Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.
Author's Note: First of all, I'd like thank everyone for taking an interest in my story. I welcome all your reviews, alerts and favorites. While I've chosen a real location for this story, it is intended as fiction and I have no idea whether there actually is an expansive chalet on Bitterroot Lake. Enjoy!
Bella began to recover herself after a few minutes of silently watching the road fly by. The mention of their old conversation had reminded Bella of a question that had been tugging at her.
"Carlisle, what does the rest of your family, other than Edward, think of your chances at an afterlife?"
"Are you asking because I said you're the only one to agree with me?" Carlisle's relaxed calm made Bella feel comfortable reintroducing the subject.
"Yes. I'm surprised Esme doesn't."
"Esme had a hard life as a human. I believe you know that she had tried to kill herself before I changed her. There are many religions that believe that is a sin, and an automatic denial of heaven."
"Oh, surely Esme doesn't believe she's going to hell? She's so… happy. And loving."
Affection for his wife made Carlisle smile. It gentled his face and a reflection of inner glow shined through. He looked very much like the seraph version of himself depicted in the Solimena painting that hung on his wall. "Yes, she is. For that I am very thankful."
There was a beat before Bella moved on. "What about Emmett? I'm not surprised to think that Rosalie believes herself damned. Does Emmett just follow her lead?"
"Emmett lives solidly in the now, very carpe diem. He doesn't think too much about the soul's afterlife. He's very happy living his current one."
This made Bella think of Emmett's booming laughter and she smiled at the thought.
"Rosalie," Carlisle continued, "as you surmised, believes this existence is damnation. She doesn't make a secret of the fact that she would not have chosen being a vampire, had she been capable of making a choice."
There was a touch of sadness there, Bella sensed, and she knew why. She reached out and touched the back of Carlisle's right hand. Carlisle lifted his hand from the wheel and turned it over to allow his cool fingers to briefly intertwine with Bella's. "I've made my peace with the decision I made for her that night. Rosalie has managed to find happiness."
The moment passed, Bella's hand rejoined the other in her lap. Being able to offer Carlisle comfort and understanding had mildly surprised her as much as his acceptance of it. However there was no awkwardness; it had felt natural. "And Alice and Jasper?"
"Jasper's origins and abilities need to be taken into account. He has felt a lot of evil from our kind. It would be quite a progressive step for him to believe we can achieve heaven." The care and compassion Carlisle felt for his newest son was also very clear to Bella. She imagined not many other vampires in the world would have opened their doors to so much pain with as much understanding. "And Alice hasn't firmly developed an opinion. Her ability to see futures doesn't give her an advantage on the subject, but she keeps an open mind."
Bella was fascinated by this new insight into Carlisle. As much as he had welcomed her from the beginning, she began to feel a stronger bond as Carlisle opened up to her. And she couldn't tear her eyes away from him. How had she never noticed before how deeply Carlisle felt for those he loved? Each emotion was there to be read in his face, just under the surface. Had it always been there, or was he letting his guard down?
Unavoidably, Bella began to wonder again why Carlisle was driving her to Montana for the weekend. It couldn't be for her transformation; that would take more time than a weekend would allow.
"How hard was it to be able to take the weekend away from the hospital?" she asked him.
"Not too terribly difficult. They are accustomed to me needing a couple of days here and there, usually when the sun is out." He answered lightly.
"So this was last minute?" Bella did not succeed in sounding casual. Carlisle didn't seem to mind her probing.
"Yes, in a way."
Bella shifted in her seat. She wanted to ask more questions, but didn't want it to come across as though she didn't trust Carlisle. She already told him she did. Besides, she was actually enjoying herself so far.
"Well, I'm glad you were able to. It's nice getting to spend time with you."
Carlisle turned his beautiful face and looked at her again. It was almost imperceptible, but he seemed to start to say something else before he answered her. "You're worth spending time with."
Bella smiled back at him. Yes, she did trust him and it felt natural to be in his company. Leaning back into her seat, she let her eyes drift closed as the scent inside the car floated around her.
Bella stirred slightly against the cold chest and arms around her. She had been dreaming, though exactly of what eluded her. The last remnants floated away like dissipating smoke from a snuffed candle. She felt very much at peace. Semi-conscious, she leaned into her right and nuzzled in towards the familiar cold embrace supporting her. Yet, a subtle difference about the arms around her and the chest she pressed her nose against roused her more fully.
"Bella, you're awake." Carlisle stated as he gently lowered her feet back to the ground.
"Oh," fully aware now, Bella's startled eyes looked up at Carlisle as her body slid down to regain balance. She barely succeeded, as her right ankle gave a quick turn that thankfully she caught before she went down. Briefly Carlisle's hands tightened on her back and thigh to catch her. And were gone again.
"I'm sorry I startled you, and that I woke you." Carlisle nodded towards Bella.
"That's- that's fine." Bella needed to recover from unexpectedly waking up so close to Carlisle. It was completely dark out. Bella could just make out the dark forms of a large house looming over them and trees surrounding the drive. Carlisle must have been carrying her from the car into the cabin. It had no lights on, but naturally it wouldn't. Carlisle didn't need them to see a path. "What time is it?"
"It's about one in the morning. Two if we're going by local time." Carlisle offered his arm to Bella. "We should get inside. I'll guide you in."
"Where in Montana are we, exactly?" Bella asked as Carlisle steered her up wooden porch steps.
"We're on Bitterroot Lake in a small town called Marion; not far from the city of Kalispell. There's a national park about 50 miles from here that partly extends into Canada. We used to live here not too long ago."
Bella's eyes had started to adjust to the darkness when Carlisle ushered her into the cabin and turned on the lights. Wincing reflexively it took a moment for the visual to match the new delicious scent reaching her nostrils. Built out of cedar, the whole place held a fragrance of the outdoors. The "cabin" was more spacious than the house in Forks, with rustic décor tastefully arranged throughout. Bella felt as though she was walking into a high-end ski lodge.
Carlisle smiled at her. "You seemed to be impressed."
"Carlisle, this is- it'd be more appropriate to call this place a chalet than a cabin."
"I like to think of it as a cabin. It makes me feel a bit more relaxed that way."
Bella turned to look at him. "If you feel relaxed thinking of your possessions as more modest, then why purchase so many expensive things? The houses, the cars?"
Carlisle laughed, a beautiful sound. "I indulge the rest of my family, Bella. As you know, we're fairly large for a coven. The bigger houses are rather necessitated because of that. And since I love my family, I allow them their independence. They can spend their money on fast cars that suit them. Or in the case of Alice, on a set of clothes for every hour."
Bella grinned and was surprised when Carlisle took her hand.
He was looking earnestly at her. Ever so briefly, she found herself beginning to sink into his eyes again, but caught herself. "Bella, will you please sit down?" Carlisle held an arm out to the couch and at her nod, led her over to it.
Once she sat down, Carlisle crouched before her between the couch and the coffee table, and grasped her hands. Bella looked at him expectantly, but the expression on his face made her wary. She felt as though she was in a hospital waiting room about to be told that a loved one needed an emergency procedure.
"Bella, you know how very much I care for you and Edward."
Bella nodded, still warily waiting to hear what Carlisle was telling her.
"Since Edward first encountered you, I've been a shoulder to help him when he needed it. Your relationship is very unique and very intense. Edward loves you a great deal." Carlisle waited for her to acknowledge understanding. Bella could only nod. A sick, nervous feeling began to tighten in her stomach. Where was Carlisle going with this? Surely nothing new was happening to separate Edward from her again?
Carlisle's cool hands tightened around hers reassuringly and somewhat apprehensively. "Edward has told me about your latest problem."
"Our problem?" Bella was completely confounded. There wasn't something Edward hadn't told her about that he'd told Carlisle, was there?
"Your… womanly needs, Bella."
A light began to dawn. "What? No, wait." Bella took a moment to draw in a deep breath. "No, I see. It doesn't surprise me that he'd talk to you about it." All the same a flush covered her cheeks. If Edward needed guidance in this area at all, it made sense for him to go to Carlisle for advice. "What exactly did you advise?"
Carlisle hestitated. "It was Edward who made the suggestion, a possible solution. Bella, you know better than most how Edward is drawn to you. How he must control his appetite. And he knows better than anyone how far he can trust that control. He knows his own limitations."
Bella stared at Carlisle's perfect face. She felt no need whatsoever anymore to avoid asking questions. She was here, over 600 miles away from home. And she wasn't here with Edward. "Carlisle, what was Edward's solution?"
Carlisle met Bella's gaze. With gentleness and sincerity he answered her question. "I can help you, Bella."
Bella withdrew her hands from Carlisle's and stood up. He stood up with her.
"Are you telling me that Edward suggested that you take me away for the weekend so that we can have sex?"
Carlisle gave her the simple, direct answer. "Yes."