A/N: I'd like to send a big hello to all my returning fans, I've missed you SO much (I updated my profile as well, if anyone is interested in the goings on of my personal life), and also a warm hello and welcome to new readers. As in my Midnight Sun continuation and Edward's Eclipse, all dialogue taken directly from the books is, of course, written by Stephenie Meyer. Everything else is from my overactive imagination, and is just the product of my crazy Twi-love. It is always my goal to remain true and respectful to the stories and characters. I hope you all enjoy my third journey into Edward's mind.
One more quick note - My previous stories have both been rated T, and while the majority of this story will be suitable for 13+, because it's Breaking Dawn and it addresses more mature themes, I have decided to rate this story M (16+).
Breaking Dawn – EPOV
Chapter 1 - Engaged
"Stop fidgeting, Bella. Please try to remember that you're not confessing to a murder here."
Bella's hand, the one that was finally, miraculously, wearing my mother's ring, twisted and turned inside my iron grasp as we waited for Charlie to return home. I knew she wanted to hide it, to put off telling him just a little while longer, but she'd agreed it was time to announce our engagement, and I was more than ready to stand beside her, no matter what Charlie's reaction might be.
"Easy for you to say," she muttered, but I felt her hand relax infinitesimally in mine.
I heard the always clouded but distinct sound of Charlie's mind as he pulled into the driveway. Bella grew tense again, no doubt wondering how to broach the subject, and bracing herself for the worst when she spoke the words. I knew she was afraid he wouldn't understand, that he would accuse her of rushing into things, of being too impulsive, but I was harboring a lingering hope that Charlie was more of romantic than he would ever let his only daughter know.
He'd been young and in love once, and though his marriage to Renee had not ended in happily ever after, I had heard enough of his mind to know he would love her forever. Even if for no other reason than bringing Bella into this world, Charlie would never regret his marriage, and I hoped he would trust Bella's decision enough to grant us his blessing.
Bella's heart sped and jumped in her chest. "Calm down, Bella," I said softly, but as her breath caught, I knew I would need to be the first to speak.
"No!" Bella's voice was quiet, but sharp, and I had a moment of panic. I wanted more than anything to shout our engagement to the world, but if she decided now was not the right time, of course I would respect her wishes.
"Wait till he hangs his gun up!"
I laughed under my breath, wondering if Bella sometimes forgot I was something more than human. As much as I tried to hold Bella's hand still, she continued to tap her fingers lightly against my hand, and I thought Charlie's eyes would immediately fall on her ring. Instead, he tried without success to hide his displeasure at our close proximity on his love seat, before swiftly reminding himself he was supposed to be making an attempt to like me.
"Hey, kids. What's up?" he asked casually.
I waited only one short breath, listening to the still erratic rhythm of Bella's heartbeat, and then decided it was as good a moment as any. "We'd like to talk to you. We have some good news."
The tenor of his thoughts changed instantly to suspicion, and he reassessed the situation. Me holding Bella's hand so tightly, her shallow breathing, the small beads of sweat that had just started to form. I hated how quickly his mind jumped to the conclusion Bella had been afraid everyone would jump to. Didn't he have more faith in Bella than that? I knew better than to expect he had any faith in me.
"Good news?" he repeated, eyeing Bella with a strained mix of anger and disbelief. He wanted to be wrong. He wanted it enough that I was sure it would lessen the blow of our actual news.
"Have a seat, Dad," Bella said, attempting to be brave. Charlie glared at us both as he stalked over to his chair and waited for her to continue. "Don't get worked up, Dad. Everything's okay."
I fought to hide my disappointment at her use of the word okay, but she knew me so well, I was sure I hadn't fooled her. I supposed, all things considered, I should be happy she was okay with our being engaged. Mere days ago, she hadn't even been able to consider it, and now, here she was sitting beside me, ring on her finger and ready to tell her father she wanted to spend forever with me.
Charlie's voice was as skeptical as his thoughts. "Sure it is, Bella, sure it is. If everything is so great, then why are you sweating bullets?"
"I'm not sweating."
Bella reached up to wipe her forehead, and I heard Charlie's mind explode a half second before he spoke the words. It was the clearest I'd ever heard him, for all the good it did. There was no time to warn Bella.
"You're pregnant!" he shouted. "You're pregnant, aren't you?"
He was glaring at me, debating whether he would lose his badge if he pulled his gun on me. Even in his fury, he would never take a shot – which was good, seeing as the bullet would most likely ricochet off of me and damage something in the nearby vicinity – but that didn't mean he couldn't scare me a little. Or more than a little.
"No! Of course I'm not!"
Charlie believed her instantly, and she saw that on his face as quickly as I'd heard it in his mind. He felt a wave of guilt for even having had the thought. "Oh. Sorry."
In an instant, the atmosphere had gone from charged to formal, which was a far better mood for the solemn words I was ready to speak to Bella's father. In truth, I'd been feeling a certain degree of guilt for having not properly asked him for her hand. Although there was little that was traditional about Bella and I, it would have been nice to have gone about this in the right way.
I realized Bella was looking up at me with an expression that was both terrified and pleading. We'd started this, we were certainly going to finish it, but she was struggling to find the words. It was all the encouragement I needed.
"Charlie, I realize that I've gone about this out of order. Traditionally, I should have asked you first." Comprehension flickered immediately. His eyes flashed quickly to the ring that was only partially visible, and he knew what was coming next. I waited for one fraction of a second while he mentally braced himself. "I mean no disrespect, but since Bella has already said yes and I don't want to diminish her choice in the matter, instead of asking you for her hand, I'm asking you for your blessing. We're getting married, Charlie. I love her more than anything in the world, more than my own life, and – by some miracle – she loves me that way, too. Will you give us your blessing?"
Bella seemed to have forgotten how to breathe again. Charlie's mind raced through every emotion known to man, never settling on one long enough to form even a single mental word. Then, it was as if his thoughts were manifesting themselves as colors, ironically similar to the way his face seemed to be changing color. I could hear no words, but in his racing mind, his rage was red, his frustration a deep shadowy gray, his fear every shade of the ocean, and finally, his acceptance a peaceful green, like the forest that surrounded the home he loved.
Bella was still panicking, I could hear it in her frantic heartbeats. I knew she wanted to reach out to him, but he was silently coming to terms with our revelation on his own. "Give him a minute," I said softly, sure that the worst was already over.
When Bella finally exhaled, I was certain there was a contentment that hadn't been there before. Maybe she could see Charlie's quiet acceptance. Maybe it was simply a relief that the words had been spoken, that the truth was there for Charlie to do what he would with it. I hoped it was more than that, though. I hoped some small piece of her had heard the utter sincerity in my declaration, and, anti-marriage though she might be, she would at least understand why it was so important to me.
As Bella's breathing returned to normal and Charlie regained control of his wildly shifting emotions, I heard clearly all the things I knew he would have a hard time putting into words. I was thankful for one of the rare moments when I got a real look into his mind.
Can't say he doesn't love her . . . and who am I to . . . oh, forget it. Can't fight it and can't change it. But why now? She just got here. Can't blame him for wanting her around all the time. My Bella. His Bella.
He struggled to even think the words, but once they'd taken root in his mind, he was powerless to fight them. I must have been doing something right, because suddenly, impossibly, Charlie understood that Bella and I belonged together, and that I would always take care of her. He let out a long sigh, and his thoughts clouded again. I knew he wouldn't say any of it out loud. That wasn't his way. And it wasn't my place to say it for him.
"Guess I'm not that surprised. Knew I'd have to deal with something like this soon enough."
Bella breathed a deep sigh of relief. It was more acceptance than she had hoped for. Then, he turned his glare back to me, and I was thrilled to find it was a forced glare, one that he now wasn't entirely sure I deserved. Still, he was determined to fulfill his duties as a father, and that meant making sure Bella was thinking her decision through.
"You sure about this?" he asked.
"I'm one hundred percent sure about Edward," she answered instantly. It didn't escape my notice, or Charlie's, that she'd said nothing about the wedding.
"Getting married, though? What's the rush?" He didn't doubt that she was telling the truth, that she was not, in fact, pregnant, but for a moment, he wondered if perhaps she wanted kids right away. What other reason could there be?
Apparently I was the only romantic in the room.
"We're going away to Dartmouth together in the fall, Charlie," I said calmly. "I'd like to do that, well, the right way. It's how I was raised."
Charlie contemplated that for a few seconds, and I was glad that Carlisle's strong moral character made it believable that a teenager in this age could still have those types of values. I was only sorry he hadn't assumed it would be what Bella would want as well. Did he assume we were simply going to run off together?
"Knew this was coming," he repeated, before his mind went off on another tangent. At first, I didn't understand the connection. Perhaps all this talk of marriage had led his thoughts to Renee. I wondered if he was missing her, but he didn't seem sorrowful. He seemed elated.
"Dad?" Bella asked, equally confused by the change in his expression.
"Ha!" he laughed suddenly. "Ha, ha, ha!"
Though I still couldn't hear the words clearly, I now understood his joy. He was picturing Bella having to announce our engagement to Renee. He was seeing, as clear as day, that she would put her foot down. Talk some sense into her daughter. Charlie wouldn't have to be the bad guy, after all. If anyone would be able to delay a wedding, it was Renee.
Of course, I knew Renee's mind better than Charlie did. In the little time I'd spent with her, I'd learned that she was an innately trusting person. Sometimes to her own detriment. Mostly, though, she was filled with the sincerest determination to think the best of everyone. I wasn't fool enough to think she would give us her blessing without question – though I hoped, for Bella's sake, she didn't jump to conclusions the way Chalie had – but I had no doubt at all that she would approve, once she knew it was what Bella truly wanted. I stifled a grin, letting Charlie have his moment.
"Okay fine," he said, still laughing. "Get married. But . . ."
"But what?" Bella asked nervously.
"But you have to tell your mom! I'm not saying one word to Renee! That's all yours!"
Bella groaned and I held her hand tighter. She was going to be fine. Everyone was going to be fine. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but once her parents were both on board, or as on board as Charlie would ever be, perhaps Bella might enjoy herself a little. I simply couldn't let myself believe that I was the only one happy about this arrangement.
Of course, there was the other side of our arrangement that I knew Bella was more than a little happy over. Somehow, she'd managed to convince me that a traditional honeymoon was possible for us. I had barely even let myself begin to think of the ramifications of the promise I'd made her. Instead, I'd thrown myself completely into the wedding. I filled my every thought with images of Bella in white, walking toward me as I waited, ready to vow my life, my whole world to her. I couldn't think beyond that. I couldn't see a way that our attempts at more could end in anything but pain for her.
It had taken months to simply be able to kiss her without worrying I was holding her too tightly. It was impossible to imagine the measure of control it would take not to harm her when our bodies were pressed together, when she touched every inch of me, when she begged me to touch her.
I knew this was what she wanted more than anything, the one human experience she'd told me she was unwilling to give up. Of course she would expect me to give her every piece of myself, but I was terrified of what letting go and trying to share everything with her would mean. One second of giving myself over to passion could mean agony for Bella. It wasn't something I could explain, not really. She still didn't realize, would never realize until the day she was immortal, just how fragile humans are. I likened it to a child who pressed a little too hard and snaped a crayon in half. He didn't mean to cause any harm, but sometimes it's difficult to know exactly when the point of pressure is going to be too much.
And that's without the crayon asking to be held tighter.
There was a lot to think about, preparations to make, though I didn't see what good any of them would do. First, I supposed, was to pick a destination for our honeymoon. There were so many places Bella wanted to see, so much of the world I wanted to show her. I wished I could fulfill her every wish simply by taking her places she'd never seen, letting her do things she'd never done. I could show her every city, every sight, give her every experience before she entered immortality. Unfortunately, in Bella's mind, all that could wait. She didn't feel the need to be human to travel the world or try new things. There was only one experience she would not accept in any way other than human, and it was the one thing I didn't know how to give her.
"She's going to love it!" Alice was absolutely beaming. In that moment, I realized I'd finally settled on a honeymoon destination for Bella and I. Or had Alice chosen it, by assuring me of Bella's delight the second I'd thought of it? Sneaky little vampire.
"And you're sure Esme won't mind letting us borrow her island for a few weeks?"
She raised one eyebrow incredulously.
"Of course you're sure," I muttered.
"And don't even think about changing your mind again. This is far too perfect."
I sighed. The destination might be perfect, but what we were planning was still absurd.
"Ah, ah, ah," Alice chided. "Don't you even think about starting to worry again."
"Why do you assume I'm worrying?"
"Because I see it, every time you think about trying to back out. And let me tell you, there's no point. Bella may technically be an adult now, but she's still a teenager, and capable of throwing a world class hissy fit. She's going to get her way."
"Better she throw a fit than be crushed to death on our wedding night."
She growled at me, her eyebrows pulling together. "Would you stop being so ridiculous! I've already seen that things will work out just fine."
"You can't know that, Alice. You can't be sure, because you can't be any surer than my decisions. And it's not like I intend to hurt her. I could be willing myself with everything in me to be careful, but if I slip for one second . . ."
I put my head in my hands, for the millionth time wondering why I'd agreed to this. I should have just let Carlisle change her. Graduation had long since passed, and if I hadn't been so stubbornly set on getting Bella to marry me, this would all be over. She'd be changed, she'd be safe, and when the time came that her newborn thirst calmed down and she could think about such things again, we could resume discussions of our future together. For the first time in our relationship, I actually found myself wishing her time as a human was already over. At least then I wouldn't be putting her in danger.
"Edward, you've got to give yourself more credit."
I laughed darkly. "And what have I ever done to deserve that credit?"
"Well for one thing, you've managed to not kill Bella in all the time you've been with her." She paused as I cringed at the word, but went on quickly. "More importantly, though, you've also saved her life. You've tasted her blood, and stopped yourself, to save her life. What more proof do you need?"
She watched my expression as I took in her words. It was hard to argue when she put it that way. It was torturous for me to remember that day, that moment when I thought I was going to lose her. But I had to remember it. I had to remember that I'd found the strength to stop, when drinking her blood was the greatest pleasure I'd ever known. I wondered, though, if it was an even comparison, if one situation had anything to do with the other. Alice, of course, was one step ahead of me, not so casually shuffling my brothers in as she disappeared.
"Alice said you needed some advice?" Emmett said, slightly confused. Jasper had already picked up on the anxiety in the room and there was concern in his eyes. I was almost afraid to begin. A few weeks prior, I'd gotten up the nerve to discuss the subject with Carlisle. He was always so understanding, and so kind with all his faith in me. It was a completely different matter trying to talk to my brothers, Emmett especially, but I supposed there were only so many male vampires available for advice on this particular matter. I took a deep breath as I tried to form the words.
"I've been having . . . concerns. Regarding Bella and I being . . . intimate. Against my better judgment, she is convinced that it is perfectly safe for us to . . . make love while she is still human."
There must have been true fear in my eyes – or else Jasper was keeping the mood of the room serious – because Emmett didn't so much as snicker. It was Jasper who spoke first, though it looked like he was having as much trouble speaking as I was.
"I've felt how worried you've been, and I know hurting Bella is your greatest fear. But you've been . . . close to her before. Many times. I mean, you spend every night holding her."
"And who knows what else," Emmett said, finally unable to stop his nature from coming out. Jasper threw an elbow into his rib and his smile vanished. "Sorry."
"What I'm trying to say," Jasper continued, "is that this isn't entirely new to you. Think of how different it was the first time you kissed her. Didn't you have to calculate every move, every second? Were you wondering, even then, if you were hurting her?"
"Yes, every second. I was always worried I would move too fast or hold too tightly."
"But now that's easy, right? You're used to physical contact and you know how to maintain your self restraint."
Emmett spoke my fears aloud before I'd had the chance to. "Yeah, but this is kind of different. It's gonna be a little harder than usual not to get too excited." He laughed under his breath, his voice teasing as he looked at Jasper. "Don't you remember your first time?"
Then, to my great embarrassment, he did. Not that it was the first time I'd had to block out unwanted thoughts of this variety, but we were getting off topic. I cleared my throat and tried to bring Jasper back to the present.
"I don't think anything is really going to prepare me for what I will feel in that moment. I mean, I love her. I do want her. I want her more than anything. But only if I can be certain I won't hurt her. I'd gladly wait until after she's changed. I'd wait as many years as it takes, but she's persisting. She wants this now. She thinks she'll be too different later. So, Alice was reminding me of when I saved Bella from James. When I sucked out the venom to save her life. I'm not sure it's really a proper comparison, but there's nothing in my existence that's felt stronger, that's been more potent, than the taste of her blood. Perhaps there's something to her reassurance?"
I looked to Jasper first, but it only took a split second to see that he wasn't a fair test. Human blood, at least physically speaking, would always be at the top of his list. The only thing stronger than his thirst was his love for Alice. But if he could drink human blood without disappointing her, without risking the life the two of them had created, I had no doubt it would be his first and foremost desire.
Then, I looked at Emmett, who was smirking at me. I wished I didn't have such a clear window into his mind, but the up side was that I knew the extent to which he valued his physical relationship with Rosalie. There was a reason we'd kicked them out of the house after his newborn blood lust had worn off. It didn't take Emmett long to figure out there were a few other perks to being a vampire that had nothing to do with blood.
So, knowing this, it gave me my first real glimmer of hope when he looked me straight in the eye. "Seriously, sex is amazing and all. Second greatest thing in the world, I swear. But there's nothing as intense as drinking human blood. No greater rush." He laughed and punched me in the shoulder. "Sorry, you'll just have to take my word on this one for now. Pretty soon, though . . ."
And then I returned the punch.
After that, the tense atmosphere lifted and I knew the conversation was over. I tried very hard to block out the flood of images that followed – I suppose I'd brought it on myself, having brought up the subject – and when Rosalie returned home a few minutes later, Jasper and I didn't hesitate for one second before running out the back door.
You're gonna be fine, brother, Jasper thought as we ran. You love her, you don't want to hurt her, and I'm sure you can keep it together for one night. Just focus. And maybe make sure you have something other than Bella nearby to sink your teeth into if it gets to be too much. That is, unless you plan on changing her on your wedding night.
Great, I thought miserably. Just the advice I needed.