Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters and Twilight plot lines that may appear in this story. The remainder is my original work. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization. Don't steal, it isn't polite.


Chapter Seventeen

~Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing.

-Wayne Dyer


My Dearest Bella,

It was officially December as of yesterday. The girls came home from school with snowmen they made for arts and crafts. They wore mittens and hats and winter coats. They've been going on and on about what Santa may bring them in less than a month's time.

And yet I'm entirely engrossed in you.

Well, perhaps the lack of you.

Jane has been gone since the weekend after Thanksgiving. She has called to talk to the girls once, and even then it was brief. Alice and Rosalie could care less. It's all for show now; in truth, it's been that way for no less than a year. I'm sad that by trying to find the best mother for my daughters, I've only cheated them in the end. I guess I should be thankful that they're indifferent to Jane, and not hurt by her lack of devotion to them.

It's been unbearable without you, love, but having her out of this house has made it infinitesimally easier. I wandered into the room that was once my bedroom years ago, and found that a large number of her things are missing. I'm almost positive she's got a place of her own in Seattle, or perhaps a man she shares a space with. I'm praying to any higher power that will listen that this is the case.

I think she's staying away because she knows I can't do this song and dance anymore. Whether she knows of my love for you or not, it doesn't matter. I cannot for the life of me understand why she hangs onto the idea of what never truly existed inside these four walls.

The second she comes back, it will officially be done.

I'm tired of waiting Bella. I'm tired of pretending to be in this "marriage," and I'm tired of claiming to be bound to anyone other than you. You're it…you're mine. I want everyone to know it, and I'll take my ridicule with a smile on my face and an immeasurable amount of love in my heart for you.

Every bit of it will be worth it. I can only hope you feel the same.

As much as this time apart has hurt us both, you were right in saying that we needed it. We've gone so fast, felt this connection from the very instant we breathed the same air. And since then, in the waiting room when you etched that blue ink into your gloriously pale skin, I've thought of nothing but you. I haven't given any thought about who I am as a person, or what kind of man I want to be.

So every night since I last held you in my arms, I've done what you requested. I've thought about what I want. Who I am. Why life has led me down this path and where it will lead me in the future.

And as always, it comes back to you.

Every instinct I have tells me to put my wants and needs to the side and gush about everything I want for you. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to tell you what I want, and what I think about the person I've become.

I've always wanted to believe that I'm worthy of feeling this strongly, of loving this much, of existing this happily.

And in the short time I've known you, you've shown me that I am.

I want to reach a higher level in my career. The hospital in this town hasn't offered me a single challenge in all the years I've been here. I'm a damn good doctor, and I want to use my skills to the best of my ability. I need a faster paced environment, and a facility that has the proper tools I need to excel at my job. I want to move somewhere that will allow me to do this. Whether it is Seattle or any other larger community, I know this is what I need to do.

And since it doesn't matter to me where in the world I go, as long as it's not Forks, I want you to understand that wherever you go, I'll be with you if you want me. Knowing that you have no plans in residing in this town permanently only proves even further that we want the same things.

I want my daughters to know that their father is truly happy. Before you came along, I'd lost count of how many times they'd asked me why I was sad, why my eyes didn't sparkle. Since I've confessed my love for you, Isabella, they haven't asked that once. Instead, we've laughed and played and talked about nothing but you.

Do you have any idea how dependent the three of us are on you?

We love you more than words, sweetheart. We want you to be our family.

The fact that you want it too is nearly more than I can take.

I'm so thankful for you; I sincerely hope you know that.

So, my sweet Bella, I want you to know that while we've taken our time to reflect on who we are in order to prepare ourselves for the future…I know exactly who I am. I'm proud of what I've become, and I've never been so certain that this is where I'm meant to be.

You are so brave, baby. This week has been difficult for both of us, but it's also been incredibly enlightening. I know in my heart that everything will be all right.

I miss you.

Your laugh. The way your arms slide around my waist and hug me so tight. The brilliance in your eyes. Your lips on my skin. Jesus Christ, Bella…I just ache for you. I wish I had the words.

Write me a melody for this feeling I can't express. Show me what our need for one another sounds like. Can you do that for me, love?

Alice and Rosalie won't stop asking about you. They thought you were mad at them, and I quickly set them straight. They promised to be better behaved and clean their rooms and brush their teeth and do their homework if you'd just come back. I promised them that this is the longest they'd ever have to go without you.

Speaking the words gave me more hope than you'll ever know.

Please tell me how things are at home. Confide in me, and know that no matter what happens with Charlie and Renee, I'll always love you. I'll always be the constant in your life.

I'll always be yours.




I should have known better than to read his email on my phone between classes. He had reduced me to a trembling mess by just his words alone.

We'd done far better than I'd thought in taking some time to figure things out. I yearned for him every second of the day, but getting his emails and texts each day made it endurable. Each word I received from him made my heart thunder and clench, but after reading the latest letter, it hurt in a way that was unwelcome.

The girls.

I had this grand plan for Carlisle and I to separate for reasons that we understood, but how had I so carelessly not taken the girls' feelings into consideration? They didn't know what we were going through. They didn't know the hardships that lay ahead for their father and I.

And yet they were getting hurt by what I had decided we needed. Even if Carlisle agreed to us taking time apart, it still didn't change the fact that I was the one to initiate it.

And my God, did I miss the girls.

Life without Carlisle was a relentless ache, but I was still in his head throughout the majority of the day thanks to our constant contact.

But letting the girls think that I was mad at them? Knowing they were doing whatever chore or task they could to bring me back again? I just had to make this right.

Their pain put everything else on the back burner.

My need for Carlisle that could not yet be fulfilled.

My mother, who was now occasionally talking to me, but not really talking, bustling around the house like everything was all right.

School and the invisibility I possessed there.

And while I couldn't have Carlisle just yet, I didn't see why I couldn't have the next best thing.

At my lunch hour, I sent him a text.

I loved your email, handsome. Hearing what YOU want for yourself made me so happy. But the part about the girls definitely didn't. What would you say about me picking them up after school?

He didn't get back to me until an hour or so later, right before I was about to head into my art class.

They'd love that, Bella. I'll call and set it up, but I thought you were leaving after school for the weekend?

Ah yes, the infamous trip to Port Angeles my mother had spontaneously thrown together. Words couldn't express how much I was not looking forward to it.

Two days after my mother had discovered Carlisle and I tangled on the couch, she had miraculously snapped out of her depressed state. Tuesday I came home from school and smelled the heavenly scent of chocolate chip cookies wafting from the kitchen. I heard my mother humming as she made her way around the room. Smiling to myself, I took a breath of relief; finally, she would at least give me the chance to talk to her.

I walked into the kitchen and saw my dad sitting at the table, talking on his cell phone. "Okay, Billy. Yeah, sounds good. I'll let Renee know you guys are on board. Should be a fun weekend. We'll fish, I'm sure the rest of them can find something to do in a fancy place like that." Charlie laughed, tapping his fingers on the table. "All right, buddy, talk to you soon. Bye."

"What's going on, guys?" I'd questioned.

My mother glanced up at me as she stood in front of the stove, looking guilty for a moment before focusing again on the task at hand.

"Well, peanut, your mom thought it would be fun if the three of us all went to that fancy new resort that opened up not too long ago in Port Angeles. She wanted me to invite Billy and his new girlfriend, Sue. And Jake, of course. We haven't had the chance to meet her yet, plus it's a great excuse for us to fish some new waters."

He made a casting gesture towards me and I barely held back my eye roll. "You're going to a resort just to go fishing, Dad?"

"Well, the resort stuff is basically for you girls. Billy and I will probably sneak out during the day."

"What about Jake?"

I recoiled at my own question. Spending a weekend with that arrogant boy was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do.

"Billy says he hurt himself playing basketball last week. Chances are he'll hang around the resort and get a massage or two to get him back in the game. But don't tell his friends, Jake's a little worried about them finding out about it," Charlie chuckled.

"Oh. So Mom, this was your idea?" I questioned.

She wouldn't even look at me, but for the first time in forty-eight hours, she'd addressed me. "Why not, Bella? I think we could all use an excuse to get away."

Her words twisted in my stomach.

"What's the matter, kid?" My dad asked, his brow furrowed in concern. "I'd think an eighteen year old girl like yourself would look forward to getting pampered for a weekend."

The air was heavy between my mother and I, but I didn't want to seem ungrateful. "No, Dad, it's okay. I'm sure it'll be fun." I forced a smile and looked toward my mother, challenging her. I wanted her to talk to me. I wanted her to be real with me again. "Mom, I'm sure we'll have lots of time to hang out and talk then?"

Her eyes didn't leave the stove top as she chuckled dryly. "We'll see, Bella. I'm sure we'll be rather busy all weekend."

Her indifference hurt.

But the slight trembling of her hand as she stirred the pot in front of her told me that maybe it hurt her just as much.

There was so much left unsaid between us, so many revelations in the weeks to come. I'd be hurting Charlie, I'd already hurt her…and I needed someone in my corner other than Carlisle. I needed to find a way to tell Charlie of my love for his best friend without having him completely lose his mind.

It seemed so ridiculously unlikely.

But with each day that passed, I was more and more ready to have my relationship with Carlisle be brought out into the light.

So whether I liked it or not, my weekend would be spent at a resort in Port Angeles, while I tried everything in my power to get my mother to open up to me again. Whether she needed to yell, scream, or cry…I just needed it to be real.

But not before I saw my girls.

I pulled myself away from my thoughts and texted my love.

I'll have an hour or two after school before we leave. I'll take them for ice cream and drop them off at home when we're through. Thank you…so much. You don't know how much this means to me, Carlisle.

This time, he got back to me right away.

No, thank you, love. They'll be so happy. But Bella, when you come here…will I see you? Can I? Just for a second?

I lingered outside my classroom door, the bell seconds away from ringing as I pushed my forehead against the cool brick wall. Could I realistically see him and still walk away? Could I realistically pull into that driveway and not see him?

We'll see, okay? I want to, God I want to. But if I see you, if I touch you, I might not ever leave.

Don't leave, was his automatic reply.

It made me smile.

Let's leave it up to fate, okay? I love you. So much. I miss you more than I can even say. And you were right when you said this is the longest you'll ever go without me. I won't leave you again. Promise. :)

Just as the bell rang, I received his reply.

I love you, too. We're going to make it out of this unscathed, I promise you.

His words gave me an infinite amount of hope.

Now I needed to make it through this day so I could get to my girls.


I managed to finagle my way out of my final class a bit early, although it wasn't very hard to do. Where my peers seemed to keep their distance, my teachers all seemed to take an interest in me. It was probably because I did my assignments when asked and saw no reason to make snide remarks toward them.

The elementary school was only three blocks away, so in no time I was pulling my behemoth truck into the parking lot. I made a quick stop at the front desk to pick up my visitor's pass, and then after a few simple directions given to me by the receptionist, I made my way toward the beautiful little girls of night and day.

My heart was aching in a way I yearned for, the sounds of excited children floating from inside classrooms as it came time to leave school and begin their weekend. I was a few feet shy of their room before the kids began piling out the door, going to their hooks and collecting their backpacks and jackets.

It took me a moment to find them amongst the commotion, but when I did it made me smile so brightly, my face morphing into the joy just being able to see them brought me. Since the very moment I'd met them in that musty church basement, amongst the mourners of my grandmother and the funeral chicken, I knew they were meant to be in my life. Our bond was instantaneous. Now it was forever.

I watched them as they walked to their hooks, giggling with a freckle-faced little girl before bidding her farewell. As they retrieved their coats I crouched behind them, putting a hand on each of their backs, causing them to turn around.

Their eyes widened, their surprised expressions transforming into sheer delight. I hugged them both tightly, and in that moment everything was as it should be. I forgot about Jane and what she knew, my mother finding me and Carlisle intimately cuddled in the middle of the night, and the impending heartache I would soon be releasing on my father.

They were my reason to fight.

Carlisle, Rosalie and Alice…and the way they made me feel when they showed me with nothing but the looks in their eyes how much I meant to them.

I would fight with everything I had.

"Bella what are you doing here?" Rosalie questioned, pulling away to look at me as the jacket in her hand hit the floor.

"Are you kidding me?" I smiled, tapping each of them on the nose. "I couldn't stay away another second! I missed you two so much; I wanted to surprise you!"

Alice giggled as her arms remained tight around my neck, Rosalie grinning as she ran a strand of my hair through her fingertips. "What are we going to do now, Bella?" Alice whispered brightly as I slowly separated from her to look in her eyes.

"Well, I was thinking sprinkles…hot fudge, whipped cream, two or three scoops depending on how hungry we are…"

"Ice cream!" Alice trilled, letting go of me to retrieve her jacket and backpack.

As Alice gathered her things, Rosalie simply stared at me, taking a step closer as her expression remained unreadable. "Why haven't you been over to see us, Bella?" She crossed her arms over her chest, her tone defensive but the pain I caused her was the most dominant emotion in her voice.

"Rose, don't get mad at her. Daddy said it wasn't her fault," Alice reasoned, handing her sister her coat. "Just be happy we have her today."

"Honey, I'm sorry," I began, moving Rosalie's silken blonde hair behind her shoulder. "I owe both of you an apology. This last week has been tough, but I promise things will get better. I won't stay away that long again, okay?"

"Does that mean you're going to come over tomorrow while Daddy's at work? He said you couldn't, so we have to stay with our old neighbor lady, but if you're back, we won't have to, right?"

Rosalie's sweet little face was killing me.

I took both of their hands and looked at them intently. "I would give anything to be with you this weekend. But Aunt Renee and Uncle Charlie and I are going to Port Angeles, so I won't be able to."

"Can we come?" Alice asked excitedly.

My mouth twisted into a frown. "I wish you could sweetie, but it's just not going to work out this time."

Rosalie threw her coat over her shoulders, zipping it up hastily and then grabbing her backpack off her floor in a huff. She was on the brink of an all-out hissy fit, which certainly wouldn't be the first time. But under these circumstances, I knew she was just confused. I watched as tears filled her eyes, her hand wrapped tightly around the strap of her bag as she looked at me with fire in her blue depths.

"This isn't fair, Bella. I thought when Mommy left you could be with us more. She's not coming back, and she's not my mommy anyway! My mommy is in heaven, but you're here, and Ali and I love you. I thought when she left you could stay, but now all you do is stay away!"

She began to storm past me but I grabbed her arm, tears balancing on my lashes as I held both of them in place. "Girls, I'm so sorry. I know things are a little confusing right now, but they're going to get better, I promise."

"We just don't get it, Bella," Alice murmured sadly.

We were all quiet for a moment as I took them in. "You both have a lot of questions to ask me, don't you?"

They nodded and I sighed, kissing each of them on the top of the head. "Why don't we get our ice cream and I'll do my best to answer them. But girls, you have to realize that there may be some questions that I just can't answer. There are some things…that only your daddy has the answer for. Let's get our treats, and we'll work it out, okay?"

"I don't want ice cream anymore, Bella. If we need to ask you stuff and Daddy stuff, then let's just go home and see him and we'll ask you both stuff." Rosalie pleaded with her eyes and it positively broke my heart to deny her request, especially since I was dying to do exactly that. Go home, be with Carlisle…the four of us together.

I sighed in defeat, studying the floor as I tried to find the right words. "Your daddy is at work and…for now this is the best I can give you, my sweet girls. This is the best I can do. Can't it be enough, just for now?"

"It's okay, Bella," Alice whispered. They both took my hands in response and we walked silently out the doors. Their confusion was painful to witness, but inevitable in a situation like this. I knew they trusted me to give them the answers they deserved, but how much of it was my right to tell?


"I don't think Mommy and Daddy are gonna be married anymore," Alice stated matter-of-factly, a mouthful of ice cream muffling her words.

I shifted in my seat, staring down at my banana split. There was no denying the fact that I felt a sense of ownership with these girls, even though they weren't technically mine.

But the last thing I wanted to do was overstep my bounds.

Would Carlisle realistically set limits when it came to us and his children?

I sincerely doubted it, but still…

"How does that make you feel?" I asked cautiously, watching them intently as I slid the spoon of ice cream into my mouth.

Rosalie shrugged a shoulder. "I dunno."

My lip twitched in a smirk. "Alice?"

She shook her head. "It makes me feel weird. Not sad. I think it's okay. She never had fun with me and Rose and Daddy. She wasn't mean to us, but she never had fun. And if her going away will make Daddy happy, then she can just go away. His voice gets all deep and mean whenever he talks to her, and he gets grumpy. He doesn't love her, like the prince loves the princess in my Disney movies."

Rosalie giggled, her hand covering her eyes. "Daddy definitely doesn't love Bella like a princess. He loves her like a sorceress."

My eyes widened, my heart beating faster as I cleared my throat. "I thought you were the sorceress. I'm the dragon slayer incognito, Alice is the pixie, remember?"

Rosalie rolled her eyes. "Bella, I'm not talking about that. Don't you remember? Daddy's story…there once was a king, he said. That was him, me and Ali were his princesses, and you were the beautiful, magic lady who made it rain. You made us dance and made us happy, remember?"

I was stunned into absolute silence as Alice watched her sister in wonder.

"Rosalie, I um…" My words were stuck in my throat. "What makes you think your daddy was talking about me?"

She shook her head from side to side, looking at me with bright blue eyes that were far too clever for her age. "'Cause, Bella," she giggled. "I'm not stupid."

Obviously not.

"How's the sundae?" I gestured toward her treat with a shaking hand, trying my best to change the subject. I wasn't sure if now was the right time to address the palpable connection that their father and I had found in one another.

"Bella, I think you're sweating," Alice laughed playfully, feeling my forehead. "I think you have a fever."

"Not uh, she's embarrassed 'cause she loves Daddy!" Rosalie laughed loudly and I was ready to crawl under the table, quickly looking around to make sure no one had heard her. Thankfully we were in the far corner and the place was virtually empty. I knew the twins were perceptive, but I had absolutely no idea they could read Carlisle and I so clearly. We were careful not to do anything physical in front of them, and our words were guarded when their little ears were within hearing distance. I was completely blindsided and beyond unprepared to handle this turn of events.

And then Alice…with her sweet little face and her bright little eyes, came to my rescue. Like a true heroine would.

"Rosie, shut up!" she whisper-yelled, giving her sister a swift kick beneath the table. Rosalie dropped her spoon loudly on the tabletop in surprise, causing the half-melted ice cream on her spoon to splatter all over.

And as the girls bickered and a bead of ice cream ran down my cheek…I laughed. I laughed until there were tears in my eyes and my beautiful little girls were giggling right along with me.

Because even though they were asking me questions I wasn't prepared to answer, and even though I was caught between a rock and a hard place…I was having a moment with my girls. This was a memory to be made, a song to be written…a love ready to be set and permanently engraved into stone.

I would never forget this as long as I lived.

I wiped my eyes as my laughter died down, grabbing a napkin to wipe the ice cream that splattered onto my face. "Alice," I sighed, still trying to control my chuckles, "Apologize to your sister, sweetie. You know better than to tell her to shut up."

"Sorry, Rosie," she giggled, shoveling a humongous scoop of ice cream into her mouth. "But don't tell Bella that she loves Daddy. She's not supposed to know that yet."

My brow furrowed in confusion. "I'm not supposed to know?"

Alice's eyes widened and immediately fell to the tabletop. "Well, um…Daddy said we can't talk about it yet."

"Daddy knows that you think that I love him? Or he loves me? Wait…what are you saying, little girl?" I couldn't hide my smile, even if this was more or less the last thing I wanted to be discussing with Alice and Rosalie.

Rosalie slapped her forehead and Alice shut her eyes tight, both of them laughing once more. "Bella, it's okay. Me and Ali-Cat just know that…we belong together. Remember when we hugged in the kitchen, you, me, Daddy and Alice? Well, it's like that. That's how we know. But we aren't supposed to talk about it yet, so don't worry, we won't."

I barely knew what to say. "You know that I love you girls very much, right?"

"We know," Alice murmured simply, licking her spoon like a puppy.

I sighed, feeling full to the brim with the emotion this unexpected conversation had caused to wash over me. "Wow, here I thought I'd be answering your questions. It turned out I needed more answers than you did."

Rosalie looked at me for a long moment, her eyes deep as she took me in. "I'm sorry I was being a baby at school, Bella. I just missed you, and now that Mommy's gone, I was wishing that you'd be with us lots more, because me and Alice love being with you."

"Honey, you know I'll never be a replacement for your mommy, right? And I'll never be a replacement for your mama up in Heaven, either. But I will always be here for you. I'll always love you with every piece of me, and I want to be the one you can always count on. I want us to be best friends, but so much more than that. Do you understand?"

They nodded, and the weight of our suddenly heavy discussion seemed to dissipate rather suddenly. "Do you have any other questions for me?"

Alice raised her hand like she was in school. "Yeah, when can we put Heaven back up again? The playroom is boring now and I wanna put Mama's picture up there so we can talk to her every night."

I smiled warmly. "We'll do that the next time I'm over, sweetie."

"I wanna make another song, but this time let's make it for Uncle Charlie. We can sing about football and yelling at the TV," Rosalie giggled.

I smiled widely. "That sounds amazing; we'll add it to our to-do list. Uncle Charlie will love it."

"Can you come over for Christmas and watch The Grinch with us? We have slumber parties like we do with Wizard of Oz. I wanna do that again, Bella, okay?" Alice begged.

I nodded, swallowing thickly. "We'll definitely make that happen, Ali-Cat."

Soon after, the only sounds that came from our table were the scraping of spoons against bowls. "Is that all you've got for me? That wasn't so bad."

"I've got one," Rosalie commanded, throwing her coat around her shoulders. "When can we go home? I wanna play Just Dance."

My mouth fell open dramatically. "Your daddy did not buy you a Wii!"

"Yeah-huh, he did," Rosalie countered, standing from her chair and smiling mischievously. "Two days ago, but he won't dance with me and Alice. But Ali told him you'd dance."

I shook my head, helping Alice with her coat. "I'm not playing unless your dad plays, end of story."

"But he's embarrassed, Bella," Alice giggled.

"So am I, little one! I dance like an ostrich on roller skates!"

"Daddy says he dances like Uncle Charlie when he drinks too much beer," Alice laughed loudly.

"He did not say that!" I chuckled, my jaw dropped.

"He did, Bella, Daddy said that!" Rosalie giggled loudly, pulling on my hand as we all walked toward the door, discarding our garbage before walking outside.

I shook my head, giving them the go-ahead as they ran out in front of me and pried my truck door open. As they climbed inside, I took my phone off silent and saw that there was one text message waiting for me.

One message that had the power to wreck me and revive me all in the same instance.

Just for a second, Bella. My lips on your skin. My hands on your hips. Your arms wrapped around me. Love…just for a second, please

As if I ever would have possessed the strength to deny him.


The girls chattered on incessantly on the drive to their home. Clearly their sugar buzz was in full effect because they were literally bouncing off the walls of my truck cab.

I was having a difficult time following their conversation because my mind was on one thing. One man. One text message begging me for the things my body yearned for.

Just for a second…

"Bella, you're going to miss the driveway!" Alice squealed, pointing toward their home that I was about to drive past.

My palms were so sweaty I could barely keep them attached to the steering wheel.

Alice alerted me to my error early enough so that I could just make the turn, and my heart began racing as I saw his black SUV in the drive.

The time it took me to travel down their winding driveway seemed longer than it truly was. There was a ringing in my ears, an aching in my heart as tears welled in my eyes…and I laughed.

Because as I parked beside his vehicle, and I watched the open doorway of his home intently, seeing him there, leaning, waiting…he was gazing at me and his children like we were absolutely everything in his entire world.

And that made me so unbelievably happy.

I laughed because I was enraptured.

My God, I loved this man.

Alice put her arm around my shoulders and pushed her temple against mine, holding me for just a moment and smiling knowingly before the girls clamored out the passenger side.

I hadn't even turned off the engine yet.

I watched my hand as it turned the key, but it didn't feel attached to my body. I lifted my head to see the little girls of night and day running to their father, who was staring intensely…longingly…right at me.

They wrapped their arms around him and he hugged them with one arm, his eyes reluctant to leave mine before he finally looked down and regarded his daughters.

Why…why was I still in this vehicle?

I climbed out with shaking limbs, not watching where I was going because he was the only thing tethering me to this earth.

I felt all three of them watch me as I made careful steps from my truck to the loves of my life, smiling wider and giggling with such a carefree spirit that it nearly alarmed me. Everything had been so heavy this past week, but now…now the most beautiful faces in existence were smiling back at me, and I had never been more at peace.

One wooden step…then another and then he was there. He couldn't wait any longer. His bright blue eyes had a hint of insanity inside them. A crazy need, a crazy love, a desperation that was impossible to put into words.

We were drawn to one another like magnets. My face to his chest as we stood a step apart, one hand tap-taptaptap-ing against his thigh, the other suspended in mid-air, shaking, needing to touch me. Desperate to make it real.

He licked his lips and our eyes were then fused together, blue connected to brown, searching and absorbing every word, every emotion, every touch we couldn't express. We found it there. We would always find it there.

"Why are you standing on the steps?"

Rosalie's voice broke our reverie, just enough to make our limbs work. Just enough to remind us that there were little eyes that apparently watched us closer than I ever knew.


He whispered my name so softly, so raggedly…begging me for something we couldn't have just yet.

I smiled softly, trying to calm my racing heart and the hands that longed to run across his smooth skin. "Come on, handsome," I murmured ever so softly.

He moaned beneath his breath and he was becoming more than I could take. I stood on the porch and my shoulder touched his chest. I allowed myself to lean against him for the briefest of moments as the girls walked into the house ahead of us.

His warm lips atop my head made my knees buckle, and his hands were so forcefully gentle on my hips that I could barely breathe.

He let me go and it was painful for us both. But his daughters were with us, and we loved them. Nothing about their presence would ever be a burden, regardless of how desperately we needed a few minutes alone.

"Daddy, why were you standing outside with no coat on? It's really cold today." Alice's lips twisted into a frown and my heart melted as she took on her instinctual protective role.

I watched as Carlisle crouched in front of her, tapping her on the nose as he smiled. "Thanks for looking out for me, Ali-Cat, but I'm just fine. I was just excited to see you."

Alice giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck, and it was stunning how beautiful he was with his little girls.

Before I knew what was happening, Rosalie was unzipping my jacket and pulling it off of my arms. "What are you doing?" I chuckled.

"Taking your coat off so you can stay," she stated simply.

My eyes met his and it ached clear down to my bones.

"I can only stay for a few minutes, sweetie. I'm leaving soon, remember?"

"But I want you to watch us play Just Dance," she pouted, tugging on my hand.

Before I shot down her hopes and chiseled another little piece off of my already breaking heart, Carlisle intervened. "Rosalie, you have to finish your homework before you play the game, you know that."

"But Daddy I –"

"Rose, I know honey, but Bella has to go. She already told you that before. Now I want you and your sister to go upstairs and get started on your homework. I'll be right up to help you, and Bella will come up to say goodbye, okay?"

They both mumbled a defeated response before slinging their bags over their shoulders and shuffling up the stairs.

My chest was absolutely heaving, my brow furrowed in the emotion that I knew was soon to follow. We were alone. For just a moment…we were…

"Jesus, Bella…" He gazed at me with a vulnerable, pleading expression as he walked toward me, so slowly. Once he reached me he lifted his hand, running the side of it along my cheek until it was pressed over my frantically beating heart. "You're here, baby," he whispered softly, licking his lips before leaning down to rest his forehead against mine. He closed his eyes, but I kept mine open to watch the way his bottom lip trembled, to watch the flush that adorned his cheeks as his hands found my hips once more.

Slowly, carefully I stood on my tip toes, leaning forward until every inch of our bodies was aligned. My arms went around his neck and I burrowed my face into his shoulder. With everything I had, I hugged him. I held him so tightly my arms ached, pushed against him so forcefully that I could feel his heart beating throughout my body. He groaned deeply as he wrapped me up just as tightly, picking me up off the floor and pressing his lips to mine in one fluent, perfect movement.

I felt him walking us backwards as I opened my mouth to kiss him deeper. There was no time for chaste…we had an entire week of love and devotion to fit into the tiniest window of time.

I was going to make it count.

I pulled his hair between my fingers and crushed him tighter to me as he continued to walk backwards. Our mouths bumped together harder than intended when he ran into the door frame behind him, causing us both to groan. "You should watch where you're going," I murmured against his lips, rubbing our noses together as we smiled.

"Don't want to," he mumbled, slowly lowering me to the ground as he fumbled with the doorknob at our side.

"Where are you taking me?" I whispered, too involved in feeling his tongue tangle and press against my own to take in my surroundings.

"Somewhere…alone…" he managed to murmur against my hungry lips, his fingers digging into my sides and then soothing the skin after he realized his force.

I absolutely loved that feeling, and I wanted his desperation etched into my skin, always.

He finally managed to get us through a doorway inside the house, closing the door quietly behind us as his lips found my neck and his arms crushed my body to his. I breathed him in so deeply that I was nearly hyperventilating, his perfect scent mixed in with the sterile environment of the hospital…and I was gone.

Until I noticed a can of corn behind him.

"Carlisle…we're in the pantry," I whispered in amusement before kissing his jaw and pulling him tighter.

His smile was radiant as he gazed down at me, his hands running along my sides, my stomach, my back, my face…

"I know…we're hiding from the rest of the world." He cupped my face in his large hands, staring at me in wonder. "My God, you are a sight for sore eyes, Bella." His eyes narrowed and he swallowed thickly, his emotions etched across his beautiful face as plain as day.

"But baby, we're in the pantry." I couldn't help but chuckle, my arms tightening around his neck as he laughed and pressed a kiss to my forehead.

He rolled his eyes playfully. "Quiet, before I make you alphabetize my canned goods."

He squirmed as I swatted his stomach and then tickled him, pinning my arms beneath his and pulling me tighter against him. I sighed contentedly, grabbing his silk tie in my hand and smoothing my fingers along it. "Do you really want me to be quiet? Because right now all I want to do is tell you a million times that I love you…can I do that?"

"Don't ever stop," he whispered, taking my bottom lip between his and sucking slowly, like a hard-candy he was intent on savoring. His rhythmic sucking on my lip made me clench deep inside my body, and I knew no good would come from feeling this way, from falling into the abyss we had such a difficult time crawling out of.

"I love you," I whispered against his chin, sliding my arms around his waist before grabbing his shirt where it was tucked into his pants and pulling upwards.


He sounded confused, needy, and hesitant as I un-tucked his shirt, and I shushed him as my hands slid beneath and ran along his back and the contours of his hips. "I just needed to feel your skin, handsome, that's all."

He wasted no time mirroring my actions, his smooth, warm fingers tracing delicate patterns along the curve of my spine. "We can't stay apart so long again, sweetheart. I know we needed it, and I have no doubt that it helped us tremendously, but…I just never knew that a body could actually break, a heart could actually fissure and crack just because it was without its other half. I can't do that anymore, Bella. I need you now…that's the way it has to be, baby. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

I nodded eagerly, my nails pressing into his warm skin as I pushed myself tighter against him. "Ask me," I whispered softly, gazing deeply into his eyes so he was sure to see my steadfast resolve inside them. "Ask me if I'm ready."

He drifted his fingertips along my cheek, soothingly back and forth as he watched me carefully. "Ready for what, love?" he murmured gently, our bodies beginning a steady sway back and forth to music that only we could hear.

I couldn't stop the tears as they welled in my eyes, the sincerity of this moment making my entire body become alive. I held his hand as it rested against my cheek, leaning into his palm as I breathed him in. "Everything, Carlisle. Ask me…"

He let out a jagged breath and kissed me forcefully, his lips insistent and his hands holding my face securely to his as he backed me up against the narrow wall inside the small room and trapped me against his body. "Are you, Bella?" he whispered breathlessly, kissing me again before reiterating his question. "Are you ready for this?"

I kissed him with every bit of fire I possessed inside me, pulled the fabric of his shirt so tightly in my fists that I was sure it would tear. I waited until we could no longer breathe and had to pull away before pouring out every ounce of honesty and determination I had swimming in my veins.

Because I was the songwriter, the girl who dreamed wildly and loved blindly.

And he was my reason to be.

"Carlisle. After this weekend, we're doing this. Whether Renee can accept us or not, and regardless of whether or not Jane tarnishes who we are…I want this. I want you to be mine, officially. And I'm not saying we have to go around town and flaunt it, but when I lay my head down on my pillow each night, I don't want my love for you to be something that's kept a secret. I don't want to associate anything resembling guilt or remorse when I think about all the ways you were destined for me. So, if you're ready to jump…if you're ready to leap off this cliff with me, then let's do this. Tell Jane it's over. Even though it's obvious, make it official. Hold my hand when we sit on my father's couch and tell him that this wasn't planned but it was written in the fucking stars. Hold me when his anger tears me apart, and love me like only you can when it's all said and done." I took a deep breath, cradling his face between my palms as I lost myself in his glistening eyes. "You want to know if I'm ready? My God, Carlisle, I've never been more ready for anything in my life. This week may have been grueling and empty without you…but it's told me everything I needed to know. I know exactly who I am, and I want you beside me, forever. I'm ready," I nodded, smiling as tears ran down my cheeks and my fingers twisted in his hair. "I'm so unbelievably ready."

His expression…there were no capable words of describing it. His eyes were shining down at me, his lips parted as his hand made incessant passes over my hair. He looked as if he were frozen in time as he stared at me endlessly, even though I could hear his heart beating from where I stood. He swallowed heavily and tried speaking, clearing his throat and pushing his forehead to mine as he started again. "I…Bella, I want everything you just said…I don't know what to say…nothing I can articulate will begin to equal what your words just gave me. It's not enough, nothing I can say is ever enough, but Isabella, I love you. I love you so much and I promise you…this is going to work out. I'm ready too, ready to jump…you are everything I will ever need. I just, God, I love you, I love you…I love you." His declarations were alternated with soft kisses to my cheeks, my nose, my mouth, and I felt as if I would fall to the floor from the power of this moment and our vowed declarations of love and forever.

I was crying and he wasn't far behind me. Before my body literally exploded from our overwhelming emotions, I did the only thing I could think of. With a feral grunt I pushed him against the opposite wall until his back hit it with a loud thump, his shirt twisting in my hands as my nostrils flared and I quite literally climbed the love of my life like a tree.

I couldn't help myself. Hearing him say how he felt about me, how ready he was to begin our life together was the sexiest thing I'd ever heard, and, well, we were just so short on time…

He groaned loudly as he held me against him, my tongue swirling against his as one long, perpetual whimper remained lodged in the back of my throat. I grabbed the dark-blonde hair atop his head and pulled until our mouths were tighter, my other hand wrapped completely around his tie and pulling him even more forcefully into me. He was supporting my weight one-hundred percent as I completely let go of my inhibitions and let my primitive instincts take over.

My hips began pushing into him rhythmically, needing friction from any part of his body I could get. I let my mind wander to that perfect night before my mother found us together, my hand wrapped around him, his hot skin, smooth and hard, throbbing in my grasp, his sounds, his release on me, my hands, his body…Jesus…

"Shit…Bella…" He was begging me for something but I was too hungry for him to comprehend it, my tongue pulling across his jaw, down his chin and along the column of his throat as my fingers ran wildly through his hair.

I pulled on the knot of his tie until it was halfway down his chest, my fingers popping his top two buttons deftly as my tongue found his skin, my teeth dragging across his clavicle as I moved my hips harder against him.

I just couldn't control myself.

He wrapped his arms all the way around my waist, our lips tangling once more as our heated breath combined between the minimal space between us. "Bella…you're seriously…trying to kill me."

"Sorry." I took a few deep breaths, pushing my forehead against his temple as I tried to calm down.

"Don't ever apologize for that, baby, Jesus Christ…" He kissed my neck, my ear and my cheek before pressing his nose into my shoulder. "It's too much to feel sometimes, believe me, I know."

I pressed my lips against his neck and laughed softly, hugging him tight as we stood huddled in his pantry. "Wow…" I whispered.

He cleared his throat, pulling back to look at me with a heated gaze. "You attacked me."

I nodded shamelessly.

"I liked it," he grinned, kissing me once before letting me slide down his body, causing me to feel just what my "attack" had done to him. I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed longingly as I tried to regain my equilibrium.

"Uh-huh, I uh…really did, too," I murmured, unable to hide my smirk as I looked at him from beneath my lashes.

"What's this? Is my songwriter incapable of producing words? I'm shocked." He smiled as I pushed him playfully. I lost myself in his eyes for a few seconds as he took both of my hands and intertwined our fingers, holding them in the air between us.

"You know, speaking of shocking, your amazing little daughters informed me in not so many words that they knew about us. And also that you knew they knew about us. Were you planning on telling me anytime soon, hmm?"

I jabbed him playfully and he looked remorseful even though his eyes were still shining and happy. "I don't know," he shrugged. "They started asking questions, because it's scary how perceptive they are. I didn't necessarily give them a straight answer, but I didn't tell them they were wrong, either. I'm sorry, sweetheart. With everything else going on, I didn't want you to have to worry about that in addition."

"It's fine, I get it. I bet my face was priceless at the ice cream shop, though," I smiled.

He ran his thumbs beneath my eyelids, sweeping up any residual tears that remained from our emotional exchange. His smile was so sincere, so content…and I reveled in the fact that I made it that way.

"I have a feeling our time is going to expire soon, love," he sighed. The girls hadn't come searching for us yet, since the lower level remained silent, but it was only a matter of time.

"Yeah, I have no doubt I'm late for my weekend get-away with my parents." I couldn't hide the contempt in my voice, causing Carlisle to chuckle.

"Remember, you have a mission to win over Renee so we have someone on our side."

I wrapped my arms around his waist and gazed up at him. "Mmhmm…and you have a mission of your own."

His eyes clouded with disdain, and I regretted even bringing her up. "I'm actually looking forward to ending that chapter of my life once and for all. Once the girls are asleep, I'll be making the call." He kissed the top of my head, running his thumb along my lips as he pulled back and took me in. "Thank you for coming in…thank you for giving me this, Bella."

I shook my head. "I never would have been able to stay away, handsome. And I'm never going to try to ever again."

His expression grew contemplative as his fingertips ran over my chin. "What is it?" I whispered, catching his hand and bringing it to my mouth to kiss his palm.

He chuckled in almost a nervous gesture, suddenly fascinated with a large bag of flour that sat on the shelving beside us. "I'm thinking of asking you something I probably shouldn't, considering how slippery of a slope we're on at this point, with your parents and Jane and everything…"

"Tell me," I whispered softly.

"There's no school Monday. In-service, or something like that."

I nodded. "I know. I planned to use that as my day of recovery from the nightmare that is sure to be this weekend."

His thumb found my lip again, moving back and forth along it in yet another nervous gesture. "What if it was something else?"

"What do you want it to be?" My voice lowered an octave, and even though I was unsure of what he was talking about, I had a feeling this was about to become a very significant conversation.

"Well, the girls' sleepover got moved to this weekend, instead of next weekend. Sunday night, since there's no school the following day."

My stomach flipped and then dropped, my body moving closer to his automatically. "Really?"

He swallowed thickly and nodded, his deep eyes searching for the answers in mine as he continued. "Yeah, and I was thinking, perhaps…"

He was ridiculously adorable when he was nervous.

"We'll be back by early afternoon on Sunday," I told him eagerly.

"But can you get away?"

"I'll do what I have to, in order to get away." My fingers were buried in his hair now, pulling and releasing in my own anxious gesture.

"Like what?" he murmured.

I shrugged a shoulder, my lips moving closer and closer to his on their own accord.

"Maybe you have a medical conference Monday morning. Maybe I need to watch the girls Sunday night and all the next day."

His thumbs were now making passes around my belly button beneath my shirt, our noses sliding along one another's as his voice became even huskier. "That circumstance is conducive to what I was tentatively planning…"

"What were you planning?" I asked breathlessly, his top lip catching my bottom one as our faces continued moving closer together.

"I was thinking we could get out of town for a night. Someplace where we can be us. Where I can hold your hand and take you to dinner. Someplace where I can show the world that you're mine."

The biting ownership in his tone had my body throbbing and clenching, our lips moving together as we balanced on the cusp of a kiss that would send my heart racing. "I want that. Please…I want that, Carlisle."

His groan was aching as he took my mouth, kissing me so unbelievably slowly. He pulled away and his hot, sweet breath was in my mouth, begging for more. "What if your parents stop by while we're gone?"

"Then I guess the girls and I will be out…shopping…skydiving…whatever. God, do that again." He did what I requested, swirling his tongue around my earlobe and sucking hard. I was losing my mind.

He brushed my hair behind my shoulder and slid his fingers around the back of my neck, causing me to look up into his eyes. "Baby, if we do this…there's no pressure, with anything. You know that, right?"

I shook my head adamantly, holding onto his forearm and keeping him in place. "No pressure. I love you, I trust you…and I think it's pretty safe to say that you know what I want."

"Are we doing this?" he whispered, staring at me intently, waiting for my reply.

I bit my lip, gazing up at him with every bit of need and love I felt for him. "We are absolutely doing this," I whispered.

And suddenly, this weekend couldn't start soon enough.





So. Things are on the horizon. Oh yes they are!

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