I'm not sure how the story will go after this chapter... suggestions welcome!

Disclaimer: don't own anything of SM

My eyes snapped open at the sound of someone in the room. In a split second, the figure was across the room, kneeling right beside the couch where I lay. All the memories of the past hours came flooding back, and I was so relieved because he was here, really here; safe and sound next to me. I threw my arms around his neck and breathed, "Edward!"

But the answering voice was wrong, not his at all.

"Bella, love, I need you to hear this," Carlisle's sorrow filled voice answered. I drew myself away from him and saw that his expression was pained.

"Where is he? He's coming here soon, isn't he?" My voice trembled through the torrent of words.

I'm sure that, if such a thing had been possible, Carlisle would have been crying. I felt hot tears sliding down my own cheeks when he didn't answer. "Please, Carlisle…" I whispered.

"I… we were too late, Bella. I'm so sorry," he whispered. When he saw I wasn't yet capable of saying anything, he gathered my hands in his cold ones and went on with his story. "We tracked his scent to a remote town near the border. In the forest we found a small coven, two males. When Edward found them a few hours before us, he asked them to…" here Carlisle's voice shook, as he omitted what I couldn't bear to hear. "They only believed they were doing him a favour, Bella," Carlisle pleaded with me. "They had no hatred against him." He took an unnecessary deep breath, and turned his golden eyes directly on me. "Please, forgive me."

The realization was too much for me, and the tears coursed down my cheeks faster. I didn't care that he had left me; I would never see him again… it really would be like he never existed. The sobs that escaped my throat were muffled somewhat as Carlisle pulled me comfortingly against his stone chest. After a few moments he pulled back a little, just as my sobs began to subside. He cool fingers stroked my hair away from my face and carefully wiped away the tears.

"He never deserved you, Bella," he whispered softly. "He never could have cared for you enough, to hurt you the way he did. Of course I never wanted something like this to happen to him but..." Carlisle's voice trailed off, and I found myself aware of just how close we were. "I would never hurt you, Bella," he whispered. I met his gaze; his eyes were very soft, his golden hair shone even in the dim light. He looked like a god carved from stone; an angel sent down to consol me.

Slowly he leaned forward, inhaling my scent. "Beautiful," he murmured against my skin. And then he kissed me, gently pressing his lips to mine. I knew that I should pull away, but I was past resisting now, and I gave in to his kiss. My breathing hitched as he kissed me more deeply than Edward ever had. But of course, he didn't need to be careful because… but I couldn't remember with him kissing me like this. I needed to think, I couldn't do this now, even as his hands pulled me closer.

I pulled away as gently as I could. He released my instantly, looking ashamed. "Bella, I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking," he faltered.

I looked at him, and realized with horror what I had just done. "You and Esme! Carlisle I'm sorry… I forgot, I…!" I rambled on, unable to stop. How could I have done this?

"Shh, Bella," he said. "It's alright. Esme and I are not together anymore." He said the words without too much regret. It didn't matter, I still felt like a horrible person.

"Did Alice see what we, um, that we kissed?" I asked nervously. He didn't answer right away, his expression troubled.

"Not exactly. She saw that my love for you was – is – a great deal deeper and more pure than my love for Esme." My eyes widened on the word love. I was too stunned to speak, and he went on. "Of course, we will always be friends, but even she could sense than our relationship wasn't nearly as strong as it used to be," he said ruefully, and then saw my startled face. "It's an awful feeling to wake up one day and realize that the person you thought you loved, has been the wrong one all along," he said quietly.

I finally found my voice. "You… you love me?" I whispered.

He gave me a small smile. "With all my heart and soul, since you seem so sure that we have one," he said. There was a long pause while I gathered my bearings. I took a deep breath.

"I'm just not ready yet, Carlisle," I said. I hated to see him upset, but what could I say? The one man I thought I would love forever was not on this earth anymore. Carlisle only nodded. "I completely understand, Bella," he whispered. "Take your time, but right now you need rest." He helped me stumble up the stairs to my room. I fell into bed at once, hardly able to keep my eyes open. I saw him turn to go, and called out to him. "Carlisle?" He turned around. I had one last question that needed answering. "Yes, Bella?"

"What did he… I mean, do you know what his last words were?" I asked. There was a long pause and then, very quietly, "He said your name."