Chapter 26


My Dearest Love,

You cannot possibly understand how I long for you. How I wait with bated breath until the day when I can touch the face I see in Alice's mind or hold the hand that wears my ring. You cannot imagine the number of years I have waited or how irrelevant they seem when I look into your beautiful eyes. What a gift! What a treasure! What breath and life and light you are to me!

How can I ever express to you the value you hold or the extent of my life that belongs to you? Words are too small, prose inadequate; sentences and books and libraries full of poetic expression are too small a space to hold the depth of my love and adoration.

How, then, do I tell you when I find you that I will love you for the rest of eternity if you will but consent to be mine. And I? I will be forever yours. I can be nothing else. You hold my heart in your hand.

Always and Forever,


I closed the journal - one of a hundred I had filled in the past eighteen years - and looked at the trembling, pain-filled, changing form of my beautiful Bella. The sight of her hand as it gripped mine with all her waning strength, knowing she clung to me in the midst of the fires of hell coursing through her veins caused me more anguish than I had ever imagined possible – even when I'd nearly despaired of finding her.

The birth of our daughter Charlotte Renee Cullen was the picture of perfection. It could not have gone better, and both Carlisle and I were very pleased but, in the end, we were forced to do just what we feared most.

As little Charlie assisted us in her own delivery, a positively amazing feat in itself, she also followed the instincts of both infant and vampire and bit her mother immediately after she emerged. Her instinctual attempt to suckle combined with the overriding thirst at being surrounded by so much blood was too much for her tender sensibilities. She bit Bella's breast with teeth we didn't realize she had as she was placed against her mother's chest.

Bella was joyfully cradling our daughter in her arms, having come through the cesarean perfectly. She kissed Charlie's head and cooed to her sweetly, pouring out motherly words of wonder and affection. Then she jumped slightly as the baby nuzzled against her.

"Ouch! Oh, baby, no. Don't bite Mommy." She smiled indulgently at Charlie for a few seconds until her eyes grew wide and the burning began.

"Edward!" she gasped.

Carlisle's head snapped up from where he was stitching Bella closed. I rushed to examine Charlie's mouth. Her teeth were sharp, like every vampire's, and I could smell the sweet scent of venom on her breath.

"She's venomous." I looked up at my father as I cradled the baby in my arms, away from her mother's delicate human flesh.

You need to decide, Edward. Let her change or try to draw the poison out? he directed.

I looked at Bella with the question in my eyes. We had talked about this at length. She knew it was possible that something could go wrong and we would need to try to change her during the birth.

Bella gazed up at me. "I'm ready," she said through gritted teeth.

I nodded to Carlisle without dropping Bella's gaze.

"I love you," I said to her.

"Forever," she whispered back.

Carlisle rushed to administer the syringes of venom we had prepared, pushing morphine first at each injection site. He worked on every limb at wrist and ankle and then at each juncture of those limbs to her torso. I rushed to the door and handed the baby to Rose. She would take the baby to where Alice and Esme waited to attend her.

Carlisle was just about to inject the large vial of venom into her heart when I was back at Bella's side. She was already writhing in pain, the morphine having done nothing at all to stop the burning.

"WAIT!" she gasped and opened her eyes to look up at me. "Edward," she whispered. "I want your mark. Bite me, please!" Bella turned her head barring her neck to me.

"Bella, no! Please don't make me hurt you more!" I pleaded with her. But she was insistent.

"Mark me, Edward! Make me your mate forever." Bella leaned her head to kiss the hand I had placed on her cheek.

"Mine," I conceded and leaned down to taste her precious flesh and mar it forever with a kiss of death and second life.

Then I waited. For three days I did not move from her side. I read to her from the letters I had written to her for all those years. Having no way to know whether she heard me or not, I still felt the need to tell her all the things that I wanted her to know as I had penned each one.

I kissed her hand and brushed my cheek against hers again just before Rose brought Charlie in to me. The baby reached for my face and demonstrated her amazing talent, showing me what she had been doing downstairs with her aunts.

At nearly three days old she seemed more like three months.

When she finished her tale she wondered when Mommy would wake up. Charlie worried that her mother was still sleeping.

"Soon, Precious. Do you hear her heart beat? It's slowing down. It won't be long until she's like Daddy."

Charlie worried about whether Bella was okay. I didn't know how to answer that question so I just kissed both my sweet girls again and smiled nervously. Together Charlie and I waited for Bella to wake.


She was there - just thirty feet from me with her radiant smile and eyes so full of love, sparkling with venomous tears - and she was looking at me.

I stood in awe of this glorious creature, standing in a room full of flowers and people. There was silence except for the occasional wayward note, leaking into my consciousness like dewdrops. An errant ray of light struck the sparkling jewel on her left hand, and I became distracted by the tiny shimmer.

I knew with absolute certainty the time, place, and occasion. I had intimate knowledge of the heart and soul of the woman of surpassing beauty who was making her way toward me, the beaded, white lace trailing behind her. I knew the depth of those warm butterscotch eyes better than I knew my own.

The moment I had lived in my mind a thousand times was nothing compared with the reality. The beauty in Alice's vision paled in comparison to the goddess in silk and lace walking down the aisle. If I had thought the sight evoked strong emotion before, I was wrong. So wrong. I was near to bursting as Bella stepped up to me and I clasped her hand.

We made our vows with a single addition that even Alice couldn't foresee. Our daughter, as flowergirl, stood beside her mother, basket of petals clasped in her little, toddler hands. Before God, our friends, and family, I finally made the promise that began eighteen years ago, a promise that would be so very easy to keep – to love, honor, and cherish for always.

My love. My bride. My eternity. My Bella.

…The Beginning…