A/N: I'm back! Firstly, I would like to announce to you all that I am on Pottermore. I gained early admission to the site. My name is RoseSpell35, and I was sorted into Gryffindor. If you happen to register with the site and would like to add me, please feel free.
For the people who have just randomly opened this story, if you haven't read The Secret Keeper or The Wisdom Seeker yet, I suggest you check those out first, or you won't know what the bloody hell is going on. Cheers!
A white bolt flashed through the trees up ahead. My limbs pumped furiously as I silently tracked it through the ancient wooden maze. Like a spectre, it disappeared in an instant, vanishing as suddenly as it had appeared. Not that that mattered, of course. I didn't need glimpses to find my way; scents and sounds were more than sufficient. A savage beat thudded in my ears, calling out like the primitive pounding of drums. The sound was the most vital one I knew—raw, unsophisticated and utterly holy as it echoed back from its source.
Warped roots and snake-like vines disappeared beneath my feet as I surged through the underbrush, the whistling air the only evidence of my flight. My family were equally silent as they followed me through the forest. Together, we moved like homing missiles, locked onto a shared target.
Another chalky streak danced across my vision, urging me on as it twisted in and out of towering columns. That sight alone inspired another surge of fierce power. It gripped my muscles more fiercely than ever, blasting through my thighs and torso. The speed was so great that I could barely differentiate between my own movements and those of the world around me. It was almost as if everything else was on fast-forward while I remained as still as ice, watching it all blur together around me.
The creature I pursued couldn't escape; she wasn't fast enough for that. Until now, I'd kept a careful distance, allowing her space as she tore her way over the earth. My instincts told me her hunt was almost over though. Her prey was close, and in mere minutes, she would be upon it, unrepentantly absorbing its life force―an almighty sight to behold.
The animal inside me refused to miss it.
I slowed as I caught up with her, as did the others. Bella, too, had decelerated, her movements commanded by the predatory instincts of the lioness.
We hadn't set out from the house with a hunt in mind. Our only purpose had been to explore the forest. Soon it would be Bella's hunting territory, and we decided it would be wise to familiarise her with the area and its trails before she was turned. On top of that, I just wanted to see the lioness. She was another facet of Bella's character that continued to fascinate me.
We had covered seven miles before the shift in Bella's intent. Instinct had suddenly overpowered everything else as the lioness registered her hunger, and as if by fate, less than a minute later, our path intersected a fresh trail. The white creature reacted instantly, her claws digging into the dirt to halt her journey, right before she launched east, her mind caught in an inescapable maelstrom of bloodlust.
My family had arrived ten minutes later, after Alice declared that Bella was about to embark upon her first hunt. However civilised we had taught ourselves to be over the decades, we were all predators at heart, and none of us could deny the appeal of watching the animagus as she learned to trust her most basic impulses.
She's a natural, Carlisle observed, peeking around the mossy trunk of an old spruce. I nodded in acknowledgement, my eyes glued to Bella's every movement.
The ground was rocky and uneven, acclivitous with brown and grey jagged stone protruding up through the earth's skin like giant fingernails, most large enough to hide the creeping feline. My gaze wandered to the incline's peak. At the top, a gang of elk were grazing peacefully, sheltered from the wet weather by a fanning emerald canopy. Silently, I crept forwards. If I was going to watch the hunt to its gory conclusion, I was determined to see it play out from the best possible angle. For that, I needed to get closer.
Bella remained in front, moving stealthily towards her prey. Her footsteps were quiet to begin with, but beneath the muffling pitter-patter of raindrops, the herbivores never stood a chance. With her head close the ground, her shoulder-blades forming sharp ridges, she edged her way up the slope, following the rocks and roots offering effective concealment.
It was adrenaline, rather than physical exertion, which now fed the furious beat emanating from within her chest. Her heart didn't slow its pace as she slinked towards the elk, nor did her muscles relax as her belly skimmed the rocks she crept over. Despite my lack of a heartbeat, that was one reaction I completely understood, because with every step that Bella took, my own excitement escalated to the point where I struggled to control my breathing. My chest trembled as the air left my lungs, while my fingers ground into the bark of the tree concealing me.
When only fifteen feet separated her from the grazers, Bella halted. I licked my lips, watching in amazement as her golden eyes swept the gang. To an experienced predator, her intent was obvious. She was searching for the weak link—attempting to pinpoint the easiest target.
I heard her decision the moment she made it. Her golden eyes landed quickly on a bull drifting close to the edge of the group. It was smaller than the others—not a calf, but certainly not fully grown either—possessing all the traits of adolescence, its neck less bulky than those of the other bulls, with antlers covering a smaller area.
That's it, girl, Emmett thought. He crouched down beside me, having followed with the others from the base of the hill. When his attention shifted briefly to me, he threw me the kind of smirk he used to wear before Quidditch games. I returned it with one of my own. Jasper appeared equally exhilarated, his irises glittering like winter frost as the lioness' limbs coiled to spring.
What happened in the following seconds was almost impossible to describe, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to do justice to the images that flooded my vision.
Like elastic bands, the witch's muscles snapped, flinging her forwards in a moment of pure, glorious instinct. The entire thing was mesmerising, visceral and lovely. If the peace were glass, then Bella was the bullet that shattered it. Chaos poured from her roar, infecting the animals as she ripped through their gang.
The elk scattered, panic flooding their limbs. Similarly, the doomed bull whipped away in an instant, his legs pounding frantically in a bid to escape. The lioness sped after him, her black lips curling back over monstrous teeth. Her target had barely managed twenty feet when she thrust herself through the air, her arms flying out in front of her, steely claws poised to strike. In the next second, those razor-sharp weapons slammed mercilessly into her prey's back, provoking a short-lived wail. In an expert manoeuvre, she lunged at its neck, violently sinking her teeth into the waiting flesh. The impact of the collision sent the pair flying, and, together, they curled through the air at a treacherous speed. Bella controlled the fall as perfectly as an experienced lioness, pulling her prey to the ground in an unyielding embrace. She rolled with the elk until they lost momentum, refusing to break contact even after coming to halt by the roots of a giant hemlock.
At first, the bull struggled. As was only natural, it tried desperately to free itself, kicking its legs at the air. Its thrashing, however, soon gave way to frenzied twitching as its asphyxiated body used up the last of its oxygen supply. Finally, the elk's heart stuttered once, and then fell quiet after giving its final beat.
It was only when the spark disappeared from its beetle-black eyes, leaving behind two cold, depthless orbs, that I realised I had stopped breathing. A bloody scent exploded up my nose when I finally inhaled, overpowering the more appealing aroma coming from my Singer. With its arteries sliced open, sanguine liquid spilling out in a scarlet fountain, the elk's pungent scent was the strongest in the area.
Bella loosened her iron grip with a grunt, shifting until she hovered over the bull's abdomen. I watched in awe while she sank languorously to the floor, clearly relaxed as she plunged her teeth into her prey's belly.
Incredible, Carlisle thought, his mind an echo of my own. She doesn't even seem to mind the blood.
I hummed. "She likes it."
"Well, of course she does," Alice whispered excitedly. "She's a lioness. What were you expecting?"
Bella seemed unconcerned with our presence. She checked over her shoulder a few times after hearing our advance, but didn't react beyond that. I seated myself on a dome-shaped rock three metres from the carcass, mesmerised by the spectacle. The lioness went straight for the heart, tearing it to pieces bit by bit. She ate with gusto, rarely bothering to chew her food, and quickly moved on to the liver and kidneys.
"Damn, she must be hungry," Emmett chuckled when Bella moved onto the hind quarters, stripping the meat from the dead creature's thighs.
Jasper grinned. "Sure looks that way."
The conversation was evidently uninteresting to Bella, who continued to tear at her kill without paying my brothers any attention. An enraged shriek suddenly shattered the serene atmosphere, however, instantly thrusting Bella into a state of alertness. She jolted at the noise, spinning to face the source, her body ducking reflexively into a defensive crouch.
Alice stared back at her with a mask of sheer horror, causing panic to stir deep in my chest. I immediately flung myself into her mind, searching for the reason for her outburst. When I realised precisely how ridiculous she was being, the urge to roll my eyes was far too strong to resist.
"Alice," I groaned, holding my ground as my sister turned to me with a frosty glare. Her lips were pinched at the corners, a sign of her rage.
"Don't 'Alice' me, Edward!" she huffed, her hands flying to her hips. "I've worked much too hard to have your fiancée ruin things for me now!"
I'm sure the disbelief was clear on my face. My eyebrows must have shot half way up my forehead as I absorbed the psychic's audacious remark. "Ruin things for you? Alice, it isn't even your wedding!"
She waved me off as if this was completely irrelevant. "If you think I'm going to let Bella look anything less than perfect, you're insane. I can't have everyone thinking I'm losing my touch. This is important to me, Edward!"
I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose and clenching my eyes in an attempt to block out my annoying little sister. Alice didn't enlighten our family as to the cause of her sudden displeasure, so when I finally opened my eyes, I was met with six pairs of confused stares, Bella's included.
Why? she asked, her head tilting to the side.
I frowned, running a hand through my untameable hair. "It's just Alice being her irritating self," I explained, thus earning a delicate grunt from said pain in my neck. "She's concerned about your dress fitting. Apparently, if you continue to satisfy your appetite, transforming back into a human will be too uncomfortable, and you'll end up spending the next two and a half days as a lion."
Bella's eyes practically glimmered with amusement. So?
Her indifference made it difficult to suppress a smile. "So Alice won't get to use you as her human Barbie."
My sister stomped her foot, bearing her teeth in the process. "Argh! Am I the only one who cares about this wedding? Why does no one seem to understand the process? The process, Edward, the process!"
"But you've already had four fittings Alice," I whined. "Why do you need another?"
"Bah! Perfection!" The others seemed to find some comedy in the fashionista's abrupt tirade, their lips pressing into hard lines, but I personally saw nothing funny in it. Bella appeared to be in agreement, because she looked less than impressed as she stared at her future sister-in-law.
Alice turned from me to focus her attention on the lioness, one foot tapping against the floor, her hands pressed to her hips. After a few seconds, the tapping turned into violent crunching as she ground her purple Louboutins against the pebbles scattering the dusty earth.
Oh dear, thought Jasper, listening to the sound made by his wife's pumps. That's not good.
My eyes flicked to the empath. "You make it sound like Morse code."
With a smirk, he shrugged. More or less. Tapping usually indicates irritation, and the speed in between each one reveals the extent of it. It's when they start grinding their heels that you really have to worry. That, right there, is a danger signal, my friend. Rosalie does it too.
Huh. "I hadn't noticed."
Obviously. If you had, you'd know that shoe-loving women will only risk damaging their babies when they're seriously pissed.
My gaze drifted fleetingly over my sisters and mother, performing a brief inspection of their current footwear. Rosalie wore red open-toed wedges, while Esme sported emerald kitten heels. I bit my lip when I realised that both pairs were in perfect condition, and moved my attention back to the empath, who nodded his head as if to say 'I told you so'.
I had lived alongside the women long enough that I accepted my brother's explanation. How anyone could get so worked up over material possessions, though, was beyond me. Then, of course, I realised that their adoration for all things Gucci slash Armani slash Jimmy Choo (and so on) wasn't all that different from my love for my car. The Vanquish was my baby, and I would personally hang, draw and quarter anyone stupid enough to endanger it. Rosalie had come close once, right after Bella came crashing into our lives. Alice had had a vision of her intentions, and although my car sat safely in the garage, pristine and unscathed, it still hurt to remember the image of my beautiful, curvy Aston Martin maimed and blazing, a column of thick, inky smoke spewing from its engine. With a violent shudder, I pushed the memory aside.
Bella was still staring intently in my direction, completely ignoring Alice in the process. As much as I wanted to spare her from the pain of enduring my sister, the psychic's resolve, to put it lightly, absolutely terrified me. She was a tenacious little thing when it came to clothes, and I wouldn't have been shocked in the slightest to find her stuffing the lioness into a wedding dress as a last resort.
"You'd better turn back," I told Bella with a sigh, "before Alice kills us both."
The lioness released a low yowl, seeming distraught. Clearly, she didn't want to play dress-up.
"Bella," Alice said in warning. A rumble issued from within the witch's chest as she stared with resentment at my sister. Reluctantly, she rose from her hind legs, the tension collecting in her muscles the moment before her transformation.
I could never get tired of watching Bella change her shape. The metamorphosis was beautiful in its fluidity, one form moving freely into another like living origami. In a second it was over. The girl jumped from the skin of the cat, shooting straight to her feet.
She smiled sweetly upon resuming her natural form, her chocolate eyes fixed solely upon me. I froze instantly. Her jaw was smeared with blood, crimson and wet. It was all over her, spattered on her cheeks, and dripping from her chin onto her creamy chest. My eyes worked of their own accord, following the claret trickle disappearing beneath the flimsy cotton of her blouse.
I was gone. Wild. Completely consumed by the image before me! There she stood, dripping blood, and I couldn't look away. God, how I wanted to lick it off her! In the recesses of my conscience, a small voice screamed that my reaction to the image was unacceptable: I was a gentleman for Christ's sake! That sight shouldn't have affected me the way that it did―not at all―but as my eyes travelled over the face of the girl covered in the blood of her kill, I realised that I was … excited. The vampire in me enjoyed it, relished and savoured the image before me. All that pent up sexual frustration, a product of my upbringing, was suddenly begging to be unyoked from my early nineteenth-century morals.
Barely a second had passed since her transformation when Bella's heart flew into overdrive, accelerating from a gentle thud to a heavy pounding. The scent of adrenalin wafted through the air as it surged in her bloodstream. Excitement and fear danced simultaneously in the chocolate pools of her eyes as realisation took hold. Slowly—ever so slowly—her gaze dropped from my face, not stopping until it landed on her willowy hands, both of which were stained crimson.
Her chest heaved as I waited with the others for her reaction.
She looked surprised, as if she couldn't believe that she had been the one to kill the creature laid out beside her. When her eyes caught it in her periphery, she gasped, almost losing her footing as she spun to stare at it.
"Is she going to hurl?" Emmett asked, his voice so low that Bella had no way of hearing it. Alice shook her head in response. Bella shuddered, carefully raising her hand to her mouth as her eyes drifted out of focus.
"Did I really …" I waited for her to continue, but she simply trailed off, giving no indication that she would finish her question. Her gaze flitted back to me, her brow furrowing as she took in my expression. I wasn't sure what she saw there. As much as I tried to control it, I was powerless. Every modicum of concentration was reserved for holding myself in place. That feat was made all the more difficult when her tongue darted out to lick her blood-coated lips. Her reaction was nothing like that of the school girl who had fainted at the sight of a pinprick. I suppose the lioness balanced out that natural fear with the force of her elation.
As I studied the witch, I realised that that was entirely the case. Her expression held such a mixture of emotion that there was no way it couldn't be, for while her sparkling eyes reflected the huntress' delight, everything else screamed vulnerability. She was a vampire's dream.
Part of me felt sickened by my response, because there was no way on earth that anyone at all should take such pleasure in seeing the object of their affections covered in blood. A greater part of me, however, never wanted to forget the image. It appealed to the deepest and darkest of my vampiric desires.
A forced cough from Jasper snapped me from my trance. When I caught the smirk creeping onto his face, evidence of his amusement, I sheepishly averted my eyes.
That's right, I thought to myself, let's all laugh at Edward, one hundred and six going on seventeen. So I'm a late bloomer. Give me a break!
While my brother found my adolescent reactions funny after decades of celibacy, I had never been so frustrated in all my life. I couldn't allow myself to dwell on that though, not while Bella looked so conflicted; and so I pushed my selfish thoughts to the back of my mind, before slowly advancing upon the girl in question.
With guarded eyes, she watched my approach. Her mind had gone into lock down once again, and while I had no idea of what was going on beneath the surface, I knew it was essential that I keep my movements slow and casual. I didn't want to alarm her, after all.
She flinched as I ripped a strip of fabric from the sleeve of my shirt, and I couldn't help but chuckle at her sudden skittishness. That, at least, seemed to put her a little at ease. Her shoulders relaxed, and a gentle smile crept onto her face.
"Are you all right?"
After a few seconds, she nodded. "I'm not sure what happened back there. I just … I couldn't help it." She brushed her hands through her hair, grimacing when her fingers got caught. Where her mahogany tresses had been sprayed with blood, which was presently congealing from exposure, the stands were now sticky and knotted. Bella sighed. "At least I can empathise now, if only a little."
I smiled sadly. "True. In that way, I suppose this was good practise for you. At least you know now what to expect. What you just experienced won't be all that different to the kind of hunt you'll undertake as a vampire. Instinct takes over to the point where it's almost impossible to stop."
"You're not helping my confidence here," Bella frowned, shifting uncomfortably. I shrugged, not wanting to lie to her. I lifted the rag to her mouth, suppressing my teenage emotions as I ran it along the length of her jaw. Without saying a word, she allowed me to clean away the blood. I felt the weight of her gaze as I concentrated on my task. Her eyes never left my face, even when my hand descended to dab at her collar bone.
I wasn't entirely sure that my family leaving was a wise idea. I was having enough trouble as it was when it came to restraint, so when they silently departed, things got a whole lot worse. My eyes felt as if they'd been injected with lead, because they continued to drift lower and lower, until they finally fell upon the low neckline of her white peasant blouse. The fabric had absorbed the blood oozing down her chest, resulting in angry red stains which would be impossible to remove without magical assistance. Gently, I stroked away the blood from Bella's chest. Her heart immediately flew into overdrive, banging furiously beneath my wandering hands.
It was incredibly satisfying to know the effect I had on her, even now, two and a half years since our first encounter.
"We should get back," I murmured, still unable to lift my eyes. Control yourself, Edward! What would your mother think? "Alice will be back for you if we take much longer." Stop staring at her chest, for Christ's sake!
My eyes snapped back up to the witch's face. Her cheeks were the colour of strawberries, and her mouth formed a small 'o' as she stared at me with wide eyes. Despite her evident shock, she didn't look offended by my blatant ogling. In fact, as the seconds ticked by, she seemed to grow a little smug, a tiny smirk tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Ahem, shall we be going then?" she asked.
Yes, before I do something I regret. I nodded in agreement, before holding my hand out. "We should probably apparate. Alice is impatient."
"Aren't we all?" Bella grumbled. She waved me off when I curiously arched an eyebrow, quickly grabbing my hand, before pulling us both into the blackness.
We appeared on Charlie's doorstep not a second later, immediately greeted by a chorus of cheers coming from the living room, where Bella's father was currently immersed in TV sports with Seth, Billy and Jacob.
"Bella's back!" Seth called. He and the others looked back over their shoulders as we made our way inside. Their casual cheer was quickly interrupted, though, replaced with horror as they took in Bella's dishevelled appearance.
"What the hell happened?" Charlie demanded, bolting from his chair. I cringed as he stomped towards us, realising I should have suggested a shower at my place first. Not together, of course. Although …
Argh! Get a grip, you filthy pervert! God, there was something wrong with me. Bella's father was practically having a panic attack right before my eyes, and all I could seem to think about were the sinful things I could do to his daughter.
In the shower, a little voice whispered in my head. On the piano.
I had to get out. I couldn't stay there, not with the sudden direction my thoughts were taking. I had get away—far, far away—where my wanton imaginings could do no harm. Charlie was still waiting for an explanation, but I wasn't the one he'd be hearing it from.
"I, um, I just remembered I, er, have stuff to do," I babbled, earning the attention of Bella, who had a crease forming between her eyes. She looked like she barely recognised me, as if I'd grown a second nose or something.
"Edward, are you alright?"
No, I'm not! "Absolutely, never better! Except I'm starving," I added, in a rubbish attempt to conjure an excuse.
"But you're eyes are gold. They're nowhere near black yet."
Nice one, Edward. You total imbecile. "I know, but watching you take down that elk gave me an appetite." Decent save at least.
Charlie's eyes bugged in their sockets.
Bella went hunting, Seth realised, his face lighting up like a Christmas tree. Understanding hit Jacob in the same moment. He didn't say anything, but he made a quick study of Bella's appearance, taking in her bloody shirt and matted hair.
"What is going on, Bella?" Charlie demanded.
"Uh? Oh, nothing. I just went hunting with the Cullens, that's all. I was practising and I took down an elk. No biggie." After she waved her father off, who gawked openly at her blasé attitude, Bella turned back to me. Before she could ask me again if there was something the matter with me, I hastily crushed my lips to hers, pulling back almost instantly, before bidding her farewell and spinning for the door.
At no point did I turn to check her reaction, but I imagine it somewhat resembled her father's. I cursed myself the whole way home, muttering words under my breath that I rarely permitted myself to speak; 'idiot' and 'moron' were the tamest of the lot.
Only Emmett and Jasper were at home when I stormed through the front door. Their thoughts told me they were waiting for me at Alice's request. Apparently, I needed some 'man time', whatever the hell that meant. Emmett was perched on the bottom step of the staircase, a massive grin pasted across his irritating face, while Jasper stood smugly to the side, his posture more relaxed than was normal for him.
I stomped past them, heading straight for my piano. Of course, I then remembered the idea I'd had earlier, about Bella being sprawled out on top of it, and that made me even angrier. Impassioned chords and black notes blared through the room as I slammed my fingers down onto the keys, translating my frustration into sound for all to hear: Chopin – Polanaise in C minor Op 40 No. 2 to be specific, though I'd been sorely tempted by Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. It certainly would have been fitting.
Unfortunately, the instrument didn't block out Emmett's booming laughter. I threw him a scathing glance, hoping it would wither him, but of course it didn't. Emmett was like the sun: I could glare at him for as long as I pleased, but he'd keep on shining regardless.
"You've never been this bad," Jasper concluded, measuring my emotions. My hands fell from the keys, dropping to my sides. A loud groan echoed up my throat as my head fell against the piano, resulting in a discordant protest.
"I feel like a pubescent, high school degenerate."
"'Bout time," Emmett chuckled. "That's one more thing we have in common."
I rolled my eyes. "Great."
"Come on," said Jasper, clapping a hand on my shoulder. "Let's go unwind."
With a sigh, I relented, rising from the bench, before following my brothers out of the house. We flew through the forest after clearing the river, running for almost an hour. It was exactly what I needed though, and I felt the tension slip from my body with every stride I took, but I was still distracted, completely lost in my own thoughts. It was for that reason that Emmett came closer to flooring me than ever before.
We had just reached Mount Rainier, passing into a dewy glade dominated by a large pond, when he whirled blindingly fast on the spot, and dived at me. I yelled in surprise and threw out my arms, grabbing hold of his limbs as he flew, before swinging him left, right into the trunk of a nearby hemlock, which snapped instantly under the pressure, forcing dirt and dust particles into the air as it hit the ground.
"What the hell, Emmett?"
My brother laughed, climbing back to his feet. "Just trying to help you relieve some stress, Edward. I know Bella could probably do it better than us, but until you say 'I do', I guess me and Jazz will have to suffice. Basically, for the next five days, we're at your service!"
With a frown, I crossed my arms. "And how exactly do you intend to help me?"
Jasper shrugged. "Alice suggested male bonding. I'm assuming she means wrestling, hunting and showering you with invaluable advice."
"Advice about what?" I asked, knowing I'd probably regret doing so. I was right.
"Advice about how to please your woman, man," Emmett chortled. "We have years of experience at your disposal. All you have to do is ask."
At Emmett's announcement, I gawked. There was no other word for it. I gawked. An awkward silence settled in the clearing we'd stopped in. Luckily, Jasper was there to diffuse the tension. He soaked it up like a sponge, until the atmosphere was considerably lighter.
I slumped to the ground, using my arms as pillows as I settled onto my back. My brothers did the same, Emmett on my left and Jasper on my right. Together, we stared up at the murky sky, which was rolling with layers and layers of bulging grey clouds. All in all, it contributed to rather oppressive atmosphere. The air was thick and heavy, muggy even by Fork's standards, not that it really bothered me or my brothers. The light, too, was weak at best, the sun's rays unable to sufficiently penetrate the grim blanket. It didn't matter that nightfall was at least five hours away, not when the skies were so intent on stealing the daylight.
I sighed. "All right, tell me."
"Tell you what?" pressed the empath.
"I don't know," I shrugged. "I have no idea what I'm even supposed to ask."
My brothers waited patiently while I arranged my thoughts. During our meeting with the sphinx, we had discovered that Bella would make it through the honeymoon. That knowledge was one of the primary factors in my dwindling restraint. The only thing that kept me from throwing everything to the winds now was the promise of Renesmee. I had to time everything perfectly, or I might never know the daughter I already loved. Before we could even get to that stage, however, I first had to ensure Bella's safety. Just because I knew I wouldn't kill her, there was nothing to stop me from accidentally injuring her. On top of that, how could I ensure that she would enjoy it?
What if I turned out to be no better than the countless boys I had encountered in my lifetime, most of whom laboured under the false impression that they were gods between the sheets? In reality, the thoughts of their conquests revealed entirely the opposite. If there was anything I had learnt from the inane internal chattering of adolescent minds, it was that women were usually left wanting in their early sexual encounters. The men they bedded had absolutely no idea of what they needed―of where or how to touch them. Most teenage boys thought that girls were like light-bulbs, with one switch that could be triggered almost instantly. Despite their clumsy, inexperienced hands, those boys were convinced of one thing if nothing else: their unfaltering sexual prowess. Some mistakenly believed that their entire lives without ever undergoing improvement, never realising that their partners gave them Oscar worthy performances in every intimate exchange.
The irony of my circumstances hit me all at once, leaving me to bark out my sudden laughter. My brothers stared at me with raised eyebrows, evidently awaiting an explanation.
"Isn't it typical? Here I am, perhaps more equipped than any other man on earth to give a woman exactly what she desires, and fate pairs me with Bella, the one girl I want, but can't hear."
Emmett chuckled. "That's usually how it goes. You're right though: if Bella weren't a mental mute, you could be like Mel Gibson in that movie with Helen Hunt. Instead, you'll be fumbling in the dark like any other guy."
"Not necessarily," Jasper disagreed. He chewed thoughtfully at his lip while I threw him a puzzled frown. There's nothing to stop Bella from lowering her shield. Have you two ever even talked about it?
"Are you kidding me, Jazz? It's hard enough to get Bella to open up at the best of times. How on earth would I convince her to let me in during that?"
"He has a point though," Emmett mused, easily following the exchange. "If you haven't talked about it already, you should do. You don't have long before the wedding. You should plant the idea soon while Bella still has time to think on it. The worst that can happen is she says no; the best that can happen is she agrees and the two of you have mind-blowing sex."
Somehow, I managed to suppress the urge to fidget. Discussing this topic with my brothers wasn't exactly the easiest thing in the world, but they seemed completely unaffected. At the first sign of my discomfort, Jasper used his gift to help me relax.
"Em's right," he said. "On top of all that, you'd know when you were hurting her. If you tell Bella it would put your mind at ease, I'm sure she'd consider it. She wants you to enjoy it as much as you do her, after all. You'll just have to be persuasive."
I bit my lip, but conceded swiftly. They had a point. I would talk to her about it tonight. "Alright," I nodded, "but let's say she says no. That's going to make things far more difficult. Knowing Bella, she'll put on a brave face and won't tell me when I'm doing something wrong."
Emmett released a heavy sigh, before turning his head to look at me. It never ceased to surprise me how he could act like a complete child one minute, and then switch entirely in the next. Despite his nature, he could be mature when the occasion called for it, and when that happened, there was wisdom painted across his countenance as clear as that belonging to Jasper or Carlisle.
"Look, Edward, either way, you're still going to have to hurt her. You know the mechanics as much as the next person. It will be painful for her at first, and there's nothing you can do to change that. The only thing you can do is try to alleviate it as much as possible."
I preferred it when you were acting like a child, I decided, not liking his logic, however accurate or sound I knew it to be. Still, I couldn't deny the truth of his words, so I asked him to elaborate.
A wide grin spread across his face, until it was practically touching his eyes on either side, both of which held a wicked gleam. He leaned in, as if to convey something of great import, and winked. "Foreplay."
I blinked dumbly. "I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me," he chuckled, shifting away again. "Foreplay."
In the ensuing moments, I could feel my mouth trying to form a reply, but all I seemed to be able to manage were a few incoherent splutters. Emmett threw back his head and laughed, amused by my astounded reaction. After aiming a playful punch to my shoulder, he shook his head and said, "Come on, Edward. It's not rocket science. It's just a case of pre-heating the oven."
He seemed unfazed by the disparaging glare that last comment earned.
"What our cave-man of a brother means," Jasper inserted, "is that you need Bella to be comfortable first. Basically, if you include enough heavy petting, by the time you get into really deep water, she'll have relaxed enough that it won't hurt her as much. At least, that's the theory."
I fixed my stare determinedly on the bulging woolpack above while my brothers continued to shower me with advice. I didn't particularly want to hear about the tricks they'd learnt over the years, since I had no desire to imagine my sisters in any of the scenarios they painted, but I held my tongue regardless. I envied the clouds, which were quickly rolling eastward, wishing all the while that they would take me with them―anything to avoid this painful discussion.
It was a relief to finally escape. When our 'man-time' came to an end, I darted swiftly back to the house and jumped straight into the Volvo. Carlisle wanted to have his own discussion with me before the wedding, but it would have to wait until later.
Alice was just exiting the Swan house when I arrived, a large black clothes bag dangling from her left index finger, and a brown Gucci duffle bag gripped in her right hand.
"Hi Edward," was all she said as she sashayed past me. My sister, though probably not oblivious, ignored the scowl I directed at her as she hopped into her canary-yellow vehicle. The talk had put me in a black mood, and there was only one person who would be able to bring me out of it. With that in mind, I turned away from Alice, who quickly sped away with a thunderous rev of her 3.6 litre, twin-turbocharged 6-cylinder engine.
Renee had already arrived it seemed, after having been transported via the Floo network. I heard her thoughts before she answered the door, and barely managed to suppress a groan at their content.
"I swear I didn't tell her, Edward," Charlie huffed from over the shoulder of his ex-wife, who was grinning at me like a mad woman. "She just knew somehow."
"It's alright, Charlie," I sighed, gripping my hair by the roots. Could this day get any more stressful?
Renee was practically bouncing on the spot, clapping her hands with more enthusiasm than a child in a toyshop. "I knew it! I knew I was right! You're a vampire, aren't you? As if my daughter would settle for ordinary!"
"What's wrong with ordinary?" Charlie grumbled, crossing his arms.
"Oh, hush," Bella's mother chided him, before shooting behind me to usher me inside. I was going to kill Alice when I next saw her. She could have at least warned me! Bella was sitting with her head in her hands when we entered the living room. After sensing our arrival, she turned her eyes in my direction, smiling without humour in obvious apology. Renee, meanwhile, circled me like a vulture, her recent discovery giving way to a lengthy inspection.
Of course he isn't human. Of course not. How I ever believed that I'll never know.
"Mom, stop intimidating my fiancé. It's rude to stare."
Renee laughed, but stopped her movements. "How does one intimidate a vampire? Be serious, Bella."
"I am," complained the witch. "Vampire or not, any male is frightened of their mother-in-law. It's an unwritten rule of the universe or something."
Charlie snorted, before slumping down onto the couch. "You got that right."
Renee rolled her eyes, and waved off her daughter's warning. "I'm not his mother-in-law yet, so what's to be frightened of?"
Mother-in-law or not, you're terrifying. I wondered then what had happened to turn me into a coward.
Renee turned back to me, her head cocked to the side as she finished her appraisal. "I actually thought vampires would be scarier, but you're not so bad."
"Um … thanks." I think. "How did you find out?"
She shrugged, folding her arms over her plaid blouse. "I like to rifle through Bella's old textbooks―the one's from her early school years. There was never enough room in her trunk for all of them. Those she didn't take with her got left behind."
"So you found something that made you think of me," I concluded.
"Pretty much," nodded Renee, a triumphant smile brightening her face. "There were things that didn't really fit, like your eye-colour for example. I assumed before Charlie and Bella explained about your diet that you don't eat people. I guess I was right."
"I guess you were."
"It was something Charlie mentioned that really got my interest though." This was news to the man in question it seemed, who suddenly perked up in his seat, his brow creasing with apprehension. "It was a few months before I read up on vampires. He was furious after finding out about Bella, and called to yell at me for not telling him about her being a witch. He said that you knew before he did, even though you yourself are not a wizard. Naturally, when he next mentioned the fact that you were attending Hogwarts, I was suspicious."
For the briefest moment, Charlie seemed confused, unable to connect the dots. His head fell forwards with a groan when it finally hit him: Hogwarts would not admit Muggles. If I wasn't a wizard, as he had revealed, I was clearly something else.
I exhaled deeply, but shook my head. "Don't worry about it. It's better that she knows, and I couldn't have told her myself. It's forbidden."
Bella came to stand beside me, lacing her fingers through mine. Yes, it was better this way. At least now that everything was out in the open, we wouldn't have to lie anymore.
Renee was much more receptive to the idea of my being immortal than Charlie had been. She didn't see a problem with it, reiterating what she had said to Bella after discovering our engagement. She firmly believed that what didn't work for one person might very well work for another, and while she herself would not choose the life Bella had selected for herself, she also acknowledged that she and her daughter shared very little in common. As long as Bella was convinced she would be happy, Renee would be too. Actually, she was positively jubilant, and locked us both in a fierce embrace when all was said and done. At the very back of her mind, of course, the maternal urge to protect flickered behind the thick excitement. Her faith in her old-soul daughter, though, was enough to overpower it, and she concluded that Bella's choices were her own.
I helped Bella in the kitchen while Charlie watched TV. Renee contented herself with observing after Bella reminded her of past culinary disasters. We made chicken stir-fry, which smelled disgusting to me, but was enough to lure Charlie away from baseball. Bella's mother marvelled at my ability to chop onions without crying, and wished aloud for her own vampire chef.
After dinner, my family showed up on Charlie's doorstep, all dressed in baseball gear. Bella's father practically squealed with excitement, and bolted for the phone in an instant, before placing a call to Seth, who sounded equally as excited on the other end. Jacob was invited too, but he didn't sound quite as enthusiastic. Nevertheless, he appeared outside the house not long afterwards, bare-chested from his run.
Bella transported us two by two. Charlie didn't look as green this time around, probably because he was still too excited at the prospect of supernatural sport. He'd come prepared with a waterproof anorak, three large blankets, beer, popcorn and potato chips. He settled himself down to the right of the pitch, laying one blanket over the top of the other to stop the earth's moisture from seeping through. After Bella cast a spell to shield the humans from the rain, they each sat down to enjoy the match.
Once again, I had Alice and Carlisle on my team, leaving Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper as our rivals. We played a fierce game, often committing sly fouls in an attempt to secure more points. Not that Esme let us get away with it, of course.
Charlie whooped and cheered the whole way through, pouncing to his feet at one point to scream Alice to victory through a mouthful of half-masticated Doritos, after her defending husband tried to prevent a homerun. Owing to my speed, I managed to score a few myself, but I wasn't as focused as I normally would have been, and that was mostly down to Jacob.
More than once, I caught him staring wistfully at Bella. He remembered his promise to be good, but found it harder to keep it the longer he sat beside her. At one point, a low growl rippled up my chest, my eyes narrowing to slits as I watched him watch her. When that happened, without looking at me, he tore his eyes away from her. For some reason, the whole thing left Bella's father lightly tittering to himself.
The thunder clattered overhead as I battled it out with my father and siblings. In the end, we won by three points, much to the delight of Bella, Charlie and Renee. Seth didn't care about who earned the victory; he was just happy to be present.
Whatever the final score, the most important thing was that I scored a few extra points with Charlie. In his mind, I heard him think 'Ha! My son-in-law is better than every player in the World Series. I am officially appeased.'
I may have executed a fist pump the next time he turned away.
That night, after Renee hit the Floo, I snuck into Bella's bedroom, where I waited for her to finish her shower. Talto hooted in concern from the window sill as I paced around her room, grabbing at my hair.
"Don't worry about me. It's nothing." The owl clearly didn't believe me, for he fluttered onto my shoulder to nip gently at my ear in an effort to cheer me up. Despite my nerves, the bird's attention did encourage me. I held out my hand for him, and he gladly hopped onto it, allowing me to stroke his breast feathers as I wandered over to the bed. "Not long now, Talto. Soon I'll be a married man. First the wedding, then the honeymoon …"
Perhaps I imagined it, but I swear he smirked at that. Either way, he certainly performed his victory shuffle, hopping from foot to foot as he danced along my forearm.
My god, Bella's owl is a pimp.
Ilaughed aloud, though not loud enough to alert Charlie.
"What's so funny?" asked Bella, who appeared in the doorway in her holey sweats a moment later, her dripping hair cascading over her shoulders like a dark waterfall. She quietly shut the door, thus preventing the hallway light from penetrating her room.
"This little fella," I grinned, holding up my arm. The owl took that as an opportunity to leave. After flying over to his owner, and rubbing her ear affectionately with his beak, he flew away into the mild August air, ready to commence his nightly hunt.
The weather was perfect for him. The evening's thunder had swept away the overhanging cloud, dragging it away into the east, leaving a clear expanse of inky sky, punctured here and there with precious pinholes of light, which twinkled perpetually like indestructible jewels in the vast arms of the mysterious night.
I wrapped Bella's quilt around her tightly as she settled down onto the bed. Soon enough, there would be no barrier between us, and not so far into the future, she would no longer need protection against my icy skin. Soon, very soon, she would be like me.
"Bella," I said, as she laid her head on my shoulder, "there's something I need to ask you." At my words, she tensed immediately. In a bid to soothe her, I carefully ran my fingers through her long, damp tresses, starting at the roots, before working my way to the tips.
"What is it?"
"Nothing serious," I promised. "I just … I just had an idea about the honeymoon." Not true of course. It had been Jasper's idea, not mine.
Bella frowned, propping herself up on her elbow. "You're not having second thoughts, are you? Because I―"
"No, it's nothing like that. Not at all," I insisted.
I sighed. How to phrase it? "Bella, believe me, I'm not backing out. I want this as much as you do, really, but …"
"But you're afraid you'll hurt me," huffed my fiancée. She probably thought I was lying about keeping my promise in an effort to let her down gently. My chest tightened a little when she turned to face the wall. "I can't believe you, Edward. You know I want this. You promised, and you're still going to―"
"I'm still going to keep it, like I said I would." I waited for a response, but when Bella gave me no reply, I realised I would have to do exactly what my brothers had suggested: be persuasive. How, though?
Her heart thudded in her chest. She turned her head to look back over her shoulder, but her eyes were hard and guarded. She obviously didn't believe me. I made a decision then, the kind I should think twice about. Had I not been desperately trying to prevent this very behaviour earlier on? I really was all over the place these days.
Bella gasped as I slipped my hand under the covers, clearly failing to anticipate the unlikely move. Like a snake, my arm slipped over her pelvis, not stopping until it found her left hipbone. With my thumb, I stroked it slowly, before tucking it under to ease her onto her back. I shifted my weight, moving until I hovered directly above her. When she was staring up at me, helpless like a mouse under the gaze of a predator, I made my move. My hand travelled upwards, away from her hips, under her t-shirt and over the silken flesh of her stomach, until it reached the cotton edge of her upper under-garments.
I still remembered what it felt like the last time I'd touched her there―the time my vision had been clouded by the cloying effects of Romilda's love potion. Whether I'd been in my right mind or not was irrelevant. The point was I remembered. This was not unexplored territory. My hands had roamed this part of her before, the only difference being that then I hadn't been in my right mind. Now, of course, I was.
"Bella," I breathed, plucking at the edge of her bra, "do you really believe I have that much self-control?" I laughed throatily as her eyelids fluttered shut, her heart flying into overdrive. I could feel it pulsing as my fingers stroked the simple fabric covering her chest, which rose and fell in a swift, breathless rhythm. I shook my head, chuckling again, this time without humour. "Silly girl."
And then there was nothing to separate me from her. My hands were on her in an instant, while I crushed my lips to hers, silencing her prolonged gasp of surprise. Once upon a time, Bella had used her charms to achieve her own ends. Now, I would exercise mine.
She sighed into my mouth as my tongue darted across her lower lip, her back arching off the bed. The effect was that she pressed herself more firmly against my hand, thus fuelling our mutual desire for one another.
I moaned against her lips as she wrapped her legs around my waist.
And with that, realising she was exactly where I wanted her, I slowly pulled away, though only slightly. My body still hovered above hers, and my fingers were still dangerously close to her skin. The need was plain on her face as she peered up at me through lazy eyes, her lips parted in anticipation.
I smiled. "Not until the honeymoon, love. This is as far as we go tonight."
Her brow furrowed with disappointment as her lusty eyes landed on her chest. "Then why―"
"Negotiations," I interjected hastily, grazing the edge of her breast once more. Her pupils expanded so much that there was barely any trace of the warm brown I had come to know so well. Yes, this might just work after all, sly and devious though it may be. "Bella, I want to negotiate with you."
Her mouth formed a small 'o'. "Negotiate what?"
"Your shield," I clarified, tightening my grip on her waist.
Her brow furrowed in puzzlement. "What about it?"
"I don't want you to use it, not the first time anyway. I want to be inside you completely. I want to know everything." At first, the witch stared at me in confusion, her eyes clouded with the remnants of her lust; then, as understanding set in, horror swept her features.
"Please, Bella. Please."
"I can't." she protested. "You can't ask that."
"Because! I just …" She trailed off, her hands moving to cover her eyes as she released a frustrated groan.
I knew this would happen. It was inevitable. Nevertheless, a small voice in my head urged me to plead my case, and so I did. Bella groaned again as I explained my reasons for the request. I told her, as my brothers had suggested, that it would help to put my mind at ease. I told her that I wanted us both to enjoy one another as much as possible, but that that would be less easy for me if I was constantly worrying about damaging her.
"Please, Bella," I whispered again, playing on her guilt. Damn, I should be ashamed. "Please do this for me."
She had yet to remove her hands from her eyes, instead continuing to hold them there while she deliberated. Eventually, after what seemed like hours, her arms dropped back down to her sides.
"Can I think about it?" she asked finally.
I nodded, relieved. "Of course."
I gazed into her eyes a moment longer, my hand reaching up to once again stroke the damp hair of her crown. After a few seconds of my lazy caressing, her eyes turned mischievous.
"And you say I'm dangerous."
"You are, incredibly so."
"You're worse. I only got as far as your top button, and here you are, willing to seduce me just to get your way."
With a mischievous smirk, I shrugged. "Vampire, remember? Immoral is my middle name."
"You should be immoral more often," Bella argued, returning my smug expression. "I rather enjoyed it."
"Naturally, but you're overestimating my self-control again, Bella. If I go too far, I know I won't be able to stop."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"Are you kidding me? We've resisted all this time, and you think it wouldn't bother me if we fell at the final hurdle." I chuckled darkly and shook my head. "That would make this past year's suffering a pointless exercise."
Bella frowned as I lowered myself back down onto the bed, wearing a look of incredulousness as she stared at me. "Edward, you're the very definition of self-control. How could you possibly understand the sufferings of us poor hormone-riddled humans?"
At that, I very nearly barked out a laugh, which would have certainly alerted Bella's father. "You really have no idea, do you? If you could hear my thoughts, Bella, you'd realise just how filthy an old man I actually am."
She scoffed immediately.
"It's true. Take today, for example. Why do you think I bolted so quickly from your house?" Her eyes grew large at my words. I sniggered as her mouth fell open in disbelief, before lacing my fingers through the hand resting by her head on the pillow. "It was the hunt that set me off. God help me when you're actually a vampire."
While Bella absorbed my abrupt revelation, there was absolute silence. Finally, however, she seemed to locate her tongue, and said, "Wow."
I grinned up at the ceiling, before pulling her into the crook of my arm. "Is that all you have to say?"
She laughed lightly. "Pretty much. Sometimes I can believe that there's stuff going on beneath the surface that I don't know about, but you're so good at disguising it that I always end up thinking I've imagined it."
"You're too naïve, Bella."
"No, you're just too good an actor," she countered, prodding my chest roughly with her finger, not that it hurt of course.
"Today would indicate otherwise," I argued, much to her amusement. An impish grin tugged at her lips and she shook her head, giggling under her breath.
"So you're not having second thoughts then?"
"Not at all."
"But you want to be inside my head when we …" The suggestion was there as she trailed off. My eyes came unglued from the ceiling, and I turned to look at her. Blood had flooded her cheeks, and even in the shadows of her room, her blush was obvious.
"Yes, I do. It would give me great peace of mind," I finished, my eyes boring into hers.
She nodded, nervously chewing the inside of her mouth. "Then I'll definitely think about it."
At her promise, I smiled and gratefully lifted our entwined hands to my mouth, where I placed feather-light kisses on each of her knuckles.
Following that, our conversation switched to other topics. Warmth emanated from Bella's eyes as we discussed the possibilities for our future. The fact that Renee and Charlie could now be a part of it caused her great joy, and I in turn was happy that she would be too in our new life together. What made me all the more excited for the future was the knowledge that I would not be stealing her potential for motherhood. Of course, I still had no idea whether Bella would want a child of her own: I couldn't exactly discuss it with her, bound as I was. I therefore took the opportunity when it arose to slot the subject into our conversation.
We had been discussing the ominous subject of immortal children. Bella had asked about the Denalis, and talk had progressed from there. She shuddered at the idea of converting a child, for which I didn't blame her. The very idea was deplorable. What had ever led Sasha to commit such a heinous offence, I would never be able to understand.
My hand drifted back and forth over Bella's stomach as I stared vacantly ahead. "If I were a human like you, would you have wanted children?"
Bella flinched, withdrawing quickly, as if she'd been burnt. "What?"
I tried to appear as if my question had been a product of mere curiosity. Bella knew that I had once been prone to guilt. I don't think she realised that those days were over. Ever since I'd discovered my soul and my ability to father a child, any lingering self-loathing had fizzled away. There were still a few things I felt guilty about of course, but the sins I'd committed as a young vampire were over and done with. That was a different Edward, from another time altogether.
"Would you have wanted children … with me? Did you ever picture yourself as a mother?"
Bella grimaced, her eyes never leaving mine. "Why'd you ask?"
I shrugged. "Just curious."
"I don't see why it matters," she muttered.
"It doesn't," I lied. "I just wondered."
Bella stared at me for a moment longer through narrowed eyes. Finally, she closed them, sucking in a deep breath, before exhaling noisily. "I suppose … if we had both been human, that might have been on the cards for us eventually." When I failed to respond, she sighed again, and raked a hand through her long tangled hair. "I was never the maternal type, Edward. I got playing the parent out of my system while I was growing up with Renee. Babies never held much appeal for me if I'm being completely honest."
My heart dropped.
"They were always just … messy, noisy little things to me," she admitted with a wry smile. I gulped, my stomach clenching with a newly awakened sickness. I couldn't even breathe. Whenever I tried, the air got stuck in my throat, probably a result of the lump I was trying to swallow.
What if she didn't want Renesmee? What would I do then?
The smile fell from Bella's face as apprehension replaced it. I hadn't spoken aloud had I? She shook her head then, almost as if she'd heard the thoughts blazing through my mind.
"I suppose it would have been different if it had been with you," she murmured, to which I frowned.
"What do you mean?"
She gave a casual shrug, before flashing me a sad smile. "How could I not love anything that was half you?"
Thank God for that! Fire ripped through my chest at her words, incinerating the icy, debilitating fears until there was nothing left but the healing heat. I could feel it in every fibre of tissue, especially those making up my heart. The inactive muscle now reminded me of a hot-air balloon over a flame, expanding until it would surely pull me up into the air. I wound my fingers back through Bella's, pulling her closer. "Really?"
She nodded, but didn't smile. "I think we would have had beautiful babies. They'd have to be with genes like yours." I grinned as she propped her chin on my shoulder. "You know it's true."
"Maybe," I smirked, "but I think we'd need your genes too to create the perfect combination. A baby with your eyes could melt even the hardest of hearts."
Bella scoffed. "No, it would have to be all your features exactly. Green eyes and everything."
"That would be far too weird," I grimaced. Bella laughed.
"Yeah, I guess. Especially on a girl."
"You don't think I'd make a pretty girl?" I teased. At that, we both giggled. Bella swatted me on the arm, before shuffling closer to press her lips to mine. Then she settled down, draping an arm over my chest as she prepared for sleep.
Eventually, dreams took her. The moonlight filtered in through breaks in the clouds, giving higher definition to her high cheekbones and the soft ridges of her heart-shaped face. Meanwhile, I was silently rejoicing. As vague as her ideas on children might be, she had admitted that it would be impossible for her not to love any baby we created together. That was enough for me, and I found myself thanking my lucky stars for giving me Bella. I had waited a long time for her―for us―but if I'd known back then what I did now, I would have waited a hell of a lot longer.
Time travelled sluggishly over the next few days. I felt like a little boy waiting for Christmas morning: nothing could distract me for long enough. Spending time with Bella would have helped, but Alice and Rosalie pulled her away for various preparatory activities.
At one point, Rose went so far as to kick us men from the house. In Emmett's case, that was meant literally. He was desperate to discover the confidential activities reserved for bachelorette parties, or 'hen–dos' as Ginny and Hermione liked to call them. Bella's British girlfriends were all present for her farewell to life as a single woman. They arrived promptly through the Floo two days before the wedding, and much to my brother's dismay, we were barred from being within a ten mile radius of the house while the girly festivities were underway.
Carlisle used the opportunity to have his own little talk with me. It was brief, which was something to be thankful for, and he didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. Instead, he professed his faith in me, and told me that he knew I would keep Bella safe.
I spent the hours afterwards listening to Emmett's theories about the small little packages the 'hens' had arrived with, most of which had been wrapped with ribbon ties.
"It's lingerie, man. It's always lingerie."
"You don't know that," I retorted. "You've never been to a bachelorette party before."
"Of course I haven't, but I know people who have, and I'm telling you, girls love buying panties for one another. It's a fact!"
I rolled my eyes. "Shut up."
"I have to agree with Emmett," Jasper grimaced, as if this hurt him somehow. I gaped at him.
"Told you, man! It's the truth."
I stared incredulously at the empath. "How would you know?"
"I don't," he shrugged, "but I do know Alice. She's packing Bella's case, so you should probably anticipate the works."
I gulped. "Meaning?"
"Meaning expect an array of interesting items. I'm talking ruffles, lace, see-through fabric, a negligée here and there, maybe even a …"
"Alright, I get it!" I exclaimed quickly, holding up my hands. "Can we please change the subject?"
My brothers sniggered, but let it drop.
By the blush on Bella's face when I saw her again that night, they had been deadly serious. Her red complexion didn't fade for hours and, like Emmett, I was suddenly very curious. Still, I didn't pry. My fiancée was already flushed enough.
The girls weren't the only ones who had planned a party either. My brothers arrived at Bella's room the night before the wedding, threatening to come in after me if I didn't exit the building. Jasper promised my soon-to-be wife that a vampire bachelor party involved nothing more than a few mountain lions, and idiot that I was, I'd believed him.
But they'd lied. My brothers, the good for nothing scoundrels, had lied not just to Bella, but to me also. It was not just an ordinary hunting trip, oh no! Sure, there were lions and grizzlies to be had, but never―not once―had anyone mentioned anything about pink feather boas or L-plates. We'd travelled no more than three miles from Bella's house when the ambush occurred.
"No!" I protested, the moment I caught the direction of their thoughts.
Emmett giggled. "Yes!"
Jasper leered at me, a wicked gleam in his eyes as he brandished a terrifying tangle of feathers the colour of cotton candy.
"Jazz, I'm warning you. Don't come near me with that. You stay away!"
He cackled in response. "Wait until you see the t-shirts."
And then they pounced at me. I won't lie: I squealed―squealed like a terrified schoolgirl as I bolted through the forest in a desperate attempt to escape; but it was not to be, it seemed, for fate was conspiring against me. Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, another feathered fiend came swooping down from the mossy boughs.
It was Talto, who up until now, had been a trusty ally, regularly humiliating the Wolves for our mutual amusement. As he dived towards me, however, a feather boa identical to Jasper's trapped in his beak, mutiny was written all over his face. With a shriek of alarm, I immediately and foolishly performed a u-turn, ploughing smack-bang into my conniving brothers as result.
However frantic my efforts to throw them off, resistance was futile. I was like the unsuspecting bull in Bella's hunt―doomed. With the behemoth clutching one arm, and the empath gripping the other, I ended my struggling. Bella's owl seemed to smile as he descended upon me. I couldn't stand the smug little look he wore, and so I closed my eyes, determined to hold back the grimace threatening my countenance. If this was to be my fate, I would accept it manfully.
To my left, Emmett chuckled as Talto landed on my crown. He began shuffling in a clockwise motion, treating my neck as if it were a Christmas tree in need of tinsel. I could tell he was trying to be careful with his talons. The delicate treatment, while unnecessary, put me at ease a little, reminding me that he would never truly wish me harm, regardless of how much he enjoyed my current humiliation. After that realisation, I relaxed considerably.
With the pink monstrosity securely strewn about my neck, my brothers released me. Talto, meanwhile, hopped to a nearby branch, after which I shook my head at him in mock disappointment.
The owl hooted, evidently satisfied with the playful betrayal.
I turned back to my brothers to find Emmett rooting through his backpack. Dread pooled in my stomach as he pulled out three cotton shirts, one black and two white. The black one he handed to me, grinning like a crocodile when I reluctantly accepted it. While folded, the garment seemed relatively unoffending, but I knew my brothers too well to believe that that would actually be the case. Their minds, unfortunately, revealed nothing. Jasper was currently recalling 'The Catalogue of Ships' from Homer's The Iliad in its original Greek, and Emmett had some song by a British comedian on loop in his head.
I was alone. My heart was cold; it was a stone. My soul was lonely like a stone; there was no moss.
And when I danced I danced alone, but then I did not dance because I was alone, so I did not dance.
I shuffled through life invisible to alllll happy couples who would mock me with their merry laughter: ha ha ha.
The only sound I heard in my lonely, silent world was the rusty hammer of my heart nailing at the hatred in my soul.
But then you came …
Normally, I might have allowed a chuckle for Emmett's attempts at humour, but the likelihood of that was slim this time around after the asinine vampire revealed that the intro to Bill Bailey's 'Love Ballad' reminded him of me. I had a good mind to strangle him with his rotten feathers, but I pushed that thought aside before I could seriously tempt myself.
With a heavy sigh, I unfurled the t-shirt. The moment my eyes took in the letters printed on the front, I threw back my head and howled with laughter.
"Dead man walking?" I asked once the general cackling had subsided. Both vampires looked incredibly proud of themselves. "Really?"
"Of course," Jasper answered, as if this should have been obvious. "What else?"
I shrugged. "I guess it works in one way."
"More than one," Emmett sighed. "I'm telling you, it's game over, bro. Your freedom has just gone ka-poof. You make one wrong move after tomorrow, and you won't hear the end of it for years. Years!"
"That's a massive exaggeration, Emmett."
"It is not. Rose still hasn't dropped the fact that I totalled her prom dress back in eighty-eight."
Jasper stared at him incredulously. "It was Valentino!"
"God, don't remind me."
"You should be ashamed."
"Jazz," Emmett blurted, slapping the empath upside the head, "you sound like a chick."
Talto hooted in agreement.
The blond vampire scowled and crossed his arms. "I make a point of getting to know my wife's interests, Emmett. Whenever I show enthusiasm for fashion, I get rewarded."
Emmett arched an eyebrow. Jasper, however, remained tight-lipped, but that didn't stop the obscene flash of images that surged through his mind. I groaned loudly, much to my brother's amusement, who didn't have the decency to even seem apologetic. Instead, he grinned and told me that I had 'all this to look forward to'. Now there was something to think about. If I replaced Jasper and Alice with Bella and me in some of the depraved scenes I'd picked from the empath's mind …
Luckily, Emmett interrupted before my imagination could get the better of me. I did not want to start fantasising about maids and nurses and genies and naughty school girls in front of my brothers, especially Jasper, the emotional sponge. I'd already suffered enough embarrassment.
Emmett insisted that Jasper was not painting an accurate picture of marriage, using the Valentino incident as a prime example. In 1988, after yet another high-school prom, Emmett had stupidly lost control of the titanic lust inspired by his mate. After some seriously heavy petting, he'd shredded what Rosalie, Alice and Jasper insisted was a scarlet masterpiece, and had subsequently spent an entire fortnight appeasing his offended lover. She'd punished him severely for his ignorance of high fashion and the reverence it deserved. To regain her favour, the desperate vampire had gone to all sorts of lengths, purchasing the most expensive bouquets and lavishing Rosalie with gifts from Bloomingdales, Tiffany's, not to mention Jaguar. With no outlet for his lust, by day ten of the silent treatment, Emmett had been on the brink of insanity.
"To this day, she won't let me forget it," he grumbled. "All she has to do is hear the word 'Valentino' and I'm in the dog house." I didn't feel the need to inform my brother that Rosalie simply used his past error to manipulate him. She continued to allow her husband to labour under the mistaken impression that she still mourned her beloved Valentino, when, in reality, he had been completely forgiven the moment he'd offered her a replacement dress by Versace. It was an elaborate satin number made with a black mermaid train and adorned with golden lace. That alone, however, had not been enough to completely sway my obstinate sister. The real points had been earned with the hidden detail. In a moment of genius, Emmett had taken up needlework, meaning that his wife's dress came with a unique feature. Along each hem, various phrases had been sewn into the fabric, ranging from 'You're a goddess' and 'I love you dearly' to 'I'm a moron; please forgive me'. His plan worked: in the eyes of his lover, he was completely exonerated. She just failed to mention the 'completely' part, as did the rest of us.
Jasper pursed his lips as he held back his laughter. He glanced briefly in my direction and wondered, Should we tell him?
I considered it for a millisecond, before shaking my head. Jasper smirked in clear agreement.
After that discussion passed, my brothers chose to reveal the designs on their own t-shirts, which they'd ordered via the internet. Emmett's read 'Seven words to a happy marriage: 'Yes dear', 'I'm sorry', 'It's my fault.'' Considering his experiences, I wasn't entirely surprised. Jasper's was much more optimistic, but also caused me to execute an eye-roll, owing to my ingrained sensibilities. Below the word 'Honeymoon', there was a picture of a bed with two stick figures sitting side by side. Beneath that, printed in block capitals, was the phrase 'ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED'.
After changing into our bachelor wear, the boys donned their own feather boas, before sticking an L-Plate on my back. All this, apparently, was a suggestion made by Harry, who hinted that it was a traditional part of British Muggle 'Stag dos' to decorate the groom. L-plates, which were normally attached to the cars of learner drivers, were occasionally fixed instead to 'learner husbands' before they got their final certificate.
We documented my last night as a singleton using the automatic setting on Jasper's digital camera. Talto, the consummate poser, landed gracefully on my right shoulder, spreading his wings as far as they would reach as he waited for the flash.
Once that was done, the owl departed, promising that he'd be there for the wedding. I'd worried initially what the Muggles might think of his presence, but considering we'd invited a half-giant, I doubted that he'd occupy their attention for long.
Running across Washington in a pink feather boa felt a little bizarre at first, and I wondered briefly where my prey would die laughing before I got the chance to kill it myself. Of course, that didn't happen, but I could have sworn the lion I crossed, before switching into defence mode, regarded me with mild confusion.
I didn't exactly need to hunt: I wasn't thirsty, but it felt good to give myself over to my senses. Besides, this was the last opportunity I'd have for the next two weeks at least to exercise my vampiric strength to its full capacity, and so, like a starved man, I gorged myself on the blood of my kill, drinking until I was ready to burst.
Emmett took down a bear, while Jasper battled a lion like my own. The latter finished first and joined me on the toppled tree trunk I had found while I'd been waiting for my other brother to finish playing with his food. However ridiculous I appeared with a gaudy feather boa encircling my throat, I surely couldn't have looked worse that Emmett, who, if anything, seemed to enjoy his new apparel.
My brother … the cross-dresser.
"So why the feathers?" I asked the empath, stroking my latest neck-ware.
According to Ron, Seamus and Dean, he revealed, it's also customary for the men involved in bachelor parties to humiliate themselves as much as possible. We considered stealing all your clothes and tying you to a tree, but since there's no rope out there strong enough to hold you, we ruled it out.
Thank heaven for small mercies. "So should I expect anything else," I pressed as Emmett plunged his teeth into the neck of the snarling grizzly, "or is the fun over?"
Jasper laughed. "Don't look so frightened. Trust me, we have no desire whatsoever to see you naked. Although, we do have a couple of surprises left yet."
"Oh?" I bit my lip, not sure whether or not I should run for it while I still had the chance. I decided against it, however, when Jasper assured me that I would enjoy whatever it was they had in store.
The moon was high in the sky by the time Emmett finished draining his catch. With complete indifference to the now dead animal, he carelessly discarded it. The body slipped from his hands, falling with a thud at his feet, thus disturbing what was otherwise a very serene environment.
It was a crisp, clear night, and like a diligent genitor, the western wind had kindly swept away the last traces of clouds and mist. The stars glittered proudly by the glowing sphere of the moon, which shone an odd colour―an ominous orange orb caught in a web of diamonds.
"It's the lunar eclipse tomorrow," Jasper announced, following my gaze. In his mind, I heard him register the sudden tension that abruptly invaded our merriment. Emmett, who had yet to sit down, looked uncomfortable. He glared up at the sky as if it posed some kind of threat … as if it were about to come crashing down in a blaze of ravenous flames.
"I don't like it," he whispered. Neither Jasper nor I voiced our own thoughts. We both knew what he was referring to, and like our brother, we weren't happy about it. The lunar eclipse would not only coincide with mine and Bella's wedding night, but would also occur during the inferior conjunction of Venus. I didn't relish the planetary alignment, nor their involvement in what would be, for me, a life altering event. In truth, it frightened me. I felt like a chess piece being moved across a board in a treacherous game, where the lives of those I cared about might very well be the price of playing.
"Do you ever feel as if we're all pawns to fate?" Emmett murmured sinisterly, without turning to face us.
"I don't like it." He shuddered, finally severing his stare from the strange omen. Despite his size and nature, there was something very innocent about my brother. Worrying was something he rarely bothered himself with. Like a child, he had better things to do than succumb to apprehension and fear. It was so unlike him, which stressed all the more the gravity of coming events, event which had Bella at their centre.
"I still can't figure out why it had to be her," I told my brothers, barely suppressing a whimper as my head fell into my palms. "Out of everyone on the planet, why Bella?"
Jasper and Emmett had no answer for me. None of us could fathom how a seemingly ordinary witch, though wonderful and brilliant and enchanting girl she might be, could shoulder the power and responsibilities the cosmos would soon bestow on her.
In our meeting with Akharet, Jasper, Emmett and I had discovered that my future wife was destined to become the single most powerful vampire in history, one who would possess the ability to topple the Volturi, as if the world's most influential coven were little more than a tower of wooden building blocks.
The task was inconceivable, too big and too terrifying for one woman―still practically a girl―to handle.
Finally, after a heavy sigh, Jasper extricated himself of his feather boa, and said, "What will be will be. Who are we to question Bella's abilities? She's stronger than anyone I've ever met. We shouldn't doubt her."
Emmett nodded, lowering himself to the floor. Despite my reservations, I couldn't argue with Jasper. On that point, he was right. Either way, it was a relief when he used his emotional influence to ease my fears. I didn't want to think about them just now. Instead, I chose to put them away like trinkets, deciding I would examine them more carefully at a later date.
I arched an eyebrow as Emmett produced eight wax-sealed letters, each addressed to me.
Letters from the men in Bella's life, specifically those she met at Hogwarts.
"Oh." And just like that, with no more than a wave of white paper, all ugly thoughts about our uncertain future were removed, washed away by the renewed gush of excitement for my coming nuptials. After eagerly swiping the letters from Emmett, I set about identifying the senders. The scrawl on most was easily recognisable, as were the accompanying scents. Within seconds, I had discovered exactly who I should thank for each letter.
"We decided that the more prepared you are for marriage, the better," laughed Emmett, while Jasper smothered a guffaw, "hence the last minute reminders of what you're going to be dealing with for the next few millennia."
"If not longer," the empath added optimistically. I was confident that I already knew what I was dealing with, as they put it, but I wasn't opposed to the activity. It sounded like fun.
I opened Wood's first, wanting to save Harry's, Neville's and George's until the end. After breaking the seal, I was greeted with half a page of neat but rushed hand-writing, an echo of the Quidditch player's character.
You're a braver bloke than most, that's for sure. The first time I really noticed Bella was in her third year during Quidditch try-outs. It wasn't her talent that drew my eye, though she certainly had plenty of that. Her spirit and sass were her biggest selling points. It was a toss-up between her and a fifth year, right up until she got mad at him and literally pulled the cape over his eyes. Poor numpty crashed into the central hoop and broke his nose. You don't encounter that kind of initiative every day. Basically, mate, you're buggered. Without that nifty power of yours that lets you get inside people's noggins, you haven't got a chance in hell of figuring out the mystery of Isabella Swan. She's the most resourceful witch I've ever met―a firecracker for certain―and if there were ever a person to keep you on your toes, it would be that woman. From the depths of my soul, good luck and a happy marriage.
P.S. I heard about the 'Hand of Swan'. It was a proud moment. I wept.
Emmett's entire body shook. He bellowed with laughter after I finished reading aloud. Wood hadn't told me anything I didn't already know, aside from the bit about Bella inadvertently breaking someone's nose in try-outs. She was an intelligent witch with a fiery temper, two aspect of her personality that I had identified in the biology lab and cafeteria of Forks' High-School. Satisfied, I opened the next letter.
Seamus gushed about my fiancée's assault of Cormac McLaggen, and advised me never to upset her after her transformation into a vampire, for 'Bella with her knickers in a twist' was 'more dangerous than a chilli-eating Horntail'. That, combined with my brothers' reactions, was more than enough to spark my irritation.
Dean, like Wood, focused on Bella's Quidditch abilities, as well as her sense of humour, while Lee recounted from his own perspective the tale of the frequency potion and Bella's subsequent scheme for revenge.
Ron, too, after emphasising that Bella was more temperamental than a Crumple-Horned Snorkack (whatever the hell that was), commented on her attitude to revenge, and how she had exercised her love for it on a weekly basis.
George, though focusing on a similar theme, was the first to replace the word 'revenge' with 'justice'. My brothers waited impatiently while I tore open his letter. We'd arranged ourselves in a way that was more conducive to discussion. I continued to occupy the fallen trunk. Jasper, who had initially seated himself beside me, had taken one half of a large igneous boulder that Emmett had split in two. Together, they had turned the rock into makeshift stools.
"Dear Edward," I read on …
As I have yet to shackle myself with the ball and chain of matrimony, there is very little advice I can give you on how to survive a wife. However, I do know Hell-Bells quite well, and have therefore compiled a list of the crimes and punishments of Bella's history. Take heed: she has a strong sense of justice, so by all means, learn from the mistakes of the poor blighters not lucky enough to receive a similar warning.
1) CRIME: make fun of her accent; PUNISHMENT: wake up to a draw full of underpants bearing stars and stripes. (Took me seven months to figure out the blasted counter spell to that one. Grr!) I doubt you have to worry about this, of course, being a Yank and what not.
2) CRIME: spike her morning juice with frequency potion; PUNISHMENT: declare your undying love to a wrinkly old caretaker.
3) CRIME: tell her she's a Mud-Blood; PUNISHMENT: vomit soap.
4) CRIME: tell her she's ugly; PUNISHMENT: win a trip to the hospital wing.
5) CRIME: ask her if it's 'that time'; PUNISHMENT: receive a pocket full of ticks without the tocks. (Possible side effect: contract Lyme disease―easily cured but still unpleasant.)
6) CRIME: issue an unfair detention; PUNISHMENT: hairloss.
7) CRIME: beat her in a race; PUNISHMENT: race until she wins.
8) CRIME: bring misery to everyone she cares about; PUNISHMENT: pink hair, sore privates (Blast-Ended Skrewts in the knicker draw, just so you don't get the wrong idea), flooded, burnt bottom, pushed to the brink of insanity.
9) CRIME: tickle her feet; PUNISHMENT: accidental kick in the nose (possible breakage).
10) CRIME: threaten to destroy her loved ones; PUNISHMENT: lose a limb, risk of fatality.
There are a dozen more, but a customer just entered the shop. I'm sure you get the picture. Good luck, mate, and take care of her, or I'll have you.
I blinked dumbly at the letter, before re-reading the quirky script once over. When I was positive I'd not mistaken George's words, I dropped the crinkled paper to my side and stared vacantly ahead. "Did I just get threatened by a human?"
Emmett looked horrified, his mouth agape like a net for insects. The world is backwards. Something has gone very, very wrong.
I didn't share my brother's reaction. I loved having friends, ones outside my vampire family who knew my secrets and accepted me all the same. Could they really feel that at ease in our company? I cast my mind back over my time at the school, and then our trip to Diagon Alley where I had met Tom, the owner of The Leaky Cauldron, and Bertie Bigwig, one of his regular customers. Once they'd recognised us as contributors to the push against Voldemort, they had treated my family and I no differently than they had Bella, a human; and now, one year on, George was promising me physical injury if I didn't live up to his expectations. Things like that never ceased to amaze me.
With a chuckle, I moved George's letter to the bottom of the pile, and picked out Neville's. It had been only a few weeks since I had last spoken with him in the ward of St. Mungo's, where Carlisle administered the restorative potion to Frank and Alice Longbottom. After my sister had her vision of the potion's initial failure in the Gryffindor common-room, we had brainstormed for hours the possible tweaks we could make to ensure its success. In the end, the answer was simple. We'd added two of three essential ingredients: offerings from two necessary sources, but there was nothing to bind them together. It was Alice who suggested we needed a sacrifice from 'the servant' to seal the magic. The moment Carlisle decided to offer his venom, a premonition of outstanding clarity flitted through the psychic's mind. Together with Professor Slughorn, my father had commenced the brewing of the miracle cure. It took them a month to procure the necessary ingredients, and then another to complete the concoction. By July 20th, everything was set, so Neville got his parents back in time for his nineteenth birthday.
Your brothers asked me to write you a little something about Bella. I'll get to that, but first, I just want to thank you again for what you and your family did for my mum and dad. I've been visiting the hospital for as long as I can remember. Every Christmas, New Year, Easter and birthday was spent in that horrid place. I started to think of it as a bit of a Dementor, somewhere that sucks out all your hope and joy until your soul was is as black as oil. That said, I'm sure you can understand why I have trouble believing all this is real.
Mum and Dad are great. Well, as good as can be expected. Mum is trying to wrap her head around the advancement in broom technology, and she has a weird craving for fish-custard. Dad is distrustful of pancakes, but won't tell us why. It's hard getting anything out of them to be honest, and they're very dependent on me and Gran, but I wouldn't change it. By the way, that's something else I should mention. I think my gran fancies your dad. She gets this dreamy look in her eye whenever she talks about him, which she does a lot. All that aside, I should probably move onto Bella …
I smiled at the neat script as I continued to read. Neville went on to discuss the times Bella had defended him against Slytherins before the formation of Dumbledore's Army, when he lacked the confidence to stand up for himself. He finished with what I considered a very accurate summary of the girl I loved.
She's kind, funny, talented, brave and she fights for the things she believes in. As one of the best people I've ever met, I know she'll make you happy. Treat her well.
Silence descended as we each contemplated the kind words of our fellow Gryffindor. The breeze sang a haunting chord as it rustled the grasses and tree branches.
That was nice of him, thought Jasper. I'm glad things worked out for his parents.
Emmett, however, was more concerned with the bit about Neville's grandmother having a crush on Carlisle. We'd invited her to the wedding, like the rest of the Longbottoms. Perhaps it would be a good idea to warn Carlisle in advance of his latest admirer. Emmett disagreed. I only needed to look at the mischievous smirk painted across his dimpled face to know he was already planning how best to use this new information to his advantage.
I hastily opened Harry's letter in an effort to distract him. This one was shorter than the others, only a quarter of a page long, all written in Harry's unique scribble.
I have very little to tell you about Bella, as I'm sure you know most of it already. As a witch and Quidditch player, she's brilliant, both skilful and clever; as a friend, she's wonderful―just, fair and kind.
In our fifth year of Hogwarts, she insisted on joining Ron, Hermione and me at the Department of Mysteries, where she held her own until the very end, hospitalising more than one Death Eater in the process. When you've lived the life that I have, Edward, you learn who your real friends are. Bella is one of them. I honestly think you couldn't have done any better. I wish you both a happy marriage and a prosperous future.
All the best,
Darkness was waning in the east. Dawn was yet an hour away, but the sky was already turning a lighter shade of blue where it met the horizon.
With the last letter read, I set about folding the papers away, pocketing them in the front pouch of the backpack for safe keeping.
"So," said Emmett, shuffling to the edge of his stony perch, "were they insightful?"
I smiled, but shook my head. "Like Harry said, there's little they could tell me about Bella that I haven't already heard before. Still, it was a nice gesture." But then I remembered George's list of crimes and punishments and amended my statement. "Actually, strike that. I now know not to tickle Bella's feet after her transformation."
"Which probably means you should get as much of that in while it won't crack your pretty face," Emmett advised. I nodded. Anything to see Bella laugh, even if I did have to employ dastardly tactics.
"Have you thought anymore about Renesmee?" Jasper probed, provoking another shift in mood. I fisted my hair again, pulling at the roots, and nodded.
"I think about her every day." My brothers stares were more piercing than steal blades. They cared about that little girl almost as much as I did. "What if we were wrong though?" I whispered, terrified. "What if this honeymoon has absolutely nothing to do with Bella conceiving our daughter? I've already allowed myself too much hope. I'm not sure I could handle that type of disappointment."
At my admission, my brothers' faces softened. Emmett reached out to grip my shoulder, and gave it a light squeeze, but it did nothing to alleviate my fears.
"Look at it this way, Edward," Jasper instructed, "one way or another, the child we saw in the vision is going to enter your life. Whether she's created naturally, or through magic we've yet to discover, you're getting closer to her every second of the day. You waited decades for Bella; was it worth it?" I rolled my answer, which was an answer in itself. Jasper nodded, before rising to his feet. "Be patient. You, more than anyone, should know by now that good things come to those who wait."
Agreed, thought Emmett, his meaningful stare boring into the side of my head. I suppose they were right. I had a lot to be grateful for. My brothers would both have walked through fire to secure the promise of a child. I'd shared my knowledge of Bella's dream with them, in which I'd seen a boy with Emmett's features. As much as they wanted to believe me, though, their doubt was still far too great.
"What of your clue?" I asked in an effort to change the subject. Emmett grinned immediately. He knew precisely what I was referring to. According to Hogwarts' sphinx, the key to vampire procreation was buried in a bell jar in the belly of London.
"You already know what we think, right?"
I nodded. "The Ministry."
"Yes," said Jasper. "It's obvious really, but that's as far as we got."
"We've prioritised," Emmett explained. "We're going to make enquiries while you're off romancing, but until we know what's going on with Bella, I doubt we'll be breaking and entering any time soon."
"Fair enough." I rose steadily from the log, and unwound the feather boa from around my neck. As glad as I was to be free of it, I decided against leaving it behind. It might prove to be an interesting memento of my time with my brothers.
It was half-past five when we set off back. Although we were several hours into the new morning, it didn't fully register until my brothers and I commenced the return journey that it was my wedding day. I'd waited a century to marry Isabella Swan, and, finally, my time had arrived. That knowledge tore into my muscles, fuelling my flight like oil in an engine, until the air was whistling loudly around me, impressed with the speed at which I ran.
On the low crest of a misty hill, I paused alongside my brothers, where together we cast our eyes up at the morning sky. With the sun slinking into view, the horizon shimmered beneath a light blue blanket, as if trimmed with a length of gold ribbon.
Over in the east, Venus caught the morning light―a winking portent of her sinister plans for love.
A/N: So there you have it. Let me know what you think. Believe it or not, I do take your views into consideration when I write, so please review. It gives me great motivation. Until next time, lovelies!