A/N: This is it, dear readers. I received a lot of support after the last chapter, but I also received some rude anonymous comments that were uncalled for. My policy about anonymous inflammatory reviews is on my profile. I'd like to thank each and every one of you for taking this journey with me. Your support, recs, PMs, emails, and tweets mean the world to me. I'm always open to discussing why something had to happen in one of my stories as long as it's done in a respectful way. I'm sure there may be questions at the end of the epilogue.
Thanks to my prereaders, Keye, Sandy, and Aleea, especially toward the end of this story. There was a lot of screaming, hand holding, and reassurance going on. Mwah!
There aren't enough words, or punctuation marks, to thank my awesome betas, Katmom and SassySue (chayasara), for their never ending support, fast turnaround time (spoiled author alert), and mad skillz. These ladies rock my socks, and I'm so blessed to have them!
~The Wings of Time~
Again ~ Flyleaf
Broken Wings ~ Flyleaf
Wishful Thinking ~ Duncan Sheik
Lovesong ~ Adele
Sadness flies on the wings of the morning,
and out of the heart of darkness comes the light.
Rain lashes at the windows, and the wind howls a bittersweet lament as it winds through the trees. This is one of the longest storms on record; it's been going on for days, ravaging land and homes. The old stone structure of this house was built to easily withstand even the most punishing weather, but many of the old leaded windows have cracked and broken over the years and needed replacing.
My fingers hit a discordant note on the piano. I stop, take a breath, and try again. This time, the notes are perfect, and I snatch up a pencil and mark the sheet music in front of me. My composition is almost finished; I just need the perfect ending.
The storm batters the house again, looking for ways inside, but the windows hold. I lost power yesterday but haven't bothered starting up the generator. Vampires don't need light to see. The refrigerator in the kitchen stands empty, so there's no concern about spoiled food.
I'm currently the only one in residence on Masen Island. No human has stepped foot on this land since Sonia passed on thirty-two years ago. She was a loyal employee until the end of her life and died not knowing what we are, though surely she wondered as she aged, and we remained the same. Her family will never want for anything.
I begin my piece again. When I reach the point that's been giving me trouble, it all suddenly clicks into place as I push past the difficult part. From there, it flows beautifully, and the ending becomes clear.
Excited, I grab the pencil and make my notations. Music hasn't come easy for me, so I'm filled with a sense of accomplishment. On its heels come my frequent companions, boredom and loneliness.
Hours later, I strip naked and slip out the back door. I barely notice the rain pelting my skin and streak into the woods in search of an animal to quench my thirst. There are a number of felled trees at the edges, but in the densest part of the forest, the cacophony of the storm is muted. On the other side of the island, at the base of a hill full of memories, a mountain lion slinks its way around rocks and bushes. The majestic head turns, and she hisses at me. I smile sadly, swiping a swath of sopping hair from my face and let her go, focusing on an elk poised at the edge of the clearing.
Delicate ears twitch as the elk sniffs at the air. The maelstrom of the storm keeps my scent from reaching the cautious animal in time, and I race around the field and pounce on her from behind before she even senses me.
When I return to the house, I enter through the mudroom, toweling off rapidly and redressing before heading into the writing room to light a fire. No matter how many years go by, my love for a crackling fire never wanes. I curl up on the bearskin and look into the dancing flames. Of course it's not the bearskin—Gonzo was put out to pasture long ago.
My mind drifts to Edward and the years since my change. The only concession Aro was willing to allow came at the behest of Marcus. I'm not sure why Marcus took pity on us, but it seems he lost his mate many years ago and hasn't been right since.
Edward taught me to hunt and spent several days holding me in his arms before announcing it was time for him to face the music. He refused to take me to Volterra with him, no matter how vehemently I argued the point. The fact Carlisle accompanied him is the only thing that kept me in Nova Scotia.
Three days after Edward and Carlisle left for Italy, Alice and Jasper came home. Alice wouldn't speak to any of us; she simply sat on a rock overlooking the lake, still as a statue. Jasper seemed worried, but the only thing he said about the situation was, "Alice blames herself. She thinks just because she can see the future that she can fix everything." She's never fully made peace with it. Though she's tried to move on, a part of her was forever changed.
Sixteen days went by before Edward returned, his head bent low. The rest of the family left us alone to talk.
Edward took my hand and brought it up to his full lips, placing a kiss on the back before leading me slowly into the house and up to our room. Without speaking, he laid me down on the bed and wrapped himself around me. We remained locked in a silent embrace for hours until the golden rays of the sun dipped below the horizon and deep purple streaks painted the sky.
"I'm sorry, Angel," Edward finally murmured against my hair.
"For what?" I tried to tilt my head, but he pressed his hand against the back firmly and tucked it beneath his chin.
"There was no changing Aro's mind. He's delighted . . . and he'll never let me go." He stroked my hair.
"No! What are we going to do? Maybe if we run—"
"Shh . . . no, Angel. There's no running from the Volturi. I've accepted it, and you must, too. We reached a compromise thanks to Marcus."
"What kind of compromise?" My foot rubbed against the metal locator anklet with the Volturi crest embossed on it that he would be forced to wear all the time.
Edward hesitated then brought my face up to his. The resignation in his golden gaze frightened me. "I'm at Aro's beck and call. We can be together, live wherever we choose, but when he calls . . . I must go."
A pop and sizzle from the fireplace jolts me from the ninety-six-year-old memory. Though it's been nearly a century, I remember as if it just happened—the ghost of Edward's body wrapped around me, his soft lips moving over mine with apology is still there when I close my eyes.
The front door opens, a gust of wind howling through the house for a moment before it closes, and my lids fly up.
"Angel," he breathes on a soft sigh.
In a blink, I'm in the foyer. Edward stands there dripping, a puddle forming on the marble at his feet. His posture is slumped, and despite his height, he seems shrunken. It's usually like this when Edward returns from Volterra. At least he spoke my name; there have been times he hasn't said a word for days.
I take his hand, and he twines his fingers with mine. "There's a fire going." I tug him forward, and he follows. The trail of water will dry.
We lay on the bearskin, basking in the heat and glow of the flames. I don't ask Edward what he had to do this time. He won't tell me. Not once in all these years has he uttered a word about what he does for the devil.
What he has told me, over and over again, is he wouldn't change a single moment of our past—that finding me, our love, sharing eternity together is worth any price. I agree, but it pains me that he bears that burden alone.
Edward's hands frame my face, and he brings his lips close to mine. "I need you."
"I'm right here. I'm always here for you."
His kiss holds a desperate edge as his tongue slides against my own. It will take time for him to shed the remnants of despair. Our clothes fall away, piece by piece, and he rolls me on my back, hovering above me with his eyes closed. I spread my thighs around Edward's hips, and his eyes open languidly as I welcome him inside me. His thrusts are long and exquisitely slow, his eyes never leaving mine as we meld.
This isn't our usual furiously passionate lovemaking with Edward's hands, lips, and teeth all over me, sending me spiraling into oblivion, though this is no less intense in its own right. No, whenever he returns from Italy, it's the same—he looks into my eyes and loves away the unspeakable, that which he refuses to voice aloud. And I'm always here with welcome arms and an understanding heart, being whatever he needs until he comes back to himself.
Sometimes, years go by between summonings, and those are times most beautiful. We feed love to our souls, flood our existence with happiness, contentment, and family. I believe we appreciate what we have all the more because it might have been snatched away.
Our love for one another, the good times we share, far outweigh the sacrifices. That's what Edward tells me each time he returns to my arms, and I have to believe him because, for us, being together isn't an option—it's everything.