Disclaimer: Characters created within do not belong to me.

Author's Notes: Abject apologies for the extreme delay. It's been a busy life. I got engaged last month, so wedding plans have taken over my world, and before that…well…without being too cheesy, I was too busy falling in love. But I have a few things to finish before I get married, and this story is one of them. Whether you just started reading or you've been waiting for an update, thank you so much. I hope you enjoy it.

Winter Moon

by Kristen Elizabeth

"Dr. Cullen?"

Without looking up from the medical chart he was reviewing, Carlisle reached for the answer button on his intercom. "Yes?"

Out in the waiting room of his private practice, his secretary informed him, "Your daughter is here to see you."

At this, he smiled softly. Instead of asking which of the four women who posed as his daughters had come to visit him, Carlisle simply set down his pen. "Send her in, please."

Any of them would have been welcome, but seeing his granddaughter enter his office instantly improved his day. Coming around from behind his desk, he greeted her with a gentle embrace and a kiss to her forehead. "This is a pleasant surprise."

Nessie returned the hug. "Hi, Grandpa," she whispered, just in case anyone could overhear them before the door shut completely. Raising her voice, she went on, "Do you have a few minutes?"

"For you, I have hours." Carlisle indicated for her to take one of the two chairs in front of him, while he perched himself on the edge of his desk. "Is everything all right, Nessie?"

Once seated with her book bag at her feet, she blew out a short breath and squared her shoulders. "I've been putting this off for awhile, but I don't think I can anymore. And believe me, I wish I didn't have to bother you with this, because...well, this is really going to be awkward, but you're the only one who can...help." Edward's daughter looked up at him with her mother's human eyes. "Grandpa, I need to know..." She hesitated. "Do you think I would need to use...um...protection if I were to..." Her cheeks flushed pink, but she forged on. "...have sex?"

Carlisle blinked several more times than necessary in the seconds that followed. He wasn't shocked or scandalized, but her question did catch him off guard. Of course he and Esme and Edward wanted Nessie to wait until she was married; it was an old-fashioned mentality that even the modern age in which they lived couldn't shake loose.

But Nessie and Bella and Jake had grown up in a very different world. He should have been expecting this conversation ever since Jake and Nessie had reconciled in March. The fact that they'd waited six months showed restraint on their parts, and Carlisle had to grudgingly give them credit for that.

He was also just the tiniest bit proud of his granddaughter for being responsible and asking these questions before anything happened.

"Well..." Carlisle folded his hands. "It's always a good idea to use protection, Nessie."

"Even if neither of us can catch a disease?"

"I can't hurt," he said mildly.

Nessie frowned. "All right." She paused. "But what about the other thing?"

Carlisle stood up and moved over to the chair next to hers. "Are you certain you want to talk about this with me and not your mother or your grandmother? Your aunts?"

"Grandpa, you've charted my growth and my health since before I was born. You know more about my biology than anyone," she reminded him.

He inclined his chin. "Then, let me ask you...have you had a menstrual cycle?"

Nessie lowered her eyes and shook her head. "That's not a good sign, is it?"

"It could just be a sign that your body isn't ready yet, not that it never will be. It might also mean that you don't operate on a cycle like human women." When she frowned, Carlisle clarified, "Some species don't experience estrous. Perhaps you're one of them. Which would mean that you would be capable of conceiving at any time."

It was a good thing that Edward's ability to read minds only worked at close range. This was not a conversation to which he needed to be privy.

"So...protection?" Nessie asked.

He smiled. "Protection." A moment passed. "Nessie, if you're worried about the future, we can find out what your reproductive situation is. I'm not exactly sure how yet, but I'll find a way."

"The universe chose me for Jacob." Her eyes shimmered. "I have to believe that wouldn't have happened if I couldn't...give him children. Someday," she quickly added. "A long time from now."

Carlisle chuckled. "Yes, let's not test the limits of your father's good will, shall we?"

This prompted a smile from his granddaughter. "Thank you, Grandpa. For not trying to talk me out of it."

"Sweet girl," he cupped her cheek lovingly, "I am not so old that I would ever imagine you aren't perfectly capable of making your own choices when it comes to your body and your heart."

At this, Nessie threw her arms around his neck, burying her face in the crook of his neck. He held Edward and Bella's daughter tightly.

"I love you," she murmured into his starched collar.

Carlisle kissed her temple. "And I love you, Nessie." Drawing back a moment later, he thumbed a tear off her cheek. "Is there anything else you need?"

"Um..." She lifted her shoulders. "Condoms?"

Hiding a smile, he left his office, returning a few minutes later with a small paper bag. "Do you need any instructions or..."

"No! I mean..." Nessie jumped to her feet, grabbed it from him with one hand and picked up her shoulder bag with the other. "No, thank you." Her whole face was pink as she darted for the door. "See you at home!"

Carlisle ran his hand through his blonde locks and quickly decided that when he told Esme about his day, he would leave out the part where he gave their granddaughter a bag of condoms and lubricant.

When the leaves started to fall from the trees, something shifted between him and Nessie. Jacob could feel it, as surely as he felt the air growing crisper and the rain turning colder, but he waited for her to acknowledge it. He would have waited forever.

Fortunately, he didn't have to.

One night, two weeks after the Cullens started their new school year, Nessie found him in the garage, tinkering with his motorcycle, on his never-ending quest to make it as fast as possible. Noticing her approaching, Jacob set down his tools and picked up a stained rag to wipe off the grease on his hands.

"Hi, gorgeous," he greeted her with a grin.

Ignoring the black streaks and smears on his arms, Nessie kissed him. For a second, he was lost in the familiar warmth and sweetness of her mouth, and when he finally opened his eyes, she was watching him carefully.

"Jake," Nessie whispered. "I think I'm ready."

He didn't need clarification. After swallowing the lump in his throat, Jacob tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "You think or you know?"

"I know." She kissed him again, slower this time. Sweeter. He savored every second, as always. "If you're ready...I'm ready."

"Baby, I am so ready." His lower body throbbing, Jacob touched his forehead to hers. "Tell me what will make you happy. I want to do this right."

Nessie smiled. "Take me somewhere special. Somewhere no one with vampire ears can hear us."

"I can do that." He drew back in order to look her in the eyes. "When?"

"Saturday night. Mom is making Dad take her into town to see a movie. No one else will mind if we...disappear."

"Not even Blondie?"

"She won't say anything. She gets it." Nessie brushed her lips against his one final time. "I'm trembling just thinking about it, Jake."

"I promise, Ness...I promise I will make it perfect."

She shook her head, her long curls swaying against her back. "I don't need perfect. I just need you."

No day in her short life had ever seemed so long. Every minute felt like an hour, every hour felt like a week. Nessie spent most of Saturday morning trying to keep herself busy with television, books, and various projects, but by noon, she was almost ready to burst at the seams.

As if drawn to her anxiety, Bella found her daughter in the kitchen, putting together a grilled cheese sandwich.

"Since when do you eat grilled cheese?" Bella asked as she approached the large, but barely used stove.

"It's not for me. It's for Jake." Nessie struggled to keep any catch out of her voice. "You know it's his favorite."

Her mother leaned against the counter and turned her head in order to see Nessie's face. "Jake's not here. He left before dawn."

"I know," Nessie admitted. "But he'll be back."

Bella smiled and turned her attention to the buttered sandwich her daughter laid in the frying pan. "Your father thinks this isn't possible, but every now and then I swear I get a craving for food."

Nessie nodded absentmindedly, but when Bella reached out and removed the pan from the heat, she protested, "Mom! What are you doing?"

"Trying to have a conversation with my daughter about what's going to happen tonight." Setting the pan on the back burner, she shook her dark hair back and faced the girl, her lips curling up at the sight of Nessie's stricken expression. "Tonight is the night, isn't it?"

Nessie blinked. "How did you...?"

"It wasn't so very long ago that I was thinking up excuses to be alone with your father." Bella laughed when Nessie's cheeks flushed. "And I would have been mortified to have this conversation with Charlie, so I understand what you're feeling right now, but I just want you to know...if you have any questions or need any advice, I'm here. No judgment." She paused. "And your father will never know."

It took Nessie a few minutes, time she spent folding and unfolding her arms while she shifted back forth from foot to foot, but finally her shoulders relaxed a touch, and although her lower lip was caught in the tight grip of her teeth, she nodded at her mother.

"Is that a 'yes, I understand' or a 'yes, I have questions'?" Bella asked.

"Both," Nessie murmured.

"Okay." She held out her hand and waited for Nessie to take it. "Let's talk upstairs."

"I really appreciate this, Sam." Hauling a heavy crate of candles out of the back of his old friend's truck, Jake shook his head. "After everything you've done to get me here at all..."

Sam didn't need him to finish the thought. He just nodded as he took the crate from Jake. "I'm glad you found your way, Jake. I knew you would."

Just then, Emily came by with little Sammy sleeping in a sling on her back, her arms full of snowy white sheets and blankets. "We're happy to help," she assured him. "But you're certain she's ready for this step?"

"I trust her," Jake replied. "She knows what she wants...and for some reason she still wants me."

When Emily was out of earshot, Sam stepped closer to Jacob. "I don't need to tell you to be careful, do I?"

"I've got it covered." Jacob swore. "That came out wrong."

Laughing, Sam shook his head. "Or right." Setting the crate down on the mossy forest floor, he nodded at the final item taking up space in his truck. "This thing's on loan, Jake. Try not to break it."

"Have you and Emily ever broken one?"

"Emily's not half-vampire," Sam reminded him.

Jacob grabbed one end of the dark wood headboard that made up the large, four-poster bed he'd rented in town. "Just give me a hand. We've only got another couple hours of daylight."

By the time Jacob arrived at the house, Nessie had talked herself in and out of no less that five different hairstyles. Eventually, she gave up trying to choose and just let her curls fall around her shoulders.

She took her extreme hairstyling as a sign that, despite talking with her mother, she was still a bit nervous. But the anxiety was nowhere near great enough for her to even question her decision. She loved Jake. He loved her. The mistakes and misunderstandings that had kept them apart were where they belonged…in the past. And Nessie had a feeling that the future would be even better than she'd imagined.

Instead of going to the front door, Jacob climbed a tree and knocked on her bedroom window. Her heart pounded when she threw aside the curtains and saw him smiling on the other side of the glass.

"Where are we going?" she asked him as soon as she pushed the window open.

Jacob reached for her hand. "Not far. Just a world away."

After the leap from the windowsill, he began to run, pulling Nessie along with him into the shadows of the forest. She could have gone faster, would have if he'd been in his wolf form, but she kept a step behind him, allowing Jacob to lead her through the woods. After about fifteen minutes, Nessie could see a light up ahead between the trees. They didn't stop running until they reached the source.

In the middle of the forest, surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of candles, there was a large wooden bed. The stark white sheets and pillows stood out in perfect contrast to the browns and greens of the forest, but it was the dusting of red rose petals across them that made Nessie's fingers fly to her mouth in delight.

Blinking back tears, she looked at Jacob. No words needed to be exchanged. He'd promised perfection…and so far, he'd delivered.

Nessie looked back at the fantasy Jacob had brought to life for her. Her nerves were gone.

This was where she and Jake were going to make love.