I leaned back in one of the recliners of the sitting room and smiled. Why shouldn't I? As far as I was concerned, Bella was as good as bound to me, her klutziness would ensure that the requisite life-threatening experience would occur again in a relatively short time, and last night had been "payback time" for Rosalie* in the "Rumpus Room." I had every reason to be feeling good.

Or so I thought.

Carlisle walked into the room. He walked until he stood over me, and smiled pleasantly down at me. "You look," he said, "like the cat that got the cream."

"Why not?" I asked smugly, and perhaps a bit defiant. "Bella's as good as mine, and as soon as she is, our little 'deal' is fulfilled. No more 'play dates.'"

"Yes, I can see why that might be an enviable position for you." He began a slow walk around the chair in which I was reclining. "Tell me something, though. Do you think she is as close to you as you imagine her to be?"

"Pff! Of course!" I responded with bravado. Some of it might have been false.

"Hmm. And if you left, do you think she would wait for you to come back to her?"

"Yeah," I said, even less sure this time.

"Really?" He turned his head to look at me, and Carlisle's eyes lit up with excitement, and maybe challenge. "Then you wouldn't mind a little wager on it, would you?"

I became cautious at this sudden turn. "Wager?"

"Here's how it works: You leave Bella, 'break up' with her, as it were. Don't worry, you will come back eventually. Then you watch surreptitiously at what she does next. If she waits for you to come back, and immediately accepts you again upon your return, you win, and not only is our 'deal' fulfilled, but I will give you any advice or help that you want or need in your acquisition of Bella, free of charge."

It felt like my heart leaped into my throat. That would be an unexpected boon, a clear advantage to me. I was pretty sure Carlisle would hold himself to that, too, because such things were a source of great amusement to him, even when he got the short end of it.

"However," Carlisle continued. And here's the kicker. "If she finds someone else, and chooses that person over you, you lose, and will consequently be at my beck and call for the next fifty years. You're good for it, I know."

"No way, uh-uh." I folded my arms. "Nothing is worth that. I could take 10, easy."

"Forty."

"Fifteen."

"Thirty."

"Twenty."

"Twenty-five?" Carlisle extended his hand to be shaken.

I hesitated a moment, then, reached out to take it. "Deal."

*"Twilight: A Darkward Tale" chapter 14. Vampires never forget a thing like vengeance.