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Thank you to all of you who continue to read and review, and to my amazing BETA Miss. Ellen. Sorry for the wait, I hope to get the next chapter out sooner.

Chapter Forty-Three

More questions than answers

EPOV

From our bedroom window I could see Renee standing on the front porch. She had been there for about five minutes now, just staring at the front door. Occasionally her hand would raise, and she would close her fingers into a fist as if she was going to knock, but her hand always quickly dropped back to her side. Obviously she was attempting to gather the courage to talk to Bella; however, her hesitance was starting to annoy me. I really wanted to go down there and pull her inside so she could apologize and we could all move on with her our lives. As it was, I found myself confined to the house until the evidence of my sin had faded. I had gone out and drank from a deer while Charlie slept, so my eyes weren't as ruby red as they were hours ago, still they were far from the golden color they normal were, or at least had been recently.

Eventually Bella, who had most likely seen her mother through her own window, headed downstairs and opened the front door. Bella sighed deeply before asking Renee what she wanted.

"I-I wanted to apologize. I over reacted and… can I come in?"

Bella gave a quiet "sure," and a moment later I heard the door close.

"Bella," Renee began. "I will admit that I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. I just… I just didn't want you to end up like me." Her voice softened and her last couple of words seemed shaky. "Not that I ever regretted having you," she hastily added. "I just wanted a chance for you to live your life a bit carefree, at least for a while. I wanted you to see the world, to explore and try new things and believe me Bella being married and having a baby severely limits those opportunities."

I heard Bella heave a sigh before saying, "I'm not you mom," Bella said calmly. "We're… different, in a lot of ways, and believe me I will have plenty of time to try new things."

I couldn't help but laugh at her words. She had plenty of time alright, an eternity in fact. Not being able to help myself any longer, I made my way out of the room and stood at the top of the staircase. I could easily see them both, but I was at an angle that I was sure they couldn't see me. I was surprised, however, when Bella turned her head slightly in my direction and raised an eyebrow but then quickly looked back at Renee.

Renee shook her head and ran her hand through her hair. "It's different when you have kids Bella, believe me. It's different."

"Well mom, I'm pregnant and getting married, so it doesn't really matter what you think."

Renee let out a very sarcastic sounding laugh, "Obviously, look, Bella, while I don't agree you with getting married and having baby so young, it is your life and ultimately you have to make your own decisions."

Somehow I doubted she was completely sincere in her statement, and I guessed she most likely was saying it due to her little chat with her husband. By the look on Bella's face I didn't think she was buying it either.

"Really?" she asked sounding skeptical. "You're okay with this?"

"No, not really but you are an adult and you can make your own decisions." Her statement sounded rehearsed and insincere. It was obvious that she was still had her own reservations about the situation, but at least she was trying to mend her relationship with her daughter.

"Okay, well thank you for at least trying to understand."

Renee nodded as she rose from the couch. "Just please finish high school, at least give me that."

Bella laughed as she also stood, "You don't have to worry about that mom, I'm going to graduate and eventually I will go to college."

Renee gave a small unbelieving smile but nodded, "Okay Bella, I truly hope so."

Mother and daughter gave each other a quick hug. Renee told Bella she would be leaving later that day, so they said their good-byes and Renee left.

It all seemed rather anticlimactic to me, though I supposes the less drama the better.

"Esme, you can stop spying now," Bella said with a smile in her voice as she reclined into the cushions of the couch. So she had noticed me.

In less than a second I was sitting the couch beside her. "I didn't realize you could see me."

Bella shook her head, "Couldn't. I just sort of sensed you I guess."

I raised a curios eyebrow. "Sensed?"

She nodded by the shrugged, "I just had a feeling, I don't know…" She looked down on her still flat belly then placed her hand there, "I think he's rubbing off on me a little." Her gaze then drifted back to mine. "At first I thought that it was Carlisle's um… well, 'essence' that allowed my body to start healing so quickly, but now… I've started to notice other things."

She paused but I didn't interrupt, intrigued as to where she was going with this.

"I'm starting think that this little guy may have a little more influence on me than expected," she continued. "When you and Carlisle are near I just get this feeling, even if I haven't seen you, I know you're there and… things smell different, stronger." She let out a small laugh and shrugged "I can smell the freaking cookies Mrs. Allen is making two houses over, that seriously not normal, not for a human."

"No," I said softly, "it's not."

"I can hear things better and see clearer and…" A fierce blush crept up her neck. "I've… I want sex, all the time." She groaned then muttered under her breath that she could hardly believe she admitted that. "I know some of the things I'm experiencing are typical during a pregnancy but not to the level I'm dealing with."

She let out an exasperated breath, her shoulders slumped, "Esme, the last time Carlisle and I were intimate together I-I wanted to bite him. I didn't but I wanted to, really wanted to."

She seemed truly appalled at the possibility; I had to force myself not to laugh at her naiveté. "You're his mate, Bella, that's natural. Well for my kind anyway, and from what it sounds like you're exhibiting some vampire qualities thanks to your little one, so I wouldn't really worry too much about it."

Her eyes seemed to widen followed by her cheeks once again flushing. "Really, that's normal?"

My lips pulled into a smirk. "You have no idea how much I'd like to mark your father." I admitted; a lustful glint reached my eyes at the thought. And have him mark me in return. I added mentally. "Especially when he gets dominant, it seriously makes me hot."

"Oh God, Esme, I did not need to know that." She moaned, burying her face in her hands.

I just laughed and shrugged. "My point, Bella, is that it's completely natural and I wouldn't worry too much about it."

She seemed to accept my advice, though I thought she still felt a little uncertain about the new things she had been experiencing. Why she was telling me at all, I had no idea. I would have thought she would have felt more comfortable talking with Carlisle about something like this, or possibly even Alice, who was just a phone call away.

As our conversation ended Bella headed back up to her room and I made my way into the kitchen. With nothing else to do I decide to bake.

XXX

APOV

It was the clearest vision I'd had of the situation, and it hadn't changed in over a month. Even the smallest details stayed the same. James and Victoria had been creating an army to move against us. We had considered going to the Volturi, it was, after all, against our rules to create groups of newborns, as it could risk exposure of our kind. Unfortunately, after having a vision of them connecting us to Bella… the outcome would have been disastrous. Yes, James and Victoria would have been stopped, but Bella would have been forced to be changed immediately, the baby dying in the process.

It was what Jasper had been worried about all along. This was why he had been so defensive about Bella's pregnancy. He was terrified the Volturi would find out, investigate, and ultimately discover Jasper's and my talents, and force us to work for the guard, or worse, destroy us. While his actions were wrong, his intentions were pure; he just wanted to protect me. So our options were limited. We would have to fight. With Japer's history with newborns and Kate's, Jasper's and my gifts, we had a good chance, but the outcome was uncertain. I saw us winning, but I saw us losing as well; and as of yet I could not figure out why the two outcomes swayed. Our plans and actions never changed, so it had to incorporate some outside force. Either someone in James and Victoria's army would make a last second decision or an influence from the outside occurred.

"Alice."

I turned to the sound of my husband's voice. He gave me a soft smile and sat down on the edge of our bed beside me. He took my hand in his, bringing it to his lips. "I was thinking. I know we decided not to but perhaps we should consider asking for Carlisle's help, and maybe even Esme's."

Eleazar had suggested the very same thing after I had my first vision of the invasion. I quickly dismissed the idea. I didn't want to bring Carlisle into this if I didn't have to, especially with Bella expecting. If something happened to him, I'd never forgive myself. But maybe he was right, perhaps Carlisle, or even Esme, was that outside influence. Taking an unnecessary breath I closed my eyes and concentrated.

XXX

CPOV

I had gotten the text just as I was leaving work. Alice had said it was an emergency and she was on her way back to Forks - without Jasper. I still hadn't brought myself to forgive him, and I honestly didn't know if I ever could. Alice had asked to meet me at my house, and to bring Esme as it concerned her as well. My first thought was that Alice had had a vision concerning her 'accident' and possibly the wolves somehow finding out. Alice hadn't clarified what it was exactly the issue was, only that it needed to be explained in person and that it was imperative that both Esme and I come, without our mates.

I pulled up to Charlie's house; Bella was out the front door and walking toward me before I was even out of the car. She greeted me with a warm hug, a passionate kiss and a suggestion that we go to my place for a while.

"As much as I would love to do just that, I'm afraid there has been a development."

She took a step back her brow furrowed, "What's wrong?"

"Alice called me. She wished to speak to Esme and me alone."

Her confused look suddenly turned to one of sorrow. "Alice doesn't want to see me?" She whispered sadly.

"Oh darling, I'm sure she does," I said, taking her into my arms. "She just needs to talk to Esme and me privately, then I'm sure she'd love to see you."

Her rejected expression softened, a small smile pulled to her lips, "Okay, but why does she need to see you and Esme? Has something happened with James and Victoria?"

Sighing I shrugged, "I honestly don't know, but I promise as soon as I do, I will let you know."

Heading inside, I was greeted by Charlie who was sitting on the couch, beer in hand, watching ESPN. "Hey Carlisle, how are things at the hospital?"

"Slow," I replied, "Which is a good thing. Do you mind if I have a quick word with Esme?"

Charlie just shrugged, "sure she's in the kitchen."

"Thank you." Bella sat down next to her dad on the couch while I made my way into the kitchen. Esme had just pulled a pot roast out of the oven and placed it on the counter.

"Was there something you needed?" She asked, taking the pot holder from her hands and placing them on the counter beside the pot roast. Though why she was wearing them at all I had no idea, it wasn't like she could burn herself.

"Yes, Alice called me."

She turned to face me. Her eyes still tainted with human blood, though they weren't nearly as ruby red as they had been the previous day.

"Okay," she said, leaning against the counter, a very human mannerism. 'And…"

"She wishes to speak with us, privately."

Her brow arched, "Why?"

"I do not know. Just that she insisted she speak to us privately at my house."

"Is she there now?"

"I believe so, yes."

"Very well," she sighed taking off her apron and hanging it on a hook beside the refrigerator. "Just let me prepare dinner for Charlie and Bella and we can go."

Fifteen minutes later we were headed out the door and on the way to my house.

A/N: Up next Alice asks a huge favor of her friends. Their reactions, and Bella's and Charlie's, up next.