Disclaimer: The great Stephanie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I'm just using her amazing characters to tell you a story.
Many thanks to my amazing team. I couldn't do this without you: ellachanted, Kate22689 and AgoodWITCH Love ya tons, ladies.
A/N: I am so, so sorry. This is my biggest fail ever. I've had this chapter back for weeks and with the chaos of the holidays, I simply forgot about it. I don't know what to say except I'm sorry. With that said, let's get to it, shall we. Enjoy.
The instant our bedroom door closed behind us, Edward's arms wrapped around my shoulders, pulling my back against his chest.
"I'm so proud of you, Angel."
I spun in his arms and drew him to me. "Thank you," I whispered and kissed his neck, drawing back slightly to look in his eyes. "Thank you for giving my father back to me. I've refused to think about him, any of them, for so long because I didn't believe I could have them in my life and I don't care if it's a few more weeks or if tonight was all I have, I have my father again."
"I'd do anything for you, Bella. You don't have to thank me for that. I meant what I said tonight. I will do anything, give anything, to make you happy for the rest of our lives." His hands held my cheeks as his lips brushed mine a second before his eyes found mine again. "You are the love of my life and I made a promise, for the second time, to take care of you and I intend to do that no matter what it is."
"I can't imagine what I've done in this life to deserve you, Edward, but I will never take you for granted again. You have my heart, my soul and my life forever and I will do anything I have to, to deserve that honor."
"Just love me, Bella. That's all I ask."
"Forever, my love."
Edward's kiss stole all the air remaining in my lungs and I thanked God I didn't need to breathe because I wanted this to last forever. Without breaking our kiss, Edward picked me up and carried me to the bed. He placed me gently on my back as he lay down next to me, his hand gripping my hip. My right hand drifted up his arm, his neck, until my fingers tangled in his hair while my left moved around his back, pulling him on top of me.
Edward's leg moved between mine as his hand slid under me and pulled my body into his. Our kisses grew more passionate, more frantic, as he squeezed me tighter. I wanted him closer. I wanted more. I wanted to feel him, every part of him, pressed against me. It was the one thing I'd spent years waiting for.
Shifting my body, I slid underneath him and gripped him tighter, forcing our bodies together in every place that mattered. His hips moved, pressing our most intimate areas together in the sweetest, most amazing way.
"Edward," I sighed, breaking our kiss.
Edward's body froze just before he pushed us apart. "I'm sorry, Bella," he apologized and sat at the edge of the bed with his elbows on his knees and his hands in his hair. "I don't know what came over me. I shouldn't have done that. Don't hate me, I'm so sorry."
In a flash, on was on my knees behind him with my hands around his chest. I pressed a kiss to that sensitive spot just below his ear. "There is nothing to apologize for." I kissed him again and whispered in his ear. "I love you. It is only natural to want this."
"But we aren't married, Bella. Not yet."
"We will be, Edward. Soon." I leaned slightly and turned his face to mine. "It's what we have both waited for, my love. There is no one to deny us this. Not anymore."
His eyes closed as my lips brushed his. Locked in a sweet, tender kiss, Edward snaked an arm around my waist, picked me up and settled me onto his lap. Both hands moved to my cheeks and held me gently as he drew back to look at me.
"Bella," his thumbs stroked my cheeks, "when we were younger, I wanted nothing more than for time to speed by so I could make you my wife. So I could kiss you, hold you and make love to you every day of our lives, but that was when time was so limited, so precious.
"Now, we have forever to love each other and I want to cherish every second with you. I want to hold true to all those virtues that meant so much to us back then. And as much as I want this, want you, I want to do this the right way. The way that will honor our commitment to each other but most of all, will honor you as the most precious and beautiful woman to walk this earth."
Edward kissed the tip of my nose and dropped his hands to grab mine, lifting them to his lips and placing a soft kiss to the back of each.
"I let you down once before and I vow to never let that happen again. I don't want you to love me simply because that's what we always believed was meant to be. I want to be worthy of you and your love. I want to be the man you deserve, Bella. Doing this," he nodded toward the bed, "before we're married would go against all of that and I will not dishonor you that way."
"Always the gentleman." A smile spread across my lips. "I'm glad to see you haven't lost that."
"Do you remember your sixteenth birthday party?"
It was a strange question to ask. "Of course I remember."
From the day I'd been changed I had replayed that night in my mind constantly. Edward proposed to me that night and the memory was one I was not willing to lose.
"That night my father told me he didn't raise me to be so cavalier with a woman. Do you remember?" I nodded. "I didn't truly understand what he meant until now. I loved you then and I didn't care who saw me kissing you or doing what people in love do. You were my girl and I wanted the whole world to know.
"Now I know it wasn't about that at all." He cupped my cheek and his voice carried a reverence I hadn't heard before. "It was about honoring you, protecting your name and your virtue, and showing you the respect you deserve as a woman, as my future wife, and the mother of my children."
"But Edward, that's all over now." I pulled my hand from his and laid it on his cheek as I kissed him softly. "We live every day hidden in the shadows. We have no ties to society. There's no one to stop us from doing what we wish."
I leaned in and kissed him again, harder this time…more insistent. A few minutes passed before he pushed me away, holding my hands in his again.
"Please, Angel, don't tempt me this way." His voice was strained, his eyes pleading. "Allow me this one thing, my Bella. Allow me to cherish you as any man should cherish his wife."
The love in his eyes melted my heart. My arms flew around his neck and I held him tightly against me. "Anything, my love. Anything for you."
Edward and I spent the day in each other's arms talking about anything and everything that came to mind. I told him all about Johnny, Lizzy and Jack and the fun we had together in the city. I told him all about the night Jack died and he held me a little closer when he realized how much losing my friend hurt me.
We argued about the night I lost Johnny and Clyde because that was the night Garrett came for me. Edward cursed and insulted Garrett and his character, calling him a liar for breaking his own rules when he tried to kill me – an innocent woman. I explained to him the strange pull my blood had for Garrett and how the scent of it compelled him to act. His actions weren't out of callousness or the desire to kill. It was a need he couldn't fight against.
Surprisingly, Edward understood that compulsion and told me Carlisle explained it to him once. That need for a human's blood that was stronger than any thirst we'd ever known. A singer, he called it. Someone whose blood you would kill for regardless of who it belonged to. I knew Garrett would never kill an innocent and now, knowing the truth of that day, Edward knew it too.
Now calm, Edward shared a little more of his life, telling me of an old friend named Henry and his daughter, Abigail. He chuckled as the growl rumbled in my chest at the mention of her. Then he kissed me and told me of the friendship they had formed on the day he shared his story of the love he was forced to leave behind.
The word 'forced' had me cursing Carlisle again for taking his choice away and keeping him from me. But I had learned not to voice that opinion unless I wanted to start a fight with him. It wasn't worth the aggravation today of all days.
"I want to see these places," I said, changing the subject.
His hand came up to stroke my hair. "What places?"
"The places you've been." I shifted to rest my chin on his chest. "I want to see them. I want to walk the same streets and see what you've seen."
"Bella," he smiled, "what draw could places like Wisconsin, Ohio or Washington have for you when you have been around the world."
"Those cities, those countries, held no interest for me, Edward." He scowled, ready to interrupt. "I know what you're going to say and yes, they were beautiful and I so excited when Garrett had taken me there but its draw, its beauty, was lost on me because you weren't there to share it with me."
"No, Edward," I interrupted and sat up. "Before we were separated, you and I talked about traveling after we were married, only our journeys would have taken us to places around this country. The ones you seem so ready to scoff at. I wanted that so much and I would have been thankful that we would have to see them together.
"So, to see all those places around the world that you and I had never considered, never even dreamed of, left me feeling sad and guilty. Like I was experiencing something you never could. Something I know you would have loved had you been there with me. It was too hard to handle some days. Being without you, doing things without you… It was hard to enjoy any of it."
"It's settled then." He sat up quickly, his fingertips softly caressing my cheek. "We'll go, Bella. We'll go see the world. Everywhere I've been, where you've been and everywhere in between.
"Anywhere you have ever wanted to go, Bella," he continued. "We'll see it all and there's nothing to stop us." His smile gleamed and his eyes sparkled as he grabbed my hand and pulled me from the bed. "Come on."
In a blink, we were on our knees in front of the map lying across the floor in his parents' room. With his pen in hand, Edward began marking off places to go, talking so fast I could barely keep up.
His excitement charged the air around us and it made me happy beyond measure to see him this way. He was like the eager little boy I remembered on his birthday, running through our kitchen ready for his favorite pancakes.
"This is amazing, Bella. To see this with you will be…"
Nothing else was said as my lips crashed into his. My heart burst with so much love for him, I couldn't help myself. Edward's arms were tight around me as we tumbled to the floor laughing between kisses.
"I love you," I mumbled against his lips.
Edward rolled us over, hovering over me with the brightest smile I'd ever seen. The laughter was gone but his eyes shone with happiness.
"I love you so much, Angel." A hand brushed the hair from my face and he leaned down to kiss me gently one more time before pulling away again. "You are my whole world, Bella. I am nothing without you."
As quick as he moved, I had him flat on his back, holding him in the same position he had me.
"Never worry, my love. We'll never be parted again."
"Come on, Edward. Let's go hunt."
"What?" he questioned, looking perplexed.
I stood from the bed where we had ended up after Edward excitedly planned all our destinations for the next year. He sat up slowly and I held a hand out to him repeating my question.
"Will you go hunting with me?" His face fell and I realized what he was thinking. "Not like that. I want to try your way."
"Really?" His brow furrowed. "I thought my way disgusted you."
Kneeling in front of him, I grabbed his hands. "I don't want you to hate me every time I walk out that door. I don't want my father to see me as a murderer. I want to be better, Edward. For you…for him…I want to be better."
"I may not like your choice, Bella, but I could never hate you for it. I just want you to be happy. You have to know that."
"I do know that," I told him. "But I want to do this. I want to try." I stood again. "Will you take me hunting?"
"Let's go, Angel." Edward smiled and stood, sneaking a kiss as he did. Suddenly a devious smirk settled on his face. "I'll race you."
The wind left in his wake ruffled my hair a split second before I followed him out the window.
Edward was fast. Too fast for me to catch him, but I followed his scent and his taunting all the way to the forest where I took to the trees. In the trees I was silent. From the trees I was deadly. This was where I caught him.
Below me, Edward weaved through the forest – back and forth, circling and then straight – and after two miles his pattern was discernible. Flying through the branches, I moved ahead of him and waited. A smile crept across my face when I saw him coming. Shifting my position, I got ready to attack.
Three… two… one…
I launched myself onto Edward's back and we tumbled through the dirt, leaves and twigs covering the forest floor. He was flat on his back with my hand around his throat when we came to a stop.
"How did you…?"
"As fast as you are, my love, you're surprisingly slow in the forest." I grinned, sliding my hand into his hair and kissing him quickly. "Looks like I have a lot to teach you."
He flipped us quickly. "You can teach me anything, Bella. I'm ready." His lips touched mine for another quick kiss. "But for now," he hopped to his feet, pulling me with him, "let's hunt."
Edward led me through the forest another five miles before he stopped and scented the air. His eyes darkened as smile curled his lips. Quickly, his arms wrapped around me from behind and he whispered in my ear.
"Breathe deep, Bella." I heard his intake of air. "Do you smell it?"
It was a woodsy smell, not as sweet as human blood though not as repulsive as the moose blood he had led me to before.
"Yes," I answered, my throat suddenly burning with hunger.
"Five deer just beyond that thick set of trees." He nudged my head to the left and I pulled against his grasp. "Remember, move on them quickly and snap their necks before they run." His lips grazed my ear sending chills through me. "Ready?"
I pulled against him again. "Yes."
His hand slipped down to mine and he pulled me forward. "Let's go."
Quick as the wind, we burst through the trees, descending on our prey. The animals' fear sweetened their scent, but it was nothing like the scent of a terrified man begging for his life. In seconds, I took down the first two and started to drink.
I was halfway through the first when the taste overwhelmed me. I choked and heaved until every drop of blood was soaking the ground at my knees. The unquenched burn in my throat blazed hotter. My hands flew to my throat the instant I felt a strong hand on my back.
"Bella, Angel, are you okay?" Edward's panicked voice sounded in my ear.
"Can't…" I coughed.
"I'm sorry," I apologized between coughs. "I just can't."
Edward sat behind me and lifted me onto his lap. He pulled my head against his chest, cradling me in his arms.
"It's okay, Bella," he soothed, running his hands through my hair. "It's okay."
"It's wrong, Edward." I clutched his shirt. "It just tastes wrong."
"You don't have to do this, Bella," he told me. "Not for me."
"But my father…"
"You don't have to do it for him either." He turned me so I was staring into his deep golden eyes. "You are an amazing, beautiful woman, Bella, but you're also a vampire. You live and feed the way any normal vampire would and there is nothing wrong with that.
"I am the rare one. I am the oddity, not you. You've lived a long time feeding from humans. No one could expect you to give that up so easily, not me or your father." He caressed my cheek. "You tried, Angel, and that's what's important."
"But what if I can never do it," I questioned.
"Then you can't." He ran a hand through my hair. "I won't force my way of life on you, Bella. That wouldn't be fair to you. If at some point in the future you choose my way, so be it. I will love you always. Whether you choose humans or animals, it makes no difference to me."
I hugged him fiercely. "I love you so much."
"I love you too, Angel." He squeezed me tight then pulled back. "Let me take care of this," he motioned to the five animals around us, "and we can go home."
"Edward." I stopped him before he could stand.
"Yes, my love."
"I want to go back alone."
"Is everything okay?" His concern plain on his face.
I nodded. "I want to see my father, but I would like some privacy. There are things I need to speak to him about and I don't think I could do it if you were there."
"Is it bad?" Panic settled around his eyes. "Is it about me?"
"No, Edward, nothing of the sort." I lay and on his cheek. "We need to talk but it is so intensely personal I wouldn't feel comfortable with you around knowing what you can hear."
His dejection was clear for a tenth of a second before he masked it.
"Of course, Bella." His voice was flat.
"Edward, I'm sorry. I don't mean to hurt you, but this is something I have to do. Our conversation is going to be hard enough. I couldn't do it…"
"Bella," he smiled, "you don't have to explain. He's your father and I understand there are things you can only talk about with him. It's the way you have always been, Angel. I wouldn't expect that to change now." He left a gentle kiss on my lips. "You go. I'll finish here and wait for you to come and find me again."
"Thank you." I kissed his cheek softly. "I'll return as soon as I can."
"Be safe, my love."
I rolled my eyes and pointed at my chest. "Vampire, remember?" Edward chuckled. "Stop worrying so much."
I turned and ran back home, leaving Edward in the clearing behind me.
A light wind blew my hair across my face as I stared into the darkened window of my parents' back door. A little after three in the morning and the house was quiet. Hesitating for half a second, I listened and hoped the two women inside slept through my visit.
Silently, I opened the door and crept inside, pushing it closed with no sound. Before I took a step, I listened again. Hearing nothing but the sounds of three people sleeping, I rushed through the house to my parents' room and snuck inside.
After a quick kiss to his forehead, I laid a hand on my father's shoulder and shook him gently.
"Daddy," I whispered. "Daddy, wake up."
He stirred but didn't wake. I tried again, shaking him a bit harder.
"Daddy, please wake up."
His eyes fluttered. "Bella," he whispered my name with a smile.
I returned his smile. "Hi, Daddy."
His sleepy eyes settled on mine and with a little grunt, he lifted a hand to my cheek. Covering it with my own, I held his warm palm to my face.
"I still can't believe you're here. I've missed you so much."
"I've missed you too, Daddy. I'm so sorry to wake you," I apologized, "but I need to talk to you. It's important."
His hand fell from my cheek and I instantly missed his warmth. He struggled to move into a sitting position. but it was proving too difficult. I reached out and helped him fold his legs over the edge of the bed as I pushed him upright. Finally sitting, he took a deep breath and waited a second before blowing it out and nodding toward the corner where we'd sat together last night.
"Help me?" he asked.
Bearing the majority of his weight, I walked my father to the chair in the corner. Once he was situated, I grabbed the same blanket he'd used last night to cover him before he could catch a chill.
Kneeling in front of him, I took both his hands in mine. He didn't recoil or cringe as he had before and that made me smile.
"I've missed that smile, Sweetheart. It's the very thing I've needed to carry me peacefully from this life."
"Don't talk like that, Daddy."
"Oh dear Bella, how I wish there was more time, especially now that you're home, but there isn't. I will leave you all soon, but I'll do it with the knowledge that each one of you will be safe and cared for. Your mother and Maggie have each other and I truly believe they will get along fine after their grieving ends. And you, Sweetheart…" He took a breath but continued before I could speak. "By the greatest of miracles, you have found your happiness with Edward again." His face scrunched in confusion as he looked around the room. "Where is he? Is he here? There is something I'd like to say to him before…"
His sentence trailed off, but it needed no end.
"He's not here," I answered. "We were out…hunting and I left him to come here."
His face contorted in disappointment, the look breaking my heart. Since I was a little girl I'd always hated disappointing my father and when it happened, I did everything in my power to return to his good graces.
"Can the two of you not find another way, Isabella?" His stern voice held a condemnation that brought tears to my eyes. "Human life should be cherished, not taken without regard."
"It's not without regard," I defended myself. "The men I choose are evil, Daddy. Pure evil."
"That doesn't make it right to take their lives, Isabella. They should pay for their crimes, but not by your hand. Your way doesn't make you any less a murderer than they are."
His words were like daggers straight to my heart, piercing and twisting and draining the life right out of me.
He pulled his hand from mine and placed it on my cheek. "You're my little girl, Bella, and I will love you in this life and the next no matter what you choose to do here. I don't like it, but if this is the only way you can live then…"
"It's not the only way," I interrupted. "Edward has never taken a human life. Not once in fourteen years."
My father dropped his hand, his face perplexed. "How is that possible?"
"Edward feeds from animals," I explained. "He hunts them just as you would during hunting season, only he drinks their blood whereas you would take the meat."
The lines creasing his forehead relaxed as he thought this over. There was the smallest tug at the left corner of his lips and, for once, I wished Edward were her to tell me what he was thinking. With a small feeling of relief, I continued.
"He's teaching me, Daddy," I told him. "I have tried his way, but the change is…"
I stopped, not knowing how to describe the taste to him. I decided on the simplest explanation.
"It is very difficult. I don't know if I can do it, but I'm trying."
"It's an option I would have never considered, but if it's truly in your heart to change, Bella, I know you can do it," he assured me.
It was the perfect opening and I had to take it before I lost my nerve.
"It's this option I wanted to talk to you about," I said nervously, his face marred with confusion again. "Edward has been able to live a semi-normal human life all these years. He's worked, gone to school, he's even earned a medical degree and I'm so proud of everything he's accomplished."
I knew by the narrowed eyes and furrowed brow that my father was waiting for me to get to the point, but I was nervous, afraid of his reaction to my question.
"And I hoped, knowing you could live a normal life again, that you would consider…"
His widening eyes choked off my words. He looked horrified by my unspoken request. "You want me to…"
I cut him off, rushing to explain. "The venom would cure you, Daddy. You could be healthy and strong again. You could live and we would be together again. Forever this time. No sickness could ever take you from me again."
"But what about your mother?"
The thought threatened to choke me but I forced an answer. "You said it yourself, she has Mrs. Jones to look after her. And when her time comes, we can come back for her. We could be a family again, Daddy. No sickness could ever tear us apart."
"I can't, Bella." His eyes glistened and a single tear dripped from the corner.
"But I could change you and we could…"
"Think of what you're saying, Sweetheart." I felt the tiniest pressure on my hand as he squeezed. "Remember what it did to you when you thought Edward had died. He was sick and had no choice in the matter, but I do and I couldn't do that to your mother. Or myself.
"I couldn't go on living my life knowing she was here alone, grieving my death. You told me how hard that decision was for Edward. And I saw firsthand what that very same decision did to you. Tell me…could you willingly subject your mother to that kind of pain." He hesitated but when I couldn't answer, he continued. "I thought not. And neither could I.
"Even if I did, what if something unforeseeable happened and she was taken from this life before we could return for her?" My heart clenched at the thought of losing my mother all over again. "She would forever be alone, Bella. It was a fate you were afraid of for yourself. You couldn't possibly wish that on your mother.
"I would give almost anything to spend forever with you, my sweet girl, but not if it causes your mother more pain than she's already suffering."
He lifted my hands and kissed my knuckles, squeezing my fingers again as he did so.
"My life has belonged to her for as long as I can remember. My death won't change that. Your mother and I will spend what little time we have left together and when it's over, I'll be waiting for her on the other side to spend our eternity together."
I pushed up on my knees, throwing my arms around his neck. "I just don't want to lose you again."
His arms circled my waist. "I don't want that either, Sweetheart. You have to know that." he pulled back to look at me. "But I could never willingly leave her side. As with you and Edward, the only force that could possibly separate us is death and, sadly, that time is upon us."
My arms wrapped around him again. "I'll miss you so much, Daddy."
"My time's not up just yet, Sweetheart." His head turned and he kissed my cheek. "We have a bit more time before we have to say goodbye."
My father pushed away from me, dropping a kiss on my forehead before catching my eyes with his. I was surprised by the small smile playing across his face.
"I love you, Bella, always and forever. In this life and beyond. Don't ever forget that." Despite the heaviness of our discussion, he looked happy. "Now, go find your future husband and bring him to me."
"Should I be worried?" I teased.
His smile widened. "We shall see."
As much as he loves his daughter, Charlie could never leave his wife. He'll see her again on the other side. Now the better question is…what does he want with Edward? We shall see.
As always, thank you so much for all the love you give this story. It means more to me than you will ever know. Big hugs to everyone. You are all the best.
Also, I have to say, from my house to yours, Happy New Year. Let's make 2014 the best ever.
Until next time…much love to you all – D