Disclaimer: Twilight ain't mine…

"Well, thanks for finally introducing us! I thought I might have to do it myself. I mean, she is going to be my best friend, you know" Alice said in her beautiful, sing-song voice. I was already glum and missing Bella. "You still haven't made up your mind, have you?" she asked with trepidation as we walked out to the parking lot.

"Hmmm?" I replied, ignoring her. I was still wallowing in the last of Bella's scent. Yes, it would be a long night after all. I could still feel the heat from her cheek on my fingers, the warmth radiating up my hand like the softest of breezes. "We have to get her truck and bring it back so she doesn't have to walk home" I said.

"I know…the key is in her jeans pocket at the bottom of a pile of laundry," Alice sang to me with a smirk on her face. She loped off in front of me to my car. For being so small, she could be hugely irritating.

After we dropped off Bella's truck, we headed to the forest at the edge of town. We were walking slowly and quietly, for vampires that is. I was thinking about Bella. Her scent, her hair, her beautiful skin. It was all too much for me. How would I ever be able to be alone with her for any amount of time without hurting her, or worse. The monster was quiet, listening, waiting for me to make a mistake…waiting to take over and end her life. I love her more than I ever thought possible, yet here I am, still unsure of my control.

"You are strong enough, you know." Alice pulled me out of my reverie. "You have been denying yourself for so long now; you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. I love her too, you know, and I don't want her hurt. You can do this, Edward." She said it with such finality, without a trace of doubt. I knew she believed it, her thoughts said as much. Did I believe this about myself?

"I love her more than my own life, Alice. What can I do except stay away from her. I will let her choose to be with me or not. I have to let her see me for who I am and then she can decide. I am a monster and she deserves so much more than what I am. She deserves a life, children, and no fear of being killed every time she is close to the one she loves." I was quiet again, wondering to myself again how I could be so selfish as to put her life in danger. She surely didn't understand what could happen to her if I lost control, how easy it would be. She was much too innocent of such terrors. I would have to put the monster into the farthest corners of my mind, far away from her, far away from me.

We walked quietly again, catching the scent of some wild deer, many miles ahead. "They're small does, no bucks, but they will do for now" Alice said. "Let's go!" And off she went, at the speed of light. The does never had a chance. I followed close behind, but not quite as enthusiastic as she. I was thankful to have her here with me. Her confidence in me gave me hope for tomorrow. I smiled in spite of myself, feeling lighter. Alice's pure heart worked better on me than Jasper's talents. I needed her faith in me more than she knew.

When we arrived home, I started up to my room to be alone. I had glutted myself on deer blood, and could almost feel it sloshing around in my stomach.

Rosalie was glaring at me again. "Why are you risking all of us for a human" her thoughts sneered at me. I just shook my head and ignored her. I didn't want to fight with her again. Emmett didn't bother to look up from the book he was reading. Carlisle was at the hospital and Esme was at her desk working on her latest remodel. I blocked out their thoughts, all of them, needing the quiet to sort through the myriad of emotions flowing around my mind. Alice was looking at me with an unspoken question in her eyes.

"I need to concentrate and think about what tomorrow will bring" I said to her. She ran thru several scenarios in her mind of what might happen; many of them unsettling me. She focused on the vision that gave me some reprieve, the vision of her and Bella, their arms around each others waists, smiling and happy. She lifted her kind, beautiful face to smile at me. I loved her very much for the all encompassing faith she held in me. I smiled and laughed quietly as she strode up to her room where Jasper was waiting for her.

I envied them. They've had each others love for so long, and I have had no one. I was just beginning to understand what that kind of love felt like. Just starting to get a glimpse of what it would feel like to have someone all to myself. I have been in my own world for so long, thinking I was complete in myself. It was hard for me to understand these human feelings I was having. I missed Bella very much, but I didn't want to visit her tonight…I needed this time to relax, to steel my resolve, strengthen my self control. I spent the rest of the long night listening to "Madame Butterfly" and thinking of her, her scent, her fathomless eyes, her soft hair.

When the morning sunlight finally started to flirt with the sky, I knew it was time. I quickly dressed and headed out the door. I was at Bella's house in a few minutes, hiding in the woods across the street. Charlie was leaving out the front door with his fishing implements. I watched him quietly, listening for any change of plans he might have today, but his thoughts were only on fishing. After he left, I walked across the road casually and sat motionlessly in the woods directly behind her house. I could hear her heartbeat and the blood pulsing thru her veins.

This would be the biggest test I would ever face. All these years of denying my thirst, the first time I smelled her, barely making it thru the hour in the small, heated classroom, and again in my car after her encounter with the would be assailants in Port Angeles…all of those other trials pale in comparison to the temptations I was now about to face. We would be alone, far away from any other humans. I could kill her so fast she wouldn't have time to scream. Her blood would be so intoxicating, so delicious, so…STOP! I screamed at myself. I resolved to lock down the monster, to keep him banished to the depths of my soul, if I even had one.

She's awake now, and I can hear her in the shower. Her scent wafted over me. She hasn't been out here in a few days, but I could easily find it without trying. I needed a small dose of her scent before the shockingly painful aroma her closeness brought with it its own temptation. I can do this…I can and I will…I wouldn't hurt my Bella, my love. With some trepidation of what this day might bring, I walked up the porch and knocked. I could hear her heart racing as she opened the door.

"Good morning," I chuckled. Her floral scent assaulted me, and left me breathless. She was beauty redefined in the early morning light. I assessed our outfits, and shook my head.

"What's wrong?" She said with slight worry in her voice, eyes wide.

"We match," and I laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. Light tan sweater stretched over her smooth figure, white collar peeking out from the top, blue jeans that fit her just right…she looked so beautiful, so fresh. My hand ached to touch her soft skin, feel the heat from her blood under that skin. ENOUGH! I turned and walked to the passenger side of her truck, needing the fresh air and to clear my thoughts. My head shaking, I waited by the ancient automobile.

"We made a deal," she said and climbed in, reaching over to open my door.

I climbed in and braced myself for the onslaught of her aroma. I took a deep breath, quietly so as not to alarm her, and felt my throat burn with the fire of her essence.

"Put your seatbelt on, I'm nervous already" I said. More nervous than she could ever guess. I was dangerous. I was a monster. What in the world was I doing here alone with her? I had given her the choice, but did she really know all that one choice could encompass?

"Where to?," she asked with curious eyes.

"Take the one-oh-one north" I instructed. As she started to drive, I watched her. The muted sunlight illuminated her skin and reflected in her hair. How could I ever hurt such a lovely creature. What did I do to deserve her affection. I have been so alone for too long, and have finally found someone I want to be with. The knowledge of this truth filled my heart with pure happiness. I know with every fiber of my being I have to be with her. Was there no end to my selfishness?

I watched her as she drove, studying her profile. I took in another deep breath, quietly, and reveled in the burning that raced down my throat.

"Were you planning to make it out of forks before nightfall?" I was attempting to distract myself from her heat, even though part of my mind would always be attuned to it.

"This truck is old enough to be your car's grandfather—have some respect" she bantered back.

"Turn right on the one-ten" I instructed. "Now we drive until the pavement ends" I smiled at the thought of where we were going, and the long hike to get there.

"And what's there, at the pavement's end?" She said with some trepidation

"A trail"

"We're hiking?" I could hear the fear creeping into her voice.

"Is that a problem?"

"No" She was lying, but I let it pass. I would watch over her while we walked to our hidden destination.

"Don't worry, it's only five miles or so, and we're in no hurry" I watched as another round of fear flickered across her features. She continued to drive in silence, battling her emotions and controlling them only slightly. I waited what seemed like an endless time before I could stand the silence no more.

"What are you thinking?" I demanded. Her silence was infuriating. I wished again her mind was not closed to me.

"Just wondering where we're going"

"It's a place I like to go when the weather is nice" I watched the thinning clouds and smiled at the soon coming sun.

"Charlie said it would be warm today"

"And did you tell Charlie what you were up to?" I wondered.

"Nope"

"But Jessica thinks we're going to Seattle together" Since she didn't tell Charlie about her trip, Jessica would be my motivating reason to bring her back. The monster would have no excuse to hurt Bella, knowing what that would mean for my family. Why was I still struggling with my decision to return Bella safely home?

"No, I told her you cancelled on me—which is true" She said flatly

"No one knows you're with me?" I was infuriated with her. The monster mocked me from his cage. My steel resolve faltered ever so slightly at the knowledge no one knew where she was.

"That depends…I assume you told Alice?" Her voice rose ever so slightly. Maybe she was beginning to see the stupidity of her reasoning.

"That's very helpful, Bella" I snapped at her without thinking. My anger rose in accordance with my irritation at the utter nonsense coming out of her mouth.

"Are you so depressed by forks that it's made you suicidal?" I spat at her. Why was she ignoring the danger? Why was she tempting me so? The monster laughed at me. I tightened the chains around his cage, attempting to control him.

"You said it might cause trouble for you…us being together publicly" She was genuinely concerned for me. She should me more concerned for herself.

"So you're worried about the trouble it might cause me—if you don't come home?" The animosity in my voice registered on her face. She stared ahead, not looking at me, hiding her eyes and the thoughts they held.

"Of course you didn't tell anyone. Why can't you see how dangerous this is for me? How tempting you are to me? Alice showed me I was strong enough, showed me the outcome. But am I? Can I do this? Can I keep you safe from me?" I was talking to myself, to fast for her to hear me, of course. Her human ears wouldn't be able to decipher my blurry words.

The anger was good for me. It kept my mind off the maddening scent of her, but only partially. I steeled myself against the burning that never ended. We sat in silence until the road came to an end.

I removed my sweater before I got out of the truck and slammed the door. I embraced my anger, keeping it close, like a protective shield against my need for her sweet blood. I saw her flinch a little when I looked at her over my shoulder, my back to her.

"This way" I let her see my annoyance as I walked ahead.

"The trail?" She asked in a panic stricken voice.

"I said there was a trail at the end of the road, not that we were taking it" I was being rude for no reason. She didn't deserve this.

'No trail?" Her panic stricken eyes raced around the edge of the forest, wondering where I was taking her.

"I won't let you get lost" I was mocking her, hoping she would see the pain hiding behind my anger.

But when I turned and looked at her face, she gasped and her heart took off in a frenzied pace. She stared open-mouthed at me. Her pain stricken face all too easy to understand. She wanted to go home. I had been angry and rude, and now she no longer wanted me. A pain I was not willing to feel curled itself around my stone heart at the thought of her leaving me.

"Do you want to go home?" I asked in a whisper, not wanting to hear the words I feared she would say.

"No" She said as she crossed to be closer to me. I closed me eyes at the joy that now filled my being. I sighed softly as I breathed in her scent.

"What's wrong?" I asked; her closed mind was maddening to me. Would I ever get used to her silence?

"I'm not a good hiker, you'll have to be very patient" She said in a small voice.

"I can be patient—if I make a great effort" I smiled a gentle smile, wanting to make her happy again. I resolved to make this a perfect day for her, my love. I would do everything in my power to keep her sheltered from the dangers my world posed to her.

"I'll take you home" I would not harm her. My whole being cried out at the enormity of this statement and the emotions behind it. I was strong. Alice was right. I can do this. I can keep her safe and alive.

"If you want me to hack five miles through the jungle before sundown, you'd better start leading the way" She didn't sound thrilled as she pondered the forest floor.

I lead the way, deftly watching out for any dangers that might hinder her tread. The slow human pace was good for me, for us. It would give me time to bolster my resolve. I pondered the beauty of her as she walked by me.

Several times I assisted her over fallen trees, touching her burning hot skin with my ice cold finger tips. I released her instantly, not knowing if I was ready for the touch of her skin, the closeness I so longed for. Her heart sputtered at my touch, and I quickly looked into her eyes, trying to decipher the emotions they held. Was it fear that made her heart quicken at my touch? Or was it something else. Joy enveloped my silent heart as I hoped against hope for the latter option.

The need to reach out and hold her hand was overwhelming. I found myself slowing, just slightly, so she could catch up and our hands could entwine. I couldn't hold her hand, though, and I was awash in pain for a moment. I was still a monster, and she was so fragile. My love was so strong for her, it pulsed thru my dry veins. It colored every thought I had since the night she breathed my name in her sleep. I desperately needed her to be with me, and yet I longed for her to run the other way, to save herself from the monstrosity that I was. My conflicting thoughts were driving me to the brink of insanity.

I distracted myself from the pain of my reality by asking Bella more questions. She answered them while keeping her eyes to the mostly flat ground. Apparently she was terrible at taking care of fish, she had killed three in a row. This amused me, and I laughed loudly in spite of myself. The thought of Bella killing animals was utterly absurd.

"Are we there yet?" She was getting impatient, and pretending to be irritated. She was more beautiful in the forest than I could have ever imagined. The sun was starting to peak through the canopy of trees. I was as anxious as she was to see the meadow.

"Nearly, do you see the brightness ahead?" She was happy again, her forlorn mood from before vanished like the thin clouds from this morning's sky. I was elated and smiling and laughing. She was the remedy for my meaningless existence.

"Um, should I?"

"Maybe it's a bit to soon for your eyes" I teased her.

"Time to visit the optometrist," she retorted.

And with that, we were there. The meadow. Our meadow.

A/N: Thank you for reading. Show some love and leave a review….pretty please???