The wind is violently lapping at the windows, a steady sheet of rain creating a staccato rhythm on the rooftop as I sit and write the last few bits of this story. I can't think of a better setting for the end of this journey. It is a week before Christmas, the end of the year so close I can taste it.

I'm fairly certain that I've never written anything this long before and actually finished it. Though I know I'm my toughest critic, clearly seeing all the faults and holes in my writing, I'm still very proud of what I've done here.

So here is the end, the final chapter of this story that has so consumed my mind and heart for this past year. I do hope you like it and that it is a satisfying end to this tale of young Edward and his vampire love.

This story would have been total crap without the help of ms. ambrosia. She has been a wonderful beta and a great friend. If you haven't already, you should read her stories!

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer is the creator of the Twilight world. I will be forever thankful for her for giving life to these iconic characters and for allowing me to take them out to play.

My life has been utterly altered by this experience. Thank you so much for sharing it with me!

Chapter 34

If it were not for Bella's constant reminders, her vivid flashes of memories, I might have forgotten what it was like to be human. It was too easy to sever my ties with humanity, to drift away in the seductive embrace of my new immortal life.

In moments of weakness, I found myself swelling with feelings of superiority, taking all my new, enhanced abilities and running wild with them. I longed to succumb to my body's needs, to the bloodlust that was always lingering, stewing, threatening…

But Bella was continually mindful of my limitations, and the conflicting desires of a young vampire. She was always there when I needed her most, ever present in my mind when I doubted my control, when my thoughts invariably slipped into dark and dangerous territory.

If Bella hadn't known exactly what I was thinking, what I was experiencing, I would have killed my mother when she showed up unexpectedly at our house. There was no trace of the human boy left within me when I smelled the deliciously irresistible aroma of her blood, lunging at her like the animal I'd become.

Even as she struggled to hold me back, shielding my mother with her own body, she knew exactly what I needed to find my way back to myself. One moment all my senses were poised to satisfy my hunger, to quench my neverending thirst, and the next I was nearly paralyzed by the intensity of the words and images slamming rapidly through my brain.

I remained in a crouch inches from my mother – my intended prey – but I didn't move any closer. I saw myself as I was only months before, smiling at my mother as I pulled her into my arms, hugging her with warmth and need. Bella's sentimental memory of our scrabble game reawakened my own memory of that night so that it was as clear as if it had just happened moments before.

Miraculously, I felt my tie to my mother rebind itself. Her scent that filled my nose changed its flavor – it was no longer cloyingly sweet and enticing, but familiar and comforting, nurturing. I recognized it.

I stood, stumbling backward at the realization of what I'd almost done. I slapped my hands over my nose and mouth in both fear and horror.

"Don't breathe. I'll get her out of here," Bella demanded as she lifted my mother in her arms and flew out the front door. I listened to my mother's cries, her mumbled apology as she closed the car door behind her. Even as she drove away, increasing her distance between us, her remorse surrounded me in a thick cloud, weighing down heavily on my dead heart.

In that moment, I knew more than ever before how strong, how incredibly courageous my Bella was. I would never understand how she survived the way she had – on her own, denying her very nature, and forging her own path. I doubted that I would have had the same resilience or the fortitude to fight everything my vampire instincts were screaming at me to do.

I would have been a monster without her; I would have devolved into a cold, vicious killer. But instead, Bella filled my days with meaning, skillfully leading me and helping me to understand all the many ways in which my world had altered. To her astonishment, I flourished under her careful guidance, willingly embracing her philosophy of life. All the negative qualities of our vampire world were easily overshadowed by the reality of an everlasting life with my beautiful, sexy, wondrous girl.

After the tense altercation with my mother, I couldn't deny that I was worried about how I could maintain my relationship with my family. Bella was insistent that my level of control far exceeded hers as a newborn vampire, but I doubted her words. Memories of her own experience as a new vampire continually drifted through her mind as we hunted until I intricately understood each step of how she'd developed her unique and methodical methods of surviving.

I was committed to the perhaps idealistic notion that I would someday be able to blend back into the human world, that I could eventually learn how to interact safely with them, and ultimately visit with my family. But after experiencing firsthand how powerful my bloodlust was – to the point that I would kill my own mother – I knew that it would be some time before I could be in their presence without putting them in danger.

I longed to hold my mother in my arms again without causing either of us pain, to clap Emmett on the back without bruising him, and to scoop Alice up and swing her in a circle without breaking her fragile bones. My only consolation was that I had Bella to hold onto when I was feeling the ache of my loss. She was my new family; I never felt alone.

As soon as my mother narrowly skirted death and sped away, I collapsed in a wretched heap on the ground, overcome by the realization of what I'd almost done. Bella sunk to my side and held me for hours while I sat trembling and mute. My mind and body warred with each other, the remnants of my human conscience struggling to surface over the powerful and relentless urge to give in to my body's instinct for human blood.

Hours later, I called my family's home, eager to make amends to my mother. I spoke with my father, who seemed both relieved to hear from me, but also tentative. I sensed the fear in his voice, the uncertainty, as if I were a stranger. Bella reminded me that my voice - my very manner of speaking - had changed and was probably unsettling to hear for the first time.

I hunted directly after the awkward and stilted conversation with my father, weakened by the effort it took to find the trivial details of his human life meaningful to me in some fragmented way. It was as if I'd simply lost the ability to relate to him. This fact frightened me more than ever and helped to convince me that I needed to put some distance between my old life and my new one.

I'd really grown to appreciate the sense of normalcy that Jacob brought to my small, isolated world. Our weekly runs through the woods provided my life with a consistency that I came to depend upon. It was my time with him that I would most miss when Bella and I left Forks for an unknown path and uncertain future.

Before we left, I needed Jacob to know how much we appreciated him, how much I, specifically, valued his non-judgmental and unwavering friendship. I would miss him intensely. Besides Bella, he was my only friend, the only other person who knew me in my new incarnation.

I didn't know how to say goodbye. So after our run, I simply placed the keys to both the cabin and to Charlie's house in his hand, knowing he would understand. He looked at the keys in his palm for several seconds before he raised his gaze, nodding in understanding. I turned to go, but before I could run off, he pulled me into a hug. I was thinking how shockingly warm his arms were as he promised to take care of things and to watch over my family. I never doubted that he would.

As we silently pulled apart, Bella appeared in the clearing, slipping in between us and leaning into Jacob. "Despite your smell, you are one of the best people I've ever known, Jacob Black," she said earnestly as he wound his arms around her slim waist. "Goodbye for now."

"Take care of my girl, Edward," Jacob said as he took a step backward.

"I will…I promise. Always," I replied, grasping Bella's little hand in mine as I gazed into her deep, amber eyes.

His body vibrated with energy, bristling and snapping, hazy pinpricks of light dancing on his skin as the molecules rearranged themselves and the wolf inside him sprang forth. Bella tugged lightly on my arm and we began to run alongside our friend through the woods – soon veering away from Forks and away from our old lives.

We ran all the way through Canada, sticking to the deep forest and away from other humans. We lived in only the wildest areas, hunting deer, elk, moose and even the occasional bear we came across. With Bella by my side, I was adapting quickly, perfecting my technique.

We'd come across two small groups of vampires on our trek through the wilderness, the first pair changed their path to avoid engaging us in any kind of altercation. Bella thought that maybe they'd sensed I was a newborn and, knowing how volatile they could be, were giving us a wide berth.

The other solitary vampire we met was much less wary. He tracked us for several days before catching up with us near Whitefish, Montana where we'd been hunting elk. The gaunt vampire noisily approached when we were finally sated, simply marching through the trees until he stood in front of us.

He looked more like a caricature of a vampire than a real creature – with ruby red lips to match his eyes and stringy black hair that clung to his cranium. His skin was rather sunken looking, but stretched taut over his broad forehead. He held a large gnarled branch in his hands like a magical staff and wore a black cape that was dusty and hole-ridden.

He didn't seem at all curious about our animal diet and didn't ask us any questions about our whereabouts or where we were headed. He didn't feel particularly threatening, but I didn't like him nonetheless.

He told us his name was Arnold, but that he preferred Aro. Without invitation or any discussion, he travelled with us for a few days, neither asking anything of us nor offering any more information about himself.

On the third day of our wanderings together, he stopped, raised his staff in the air and nodded a feeble goodbye. Within seconds he was gone and I couldn't help but feel relieved that he'd left.

It was soon after our time with Aro, that Bella felt I was ready to test my control, and we carefully eased our way back into human society. First we trolled the shadowy edges of smaller, more remote towns where I deeply inhaled the scent of the unsuspecting humans who crossed my path, allowing the burn to fill my mouth and scorch a fiery trail down my throat.

I was able to restrain myself, but only with Bella's diligent assistance, her calm and pure mind grounding me, redirecting my need back to her. I worried that I was too dependent on her, but after a time, Bella taught me how she'd learned to manage her thirst and swallow the burn. The more we forced ourselves to interact with humans, the better I learned how to stop breathing, to turn my thoughts away from my hunger for blood and to control the violence within me without Bella's help.

As we ventured through the Northern ridge of America – Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Michigan – I continually experimented with my tolerance for human smells and honing my skills at appearing human. I was surprised at how difficult I found it to slow my movements to mimic the seemingly graceless, languid pace of the people around me.

We spent a particularly long, torturous evening in an all-night diner in Beulah, North Dakota, pretending to eat a greasy plate of biscuits and gravy while practicing other telling human gestures – sighing, slouching, rubbing an itch, making small talk. The last one was the hardest. It was much too tempting to simply sit with Bella in frozen silence, allowing her to fill my head with images of our naked bodies twisted around one another. When alone, we could spend hours, days even, just looking into one another's eyes, reveling in the feeling of our souls communicating and weaving themselves together.

Though we made every attempt to blend into the world around us, sensing the underlying threat we posed, people generally left us alone. But occasionally we'd encounter someone particularly curious who couldn't resist our allure, our otherworldliness, and incited a confrontation.

We encountered one such person in Beulah. I was pushing the gelatinous gravy around my plate when Bella stiffened, flashing into my mind an image of the large truck driver who approached from behind me. His scent was repulsive, almost overshadowing the allure of the hot blood in his veins - stale cigarettes, cheap beer, mixed with a strong undertone of sweat and human filth.

I could tell that he wanted Bella, thinking erroneously that his intimidating six foot five stature would somehow scare me off. His posture, his long strides, showed his confidence. I imagined that despite his unshaven face, his poor hygiene, the crookedness of his teeth, he genuinely thought he had a chance with my beautiful girl. That is, until he reached our table and looked into my eyes.

"Hey pretty lady," he said to Bella who kept her lips closed as she curled them into a lethal smile. As she rested her chin on her hands, the tall man wiped his sweaty hands on his flannel shirt, his cloudy gaze finally landing on me.

I caught a hint of panic in Bella's eyes before she entered my mind with her calming words: He's not worth it, Edward. Remember who you are…who we are. Please.

As Bella's plea washed over me I placed my palms flat on the table, placing the twisted, crushed fork in my hands on the edge of my plate. I turned my head slowly toward the ignorant truck driver, whose eyes were fixed on the now indistinguishable piece of silverware.

"Is there something we can help you with?" I asked in the most composed voice I could summon. In Bella's mind, my pale skin appeared to shimmer under the florescent lights, as my voice seethed with an unspoken warning. The effect was quite frightening.

With one last furtive look at Bella, the man mumbled something unintelligible and scurried away to the other side of the diner as fast as his long legs could move. I could sense the relief coming from Bella, her thoughts clear. I stood, reaching my hand out to her. I'd passed the test and it was time to head home.

We'd been living as nomads for nearly two years and both Bella and I had begun to tire of our life on the road. We longed to feel rooted somewhere, to see my family and Jacob again. Plus, we'd run out of the little money we'd taken with us when we left, opting not to use the credit card that my parents still paid.

We hadn't been in contact with anyone from my old life more than a few times when we first left, deciding that it would be too painful for both parties. I finally felt like I had something to offer my family again, that I could be a part of their lives without harm.

Once we made the decision to return, we ran the entire way back to Forks, our hands linked. Bella filled my mind with memories of Jacob, her house, her father and mother, and me as the human boy desperately in love with her.

We ran through the night until we arrived at my family's house in the early morning, the familiar heavy cloud cover hiding our inhuman skin from notice. It felt both ridiculously ordinary to knock on the door, as well as an amazingly significant step forward in my new life.

As I held Bella's hand in mine, waiting for the slow, measured footsteps to reach the door, a multitude of worries hit me. How would my family perceive me? Would they still care for me? I was sure that they had changed in the last two years as I had. Would they forgive me for all the pain I'd put them through?

As if she sensed my trepidation, Bella squeezed my hand. Don't worry. They love you.

Though I'd made the radical transformation from a young man into a vampire, I still was not prepared for how much things had changed at home while I'd been gone. Though my body felt invincible, my brain able to process so much more than it could before, I still felt powerless. I'd only been home for a few short minutes when I was reminded just how unpredictable, how crazy life could be.

Even before the front door swung open I knew something was different. I was assaulted with a very distinct smell; a scent I'd not expected to discover at my family home and that tested every amount of resolve I'd mustered. Bella shot me a look of shock as Rosalie pushed the door open and we saw clearly before us the source of the unique scent – the baby perched on her hip.

Rosalie's eyes nervously flitted back and forth, her jaw dropping open and her arms instinctually tightening around her smiling, innocent baby. She gasped as she stepped backward, tears welling in her eyes.

"Rosalie, it's okay," Bella reassured, her arms outstretched, palms facing upward as if in surrender. Rosalie squeaked out a reply, stumbling backward and knocking into the side table by the door. The baby wriggled in alarm, shifting in her arms and slipping out of her hold.

Rosalie lurched to catch the baby, but I already had her in my arms. The little thing immediately stopped struggling, her head dropping instantly to my chest, her little chubby fingers tangling themselves in my shirt.

"Who's this?" I asked in my new, velvet voice, startling an already flustered and panicked Rosalie.

"Uh…uh…it's Bug. I mean we call her, Bug. But her name it's…Alice…after your sister," she stammered. I could hear her heart beginning to slow, her fear beginning to dissipate.

I was putting all the pieces together in my mind - this child was clearly Emmett and Rosalie's, but why had they named her after Alice? I was pondering the child's name as Emmett pounded down the stairs, freezing like a statue two-thirds the way down when he took in the unusual scene before him.

His eyes flitted to Rosalie and to the baby in my arms before realization dawned on him and he shot forward. I expected him to remove the child - I was actually hoping that he would. I was truly suffering; the delicious smell of the baby's blood almost too tantalizing. It was taking all my strength to keep from sinking my teeth through little Alice's jugular vein.

But it wasn't Emmett's intent to immediately snatch Alice out of my cold, undead arms. Instead, he pulled Bella and me both into an embrace, with the small child cradled carefully between us.

"You're back," he whispered with meaning, relieved, his fingers squeezing the hard flesh of my bicep. I was overcome with emotion. Bella too, was rendered speechless by his truly overjoyed reaction, thoughts of love and belonging floating through her mind. He didn't seem in the least bit concerned over my level of control. I could feel his complete trust, his faith in me. His behavior made me almost feel for a moment as if I hadn't changed at all; and yet, I knew acutely how different I was.

Emmett pulled back, releasing his hold to look in my eyes. He didn't seem to be too disconcerted by my altered appearance either, the odd color of my eyes. He didn't even seem to notice that I'd not yet taken a breath.

He easily scooped little Alice – "Bug" – from my hands, placing her back in Rosalie's eagerly waiting arms. "She's nine months old," he offered, answering my unspoken question. "We got pregnant and married," he said, holding up his heavy hand to show me the delicate gold band on his finger. "It wasn't long after you…you know changed and then left. It was a hard time and well, knowing and planning for the baby gave us something to look forward to.

"So much has happened…that you missed while you were gone. It hasn't been easy," Emmett said, shaking his head from side to side. "Come on in and we'll talk."

We followed him to the kitchen, sitting down at the familiar table. Bella's thoughts flashed through my mind as she saw me eating cereal here, Alice giggling at my side.

"I'm sorry about what happened with mom, but I'm better now. Is she here? Is Alice?" I asked, but I already knew that besides Rosalie and the baby, the house was empty. He inhaled sharply, as if holding something painful back, but I was too impatient to wait for his answer before continuing. "I know that I messed up everything. I want to make it right. I'm so sorry."

I knew that my actions had hurt them, especially my mother, and that things would never be quite the same, but I hoped that they could see that I'd tried hard not to give into the monster inside of me. I'd do anything to regain their trust. I needed them in my life.

"Edward, it wasn't just you leaving that was messed up. I mean, we missed you and yeah, mom was a little freaked out for a while, but other shit happened too that you need to know about."

"What other things, Emmett?" Bella asked, her mind full of possibilities – other vampires visiting in the area, the wolves getting hurt, she even imagined Rosalie in labor. Luckily, Emmett's voice drew me back to him.

"Um, well, it's Alice," he said succinctly, pausing, rubbing his hand anxiously over his face. All at once, I realized that I wasn't the only one who'd changed physically. Emmett seemed older than I'd ever seen him, as if he'd aged far beyond his years in a very short amount of time.

"Where is she? Mom and Dad?" I asked again.

"She's in the hospital," Rosalie blurted as she rounded the corner into the room. "Your parents are there along with Jasper. He never leaves her side."

"What happened?" I asked anxiously. Bella tightened her grip on my hand, images of Alice streaming through both our minds, her memories intertwined with my hazy recollections.

"She got really sick after you left," Rosalie answered from her distant spot at the edge of the room, Emmett allowing her to explain. She didn't move closer as she continued to recall what happened.

"My pregnancy kind of overshadowed everything and so we didn't notice at first," Rosalie explained, her face twisted in guilt. "Jasper thought she was depressed or just recovering from the shock of…well, everything…and just kept trying to give her the space she needed to heal."

"But she just seemed to get worse and worse. Your father really started to worry when she stopped wanting to eat and then she lost so much weight. When she starting staying in bed all day, your father stepped in and took her to the hospital." Rosalie paused, inhaling deeply, her eyes glazing with tears.

Emmett stood and went to her side to comfort her, holding her hand as he turned to face us. "She looked so tiny and sick when we got her to the hospital. She couldn't even stand up, Edward!" Emmett cried, his brow furrowed in anguish.

"They did a whole slew of evil tests on her. Turns out she's had a lot of symptoms for a long time that she didn't let us know about – cramps, constipation, other weird girly shit - and the stress, you know, just made it all worse."

While Emmett spoke I took a deep breath, analyzing the scents in the house. There were several strong odors that I associated with the baby – soiled diapers, breast milk, and powder. But underneath all these smells, was a lingering smell of illness.

"Tell us, Emmett. What's wrong with Alice?" I implored.

"Leukemia. She has leukemia…Acute lymphoblastic leukemia."

"How…how…" I spluttered, shocked beyond words.

We had to wait for the clouds to make their lazy way across the sky, obscuring an errant burst of sunlight, before we could leave for the hospital. We spent the time cleaning up, changing out of our dirty traveling clothes. Instead of running as we were used to, Emmett drove us to the hospital.

I hadn't been in a hospital since before I'd been changed and I prepared myself to be accosted by an intense lust for human blood. I stopped my habitual breathing, but not before venom filled my mouth, my body completely aware of its proximity to the thick red nectar that I so craved. And yet, I couldn't avoid a quick deep sniff of the barrage of unfamiliar, but equally potent hospital smells – chemical cleansers mixed with bitter medicinal odors that only slightly masked the more natural, rank odor of decaying flesh and…blood.

Bella sensed my discomfort as we walked stiffly down the hallway behind Emmett to my sister's room. We were at the end of the hall when I caught sight of my father. He sat in a chair propped against the wall in the hallway, his usually composed body slumped forward with his head in his hands.

Startled by Emmett's heavy footfalls, he straightened as we approached. He snapped to attention as soon as he recognized my form, his eyes widening as he we got closer. He stood on uneasy legs, his hand slapping his heart as if willing it to continue beating.

"Son," he mouthed, tears falling unashamedly from his eyes as he placed his hands on my upper arms, his eyes taking in all the differences in my appearance. Unlike Emmett, he was obviously stunned by my pale skin, the refinement of my features, the unique color of my eyes. But he too, accepted me; the love in his gaze was palpable.

"Carlisle, how is Alice?" Bella asked.

He dazedly glanced in her direction as though noticing her for the first time. He shifted back and forth on his feat, uncharacteristically anxious and hesitant. I barely recognized this man; he was not the self-assured doctor nor was he the strong, levelheaded father I remembered him to be. He'd clearly been beaten down by circumstance; his expression colored by fear and despondency.

"She's…she's…," he opened and closed his mouth and then swallowed audibly, looking down. When he raised his gaze, he looked wild, desperate. "What is the point of being a doctor when I can't even save my own child?" he asked hopelessly.

"Dad, please, tell me," I implored, placing my cool hand on his back. My inhuman touch seemed to distract him and he nodded.

"Edward, she's had it all…radiation, chemotherapy. The cancer is spreading quickly and her oncologist says it may be too late for a bone marrow transplant. We've all been tested regardless, but none of us are a match." He shook his head slowly.

"Can we see her, Carlisle?" Bella asked gently.

"Yes, Esme and Jasper are inside. Your mother…she…she'll be happy to see you," he replied.

"Are you sure?" I asked selfishly.

"Yes. Yes of course. She knew that it was her fault that you attacked her, Edward. She feels incredibly guilty for visiting you when Bella warned that you wouldn't be ready. She just wanted to see you so badly. I think she needed confirmation that you were really still with us," he explained, his hand resting on my shoulder.

I smiled at him, nodding. It hurt me to know that my mother had been feeling guilty all this time for something I was entirely responsible for. I had been completely out of control at that time, but I wasn't a newborn anymore.

I glanced down at the gorgeous girl next to me, remembering how her solid, calm presence in my mind had stopped what could have potentially been the biggest mistake I'd ever make. I'd almost killed my own mother. But Bella somehow made me feel human when all signs clearly proved that I wasn't. My dead heart swelled with love for her. With this compassionate, amazing creature by my side, I could face anything.

I opened the door to Alice's hospital room, alerting our presence to the three people inside. My mother gasped, her hand dramatically slamming over her mouth. Jasper reluctantly pulled his haggard gaze away from Alice to take measure of the visitors who interrupted the sullen quiet of the room. His expression quickly morphed, from alarm to relief. He stood abruptly, dropping Alice's hand and awakening her.

Jasper and I both glanced at the tiny figure tucked into the hospital bed before meeting eyes again. What I saw in his face was ultimately surprising. He was clearly worried, but I got a sense from him that somehow Bella and I gave him hope. He actually smiled and moved to come closer when Alice moaned, and he quickly returned to her side.

He bent to hear her, but couldn't understand. However, Bella and I could easily hear the meaning of her mumbled entreaty. "Edward," she called through her dry lips. "Edward."

When someone you love is chronically ill in the hospital, it helps to be a vampire who has no need to sleep and can easily evade the hospital staff. Either Bella or I could comfortably sit with Alice all through the night, relieved by other members of my family during the day. In this way, Alice was never alone.

I held my sister's hand all through the night on my first shift in her room. I talked to her, whether she was awake or asleep, telling her of all the things I'd seen, and experienced in the past few years. I told her of all the many revelations I'd had about myself and the purpose of my existence as a vampire. I talked about Bella too, and how I'd found a perfect partner in her, and the other half of my soul.

Alice was so frail, her skin grey. It was as if the light inside of her had been extinguished.

Sometimes, she'd sit so still that she almost seemed trapped between two worlds. Her reality was constantly numbed by the drugs flowing through her veins, leaving her drifting in a state of semi-consciousness. With her mind so muddled and her mouth constantly dry, she hardly spoke.

I suffered through three days of watching and waiting alongside the rest of my family before I sensed a shift in the air around me. Bella was out hunting when my mother, who had said very little to me since we'd arrived, entered Alice's room to take my place at her side. As I stood to leave and join Bella in the forest, my mother stopped me, reaching out to me with her outstretched arm.

I turned back to find her eyes clenched shut in pain. I dropped to my knees before her, pulling her warm hands into my cold, dead ones. I was wondering how I could ease her suffering when she lifted her watery eyes to me and murmured softly that Jasper, Emmett, and my father were expecting me at the house.

I cast a questioning glance at her before I fled from the room and made my way quickly home. If I had known what I was about to face, I would have hunted first.

Though I was filled with trepidation by their suggestion, I'd agreed with little hesitation. They were a united front as they approached me, knowing that I'd be shocked by their suggestion and perhaps resistant. But surprising everyone involved, included Bella who caught the tale end of our impromptu meeting, I embraced their idea.

Jasper was the one to broach the subject first, explaining how he came to the decision and how he'd been mulling over his plan for the past several months. My father and Emmett supported the idea. My mother and Rosalie were both unwilling to either endorse or oppose the plan; they were terrified of what could happen, frightened of what they could lose.

But Jasper was adamant. He was nearly trembling with anticipation when he asked me to change Alice before it was too late. He paced the room, building his case, trying to convince me, his hands balled into fists at his side.

It wasn't until my father broke down in tears, his fingers tugging on his hair frantically, that I realized the full impact that this family discussion would have on everyone's lives. Alice could be saved from the cancer that had maliciously spread to her organs and was slowly wrenching the life out of her, but she would never be the same. If I bit her, she wouldn't be gone from this world, but she wouldn't be the daughter, the sister, or the girlfriend that they'd all come to love. She would be one of us.

There was an urgency to our exchange of words that night. We all knew that there was no time to spare. Alice had to be changed before she was too weak to survive the transformation. Bella's acceptance of the plan, her loving words streaming into my thoughts, was all I needed to jump to action. She would be bitten before the next sunrise. And then we would have to leave Forks again.

Ten years had passed since I'd plunged my teeth into my sister's pale neck while at the very same moment, Bella tore into the thin skin of Jasper's wrist. They transformed together; Jasper unwilling to allow Alice to become a vampire without him by her side. I felt a hint of remorse for the life of isolation we'd cursed them to, but just a hint.

We'd set out to save Alice, but ended up saving ourselves. The four of us became the strong family unit that I'd been missing. We travelled, hunted, and survived together, bonded by not only the blood we shared, but by love.

We eventually tired of the wilds of the United States and found ourselves bound to Europe. We hadn't been there long when we ran low on money. At Alice's suggestion, we tried our hand at gambling, hitting a string of both the glitzy and underworld casinos across Western Europe.

With Bella's sharp vampire eyesight cataloguing the cards of my opponents, and my ability to read her mind, Blackjack was almost ridiculously easy to win. Jasper too, learned quickly how to count cards, and we won large enough sums of money to buy the things we needed.

We had to move often though, our gambling wins drawing much attention our way. Quite by accident, we discovered that Alice had an intuitive knack for playing the stock market and investing. In Amsterdam, she chose numbers for a local lottery and won, getting all five numbers correct. We couldn't collect the money, because we weren't citizens, but we took the win as a sign and began to give Alice all our money to invest. Our faith in her wasn't misplaced; she quadrupled our money within the year.

Though we had a few arguments about where to go and how to pass the time, we were mostly a harmonious foursome. Occasionally, we ran into other vampires – the European version – who were often living much more primitive lives than we were - staying in the shadows, preying on unsuspecting humans and not integrating in human society at all. Though many of these vampires were much older than we were, they were all wary of our large group, and left us mostly to ourselves.

Jasper was the only one of us that struggled with his thirst, oftentimes disappearing into the forest for days at a time to detach himself from what his body demanded that he take – human blood. Ironically, it was this internal struggle that led him back to music. Playing his guitar became his main distraction, and eventually his saving grace.

He dedicated himself to playing, singing and composing. I started playing the piano again and we spent days writing music together while Bella and Alice listened. Alice was often moved to dance to the music, swaying for hours, while Bella wrote passionate lyrics in her mind until I handed her a notepad and she put them down on paper.

We'd been settled in Dublin for a short time when Jasper decided to put together a new band with human musicians. He put his thirst behind him to pursue his dream of heading a rock band. After several months, he found a group of bandmates who could fulfill the role he needed them to play. They in turn, were completely devoted to him, recognizing that Jasper was not only a musical genius, but he was inhumanly beautiful with boundless energy and charisma. It was clear to all those around him that he was bound for fame.

We followed Jasper on his tour through Europe as he and his band expanded their following. We were his vampire groupies, his family, and his ultimate support system. Alice became the manager for the band, booking shows and making sure that the music was getting exposure. Like all things she touched, under her guidance, the band's reputation skyrocketed, until record deals were struck and stadiums were filled.

It had been a good day. I'd talked to my mother on the phone earlier, confirming our travel plans. After Jasper's tour we all four were headed back to Forks for our annual trip. We hadn't been there for Christmas for some years and we were all looking forward to celebrating the holidays with Mom and Dad. Alice and Bella were particularly anxious this time around because Rose was due to deliver their fourth child – their fourth girl – while we were visiting.

For obvious reasons, we couldn't be there at the hospital with them, but Alice and Bella still wanted to be there to hold the newborn and to help Rose with anything she needed. Though my parents may not have gotten any grandchildren from Alice or me, Emmett and Rose were doing their best to make up for it, busily expanding their family. Emmett had admitted to me that they weren't stopping until they had at least one boy. I wondered if Rosalie was as committed to that plan as he was.

Still, I liked the idea of my parent's house full of grandchildren, making their lives rich and meaningful in a way that I would never be able to do. Being a grandmother had certainly given my mother a new lease on life; even when complaining about the noise and chaos to me over the phone, I could tell that she'd never been happier.

I went over all of our travel arrangements in my head as we wriggled our way to the front of the stage. Alice was already there, planted in the spot below the microphone where Jasper would soon be standing.

We always stood in front for Jasper's last show of the tour. This was a smaller venue than normal, but Jasper liked to play a more intimate setting every now and then so that he could really connect with the audience.

I wrapped Bella tightly in my arms, inhaling deeply her sweet scent – my last breath until the show was over and the bodies thinned out. It was challenging to be in a room full of excited, sweaty humans, their hearts beating quickly in their chests, the surge of adrenaline making their blood even sweeter smelling.

But Bella could always ground me, remind me of who I am. All I had to do was to run my hand down her tight body, pulling her closer to me to forget that I was in a room packed full of humans.

She was especially sexy tonight, in black leather pants that hugged her long legs, dangerously seductive high-heeled boots and a sapphire tank trimmed in lace. I couldn't tear my eyes from her, imagining the milky skin underneath her clothes. The heated look she returned proved she was just as affected by me as I was by her.

I was surprised when the music began, a sultry beat filling the room; I'd been so consumed by Bella that I hadn't noticed the musicians entering the stage. My eyes caught Jasper's for an instant before I turned back to Bella, grinding my erection against her, my fingers squeezing her hips.

Jasper leaned into the microphone, his fingers deftly plucking his guitar, his voice caressing the room as he bewitched the audience into a magical stupor. I slid my fingers under Bella's shirt, swaying to music as I savored the feeling of her bare stomach. I couldn't resist dipping under the waist of her pants as I she leaned back into me, moaning against my chest.

Oh, Edward. You feel so good. You make me feel so good.

She still had the ability to drive me to the cusp of arousal with just a look, a breathless word, intoxicating me with her pervasive sensual thoughts. I tangled my fingers in her hair, tugging her head to the side until the thick strands tumbled down her back and her long neck was exposed to me. I stopped thinking, allowing my body just to feel what she did to me. My tongue darted out of my mouth. I was desperate to taste her skin.

I licked from her collarbone to her jaw, lavishing her skin with soft kisses. I nibbled on the fleshy part of her ear while her hands moved torturously slowly up the back of my thighs, cupping my backside.

I whispered the words to her that I said everyday, the words that defined my existence. "I love you, my Bella. I love you."

She turned in my arms, her soulful eyes searching. I could see everything I wanted to know in her gaze – all her love and devotion for me simmering there, an eternal flame. "Forever," she said, crushing her lips against mine.

Forever.

Thank you so much for reading! I have loved this experience so much!