always for my welcoming kiss, even less cautious with no father to monitor our usually more circumspect greeting.

I held my breath, willing myself to remain in control against the siren enticement of her lips pressed to mine, begging for further pleasures. The memory of the vision of her bedroom flooded my mind, her body eager and soft and yielding as she pressed against me.

Not yet. Must leave her wanting more, I reminded myself as I forcefully stepped back, despite her pout of disappointment. "Bella, love, we have to go soon."

She frowned at my resolve, her face flushed from the kisses we'd shared. "And where exactly are we going again, Mr. Mysterious?"

I raised an eyebrow, then winked at her before taking her jacket from the hall closet and helping her slide into it to ward off the chill of the damp April air. "You've been asking all week, and you know the answer. It's a surprise."

She fumbled with the zipper as she gave me a glance that for once didn't leave me guessing what was going on in her mind. My Bella was not overly fond of surprises.

"Well, since you're here now, I think the date's started. So time to 'fess up," she replied.

I responded by slipping a blindfold from my pocket and holding it up in front of her. "Do you trust me?"

The rapid intake of breath and quick upswing in her heart rate could have been interpreted as fear, but the look she gave me was pure heat. I had to swallow, hard, to fight back the venom that pooled in my mouth.

"With my life," she replied, her voice suddenly husky. "Always, Edward."

I closed my eyes for a moment, suddenly unsure if I had the strength to do this, persuade her into delaying her demise this way. This plan had seemed so brilliant when Bella had told me on Wednesday of her freedom this weekend, the perfect opportunity. But now, on the precipice of an evening completely alone with her, I wished I'd been able to persuade Alice to tell me more about tonight than the weather forecast.

She'd assured me of Bella's safety, then merely smirked at my further inquiries as to the evening's outcome. Informing me that a little mystery was a good thing in any relationship, she'd bounced off to find Jasper with a gleam in her eye and several thoughts I'd rather have not been privy to.

So I was left with only the knowledge that tonight would be cloudy, but no rain. Perfect for a night at the drive-in I'd discovered on the outskirts of Port Angeles.

The touch of Bella's hand on mine pulled me out of my trance and I stepped closer. I inhaled her fragrance as I leaned into her, tying the blindfold gently but securely in place. I couldn't quite resist the moment. I let myself nuzzle against her neck and soft skin of her cheek before pulling away. She sighed and moved with me, a half step to keep us in close contact as I took her hand, leading her towards the door.

She followed as though she weren't blindfolded, completely confident in my ability to keep her safe, even after all the times I'd already failed her. I resolved again not to do so tonight. Her trust overwhelmed me.

Once seated in the car, with the soft strains of music accompanying the purr of the engine as we sped along the highway, she opened the conversation again.

"Edward, you have to tell me now," she stated matter-of-factly.

"Oh I do, do I? Wouldn't that just undermine the whole point of blindfolding you?" I pointed out.

She pouted, her delectable lower lip ever so slightly protruding. Time to start laying the groundwork. I took her hand in mine, purposely caressing the spot where an engagement ring would lie on her third finger.

"Have you given any more thought to my proposition?" I asked, pleased to feel her heart rate increase at my touch.

"Proposition?" she asked.

"You recall, don't you? The one where you give me something I want very, very much," I leaned over and whispered against her ear, "and I give you something that you want just as badly." I finished off with the tiniest flick of my tongue against the shell of her perfectly shaped earlobe and grinned as she gasped. I straightened up, glad for vampire reflexes as I continued to steer the car.

"What, what was it you wanted again?" she stumbled over her words, her skin flushing beneath the blindfold and down to the delicate skin of her neck and collarbones.

"Your hand in marriage, my sweet Bella," I reminded her, letting my fingers trail down the path of that beautiful blush to the edge of the modest v-neck of her sweater before finding my way back to stroke the pulse point on her neck.

She shivered and frowned at the same time and a moment of hesitation caught me. How she could crave immortality by my side and yet fight the thought of something as simple as our marriage continued to baffle me.

"Edward," she exhaled softly, but there was a note of reluctance underlying her tone that signaled her desire to not pursue this conversation again.

"Very well," I acquiesced for the moment. "But later, perhaps you'll allow me to be more . . . persuasive."

Her lips curled up in a smile, and her heart raced a little faster at my lowered voice. Perhaps Alice was right. If greater intimacy would persuade my Bella to delay, I would do the utmost to find the control to make that happen.

"I'd . . . like that," she managed breathlessly, as she turned her face and dropped a soft kiss on my arm still resting against her neck.

The image of her turning away from me and kissing the other vampire abruptly intruded again and I let my fingers pull away from the warmth of her skin. It was a harsh reminder that somehow, under some circumstance, she was willing to leave me to be with another.

Was immortality what she truly craved? I'd wondered that question a thousand times since Bella had forced the issue of her turning by a vote of my family. Perhaps something inside her wanted that even more than she wanted me.

She had been willing to go to Alice, Carlisle, or any of the others to take that step. She would have even done it that day, I felt sure, if one of them had offered.

Her sheer determination, her utter lack of fear at what brought even the strongest of men to their knees, continued to eat at me inside. This small, beautiful, insubstantial creature that had become the axis around which I revolved in so short a time wanted me to destroy her, snuff out the flare of her heat and brilliance, take her soul and replace it with the icy coldness of our kind.

The images kaleidoscoped in my head, her dead crimson eyes, her turning away to another, her mouth dripping with her father's blood. What if my Bella wasn't my Bella . . . afterwards? And what if she truly no longer wanted . . . me?

I squashed those fears deeper, determined to not dwell on them tonight. If my plan worked, if I could persuade her to give us more time, to move away with me this fall and prolong her life further until these dangers could pass, things would be different. I would make sure of it.

I turned into the small road marked with a poorly lit sign announcing the Port Angeles Drive-In Theater. It was one of their revival nights, an attempt to market the nostalgia of an era gone-by to those now jaded by Imax screens and surround sound in comfortable climate controlled seating. I'd thought perhaps that Bella, with her love of classic literature, might enjoy the double feature tonight, the 1940 adaptation of Rebecca, and a Hitchcock classic, Notorious.

I pulled into the last row, finding a private spot at the far end in the growing darkness as other cars began to trickle in and park in a scattered, haphazard fashion. I reached over and untied the blindfold, watching in delight as her eyes widened and cheeks flushed as she looked around.

"You brought me to the drive-in?" she asked, giving me a sideways look out of those unfathomable eyes.

I gave a casual shrug. "I thought you might enjoy watching a movie out."

She quirked a brow. "Edward, you do know what people go to the drive-in for, don't you?"

I let a tiny smirk creep onto my face. "To watch films?" I replied.

She huffed and crossed her arms before I unfastened her seatbelt in one swift move and slid my arm around her, pulling her close enough to whisper in her ear. "Of course, I've already seen both of these, so I might just decide to watch you instead." I kissed her, tasting the silky skin down to where the curve of her neck met her shoulder, and gave a careful light nip as she shivered in delight.

"I'd be okay with that," she responded, trying visibly to control her breathing. "More than okay."

I tilted her head towards me and gently found her lips, losing myself in the sweet taste of her mouth, embracing the surge of desire that exploded within me when she gave herself to me this way. Her eagerness ignited something inside that I too was growing tired of fighting. I would keep her safe, keep her whole, and if her reciprocated desires for me were the lure to do that, I would use every ounce of self-control I had to give her the pleasures we both craved.

She moaned into my mouth and I let my hand curve around her waist, settling on the swell of her hip. The slight sliver of skin between her shirt and jeans gave me an opening to caress her flesh, trailing my thumb gently over the soft skin of her belly, circling the indention of her navel before drifting back and boldly dipping lower to stroke the slight protrusion of her hipbone.

Her breath was coming in small pants now as my tongue carefully danced with hers. I could feel her intoxication and my own, a shared circuit of pleasure between us that I was reluctant to end. However, the night was young yet. This was just the appetizer, to whet her interest and soften her to my proposition.

I pulled away, finding myself strangely breathless and my pants more than a little snug as she whimpered slightly, her eyes wide and unfocused. I felt a little unfocused as well, as I forced myself to open the door and take a deep breath of the air surrounding us, full of car exhaust and stale popcorn and the scent of human blood so inferior to hers that it was almost rank by contrast.

"I'll be back in a moment. I, I have to go get popcorn for you."

"Hurry back, Edward," she called, as she leaned over, giving me one more kiss, sweet and swift that caught just the corner of my mouth. I gave in for the moment, catching her face in my hand as I let myself get lost again, kissing her the way I'd imagined in the long days and longer nights in the months we spent apart, before breaking off and fleeing the car.

What if I wasn't strong enough for this? Maybe the isolated drive-in and a night of good old-fashioned making out hadn't been the brightest of ideas, I pondered. I tried to get control of myself as I walked to the concession stand and waited in line to order a soda and jumbo popcorn with extra butter for Bella.

Perhaps we should have started out somewhere else, like at my house, where my family could stop me if I lost control. I rolled my eyes at the thought of Emmett and Rosalie sitting on my couch and critiquing my moves as I attempted to seduce Bella on my bed.

The cashier handed me my change, a heaping box of popcorn, and an enormous cup of soda just as a streak of thunder bolted across the sky. Drops began to patter on the rooftops and hoods of the cars in the lot. I stared at the darkening clouds, puzzled as I recalled Alice's forecast tonight. No rain.

The movie had started, the flickering images of the innocent Joan Fontaine being pursued by the far more experienced Lawrence Olivier as they cruised the twisting roads above Monaco projected large on the screen and I hurried through the now rapidly falling rain back to the Volvo. I stopped so abruptly that the soda sloshed unnoticed from the cup, a sticky waterfall of sugar that coated my hand. I didn't even register the sensation. Before me, the passenger door to my car stood ajar, a dark grey cloak draped across the now empty seat.

Bella was gone.