A/N: Hello again to everyone, sorry it's been so long. Many of you have messaged me to ask if everything is all right, and I appreciate all your well wishes. Yes, I'm okay, just still dealing with a number of pregnancy difficulties. Mandatory bed rest when you have a three-year-old is . . . interesting. I've had to get really creative with games we can play from the couch. And increased headaches (plus not being allowed to take anything for them) has made it difficult to read/write, which is a very frustrating thing, for someone who uses books as an escape. I'm glad to get this chapter posted, marking the end of "Book One." I promise I'm not abandoning the story, but life is about to get really busy, so it may be awhile before my next chapter. I'm officially off of bed rest as of tomorrow, and then all there is to do is wait to meet our little boy! Keep an eye on my profile page. I'll try to keep you all updated on how things are going. :)

Chapter 7

With every day that passed, our honeymoon in paradise seemed to get impossibly better. Now that Bella knew I wasn't simply trying to wear her out to avoid the subject of our physical relationship, she was finding even greater joy in our activities around the island. She continued to let me lead her to every beautiful waterfall and mountain peak, hand in mine, or arms wrapped around me. I was no longer afraid of her nearly constant showers of affection, or the way she looked at me, desire in her eyes, that told me we'd soon be heading back to the house. I couldn't have asked for more. I showed her the beauties that surrounded us, and then returned each night to the perfect sanctuary of her arms.

It was with great reluctance, but absolute necessity, that I had to leave her side just over two weeks after we'd arrived. My thirst had been steadily intensifying, moving from the back of my mind to the forefront, and while I hated to leave her, even for a short time, I knew I couldn't put it off anymore. We'd had another wonderful day exploring the farthest reaches of the island – she'd even been tired enough to let me carry her back – and after making love with the moonlight pouring into the room around us, I felt her slip into a peaceful sleep.

I figured I had about nine hours before she awoke, possibly more, considering how she'd been sleeping longer and longer each night, but just in case, I left her a note. I quickly scrawled the letter explaining my absence, and put it where I'd been laying, knowing it was where she would reach even before she was fully conscious again. I brushed her hair back from her face, then softly kissed her closed eyes before hurrying out to the boat.

It wasn't long before I reached my destination, and yet, every minute away from Bella dragged on. My hunting expedition was successful, if not somewhat frustrating. I was surrounded by one of the most diverse populations of wildlife I'd ever encountered, but limited by a host of endangered species, which I felt a moral obligation to avoid. Still, the area gave me a change from the ordinary, and it wasn't long before I was more than sated and ready to return to my hopefully still sleeping wife.

I was only a few steps into the house when I saw her sleeping form on the couch. The television was on, a blue screen indicating whatever movie she'd been attempting to watch was long since over, and nearly every window was open, a gentle breeze filling the room. I turned the television off and sat down beside Bella. She didn't stir until I let my fingers trail across her forehead. There was a sheen of sweat, and I felt instantly guilty that I hadn't thought to at least put a fan on while I was away. Of course she would be too warm without my icy skin to cool her. As I placed my hand more firmly to her cheek, her breathing sped, and she instinctively leaned into my touch. Bella sighed, though her eyes were still closed, and a small smile crept onto her face.

Carefully, I tilted her body forward, so I could climb onto the couch behind her and pull her flush against my body. She took a deep breath, then sunk back into me, her hair brushing up against my chin. I kissed the top of her head, and started to hum, hoping she would fall back asleep now that she was cooler. It wasn't long, though, before I felt her start to squirm, almost like she was uncomfortable. Still, she made no attempt to pull away from me.

"I'm sorry," I said, touching my hand to her forehead again. Maybe she was still too warm. "So much for thoroughness. I didn't think about how hot you would be with me gone. I'll have an air conditioner installed before I leave again."

I expected to feel her smile, or for her to turn her head to look at me, but a moment later, she groaned and began tugging against my arms. "Excuse me!" she said, her voice strained, as she yanked herself free from my grasp.

"Bella?" My eyes widened with alarm as I fully took in her expression. She was completely pale, and her eyes were watering as she ran toward the bathroom. I was at her side by the time she reached the toilet, and I watched in horror as she wretched again and again.

"Bella? What's wrong?" I asked, when the worst appeared to have passed.

She shook her head, and I pulled her hair back, afraid she was going to be sick again.

"Damn rancid chicken," she said, her voice hoarse and miserable.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine." It was barely more than a whisper. I listened to her heart, which was still racing, and her breathing was shallow. I'd never seen her like this. "It's just food poisoning," she assured me. "You don't need to see this. Go away."

I rolled my eyes. Didn't she know me better than that? "Not likely, Bella."

"Go away," she groaned again as she tried to stand. I could feel her pushing against me, but there was no way I was letting go. She looked so weak.

I followed her to the sink, and held one hand while she used the other to rinse her mouth. I was glad she didn't protest when I scooped her up and carried her to our room. Her skin was still damp with sweat, and she was shaking slightly as I set her down.

"Food poisoning?" I asked. I knew it could be quick and violent, and I tried to think back to what I'd cooked for her the night before.

"Yeah. I made some chicken last night. It tasted off, so I threw it out. But I ate a few bites first."

I put my hand back on her forehead, and she sighed, closing her eyes. "How do you feel now?"

She breathed deeply, seeming to assess her condition. "Pretty normal," she finally said. "A little hungry, actually."

I looked at her reproachfully. I wasn't as educated as Carlisle in regards to human illnesses, but one thing I knew for sure was that one should not eat a meal five minutes after vomiting.

Before she had time to protest, I ran to the kitchen and brought back a large glass of water. She eyed it cautiously, then looked up at me and raised an eyebrow.

"Please?" I asked, placing it in her hand. She leaned back into the pillows and started sipping slowly.

I crawled into bed beside her, not sure whether it was better for her to be warm or cold. When she felt me hesitating, she lifted my arm and draped it around her shoulder. She shivered again, but sighed as she sunk into me. She continued to sip the water slowly, and I listened as her breathing returned to normal.

"I'm okay, I promise," she assured me, but it did nothing to calm my nerves. Her color was still off, and something about the rhythm of her heart sounded strange. After about an hour, I helped her sit back up. She laughed when her stomach growled, and gave me her I told you so look.

"You're sure food is a good idea?"

"If it was food poisoning, I'm pretty sure it's all out by now. Don't let this ruin our whole day. I told you, I'm fine."

Reluctantly, I carried her to the kitchen and set her gently down on the chair, watching her carefully as I made her favorite breakfast as of late – eggs. She ate slowly, and I was happy to see a little of her color had returned by the end of the meal. She stood up, and I could see her falter just slightly when her feet hit the ground. Her lack of balance wasn't new, though, and I let her walk herself over to the couch. I sat down next to her and turned on the news. She'd mentioned that she was starting to feel out of touch with the world, so I figured today was the perfect day to catch up. Whether she claimed to be feeling better or not, I wasn't planning on taking her out again until I was sure she was completely healthy again.

Just as I was starting to relax, Bella turned like she was going to say something to me, and a second later, she was racing across the room again. She didn't even try for the bathroom, and I started to panic as I held her hair back while she vomited into the kitchen sink.

"Maybe we should go back to Rio, see a doctor?" I practically pleaded. This wasn't the time for Bella's stubbornness.

She shook her head, and started pulling away from me again. I couldn't understand why at this of all times, she was deciding she didn't need my help. Wasn't I supposed to take care of her in sickness and in health?

"I'll be fine right after I brush my teeth," she insisted, and then closed the bathroom door behind her. I listened impatiently to the sounds of water running and teeth being brushed. I wasn't used to her shutting me out when something was wrong. We'd realized long ago that things worked better when we were together, and I had hoped we would always be able to turn to each other, no matter what the problem. It seemed like that should have been all the more true now that we were husband and wife, but there I stood, on the outside of a door, waiting to see if she was all right.

About two minutes later, the bathroom went silent. I took a step closer, leaning toward the door as I tried to figure out what was wrong. I tried to convince myself that if she'd passed out, I would have heard her fall. Still, I was growing more anxious every second. No longer able to curb my fears, I knocked on the door.

"Are you well?" I asked. "Did you get sick again."

"Yes and no," she said. As I listened, I heard the strange rhythm of her heart again – that sound that told me something was off.

"Bella? Can I please come in?"

"O . . . kay?" The word was a question more than an answer, but it was still a yes. I opened the door quickly, and felt my chest tighten when I saw Bella sitting on the floor. She looked weak and dismayed as I sat beside her, and my hand immediately went back to her forehead. Her temperature felt better, but she was pale again, her eyes glazed over and seemingly staring at nothing.

"What's wrong?" I pleaded.

"How many days has it been since the wedding?" she asked.

"Seventeen," I answered, not realizing it was an odd question, considering we were supposed to be discussing her health. "Bella, what is it?" I repeated.

She was mouthing numbers, counting under her breath, while her brow pulled together in deep concentration. She finished, and I thought she was about to speak and put me out of my misery, but she started the whole process again.

"Bella!" I was trying to control my voice, but the panic was taking over. I didn't understand why she wasn't telling me anything. "I'm losing my mind over here."

Rather than answer, Bella reached into her suitcase and pulled out a box of tampons. She held them up like they held all the answers, but I just stared, baffled.

"What? Are you trying to pass this illness off as PMS?" I asked doubtfully. I'd known Bella a long time, and never once had I seen her as sick as she'd been these past two hours. There was no way her cycle was to blame for this.

"No," she said, her voice strangled. "No, Edward. I'm trying to tell you that my period is five days late."

It didn't register right away. How could a delayed period cause her to be so sick? There had to be another reason. While my mind attempted to find the answer, I saw that Bella's eyes were searching mine, like I was missing something extremely obvious.

"I don't think I have food poisoning," she said, scrutinizing me more closely as she spoke. It was like she was waiting for a reaction, but I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to be reacting to. It wasn't like a late period could mean . . .

Impossible. A tiny little voice in the back of my mind started denying the thought that hadn't yet fully formed in my consciousness. I couldn't even blink as the meaning behind Bella's words started to register. But it was ridiculous to even entertain the idea. Wasn't it? If Bella were any other woman on the planet, anyone besides the wife of a vampire, a late period could mean she was pregnant, but that wasn't possible for her. For us.

Was it?

"The dreams," Bella said quietly. "Sleeping so much. The crying. All that food. Oh. Oh. Oh."

I was sure she was looking at me again as symptoms began making sense to her, but I couldn't meet her eyes. I couldn't see anything. For the first time in my very long life, the world started to spin and blur around me.

What have I done?

"Oh!" she gasped again. My eyes shifted just enough to see that her hand had dropped to her stomach.

I was barely aware when she slipped out of my feeble grasp, and walked slowly to the mirror. I forced my eyes to focus as she stared at her own reflection, but nothing about the picture fit. She was still my Bella, but she was . . . changed. It didn't make any sense, but as hard as I tried to deny it, even I could see the difference. She had moved away the fabric that had been covering her stomach, and beneath it lay a small bump just below her belly button.

"Impossible," she whispered.

Of course it was. And yet –

My breath caught as I realized this was the reason Bella's heart had sounded so different. It wasn't racing and then calming, as I'd grown so used to. The beats were irregular, jumping and sputtering, trying to make sense of this . . . thing, this foreign beingthat was now inside her.

Bella was still staring at the inexplicable bump, moving slightly back and forth, like she was trying to get a better view. Then, she reached down to touch it, her eyes widening slightly. I knew I should be saying something, asking her how she was feeling, or what she was thinking. But I simply couldn't form the words. Maybe there were no words for this.

"Impossible," she repeated, her hand still resting softly on her stomach.

My mind was reeling. It was all too much. I couldn't reproduce. It shouldn't be possible. How had this happened? What did it mean? More importantly, what exactly was it?

Monster. The voice in my mind was back, once again telling me what I couldn't tell myself. The how didn't really matter, not when it was becoming increasingly obvious that it had, indeed, happened. All that mattered was keeping Bella safe, and whatever creature had been brought into existence couldn't possibly be compatible with her fragile body. It would be strong. It would be uncontrollable. And it would tear her apart.

At the exact moment of my realization, I heard Bella's breath catch, and her fingers pressed more tightly into her stomach – almost as if she was holding it. Suddenly, my phone was blaring, filling the silent room with unbidden noise. It screamed at us, like my insides were screaming at me, yet I couldn't find the strength to move in order to answer it. I'd never felt so weak, not even when I had been human, dying . . .

My eyes stayed locked on Bella, who was still cradling her stomach, and tears began to slide down her cheeks. My phone continued to ring, and with an exasperated sigh, Bella came down to sit beside me, her hand searching until she found it. When she answered, her voice was barely more than a whisper.

"Hi, Alice."

"Bella? Bella, are you okay?" Alice's voice was frantic when she answered, and I didn't have it in me to think about why. If she had seen something, and now she was calling me –

"Yeah. Um. Is Carlisle there?"

"He is. What's the problem?"

She couldn't see what the problem was? I still wasn't sure I was ready for the answer, but if Alice didn't already know what was happening, then I needed to know exactly what she had seen.

"I'm not . . . one hundred percent . . . sure . . . ." Bella stuttered.

"Is Edward all right? Carlisle?" she called, and once again, I could hear the fear in her voice. "Why didn't he pick up the phone?"

"I'm not sure."

"Bella, what's going on? I just saw –"

What? What did you see? Is Bella –

As desperately as I needed to know, I couldn't form the question, not even in my mind. What if there was nothing I could do to protect her? What if, after everything we'd been through, this was the one problem we couldn't solve?

"What did you see?" Bella asked.

Alice didn't answer, and the silence seemed to drag on forever.

"Give me the phone." I heard Carlisle's voice faintly in the background, possibly too quiet for Bella to hear. I tried to feel some reassurance by his presence. Carlisle would have the answers we needed. He had to. "Alice, let me take it from here."

"Here's Carlisle," she said quietly. I hated the way her voice sounded so defeated. It wasn't something I was used to. Alice was always so confident and sure of everything.

"Bella, it's Carlisle. What's going on?"

"I –" She froze, clearly unable to say the words. She was having as much trouble believing this as I was. A moment later, she continued, "I'm a little worried about Edward. . . . Can vampires go into shock?"

I was surprised to hear her talking about me, when she was the one in danger. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me, other than the fear that was gripping me, suffocating me.

"Has he been harmed?" I heard Carlisle ask.

"No, no. Just . . . taken by surprise."

"I don't understand, Bella."

"I think . . . well, I think that . . . maybe . . . I might be . . . pregnant."

The word hung in the air, this nebulous concept that had changed everything, and as it took shape, Bella's hand reached back down to her stomach. I noticed again how the gesture looked less like a simple touch, and more like an embrace. It didn't make any sense.

If Carlisle was shocked, he certainly didn't let Bella hear it in his voice. He was instantly, miraculously, Dr. Cullen, prepared to fix whatever ailment had befallen her. "When was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?" he asked.

"Sixteen days before the wedding," she answered, matter-of-fact. It was like they were discussing what she'd had for dinner.

"How do you feel?"

"Weird," she admitted, her voice catching as she once again began to cry. Bella so rarely cried, though she'd had so many reasons to, and fear once again took over my every thought. Was she already hurting, feeling this foreign thing that shouldn't exist? Yet, when she spoke again, her voice was soft, no trace of fear. It was almost reverent, and I was completely baffled by it.

"This is going to sound crazy – look, I know it's way too early for any of this. Maybe I am crazy. But I'm having bizarre dreams and eating all the time and crying and throwing up and . . . and . . . I swear something moved inside me just now."

That was it. The moment that finally snapped me back to reality. She could already feel that thing, whatever it was, even though it couldn't be more than days old. I needed answers, and though I wasn't sure even Carlisle would have them, he was my best chance. Still not quite able to speak, I reached my hand out, motioning for the phone.

Bella was eying me cautiously. "Um, I think Edward wants to talk to you."

"Put him on."

She handed me the phone, her expression unreadable. The moment it hit my ear, I asked the question I felt certain I already knew the answer to.

"Is it possible?"

"Edward, you know as well as I do that there have been legends of such occurrences. I haven't encountered anything like it in all my centuries, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. From everything Bella described, her symptoms, and the fact that she felt . . . movement, I have to proceed under the assumption that she is, indeed, pregnant. I'm so sorry. I had no idea, or I would have told you to take precautions. Obviously, we don't have much to go off of, but I am going to do as much research as I can while you two journey home, to help determine the best way to . . . handle this. There are stories in Balkan folklore, as well as the tales of the incubus. And of course, many legends have come out of Romania –"

His words had started to blend together, and I was having trouble focusing. He was talking about legends and mythology, when my real life, flesh and blood, extremely mortal wife sat helpless beside me.

"And Bella?" I asked, feeling equally helpless as I pulled her into my arms.

He paused for a beat longer than I would have liked, but whatever he didn't want to say, he quickly hid it. "I'm sure I'll find some answers that will help us know how to best approach this. Try to stay calm, and be there for Bella. I'm sure she's frightened and confused. The best thing you can do for her is to be positive. And of course, get her home as quickly as possible. I won't really know what we're dealing with until I examine her."

"Yes. Yes, I will."

As I hung up the phone, I pulled Bella closer, holding her tighter than was perhaps wise, but I couldn't help myself. She'd never felt more precious to me, more worth fighting for. This ordeal she was going through, all of it was because of me – because I hadn't listened to her, and changed her when she'd asked me to. It had been all she'd wanted for so long, and I had denied her. Now, she was going to suffer because of it.

Carlisle was right. I knew the legends as well as he did, and though I'd always found them unlikely at best, the one aspect that seemed certain throughout each and every one of them, was that it could not possibly end well for the women involved.

I quickly dialed the airport, ready to book whatever flight got us home the fastest.

"What did Carlisle say?" she asked.

"He thinks you're pregnant." There was no sense in burdening her with anything else. Like Carlisle had told me, there wasn't much he could do until he'd seen Bella himself.

"Who are you calling now?"

"The airport. We're going home."

Bella sat by my side for the first ten minutes or so, but she soon grew weary of listening to me argue in Portuguese. It took four members of the customer service team, two managers, and just over an hour, but Bella and I were officially booked on the next flight out of Rio.

While I arranged our flight, I was also packing our bags, and trying unsuccessfully to ignore the worry on Bella's face. For the majority of the hour, she sat on the bed, hugging her knees to her chest, and looking at me anxiously. I couldn't seem to make myself look her in the eyes. Eventually, I tossed an outfit onto the bed, hoping that, for once, she wouldn't argue. I knew this wasn't how she wanted to end our honeymoon, but she had to understand the need to get home and let Carlisle examine her.

I barely even noticed when she left the room, but I could feel my tension increase exponentially when she was no longer in my sight. I was relieved when our flight was booked, and our bags were packed, so I could return to her side. She was in the kitchen, staring out the window, her hand absently grazing across her stomach.

"Bella?" When she turned, I saw there were tears streaking down her cheeks again. "Bella!" I was at her side in one of her erratic heartbeats, and my hands reached out to cradle her face. There was something in her eyes, something I couldn't quiet understand, but that I knew she was keeping from me. Was she afraid to tell me how much it was already hurting her, or how frightened she truly was? "Are you in pain?" I asked miserably.

"No, no –"

I just couldn't stand to hear her denial, and to know she was trying to protect me yet again. I could see her tears, and the fear in her eyes. I crushed her to my chest, silently begging for forgiveness. This was all my fault.

"Don't be afraid," I said, running my hand through her hair. "We'll be home in sixteen hours. You'll be fine. Carlisle will be ready when we get there. We'll take care of this, and you'll be fine, you'll be fine."

I felt Bella stiffen under my embrace, and her voice when she spoke was strangled. "Take care of this? What do you mean?"

I took a step back to look into her eyes, and she could no longer hide it from me. The mask she'd been wearing to spare my feelings had slipped completely away. She was terrified. "We're going to get that thing out before it can hurt any part of you. Don't be scared. I won't let it hurt you."

"That thing?" she asked, and I instantly regretted the word. I wasn't doing anything to calm her fears.

I wanted to say something else, but I heard voices outside out door. "Dammit! I forgot Gustavo was due today. I'll get rid of him and be right back."

I raced to the door and opened it violently. Gustavo and Kaure stared at me with shocked eyes, and I forced myself to speak calmly. Still, the Portuguese sounded harsher that usual, and Kaure took an instinctive step back.

"We won't be needing your services at this time. Come back later this afternoon, or tomorrow, or whenever. We're getting ready to leave, and would like to be left alone."

Oh my, he has killed the poor girl . . . . Kaure gripped Gustavo's arm. Without thinking, I shook my head infinitesimally, and she gasped. I closed my eyes, wishing I had just stayed still. The last thing I needed was to give her more proof that I was exactly the kind of creature she feared.

"I'm sorry you've made the journey for nothing, but we really would like to be alone while we get ready for our departure."

"Please, sir, we have brought you dinner. May I take it in to your lovely wife?" she asked bravely.

"We appreciate the gesture, but we really are in quite a hurry." I was getting frustrated, but there was no deterring her.

I have to see for myself. Her mind was screaming at me, and her eyes were locked firmly with mine. She knew I could hear.

"Please," she repeated.

"Fine," I said, irritated. "Come this way. You can give the food to Bella yourself."

"Thank you, sir."

Gustavo, so calm the last time we saw him, was keeping his distance. He waited, only a few steps inside the door. As we walked into the kitchen, I saw that Bella had been crying again. I quickly wiped her tears away and whispered in her ear. "She's insisting on leaving the food she brought – she made us dinner." I paused, wondering how much English Kaure actually understood. Lowering my voice, I added, "It's an excuse – she wants to make sure I haven't killed you yet."

When Kaure entered the room, her eyes fell immediately on Bella. She couldn't hide her sigh of relief, but still, she was assessing the two of us, as if trying to find something wrong.

She's been crying. And her color is off. And something else –

"You've done what you came to do," I said sharply. "It's time for you to leave."

She turned swiftly, and a moment later, Bella paled again. I followed as she hurried to the sink, barely making it before she was sick again.

"You're okay, Bella, you're okay," I muttered, feeling the lack of conviction in my own words. It occurred to me it was probably the smell of the food that had tuned her stomach, so I quickly put the offending items in the refrigerator, and returned my hand to Bella's heated forehead. She rinsed her mouth, breathing far too hard, and I felt a surge of anger. I didn't even know who or what it was directed at. Maybe Kaure for bringing the food, or the island for being so far from home, from help. Probably it was mostly anger at myself, but I couldn't focus on that right now. All that mattered was getting Bella home.

I pulled Bella back to me, and she sunk into my chest, sighing. I felt her arms wrap around her stomach, and I wondered if she was going to be sick again.

What is this?!

Bella and I looked up at the same moment, both of us seeing that Kaure was still there, watching us in horror. Her eyes were locked on Bella – or rather, on Bella's stomach – and for several seconds, even her mind was silent. Then, the flood gates opened.

What has he done, this monster, this . . . killer? He has defiled her. He has killed her!

Shocked and aghast, I stepped in front of Bella, my instincts trying to protect her, though of course, the danger wasn't some outside force. The danger was inside her.

"You act as if you love her, then you condemn her to this fate?" she shouted. "What kind of monster are you? What has she done to deserve this?" She shook her fist angrily at me. "I have heard these tales, I have believed them since I was a child, and I know this can only mean pain and suffering! Why have you done this?"

Even though her words were anything but comforting, I suddenly felt a glimmer of hope. If Kaure had truly heard legends of a situation like ours, perhaps she could offer some insight. Any information was better than the total lack of knowledge we had now. I walked toward her, aware that Bella was clutching my arm, but I needed Kaure to see the sincerity in my eyes. If she was to offer us any information, she had to know that I would only use it to help Bella. She had to know how much Bella meant to me, and how desperate I was to save her.

"Please," I begged, startling her. I knew little of her native Ticuna language, but even the sound of that one word was enough to get her attention. I struggled for the words, but I could see in her eyes that she understood. "Please, help us. I love her. I must save her. What do you know of this thing that has happened? How can I help her?"

"So it is true?" she answered. "You have created an abomination that now lives inside her?"

All I could do was nod. Although she had already determined as much, knowing it for certain was almost too much for her. She stepped back and made the sign of the cross over her chest.

I needed her to believe that I never meant for this to happen, that I only wanted health and happiness for Bella. I reached to Kaure in a gesture that meant peace, then motioned to Bella and placed my hand on her cheek. I didn't know how else to express my love for Bella.

"Do not pretend you love her!" she spat. "Only a monster would do such a thing to an innocent girl. You lure her here, and you sentence her to death!" She was waving her arms at me again, no longer afraid, which made me feel hope. If she wasn't afraid, perhaps it meant she was starting to question whether I was entirely evil.

"Please," I repeated. When I continued, I spoke Portuguese again, afraid my words would lose some of their meaning as I struggled with her language. "She is my wife. She is my whole world."

Kaure looked disbelieving, but as she glanced between the two of us, there was a trace of something else. Curiosity, perhaps? Possibly even compassion.

Could it be true?

"I love her more than anything," I promised, "and I must keep her safe. I will do anything. Please. I did not know this was even possible, or I never would have put her in danger. I know nothing of this. If you have any knowledge, anything that can help her, please, you must tell me. I am begging you."

All the while, she kept looking at Bella, confused, but wondering if I could be telling the truth.

See how she clings to him, she thought, baffled. Could she truly love him, even with all he's done to her?

When she took a step toward Bella, I knew she was starting to believe. Wanting Bella to know she understood what was happening, she moved her hands in the shape of a large, pregnant belly, and Bella's eyes widened with shock.

"She knows it is within her already?" she asked.

"Yes. She understood before I did."

"And she is frightened."

It wasn't really a question, but I answered, "yes," anyway.

"Still, she loves you? How can this be?"

"She is extraordinary. Her love for me is completely undeserved, but it is all I have. I cannot lose her."

She looked at me, her eyes softening for the first time. "In all the legends, I have never heard of a monster who loves his victim. It is difficult to believe, yet I can see she is not afraid of you. And there is something in the way you speak of her."

Does he speak the truth?

Very deliberately this time, I looked into her eyes and nodded my head. I would gain nothing by hiding any part of myself from her. Now that I was starting to gain her trust, I asked the only question that truly mattered.

"In your legends, is it possible for a woman to survive this ordeal?"

His voice is so earnest . . . She was torn, still disbelieving, but a part of her wanting to believe me. A moment later, she shook her head dismally.

Never.

"There must be something I can do. Anything!"

She walked dismally over to Bella, and placed her hand over Bella's, so they were both holding her slightly raised stomach. Kaure spoke one final word, and I could see in Bella's eyes that she understood.

"Morte." Death.

Kaure's legends spoke only of death, and if that was the case, then she wouldn't be able to tell us anything we would want to hear. As she left, it looked like the weight of the world had fallen on her shoulders.

I am sorry, demon, she thought, right before she closed the door.

Bella and I were both frozen, unsure of what to do next. We were packed, and I knew we had to hurry to catch our flight, but somehow, the thought of leaving the island made everything so much more real. Leaving would mean entering the unknown, and accepting that neither of us knew how this would end. How had everything changed so quickly?

Eventually, Bella started to move again, and I reached out to her shoulder.

"Where are you going?" I couldn't stand the thought of letting her out of my sight, even for a second.

"To brush my teeth again."

"Don't worry about what she said. It's nothing but legends, old lies for the sake of entertainment."

"I didn't understand anything." Something in her eyes, however, told me she'd understood far more than I would have liked.

"I packed your toothbrush," I said. "I'll get it for you."

"Are we leaving soon?"

"As soon as you're done."

I paced as she brushed her teeth, feeling helpless and useless. When she was finished, I packed it away again. I knew it was time to leave.

"I'll get the bags into the boat," I said.

"Edward – "

"Yes?"

She looked worried, her eyes barely meeting mine. "Could you . . . pack some of the food? You know, in case I get hungry again?"

It was such a simple request, and one of the few things I could do for her at that moment. "Of course." I tried to smile, but it was weak and forced. I wanted to reassure her, but it was hard to infuse any certainty into my voice when there was so much I didn't understand. The one thing I did know was that I would not, could not, lose her. Not after everything we'd been through together. Carlisle would find a way to get that thing out before it grew big enough to hurt her, and then I would change her at the first possible opportunity. I was a fool for waiting so long, and for having entertained the idea of leaving her human even longer, simply to get more of the things I thought were important. None of that mattered now. All that mattered was keeping her safe, and there was only one way to make certain of that.

"Don't worry about anything. We'll get to Carlisle in just a few hours, really. This will all be over soon."

She nodded, though the fear didn't leave her eyes. I felt miserable. I had sworn there was nothing left for her to be afraid of, that nothing would ever threaten her again, and now, because of me, she was faced with another horror. I couldn't think of anything to say that I hadn't already said, so I grabbed our bags and headed to the boat, loading it quickly and without thought.

When I returned to the house, Bella was standing at the kitchen counter holding my phone. She looked up at me, her expression unreadable. "Don't forget your phone," she said, holding it out to me.

As I took the phone, she entwined her fingers with mine. There was something strange behind her eyes, and I felt once again there was something she wanted to say to me, but didn't know how.

"I love you," I said, trailing kisses from her forehead down her cheek, and to her lips. "I'm so sorry you're sick, and hurting, and frightened. I'm sorry for everything."

"I'm fine," she said. An odd smile that didn't look at all like hers tugged at her lips. "We're fine."

"Of course we're fine," I said. I was confused when her smile disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. So much for my reassurances. I kissed her again, then scooped her up and carried her to the boat. She didn't protest.

As we made our way to shore, I noticed Bella was sitting backward, eyes staring out at our quickly disappearing island. Another round of tears filled her eyes and spilled over.

"We'll come back someday," I called to her. "When all this is over, and you're safe again."

Bella didn't move as more silent tears stained her cheeks.

She didn't speak to me the entire boat ride, and we exchanged only a few words while we waited for our flight. I couldn't blame her, though. Not really. What was there to talk about? She had to be scared, and she knew all I would offer would be more vague promises that she would be all right. She was probably furious with me, the reality of her situation settling in. Neither of us knew what to expect when we got home, what plan Carlisle would have devised for her, but it certainly wouldn't be pleasant. Would she ever be able to forgive me for what she was going to have to go through? Here I was planning to change her at the first opportunity, but what if this was the thing that finally sent her running for the hills, like I'd feared so long ago? Would she want eternity with me after this? With everything I'd put her through?

Bella slept through most of our first flight, and all of our second. She was restless, though, tossing and turning in her seat, and muttering incoherently. It pained me to see the way her face was contorted in agony. For the first time, I was afraid to hear what she was dreaming, and I was thankful none of her words made any sense. I was relieved when we arrived at the airport, and I could wake her from her miserable sleep. She mumbled something that sounded like, "need to keep safe," but when I told her she was safe, she groaned and looked away from me.

I had a strange sense of foreboding as we walked across the tarmac, but, fool that I was, I still didn't understand what was happening as Bella ran straight into Rosalie's arms.

You're okay, you're safe. No one's going to hurt you.

At first I thought she was talking to Bella, and I was glad that, for once, it seemed Rose and I were on the same page. Of course Bella was safe, and we were going to do whatever we needed to do to keep her that way. Then, I saw that Rosalie's hands had dropped to Bella's stomach, and something in the gesture reminded me of the way I'd seen Bella hold her stomach – like she was cradling it, protecting it.

At that moment, the pieces all fell staggeringly, unbearably, into place. I was frozen where I stood when Rosalie finally met my eyes. She wasn't even trying to hide her thoughts from me. She wanted me to hear them.

No one is going to take you away from us, little one.

It was a threat, and a promise. Rosalie and Bella had finally found a common bond, and in one second of absolute clarity, I felt my whole world fall apart. They were going to let that thing grow inside Bella, giving no thought to what it was was or what it could do to her. They were going to completely disregard Bella's safety and well-being in order to save it.

And there absolutely nothing I could do to stop them.