Wow, I can't believe this story is almost done already! Only one chapter and one epilogue after this one!

Shout outs to NeviaAnn, my most enthusiastic reviewer! Your reviews always make my day!

Of course, I do not own Twilight. That extreme honor goes to Ms. Stephenie Meyer. I only own those four books that my hubby can't stand!

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Bella managed to convince Edward that she would be okay alone for the next few days. She wanted to get as far as possible on her new book before her birthday, when she was planning on surprising him with it, and she promised him that she would take the laptop to Rose's house and work on it up there. Rose was back to working evenings, so she would be there with Bella most of the day. Bella did feel slightly offended, but she just reminded herself that he was only concerned for her safety and she knew that she would act the same way if the situation were reversed.

Wednesday morning, Bella brewed a pot of coffee in Rose's coffee pot, and turned her laptop on as Rose sat across the table and slurped a bowl of cereal.

"Soooo," Rose began, between crunches, "how's things?"

Bella knew what Rose was referring to, so she simply answered, "great."

"What have you guys been up to? I don't see much of you any more."

Bella smiled. She knew Rose was fishing for some dirt, "we went to the Diner yesterday for dinner and Edward's ex, Victoria, was there," Bella got a chill, remembering how Victoria had seemingly tried to murder her with just a look from her cold, dark eyes, "she is seriously obsessed with him…not that I can blame her."

Rose snorted, "he sort of brings that out in people, doesn't he?"

Bella shook her head, remembering how she had thought about him constantly for weeks on end, even though she had barely talked to the man, "I know…but I don't think I would be so…so…weird about it."

"Weird how?"

"We were sitting there in a booth, and she just walks right up with her prissy little friend and just starts gushing to Edward, 'oh Edward, I'm so glad to see you,' and 'oh Edward, I was so happy that you came over on Monday night…'" Bella spoke through her nose in a poor imitation of Victoria, "I could tell she was trying to get us into a fight. Luckily, he tells me everything."

Rose shook her head, "did she speak to you?"

"She tried. She said it was nice to meet me, but she could barely get the words out. The woman hates me with a passion. But again, I can't blame her. Oh, and Edward was holding my hand on top of the table like this," Bella stretched out her arm and put her hand out as it had been the previous evening, "and when she showed up, Edward didn't move his hand at all. He said she needed to realize that they were really through, but I still felt a little bad for her. She couldn't take her eyes off our hands for more than two seconds." Just then Bella's phone rang. She had set it right next to her computer, and she answered it, holding one finger up to Rose, to let her know that she would finish her thought in a second.

"Hello?" There was no answer, so Bella flipped it shut again.

"Who was that?" Rose wanted to know.

"I don't know. It's just someone who calls, then doesn't say anything when I answer. It started last week and had been fairly quiet over the weekend, but had started up again on Monday. Yesterday wasn't bad…." Bella trailed off as she recounted the strange phone calls for Rose, "you know, it seems like it's worse when I'm not with Edward, and when he's around, they don't call as much…"

Rose raised an eyebrow, "maybe Victoria's stalking you."

Bella shuddered, "the way she looked at me just really creeped me out yesterday. You know, I've been thinking about changing my cell number. Maybe I'll call and do that now."

Bella sent a quick text to Edward to let him know that she was about to call customer service and change her number. But almost as soon as she hit send, the phone rang again. This time, the caller ID told her who it was.

"What's going on?" Edward wanted to know immediately.

"Those calls have been starting up again. You don't think it's…Victoria, do you? As she said the name, she looked at Rose, who nodded.

"Do you?" Edward wanted to believe the best about Victoria, but he saw the way she had looked at Bella yesterday, coupled with the belief that she was destined to continue a pattern that would end badly for Bella, and he was beginning to have his doubts.

"I don't know," Bella told him honestly, "I know that when she stared at me yesterday, I felt an awful chill go through me. I have never felt so much hatred coming off of any particular person, before."

He was quiet on the other end of the phone, and Bella could hear his van's engine in the background, "I know," he finally admitted, "I could see how she hates you."

"So I'll just change my number right now, then whoever it is will be out of luck, right?"

Edward agreed, "and when I get home, I'll call and change mine."

"Sounds like a plan. Are you going to have a busy day?"

"It won't be too bad, as long as the jobs don't take too long. I should be home by five thirty."

Bella was sure he could hear the smile in her voice, "okay. I'll see you then. Love you."

"Love you too. Please be careful," he begged.

"I will, I promise." As Bella hung up the phone, she saw Rose staring at her, "what?" Bella asked.

"So are you still making him "take it slow?" She raised her hands and made quotations in the air.

Bella blushed, "no. That's out the window."

"Ha! I knew you'd cave!" She exclaimed.

"It wasn't so much about caving. I could have held out if I'd wanted to, I think. It's just that…well you remember me telling you about my regression where I remembered being Marie, right?" She nodded, "I remembered everything from her life. Not just bits and pieces. I remembered everything as if I was living the life today. I still do. And I realized that Edward and I had been waiting hundreds of years to be together. When we were Marie and Jake we were together. When I came home that night, I felt like we were still the same people, and that I really had been away from him for a hundred years. It was overwhelming. I needed him…does that make sense?"

Rose shook her head and sighed, "I want to meet my Jake," she cried, and Bella laughed at the fake whine she put into her voice.

"Do you want to have a few sessions with Dr. Volturi? Maybe that will point you in the right direction of where to look."

She was instantly animated, "do you think?"

"Wait a minute…weren't you Miss Skeptical about it at first?"

Rose back tracked a little, "well, yeah, but you're kind of proving it to me…I guess….so, what are you guys doing for your birthday?" She was ready for a change of subject.

Bella turned the computer towards her as she got up to fill her coffee mug, and told her about the new book she was working on. Bella silently walked to the wall of pictures that Gram always had hanging over the upright piano while Rose read the first few chapters. She was glad Rose hadn't taken the pictures down.

"You're writing him a book, and you're giving it to him on your birthday? That's pretty hard to beat."

"I don't know that I'll give it to him on my birthday. If a miracle happens and I get the whole first draft done, I will."

"Still, he better come up with something good."

Bella rolled her eyes as she pulled the laptop back in front of her, "knowing him, I'm sure it'll be something either outrageously expensive or outrageously romantic. I'm hoping for the latter."

Rose decided it was time to shower, "why can't it be both?" she asked as she got up.

Bella shook her head at her cousin and opened her phone. She called customer service to change her number, typing as she waited, because they had put her on hold. As soon as she was done, she sent her new number in a text to anyone who mattered, she would call the rest later, and turned her attention to her book. Bella was able to put the outside world out of her mind for a few hours, and her hands flew furiously across the keyboard. Rose was sitting at the table, too, with her laptop, working on a homework assignment for her class. Once, she commented on the speed that Bella was typing, saying she was surprised that Bella wasn't done with the book yet, but other than that they sat comfortably together in silence. At four o'clock, Rose announced it was time to get ready for work. Bella had gotten a good way through the book, and was at a decent stopping point, so she decided when she got home, she would print up what she had so far.

Bella had the partial book printed and dinner started when Edward got home. He had a plastic bag in his hand, which he sat on the floor next to his boots. Bella didn't ask what was in it, thinking it had to do with her surprise. Immediately, he sat at the table and called to change his number. He didn't have to wait as long as Bella had.

As soon as he was done, he went over to the stove where she was stirring the beef stew, and took her hand. He led her to the table and sat her in a chair.

"I got something for you today," he told her as he picked up the bag.

"My birthday isn't until tomorrow," Bella reminded him.

He smiled, "I know. This isn't your gift." Out of the bag he took a metal rectangular case and set it on the table in front of Bella. It was about 8 inches by 12 inches with a lock on one side. Edward fished a key out of his pocket and was about to hand it to her, but first he said, "I don't know how you'll feel about this. I was arguing with myself all the way home, but I'll feel better knowing you have this with you. I'll teach you how to use it and everything. As long as we're smart about this, it doesn't have to be dangerous."

Dangerous? What was he talking about, Bella wondered? She took the key from him and unlocked the case. She lifted up the cover, then slammed it down again.

"A gun? Edward, are you out of your mind? I don't want this in my house! Seriously, you need to take this back to wherever you got it, tonight!"

At first, he didn't say anything. He just sat in the chair next to Bella and kneaded his forehead with his fingertips. Without looking at her, he said, "Bell, please. Please, just keep this near you…for me," he lifted his eyes to Bella's, and they were desperate, pleading, "just let me show you how to use it, then you don't even have to take it out of the case. But I just want you to be safe when I can't be with you." His voice cracked at the end of his supplication and her anger drained away.

"Fine. But I am keeping in the case. You don't need to teach me how to use it because I am the daughter of a police chief, remember? And as soon as the danger has passed, we're getting rid of it, is that clear?"

Relief washed over him, and he picked up her hand to kiss it, "thank you," he sighed, "I'm coming home early tomorrow, and we can practice tomorrow afternoon. I have some targets that we can put up on that tree out back."

Bella let the part about target practice go over her head, and concentrated on the important part, "you're coming home early?'

"Of course. I've got something special planned, and I don't want to have to rush around."

Bella looked at him, "I hope you didn't spend a lot."

Smiling sweetly, Edward replied, "not yet."

"Don't," she warned, but Bella knew that he already had his mind made up, and that any warning she could give would fall on deaf ears.

Thursday morning couldn't go fast enough. As soon as Edward left, Bella cleaned the house and folded all the laundry that she had been neglecting. She sort of forgot about everything else whenever she was around him. She was walking into the house from getting the mail when Edward's van drove past her into the driveway. She waited for him in the doorway, still noticing her reaction whenever he smiled. Although the day was frigid, she was warm as he kissed her for a moment on the front step.

"Happy Birthday," he murmured against her lips.

"Mmm, thank you. I'm glad you're home."

He was opening the door behind her, and he pushed her backwards through the doorway without breaking his hold, "me too. Are you ready for your surprise?"

Bella was instantly intrigued, "yes."

"Too bad," he teased, "you have to wait for tonight."

She groaned and smacked him on the shoulder, "you're mean."

Edward chuckled and pulled his shirt over his head as he walked to the bathroom to take a shower. Bella watched him depart into the bathroom and for one second, she considered joining him, but decided against it. She didn't want to get something started and make him completely forget all about their plans for later.

They were almost to their destination when Bella realized where they were going. It was the same restaurant where they had had that very consequential of conversations on the night before her grandmother's funeral. Edward parked by the curb and took her in the side entrance, directly to the bar, where he led her to the same table as that first night. Again, he helped Bella out of her coat then held the chair for her, a nice little smile on his lips all the while.

A different waitress from the one they'd had before asked them for their drink orders. Bud Lights again. Bella was looking at a menu, but felt Edward's eyes on her, so she glanced at him. He grinned.

"Déjà vu yet?"

"Yes, but I know why, this time."

"Do you know what you want to eat?"

"Not yet…maybe the manicotti?"

Edward smiled again and looked back at his menu. She stared at him this time, while he studied his menu. Sometimes when she looked at him, she had a hard time looking away. She studied his expression, glancing back and forth between her menu and his face. He hadn't stopped smiling since he got home this afternoon, including during her target practice. Right after his shower, he made her bundle up in her coat and boots, then he took her out back, and after tacking a poster size piece of paper with the outline of a person onto a tree, proceeded to explain all the parts of the gun, the safety, the trigger, how to load and unload it, and finally how to point and shoot. She listened patiently, even though Charlie had made sure she was familiar with guns by the time she was twelve years old. Edward thought it was hilarious when Bella had asked during which lifetime he had become a gun expert. She noticed, though, that he didn't answer. Bella thought she did pretty well. After the first few rounds, there was a hole in the head when she aimed for the head, and some holes near the chest when she aimed there, too. And shooting it hadn't been as awful as Bella had predicted. It felt like she had released some frustration during her practice. Edward was impressed too, and Bella joked that she was Wyatt Earp in one of her lives. He laughed and said that he must have been Josephine. But she still hated having it near and couldn't wait until he felt that it was safe enough to return it to wherever he had gotten it from.

That little grin however, had never once disappeared from his face. Bella finally asked him about it, "Edward, what is with that smile? You've been smiling since this afternoon."

He thought for a moment, "I've just been thinking about you firing that gun…sexy. Very sexy," there was a slight blush and Bella knew he wasn't telling the whole truth.

"No, you've been smiling since you got home this afternoon,"

Edward's smile morphed from a cute little grin to a full blown smile, lighting up his whole face. But at that moment, the waitress walked up for their orders. Manicotti for Bella, mushroom swiss burger for Edward, 'okay, get out of here,' Bella thought towards the waitress. She locked her eyes on the waitress' face as she took Edward's order, willing her to go faster.

Looking back at Bella as the waitress walked away, Edward took a deep breath to say something. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. Although he was still smiling, he suddenly seemed nervous. He had both hands in his lap and was looking over Bella's shoulder. His eyes moved along the wall behind her over to the bar, then to the table in between them, and it looked like he was studying the beer bottle in front of him. He grabbed the bottle with one hand and threw back a drink, then placed the hand back in his lap.

Bella watched all this with a frown on my face, "what is wrong with you?" She asked.

He stared at her before he answered, "I have a gift for you. But I don't know if you'll want it yet or how you'll take it, or if you'll even like it."

He was afraid to give her a gift? "Is it another gun?"

That must have broken a little of his tension, because he laughed, "no, it's not another gun."

"Then you should be fine. Whatever it is, Edward, I'm sure I'll love it because it's from you."

"It's not just from me. I'll explain all that afterward."

Bella waited patiently, looking at him, trying to figure out the reason for his nervous demeanor. He gazed back, the same little smile settling back on his lips.

"I knew," he began quietly, "from the first time I…dreamed…about you, that you were special. And after I finally met you, I knew that I would never be able to stay away from you. I've been waiting lifetimes to be with you…literally. And I'll wait a thousand more, if that's what I have to do." He paused again, for a short length of time, then he brought both his hands on top of the table, "but I'm hoping I won't have to wait that long…"

He trailed off, and Bella thought he said something else, but she couldn't be sure. Every bit of her attention was focused on a tiny, delicate object held firmly between his two thumbs and forefingers. It had a thin silver band, and two rows of tiny diamonds meeting in the middle to cradle a larger, round, diamond. It was a little old fashioned, but it was extremely beautiful, so beautiful it made her breath catch in her throat. And it seemed familiar. She knew she had seen it before. In this lifetime.

Bella was quiet for a long time. So long that Edward began to get worried. She stared at the diamond engagement ring, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw his smile disappear slightly, and his eyebrows rise up in the middle. She finally found her voice, "Edward…are you asking me…to…marry you?"

"Will you? It doesn't have to be soon. Whenever you want," he spoke quickly, his voice pleading.

"But we've only been together for a month."

His sense of humor surfaced, despite his worry, "are you sure?"

Bella smiled, thawing out a little. She looked away from the ring in his outstretched fingers to his face. It was an angel's face. As sweet and innocent as a child, yet etched with such emotion, that he might have been an old man. All her doubts drained away, and at that moment, she realized that this was what she was supposed to do, that marrying him was absolutely the right thing to do. She looked into his wide green eyes…the eyes that she had loved since the first moment she saw them, and knew that she wanted to see them until she was old and gray. She wanted them to be the first thing she saw in the morning, and the last thing she saw at night. And when she left this earth, those eyes were the last things she wanted to see.

Bella didn't speak at first, but pressing her lips together to keep from crying, she nodded her head, "yes," she finally whispered, "I have to marry you." And she knew that she never had a choice. She never wanted one.

Suddenly, Edward's face was lit up. His smile stretched across his face, all the way to his eyes, which were brimming with unshed tears. Without a moment of hesitation, he slid the ring onto her left hand, then stood and leaned over the table to kiss Bella, grasping the back of her neck, tightly, "thank you," he whispered, his face just an inch from hers, "I love you."

Bella giggled, "I love you too."

She kissed him again, quickly before he sat down, and sat looking at the diamond on her hand. She liked it there. It seemed just right. Edward held his hand out for hers, and she gave it to him.

They were quiet until the waitress came with our order. There were no words to for the emotions that they felt right then. 'I love you' seemed horrendously inadequate, so they sat without speaking, their smiles saying it all.

"Congratulations," the waitress was setting their plates down in front of them. At first, Bella wondered how she knew, then realized that she only had one other table besides theirs and had probably watched the whole thing.

"Thank you," Bella replied. Edward still seemed beyond words and nodded in her direction.

They ate for a while, trying to fill the silence with small talk.

"So you're telling me you had no idea at all?" He asked, incredulously.

Bella shook her head, "not at all. Isn't that how you wanted it?"

He smiled and seemed to forget his food, "are you ready to get out of here?" he asked abruptly.

"You know what? I am," Bella agreed, suddenly not hungry. She couldn't wait to go home and be alone with him. The waitress brought them a 'to go' box for their food, and while Bella was packing it up, Edward paid the bill at the bar. While he was helping her with her coat, his hand brushed along the back of her neck, raising the goose bumps on her arms.

"I almost hate to take you home and keep you to myself. You look really beautiful and I should be showing you off," he whispered in her ear as he adjusted the collar on her coat.

Bella took his hand and squeezed it as they stepped out into the early evening. He opened the door for her and before she got in, she reached up to touch his face. Three day's worth of five o'clock shadow, just the way she liked it.

"I'd rather have you keep me to yourself."

Edward was talkative on the way home, the excitement evident on his face. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning, and his energy was contagious. Bella was suddenly thinking about dresses and flowers and bridesmaids. Edward reminded her that he was in no rush, and that if she didn't want to get married right away, that was okay. Bella squeezed the hand that he was holding on his knee. Honestly, she knew it didn't matter if they got married tonight or in four years, there would be no change in her feelings for him. Her feelings would only get stronger with time.

Bella pretended to think for a moment, "well, for convention's sake, maybe we should wait a few months. June is always a nice month for weddings. Of course, fall is my favorite season. A Christmas wedding would be pretty, don't you think?"

Edward's face brightened, "that's not too long. I thought you were going to make me wait a long time."

Bella leaned her head on the back of the seat and turned her head to look at him, "At first, I thought about having it in June, but you know what? The weather is so perfect during late September that maybe that would be a good time."

He looked surprised, "at first? Just how long have you been thinking about this?"

Laughing, Bella replied, "oh, about a half hour."

Edward laughed too, "what do you think your family will say when you tell them that you're engaged to a man you've been with for about a month?"

"I don't know. I'm sure they'll be concerned, but as long as I'm confident, no one will say anything…to my face. They'll talk about it when I'm not around," Bella shook her head and chuckled, "what about your family?"

He raised an eyebrow at her, "my dad won't care. He loves you already. You know what he told me when they were over on Sunday?"

"Hmm?"

"He said that he saw you smile at me once and that you reminded him of my mom," Edward's voice was quiet when he said this and Bella was very sure that this seemingly insignificant fact held great importance for him. He continued, "and my mom likes you too," he looked at Bella out of the corner of his eye, "she told me during my regression last week."

Bella was not surprised, but asked, "what did she say about me?"

"Same thing my dad said, "don't mess this one up."

Bella laughed at him, not sure whether he was completely telling the truth or not. Maybe he was paraphrasing a little bit. She knew that his few minutes with his mom last week had been important to him, and probably intensely private. She knew he would tell her when he was ready.

They had left a light on in the living room when they left, and as they pulled in the driveway, the house looked warm and inviting, however warm and inviting turned to wary and nervous when Bella turned the door knob to enter the house.

"It's unlocked," she told Edward who was standing on the step below her with a hand on her waist.

The hand tightened a bit, and he looked over her shoulder, "what? I locked it when we left."

"I know, I double checked it."

Edward scooted in front of her, "stay behind me," he warned.

He slowly pushed the door open and Bella peered around his arm. The living room looked absolutely normal. Nothing was out of place. The furniture stood as it should, a new Rolling Stone Magazine still thrown haphazardly onto the coffee table. Edward stepped inside, and she stepped with him. The kitchen looked okay, too. Bella's laptop sat closed on the table, that day's mail was stacked neatly on the kitchen counter next to Bella's keys. Edward held her hand, but kept her behind him as he inspected first the spare room, then her bedroom. Nothing out of place in these rooms, either.

"What's going on?" Bella murmured.

"Maybe we just forgot?"

They were still standing in the doorway of her bedroom and her eyes scanned the room. When she glanced at her dresser, she let out a little cry. Her grandparent's picture was face down. Edward followed Bella this time as she went to stand it up again. Bella was glad she picked it up by the stand on the back of the frame, because when she did, the glass front stayed on the top of her dresser, in hundreds of tiny bits and pieces.

Bella gasped a little, at first, before she realized the picture was okay.

Edward put his hand on her shoulder, "Bell, I'm so sorry!"

She nodded, "it's okay, it's just the frame. The picture itself is fine."

"I wonder how it fell over in the first place," Edward wondered, as he looked around the room again.

"I don't know. But the glass wouldn't have broken like this if it just fell over, would it? I mean, it looks like it's been smashed."

Edward didn't say anything, he just shook his head. From the expression on his face, Bella could tell that he was worried.

Bella carefully cleaned up the glass and took the picture out of the ruined frame so that she could throw that away, too. As she pulled the picture away, a small slip of paper fell out from behind it. Curiously, she picked it up and read,

"Isabella, don't forget. Some things are meant to be and not even death can stop them. Love, Grandma"

She held the note, staring at the words Gram had said, not so long ago. Bella could hear Edward making another round through the house. His gun had not been disturbed, since it was locked up in the case on the top of the refrigerator, and he was taking it out of the case now, checking to make sure it was loaded.

She went to stand next to him by the table, "Edward look at this. It was behind Gram's picture."

He took the note from her and read it, "what does this mean?" he asked.

"She said those same exact words to me, just before Christmas, I think it was. I was at her house, and she noticed that I hadn't been myself," Bella had never admitted to Edward how depressed she had been during the two months from Thanksgiving to Gram's funeral when she didn't see him. She felt like it made her seem…desperate…or weak. "You know, I couldn't stop thinking about you, and I didn't know if I would see you again…I think she knew. At the time I thought she was talking about Grandpa, but now, I'm thinking it was something else."

Edward clicked the gun's safety on, and turned to put his arms around her, "I think she was a very wise woman."

Bella nodded, and felt her shoulders shake. She hadn't realized she was crying. Bella had been so caught up in being with Edward for the last few weeks, that she hadn't realized how much she missed Gram. It was hitting her now and more than anything she wanted to be able to go see her for lunch tomorrow, and take Edward with her. Edward held her tightly while she cried, and eventually, she pulled back a little and wiped her eyes.

Bella looked at Edward and his face was concerned, "you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. I just really miss her sometimes."

His face was sympathetic, "I know. I truly understand."

Bella knew that he was talking about his mother. She nodded, and after he leaned down to kiss her, they returned to their previous pursuits. Bella took a more recent picture of Rose, Jasper, and herself out of its frame and replaced it with Gram's so that the older one wouldn't get ruined.

Edward was standing in the doorway of the bedroom watching Bella do this and when she was finished, she looked at him and smiled, "good as new."

"Good as new," he repeated, and he took her hand and led her to the living room. He sat her on the couch and handed her a glass of wine. Bella looked at him, surprised. She didn't keep wine in the house on a regular basis. He shrugged, "it's still your birthday, and I was thinking that in the event you said yes, we would need to celebrate."

"In the event I said yes…" she repeated, scoffing, "like I would be able to say no!" But the sudden reminder of gifts had her jumping out of her seat, "oh, I forgot! There's something that I want to show you."

Bella left the room for a moment and returned with her gift for Edward. She sat next to him on the couch. "Now before I give this to you, let me warn you that it's not done yet." After a second, she handed him the manilla envelope that she had stowed the manuscript in.

Edward smiled and shook the envelope a little, "you want me to do your taxes?" He joked.

Laughing, she said, "no."

Edward laughed too, until he opened the envelope and saw what was inside. His forehead wrinkled as he frowned, and he picked up the thick packet of papers.

"It's not perfect," she told him, "but it's almost a complete rough draft, and I just started it a couple weeks ago."

He read the first page, and then the second and understanding spread over his face, "is this us?" he held up the two pages that he had finished in his hand.

Bella nodded, a little embarrassed, and took a drink for something to do. He didn't speak. Instead he put his wine glass down and sat back against the couch, holding out an arm so that Bella could cuddle into his side. He continued to read, and she read along with him, mentally making corrections that she would have to fix later.

After awhile, Bella got up to refill their glasses and Edward looked up to smile his glowing smile at her. "This is really good."

She blushed a little at the compliment and, leaving the wine bottle on the coffee table, settled back into his side. When he finished, he stacked the papers back up into a perfect pile and slid the manuscript back into the envelope, then he turned to face her.

"Wow. I'm really impressed. I can't wait to see what happens."

Bella giggled a little, "we'll have to wait awhile for that, right?"

Edward put a his fingers under her chin to lift her face to his, he leaned in, but before he kissed her, he said, "no. I know exactly how this ends. 'They will live happily ever after'." His right hand found Bella's left and touched the diamond that was settled on her ring finger.

He hadn't moved, so Bella closed the distance between their lips, moving the fingers on her left hand to entwine them with his. She pulled his right arm around her back and melted into him as his left hand moved from her chin to rake though the hair at the back of her neck. Her hands ran up his arms and around his shoulders, seemingly of their own accord. Bella opened her eyes, and saw that his were open, watching her. She felt his mouth turn up into a smile, but he didn't stop. His kisses were soft on her lips, her cheeks, her neck and occasionally she would hear a soft sigh escape from the back of his throat. Bella's desire for him was almost reaching the boiling point, and those sighs intensified the ache inside. She didn't want to waste the two seconds it would take to walk to the bedroom, so when he pushed her back on the couch, she didn't protest.

There was no better feeling in the world to Bella than the weight of Edward's body on hers. She instinctively threaded her legs around his and began thrusting her hips against his thigh, sighing loudly when she felt his erection thrusting against her own.

Edward broke the kiss momentarily, only long enough to pull Bella's sweater over her head. As soon as it was off, he slowly pulled her bra strap down her arm, following its path with his lips and tongue. In to time, her bra was off as well, and Edward licked her already hard nipple before blowing cool air onto it, making it stand up even more. Bella moaned and arched her chest towards him. Immediately, Edward dove back in, sucking as much of her breast into his mouth as he could while his hands began to wander around her thighs and under her skirt.

As soon as she could stand no more, Bella unbuttoned Edward's shirt, giving up three quarters of the way down and ripping it open, popping off the last two buttons. Edward stopped his ministrations and looked from his shirt to Bella, wide eyed. She just shrugged and giggled.

"God, that was hot!" He exclaimed before attacking her mouth, exploring it with his tongue. His thrusts became more insistent and his hands became slightly rougher. Their moans were getting louder. Edward quickly sat up to remove his own pants while Bella took those free moments to shed the rest of her clothes, as well.

Bella expected him to hover over her again, but was surprised when he sat back against the couch instead. With a soft smile on his face, Edward reached for her and pulled her to straddle him. "I want to see you, love," he murmured softly.

Hearing him groan loudly as she sank down on him was Bella's undoing. Her pace became frantic and Edward didn't seem to know where to put his hands. Or his eyes. For a moment he watched her breasts bouncing in front of his eyes, then he moved his eyes down to where they were joined. As his eyes moved down her body, his hands moved up, from her hips, over her breasts, to her face. He roughly pulled her face to his for an intoxicating kiss.

"Oh fuck, Bella...so good," he moaned against her neck. Bella was panting and he could feel her hot breath against his ear and face. "God, I love you Bella, I love you..."

As he spoke, Edward moved his hand between them and began to rub her aching nub. Bella was so close to her orgasm, just teetering on the edge of the abyss. "I love you too, baby," her voice was higher pitched than normal, almost a scream. "So close Edward...yes! Yes! Yes!" She chanted as she fell. Edward found his release moments later, grunting Bella's name into her hair.

Morning came early the next day. Bella wasn't sure what woke her up, and before she opened her eyes, she was confused at first as to where she was. Her back ached, and her pillow wasn't under her head. She knew this wasn't her bed. As consciousness came back to her, she began to remember last night and that she was on the living room floor, covered with the quilt from the back of her chair, with Edward sleeping beside her. Bella opened her eyes to see him still asleep. She watched him sleeping for a moment. As he slept, he smiled slightly, and she wondered what he was dreaming about. The room was still dark, except for the light that was coming from over the stove in the kitchen. The clock on the DVD player said it was only six in the morning. She was too achy to get comfortable, so she knew that more sleep was out of the question. She got up quietly, trying not to wake Edward. However, as she was pouring water into the coffee pot, she heard him stirring. Bella pushed the 'brew' button, went back over to where he lay and resumed her place next to him. He was just opening his eyes and for a second he looked as disoriented as Bella had felt. He smiled at her, though, as last night flooded back into his mind.

"Hey," he greeted her, "how long have you been up?"

She leaned in and kissed him, "not long. I was too achy to get back to sleep, so I started coffee."

He stretched and grimaced, "me too. I used to be able to sleep on the floor all the time when I was a kid." As he spoke, he put an arm around her back and moved closer to her, putting his chin on the top of her head, and rubbing her hair and back, "what time is it?"

Bella snuggled closer, " just after six."

Edward groaned, "I don't want to go to work today…"

She sighed, "I don't want you to, either. You have to go in at your normal time?"

She felt him nod his head, "yeah. I've been taking too much time off lately. You're a bad influence."

"I do what I can," Bella grinned.

Suddenly, he stopped rubbing her hair and pulled back to look at her, "will you be careful for me today? I don't know what happened last night, but it's making me nervous."

Bella thought about it seriously for a while, then nodded, "I'll go to Rose's and work. Do you want me to meet you somewhere for lunch?"

His face brightened at the suggestion, "sure, I'll let you know where I'll be around noon, and we can meet up." He kissed her then, and they picked up where they left off last night.

As promised, Edward called Bella exactly at noon, "I just left a job in Port Angeles, do you want to meet me at the McDonald's on Washington St.? My next job is just up the street from there."

Bella happily agreed. She was always glad when she was going to be able to see Edward in the middle of the day, "you know, Rose wasn't at all surprised when I showed her the ring this morning," Bella accused.

He laughed, "oh, that's right, I forgot to tell you about it, didn't I?"

"Yes, and she wouldn't tell me. She said you would tell me."

"Okay, at lunch. Everything going okay today?"

Bella knew what he meant, "so far, yes. Nothing strange going on."

"Okay, good. I'll see you in a few minutes then."

"I'll be there. Love you." Bella hung up the phone and shut down the computer.

Rose was just coming out of the bathroom where she was getting ready for work. When Bella arrived there, earlier that morning, Rose met her in the kitchen, her face excited. Her eyes immediately flickered to her left hand and when she saw the engagement ring, she squealed and grabbed Bella's hand, pulling it up to her face.

"I knew you'd say yes! You guys are just perfect together! When's the date?"

Bella had looked at her, shocked, "you don't seem surprised…"

"I'm not…he didn't tell you about the ring?"

"Um, no. We had a few strange things going on at the house last night, and he must have forgotten…" Bella then proceeded to fill her in on the unlocked door, the smashed picture frame, and the note behind the picture.

"Were you talking to someone?" Rose asked her now, wrapping her hair in a towel.

Bella held up her phone, "Edward called. I'm going to meet him for lunch."

"Oh, good. I feel bad not hanging out with you when you come here."

Bella laughed, "don't worry about it. I feel bad about ignoring you and working on my book, so it works out."

Bella waited in her car for a few minutes for Edward, but he showed up quicker than she had expected him to. They paid for their food and sat down. She tried to pay attention to calories when she ordered, since she was going to have to be seen in a wedding dress in just a few months.

"So, I've been thinking," Edward began as he sat down, "I was looking at the calendar at work and September 26th is a Saturday. That might be a good time for our wedding."

Bella smiled, glad that he was as excited as she was, "that sounds perfect. September 26th it is. So, are you going to tell me about this ring? Last night you said it wasn't just from you."

He shook his head, feigning disappointment, "I'm surprised you don't recognize it."

Bella stopped eating and studied it for a moment. The thin silver band had turned slightly and the round diamond on the top had slipped to the side of her finger. Suddenly seeing it this way reminded her of how Gram's ring had constantly slid around on her finger after she lost too much weight when she was sick a couple of years ago.

Bella sucked in a breath, "is this Gram's?"

Edward smiled brightly, "she gave it to your dad and told him that you were to get this ring when you got married. She knew you would love the gesture."

Bella's food was forgotten, and her vision was blurry with tears as she tried to stare at the ring. She wiped her eyes and looked at Edward, "you talked to my dad about marrying me?" She whispered. Edward nodded. "Thank you," she murmured.

He took her left hand and kissed it, "don't thank me," he said, "thank your grandmother and Charlie."

"This makes it even better. And I didn't think that was possible," Bella sighed.

Edward and Bella finished their food quickly, but happily, and all too soon, it was time for Edward to get back to work. They stood between his van and her car and he held both her hands in his. It was foggy out, and it was a thick, wet fog that dampened her hair, but she didn't notice. What she did notice was a thin sheet of paper tucked under the windshield wiper of Edward's work van, and flapping slightly in the breeze.

"What's that?" She asked, pointing.

Edward turned and pulled the paper out. It was damp, but still legible, apparently, because he read it, rolled his eyes, and sighed. Without a word, he handed it to Bella. His expression was irritated.

Hi Edward,

I was just driving by and I saw your van. Just wanted to say HI. I hope to talk to you soon. Love, Victoria

Bella didn't say anything, but she handed him the note. He angrily balled it up in his fist and stepped to the sidewalk to throw it away in the trash can by the door to the restaurant.

"I still wonder if she's following you," Bella complained.

He shook his head, "I don't know what to do…she's just not getting it." As he spoke, Bella reached up with her left hand to brush back some hair that had blown across her face. His eyes spied her ring, and he grabbed her hand, nodding, "I know just what to do," he mumbled. Bella looked mystified and he quickly explained, "I'll call her and tell her that I asked you to marry me. That should prove that I won't be taking her back. I'll have to call from the office, though, because I don't want my new number to show up on her caller ID. Did I tell you she called there looking for me yesterday?"

Bella frowned, "she did? Why?"

"I wasn't in, but the message said that she was worried because she tried to call me on the cell and it wasn't working," his usually kind eyes held a hint of anger.

"I bet she thinks I made you change your number."

He shook his head, disgustedly, and she was glad when he finally smiled again. Even if the smile did have a touch of irritation in it. He looked at his watch, "I've gotta go. And you have to get out of this weather, you'll get sick," he touched her damp hair.

"I'll be fine," she protested, "I'll see you later. Be safe." And she reached her head up to kiss him.

He kissed her back, "you be safe too," he finally said. And he quickly got into his van and sped away.

Bella spent the rest of the afternoon at Rose's, and got home in time to start dinner before Edward got home. She was standing at the sink, washing the few dishes that were in there when she noticed a small, green car slowly driving past the house. The sky was almost dusk, and she couldn't see the person driving, but it looked as if the person's head was turned towards her house. Bella was sure it was just someone out for a drive. Many times during nicer weather, people would drive by and slow down to gawk at Grandma's beautiful old farmhouse. Maybe it was someone who thought her cute little house looked comfortable and inviting, nestled between the apple trees, like she did.

However, when Bella saw that same car going past again, just a few seconds later, with the person's silhouetted head, once again turned in her direction, she began to feel uncomfortable. Edward would be home soon, but her eyes drifted to the top of the refrigerator, where that disturbing gun was nestled in its box. She had just finished the dishes, so she quickly let the water out of the sink and moved away from the window. Bella grabbed her cell phone off the counter and moved into her bedroom. Keeping the light off, she was able to look out of the blinds on her bedroom window without being seen.

It was growing darker by the minute, but she still recognized the shape of the green car when it appeared again. This time it stopped directly out from Bella's front door. She could still see the silhouette of the driver, and the head was definitely turned in Bella's direction.

She sent a text to Edward, but didn't want to alarm him. She simply said, "are you on your way?"

Edward replied, "yes, finally. I just got off the phone with Victoria. I'll tell you about it when I get there."

Bella didn't text back. She didn't want to take her eyes off the car that was still idling in front of her house. It only took Edward twenty minutes to get there from the office, so he shouldn't be any longer than seventeen or eighteen minutes. She kept her eyes on the car, just in case anyone got out. The car sat out there for almost five whole minutes, the driver not moving, just staring in her direction. When the car finally moved, Bella started breathing again, however her breathing stopped when it pulled into her driveway. If it had been light out, she would have been able to see the driver, but darkness had finally fallen, and all she could see were headlights. The headlights moved away from her as the car backed out of her driveway and disappeared down the road. Bella was still staring out the window a few minutes later when Edward's van came up the road and pulled into the driveway. She felt a shiver of relief roll down her spine, and she hurried out to the kitchen and opened the door for him. He smiled when he saw her standing in the doorway, but the smile faded when he saw the expression on her face.

"What is it?" he asked, immediately looking around the house behind her.

Bella pulled him into the house and locked the door behind him before she sat him at the kitchen table and told him about the car driving back and forth and then pulling to a stop in the middle of the road in front of the house.

His face was somewhat worried, but mostly angry. He stood up and paced around the kitchen, "I don't know what's going on. I don't like you being here during the day alone. If this doesn't stop, you're going with me to work next week."

Bella didn't protest and she didn't complain. She was too freaked out. She just nodded. Edward knelt down on the floor in front of her chair so he could look in her eyes. He took both of her hands, "we're going to figure this out, okay? No one's going to hurt you. I promise."

He was so sincere and determined, that Bella couldn't help but feel better. The nervousness that she had felt before he got home was disappearing fast, and she leaned forward to put her arms around his neck. She put her chin on his shoulder. "I know. I trust you. It was kind of scary, though. I wish I knew who it was."

"What did you say the car looked like?"

"It was a small green car. Kind of square, like an older type sedan."

He looked thoughtful and shook his head, "I don't know who it could be," he mumbled, sitting back in his own chair.

He helped her put dinner on the table, and as they were eating, he told her about his phone call to Victoria.

"As soon as she picked up, she started gushing about how worried she had been because she couldn't get a hold of me on my cell. I told her I had my number changed so she would stop harassing me. I don't think she even heard that part, because she was on to asking me how lunch was at McDonald's and did I get her note. I finally had to raise my voice. I'm glad the receptionist was gone for the day. I wouldn't want anyone to hear me talking like that."

"What did you say?" Bella asked. She remembered how he had sounded when he was shouting at Mr. Black during his past life regression, and suppressed a shudder.

"I told her to leave me the hell alone. I told her that I had asked you to marry me, and that we are engaged, and that I would not be coming back to her. I said I didn't want to talk to her on the phone, and I didn't want any notes left on my van, and if I saw her on the street, I would cross to the other side, just to avoid her."

Bella almost felt sorry for her, "harsh," she commented.

He nodded, "I hated to be that way, but it had to be done. She was calling too much and leaving notes on my van was just ridiculous."

Bella nodded too, "do you think she got the point?"

"I hope so. She said, 'oh, I didn't realize you were that serious about her. If that's the way you feel, you won't hear from me again.' I didn't like the way she said you. As if someone else would be hearing from her," and he gestured at Bella with his fork.

Bella stiffened, a thought suddenly occurring to her, "you don't think…what kind of car does she drive?"

"She drives a white SUV," but he had stopped eating and was looking at her intently.

"Do you think she knows anyone with a small green car?" Bella wondered.

"I have no idea what kind of cars her friends drive," he sounded frustrated.

Edward didn't let Bella out of his sight that night, not that her house is so huge that she could be out of his sight for longer than a minute. Just before bed, he donned his boots and jacket and trekked out into the freezing weather to walk around the house and make sure everything was as it should be. He came back in the house, shook the snow off of himself and shrugged, "Everything looks fine out there, to me," but he pulled the gun case off the refrigerator, unlocked it and put it on the floor just under the edge of his side of the bed.

It took Bella a long time to get to sleep that night. Edward didn't sleep well, either. Bella saw him get up a few times and peek out the blinds at the night. He must have been responding to something she couldn't hear, because all she could hear was the wind blowing across the eaves, making an ominous moaning sound. Bella must have fallen asleep at some point during the night, because she had the snake dream again. She had an armful of apples, and was trying to climb down from the tree, but that snake kept nipping at her ankles. He would slither away and she would just about get to the ground, but he would appear out of nowhere and she would have to yank her foot back up to keep it from his sharp, venomous fangs. The dream felt like it lasted for hours, Bella trying to outsmart the snake, and the snake always figuring out her plan. No matter what she tried, he was always inches away from sinking his poison into her skin. She heard Edward calling her name in the distance, and she wanted to call out to him, to tell him to stay away, or the snake would get him, too, but her voice wouldn't come out. She couldn't make a sound above a whisper. "Edward, no!" Bella shrieked in a whisper, "watch out for the snake!" She peered down from the tree, into the snake's open mouth. But her eyes slid past the dripping fangs, to the snake's abnormally long body and tail, and there was Edward, wrapped up in its horrendously long coils, white, lifeless, dead. Bella screamed and this time the sound came out loud and clear. So loud, that it woke her up, and she burst into consciousness, wide-awake and sweating. She was still screaming when she saw Edward's face above hers, his eyes wide and full of fear.

"Bella, wake up," he said urgently, "it's okay. It was just a dream. Shh, shh, it's okay," his hand was brushing her hair back, soothing her.

Bella was breathing and sweating like she had just run a marathon, and her pulse was thudding in her ears. She looked wildly around the room, then back to Edward's anxious face. She began to relax slightly, as the dream faded away. She put her arms around Edward and pulled him down, close to her. She didn't want him to be even an inch away.

"Are you all right?" He whispered in her ear.

Bella exhaled in a shudder, "yes. It was just the snake dream again. But this time, I looked down…from the tree and it had you…wrapped in its…coils, and you were…dead," she shuddered again, as she remembered his white, dead skin.

He squeezed her closer and said, "it's okay. I'm right here."

Bella clung to him for a long time, but neither fell asleep again. They lay quietly, listening to each other breathing until the sun came up. They got up too, and made breakfast.

As they were eating, Edward tried to change the subject to a happier one. He smiled as brightly as he could and said, "so where do you want to have the wedding? We should probably decide, since we only have seven months."

The subject easily pulled her away from the nerve-wracking thoughts about her dream and about the mysterious stranger who had been watching her house, "I don't know. I've always wanted to get married outside, but I don't know if we would be able to trust the weather."

Edward nodded, "I was thinking, maybe we could do it on the lawn at Rose's. The trees on the lawn are lined up perfectly to make an aisle for you to walk down."

Bella smiled wistfully, "just like Jake and Marie?"

He raised an eyebrow, "they got married there?"

"I think that's what Gram said," Bella replied, trying to remember the story.

"Or we could do it at your church..."

"Do you want to go on a honeymoon?"

He shrugged, "is there any place in particular you want to go? I could stay here, as long as you're here with me."

Bella smiled as she ate, "you always know what to say. I bet you can really pick up girls at the bar, huh?"

His face turned slightly red and an embarrassed smile spread across his face, "I never really went out trying to pick up girls."

Laughing, Bella got up to clear the table, knowing full well that he could pick up any girl he had a mind to.

The weekend was uneventful. No more mysterious cars outside the house, nothing passing by the window through the backyard, and since they had changed their cell numbers, no unwanted phone calls for either of them. They skipped lunch at Carlisle's on Sunday, instead opting to stay in bed. It was cold for March, and the high temperature that day was supposed to be five degrees. Couple the temperature with the howling wind, and a nice warm bed seemed doubly inviting.

XXXXX

Dun dun dun... the plot thickens!

Please review and tell me what you think!

I know this update came early, but this week I have a paper due and a final exam in one of the classes I'm taking, so I don't know if I'll get to update until next week.

This week's recc: "His Personal Assistant" by NorthernLights 17. If you like Bossward and Assistantella, this is a great one for you. Very Hot!