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Midnight Sun (17. Family)

When Bella first fell asleep, she was quiet. I held her in my arms and kept my face close to her neck. I continued to breathe deeply while I hummed her lullaby very quietly in her ear. Even in her sleep, she trembled at my touch. This moment is what I had always wished for when I was the peeping tom, and now, after everything I've done; spying on her, being rude to her, ignoring her, she invites me in and still wants to be with me. The thought sent pleasure through me. A feeling I couldn't get used to, yet I craved it more.

While I was laying there with an angel in my arms I was thinking about the past day's events. I couldn't think of my life before her, because that was no life at all. I was so joyous, euphoric. Every time I felt her warmth, hear her pulse speed up, watch her face flush I fell deeper and deeper into love.

After fifteen minutes of silence, Bella began to mumble. I couldn't understand what she was saying for the most part. She shivered then, and I realized that I was probably making her cold. Though it pained me to do it, I removed her from my arms and pulled the blanket around her firmly. Bella turned over when I let go of her, and I thought she woke up when she mumbled, "I love you, Edward." She sighed then, and smiled. Bursts of pleasure and exultation flowed swiftly through my body at the thought of her love for me. I was rejoicing, my skin literally singing. The onslaught of euphoric feelings was almost overwhelming.

A light snore followed and then she turned again, moving her left hand around like she was looking for something…this distracted me. I didn't know what she could possibly be feeling for. An idea sparked in my head then. I grabbed another blanket and wrapped it securely around her. She mumbled, sighed, and said my name. Her hand never stopped searching. I finally laid down next to her, holding her while she was bundled in her quilt and another blanket.

Like her hand found what it was looking for, she grabbed my neck and pulled her face into the hollow below my ear. She breathed deep heavy breaths onto my neck. The warmth made me tremble. I pulled her in closer to me. The sensations of her breath were almost maddening. She reached up with her right hand and then it limply fell onto my chest. I held her even closer then. She was quiet.

After several immeasurable moments, she turned over and sighed. Her hand came around her back and pulled me close again. I gently caressed her face. Even in her sleep she flushed red. I wonder what she is dreaming about. She sighed my name once more, lightly snored again and didn't move for over an hour.

It was becoming late in the evening and Charlie decided he was going to bed. Before he went to bed though, he went outside, opened the hood of Bella's truck, felt to see if it was warm…just in case she had snuck out and back without his knowledge, and then swiftly unplugged the battery cables. Did he seriously think that is all it would take to stop Bella from leaving? Charlie went to bed then, and he was snoring in a matter of minutes.

Bella moved once more, bringing her head to my chest, over my still heart. I moved the hair from her face and watched as she slept peacefully. I caressed her face, her hair, her lips over and over again. Every time I pressed my fingers to her skin I was stung by the electricity. It was an astonishing feeling.

When I could see the sky turning a deep dark blue, I left to take a shower and change my clothes. Removing my arms from Bella was torture. But I had to. I jumped out of Bella's window and raced to my house. It isn't home without Bella, she was my home now.

Alice, oh Alice…she was waiting for me, just like always, at the bottom of the stairs outside.

"Thanks," I mumbled under my breath, I was still grateful for her presence this evening.

"So, Jasper lost the bet �C he should know better than to bet against me." Alice laughed.

We heard Emmett's chuckling from inside the house, immediately after we heard a loud thud and a, "I'll get you for that!"

Shortly after we heard Esme, "Boy's, cut it out!" followed by "I'm Sorry," from Jasper and Emmett both.

Alice and I just grinned widely at each other.

"So, are the boys ready to meet Bella?" I asked Alice.

Her face went blank as I watched her go through her most recent visions. She was seeing Jasper staying far from Bella, Emmett enjoying Bella's presence immensely until Rosalie show's up and Bella and I laughing exuberantly.

"Thanks again," I said.

I heard a chuckle from inside the house again, "Hey Edward, is meeting Bella going to be as fun as messing with that kid in Spanish class?" Emmett mused.

I heard a light slap from inside the house, "Emmett, you will be good to Bella, she is going to be a part of this family!" Esme reprimanded him.

"Alice, can I ask you a question?" I wondered.

Oh, of course you would be wondering about that. I am surprised it took you this long to notice, Alice thought.

"Please, Alice," I pleaded, "Show me the vision again."

Bella and Alice were in a room together, Bella's room, I noticed. Alice was taking measurements of her body and Bella was blushing scarlet with a frown prominent on her face. Immediately I noticed the ring on her left hand.

"Stop," I begged.

What is it Edward, I don't understand, Alice asked, concerned.

"This isn't the same vision, is this newer?" I asked

Alice tried to hide her thoughts. It was a new vision, but I was noticing how she was getting measured for a wedding gown and how her face was still flushing a deep red, which meant that she was human. How was that possible? Was it when Bella asked me about marriage? I must admit, the thought did run through my mind, but for only a fraction of a second. Did we both want it at the same time? It seemed a dream come true �C but how could this be possible. I was completely miffed! How could I let myself get so deeply into this? Because you love her, you idiot, I yelled internally.

She was my life now, and there was no taking it back. I could not leave her, and I knew she felt the same way. I frowned at Alice. It wasn't her fault, but she was the one who was showing me what I could possibly be doing to Bella. I was coveting her.

I went inside the house. Carlisle was talking with Jasper intently about a new medical study going on at the hospital. When I walked in the room, they stopped immediately. Jasper could feel the mix of emotions coming off of me.

What is going on with you Edward? I have never felt so many emotions radiating off one person, love, self hatred, anger, happiness… there are so many feelings, get a grip, Edward! Jasper scolded.

"I'm sorry," I muttered to Jasper.

I put my feelings in check then, deciding to focus on today's events.

"Carlisle, I am going to invite Bella over to meet the family, is that okay?" I asked

Absolutely, that would be delightful, Carlisle thought.

Esme came into the room then, interested in our conversation. I had not talked that much about Bella in the past, but they all knew how my mood has changed since I met her. She has altered me in ways I didn't know were possible.

"You know my thoughts on that Edward. I've wanted to meet her for some time now. She is your partner, which means she is family. I am ready to meet my new daughter," Esme beamed.

"Thank you," I said to both of them with a grin on my face.

"No need to thank us Edward, we want to thank Bella!" Carlisle exclaimed.

"No doubt," I mumbled, distracted now.

My family could tell I was distracted, and they scattered, while their mental humming starting thinking about the days events, which would include a human.

I went to my bedroom and quickly showered and changed. I was in a hurry and I was finished in just two minutes. I was out the door in the next second.

Can't wait to see Bella, Alice thought as I flew by.

I was back at Bella's before Charlie left. Charlie was humming under his breath while gathering his fishing supplies. He checked on Bella, went downstairs, and pulled something out of the fridge. I was standing in the shade of the trees. My arms were feeling cold, something they have never felt before, but I knew it was because Bella's warmth was absent and I was becoming impatient with Charlie's human slowness.

He finally exited the house and I was already in Bella's room. When I jumped in the window, wind blew inward and then back out the window throwing Bella's scent into my face, instantly assaulting my throat. Hot flames burst down my throat licking at my aching wounds from my already dry thirsty throat. I whirled around to look at Bella. She was sleeping soundly, her hair all around her, where it had dried in the shape of her pillow. A little laugh escaped my lips and the monster was instantly caged, even though the dull ache in my throat continued to burn.

Charlie reconnected Bella's battery cables and left to meet Harry Clearwater at the lake in that moment. I was busy watching over Bella, though. I didn't have time to deal with anyone else's thoughts. My arms were still feeling cold from Bella's absence, but my heart had warmed since I reentered her bedroom. I continually breathed in several large generous gulps of air, letting her scent burn my throat, sending painful pleasure through my body.

I sat in the rocking chair, afraid pulling her into my arms would wake her now. An hour passed, and she still hadn't moved. I would have thought her dead if it weren't for her regular pulse and light snoring.

Suddenly Bella moaned, putting her arm over her face and then she rolled over. She was still for a moment. Her heart started pounding, and her pulse began racing. I was worried but then, instantly, she was sitting up, "Oh!" she breathed.

She met my gaze and I smiled, "Your hair looks like a haystack…but I like it," I teased.

Her hair was splayed across her face…she was adorable. In a fluid movement, by her standards, she was out of the bed and into my arms, clutching herself to me, "Edward! You stayed!" she exulted. My arms instantly engulfed her and brought her to my chest.

She became stone under my arms and her gaze met mine, worry in her expression. She must be worried she went too far but when she threw herself into my arms, I was instantly satisfied, my arms simultaneously warming. I laughed, joyous, "Of course," I told her.

My hands were at her back and began moving up and down gently, caressing her. She shivered in pleasure. I breathed in her delicious scent. Her head met my shoulder, and I brought my arms around her again, securing her to my chest.

"I was sure it was a dream," she mused.

"You're not that creative," I teased.

"Charlie," she exclaimed, leaving my arms quickly to go to the door.

My arms stung without her presence, like they were turning to ice.

"He left an hour ago �C after reattaching your battery cables, I might add. I have to admit I was disappointed. Is that really all it would take to stop you, if you were determined to go?" I asked, curious.

She stood in the middle of her room, with a confused expression on her face, unresponsive to my question, "You're not usually this confused in the morning," I noted.

My arms were still stinging unbearably now. I held my arms out, welcoming her back into my embrace. She stared at me, wavered, and then spoke, "I need another human minute," she explained.

"I'll wait."

Bella literally skipped to the bathroom. I had never seen her do that, and it sent a new sensation spiraling down my spine. I still didn't know Bella, there were so many things I didn't understand and I wanted to know everything about it. Her expressions, her thoughts and feelings. I gritted my teeth, and tightened my eyes shut trying to read her thoughts once more. Nothing, not even a hum, murmur, or buzz. Absolutely…frustrating, there was no other word for it. I heard the water running in the bathroom again and I was extremely happy that she wasn't taking another warm shower. The memory of the scent left painful scorch marks in my throat.

I heard the water turn off. She ran back into the room and I immediately held out my arms, pleading obvious on my face. For her to be in my arms was a necessity at this moment. I couldn't remain in this chair for long if she wasn't locked in my arms.

"Welcome back," I murmured.

Her heart began beating rapidly and she embraced me back. I held her to my chest, rocking her lightly back and forth while lightly tracing her bodies every line. A rush of sensations was rippling through my body, at each electric jolt; jubilance, happiness, triumph…the uplifting joy I was feeling was indescribable.

Bella grabbed the collar of my shirt, "You left?" she accused.

I felt so light-hearted at this moment, "I could hardly leave in the clothes I came in �C what would the neighbors think?" I teased, not like the neighbors would see me.

Her bottom lip was suddenly protruding from her face. My new desires and the passion I was always feeling for her flared up and I wanted to bring my mouth to hers to nibble on her lower lip. No mistakes, I told myself. If I were to slip, I might break the skin. I decided to distract myself, "You were very deeply asleep; I didn't miss anything," I stared at her, "The talking came earlier."

She groaned loudly and I automatically brought my arms around her to comfort her.

"What did you hear?" she moaned.

"You said you loved me." I explained with adoration in my joyous expression.

"You knew that already," she noted, bringing her head to my chest again.

Her warmth was insatiable and I brought her scent into my lungs again and again, relishing in the burning desires.

"It was nice to hear, just the same," I explained.

She didn't even hesitate, "I love you," she whispered softly.

My heart, unbeating, felt like it grew to ten times its normal size, a walking stereo type for the Grinch. I wrapped my arms around her in this moment, holding her closely while inhaling the delicate scent that I would on no account be able to acquire enough of.

I was holding Bella in my arms as she was confessing her love to me. I had to affirm my affections for her, and love wasn't an effective enough declaration, "You are my life now." I replied with an understated fervor.

Not one word escaped her mouth, but she drew me closer to her warm body. Her reaction was all the confirmation I needed. She understood. It would be foolish for me to deny myself the warmth of this soul. After several moments of pure bliss, I recalled her human weakness, "Breakfast time," I said, letting her know that I didn't forget all her human frailties.

She glanced at me and in an abrupt action she grasped her neck with both hands. Her eyes widened in terror. I was instantly distressed, terrified that she thought I was going to drink from her. She comprehended my reaction. It must be apparent on my face.

"Kidding!" she giggled, "And you said I couldn't act!" she pointed out.

I felt a moment of unease. Unbelievable! How could she possibly think of her life as a joke? Did she think so little of me, too? I was offended and a little out-raged, "That wasn't funny." I stated with vexation clear on my face.

"It was very funny, and you know it," she responded, laugh lines still present on her cheeks.

Nothing could smoother her uplifted mood or mine. She continued to examine my face. The anger I was feeling fled from my body as quickly as it came, "Shall I rephrase?" I inspected her face, "Breakfast time for the human."

"Oh, okay," she answered with a smirk.

I felt suddenly playful. I grabbed her up, and in the gentlest of ways, tossed her over my shoulder. She caught her breath and her pulse raced. The warmth emitted from her like the sun. Her scent was assaulting my nose, and entering my lungs in waves. I reveled in it because I knew the cold would return as soon as I placed her back on her feet. I disappeared down the stairs and in a seconds time I was in the kitchen. With my new discipline of my easy touch coming more naturally, I placed Bella carefully on a chair.

"What's for breakfast?" she asked with smile lines still prominent on her face.

Crap, I groaned internally. I remembered that she needed food, but I didn't think to learn to make food. I still hadn't found out all her little secrets like all the things she liked and disliked, including foods.

"Er, I'm not sure," I answered honestly, "What would you like?"

I was hoping she wouldn't ask for anything difficult. A pop tart maybe? Disgusting! I could see my reflection in her bright brown eyes and I watched as my brow furrowed at the complexity that was food. I was stumped on what to do.

She could read the apprehension on my face. She grinned her magnificent smile, bounded toward the cabinets and began searching.

"That's all right," she giggled, "I fend for myself pretty well. Watch me hunt."

My gaze followed her every move. I saw how she bounced on each of her steps. How every time she found something distasteful she would slightly shake her head, and when she was considering her options she would purse her lips. When she found something to her liking, she pulled it out of the cabinet and placed it on the table returning to the fridge to grab something else, and then added the two together. I could smell the sourness of the milk and the wheat from the cereal. It was repulsive. How could she eat something like that? No wonder she was so frail.

She froze, "Can I get you something?" she asked.

If she was meaning to offer me some of her food the answer was undeniably, 'no thanks'! I just rolled my eyes at the thought, "Just eat Bella." I commanded.

She sat at the table and never moved her gaze from my expressions. I continued to watch myself mirrored in her eyes. I saw how she placed the food in her mouth and watched as her communicative eyes delighted in each bite. She made a light coughing nose, pulling me from my distraction, "What's on the agenda for today?" she wondered.

"Hmmm…" I thought carefully on how I would tell her about meeting my family.

It is still her decision, I reminded myself.

"What would you say to meeting my family?" I framed the answer as a question, giving her options.

I heard the loud swallow of her food. Was she anxious?

"Are you afraid now?" I asked, afraid myself, though I formed the question as sounding hopeful so she wouldn't notice my panic that was bringing a light haze to my brain.

"Yes," she admitted.

There was an automatic tightening of my muscles. I wanted to reassure her, "Don't worry," I grinned playfully, hoping this would ease her mind. "I'll protect you," I added.

It was an understatement. No one would ever lay one finger on her.

"I'm not afraid of them," she explained, "I'm afraid they won't…like me. Won't they be, well, surprised that you would bring someone…like me…home to meet them? Do they know that I know about them?" She asked nervously.

"Oh, they already know everything. They'd taken bets yesterday, you know" I smiled at her, trying to show her how little stock I put in their games, but she could read the revulsion on my face, "on whether I'd bring you back, though why anyone would bet against Alice, I can't imagine. At any rate, we don't have secrets in the family. It's not really feasible, what with my mind reading and Alice seeing the future and all that."

"And Jasper making you feel all warm and fuzzy about spilling your guts, don't forget that."

"You paid attention," I smiled.

Of course she paid attention, she was always absorbing more information than I was releasing.

"I've been known to do that every now and then," she frowned. "So did Alice see me coming?" she asked.

A memory came floating to the forefront of my mind; Bella as a vampire. Suddenly the onslaught of memories of Alice's visions overpowered me. I was temporarily still, "Something like that," I murmured.

I saw how my face looked in her eyes and turned my head swiftly, unable to hide my expressions of pain, horror and…happiness. A distraction, that is what I need right now.

"Is that any good?" I asked.

I was actually kind of curious now, "Honestly, it doesn't look very appetizing."

"Well, it's no irritable grizzly…"

I growled under my breath at her causal talk of our hunting. She ignored me. She continued to eat her food. Sometimes a crease would appear between her eyes and the curiosity would flare inside me. Unknowingly, I began probing her mind. It was something I did naturally, without effort. Once again I reached an invisible barrier that let me no farther than the deepest depths of her eyes. I turned towards the window to hide my facial expressions.

Another distraction, that is what I needed, "And you should introduce me to your father, too, I think."

"He already knows you," she exclaimed, horror in her voice.

It worked, I was distracted. Did she not want me to meet him… maybe I should explain, "As your boyfriend, I mean."

She glared at me apprehensively, "Why?"

I was confused, "Isn't that customary?" I wondered.

"I don't know," she admitted.

She hesitated for a minute before continuing, "That's not necessary, you know. I don't expect you to…I mean, you don't have to pretend for me."

Pretend? She was my life now, didn't she remember our conversation from only a few moments ago. There was nothing about my affections for her that were in any way false.

"I'm not pretending," I smiled to let her know that this was not a lie.

She didn't say anything, the quiet of the room biting at my uneasy thoughts. I watched as she moved her food around her bowl. She bit her lower lip. Would she break the skin? I was worried about her and my words came out sharper then I intended, "Are you going to tell Charlie I'm your boyfriend or not?"

"Is that what you are?"

Wasn't it? Maybe we hadn't declared our status, but I thought it was obvious. I decided that I was her…boyfriend, "It's a loose interpretation of the word 'boy,' I'll admit."

"I was under the impression that you were something more, actually," she admitted while she turned her gaze to the table.

A joyous feeling suddenly broke free and through my body. My frozen veins full of venom, of death, were instantly pulsing with a jubilant sensation, reveling in the life and soul of her, of Bella.

"Well, I don't know if we need to give him all the gory details," I mused.

Her gaze had not returned to me, and I took decisive action so I could read her conversational eyes. I lightly brought my finger to her chin, using the lightest of pressure, and brought her gaze to mine, "But he will need some explanation for why I'm around here so much. I don't want Chief Swan getting a restraining order put on me."

"Will you be? Will you really be here?"

She sounded anxious, worried.

"As long as you want me," I assured her, quickly.

"I'll always want you. Forever." She sounded like she was warning me.

I walked around the table so I could be closer to her. I paused, leaving a small distance between us. I brought my hand to her face, and gently, I touched her cheek with my finger tips. A red hot desire washed over me as her warmth engulfed me. I had barely touched her, yet I felt her heat flowing up my arm and filling my body with a need, my need for her.

"Does that make you sad?" she asked.

I didn't want Bella, I needed her. I needed her like she needs air. Couldn't she tell it wasn't sadness on my face, that is was something else? Bliss, ecstasy, pure joy was radiating off me like a nuclear explosion had imploded inside me, sending waves of happiness to all those who surrounded me. Couldn't she feel it?

"Are you finished?"

She hoped up out of her seat, eager, "Yes."

"Get dressed �C I'll wait here." I commanded.

She bounded up the stairs, skipping two at a time. I waited for her at the foot of the stairs. When she was out of sight, my imagination got the better of me. The thought of her exposed body while she tried on clothes sent new desires rippling through me. I immediately reprimanded myself. I had to remember that she was fragile and innocent. I couldn't fathom how I would feel if I were to harm a single hair on her body, or worse, if I were to become so physical with her that my need and my desire became thirst and hunger. I shuddered and pushed the thoughts away.

My husband's not going to be home for a while; maybe I should call him…

She is so sexy; I wonder what it would feel like to…

The pink top or the white top

Several thoughts from the surrounding neighborhood intruded on my mind. Human's minds were always unoriginal and sometimes completely disgusting. How they thought of each other as interchangeable made me sick.

I heard Bella's door open, "Okay," she called while running down the stairs, "I'm decent."

I watched her as if she were in slow motion. She over stepped and in a fluid movement she ran right into me. I held her to steady her. And to feel her warmth, I added. I have to admit, I could have stopped her before she fell into me, but I didn't want to.

She was wearing a skirt and the dark blue blouse she wore when I rescued her in Port Angeles. The way her blouse hugged her body caused a hollow yearning in my stomach and the excess of venom flowed freely in my mouth at her delicious aroma. I brought my lips to her neck, and I resisted.

"Wrong again," I whispered in her ear, "You are utterly indecent �C no one should look so tempting, it's not fair."

She trembled under my breath.

"Tempting how? I can change…" Bella asked, worried. Or was it fear in her voice now? Was she finally coming to her senses? Of course not, that would never happen.

"You as so absurd," I told her.

I brought my lips to her forehead, letting the dry ache have its way with me.

"Shall I explain how you are tempting me?"

I brought myself ever closer to her, taking her into my embrace. Gentle, I reminded myself. I slowly stroked my fingertips down her spine. She trembled and her pulse speed up. My wanting; longing was taking a grasp on my senses. I felt the new creature, desire, rejoice as I brought my lips closer to hers. My craving was over powering. I could feel her cheeks warming from the rise of emotions. Passion flowed freely in my veins. I was taking in the air around us. Every particle of air in the room was saturated with Bella's fragrance. The temptation to bring her neck to my teeth was strong. Her hands were on my chest, warming my dead heart. I brought my face closer to hers, bringing our lips inches apart. I took in another generous gulp of her fragrance and brought my lips to hers. I parted her slips slightly as euphoria fell over me and my body was screaming in exultation.

I was holding Bella tightly against my chest when suddenly she went limp in my arms. I was alarmed. Did I squeeze her too tight? Had I hurt her? I was panicking. I checked my hold on her, making sure my arms were gentle. I wasn't exerting any more pressure then I had all night when I was holding her.

"Bella?" I whispered in fear.

Her eyes fluttered and met mine. She was breathless, "You…made…me…faint," she said.

I rejoiced at her voice. I couldn't read her eyes, they were unfocused.

"What am I going to do with you?" I groaned in exasperation. "Yesterday I kiss you, and you attack me! Today you pass out on me!"

She was still limp in my arms, but a small laugh came out of her lips, "That's the problem. You're too good. Far, far too good."

She was still unmoving in my arms. I was holding her up. She looked dizzy, "Do you feel sick?"

"No �C that wasn't the same kind of fainting at all. I don't know what happened." She shook her head, "I think I forgot to breath."

She hadn't taken a breath, I remembered. What would Esme and Alice think if I brought her over there like this?

"I can't take you anywhere like this."

"I'm fine," she insisted, "Your family is going to think I'm insane anyway, what's the difference?"

I suppressed a sigh, deciding another distraction was needed. I looked down at her clothes.

"I'm very partial to that color with your skin," I told her.

The flood of blood to her cheeks made her glow. She was glorious.

"Look, I'm trying really hard not to think about what I'm about to do, so can we go already?" she said impatiently.

"And you're worried, not because you're headed to meet a houseful of vampires, but because you think those vampires won't approve of you, correct?"

"That's right," she answered quickly…and maybe a hint of surprise in her voice.

I moved my head back and forth, "You're incredible."

As my house became visible Bella's eyes widened in surprise. I watched her eyes dart from the trees, the lawn, and finally to the house.

"Wow." She exclaimed.

I smiled, "You like it?"

"It…has a certain charm." She replied.

Bella's here! Alice bellowed from her mind. I ignored her.

I reached out and pulled the end of her ponytail lightly. What a human gesture, I mused to myself. I chuckled lightly. I parked her truck and was out of the driver's side door and outside her door opening it before she realized I was gone. She didn't even blink at the fast movement, she expected it.

"Ready?" I asked her.

"Not even a little bit �C let's go" she attempted a laugh. It sounded more like choking. She was patting her hair, a nervous gesture.

"You look lovely," I reassured her.

I took her hand in mine, leading her up the porch. She was tense. I began caressing her hand with my thumb, trying to soothe her.

"Carlisle, they are on the porch," Esme called.

I opened the door to the house for Bella; she stepped in, still tense. I found it odd that Alice wasn't waiting at the door. I watched as Bella's eyes searched the house, looking for something suspect, I assumed. Her eyes darted from the far wall, which was made of only glass, to the piano and then to the staircase where Esme and Carlisle were waiting for us. They were grinning at her, but didn't approach.

She is lovely! Esme thought.

Then the scent hit her, I can see her initial appeal, she does smell wonderful…don't worry Edward, I'd never hurt her. Esme's thoughts continued.

Welcome home, Edward. Carlisle thought.

"Carlisle, Esme, this is Bella." I introduced them.

"You're very welcome, Bella," Carlisle stepped closer.

She isn't…scared is she? Carlisle wondered.

I shook my head in a motion that Bella wouldn't have noticed. Each step Carlisle took was slow, careful, and cautious. He raised his hand to shake Bella's. She stepped forward without hesitating and shook his hand, "It's nice to see you again, Dr. Cullen."

"Please, call me Carlisle."

"Carlisle," Bella grinned.

I was relieved that this initial meeting was over with, and I was sure Bella could read my body language.

Is she even nervous? Esme wondered, looking in my direction. I shook my head behind Bella.

Oh…I knew she was meant for you, and so maybe she is meant for our life too, Edward. Esme thought.

I banished the idea from my head immediately. I couldn't let myself…hope…to take her life.

Esme stepped forward, feeling elated about this meeting, and reached her hand to shake Bella's also. Bella took her hand like she was meeting a normal human.

"It's very nice to know you," Esme said sincerely.

"Thank you. I'm glad to meet you, too." Bella truly looked happy.

During these first meetings with my vampire parents Bella's pulse didn't speed up once. She was brave. Alice was still a no show. I searched for her thoughts and found them.

No, that color doesn't look right…yes, blue, Edward loves it when Bella wears blue. That's it, this dress will look spectacular on her!

"Where is Alice and Jasper?" I called out to them.

They both appeared at the top of the stairs in that second.

"Hey, Edward!" Alice called enthusiastically.

This is what I've been waiting for. Alice dived down the stairs and was abruptly in front of Bella.

I wanted to shout at her for doing this, but I decided that saying something in front of Bella was not a wise idea. She was taking everything so well, no need to scare her now. I knew Alice wouldn't hurt Bella, she loved her, too. Esme and Carlisle were giving her a reproving look.

"Hi, Bella!" Alice literally bounced forward and kissed her cheek.

I saw Esme grab Carlisle by the arm, like she was holding herself back.

Oh my! Esme thought.

I felt the temptation of Bella's seductive scent through Alice's thoughts. I was immediately tense.

Pipe down! She hissed in her head at me.

"You do smell nice, I never noticed before," Alice mused.

Blood began flooding up Bella's face as she blushed a light pink. I was anxious again when I realized the scent had finally reached Jasper.

Jasper quickly stopped the flow of air going into his lungs, refusing to take in anymore of her scent. The twin thirsts I felt whenever I was around Jasper were quieted. I felt relieved. He could still taste the curiosity and flavor of Bella from everyone's emotions.

I still don't see why you have such a fixation. Jasper thought.

He automatically emitted a flood of peace and calm. It swirled around her and she mirrored his emotions back. My eyebrow raised on its own. What was he doing?

"Hello Bella," Jasper said, using part of his air supply left in his lungs.

He kept his distance, heeding my previous warnings. Or, maybe, just maybe, he really was trying to not have the overwhelming need to feed. He was too busy concentrating for there to be any coherent thoughts.

"Hello, Jasper." Bella smiled at him, a light pink tinge still present on her cheeks. "It's nice to meet you all �C you have a very beautiful home." Bella's eyes searched the room again.

She's sweet, too! Esme thought.

"Thank you, we're so glad that you came." Esme replied.

Me too! Alice thought.

She is so brave… Esme's thoughts continued.

She was quickly becoming absorbed with Bella, too. She was trying desperately to hide her other thoughts from me. I'd heard the thoughts before, but she was probably oblivious about thinking it. She had always thought there was something defective with me. Now, she was jubilant, joyous, that I had finally found someone.

Edward, Carlisle called out to me in his mind.

His eyes met mine; Alice has seen a coven, three of them, that will be very close to Forks. I didn't want to say anything in front of Bella. I wasn't sure how she would take the news. They know we are here, which means that they might make an appearance. Alice said they were curious.

Alice knew we were having a conversation. She was well practiced with our silent ones. She knew what we were communicating about and wanted to tack on any information she felt might be left out, or to just bug me, knowing her it could be either one.

I don't think they will be coming close to home, but it is a possibility. I knew that the news of a coven feeding in the area would be important to you considering you love a human. Alice added. And I love her too.

I nodded once to acknowledge their thoughts. I would tell Bella though. The word secret had a different meaning to me now, because I knew from now on I would tell her all of them. They would be our secrets.

I tried to not listen to my family's thoughts, but they were always as clear as if they were talking directly to me. I watched a vision along with Alice as it played out in her head; I was playing the piano, Bella in awe. The vision shifted and we were talking about the cross in the hall.

So far, the day looks uneventful, Alice mused. She was wrong about the day being uneventful. Every brief moment of time was tremendously significant to me, and very much so…eventful.

And Emmett wanted me to tell you sorry for not being here… Rosalie has become…irritated at the fascination Emmett has on humans now. She remembered a conversation about the Ben kid from Spanish class.

Of course, I thought. I returned my gaze to Bella. We were so close I could still feel the warmth flowing through my body from hers. I inhaled her scent while my wild desires and new found sensations went through my body. Jasper gave me a look. I knew he could feel everything I was feeling. Esme's thoughts brought me back to the room.

She keeps staring at the piano, Esme pondered.

"Do you play?" Esme asked Bella, leaning her head to suggest the piano.

Bella shook her head, "Not at all. But it's so beautiful. Is it yours?" she wondered.

I added this news to the list of things I knew about Bella, which was growing at a massive rate. She doesn't play the piano, but liked the piano…she was classy.

Why haven't you told her? Esme scolded me.

"No," Esme laughed, a sign of ease, "Edward didn't tell you he was musical?"

"No," Bella glared in my direction, indignation on her face. I formed an innocent expression, anticipating her reaction. "I should have known, I guess." she added.

I don't understand, Esme lifted her eyebrows at her words.

"Edward can do everything, right?" she explained.

Did she really believe that? She was so absurd.

What have you been telling her? Whatever it is, I want to know…I mean seriously, you have got to be kidding me, Jasper thought and then snickered aloud.

Tisk, tisk, Esme criticized.

"I hope you haven't been showing off �C it's rude," Esme reprimanded me.

"Just a bit," I laughed.

Please keep her around…please please please. I have never seen you so light hearted. Esme thought.

Bella distracted me from Esme, "He's been too modest, actually." she corrected.

"Well, play for her," Esme encouraged me. You can play her the song that she inspired, sheadded mentally.

"You just said showing off was rude," I objected feebly.

She smiled, "There are exceptions to every rule."

I turned my gaze to Bella, "I'd like to hear you play," Bella insisted.

"It's settled then," Esme pushed me to the piano.

At the look on Bella's eager face it was inconceivable to think to say no to her. I conceded. I reached for Bella, bringing her into my side and taking her to the piano. I breathed in her heady scent while the electric pulse that always came from our touch surged through my body.

He just casually touches her…how fantastic. Esme thought.

We sat at the bench, her warmth warming my cold skin from the inside out. I turned my gaze to her, gauging her reaction. I didn't know what to play.

Her song Edward, her song…Esme encouraged.

I was still looking at Bella and she could sense the exasperation in my face. I placed my hands on the keys then, and settled on playing Esme's favorite. I was measuring Bella's expression. After a few seconds I watched her face go from peaceful to shocked instantly. Her mouth opened in astonishment. I heard my family members chuckling behind me at Bella's reaction. I was probing their minds to see all the different views of Bella at once. What was she thinking? Was it good or was it bad?

"Do you like it?" I inquired.

"You wrote this?" she inhaled quickly, realization in her eyes.

I nodded, "It's Esme's favorite." I noted.

We are just going to leave you two alone. Esme nodded to the others to leave, she is wonderful… no wonder he is so protective of her.

I ignored the crowd leaving the room because I was so absorbed by Bella's every reaction. I watched as she lightly closed her eyes in exasperation and shook her head back and forth. Did I do something?

"What's wrong?"

She looked saddened, or upset. "I'm feeling extremely insignificant." she explained.

I decided to take Esme's advice and play her song. The music slowed, and I began playing the beautiful song that I had composed and changed many times since I had met her until it became the sweetest of notes blending together to make magic.

"You inspired this one," I whispered, making sure she understood that she was the most significant thing in my world. She was speechless. The silence of her thoughts was just as frustrating as ever. I breathed her in, letting the flames rip down my throat. Desire was constantly raging a war inside me. She was still silent.

"They like you, you know." I admitted, "Esme especially."

Her eyes darted over her shoulder and then around the room. "Where did they go?"

"Very subtly giving us some privacy, I suppose," though I knew they could hear everything that was going on in the room.

Bella sighed and I turned to look at her again.

"They like me. But Rosalie and Emmett…" she trailed off but I understood where her thoughts were going, for once, I added.

Of course she would notice that they weren't here. I didn't want to talk about Rosalie. My lips turned down, "Don't worry about Rosalie, she'll come around." I lied smoothly, though I hoped one day she would.

She looked unconvinced, "Emmet?" she wondered.

"Well, he thinks I'm a lunatic, it's true, but he doesn't have a problem with you. He's trying to reason with Rosalie," I tried to explain.

I looked into her wide eyes, trying to read her thoughts. I saw the line between her eyes crease at the complexity of her mind, "What is it that upsets her?" she finally asked. She looked anxious, waiting for my explanation.

I didn't want to tell her something that would possibly upset her. The thought of causing her any type of pain sent an overwhelming feeling of remorse through my body. I took in a deep breath, a sigh really. The burning temptation was still present. I distracted myself, no more secrets, "Rosalie struggles the most with…with what we are. It's hard for her to have someone on the outside know the truth. And she's a little jealous." I explained, the words coming quickly.

Her eyes grew wide during my explanation, "Rosalie is jealous of me?"

"You're human," I shrugged. I thought it was obvious why she would be jealous of something as magnificent as her, "She wishes that she were, too." I continued to explain after seeing her question my first statement.

"Oh," she looked upset by this, but shock was still present on her delicate face. Her facial expressions changed to contemplation. I wanted to groan in exasperation from her quiet mind. What was she thinking? Her short pauses were the loudest silence I have ever heard.

"Even Jasper, though…" she left the sentence hanging, realizing I would understand her thoughts. She didn't know how much I didn't comprehend them, though. I sighed.

"That's really my fault," I explained, "I told you he was the most recent to try our way of life. I warned him to keep his distance."

I watched while a shiver ran down her spine. Was she finally scared or was she cold?

"Esme and Carlisle…?" she added quickly.

"Are happy to see me happy. Actually, Esme wouldn't care if you had a third eye and webbed feet. All this time she's been worried about me, afraid that there was something missing from my essential make up, that I was too young when Carlisle change me…She's ecstatic. Every time I touch you, she just about chokes with satisfaction." I finished her sentence.

"Alice seems very…enthusiastic." Bella noted.

Of course she noticed.

"Alice has her own way of looking at things," my lips grew tight at the many visions I had seen in her head since I meet Bella.

She must have read the hesitation in my voice, "And you're not going to explain that, are you?"

I saw myself mirrored in her eyes, watching as each of our expressions changed in unison. She knew I was keeping Alice's visions from her. There were several good reasons why I was keeping these from her. One, I didn't want to scare her, and two, I didn't want her to get any ideas. No, I would still not confess what I have seen through the eyes of a psychic.

"So what was Carlisle telling you before?" she asked, bringing me from my distraction.

She was incredible. She picked up on all the signs that I thought were subtle. Was she really that perceptive or was my fa?ade waning? I could see the wrinkle appear between my brows through the reflection of her deep brown eyes.

"You noticed that, did you?" it wasn't a question, it was a statement.

She shrugged, like there was nothing unusual about the whole situation, "Of course," she murmured.

Better tell her now, I suppose. I monitored her face, I continued to play her song. She seemed complacent enough so I answered, "He wanted to tell me some news �C he didn't know if it was something I would share with you."

"Will you?" she responded quickly, eagerly.

"I have to, because I'm going to be a little…over-bearingly protective over the next few days �C or weeks �C and I wouldn't want you to think I'm naturally a tyrant." I said.

"What's wrong?" she gasped in horror. Her blood started warming and moving at a quicker pace. The monster inside me clawed at my bones, wanting to embrace the temptation. I took in her fragrance, letting it fill my lungs. I easily over-rode any enticement this caused me.

"Nothing's wrong, exactly. Alice just sees some visitors coming soon. They know we're here, and they're curious," I explained quickly, trying to calm her now rampant pulse.

"Visitors?" she questioned.

"Yes…well, they aren't like us, of course �C in their hunting habits, I mean. They probably won't come into town at all, but I'm certainly not going to let you out of my sight till they're gone." I watched her face apprehensively.

Her body trembled under stress.

"Finally, a rational response!" I exclaimed, "I was beginning to think you had no sense of self-preservation at all."

She didn't contest my observation and I was shocked that she would have this reaction to anything dangerous at all. Her blood slowed in her veins bringing her pulse back to its normal speed. She turned her face from mine, her eyes flowing from one end of the house to the other, distracted. I followed her gaze. Was she still looking for something suspect? "Not what you expected is it?" I asked.

"No," she admitted, returning her gaze to me briefly before continuing to soak up the rooms setting.

"No coffins, no piled skills in the corners; I don't even think we have cobwebs…what a disappointment this must be for you," I teased.

She remained serious, "It's so light…so open," she said.

"It's the one place we never have to hide," I explained to her. I also wanted to admit that she was included in this place… I would never have to hide from her.

My fingers were on the piano, automatically playing. The song was finally coming to a close. When it was finished Bella looked at me, "Thank you," she murmured.

I turned in my seat; bringing my whole attention back to her. There was moisture prominent in her eyes. The tears flowed over her eye lids. The aroma emitting from her tears was something I had never smelt before. She wiped the tears from her eyes. I noticed she had missed one. I brought my hand to her face, trapping a tear on my finger. I studied it. As a vampire, we could not produce tears. This was something entirely new. I brought it nonchalantly to my lips, seeing how it would taste. I was curious. It didn't taste disgusting, but it held no significance for me. She was staring at me with curiosity flaming in her eyes.

"Do you want to see the rest of the house?" I asked, distracting her.

"No coffins?" she verified.

"No coffins," I promised, a smile forming on my face.

We walked up the staircase that led to the upstairs where my room was. I watched her carefully as she made her way to the top. She was lightly caressing the stair rail as she went. I was jealous… I wanted it to be me. When we reached the top of the stairs I pointed out rooms as we walked, "Rosalie and Emmett's room…Carlisle's office…Alice's room…"

She froze, turning into a statue. Her eyes grew wide. I followed her gaze until I realized she was staring at the wooden cross at the end of the hallway. I remembered Alice's vision.

"You can laugh," I told her, "It is sort of ironic." I took a deep breath, bringing her fragrance into my lungs again. I was used to the dull ache.

She brought her hand out to touch the cross, but she did not proceed, "It must be very old," she guessed.

I shrugged, "Early sixteen-thirties, more or less." I mused.

She turned to face me, "Why do you keep this here?"

"Nostalgia. It belonged to Carlisle's father." I explained. I knew I was giving more information away then I had ever told a single soul before.

"He collected antiques?" she suggested doubtfully.

"No. He carved it his himself. It hung on the wall above the pulpit in the vicarage where he preached." I said.

She looked shocked.

"Are you all right?" I asked, worried about her expressions and silence.

"How old is Carlisle?" she wondered, trying to do the mental math in her head. I watched as her eyes looked fully in thought. I could almost see here calculating the numbers mentally.

"He just celebrated his three hundred and sixty-second birthday," I admitted.

She looked at me, questions burning in her eyes. I knew I would answer them all, if she were to ask. I took in another deep breath while I let her scent assault me.

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