The Black Balloon Contest

Clipped Strands of Fate

Your pen name:


I don't own this, we all know who does.
What I do own is a sick need to pry apart two perfectly happy people.

Official Word Count:
14,981 – The counter here is a big fat liar. :D I'm wordy, what can I say? :)

A/N: Thanks to My BittenBee for betaing this baby last minute. She's the Daisy to my Minnie and I love her.

Thanks to Twilight44 & Unchanged Affections for prereading this.


Cult - a rigidly, structured group controlled by a charismatic leader, typically isolated from established society, values, and norms. Members are often times recruited through deception and maintained by manipulation, while being denied their freedom of choice. Any group with beliefs and practices that could be considered unreasonable or strange might be classified as a cult.


I sat on the bench as the wind gently blew through my hair, and couldn't help but marvel at the changes in my life over the past year. I had to urge myself to be strong inside; to feel again. For so long I had avoided this place—avoided the memories and emotions I would feel when returning, but today I had to be here.

The scenery stretching out before me was enough to break anyone, melding beautiful memories of my youth with the horrors of my recent past. I would never be the same. I would never be the person I once dreamed of being and never have the things I once thought I couldn't live without. I took a deep breath and my eyes focused on the stones lying all around me, straining to see the tiny markings on each one. The stones I loved most were next to me, the only ones I really cared to see. A tear slipped down my cheek as their pale, glossy surfaces reflected the fading light.

I raised my eyes and stared out at the fields all around me. Buildings and structures dotted the landscape. This was the place of my youth. I longed to turn back the clock, go back in time so that I could be there again. I had been innocent there, yet I never knew until it was all taken away from me. Hatred ignited and pulsed through my veins for a brief moment before the pain edged it out, pushing it away from me. I didn't have room for anger; I was too defeated and the hurt was too great.

My gaze focused on one building in particular—the large white meeting hall that held so many wonderful moments from my life. That building would forever be haunted by my happiness, my innocence, my hopes and desires…my love. I thought I would only ever experience happiness in that place, but I was wrong. The horrible thing that happened there one year ago today eclipsed any joy I'd ever experienced within those walls. I would never be whole again, and the missing pieces of me would be held captive there forever.

I was raised as the only child of Charlie and Renee Swan. My childhood was happy, I was loved and cared for, I was wanted and cherished. I was safe.

My home was surrounded by neighbors and there were many children for me to spend my days with. The community was close-knit, almost like a family. My father, the local law enforcement officer, and my mother, a seamstress, provided a beautiful life for me.

My parents were new to our lifestyle, having only joined the church and community a few months before I was born. My father's best friend, Carlisle Cullen, was our leader. He and my father grew up together, went to college together, and had been best friends all their lives. Esme, Carlisle's wife, was the daughter of a religious leader, and Carlisle embraced the lifestyle completely, urging my parents to join as well. Esme's father, Prophet Masen apparently led quite a peaceful, private community that was perfect for new families to get on their feet. While my parents remained hesitant in the beginning, they kept in contact with the Cullens.

Not long after my parents married, they were saddened to hear of the murder of Prophet Masen and Esme's brother. A direct descendent of Prophet Masen was needed to take his place as the leader of the church, but since there was no one appropriate at that time, Carlisle, his son in law, assumed the role, and fulfilled a new destiny that he believed to be his.

At that time, my father had begun a career in law enforcement and was about to start his own family with my mother. They were ready to settle and at Carlisle's urging again, convinced my mother to move to Whiton and join their friends. My father was welcomed and quickly put in charge of the little police unit there.

I remembered many times as a child being awoken late in the night by the sounds of men discussing issues that concerned our little group. My father always took those issues very seriously, yet he was cautious when it came time for action. Carlisle trusted his judgment and never failed to support him in his decisions. It wasn't long before my parents were welcomed completely into the community.

Unlike most of my friends, my family only consisted of the three of us. My closest friend, Alice Brandon who lived a few houses down the street from me, had a huge family and my first visit there left me surprised and full of questions for my own mother. I couldn't understand why Alice got to have four mothers, and I only had one. Though it didn't seem fair to me, my mother explained it as best she could to a six year old – some families have more moms and kids, and some have less. However God plans it is how it will be. I put full faith in her answer and never questioned—past childlike curiosity—the things I saw all around me. I trusted my parents.

It was always understood that my father would someday choose my husband. I knew that the church elders played a part in the selection process, but ultimately my father would decide. It was something all the young girls looked forward to. Every Sunday as we sat in church, I would gaze with admiration at the men sitting behind the pulpit, looking down on the congregation. They seemed to glow and I knew that they must be true followers of God. Every so often a small ceremony would take place and a girl would be called up from the audience to be promised to a man within the community. This never took place until the girl was at least sixteen, but most times a few years older than that. It was an honor to be chosen as a sister wife for a family, and I longed for the day when my name would be called.

As I grew older, I often noticed eyes watching me. I simply assumed I was going through a self-conscious period during my pubescent years. I continued along with my business, but at times it bothered me further—made me feel as though things were not right. I never spoke of it, instead choosing to wait patiently for the day my husband would be promised to me and no other man would be able to look at me in that way.

While I was a rather shy child, I never lacked friends. My closest girl friends were Alice, and Rosalie Cullen, the daughter of our leader Carlisle. We were all the same age, and because of that, were often paired up in school and church activities.

As we entered our teenage years, we did all the normal things that teenage girls did. We giggled and gossiped, flirted with boys, and experimented with makeup when our mothers weren't looking. We were innocent, each longing to be worthy of the destinies that awaited us.

Quite often Alice, Rosalie, and I would stay so late in the evening that it would be dark by the time we left for home. Each of them had brothers that would accompany us so that we didn't have to walk alone. Alice's older brother Mike was sweet and would joke with us, always insisting on walking Rosalie home first and saving me for last. I wondered why since Rosalie lived farther away than I did, but I never asked, assuming that Mike preferred the company on the long walk back from her house, though I sometimes caught him looking at me strangely.

The first time I ever questioned my lifestyle was when I was fifteen years old and had met a boy that I liked. Frequently, I spent a lot of time at Rosalie's house because it meant that her older brother Edward would be walking me home. He too insisted on dropping me off last, making me walk past my house to Alice's before turning around and walking right back. Edward was different than Mike and I longed for him to look at me the way Mike did. Sometimes I thought I saw something, from the corner of my eye, but when I would look, his eyes were always focused somewhere else.

Edward wasn't really Rosalie's brother, he was actually her cousin. His father was Esme's deceased brother, and after the murders, Carlisle took Edward and his mother into his home, marrying Elizabeth and taking her as his second wife. Edward was the rightful heir to the leadership of the church, and Carlisle had spent years grooming him to take on that calling. I knew that no matter what my feelings for Edward might be, I would never be able to have him as my own. He was destined to marry the daughter of a church elder, and the girl who had been chosen for him was Tanya Denali. Tanya was misguided, and I was saddened by the thought of Edward being married to her.

The more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder how true the teachings could be; how could God insist that an honorable man like Edward be married to a wayward soul like Tanya? She disobeyed every rule placed on her, and everyone chose to turn their heads, hoping marriage and children would settle her down. That alone should have been enough to change my mind about things, but unfortunately it was someone else that did that.

Edward's best friend, Jasper Whitlock, came from an established family in the community. Jasper, like Edward, was two years older than my friends and I, and a farm boy. He had just enough schooling to get him by, but he was smart and witty and more responsible than any other boy I'd ever met. Alice had watched him for years, often asking Rose and me to include his younger sisters Maria and Lucy in our group so that we would have a reason to go to the Whitlock house. It soon became obvious that Jasper had noticed Alice too, and the two of them were often seen off in corners talking and laughing together. Alice knew that he was destined to be hers and she never looked at another boy.

After confiding in us that Jasper had asked Alice to be his wife one day, we were stunned to hear Alice's name called during church services. As she walked to the pulpit, Rosalie and I glanced toward each other, confused by what was happening. With Alice being only fifteen, there was no real urgency for her to be married, and since Jasper couldn't marry until he was eighteen, it would be another year before he could officially ask her father for her hand.

Alice walked slowly to the front of the room, her head bowed. When she turned around I could see small wet tears roll down her cheeks and glisten in the light. My heart began to beat faster as I heard Carlisle announce that Alice had been promised to someone. I couldn't contain my gasp when Mr. Whitlock stood and walked to Alice's side. There had to be some mistake; Alice was meant to marry Jasper, not his father. Her shoulders began to shake when Mr. Whitlock placed his arm around her, pulling her toward his family. Rose and I looked to each other, not able to believe what we had just seen. As I scanned the many Whitlock's in attendance, one head of wavy, blonde hair was missing. Jasper.

He hadn't come to church that day, nor did he ever enter that building again.

I looked back toward Rosalie, shocked to meet two burning green eyes focused directly on me. Edward openly stared at me, a scowl on his face. His lips were pressed tightly together and I could see his hands balled into fists. It was intense, and I shuddered from the thought of having done something to upset him. My shoulders hunched of their own accord and with what had just happened to Alice, I prayed that I might somehow seep into the bench and disappear. I kept my eyes on the floor throughout the rest of the sermon, yet I knew he was still watching me. I could feel his eyes cutting through me, the intensity of his stare lighting my soul on fire.

When services were over, Rosalie and I hurried outside just in time to see Alice leaving with Mr. Whitlock's family. We silently watched until they were out of sight and turned to each other in shock, wondering why this had happened.

"Bella, Rose, come on, I'll give you a ride home," Edward called from behind us. I raised my eyes to meet his, afraid of what I might find there. His face was calm, relaxed, and my breath caught as the corner of his lips turned up in a small reassuring smirk. He headed toward the car, leaving us for a moment.

I looked at Rosalie with confusion on my face and asked, "Are we going with him?"

"Yeah, I guess so, unless you want to walk. I mean, I was hoping to catch Alice but I guess we can do that later." She leaned in closer to me, her voice a whisper. "We have got to find out what's going on."

"Yeah, and where's Jasper? He wasn't even here today," I quietly mentioned.

She looked toward Edward who was standing near his car, waiting for us. "I don't know, but if anyone does, it's Edward. We should talk to him," she said.

I nodded in agreement and we quickly walked to Edward's car. As I climbed into the back seat, I tried to fight the butterflies in my stomach. Glancing up, I saw Edward's eyes on me in the rear view mirror and it made me nervous, not only because I knew he wasn't watching the road, but because I shouldn't want him to be watching me, but at the same time I did.

I craved his attention and now with this small fraction of his interest, I never wanted to let it go. It was a foolish thought and I chastised myself, but couldn't keep from desiring it—from desiring him. He was my first waking thought each morning and the last glimmering image I envisioned each night. There was no way to keep track of how often my thoughts turned to him during the day, for he was always at the forefront of my mind.

Rosalie began talking with concern, asking Edward questions about Jasper.

"He's at home," Edward began, disgust dripping from his words. "I talked to him last night. He says he doesn't know if he can stay here and watch this happen. I don't know what his father is thinking; I mean Alice is fifteen years old. What could a fifty-year-old man want with a girl like that? He has daughters older than her. This makes me sick."

Rosalie nodded vigorously in agreement. "Why do you think dad let this happen? You know he has to give approval for anything like this. How could he be okay with it?"

Edward sighed and quietly admitted, "I don't know, but I'm going to talk to him as soon as he gets home. When I run this church someday, things like this won't happen. Girls that young shouldn't be getting married, it's disgusting."

My eyes shot up to the rearview mirror and were met with green staring intensely back at me—there was something there. I could see an emotion in him that I couldn't figure out. My brow furrowed slightly and I dropped my eyes, slowly closing them as I realized what he must have been talking about. He could most likely tell my feelings for him, and he was repulsed. I fought back the tears that began to sting my eyes as I listened to Rosalie rant about today's developments.

When we pulled into their driveway, Rosalie ran into the house to find her father. Edward and I sat quietly, silence around us. As I sniffled, I heard Edward shift in his seat. Then felt the weight of his eyes on me.

"Bella, are you okay?"

My eyes pressed shut even tighter as I took in a long, deep breath. I sensed him before I felt him. The velvet soft of his fingers ghosted over my clutched hand, pressing into my skin and rubbing until finally he stopped, took hold of my fingers and willed them to relax.

"Bella, you know I'd never let anything like this happen to you, right? I'd die before I let someone do this to you."

My heart lurched to a halt, my eyes shooting open and finding Edward's. "What?" I quietly asked.

"I'd never let this happen to you, you need to know that," he said, his voice thick with an emotion I couldn't decipher.

"You mean because I'm Rose's friend, you'd watch out for me?" I had to clarify what he was saying. I couldn't risk getting my hopes up only to find that I'd misunderstood him.

The lines in his forehead smoothed and his mouth turned up into a devastatingly beautiful smile. "No, not because you're Rose's friend. Rose has nothing to do with…" He broke off, choosing his words carefully. "It's the way I feel about you."

My mouth fell open and he leaned around the seat, raising his hand to touch my cheek, his fingers gliding softly across it. "Bella, why do you think I always walk you home? Don't you think one of my brothers could do that?" A mischievous glint flashed across his eyes as he continued. "And why do you think I always make you walk past your house to Alice's, only to have to turn around and walk back with me? Do you not realize the way I feel about you, Bella? What you mean to me?"

My heart began beating wildly, the most rapid pace it had ever experienced. My voice was weak and quivered with insecurity when I finally spoke. "Sometimes I thought, I wished…" I shook my head. "No, I don't understand. You're promised to Tanya, how could you think that way of me?"

"That's one of the things I love about you most. You're so unassuming. You truly don't know what it does to me when you're around, do you?"

I shook my head again, honestly not knowing what he meant. He sighed deeply and opened his mouth to say something as we both heard footsteps outside of the car. Quickly, he pulled his hand away from me and turned in his seat. I felt the loss of his warmth instantly and suddenly ached to have his hands on me again in comfort.

The door was pulled open and Rosalie quickly sat down in the passenger seat. "Well, dad's not coming home until late tonight. I say after we eat, we hurry over to the Whitlock's house and get Alice. She'll be done spending time with his family today and Edward, you can talk to Jasper. Sound good?"

She looked back and forth between us, curiosity growing on her face. Edward and I sat silent as a somewhat surprised look came over Rose. "Did I miss something?

Edward was instantly sweet and innocent. "No, Bella and I were just talking about how messed up this is. I mean, girls have to be at least sixteen before their father approves anything like this. Let's go eat and later I'll drive you two over to Jasper's house."

We all agreed. My stomach quietly growled even though I didn't quite have an appetite after today. As we walked toward the house, my heart leapt when Edward moved to stand next to me, gently placing his hand on the small of my back as we ascended the porch steps. I couldn't stop the small smile that spread across my face, and I didn't want to. I was in love with Edward Cullen, and for the first time ever, I had reason to believe that he might feel the same way about me.

That evening as we pulled up to the Whitlock home, we saw a lone figure sitting outside on the large porch. The headlights flashed across the front of the house and I was taken aback at the realization that it was Jasper. After Edward parked, we walked quietly to the house and straight to him, hoping to get some answers and find out where Alice was.

I had never seen anyone look the way he did. His hair was a mess from his hands frantically raking through it. His face was both pale and splotchy red at the same time. His blue eyes were swollen and bloodshot. His clothes were disheveled and dirty. We stood in front of him for two minutes before he even noticed we were there, and then when he did, he simply looked at each of us once and then returned to staring at the ground.

Edward slowly kneeled in front of him, "Jazz…"

Jasper finally looked up to meet Edward's worried face. "How is this happening? Why did he do this? She was for me…" Tears began to slide down his ashen face and I lunged toward him, throwing my arms around him and squeezing as tight as I could. His arms wrapped around my waist and he pulled me into him, sobs taking over his body.

"Jasper, it's okay. It's gonna be okay." I tried to reassure my friend, but he was inconsolable. Rose and Edward were quietly whispering to each other behind me and I struggled to make out what they where saying. I heard the front door creak and realized that Jasper and I were alone. He clung to me, refusing to loosen his grasp, as I swayed us slightly back and forth, bending to lean my head to his and placed comforting kisses in his disheveled hair.

After what seemed like hours, I heard the door again, and the sound of footsteps moving closer to us. I lifted my head to see Edward standing next to me, behind him Alice, who was leaning heavily into Rosalie's side. She looked just as bad; hair messy and dried tears staining her pretty face. I looked back to Edward, my eyes silently asking him what I should do. His gentle hands took hold of Jasper's arms and removed them from my waist. I stepped backward, stumbling a bit and soon felt Edward's arms where Jasper's had been only moments earlier. My back fit perfectly against his chest and I cautiously turned so that I might see his face better.

He brought his hand up and pushed the hair away from my eyes, letting his fingers skim my cheek bone, and trail down to my lips. He reached down and took my hand, lacing our fingers together, and turned toward the steps.

"Rose, here's my keys, drive Alice and Bella home." He handed the key ring to her as she continued to soothe Alice.

He pulled me along with him to his car and leaned against the passenger door, wrapping an arm around me, pulling me against him.

"Go with Rose, take Alice home. I need to stay here with Jasper. I'll find you, okay?" he asked, as his hand cupped my face.

I nodded, my eyes never leaving his, and felt my breath stop as he lowered his face to mine. His lips were a mere fraction of an inch away when he paused, took a deep breath, and spoke quietly. "I promise you, I won't ever let this happen to us. I promise, on my life, it's you and me. If you want me."

My breath caught in my throat. I stared into the deep green of his eyes, feeling as though I could see forever my life with him, and knew what I had to do. My eyelids slid closed as I leaned forward and pressed my lips to his. The kiss was soft, sweet, yet perfect. My heart overflowed with love for him. The way his lips tenderly moved against mine made me realize that we were meant to always be this way. It was innocent and pure, and I had to will my body to stop before completely giving over to the unfamiliar desires beginning to burn within me.

I pulled back from him and opened my eyes to look at him again. "I only want you, no one else, ever."

The corners of his mouth turned up and the most amazing smile brightened his face. He pulled me closer, gliding his fingers along my neck with a sigh as he continued to look at me. His expression was one of peace and happiness.

"I'm yours," he said softly, before brushing his lips against mine once more. His hold around me loosened, and I stepped out of his embrace when I saw Rosalie and Alice approaching. Rosalie's eyes were wide as saucers, looking between Edward and me, unsure of what to think. I hurried to Alice's side, helping Rose to get her into the car.

Alice was quiet, not saying much during the drive. When we finally reached our street, she begged us to not take her home, insisting that she couldn't bear to see her father. We slipped quietly into my father's small barn behind my house and after quickly telling my mother where we were, we spent the night there, crying, talking, and supporting each other. Alice told us that her father accepted the marriage offer because of money. He needed one less mouth to feed and since Alice was one of the older girls, she was first to go. My heart wept for her. When the rising sun woke us, Rose and I could see a new resolve in Alice's eyes. No longer was she the simple little girl we had grown up with. At some point in the night she had chosen to accept her destiny.

Rosalie and I cried together as Alice left for home, and we cried again a week later when she married Mr. Whitlock.


Two years quickly passed, during which time a lot of things changed for me. Not since the night with Alice and Jasper had I blindly accepted things again. I had resolved to make my own decisions, to no longer be just a follower. I still believed the teachings that were preached every Sunday, but now I spend the other six days trying to decide for myself if I wanted to follow them.

Edward made true on his promises to me. He was still set to marry Tanya, but the wedding wasn't scheduled to take place until the coming summer, after he turned nineteen. Despite Edward's personal beliefs, Carlisle was firm about him honoring the ways of the community. Edward finally relented that he would marry her out of obligation to his family and the church, but he would then marry me immediately after and I would be the woman he considered his wife. Tanya didn't want to be tied down, so she didn't care, and I was happy because I would get to be with Edward.

He spent the past two years secretly courting me, getting to know me, planning for our future together. He made me feel beautiful and smart, two things I'd never felt before him. He always walked me home when I was visiting Rosalie, and would often stay late into the evening. More than not, my father had to send him home when the hour got too late. We were careful in public to make it appear we were just good friends, but when we were alone, there was no hiding the way we felt about each other.

About a year into our relationship, Edward took me to a secret place he had used when he was a child. It had been his fort—his place to escape from the world. It was on the outskirts of our community, and no one, save for us and a few of his closest friends, knew about it. We spent time there talking, laughing, kissing, and just being together. He was never inappropriate with me, never pushing me physically to do things we knew were not allowed.

A few months after Alice was married, Jasper told Edward that he had decided to stay, that he and Alice, unknown to anyone else, were meeting to talk and spend time together. He was saving his money so that one day soon, they could run away and be together. Jasper's cousin lived in a community a few hours away from us and offered to let Jasper and Alice stay with him.

It seemed like a great plan until Alice became pregnant. Once that happened, she was forced to cut all romantic ties with Jasper, and he left, not being able to handle seeing the woman he loved carry his sibling within her belly.

Alice was beside herself, heartbroken that she had lost Jasper. She continued on, doing the things that were expected of her, but the light in her eyes was gone. She pulled away from Rosalie and me, refusing to let us comfort her, and we were forced to let her go.

Not long after that, Rosalie met Emmett, a young man just a little older than Edward who was the son of a new elder in the church. She fell hard and fast for him, and they were married on her sixteenth birthday. She was so happy, and seeing them together made me wonder if maybe some arranged marriages were really okay. There was such a difference between her life and Alice's, it was hard to decide what was right and what was wrong. How could something go so wrong for Alice, yet so right for Rose?

One night early in June, a few weeks before Edward's nineteenth birthday, there was a knock at our door. Lying in my bed, I heard my father answer the door and invite someone in. I heard Carlisle's voice echo softly down the hallway, and was almost caught up in how regal it sounded. He had such a charismatic presence and could win anyone over with just a smile and a kind word. Over the past several months it had become a common occurrence for my father to have late night visitors. He held a lot of responsibility in the community, and I hoped Carlisle's late visit wasn't on account of something being unsafe. I knew eavesdropping was wrong and I snuggled deeper into my sheets, falling asleep.

The next morning began as most others. After dressing for the day, I walked into the kitchen, preparing to help my mother with breakfast. I was a surprised to find my mother and father both sitting at the table, coffee mugs in hand, and looking grim. My father didn't have his paper as he usually did, and my mother's eyes were swollen and red. She had obviously been crying, and I was instantly concerned. When she noticed me standing in the room, she burst into tears. I rushed to her side only to have her throw her arms around me, squeezing me tighter than I had been squeezed in years. I found it a little difficult to breathe and finally began tapping on her back as my words were muffled by her crushing embrace.

I heard my father's chair scrape against the floor and soon felt him prying my mother's arms off of me. She crumbled into her chair and I looked to my father, wondering what had happened that would make her this upset. She was always so strong, so sure about things, and I hadn't seen her cry since I was a small child when my grandmother passed away.

"Bella, have a seat. Your mother and I need to talk to you, it's important."

I nodded, pulling out the chair and sitting down slowly. I folded my hands together and laid them in my lap. "What's going on, Dad?"

He moved to stand behind my mother, placing his hand on her shoulder in a gesture of support. She sniffled again, but quieted down.

"Bella, something has happened and your mother and I would like to talk to you about it. Now, you know that as you grow older, your life takes on different responsibilities. We've always been very open about the fact that someday you will marry and have a family, and you've always known that when that time came, I would choose a good man for you to spend your life with."

"Yes, I know Dad. I trust you." I hadn't mentioned my feelings about our usual arranged marriages to my parents, but I didn't really feel the need to. I knew they would be thrilled with Edward asking for my hand and it would never be an issue over whether or not to approve his request.

"Bella, I need to be honest with you. I've turned down several marriage offers over the past year or two," my father said.

My eyes widened in shock. Men had been asking to marry me?

"Your mother and I discussed each offer and decided that you were too young, that the men approaching us where not right for you. We both feel that you should be a little older before marrying. As you know, we did not grow up in this lifestyle, with these standards, but we can see the value in many of them. We just want you to be happy." I watched as his fingers kneaded into my mother's shoulder, relaxing her muscles as she continued to cry.

"All right," I said dubiously. I felt my stomach begin to twist into knots as I tried to decide what I would say to my parents' pending announcement. I needed to be prepared, to have a quick comeback and a valid argument if what they had to say was not what I wanted to hear.

My father cleared his throat. "Bella, Carlisle Cullen was here last night. He came to discuss some safety concerns within the community, but after we finished, he stayed to talk about something else."

Carlisle was Edward's guardian, his father figure. Could he have been here to ask for permission for Edward and I to be together? I felt my breathing pick up a bit, excitement beginning to build in me. Edward had been so busy lately with things around his house and the church that we hadn't spent much time together that week. Now that I knew Carlisle had been here to talk to my father, I started to wonder if Edward had been too embarrassed or scared to ask my father himself, and sent Carlisle to deliver his request.

"Carlisle and I had a long discussion and he told me that revelation has been received. It's rather an uncommon occurrence, but when something like this is revealed, there's no way to ignore it. Your mother and I have been up all night talking things over, and we both feel comfortable about the decision we have come to." My father looked away from my face, instead choosing to stare at the countertop behind me. My mother stifled another sob.

I wondered what it was about Edward and I being together that could have him so upset. Then I remembered—Edward was promised to Tanya. My father probably thought that Edward was taking advantage of the friendship he and I shared, that he was being irresponsible in his marriage vows to Tanya by taking on another wife so soon. I would need to explain our situation, I was certain my parents would see things the way I did and that they would be happy for both Edward and I.

I waited anxiously for the words I knew were coming from my father's mouth, and my heart leapt when he finally spoke. "Bella, an offer of marriage has been extended to you. Knowing the man, I have faith that you will be happy with him. He'll take good care of you."

A smile began to spread on my face. Edward wanted me, I knew it, and now finally everyone else would know it too. We wouldn't have to hide any longer; we could be together and happy. I could love him freely, without worry of being disciplined. I was finally going to have everything I had ever wanted. I was in love with a man who was in love with me too, and I couldn't wait to show the world.

"Bella, next weekend you will be married. You will join the Cullen family as a sister wife," he said. "You will become Bella Cullen." The euphoria swept over me and I smiled brightly, overjoyed that at last that I would officially belong to Edward.

My mother began to cry again, murmuring something that sounded like, "It's not right, she's so young." My mind swam with thoughts of how she could think that. Why didn't she want me to be with Edward? As I sifted through more questions, something struck me.

"Dad, you said I'll be Bella Cullen, but Edward's last name is Masen. Don't you mean I'll be Bella Masen?" I asked, curious about the error. He knew that Edward still went by his father and grandfathers last name. How could he have made such a mistake?

My mother quickly looked up at me, a strange look in her eyes. "What do you mean Bella Masen?"

As I looked back and forth between my parents, a sick feeling started to creep into me. My breathing picked up and I my chest rose and fell faster than usual. I spoke, surprised at the quiet sound of my own voice. "Carlisle was here to ask for my hand for Edward, right? Edward wants to marry me."

My father's head snapped back to me, the expression on his face drastically different from the one I'd seen there just moments before. He had a look of finality, as though this was something to be accepted, not enjoyed. "Edward Masen is marrying Tanya Denali. You, Isabella, are going to be the fifth wife to Carlisle Cullen."

My heart plummeted and I felt as though I might throw up. This couldn't be right—not Carlisle. I loved Edward; he would never allow this to happen. He had promised me that we'd be together, that no one would ever come between us. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched my parents look at one another.

"No, Edward loves me, he wants me. He told me, he wants to marry me. Not Carlisle." I stuttered through the words, not even realizing the sobs that were pouring out of me. My mother glanced at my father before quickly kneeling in front of me, her hands on my face.

"Bella, you know you can't marry Edward," she explained, her voice full of sympathy. "He shouldn't have told you that. Your father decides who you marry, and Carlisle has received inspiration that you are to be his bride. It's your destiny, Bella. You must marry him. Carlisle is your father's dearest friend and we know that he will always take care of you." Her words were strong and clear, full of conviction, yet understanding, and my heart shattered into a million pieces at the thought of her being right.

I nodded, desperate to get away from them, to find Edward and figure out what was going on. This all had to be a big misunderstanding and I needed to see him. Looking my mother in the eye I began, "You're right, mother. It is an honor. Carlisle is a good man and I've seen how he cares for his family. I know I'll be happy in his home. I must have misunderstood Edward; obviously he was only promising me friendship, not love."

It hurt me to lie to my parents that way, but I had to get out of the house, and quickly. "If there is nothing more, I'd like to go. I want to go share my news with Rose and Alice. I know how happy they'll both be for me."

My mother turned to look at my father, and he nodded. "Yes, why don't you go see them. I'm sure Rosalie will be thrilled to welcome you into her family. She has always been like a sister to you, and now it will be in a more official capacity."

I was out the door in less than a minute, running as fast as my feet would carry me, to the one place I knew I'd be safe; the place I knew Edward would go to when he heard the news. As I approached, I heard his voice and things being thrown around. I cautiously entered the little area that had once been Edward's childhood place and saw him pacing in the small space. When he looked up to see me, he stopped—frozen. I flung myself toward him, letting him catch me, and we fell to the ground in a tangled heap. I loved him and he loved me, and my heart was broken at the thought of not being with him forever.

"What are we going to do?" I cried as his hand gently smoothed over my hair. I buried my face into his neck, breathing in as much of his scent as I could, worried that I might never get to smell it again.

"Shhh," he quietly soothed. "It's gonna be okay. I'll figure this out, don't worry. I won't let him do this to us."

I nodded, believing completely in his words.

"How did this happen? What would make him do this?" I pulled back so that I could look into his tear-filled green eyes, seeing sadness there. He was breaking just like I was.

He let out a long breath. "He knows about us."

Confusion filled me as I stared back at him. "What do you mean he knows about us? How does he know?"

He brushed a lock of hair behind my ear. "He saw us one night when I walked you home. He saw me holding your hand and kissing you. It was a few weeks ago and I tried to explain, but he wouldn't listen to me. He just kept saying that I was being disobedient to God and that I was going against God's will."

"But how could this be wrong? I love you, how could God not want that?"

"I love you too, Bella, and this isn't wrong. I don't care what he says, you and I are not wrong. I think maybe…I think he's upset with me. He's been acting strange lately," Edward said.

"Strange like how?" I asked.

"I think he doesn't want to give up the church to me. I think he wants the control and he feels like I'm stealing something away from him. That's what this whole thing with you is about—he knows the only thing that could ever hurt me is losing you, so he's taking you away from me." He shook his head, breathing deeply with renewed frustration. "If only he knew I'd give him everything if that meant I could have you."


"I won't let him take you away from me, I won't. I'll die first."

I gasped. "Don't say that! Don't you ever say that!" I took his face in my hands, making sure that his eyes met mine. "I don't want you to die for me, or for us. As long as we're both alive, no matter where we are, there's hope. I will always belong to you, and I will always want you—any part of you that I can have—and if that part is simply memories and hope, then I'll take it."

"Bella, I believe you, but I can't be without you. I can't, there's no other option. I'd rather die than not be with you. I couldn't live through that pain," he said, his words cracking with emotion.

I stared at his face, taking in every line, every curve, every color. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I wanted to savor him for as long as possible. Desperation mingled with my love and I moved forward, adjusting my position so that I straddled his lap. I kept my hands firmly on his face and pulled him toward me, our lips meeting in a soft kiss. I felt his hands move to my hips, circling around to my back and tightening as he pulled me closer.

I took his top lip between mine and sucked lightly as our lips brushed against one another. My hands went to his cheeks and my fingers curled under his jawbone. He groaned softly and shifted my hips a little, deepening our kiss as his hands pressed into the bare skin under the edge of my shirt. My breathing picked up as I felt his tongue tracing my bottom lip. Mine slipped out to taste him, and soon we were exploring each others mouths, our tongues tangling and twisting together in a graceful, quiet dance.

I felt his hands pushing up higher on my back, my shirt bunching up as his fingers lingered on my skin, rubbing lightly. Our kisses grew more forceful and passionate. Instinct began to take over and I soon felt my hips lightly grinding themselves into him, and he held me and moved with me. I could feel his hardness against me and his kisses on my skin, and it spurred me on.

Quickly moving my hands down his chest, I felt the muscles hidden beneath the fabric of his shirt. I wanted to feel him, his skin, the warmth of it, and the tingle that I always felt when he touched me. As I continued kissing him, my hands moved to his waist, taking hold of the hem of his shirt and pulling up. He froze, his lips no longer moving with mine. I pulled back, looking deeply into his eyes.

"Bella, we can't…"

"Edward," I said softly, my voice deeper than normal. "Please, Edward, please make me yours. Please."

I could see the conflict in his eyes, battling with what he and I both wanted versus what he knew was right. "Bella, you're the only girl I'll ever want. Are you sure?"

"Yes, this is what I want."

His eyes closed and as he let out a long breath, I knew I was losing him. His next words surprised me. "I wanted this to be perfect for you, for us. I wanted to make love to you the first time as your husband, you as my wife. I didn't want it to be cheap, I wanted it to be beautiful, perfect."

I loved him so much. He wanted to make things special for me, to prove how much he loved and wanted me. An idea suddenly entered my head and I felt my resolve build.

"You know, I've read about some groups in the world who don't have people to marry them officially, so they do it themselves. They make promises to each other and if they say it three times in a row, they're considered married. If it's okay for them, couldn't it be okay for us too?" I asked hesitantly.

A strange expression crossed his face and I knew he was thinking about it.

"Really?" he asked.

"Yeah," I nodded, "I think they were in Africa or something. I mean, if God recognizes it for them, why couldn't God do that for us?"

"Okay. What do we do?"

I thought for a moment. "Well, I think first we should declare ourselves."

He nodded. "Isabella Marie Swan, I want to marry you. I want to be your husband and I want to spend my life with you."

"Edward Anthony Masen, I want to marry you. I want to be your wife and I want to spend my life with you." I smiled at him. His brilliant smile grew to match mine.

"Now what?" he asked.

"Now we promise. Then we say something at the end, the three times thing. We need to think of something."

"Okay, um, okay." He cleared his throat, moving his hands to take hold of mine. "Bella, I promise to love you forever. I promise to never want anyone else but you. I promise to protect you and to help you and to give you everything you could ever want. I promise to be a good husband and provide for you and our children. I promise to make you happy. I promise to always put you first. I promise to be yours, eternally."

I felt tears roll down my cheeks as I sniffled. His words wrapped around my heart and made me feel whole—complete. Our eyes were locked together as I hesitated, trying to put my feelings into words too.

"Edward, I love you. I promise I will never love anyone else the way I love you. I promise I will think of you everyday for the rest of my life. I promise to be a good wife to you and to be a good mother to our children. I promise to honor you and to cherish you. I promise to care for you and to protect you. I promise to make you happy. I promise to be yours, eternally."

The words flowed out naturally and as I said them, I knew in my heart that I would spend the rest of my life trying to fulfill them. I would give everything I had to him, and I would be what he needed me to be. I loved him and no matter what happened, I would never feel for anyone else the things I felt for Edward. He was my love, my reason for being, and I wanted nothing more than to be that for him too.

"Bella, I think we should say the three promise thing together. It seems like maybe that will make it more official."

I nodded. "Okay."

"I think we should say: I'm yours eternally. What do you think?" he asked.

I smiled, as tears welled up in my eyes. "It's perfect."

He tightened his hold on my hands as we spoke in unison. "I'm yours eternally."

He shifted closer to me, our noses touching. "I'm yours eternally."

I felt the tears sliding in a rush down my face as our lips touched, the words whispering from my mouth into his, and from his into mine. "I'm yours eternally." I breathed in, taking his words and his breath into me as he pressed his mouth against mine. It was quiet for a few moments, only the sounds of our breaths and lips breaking the silence.

He pulled away, waiting until I opened my eyes to see him. "I love you, Bella. I want to show you what you mean to me." His thumb rubbed against my fingers. "I have a ring for you. It was my mothers ring when she married my father. I want you to have it." He lifted my hand to his mouth, placing a sweet kiss on my left ring finger. "I'll put it here so everyone will know what you mean to me."

I watched him, marveling at the beauty of how much love was pouring out of him. When he raised his eyes to meet mine again, I was caught off-guard by the trace of lust in them. He let go of my hands and wrapped his arms around my waist again, pulling me firmly against his chest.

"May I make love to you?"

I sighed. "Please." I felt his lips on mine again, then on my neck, my ear, my shoulder, my chest. I loved him and I shook at the feel of him on me.

His hands gently fisted in my shirt, slowly pulling it up and over my head. His eyes were glued to mine before he lowered them, looking over my body. I moved to cover myself with my hands, but he halted me with encouraging whispers and sweet words. His fingers glided down my arms, coming to rest on my shoulders and gently skimmed across my skin. It felt foreign for a man to touch me so intimately. Slowly, he traced the lace of my bra strap, looking up at me as he did so to make sure I was comfortable. For a moment, embarrassment flooded and I instantly wished I had worn something pretty, something other than white.

"I'm sorry it's not nicer, that it's not sexier or something." I blushed from further embarrassment, casting my eyes down to the ground.

"It's perfect, just like you," he whispered.

I smiled and leaned into him, grasping at the hem of his shirt. He guided my trembling hands and helped me lift it off. I lowered my eyes so that I could drink him in. My hands dragged across his chest lightly in reverence, and I was surprised when I felt a shudder ripple through him. He must be just as nervous… I finally looked up to meet his gaze.

His mouth crashed onto mine again and our hands continued to caress and touch new, unfamiliar skin. I soon felt his arms circle around me and begin pulling at the clasp of my bra between tender kisses. The white fabric slid down between us and his mouth was on my neck, placing wet, needy kisses on my skin as he delved lower toward my breast. He cupped me gently, his thumbs rubbing eagerly, wanting to please and calm me all at once. A soft moan escaped me as his tongue darted out to lick and suck my quivering skin.

I was overcome by the unfamiliar pleasure and my love for him. My head lulled forward and my arms wrapped around his warm shoulders, keeping him close as I kissed his neck and wound my hands into his soft hair. He sprinkled every inch of my skin with loving kisses as we both slowly rose to our knees. We held each other and my mind was clouded with lust. Breathing heavily, we finally broke apart slightly and I looked at him, unsure of what to do.

"I don't know how to do this," I told him, afraid that he might laugh at me.

He smiled. "Well, I don't really either, but I think we can figure it out."

I smiled as he leaned down to smooth the blanket that was lying on the floor and retrieve a pillow. He straightened and looked at me nervously.

"Is this okay?" he asked.

I nodded, feeling the butterflies growing rapidly in my stomach.

I lay on our makeshift bed and pulled him with me. He turned into my side and hovered over me a bit, his fingers twisting into my hair as he brought his lips back to mine, kissing me passionately.

As our bodies pressed against one another, I felt his hands move down my side to my hips. My breathing was out of control and I gripped him tighter. His fingers began fumbling with the button on my pants and soon his hand was creeping down my belly, under my panties. I gasped as I felt his fingers between my legs for the first time, and my hands dug into his back. I forced my tongue deeper into his mouth as he groaned against me.

His fingers slid back and forth through the wetness before finally pushing slowly into me. The feeling was incredible. My hands rubbed down along his ribs, lower, and grazed the edge of his waistband. I could feel his hardness against my thigh and I hesitated, unsure of what to do. My fingers danced along his belt loops as he moaned above me, sinking his fingers deeper into me.

We soon lay bare and entangled together with a light sweat coating our bodies. Edward carefully settled between my legs, letting his weight press on me a little. Our kisses continued deep and assuring to calm the shutters. With one hand, he reached between us and guided himself to my entrance. My breath held and I slowed our kisses. He nudged me open, parting me, and slowly pushed inside. I gasped, but begged him not to stop. He took his time, trying not to hurt me.

His eyes rested on mine and he stroked my hair. "Bella, I love you."

"I know, I love you too. It's okay, keep going," I reassured him.

"I don't want to hurt you," he breathed, his voice strained.

"You won't, I'm yours. Make me yours, Edward."

He pushed completely into me and I tensed at the sharp pain.

"Bella… Are you okay?"

I nodded, swallowing as I tried to get a grip on the pain before speaking. "I'm okay. I'm with you and this is what I want, so please don't stop."

He kissed the tears at the corner of my eyes before gently sucking my top lip. Slowly, he began to rock with me, groaning softly at my ear. The pain started ebbing away and something pleasurable and intense built within me. My hips were soon meeting his.

"Bella, oh I love you," he said as our bodies found a rhythm together.

"Edward, hmmm, Edward…" The feeling in my belly tightened, and I felt like I was going to burst from happiness. I called out his name as his pace moved unsteadily before he finally stilled, sighing my name over and over again.

He collapsed on top of me, and I pulled him down, wanting to feel his weight on me. I needed him to pin me to the ground, afraid that I was so happy I might float away.

His breathing was heavy. "I didn't know it would be like that. Did you?" he asked.

I shook my head, still unable to speak. He laughed and leaned down to place a kiss on the tip of my nose. I laughed too as he looked deep into my eyes.

"I'm yours eternally," he whispered to me.

I smiled back at him. "And I'm yours eternally," I stated as firmly as I could. I belonged to him. I never wanted anyone else, and after tonight, I knew Edward would never let me go.


The next week was a blur. At church on Sunday it was announced that I would be married to Carlisle. Several people in the congregation were shocked, but I played my part, pretending to be happy and honored, all the while stealing glances at Edward. His eyes remained on the floor except for when I walked past him to sit with Carlisle's fourth wife, Jessica. I scooted by, feeling his hand brush against the back of my thigh, and had to stop myself from turning around and grabbing him the way I wanted to.

After church I went to the Cullen home for dinner. I was to be married to Carlisle the following Saturday, and was expected to spend a lot of time with him and his family during the upcoming week. After being there for a few hours, Rosalie pulled me outside to the back yard, away from everyone else. Edward had been absent all afternoon, and even though I wouldn't be able to spend time with him like we used to, I missed him.

"Bella, what are you going to do? I know Edward's planning something," Rose said as we walked toward a small gazebo in the far corner of the yard.

"I don't know, Rose. He said he's going to come up with something, he isn't going to let Carlisle do this to us." I looked at Rosalie, the shock of the situation still clear on her face. "Rose, your dad knew about Edward and I. He saw us one night, when Edward walked me home. He's doing this on purpose, Rose."

I was desperate for her to believe me, needing her on my side through everything that was happening.

"What do you mean my dad knew? He wouldn't do that, Bella. He loves Edward, he'd never hurt him that way." Rosalie's voice was firm and clear. I tried another approach.

"Rose, Edward said your dad's been acting really strange toward him. He thinks that maybe it's the whole church take-over thing. Maybe Carlisle doesn't want to give it up, that he's doing this as a way to punish Edward. It makes sense, right?" I asked.

"Bella, you know my dad, he's not like that. I can't believe you'd say that, after all he's done for you. Edward's just angry because my father received revelation about you and it's not what Edward wants. Goes to show how unprepared Edward is to take over this church."

My mouth hung open at her words. Rose was like my sister, she always had been, but now the way she was acting frightened me. A stray thought entered my mind: What if she told Carlisle the plans that Edward and I had? Suddenly I knew that I needed to be careful with what I told Rosalie. I loved her, but in this moment I couldn't trust her.

She huffed and turned back to face me. "So what are you going to do?" she asked.

I looked down to my hands that were folded in my lap. "I don't know. I haven't talked to Edward; I doubt I'll be able to in the next few days. It looks like I'm going to become Bella Cullen, doesn't it?" I looked up to her, my eyes hardened. "I guess we're getting our wish, huh? We're finally going to be related. Bet you never thought it would be as mother and daughter, did you?"

She looked at me, her face softening. "Bella, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be hurtful, I just can't believe that my father would do this on purpose. I know how much he cares about you and your family. I can't believe he would do this."

I reached out, placing my hand over hers. "I know, Rose, but I believe Edward. I have to, I love him. Tell me you understand, please. If it were you and Emmett, you'd believe him, right?"

She nodded slowly and I now knew that she wouldn't tell her father, but I didn't tell her anything more—not that I even knew anything to tell. We walked slowly back into the house and soon it began to grow dark. Carlisle offered to walk me home. He all but insisted, but I refused, saying that I needed some air and time alone to think. I told him I'd come back the next day to spend time with his family and start learning my place within it.

I walked slowly, wondering again what Edward was planning. As I rounded the street my house was on, two arms wrapped around my waist, pulling me into the shadows. I almost screamed, but then heard his voice. Edward's mouth was at my ear, whispering things to me. I melted into his embrace, and turned around as soon as I could to press my lips to his.

"Come on, I have something for you," he whispered as he took my hand and we ran to our hideout. There, with candlelight flickering in the darkness, he placed his mother's wedding ring on my finger, kissing me tenderly before making love to me. It just about killed me to leave him that night, but we promised to meet every night for the next week until he had his plans for us figured out.

I lay in my bed that night, remembering the way his hands felt on my body, shivering at the memory of him moving in me. He was so perfect, and I couldn't have imagined anything more incredible than being with him that way. My body physically ached for him and I couldn't get enough.

Edward kept busy during the day, and even left town a time or two. I learned on Tuesday that his marriage to Tanya had been unexpectedly moved up and that they would also be wed on Saturday. A large community party was being planned and everyone in town was required to attend. My father was more stressed than usual, and though I tried to blame it simply on the fact that I would be married very soon, I had a feeling that wasn't the reason entirely.

After returning from meeting Edward on Wednesday night, I found my father sitting alone at the kitchen table. He looked worried and I wished to comfort him. I carefully switched my wedding ring to my other hand, turning it so that only the band showed, and went to sit by him.

"Daddy, is everything okay?" I asked.

He looked up at me. "Ahhh, Bella, there you are. Did you have a nice evening with the Cullens?" His eyes looked weary and I forced a smile onto my face.

"Yes, I did. They have a wonderful family. I couldn't have gotten any luckier in that sense. I saw Rose tonight too, so it was even better than usual."

He nodded in agreement, happy that I was transitioning to my new life so well.

"Bella, I'm sorry about this. I know you don't love Carlisle and that he's so much older than you, but he really is a good man. I've tried to follow his counsel as best I can, even in times like this when I don't exactly agree with his decisions." His voice was soft and quiet. I knew something was wrong.

"Dad? Please tell me what's going on. I feel like you're keeping something from me." I reached out and took his hand. My ring accidentally scraped against his skin. He picked up my hand and turned the ring over, showing the small diamond on it.

He looked at me, confusion on his face. "Bella, where did you get this?"

My teeth sunk into my lower lip as I debated what to tell him. I rarely lied to my parents but in that moment, I was afraid to tell him the truth and afraid that he would take Mrs. Masen's ring from me.

"I don't want to tell you," I whispered.

"Bella, did Edward give you this?" he asked softly, he eyes pleading with me.

I slowly nodded as my eyes closed and my lips started to tremble.

"You really love him, don't you?"

Again I nodded. "Yes, I do."

"And he loves you?"


My father was silent for a few moments. When I finally opened my eyes to look at him, he had tears in his eyes. "Bella, something bad is going to happen here."

His change in tone confused me. "What do you mean something bad?"

"Bella, people are coming here, federal agents, and I don't know how things are going to turn out. They're after Carlisle and some of the other church leaders. They say it's for tax evasion but I think it's probably something more, something worse like when they came before, when Prophet Masen and Edward's father were killed. I don't know exactly when, but it'll be soon. I want you to have Edward take you away. Do you understand me?" His eyes were burning into mine as I felt tears break lose and slide down my cheeks.

"Dad, what about you and mom? You're coming, right?" I couldn't imagine not being with them or not knowing if they were safe.

"No, Bella, we have to stay here. I'm sure eventually things will be okay, but I want you and Edward to get away from here, just in case it doesn't work out well." He squeezed my hand and I quickly jumped from my seat, pulling my hands free and throwing my arms around his neck.

"I love you, daddy," I said to him. He hugged me back and after a few minutes I went back to my room to make a mental list of the things I would take with me when I left.

The next day was spent with my mother. I had a feeling that my father had told her that I would be leaving in secret because she seemed very clingy. At one point she began to cry, and it worried me. I would miss them dearly…

Later that night, I snuck out to meet Edward and told him about the discussion my father and I had.

"I think he's right, Bella. Carlisle has been really jumpy all week with lots of secret phone calls and stuff. My mother confirmed that something isn't right."

I looked at him as he lay next to me, seeing the concern on his face. "My dad told me that we need to leave, have you figured anything out yet?"

"Yeah, tomorrow night we're gonna leave. I talked to Jasper and he's going to meet us." He shifted a bit and rose up, leaning on his elbow to look down at me. "He wants us to bring Alice and the baby."

My eyes widened at the thought of having Alice with us. "Really?"

"Yeah, you need to go talk to her tomorrow morning, convince her to come."

"Okay, I will." I reached up and ran my hand through his hair, pulling him toward me. Our lips met and I pushed my body against him. After a few moments he laughed.

"Again? We already did it twice tonight. I'm starting to think you kinda like me." His smile made my breath catch.

"I can never get enough of you," I admitted. Our bodies entangled together and we held each other. We rocked together and kissed until I was overcome with emotion. I pulled him closer, breathing him in and memorizing every inch of his face.

"Bella, what's wrong?" he asked.

"I don't know. I just feel like this is it. That after tonight…" The tears came quickly as I cried against his chest.

"Bella, I need to tell you some things, just in case this doesn't work out the way we want it to..." His voice trembled and I knew that he was as scared as I was. "I set up a bank account for us. Carlisle doesn't know, but I took money from the church accounts. They were my dad's accounts from a long time ago. I have access to them now. I didn't tell anyone, but when I was looking through them, I saw that Carlisle was taking money from other accounts and hiding it there. I didn't take it all, so he won't notice it for awhile. It's enough for us to live on for a long time, we won't have to worry."

He ran his hand through my hair and down my back, rubbing tenderly. "Jasper has all the information. That's what I was doing the other day when I went into town. Everything has your name on it too, so it won't be a problem, but if you get the money, you need to have Jasper help you transfer it to another account somewhere else. Carlisle will find it if he looks hard enough, and I need to make sure you're taken care of."

"Alright, but this isn't gonna be a problem, right? You're gonna be with me?" I asked, scared to hear his answer.

"Bella, I will always be with you, no matter what. This is just a precaution." I felt his lips press against my head and I closed my eyes, giving in to the exhaustion that was taking over.

Bright light surrounded me and I stirred from my sleep, feeling uncomfortable, yet completely happy. As I reached out, I felt Edward next to me and a smile crept over my face. I slowly opened my eyes, taking in his sleeping face. He was looked so calm and relaxed. All the worry that I had seen in him over the past week was gone and he was simply my beautiful Edward. He puckered his lips and furrowed his brow as he began to stretch, reaching out for me.

"Hmm, good morning Mrs. Masen."

I couldn't help the giggle that erupted from me. I moved closer to him, reaching up to press my lips against his throat, kissing and sucking at the skin there. Before I knew it, I was on my back with Edward hovering above me. I moaned in pleasure as my hips rocked with his. Soon I felt the tightening in my stomach, and he pumped into me a few more times before stilling, burying his face in my neck.

It was early in the morning and the sun was beginning to rise. There were no people out yet, but we still tried to stay hidden as we walked home down the quiet streets. When we arrived at my house, I pulled him to the side, and wrapped my arms around his neck as he carefully pressed me against the wall, his lips attacking mine.

"I love you Bella Masen. Don't ever forget that. You are everything to me," he breathed, his words laced with lust and love, with just a hint of sadness to them.

"I love you Edward, always." I hugged him tightly, soaking him in. When he finally pulled away from me, I couldn't stop my eyes from watering.

"Don't cry, Bella. Tonight, you and me, I promise. I'll see you soon."

I nodded, pinning all of my hopes and dreams on his words, and watched him jog down the street toward his house. Once he was gone, I snuck into my bedroom, quickly changing my clothes and crawling into my bed. I pulled the blanket over my head and wept.

Hours later I heard my mother moving around the house. I climbed out of bed and hurried to get dressed so that I could get to Alice's house early. I was hoping to catch her before she got too busy. I kissed my mother on the cheek as I rushed out the door, quickly making my way to the Whitlock house.

Lucy greeted me at the door and told me that Alice was in her room. I softly knocked, opening the door a little, only to find Alice still in bed, her one year old daughter Cynthia toddling around the room. I stepped in and closed the door securely behind me.

"Alice?" I asked quietly as I sat on the bed next to her. She stirred and opened her eyes.

"Hey Bella, what are you doing here?"

"Alice, I need to talk to you. It's important, is it safe to talk here?" I asked, not wanting to run the risk of anyone overhearing us.

She sat up a little, and I could tell she wasn't feeling well. "Yeah, it's okay. What's up?"

I let out a long breath, and told her about my plan with Edward. About Jasper.

Her eyes closed and I saw a tear fall down her cheek. "Bella, I can't go."

"Alice why? He loves you. He'll take care of you, please? I can't leave you here like this."

"Bella, you don't understand, I can't just leave," she said, her voice cracking.

"Why not, Alice?"

She opened her eyes, looking down at Cynthia who was struggling to climb onto the bed. "I'm pregnant again."

I gasped. "Alice…"

"I can't leave, Bella. If it was just me, I'd go. I'd have run a long time ago, but it's not just me. I can't do that to Jasper, he deserves better than me and my two children—his siblings." Her voice was sad, defeated. "This is my life now, I'm sorry."

I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her into an embrace. "I'm sorry, too." There was nothing else to say. I hugged her for a long time with tears in my eyes

I finally moved to pick up Cynthia and buried my face in her little neck. I whispered, "Take care of your momma for me." As I set her down, Alice and I stared at each other for a moment, knowing it would be the last time. After I left, my heart broke even more.

The last thing I heard Alice say was, "Tell Jasper I love him."

When I approached my house, I was surprised to hear loud voices from inside. I walked in cautiously to find Edward and my parents. They all turned to look at me as I shut the door and stepped into the room. Edward rushed toward me.

"We have to go, now."

"What?" I asked, confused and shocked.

"I think something's going on, I think Carlisle moved up the weddings to today. I heard him on the phone with Tanya's dad a little while ago. We need to leave now," he said.

"But why? Why did he—"

"He saw us coming home this morning, he knows about us."

I looked to my parents. My father stepped forward. "Go, you need to leave before it's too late."

I ran to my room and grabbed the bag I had packed. I stuffed in a few pictures and a necklace, and then rushed back into the living room. My mother hugged Edward while my father shoved papers into an envelope.

"Take this, you'll need it," he said to me as he pushed the yellow envelope into my hands. I looked at my mother, tears running down her face as we hugged.

"I love you, momma," I cried.

"I know baby, I love you too. I'll see you again someday, I know it. Be strong, Bella. I'm so proud of you. You have made my life so wonderful."

I hugged her as tight as I could before my father pulled me away from her and took me into his arms.

"I love you, Bells."

"Me too, daddy, I love you too."

"Go with Edward, be careful." His eyes watered as I pulled away from him.

Edward's arm wrapped around my waist and we left the house.

"We're gonna go to the fort and wait for Jasper. He'll be here tonight, we just have to wait. No one will find us there," he said as we ran

We turned onto the street that would lead us out of the little town and were stopped dead in our tracks. Two of the church elders were walking toward us, halting when they saw us.

"Edward, Carlisle is looking for you. You need to come with us," Elder Stanley said.

Edward looked down at me, his eyes filled with fear. "I have to go with them. I'll meet you, okay? Go to the fort and wait for me, I'll be there as soon as I can," he whispered as the elders neared.

I shook my head. "No, I'm coming with you."

"Bella," he growled. "Go! Run! Get away from them. I'll meet you as soon as I can. I love you, please. Go."

Tears blurred my vision as I felt him lean down and press his lips against my forehead.

The elders were almost upon us. I turned and ran as fast as I could down the street, in the opposite direction of my destination. I didn't want the elders to know where I was going. As soon as I was out of their line of sight, I turned and hurried to the fort. It was quiet and so calm there. I settled into the little makeshift bed and curled up in the blanket while I waited for Edward. After what seemed like forever, I eventually fell asleep.

I awoke sometime later in the day, not sure of exactly what time it was. Edward still wasn't there and a feeling of dread began building in my stomach. I sat waiting as time slowly passed.

Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, I heard movement outside. Afraid of who it might be, I sat quietly, knowing that my location would be completely hidden from anyone who didn't know where to look. The footsteps came closer and my heart began to beat wildly, I startled when I saw a mess of blonde, wavy hair instead of the tousled bronze locks I had been hoping for.

"Bella, you okay?" Jasper asked as he stepped into the little fort.

"Yeah, I'm all right."

He looked around. "Where are Edward and Alice?"

My voice caught in my throat as I spoke. "I don't know. Um, we got caught as we were leaving town this morning. Carlisle moved up the weddings to today, so we ran, but the elders saw us. Edward went with them and he hasn't come back yet."

I saw the worry on his face as I told him about Edward. "And I talked to Alice this morning... I'm sorry Jasper, she wouldn't come. She's pregnant again and she said she couldn't ask you to take care of her and two children. She said to tell you that she loves you."

His face fell as he slowly nodded. "I was afraid of that," he said. His eyes squeezed shut and his hands rose to push through his hair, pulling on it as he let out a frustrated growl. He shook his head, mumbling to himself.

I was quiet, letting him have a private moment of devastating disappointment before I finally spoke. "Edward said he'll meet me here as soon as he can. I've been waiting, but he hasn't come yet."

Slowly Jasper looked up at me. "Bella, things looked really quiet in town. Maybe I should go check it out," he offered.

"No, wait here with me. Edward will be here soon. We just have to wait."

And so we did. All night, and Edward never came. The next morning as the sun rose, we ventured out of our little shelter and walked towards town. Things were eerily quiet and I was surprised to not see anyone moving about. The town looked to be abandoned and I worried that everyone had left, yet there were still cars parked along the streets, laundry hanging on clothes lines, windows to houses left open. I knew the town wouldn't have been deserted overnight, especially since everyone was required to attend the weddings scheduled that day, after which there would be a mass celebration. The fear that something was very wrong overwhelmed me, and as we came into view of the meeting building, my stomach dropped.

There were people everywhere, all of them laying on the ground as if they had simply fallen asleep while going about their day. As we walked closer, a sick feeling came over me. I could hear Jasper's breathing pick up the closer we approached, and when he saw his sister, Lucy, he ran to her.

"Luc?" he yelled, as he bent down to pick her up. "Luc?"

I watched and was horrified to see that she wasn't breathing. I slowly turned to look at the other people lying around…none of them were breathing. As my eyes scanned the crowd, I saw small cups littering the ground. Finally, I found Alice, lying with Cynthia on the lawn of the meeting hall.

"Alice!" I said, running to her. Jasper was quick on my heels and he lunged toward her, scooping her up and cradling her body and cried into her chest.

"No," he cried, his anguish thick in the air. Little Cynthia's hand was clasped around Alice's shirt and Jasper held her too, rocking them both back and forth.

I looked toward the building, the doors open, and saw more people inside. I moved over and around people I had spent my whole life with, stumbling toward the building that was drawing me in. I was overcome by the smell of death, like running into a wall, but I continued. A sob broke from me when I saw Rosalie and Emmett, slumped next to each other in one of the back pews. As I kept moving, I stumbled when I saw Esme and Elizabeth leaning against one another. My feet stepped over bodies until finally my eyes fell upon my parents. My father's arms wrapped around my mother, her face buried in his chest.

I thought my heart would break in half, but then I saw him. Edward.

He was seated on the stand at the front of the room. Ropes were wrapped around him, holding his body in the chair. It looked like he had struggled to free himself. He head was hanging forward and I knew there was no way that he was all right. My stomach dropped as I dry-heaved. When I finally approached him, I knelt in front of him, pushing aside the cup that lay by his feet, and put my hands in his hair, lifting his head carefully. His eyes were closed, but I could see slight discolorations on his skin—he'd been beaten. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to feel. But there was nothing. I simply stared at him, broken and battered, knowing that it was all because of me.

After an indeterminate amount of time looking at him, I leaned up, placing my lips against his one last time. They were cold and there was a bitter taste lingering on them. I wiped my mouth on my sleeve as I rose from my knees and moved to stand next to him. I held him against me, his head to my stomach, as I ran my fingers through his hair one last time. Fear overtook me as I realized I didn't see Carlisle's body anywhere. Whatever had happened here happened because of me. I leaned down, placing a kiss on Edward's head, whispering into his hair, "I love you" over and over.

I turned and ran from the building with regret and found Jasper still with Alice. There were men and vehicles moving down the streets now, and as they came closer, I began to scream. The sound that came from my body was one of sheer agony and torment, and as the men moved closer, Jasper quickly came to my side and pulled me to him. The men grabbed us both and settled us in a van as they questioned us, trying to find out what had happened. All I knew was that my life was lost, the only part of me left alive that day was my body.


My eyes blinked, bringing me back to the present, back to my life. I stood from the bench and kneeled down to place two bouquets of flowers on the ground where my parents had been laid to rest. I kissed my hand, pressing it to the stone that held their names. My eyes reluctantly drew to the next stone of Edward Anthony Masen. I softly laid another bouquet over him and then let the pain consume me. After a moment, my words came out in a whisper that I was sure only he would be able to hear.

"I miss you. I can't stand it most days, and honestly I don't know how I'm even still here."

I looked to my right, watching Jasper kneeling next to Alice's grave, his body shaking with sadness.

"I had to come today, but I don't know when I'll be able to come back. They haven't found Carlisle yet, but he's looking for us. I guess he figured out the money was gone and when his bank accounts were frozen by the IRS…he wants the money you gave me." I thought about all the running we'd done over the past year, trying to stay one step ahead of Carlisle, hiding what was most precious to me.

"I'm keeping my promises I made. I think about you every day. I'll never love anyone the way I love you. I hope I made you happy, the way that you made me."

I glanced back to Jasper and heard him whispering to Alice. I knew I had to tell Edward.

"Jasper's a good man, he takes care of us. Without Alice, he's as broken as I am. I don't know how I would have survived this year without him. He reminds me of you in so many ways, but he's not you. We're getting married. No one else would ever be able to understand our situation. It wouldn't be fair…"

The tears fell down my cheeks, splashing on the blanket in my lap.

"Before we go, I wanted you to meet someone." I looked down at the sleeping baby in my arms. "Edward, this is Elizabeth-Renee AliRose. I call her Ellee. She's our daughter. She has your hair and your eyes, and I promise I'll spend the rest of my life being a good mother. I want you to be proud of me."

I swallowed back the lump in my throat, sniffling as I saw Jasper stand and walk toward us. I looked up at his face, wet with tears, and saw my own pain and sorrow reflected in his eyes. He would never be my Edward, and I would never be his Alice, but we were all we had left.

I looked back at Edward's headstone one last time before I slowly stood, clutching my daughter tightly to me.

"I'm yours eternally."

Jasper placed his arm around my shoulders, offering me the strength that he did every day.

The wind blew at our backs and we turned, leaving behind our destinies that would never be. Our strands of fate had been clipped long ago.


A/N: The definition of Cult comes from bits and pieces I picked up off of and Wikipedia. I think it's pretty accurate.

I need to add something here, a little clarification. There wasn't a mass suicide in this. Carlisle poisoned everyone without them realizing it until it was too late. He needed to get rid of people that could be witnesses against him and free himself from everything there, so he killed everyone. He originally planned to take off with Bella, but when he couldn't find her, he took his fourth wife Jessica instead. She was young and impressionable, and she didn't have any children that he would have just killed off, like his other wives did. I don't know about you, but if anyone had just murdered my children, I wouldn't be following them anywhere other than to the place I planned to kill them. :) I used the Jonestown thing as inspiration for this, but no one other than Carlisle knew what was in their drink. He planned to do it at the big celebration after the weddings, but since the weddings didn't happen, he probably had everyone drink it as some sort of religious thing, maybe like a cleansing thing to rid them of evil. He made them all sit there and watch Edward be tortured because Edward wouldn't tell him where Bella was, and so obviously Edward was evil. That's what leaders like Carlisle do, they manipulate their followers and make them believe what they want them to believe. Their charisma is what gets them to the position they have, and they use it to maintain that position. It's sad and wrong, and yet it happens every day.

This is a hard subject for me, something I tend to hear a lot about, so maybe that's why I had to write it. There are a lot of misunderstandings in the world. Don't believe everything you hear…