Friday, April 27, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Fate Interrupted Chapter 4

Chapter 4
BPOV

"Son of a bitch!" Edward snarled under his breath, his fists opening and closing over and over, but his breathing had stopped.

Alice and I were on either side of him instantly.

"You can't, Edward. He's a father, a husband...a good one," Alice whispered to him at top speed. "Look. See?" she asked, showing him whatever her visions were telling her.

He shook his head furiously. The low growl rumbling from him could merely be felt, not heard – something I was grateful for as we stood against the wall of the building. Carlisle had suggested Edward test himself every now and then, because he knew that the yearning for human blood would cause a sort of withdrawal in his son. He urged Edward to rebuild resistance by occasionally venturing out in public. So we were currently wandering a small street flea market in upstate New York on a rather cloudy day.

"Tell me," I commanded, tipping his chin to look at me. "I can bind you to me. Make it go away."

His eyes were fierce, black, hungry, despite the fact that he'd fed the day before – several deer and a few coyote. His normally warm, sultry red eyes hadn't yet started to show the diet he'd been working so hard to change the last few weeks. Carlisle said that would take month or two. So far, Edward had resisted most of the temptations, but occasionally, he struggled...like right then. Sometimes, it was due to the alluring smell of the human, and other times, it was dreadful thoughts that he wouldn't even repeat.

"You shouldn't have to," he grumbled, squeezing his eyes closed as the human in question moved on farther into the crowd. "But he was..."

"Staring?" Alice giggled, and I rolled my eyes at the two of them.

They had become thick as thieves – all mentally, of course. The two of them liked to have the most bizarre conversations the household had ever seen. It drove Jasper and me crazy, not to mention Emmett, who was way too nosy for his own good. Alice relished having a brother she could really relate to, and Edward had taken to the role very seriously. It was a rather adorable kinship. They tested each other's mental capabilities, played with visions, and that was the way Edward had learned about Alice's past – well, about what past she could remember. She only remembered waking up immortal and having two visions – one of meeting Jasper and the other of seeking out Carlisle. That little bit of info intrigued Edward to no end.
I sighed, shaking my head. "Staring at us does not put him on America's Most Wanted, Edward," I grumbled. "It merely makes him a creepy old man that likes staring at young women. He's no different than any other member of the male species. Let it go."

Without giving Edward a choice, I shielded him from it all.

"Bella, no," he complained. "I need to do this. I can do this."

Rosalie had been so right in describing Edward as tenacious and a perfectionist, because he truly was both of those things, which made him hard-headed as hell, but I feared he pushed himself too hard at times.

At my thoughts, he grinned and shrugged. "She said that?" he asked, taking my hand, but I merely snorted and smirked at him, daring him to argue. Edward sighed, his body relaxing infinitesimally. "The things he was thinking..."

"Were they really all that different than say..." I glanced around the market, my eyes locking with a boy in his late teens, who was gazing at me with a glazed-over look in his eye. "That guy? Or how about the guy over there at the vegetable stand that looks like he wishes he was Superman and could see through Alice's jeans with x-ray vision? Hmm?" I raised an eyebrow at him. "That would be no, right?"

Alice snorted into a laugh, giving Edward a side glance. "I'll go find the others," she chuckled, giving me a wink before disappearing into the crowd in search of the rest of the family.

I stepped up onto the sidewalk, stopping in front of him. "And really, let's be fair about this. Care to share just how many women are thinking about you...right now?" I asked him, folding my arms across my chest, because I was well aware of several women eye-fucking him as he stood in front of me. It made me murderous, but I had to maintain, simply for the fact that Carlisle would kill me if I just decided to pop the girl behind Edward in the mouth for drooling over his ass in the jeans he was currently sporting.

"Nope, can't," he chuckled, mocking my stance by folding his own arms across his chest. "You're shielding that, thankfully."

"How about before I did, smart guy?" I laughed, tilting my head at him while I watched his eyes mellow back out into the red I'd sort of come to love. They gave him an edge of dangerous sexiness that I hadn't expected to find attractive; then again, there wasn't much about Edward that wasn't attractive.

He grinned at my loss of focus, all lopsided and deadly, dragging his tongue across his bottom lip. Suddenly, I found myself tugged into the closest, darkest alleyway, with a very amorous Edward looming over me, around me, against me. I was surrounded by him – his intense stare, his amazing scent, and his strong arms.

"I can't help it, Bella," he growled sexily, pressing his forehead to mine. "It's all new and too much. Carlisle says the possessive feelings don't go away, but we'll find away to manage them. For now, though...no man looks at what's mine..."

The purr I let loose came unhindered and without shame. This was mate claiming mate. It was a dance we'd been doing since the beginning, since I'd found him on the rooftop across from my apartment in the city. It was the push and pull that we couldn't seem to resist, nor did we have any inclination to try. We'd driven the house into a lust-filled frenzy on more than one occasion – several occasions, actually – because poor Jasper couldn't help but push all that Edward and I were emitting back out to everyone else. Emmett loved us for it, and Rose didn't really complain, either, but Alice had become really good at foreseeing it, so she'd started to give fair warning, getting us or everyone else out of the house before we exploded. However, Carlisle saw it as intriguing, wondering if it was just because we were newly-mated or because Edward and I were frozen at a sexually-charged and hormonally-driven seventeen. My theory was that it was both, plus the fact that we were absolutely, stupidly, and happily head-over-heels for each other. We were stubborn and argumentative, cheesy and insatiable, daring and carefree, but we were also extremely protective of what we'd found, keeping certain aspects of our relationship close and secret. I was pretty sure that went back to how long we'd waited for each other – Edward longer than me, obviously.

"Bella," Edward rumbled in my ear, his voice husky and pure, rich velvet ghosting across my neck as my fingers slid up his stomach and around his shoulders, only to wrap myself around him, making me wish I could crawl inside of him.

My arms and legs gripped him as he pressed me forcefully into the wall behind me. "More," I begged when his lips, tongue, and teeth teased the sensitive skin behind my ear.

I could barely see straight when his mouth was on my flesh, his hands on my ass, and his chest pressed to mine, but my moan couldn't be held back when he rolled his hips against me, denim sliding roughly against denim. He was hard, straining against the front of his jeans, and he was hitting me exactly where I needed him – where I always needed him. It was an ache that never really went away, much like the burn in our throats.

Feeling his smile against my neck, I tugged on his hair to pull his face to mine. I whimpered when our lips met, because he kissed like he made love – deep, heated, and mind blowing. Sometimes, he was forceful, feral, and sometimes, he savored every single inch of me, making me feel so cherished that I wished I could shed real tears, but every time, he gave me all of himself – heart, body, soul. At that moment, he was slow, languid, thorough...possessive. Leaving one hand on my bottom, the other traveled slowly up my t-shirt, palming my breast.

Jesus, Edward, we have to stop, I thought to him, my breathing heavy as he broke away from me, but his thumb bushed over my peaked nipple, making me moan softly.

"Lift your shield, love. I'll hear them coming for us," he whispered, his eyes flickering between my mouth and what his hand was doing underneath my shirt, which was trying to tug down the bra cup in order to feel skin on skin.

I giggled, because I couldn't help it. "No!" I protested, lifting my shield. "Not the family, handsome." I chuckled, nudging his jaw with my nose for him to see the few humans that were casting curious or amused glances our way as they passed the alley. "Look."
"I don't have to," he said with a sexy smirk, his eyes dark with want, tinged with heated red. "They merely think we're young, unsupervised, and in love, Bella. All true...except for the young part. Though, the family is trying really, really hard not to disturb us. They're not far."

I sighed, cupping his face and getting lost at just how surreal it was to touch him after dreaming of him for so long. I still wasn't sure it was real, a thought that earned me a brief kiss.

"Come on, then," I said, wriggling down from his embrace, though he kept me close. "I don't care what Carlisle says. That's enough testing you today."

We both smiled at our father's amused chuckle that met our ears. He wasn't far but was respectfully giving us a moment, most likely holding back my brothers. We'd talked to him about managing ourselves, Edward's thirst, and the family. It was all very overwhelming. What I was grateful for was that Carlisle wasn't pushing, just guiding and suggesting.

"Okay," Edward conceded, "but I really do need to get this under control, Bella."

"But it won't happen all at one time, baby," I argued with a sigh, that term of endearment making him smile, because he said it made him forget he was old. "Just...allow yourself time. Would you have taken that man? Really?"

He paused, stepping back from me and running hand through his hair. He stared down at the ground, shoving both hands into his front pockets.

He winced, letting out a defeated sound. "I don't know. Maybe?" He shrugged a shoulder. "Not because he was particularly evil," he huffed, frowning a bit, "but in protection of you. His thoughts were vile."

"I'm sure," I allowed, "but thoughts aren't illegal. I don't need protection from a human, Edward. I've dealt with worse at school. I know that you may feel differently and you can't help but hear them, but people should be able to think what they want without being judged on errant lapses of reason."

Edward pursed his lips just a little, looking away from me and out toward the street. "You just negated the last eighty years of my life."

Chuckling, I stepped closer to him. "I did no such thing. You eradicated true monsters from this world, which probably saved the lives of many innocent people. Whether that was your place or not is a debate you can have with Carlisle, but not with me. I don't want to philosophize with you...I wouldn't be good at it, because I'm blinded by my love for you. However, the average person can think, daydream, or fantasize all they want...about anything they want. The monsters you removed are the ones that didn't know the difference between their fantasies and their desires to bring them to fruition."

"Are you condoning my former...lifestyle, Bella?" he asked softly, reaching for my hand and guiding me out of the alley.
"Nope, but I'm not condemning you for it, either," I whispered back. "It's simply...a part of what makes you...well, you. Would you go back to it?"

"Would you come with me?" he countered, raising an eyebrow.

"Uh, no," I murmured, scrunching up my nose and shaking my head. "I mean, I'd rather not, but I'd have to follow you..." I rambled uncomfortably, because we couldn't be separated, but I'd never want to change the way that I fed.

"Then, no," he said, grinning sweetly and pressing his lips to my temple. He leaned down to my ear, nipping at my earlobe. "But I don't have to like it when someone covets what's mine, Bella. That may never change." He chuckled at the laugh that escaped me, tucking me to his side. "Come, love...before they leave us."

~oooOOOooo~

The house was quiet except for the sound of the pouring Spring rain, the ticking of the clock in the living room – well, every room, really – and the hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen. My brothers and sisters were off on a hunt, and Carlisle was at the hospital, which left Edward, Esme, and myself in the house alone.
This fact alone made Edward more at ease. He didn't say it, but I could tell that he was most comfortable with the two of us. After years of being alone, I was pretty sure it was overwhelming to be in a house full of immortals, most of whom acted like the young ages in which we were frozen; music, laughter, video games, arguments, and teasing were a constant din of noise some days. Other days, couples holed themselves up in their rooms, trying their best to give each other privacy, something that was limited in our house.

Edward liked his hunts with Carlisle, which I found out was something they'd done from the beginning. It gave them a chance to talk things out a little without having the peanut gallery around for verbal commentary. But I really think that Carlisle just loved having his "oldest" son home. As much as Carlisle loved us all, it was quite obvious there was a special bond between the two of them. We'd started teasing him about favoritism.

It had been two weeks since the street flea market, and Edward's withdrawals had calmed down, but he still struggled. The sense of smell was starting to become the issue. He craved human blood, as much as he didn't want to admit it, and I felt for him, because once the pure liquid gold had been tasted, nothing else would do. I'd gone through the same thing, and I'd only killed one man, so I couldn't imagine having to change my way of thinking, my reaction to urges after eighty years and countless humans.

That was where Jasper came in – and Emmett, too, simply to help his new brother out. Emmett had a way of breaking Edward's tension, but Jasper's talent and his long life's experience made him a much more reliable help.

But the last time we'd gone out in public, Edward had really lost it. There had been a recent kidnapping of a small boy in the local newspapers, a current event we couldn't help but watch because it was constantly on the news, not to mention the posters tacked up everywhere. We were in a shopping mall in Albany when Edward latched on to a mind that required all of us to restrain him. Apparently, that particular mall didn't do proper background checks or the guy had never been caught, but the security guard was Edward's primary target. Only with my shield, Jasper's calm demeanor, and Carlisle's promise to get the guy did Edward allow us to remove him from the building. And even that had demanded force. He'd been black-eyed, vengeful, and just all kinds of distractingly beautiful as he growled to us that the kidnapped little boy was still alive.

I was giving Edward space, which meant from my mind, too, because he'd been in a sullen mood since we'd returned from the mall. And until Carlisle came home with some sort of news about the kidnapped child, he would most likely remain in a foul mood. Edward couldn't help how deeply ingrained his former means of hunting was, but I hated to see him upset. If Carlisle said he'd catch the guy – the right way – then he'd meant it.

I wandered into Esme's private library, hoping to find something I hadn't read a hundred times. I came to a stop, giving the piano a long, slow gaze. It was the one thing in the house Esme wouldn't allow anyone to touch, so most of them barely acknowledged its presence, but I did. Often. When I'd first learned about Edward, I'd come into Esme's sitting room just to look at it. It was a beautiful and expensive black baby grand. Sometimes, she'd raise the top, like it was then, and sometimes, she'd close it, but she'd confessed to me that over the decades, she'd kept it tuned for him. "Just in case," she would whisper, with a squeeze to my shoulder and a kiss to my head.

He knew it was here, but he hadn't laid as much as a finger on it since he'd been in the house.

I could hear Edward's pacing upstairs in my room – like a lion in a cage – so I grabbed a book and fell down onto the sofa next to the window. The words on the page were meaningless, because the random trails of rainwater on the glass caught my attention. Lightning flickered through the sky, followed by a low rumble of thunder. It was that sort of weather that made me miss Forks, made me miss my dad.

Despite his silent entry, I knew when Edward entered the room. I could feel it in my chest, throughout my entire body, really, but his scent of wildflowers in the sun was uniquely his, which caused me to inhale deeply, relishing the soothing, settling feeling it brought at the same time it made every nerve I had stand at raw, alerted attention.

"You don't have to hide from me, you know," he said, kneeling by my side. His voice was soft and a touch tentative.

"I wasn't hiding," I snickered, locking gazes with warm and sweet red that was trying its damnedest to morph into an orange-ish color, though still a touch troubled.

"What were you thinking about just now?" he asked, tilting his head just a little to the left. "Your face was so...sad." He trailed a finger down my face and across my jaw, finally gliding over my bottom lip.

"My dad," I admitted, pulling and tugging at him until he crawled up onto the sofa with me, laying his head on my chest, his stomach between my legs. "This weather reminds me of him. Of Forks," I murmured, running my fingers through Edward's unruly locks.

"Are you sorry that Carlisle changed you?"

The question certainly surprised me, but I wasn't sure I knew the answer to it until that very moment. "No."

His head shot up, and he studied my face, not saying anything as he braced himself up on his elbows in order brush my hair with long sweeps of his fingers.

"But you lost so much..." he started to argue, yet he didn't finish.

"But I gained even more." I stared back out the water-beaded window, taking a deep breath and letting it out. "I'm not sure I've always felt that way, but with time comes perspective. Charlie would've died anyway, whether I was there for him or not. Carlisle said his heart was weak, his arteries in poor shape. If I'd have been human when he died, I would've been shipped back to my mother. No Alice, no Carlisle and Esme, no big noisy family...and no you." I shrugged a shoulder, meeting his gaze again. "I really would've lost my choices. At least in this family, I feel...normal – definitely more normal than I did when I was human. I fit in here."

"I'm pretty sure Carlisle would've found a way to keep you anyway," Edward chuckled softly, shaking his head. "If not Esme."

"Maybe." I smiled, tracing his eyebrow, down his cheek, and along his jaw line. "Why do you ask?"

He didn't answer; he merely laid his head back down on my chest, his large hand splayed out over my rib cage like he needed to touch as much of me as he could. I pressed kisses to the top of his head, following his gaze to the piano. I still kept my mind closed to him, because it seemed he needed the solace, the quiet, and he hadn't complained so far.

"When I was changed, I was so...confused," he started, his thumb softly rubbing circles on my stomach over and over. "Carlisle said my mother begged him to save me just before she died, but for years, I wondered if she knew what he was or if she was just...praying aloud to God and Carlisle happened to hear her. I've seen his memory of it, and I can't tell. Or maybe I'm just trying to force my own interpretation on what I see."

Leaving my lips against his hair, I rubbed his back, much like the way he was holding onto me: spread fingers, little movement, but as much touching as I could get. I knew this story – I'd begged Carlisle for any information about Edward he'd tell me – but I hadn't heard it from Edward's view. Carlisle was convinced that Elizabeth Masen saw through his human facade at the end of her days.

"I was raised to believe in God, that what Carlisle had turned me into was something straight from hell. I hated it, fought it, but the only thing that kept me from trying to destroy myself was that one simple thought that my mother may have known the truth," he gushed, but his voice was barely above a whisper. "The angry side of me wanted her to see what she'd done, see what she'd condemned me to, but the other side of me – the little bit of my human side that's still left – wanted to make her proud."

My brow furrowed and I squeezed him closer, but I stayed quiet. It seemed he needed to get this out, like it had been building since he stepped foot in the house. I wanted to argue with him, tell him that any mother would be proud of the man in my arms. He was brave and strong, following a path that he thought was right. He was smart and noble, wanting to rid the world of its evil, despite the fact that he thought himself to be just as wicked. And he was honorable, because even though he'd made many mistakes, he was willing to own them, face whatever came his way because of them. I couldn't see how any parent wouldn't be proud to call him son.

"I accused Carlisle of shredding my soul, of destroying it," he continued, and I could hear the shame in his tone, "which is utterly ridiculous, because to look at him, to see him work, anyone can see just how amazing his soul is. And then there's you," he said, sitting up at bit in order to look me in the eyes. "There's no way on Earth your soul is destroyed. None. I see it radiate out around you. So damn beautiful," he muttered, shaking his head. "I don't know what to believe anymore. I've seen heinous things, participated in them. I've committed every sin in the Bible – vanity, gluttony, greed, pride, lust, slothfulness... and definitely wrath."

"Lust?" I teased with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, Bella," he chuckled darkly. "You really have no idea," he told me, nipping at my lips softly. "I've seen it all in others' minds, but never truly experienced it...until you."

"I think lust between two people that love each other isn't a sin. It's a beautiful thing." I smiled at his soft laugh, kissing him again. "If you were raised to believe in God, then surely you understand that all you need is forgiveness and to change your ways, Edward. It's faith in yourself, your own forgiveness that will set you free. You don't have to believe in anything, but if it brings you comfort, then you need to let go the past and move on."

My views on religion were limited to a few years in Sunday school. My mother had tried them all, including Buddhism, Taoism, and Scientology, but after I was older, I'd stopped going with her. It all depended on her mood and just what was going on in her life at the time. However, long, in-depth talks with Carlisle had taught me that while all religions were different, their core element could be considered similar – that there was a higher power and that all creations were worthy of love and acceptance. Carlisle seemed to live by the Golden Rule: Treat others how you'd want to be treated. It was very simple for him and probably why he was such an amazing doctor.

"How can I do that when I still feel the need to..."

"Protect the innocent?" I finished for him, and he nodded slowly. "You can still do that, you know. You just can't exact your type of justice. The guy at the mall has to answer to God for his own sins, Edward."

"That's what Carlisle said," he sighed.

"Yeah, I can imagine he did," I chuckled. "He's a doctor, so his whole existence has been about saving lives, not taking them, no matter what they've done to deserve it. No one is perfect. We're all evil by your definition, because we've all broken the seven deadly sins. We can only make amends and try to do better next time."

I cupped his handsome face, trying to wipe the sadness and tension from it. He looked lost, confused, like he couldn't decide whether to bolt from the room or kiss me senseless. He looked every bit his frozen seventeen – unsure, sweet, and anxious. Lying just under the surface was the fierce predator that wanted to find the mall's security guard and eradicate him. Edward's pure power vibrated underneath his skin, like a humming electrical line, but his tender touches were all for me. But gazing up at him right then, I could see the boy that Elizabeth Masen had spent her dying breath pleading for.

"I think your mother loved you so much that she was willing to beg anyone that would listen in order to save her son. It just happened to fall upon the ears of someone that could actually do something about it. She wanted her beautiful boy to live, in whatever capacity that may be. She wanted him to continue on without her, to find things that made him happy, to see the world, to laugh, to make friends, to fall in love, to do his best with the opportunity that was given him."

"Esme agrees with you," Edward whispered, his brow furrowing as his eyes flickered toward the door for a second.

"I just bet she does," I laughed once. "She told me those same things when Charlie died."

"Did it help?" he asked, slipping his arms underneath me in order to hold my shoulders. Pressing his forehead to mine – which I'd discovered was his way of grounding himself – he dropped sweet, barely-there kisses to my lips.

"Not at first," I answered softly and honestly. "I was a newborn, so nothing calmed me, and Charlie's death made me feel very...guilty. It was a long time before I could really listen to the family. But I knew I had to make a choice: stay angry, or grow the hell up...or as Rose puts it, 'Put my big girl panties on and deal.'"

The grin that spread over his face was beautiful; even better was the slight chuckle that shook us both. "It seems you've done just fine," he snickered, shaking his head. "I don't know about the panties part."

I giggled at the word "panties" coming from him, but I shrugged a shoulder. How did I explain that I had needed to find myself first before I came to terms with his mere existence, much less what he was supposed to be to me? That I'd had ten years of waiting, learning, preparing, and hoping for the moment he'd walk into my life? I sighed, looking out the window again at the rain that was falling harder.

"I don't know about fine," I admitted. "I just know how I feel. I never want to kill another human because my loss of control took away someone's dad and husband. I don't want to be that monster. I never want to lose who I was before...the real me. My personality is still me, and I'll always look exactly the same; only my diet has changed. But I can't judge you on your choices, because I've made decisions that affected my life...forever. Some I regret, but others were worth it. I can only live my own life the best I can; I can't condemn someone for living theirs – no matter what they've done. I don't have to answer for them, but perhaps one day, I'll have to answer for mine."

A small amount of tension left his handsome face, but his eyes heated, swirling from red to black. "Bella,"
was all he murmured before his lips were on mine. They were warm, wet, and when his tongue claimed my mouth, I could do nothing more than surrender to him...although it almost felt like he was surrendering to me.

Our legs tangled, as did our tongues. My hands tugged at his shirt, pulling him closer while trying to feel skin at the same time. Edward turned his head the opposite direction in order to kiss me deeper, a moan escaping him at the same time his hips surged forward against my own. He didn't stop; he merely reached down to my knee, hitching my leg higher around his waist just to do it again. Only, this time, I could feel so much more.
My skin prickled into a fiery explosion, and my center clenched hard. The cotton of his t-shirt shredded in my hands in the center of his back when his very hard erection pressed against me just where I was hurting for him.

His hands gripped my hair, controlling every second of his kiss, finally wrenching my head to the side so that he could taste the skin of my neck. Cupping his firm ass, I pushed him into me – hard – which unraveled the last shred of my control, my shield going a little haywire. The pillar candle on the coffee table hit the rug with a dull thump, making us both jump.

Sorry, I thought to him, grasping either side of his face and pulling him up to meet my gaze.

"Don't be," he panted, his eyes even darker than before as he licked his lips. "Bella, I... I just... I need..." He huffed frustratedly through his nose, shaking his head. "I fucking love you...so much..."

I nodded, understanding what he needed and pushing at him to sit up. His face fell a little when I stood up from the sofa, until I silently offered him my hand. I led him through the room, my goal being our bedroom, but I gave the piano a glance on my way by.

"Not yet," he answered my unasked question. "I know why Esme saved it, but I'm not...there yet. She wants the man I was before I left, and I'm not him. I want to be, but I'm not."

Looking over my shoulder, I smiled warmly at him. "You will be, Edward. No one is rushing you on anything."

"I know," he muttered ever so softly, following me up the stairs to our room. When we closed the door behind us, he said, "I don't understand it."

"I love you," I stated, forcing him to sit on the edge of the bed so that I could stand between his legs, and his hands immediately pulled me closer. "What's not to understand about that?" I asked.

"That I get," he chuckled softly. "I don't understand why they care. They don't know me."

I pulled the tattered remains of his t-shirt off of him and dropped it to the floor, grimacing at what I'd done, but he said nothing. Physically, he was perfect. Long, lean muscles, smooth skin, and just a smattering of hair – some on his chest and the rest leading temptingly down into the waist of his jeans – were just the tip of the iceberg. His face, his lips, his strong jaw, and his soft hair called to me like I'd never experienced. He was beautiful, angelic, but still masculine, radiating strength, wisdom, and power that only living for a hundred years could bring someone. And I wondered if he saw himself the way I did, the way women in public saw him. Something told me no.

"You may have been absent, but you were never gone. Carlisle and Esme spoke of you like you'd merely just...taken a vacation. Their love for you created respect from the rest of them."

"And you?" he asked, toying with the hem of my shirt.

"I love you," I stated again, this time, a little more firmly as I shrugged a shoulder. "It's always been there."

It's permanent and unwavering. It came through my change stronger than I can explain to you, I thought to him at the same time my own shirt was swiftly removed.

Edward was done talking.

He lifted me to straddle his lap, his fingers immediately snapping my bra off and tossing it to the floor. Gently, he cupped my breasts as I leaned in to kiss him, losing myself in the feel of taking control this time. My hips rolled, my tongue claimed, and my hands gripped hair.

Breaking from his mouth, I nipped lightly down his sharp jaw, whispering, "Lay back."

Edward used his strength to drag us both to the center of the bed, keeping me on his lap. He reclined back, his eyes flickering between my face and my heaving chest. Bracing myself on his shoulders, I kissed him again, moaning low when he gripped my hips to grind me against him – like I needed help seeking friction.

He grinned against my mouth at my internal sarcasm. "Just trying to help, love."

I giggled softly, kissing his chin, his chest, each nipple, and his navel, swirling my tongue out just to taste his skin. When I reached his belt, I sat up on his thighs, gazing down at him. He was just stunning as his stomach muscles tensed when I reached for his belt. His biceps and forearms flexed as he grasped my thighs, but he made no move to stop me from removing his jeans. The thick, dense sound of his cock falling to his stomach hard, heavy, and already leaking caused my breathing to hitch and my eyes to almost roll back. To humans, we're hard as stone, cold, and unmoving. To each other, we're warm and pliant. But that sound was alien to me and so very fucking sexy. It was a sound that I was grateful for my perfect immortal memory recall, because it was definitely something I wanted to hear again...and again. And I wanted to taste every drop he'd give me.

Seeing my thoughts, Edward gasped and groaned, a small rumbling purr echoing through the room. "Bella, shit... You don't..."

It was too damn late, because my hand wrapped around his thick cock just as I swiped my tongue across the tip of him to catch what was already leaking. The flavor! It was all Edward, only concentrated. Dragging the tip of my tongue around the edge, I found that he was most sensitive where the skin was thin, extra soft. He was hot steel wrapped in silk, he was veins that no longer funneled blood, he was twitching flesh, he was growls of want and love and need, and he was mine.

Incoherent words gushed from him when I sank down over him completely, moaning at the feel of long, strong fingers weaving into my hair. I tortured him like he tortured me – slow, languid licks and strokes building up to light nipping teeth, and finally to long, hard sucks. I teased his inner thighs with my thumbs, tickling the crease where his leg met his hip, which caused another string of profanities to hit the air. But when I cupped his balls, I knew he'd just about reached his limit, because he twitched hard in my mouth.

I gazed up at him through my eyelashes, locking eyes with solid black, and I watched him shatter. To see years of stress and frustration melt away from his glorious face, from around the hard edge his eyes seemed to carry, was all the reward I needed. His whole body arched, his fingers gripping my hair as he came hard down my throat. The sound of my name alone could've made me come with just how desperate and amazing it sounded.

When I pulled off of him, Edward moved in a blur, and I found myself pinned underneath him, my jeans obliterated somewhere in the room. With one hand braced by my head, the other grasped a fistful of my panties, and then he twisted hard, the sound of ripping lace making me gasp.

"What about you? Hmm?" he purred, trailing his nose down my cheek to the soft spot behind my ear. "My turn now, love?" His voice took on the tone of the devil himself as he posed the same question he had the first night we'd mated.

He smiled wickedly against my flesh, chuckling darkly. His hands skimmed, pinched, and groped. His lips ghosted back to my mouth, where he kissed me deeply. And for a split second, I wondered if he'd used my open mind against me, to do exactly what would drive me crazy with teasing, taunting.

"Uh uh." He shook his head at me and smiled an unbelievably sexy, crooked grin. "I'm not above cheating, beautiful. But your sweet, responsive body tells me...everything I need to know," he crooned, nipping at my lips before skimming his nose down my neck, across my collarbones, and finally, around each high-peaked nipple. "I don't need to cheat," he explained, flattening his tongue over my left nipple. "I can see when your eyes darken, Bella." His words were murmured sexily as he placed random, open-mouthed kisses to my stomach, but his eyes didn't leave mine. "I can feel your nipples harden at whatever you're thinking about or at my touch...or even when I step close to you."

I shuddered hard when his tongue flicked out to swirl inside my bellybutton, my hips bucking up off the bed.

"But mostly...I can smell you, love." He inhaled deeply around my mound, at the crease of my legs, and just inside my thigh. "I know when you're wet for me. I taste it in the air, all tangy and sweet, hear it when you rub your legs together like you're doing now, and I can feel it on my fingers, my lips, my tongue."

My head fell back to the bed, my whole body writhing in pain with the want of him. His words, his voice...they were making me crazy. My arousal doubled, my hands reached for him, and my thighs pressed together.

"Edward, please, please make it stop!" I finally begged, because I felt raw, swollen, achy. And he'd barely even touched me.

My legs were suddenly lifted and spread wide open, his mouth kissing my sex with slow strokes of his tongue but also with deep, rumbling growls. If he kept that up, I was going to come instantly. There wasn't an inch of me that was left wanting. His tongue expertly drove me over the edge, with deep tastes of my center, dragging licks from one end of me to the other, and finally, with hard sucks to my clit. Over and over, he took me like that. When one orgasm would end, it seemed another hit me stronger, harder, until finally, he was growling, looming over my face at the same time he sank balls deep inside of me.

"Yesss," I hissed at the same time he grunted out his own curse.

"Fuck..."

We froze, feeling the atmosphere shift slightly.

Edward stayed as still as a statue as he gazed down at me. "You're all I want, Bella," he whispered, closing his eyes slowly and nuzzling my nose with his, up one side and down the other. "Nothing else matters but this. Nothing. I can do anything as long as you're with me."

My eyes stung with tears I couldn't cry, but I cupped his face. "I'm not going anywhere, baby. I swear."

"And that's the only fucking thing I have faith in right now," he said with his lips so close to mine that I could feel the vibration of his voice. "Is that wrong?"

"Nothing about us is wrong, Edward," I assured him, waiting for him to acknowledge what I'd said. When he nodded, I whispered, "Make love to me..."

When his mouth met mine again, it was soft, sweeter. He moved slow, but deep, whispering words of love in several different languages. I recognized French, Spanish, definitely Italian, and something that sounded like Russian.

Edward may have thought he didn't have a soul, but at that moment, I could see every bit of it...and it was beautiful and loving and giving. We held each other close as he gave himself to me over and over, sometimes burying his face in my neck.

He loved me for what seemed to be hours, or it could've been mere minutes. Time alone with him usually caused me to lose track of everything around me. He took his time bringing me to my last climax, pulling it from me with sexy words of encouragement just before he let go himself.
As he held me quietly, I realized that he'd lost his faith in everything but what he was holding onto at that moment, and that was okay, because he'd lived a long life witnessing terrible things. I could imagine that the ugly parts of the world could shatter just about anyone's faith in God, in one's purpose for life, in themselves. And my Edward desperately wanted it all back. He was used to long years of being in control of his actions – a long eighty years – and because immortals essentially don't take to change very well, he was now struggling with his diet, his new family, and being mated. For someone used to being alone and under someone else's command, I could imagine that it was all just too damn much.

I laid my head on his chest, my fingers playing with his own as we watched the rain still coming down outside my windows. His body was much more relaxed, and I was grateful he hadn't gone back to pacing and being pissed off that we'd stopped him from killing the security guard at the mall, a thought that made him chuckle softly.

"Sorry about that," he murmured, dropping a kiss to my head. "I just wanted... I wouldn't have given it another thought about stalking him back to the child. I'm sorry for my outburst."

I leaned in to another kiss to the top of my head before I gazed up at him. "If Carlisle can fix it, he will," I said, and he stared at me for a moment before nodding one time.

"You're right, you know," he said softly, his warm, deep red eyes drifting back to the rainy weather outside. "I've lost faith in myself. I can't be both people. I can't be what I was for so long and at the same time be a member of this family."

I sat up abruptly, tugging the sheet around me. "What are you saying?"

"Calm down, love," he soothed, propping himself up on his elbow at the same time his free hand cupped my face. "I'm saying I have to let go of one those sides of myself."

I wanted to ask him which one, but his eye roll at me made me giggle, because he wanted me and to be wherever I was. It was letting go of the past that was giving him so much trouble. It was also figuring out where he fit in when it came to the family, besides just as my mate.

"Edward, for all those years... What did you want?"

"Freedom from Aro," he answered immediately.

"To do what?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

He smiled softly and nodded, looking down at his own hand splayed on the bed. "To do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. Maybe come home to Carlisle. I just knew I didn't want to be...enslaved anymore."

"Before you left, what made you happy?" I asked, tilting my head at him.

He huffed a humorless laugh, shrugging a shoulder like a belligerent teen. "Not much...little things. Um, playing the piano, finding big game on a hunt, running...definitely running. Arguing with Rose."

I giggled, leaning over to kiss his forehead. "And would those things still make you happy?"

"Probably," he allowed, his brow furrowing when he glanced up at me. "But you make me the happiest. It's unsettling how much I feel I don't deserve you."

I tsked at him, rolling my eyes. "You deserve happiness just as much as anyone else, Edward. And you have your freedom. If you could do anything right now, what would it be? If you could take on any task, learn something new, or travel somewhere... What would you do?"

"I just did it," he chuckled, giving me a wink when I laughed.

"Utterly insatiable," I sighed dramatically.

"Um, pot...meet kettle..." he teased back, gathering me into his arms. He sat back against the headboard, pulling me on top of him. His fingers trailed lightly up and down my spine, over my bottom, and back up as he gazed at me. "I want you every second, and somehow, I'm not sorry for that."

"Me, either," I chuckled, kissing his lips quickly.

"This is a big change for you, too, sweetheart. What would you do?"

"Everything," I answered simply, shrugging a shoulder. "Whatever we wanted. We'll need to move again in the next year, so school is a possibility, Edward. As boring as it can be, it gives us the freedom to settle in somewhere, to get a place of our own or live with the family. We can hunt together, play together, stay in bed all day when its sunny..."

He grinned, and it was so beautiful, but he suddenly said, "I want a car. Something fast and ridiculously expensive."

I laughed and nodded. "Then you can have one. Believe it or not, Rose has amazing skills as a mechanic.
She and Emmett take care of all the cars. That's their thing."

"Interesting," he snorted, his face scrunching up into an adorable expression of confusion.

"I'd like to try college," I stated with a shrug. "I didn't get much choice the first time we moved, and this last time, I got my own place."

Edward eyebrows shot up. "College," he mused softly, his fingers still ghosting up and down my spine.

"Now you get it," I chuckled. "Become a lawyer...catch bad guys the legal way..."

He laughed, hugging me close. "Christ, love..." He chuckled again, this time pressing kisses to wherever his lips reached. "I'm totally over-thinking this shit, aren't I?"

"I don't know, baby," I sighed deeply, tracing his face with one finger. "I can imagine hopes and dreams weren't high on your list."

"I know I've been difficult, moody... I've just been afraid to let go. My identity is lost somewhere," he admitted.

"Edward, you've been going through withdrawal. No one is mad at you. We're all here to help you. Jasper can feel your bloodlust, Alice sees what decisions you make – good or bad – and I'll stop you," I told him.
"This family won't judge you. They certainly allowed me my moments to rage and fight and struggle. They never even batted an eye. And when it was over, and I felt stupid and guilty, they didn't even accept my apologies."

"They love you," he offered as a simple explanation.

"And I love you, which just brings you with me. We protect our own," I stated. "The withdrawals won't last much longer, baby. I promise. You've only been inside this house for about a month. Thirty-five days, to be exact. No one can 'find themselves' in that short of a time. You've been through too much."

"You've counted?" he chuckled.

"Yep, they've been thirty-five really good days."

"Fan-fucking-tastic days," he purred, his hands slipping down my back once again, only this time, they rested on my ass, giving it a good squeeze.

Suddenly, we could hear the front doors burst open and the sounds of my siblings piling into the house.
Edward flinched, most likely from the mental assault that came with it, so I shielded the room for him.
Instead of going off to their respective rooms, the television came on at the same time Carlisle came home. All of it drew Esme out of wherever my earlier activities with Edward had scared her to.

"Should we join them?" Edward chuckled softly.

"We don't have to," I snickered, shrugging a shoulder.

That decision caused a laugh to escape Alice, but suddenly, the volume on the TV went up, a news report echoing up to us as if we really were in the room.

"Missing four-year-old Matthew Clover was recovered today, found in a cabin just north of Albany. Forty-one-year-old Nicolas Dolby Keyes was arrested for his kidnapping from the shopping center where the child was last seen. Keyes is facing felony charges for kidnapping, child endangerment, child pornography, sexual battery on a minor, and rape. If convicted, he's facing life in prison. He is also now a suspect in several cases of missing children in the surrounding states.

"Matthew Clover was discovered by a group of campers, who called the tip in anonymously. The caller stated that they stumbled upon the cabin while on a hike and had seen Keyes and the child through the window. The campers refused to leave a name, though authorities are trying to trace the call.

"Crime scene investigators are combing Keyes' cabin and the surrounding area in search of clues that might lead to other missing children. The police have stated that there are possible shallow graves on the property, and due its location, they might have never been found..."

Edward had frozen at the sound of the report, and even his breathing had stopped. He gazed up at me, his eyes never leaving mine, because we both knew what the family had done without them even saying a word.
They'd tracked Keyes, waited until he was fully inside his cabin with the little boy, and then called the police, most likely using a disposable cell phone that couldn't be tracked. I'd even be willing to bet that they'd found the shallow graves themselves, marking them somehow so that they could easily be spotted by the authorities.

They'd given Edward what he'd wanted: the child safe and the bad guy caught. And they'd done it without a single drop of human blood being shed, something that Edward had been incapable of at the time.

"Did you know?" he whispered, barely above audible.

I shook my head slowly, smirking down at him. Nope, I thought to him, I think they wanted to surprise you.

"Huh," he said, but nothing else.

However, I could see it in his eyes that he finally understood that he was truly accepted. They'd merely filled in when Edward had been unable to do it himself. It was what families did for each other.

His face was so adorable that I couldn't help but grasp either side and kiss his lips roughly. You look...confused, I chuckled. You also look like you want to go down there and hear all about it.

He nodded fervently but didn't move. "I don't know what to say," he whispered, his brow furrowing.

"They don't expect you to say anything, but I can imagine that Emmett wants to brag with a play-by-play." I snickered, but it broke into a laugh when Emmett's big voice boomed up to us.

"Hell, yeah! Come down! You shoulda seen the guy's face when the cops pulled in, Eddie," he yelled.

"Don't call me Eddie!" Edward growled, but a smirk played on his face as he sat us up a little. He turned to me, saying, "Lift that shield, love."

With a giggle, I slipped off of his lap at the same time I lifted my shield. Edward tilted his head as he tried to watch all five minds downstairs.

"Carlisle followed Keyes. The rest were hunting when he called, and they ran to meet him. They all checked out the cabin..." he murmured, frowning at whatever he was seeing.

"Good deeds deserve celebration," Emmett called up. "You need to lighten up...Eddie."

Emmett was baiting Edward. I knew that from experience. He wanted to rile him up, poke at him until he finally got the reaction he wanted. Emmett used to do it to me all the time. He'd pester and pick, tease and taunt until I couldn't take it.

Edward growled low, tugging on his jeans. In the blink of an eye, he was down the stairs. The sound of snarling, laughing, and breaking furniture echoed up, and before I could get dressed, Esme was already on it.

"Take it outside, boys! Now! You won't break my house," she told them, but I could hear her amusement, her love shining through the scolding.

Alice appeared in my doorway. "Definitely time for celebration," she murmured, smirking her little all-knowing smile. "Edward's decided to beat Emmett with his own arms."

"Wait! Are we celebrating the good deed...or the fact that Edward is ripping off Emmett's arms and using them as a club?"

"Six in one hand...half a dozen in the other," she sang, which caused me to laugh. "It was touch and go there for a bit with Edward," she said, her eyes sad. "He couldn't decide anything, because he was too angry...and then suddenly, he wanted a list of things." She grinned up at me.

I smiled at her, shrugging a shoulder. She'd probably seen most of the conversation, or at least some of it, but I could see that she had a clue. Some things about Edward, I kept private, his personal admissions and worries being a part of it. I wanted to ask her what she'd seen, but I didn't.

"You're sure?" she asked, grinning at me. "I can name a few things that you both want."

I shook my head, because I wanted Edward to tell me himself...in his own time. "Nope, Alice. Let this one slide. He's struggling with his past enough; no need to taint his future by outing everything," I said, but my eyes begged her to understand. There was a part of my relationship with Edward that I wanted to remain unseen.

When she nodded, I followed her downstairs, where I was pretty sure I could hear the boys still wrestling at the far end of the property, with Esme still scolding, Jasper and Rose cheering them on, and Carlisle's laughter. And I had to smile, because it sounded so normal, so absolutely perfect.
Saturday, April 21, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Fate Interrupted Chapter 3

Chapter 3
EPOV

Sitting down in Carlisle's study, I glanced around, a small chuckle escaping me. Despite the extreme differences in time, it was much the same as it had been when I'd first lived with him. There were modern additions, of course – a computer, phone, iPod – but his desk, his bookshelves, and a fair amount of his books were all very familiar. Even the smell was the same.

I felt my hand being picked up, and I glanced over to see Esme smiling at me.

I've tried to change his taste in this office, but he just won't have it.

I laughed softly, looking up at Carlisle when he took a seat behind his desk.

"If she's complaining about this room again, I don't want to know," he teased, giving her a wink. "We all have things we can't let go, sweetheart. This room is mine."

Esme scoffed at him, rolling her eyes, but it was all done in pure affection. My head turned when feminine squeals echoed from the hallway, but it was Bella's thoughts I could hear the clearest. Apparently, Alice and Rose wanted "the scoop," but Bella found humor in the fact that there was no such thing as privacy in a house full of vampires that could essentially hear heartbeats from a mile away just as easily as a whispered conversation from the third floor. But it was now even worse, because there was a mind reader in the house.

Laughing, I cringed when she completely caught me, telling me she wasn't the only one that would be given the third degree. With a slight touch of disappointment, I sighed when all thoughts upstairs vanished out of my head.

"Poor Bella," Esme chuckled, shaking her head. "She's my happy little medium between the two girls. They drive her crazy – Alice with her hyperactivity, and Rose with her cynicism. And I won't even get into what the boys have put her through for the last decade."

Grinning, I faced her and Carlisle again, because it was all happy, fun, familial memories going through their minds. I focused on Esme, much like I'd done downstairs. I'd thought I'd missed her before I saw her, but it was nothing compared to the comfort she'd given me the minute she embraced me. Her thoughts had been centered on how much she'd missed me, but the first thing she'd silently asked me was whether or not I was happy to be back and if I thought Isabella was as beautiful as she did, to which I'd answered both questions with an honest, "Absolutely." But just like Carlisle, she'd followed it up with a warning that I wouldn't be leaving the family again. I'd vowed that I wouldn't.

"Why Bella?" I suddenly asked her, and then gazed up at Carlisle. "Why her? I mean, I understand about Alice's predictions – Bella explained it to me – but she was...human."

Carlisle smiled, his thoughts a blur on just how to answer that question, but he spoke aloud, most likely as a courtesy to Esme. "My theory on Bella started when she first moved to Washington. We'd already been there a few months, the...kids were in school," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Has Bella explained that to you?"

"Yes. Something about being able to stay in one place for longer periods of time. It wasn't anything you and I hadn't discussed in the beginning. We all look young, so I can see how the facade would help. I'm surprised it works, though. Don't the humans recoil?" I asked.

"Some do, but most want to believe what we tell them. Well, everyone but Bella. She had no fear, no normal sense of self-preservation," he laughed. "And Alice was no help. They became fast friends, despite their differences. I allowed the friendship because it made huge improvements on Alice's demeanor and the family loved her instantly, but the first time Bella visited the house, Alice had a vision of you.

"It wasn't until Bella started developing another friendship that I started to become concerned. Her father's best friend was the chief of the Quileutes," he stated, his gaze locking with mine.

"Forks...La Push," I breathed, now understanding why he'd become concerned. I'd been with Carlisle at that time, leaving not long after that. In fact, I'd been with him when we'd created the treaty with the wolves that was now in the forefront of my father's mind. I'd not connected Bella with Forks because it had been so long since I'd been in the Pacific Northwest, but I knew Carlisle liked the area; the weather was perfect for us to navigate in the daytime.

"That same chief has a son, Jacob Black – Ephraim Black's grandson. The boy developed a pretty heavy attachment to Bella, so in order to impress her, he broke the treaty unknowingly, told her all about the legends. All of them," Carlisle continued. "Bella's not stupid, nor is she unobservant, so it was only a matter of days before she finally put two and two together. It took forever to calm Alice down, because she saw us leaving, and Alice wasn't quite ready to let go of Bella. But Alice has a tendency to use her visions for her own benefit." He chuckled, shaking his head. "So when she decided to tell Bella the truth, she saw that it was okay, that Bella accepted it, accepted us. I allowed it. I probably shouldn't have, but the day that Bella came over to talk to Alice was the first time Bella saw this picture."

Carlisle pointed to the shelf just above his head. Sitting in a old silver frame was a picture of me well after my change. I was wearing a solemn expression, but my eyes were clearly amber, despite the sepia tone to the photo. The clothes I was in represented the time – probably the mid- to late twenties.

"The very second Bella laid eyes on you, Alice froze in a vision. You were home again. Bella? She was immortal. She was your mate. Alice was certain of it," Carlisle stated softly, his eyes warm at the memory. "I refused to give hope to that plan. Period. But things have a way of working out, I suppose. The more Bella learned about you – because she became an insatiable sponge for knowledge – the more Alice's visions stayed clear. If I made a decision to leave, not only did Bella disappear, but so did you." Carlisle sat forward, his elbows resting on the desk in front of him, his head in his hands. "And then the worst happened... Bella was involved in an accident. I had no choice but to change her. The mere thought of losing her sent Alice into a frenzy that no one could calm, which in turn caused Jasper to panic. Emmett was fine with the idea; he loves her like his little sister. Rose took some convincing, but not much. She hated that Bella was losing her choices, but even she had become fond of the girl."

"But it was me, Edward," Esme interjected, wincing an apologetic face to Carlisle for interrupting. "I couldn't let her go at this point. Bella had stolen our hearts...almost from day one," she explained, and Carlisle nodded in agreement, only to continue.

"My decision to change her came wrapped up in two very large leaps of faith. I had to believe that Bella would be okay with my choice and that Alice's vision of your coming home would stay true. The hope of your eventual return was better than the devastating thought of never seeing you again," he finally finished, his mind filled with the needless guilt that he might be selfish for wanting it, but he reasoned that I was his "firstborn."

"She suffered," I whispered, frowning at him.

"She suffered no more than you did. She was lonely...and a newborn, not to mention damned powerful. It took a few years for her to learn to control her shield," Carlisle stated. "She was angry, but only because she was losing patience, son. She went through the same things we've all been through. I truly believe Bella was fated for this life, because she learned to control her thirst faster than any newborn I've ever seen."

"How did you get past the treaty? You changed her in Forks?" I asked, my brow furrowing.

Carlisle smiled, nodding. "I simply explained that they broke the treaty first, despite the fact that Jacob Black didn't really believe the legends he was spilling to Bella. We considered the matter...even."

Nodding in acceptance of that, I sighed, "She said she stopped asking about the visions of me. Why?"

"No idea. She would never say, and she was extremely careful around Alice about it," Carlisle replied, shrugging a shoulder.

I nodded again. "I'm sorry I distracted you. What did you want to see me about?"

"It's quite all right," Esme chuckled. "I imagine there are lots of questions you have for us."

"And you for me, I'm sure," I said with a smirk.

Carlisle laughed, but his thoughts turned to my diet. "I think it would be beneficial for you if you and Bella stayed here for awhile. Just to keep your thirst in check. There will be a point of...withdrawal, Edward. You'll need to feed a little more often than you're probably used to. I'd like the family here to help you, though Bella and Alice will be your best resources. Alice will see them coming, and Bella can shield you from acting...rashly."

"Okay," I conceded, "but I'm not sure how Bella will feel..."

"I'll talk to her," Esme offered, patting my hand and standing up. She brushed my hair from my forehead and dropped a kiss to it. "Bella likes her independence, but she's never denied this family anything we've asked of her. For you, she'll do it."

We were both quiet as she left us, shutting the door behind her softly. I turned my attention back to Carlisle. His thoughts were happy that Esme would now have all of her children under one roof. Obviously, it was something for which she'd been yearning. With a deep sigh, he opened a drawer of his desk and set an accordion folder down in front of me.

"I took the liberty of taking care of your finances and identity, son. I hope you don't mind," he stated, his brow furrowing. "Apparently, when you were living in London, you rented an apartment, assigning me as your next of kin. When you didn't return, they sent me your things."

I nodded and sighed, pulling the folder to me. "I was caught by the Volturi in London. They took me straight to Italy."

"I wish you'd have sent word to me," he groaned, shaking his head. "I could've stopped it all then, vouched for you. Aro has owed me for a century."

I chuckled humorlessly, shrugging a shoulder. "I was ashamed, Carlisle," I argued softly, giving the contents of the folder my attention instead of meeting his gaze, because there really was more to it. "I was wrong. I became judge, jury, and executioner. Perhaps I felt I needed the punishment. And it only perpetuated when I found myself unable to stop. The power to deal death is...heady. I don't want to play God anymore," I vowed to him in a whisper, meeting his gaze.

He nodded, his mind filled with sadness but understanding. "I had some identifications made for you. And all your belongings from your parents are in there," he said, pointing to the file. "I didn't want you to lose anything, Edward. Not to mention, you're fairly wealthy now. Eighty years of compounded interest helped."

I barked a laugh. "I'll try not to go on a spending spree. Living as a nomad...money isn't all that important."

"I imagine it isn't," he chuckled. "I can't see you spending it all...ever. Though, don't tell Alice your aversion to shopping. It'll break her heart."

My eyebrows raised at the mental picture he was showing me. I could see that the little thing took her shopping extremely seriously.

"Duly noted," I chuckled.

She's a retail force all her own, he thought to me with a laugh. "You should hear her story, son. In fact, I'm pretty sure it would help you if you heard everyone's stories – especially Jasper's. He's overcome a great many things."

Listening to his mind, I could see that he wanted me to share, as well. "You think they don't trust me," I concluded.

"I know they trust me, and they're willing to give you a chance for Bella, but I'm not sure what they've been told about your situation," he countered. "Alice doesn't always give details, and Bella is extremely private..."

"And you haven't told them," I surmised with a nod as he shook his head no.

Carlisle sighed, his eyes warm with understanding. "It's your story to tell. There's not one of us that wouldn't have done the same thing, son. You had no choice. And I know Aro...he would have manipulated you for all eternity in order to keep you. Your ability, coupled with what he thought was the theft of you from me just made him all the more possessive. If you kept producing favorable results for him, he wouldn't have wanted to let you go. He may still want you...not to mention Bella. I'm well aware that he envies my family, Edward."

"Not envy," I countered with a shake of my head. "He's threatened by you. He doesn't understand it, and therefore, he wants to destroy it. Marcus doesn't care, and he most likely saw that I was never truly loyal to them. Caius...he just loves a conflict."

"Which is another reason you should explain yourself to the family," he told me. "I fear that we haven't heard the last of the Volturi."

I leaned forward, my hands gripping my hair. "I'm not a spy. I did what I had to do in order to survive, Carlisle. But I don't want to bring anything down on this family. I won't."

Carlisle chuckled, which caused me to snap my gaze back to his. "Oh, son... One thing that Aro is right about... My family is very, very powerful – my youngest being his biggest problem. I'd be willing to bet that Bella has barely shown you what she's capable of. I'm sure that's why he sent you for her." He grinned, shaking his head slowly. "I know you're not a spy. I trust Alice explicitly. She would've seen any ill will by now. But I also know you. You're my son, and I've always been able to tell when you're lying. You may don the mask for the Volturi, but not for me."

Grinning, I nodded, thankful that despite the many decades, he could still see right through me. "What do we do?" I asked, giving the door a longing look. I suddenly needed to see Bella, so badly that my skin actually felt like it was on fire, which caused my knee to start bouncing.

"We wait," he said simply, shrugging a shoulder. "Alice is always watching any decisions that come from Italy. In the meantime, we'll get you settled back in, back on the right diet, and back to Bella," he snickered, eying my fidgeting with an overabundance of amusement.

She's perfect for you, he thought to me. I always thought she would be, but I truly see it now.

"I fear I need her too much," I whispered, frowning down at my hands.

"Impossible," he stated, but switched to his thoughts. Newly-mated couples require much more...time, touch, attention. I assure you, you aren't alone in this. Bella is feeling the same way.

"It makes me feel...unstable," I admitted.

You and Bella are independent and head-strong. I promise you, she's feeling exactly the same way. Ask her. He smiled kindly, his mind showing me memories of the beginning he and Esme had shared. Every thought, decision, and action will now revolve around your mate, Edward. You are no longer alone.

"Go to her," he finally chuckled aloud, because my fidgeting only increased. "We'll have plenty of time to catch up. In fact, I wouldn't mind hunting with you."

"Okay," I said, smiling at his laugh and standing up.

Before I reached the door, he said, "And it's good to have you home, son."

Locking gazes with him, I nodded. "It's good to be back."

The house was empty and silent as I walked upstairs, except for the sounds coming from the third floor. I couldn't hear their thoughts, but I could definitely hear the laughter coming from Bella and Esme. The door was open to a rather large room that was currently disheveled. It seemed the room was being made over.

A pile of purple bed linens lay discarded on the floor by the door, along with matching curtains. The bed was now covered in reds and golds, and I chuckled at the girls as they hung red curtains from the floor to ceiling windows. Both were on stools as the sun glimmered off their skin, casting rainbows around the room.

What I used to think was the skin of a killer suddenly looked beautiful against dark brown hair, but Bella seemed to be changing a lot of the things I believed.

"You know, if you didn't have this door locked down tighter than Fort Knox, I'd help you," I chuckled, poking a finger at the invisible barrier that blocked the door.

Both women jumped, bursting into laughter, and the shield lifted. I walked in, dropping my folder from Carlisle onto the bed.

"Sorry, Edward," Bella chuckled, moving the stool over to hang the next section of curtain. "I was trying to spare you the ghastly girl talk. You wouldn't believe what Esme talks about."

"I'm sure I should thank you, but you wouldn't believe what Esme thinks about," I teased, ducking the pop to my head from Esme.

"Hush," she scolded. "Just for that, you can hang this last one."

Laughing, I took the rod from her and secured it into the bracket.

"Show off," they both muttered.

I tsked dramatically, shrugging my shoulders. "If you two weren't built so low to the ground..."

Pillows from either side of the room flew at my head, and I ducked them both.

"Hey!"

Esme chuckled, giving me a wink as she gathered up the great big pile of purple. "Bella, did you want to... I mean, did you want me to save this?" she asked her, and it seemed to be a serious question that weighed heavily between them.

Bella was quiet, and I saw blurry flashes of that same comforter in what seemed to be a human memory, but she simply shook her head no. "No, Esme. It's time."

"Okay, sweetheart," she said with a nod, turning to me. "Edward, Alice has gone to get you some clothes. We'll get you settled in, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am," I answered her, my brow wrinkling as she left us alone, her last thoughts reminding me that she still had my piano.

"Don't sweat it," Bella chuckled, her thoughts now gone. "Alice buys everyone's clothes. Even Carlisle's. The poor man hasn't seen the inside of a department store in forty years. He'd be lost in a Macy's, for sure."

From two floors down, Carlisle's laugh echoed up to us, along with, "You don't hear me complaining, though, do you?"

I chuckled at Bella's silly grin but turned my attention to the room. One long wall was nothing but shelves filled with books upon books, not to mention mementos and framed pictures. The opposite wall was all windows facing the woods, a window seat running the length of it, and from the third floor, it gave an amazing view of a lake not far away. The art on the wall was minimal, mostly classic nondescript oils. The furniture was older, a little more worn than what I was used to from Esme, but I had a feeling there was more to it.

"I don't use this room much," Bella said softly from her window seat.

"Carlisle wants us to stay here. Is that okay?" I asked, glancing over her book titles and noticing that some looked more loved than others, especially the classics.

"If it's what he wants...what you need, then yeah."

Unable to stay away from her any longer, I walked over, silently asking her to let me sit behind her. She leaned back against my chest, my legs on either side of hers. My anxiousness dissipated once my arms wrapped around her and my nose buried in her hair. A million and one questions for her flew through my mind, but only one popped out unexpectedly.

"So what was with all the purple?"

Bella chuckled, but it faded into a deep sigh, and something about that sounded sad to me. She glanced over the room, tracing her fingers up my arms to link them with mine.

"I moved in with my dad when I was seventeen...human seventeen," she clarified. "I had never lived with him on a permanent basis, so he was nervous. He decided to decorate my room for me. Purple. I didn't care, really, but it meant a lot to me that he went to so much trouble, especially since he wasn't the hugging, 'I love you' type of dad. When I got hit by the van, Carlisle had to change me, but as the family hid me at the Cullen home, my dad had a heart attack."

Bella fell quiet for a moment, and I couldn't help but press kisses to the back of her head and squeeze her closer. It just seemed that she needed it.

With a deep breath, she continued. "Carlisle and the boys had to race against the system when Charlie died. They wanted me to have everything that he would've left to me, but they didn't want it to seem suspicious when items in the house disappeared or when my father's home was sold...or even when his finances suddenly vanished off the grid.

"Somehow, they did it. They've tried to explain how it was done, but I didn't – and still don't – care. Esme wanted to bring me some sort of comfort, so she raided my old room, practically setting up a bedroom identical to my human one. Everything in here was from my dad's. The purple became some sort of security thing to me. Don't ask why. I don't know. But Esme got it. They've been trying to get me to throw it out for years, but I wouldn't."

"Why now?"

She giggled, turning to nuzzle my jaw. "Well, this is your room now, too. I guess it was time to finally change it."

"We don't sleep, Isabella," I teased in a whisper right against her ear, smiling when she giggled again, a sound that made the seventeen-year-old inside of me beam with pride.

"I'm sure we'll figure out what to do with it," she laughed, shaking her head and turning a bit in my lap.
"How'd it go with Carlisle?"

"Fine," I sighed, grimacing a bit. "He's worried that the Volturi may still want you...and me, for that matter."
She nodded like she'd assumed as much. "Alice will see them. And now that you're here, you'll hear them."
I nodded once, huffing a frustrated sigh. "He thinks the family doesn't trust me yet."

Bella laughed, shaking her head. "Yeah, well, they'll learn. It's not like you can hide much around here. Jasper can feel deception. Alice will see every decision. Do you still plan on giving me up to Aro?" Her voice was filled with amusement as she raised a sexy ass eyebrow up at me.

I growled, long and low. "Fuck, no," I grunted, shaking my head that I was using that language in front of her; long years being surrounded by various monstrous personalities had changed my speech. She didn't seem to mind, though. "That would be like cutting out my own heart. I might as well set myself on fire at that point," I murmured, frowning down at our linked fingers. They meshed so well, I could barely tell which were hers and which were mine.

Bella's free hand cupped my face, forcing my gaze to hers. "Then don't worry about it. You'll prove yourself, and we'll protect us if the time ever comes."

I couldn't keep my mouth from hers if I'd tried, but I still had a ton of questions that seemed to be bubbling to the surface. I wanted to know everything about her, because she'd had the advantage of learning about me from Carlisle, Rose, and Esme. I was still damned ignorant when it came to her, though she was doing her best to let me in both verbally and mentally.

I lost myself in it all for just a moment – warm, soft lips, sweet, swirling tongues, and quiet moans against skin. When I finally came back to myself, I pressed my forehead to her temple, breathing in unnecessary gulps of air.

"Can I ask another question?" I muttered against her cheek.

She smiled, pulling back, and nodded. "Sure."

"How often did Alice have visions of me?" I asked her, trying to lead up to the question I truly wanted to ask.

"All the time," Bella answered, shrugging a shoulder. "They started when I was human. You'll have to ask her the details on some of them. Or Carlisle."

"Why didn't you want to hear?" It was the question that bothered me the most, and I wasn't sure why. It was like she'd given up at some point, or she just didn't want to know. But even Carlisle wanted to know the answer, because I could hear his mind downstairs freezing in wait of her reply.

Bella groaned, shaking her head and looking out over the forest. "It was very surreal, Edward, falling for a guy in a picture. It was stranger still finding out from my best friend that the same guy was supposed to be my mate. The word mate doesn't make sense to a teenage human girl. It became...difficult to hear that you knew nothing about me, that we had to wait for you. I didn't want to know just how oblivious you were to the whole thing. I also didn't want to know if you were... I mean..."

"With someone else," I finished for her, my head falling back to the wall behind me.

"Yeah," she whispered with a slight nod of her head. "I just don't think I could've dealt with it. It was bad enough that the family was trying to get me to date, sending me to prom...all that stuff. And I never felt comfortable with any of it, because it felt wrong. It felt like cheating, which was strange. You, however, were free to make any choice you wanted. I couldn't bear to know what they were."

That made perfect sense, and it showed just how much she'd been through just...waiting.

"I tried once and failed," I whispered, gazing out over the woods as the sun settled slowly behind the trees. "It was a very long time ago."

"How long?" she asked, looking so very hurt, though she needn't worry; the experience was less than awful.
It had been a failure before it even began.

"Nineteen fifty-four," I stated, shaking my head.

She snorted softly one time. "My mother wasn't even born yet."

I huffed a humorless laugh, shrugging a shoulder. "I regretted it instantly, but I wasn't sure at the time that it wasn't some sort of test for me. I've never felt this way about anyone. I was judged on it all the time, so I tried, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It always seemed wrong and just...animalistic." But that brought a whole new set of questions to mind. "What about you?"

She grimaced, her nose wrinkling adorably. "I tried one time," she said with a nod. "Same with me...I think I was testing myself. One date – prom – one kiss...I hated it."

"Human?" I asked, trying not to chuckle at the embarrassed look on her face, but she was too adorable.

"Yeah," she groaned, rolling her eyes. She smiled, letting out a breath. "I guess last night was a first for both of us."

I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her lips softly. "For the record, nothing was as amazing as last night. Nothing ever came close to that. It was...everything. And this," I stated, tugging her collar to the side to reveal my mark on her. "This certainly never happened with anyone else. Okay?" I leaned in to press my lips to it. It was slightly cooler than the rest of her skin, a thought that made me smile against it, kiss it again, and finally suckle it just enough to make her groan.

I knew I had more questions, but suddenly, they just seemed so unimportant. Bella was too close, smelling mouthwatering, her fingers threading in my hair to keep me right where she wanted me at the same time she shifted on my lap again. This time, she straddled my thighs, her mind opening to me.

I want you, she thought, growling low when I cupped her ass and rolled her over my instant erection. I can't stop wanting you. Her brow furrowed as she panted for unnecessary breaths while her strong fingers gripped my shoulders, and I could see that Carlisle was right, that Bella and I were both lost to this feeling, this pull between us. I didn't have to ask her, because I could see it all in her mind.

"Yes," I hissed, nodding and pulling back to press my forehead to hers. For the first time ever, I felt like the exact age I was frozen as – all hormonal seventeen, with the most beautiful girl in his arms and the "parents" had left us alone upstairs. "But I want to take my time with you," I told her, nipping at her lips, "and I don't think that's going to happen right this second." I groaned, my forehead hitting her shoulder.

"Why?" she asked, nuzzling my jaw, but she froze. "Alice."

"She's close and extremely loud, mentally," I sighed, pulling back to smirk up at Bella, who groaned and chuckled at the same time. "Right now, no matter what decision I make, she's countering it with...um, interruptions. She also sees that you have questions for me, but I knew that already. I was just waiting for you to ask them."

I grimaced when my girl surrendered with a deep sigh and sat back just a little. "Living with you two will be interesting... Let's just put that out there right now," she muttered, frowning down at her hands, which were playing with the buttons of my shirt.

Laughing, I cupped her face, making her look at me. "I'm sure it will be," I chuckled, leaning in to kiss her neck. "I promise you we'll pick up where we left off, but with Alice's visions coming my way, maybe it's a good idea to...I don't know...get to know everyone?" I rambled, not really sure what I meant. "If you have questions for me, then everyone else will, too."

"I know," she conceded, reaching up to run her fingers through my hair. "Carlisle wants to sit down with all of us, doesn't he?"

Nodding, I said, "Yes. I have to answer to them, sweetheart. I have to answer to you. But we might as well do this with them all here. I need to answer for the things I've done, the life I've lived. I need to prove myself to you, to Carlisle, and to the rest of them. If I were in their place, I'd want to know about the person moving in. Does that make sense?"

"Yeah," she said, switching to her thoughts. I feel like I should protect you from this.

"Don't," I snickered, picking up her hand and kissing her palm. "Alice is assuring me that I'll live through it."

"How close are they?"

"They're turning in the driveway," I answered, but didn't bother to move us as the loud chaos started downstairs.

Alice and Rose came up the stairs with Jasper and Emmett in tow, every last one of them with their arms full.
"Really, Alice?" Bella asked, her mouth falling open.

"Don't judge me!" Alice countered. "You'll both need this stuff. There's hunting, school...not to mention how many articles of clothing you two will ruin all on your very own," she sang, wearing a hilarious smirk.
Bella and I stood up from the window seat, and she told the group, "Just drop it all on the bed. We'll deal with it later."

"School?" I murmured, wincing just a bit.

"Ah, don't sweat it, bro," Emmett chuckled after he'd set his armload down. "No one's rushing you...despite what Alice throws at you."

Of all the minds in the room – besides Bella's when it was open to me – Emmett's was as clear as a spring-fed river. His intentions, his feelings, and his opinions were right there on the surface from the minute Carlisle introduced us. He held absolutely no ill will toward me, and he was truly happy for Bella, because he thought the best part of his immortality was the mating, which caused me to hold back a chuckle. He was easy on the mind, but not stupid, because I could see he was testing me just a bit. He would protect his family, but he didn't think he really needed to.

"You're seventeen, Edward," Alice sighed, rolling her eyes up to me and shoving a pair of black Converse at me. "You have to dress the part, if only for Carlisle's and Esme's sakes."

"I'm over a hundred," I countered, just to hear her and Bella laugh.

"Yeah, well... Me, too," Alice huffed. "When you decide to go to school with us, which you will – I've already seen it – that long ass leather coat can't go with you. It's staying at Bella's apartment. You'll look like the kid that sells weed behind the gym at the last school we went to."

"Aaron," Jasper chuckled, shaking his head. "That boy radiated deception."

If Emmett's mind was clear, then Jasper's was layered, detailed, and complex. I had been shocked at the sight of him, at the sight of so many scars on one single immortal. His thoughts were wary of me, but he hadn't made any judgment against me as of yet. Something in his past kept flashing to the forefront, only to get shoved back. However, he was feeding off of every emotion in the room – mine and Bella's lust that we hadn't quite tamped down, Emmett's amusement, Rose's curiosity, and Alice's excitement. He was pushing it all back out at us.

"That's subtle," I noted, shaking my head and locking eyes with him. "But...powerful."

"This is nothin'," he chuckled, shrugging a shoulder. "Spitfire over there was a hellacious newborn. Talk about mood swings."

He and I laughed when Bella flipped him off without even looking up from whatever it was that Alice and Rose were showing her across the room. From his thoughts, I could see his memory of teaching Bella to control not only her emotions, but her thirst, her strength, and finally, her shield later on down the line. He used his talent to keep her focused and calm, only to set her loose on Emmett just for laughs. But what I noticed most was that he was some sort of expert on newborns.

"She looked like it," I murmured, smirking over at him.

Jasper's eyes locked with mine. "You hear everything? Like Aro?"

"No. Just whatever is going through your mind at the moment," I told him, sighing wearily at the thought of Aro. "Aro needs to touch you. I don't. But he hears every thought you've ever had."

"You gonna tell us the whole story, Edward?" Rose piped up, raising an eyebrow at me.

"Rose!" Bella hissed, frowning up at her, which caused the whole room – thoughts and all – to come to a standstill.

"It's okay, love," I said to Bella, looking back to Rosalie. "Yes. I will."

Carlisle broke the tension, calling up from the living room. "Everyone downstairs, please."

Bags, boxes, clothes, and conversations were immediately dropped, and we all filed down to the living room to take various seats. Bella sat with me on the sofa next to Esme, Rose and Emmett resumed their earlier position on the loveseat, and Alice and Jasper curled up together on the chaise.

Our father took the chair, locking gazes with me, though he spoke aloud for everyone else's benefit. "Are you ready to do this now?"

"They should know," I answered him, spinning my gaze to Rose.

Rosalie Hale's thoughts had always been and always will be about Rosalie, though she was fiercely protective of the family and its secrets. She didn't like the unknown between us. She wanted to make sure I was truly back with the family, despite how much she trusted Carlisle.

"Well, you have the upper hand here, Edward," she huffed. "You know about us..."

"It doesn't work that way, and you know it," I growled, calming just a little when Bella's hand slipped into mine. Not even a whole day in the house, and Rose and I were already bickering; some things never changed.

A calm, mellow feeling enveloped the whole room, and my eyebrows shot up as I glanced over to Jasper. He smirked, shrugged, and thought to me, Ignore Rosalie. I do.

I nodded, sighed, and turned back to Carlisle. "What have you told them?"

But it was Bella that answered softly from my side. "Everything up until you left."

Sighing, I sat forward, filtering out everyone's minds but Carlisle's and Bella's. I realized they were the only two that had at least a minimal idea of what I'd been through, since I'd had no choice but to ask Carlisle for help back at Bella's apartment. But they didn't know everything.

I decided to just start, and that caused an encouraging smile to flicker over Alice's face.

"I was caught in London in the early thirties," I stated. "Aro said he noticed that the papers were reporting a vigilante roaming the streets, taking out the most wanted men in Europe, so he sent a small team to investigate. He wasn't stupid, because he'd noticed that the same thing had happened in the States but had stopped, so he assumed that the person doing it had moved on. And he was right; it was all me. I'd found serial killers, rapists, and abusers from just about every major city and removed them."

I grimaced at how cold that sounded, but it was the truth.

"It got easier and easier once I learned to follow that line of thinking. Someone always knew them, whether they turned them in or not. A neighbor suspected something was strange about the guy next door. A wife wouldn't admit aloud that her husband disappeared in the middle of the night. A coworker was uneasy around the guy that worked at the far back desk. A child was too scared to say that their teacher was mean. I just had to...listen." I ran a hand through my hair, shaking my head. "It became...addicting. I felt I was doing the world some sort of good. I felt like a god when I would wander big cities. I read the most wanted lists and started hunting.

"Just out of simple curiosity, I was following the old Jack the Ripper case in London. He was someone important...I'm damned sure of it. A politician, a member of Parliament, something. Otherwise, he would have been caught back in eighteen eighty-eight. He was sloppy."

My head shot up to Emmett. I had to smile at his thoughts, because he wanted to know if I'd ever missed out on some famous names.

"Yes," I told him. "Plenty. Aro wouldn't always let me go. I really wanted to find John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, and I got to Jim Jones too late. However, the BTK killer would have posed a challenge. I saw he turned himself in decades later."

Emmett grinned and nodded. "Sorry, dude. Ignore me."

Chuckling, I nodded and went on. "Apparently, Aro likes having criminals out there. It makes hiding his people's hunting habits easier, so I messed with that. I heard them coming, but it was too late. Demetri is a tracker, and once he's locked onto you, there's no escaping. My mind is quick, but his was quicker. They gave me a choice: die there in the streets of London, or see Aro for judgment. I chose the latter."

I gazed down at the floor. "I always thought that what we are was unnatural and that I would welcome death if it ever presented itself, but the need to survive is...instinctual. Self-preservation is something that kicks in, especially if you're kneeling on the stone floor in front of the Volturi with two immortals poised to rip you apart. What saved me was that I actually answered Aro's mental questions out loud. He stopped and walked to me, finally touching me. He saw everything," I said with a grimace, looking to Carlisle. "I'm sorry."
No need to apologize to me, son. I'm well aware of how his powers work, he thought to me, but to the room, he just waved the apology away, saying, "Go on, Edward. It's okay."

"I know, but I know he's been watching you ever since. I'm just...sorry," I sighed, running another hand through my hair before I continued. "At that point, Aro stated that I was too talented to be removed, so he offered me a position among his ranks." I huffed a humorless laugh and rubbed my face. "Let me clarify... For the immortals in the chamber around us, he offered me a position. For me alone, he mentally said that if I didn't stay, he'd kill me anyway and then he'd investigate what Carlisle was doing, because he hadn't asked for approval before enlarging the size of his coven...meaning turning me, Esme, and Rose...and Carlisle's diet was too strange not to go unchallenged."

"Edward," Esme gasped, her mouth hanging open just a bit.

"Damn, son..." Carlisle groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, a gesture of stress and frustration that I hadn't seen from him since the year that Rose was changed.

Bella's hand slipped into mine, but she remained silent, though her thoughts were as clear as a glass of water. You stayed to protect him, she surmised, and I nodded.

"I stayed to stay alive. I had to wait, Bella. If I died, then Carlisle would have no warning. And I wasn't given much time to make a decision. I chose to stay," I told her, though I was well aware it was for everyone in the room. Turning back to the rest of them, I went on. "For the first few years, Aro used me like a remote control, touching me while he listened to everyone else in the room. I was his prized possession. I made life easier for him, but the things I saw..." My head fell to my hands, my fingers gripping my hair. "I absolutely refused to feed at the castle. He knew it, too, tempting me left and right, but I would refrain until I was given leave, because it was all so cruel, the way they treated the humans like cattle, toying with them, teasing them, torturing them. It was innocent women and children, honest working men, and they were usually brought in by the droves. They disguised it under tour groups, or during the Second World War, they would hijack trains bound for concentration camps. That was just..."

I stopped, shaking my head at just how brilliantly devious the three brothers could be. They would use the world's evil to their advantage.

"I was not allowed to leave the city alone for the first decade. When I hunted, I had a babysitter of sorts...big giant of a man – Felix. We actually became friends. He liked hunting the way I did it, but he couldn't do it without me, because his only talent was pure, boulder-crushing strength. I gained his trust, which eventually gained the trust of the three brothers, though Caius and I never really saw eye to eye. It took twenty years to get that far. He would insist that I was not to be trusted, but Aro wouldn't listen to him. And whatever Aro wanted, his brothers conceded.

"It wasn't until I stopped Aro from killing an immortal girl that he saw what I could really do for him. Heidi was talented, even though she didn't know it. She could draw people in, something that Marcus found intriguing. I could see her working it against the guards that were holding her. She'd done nothing wrong to warrant death; it was her sire's fault. He was teaching her to hunt wherever and whenever she felt like it. He was discarded immediately, but Aro had found a new pet that could draw in the humans, and I was then sent out to find more talents. It's what I did for them for sixty years."

I snorted, but looked over at Carlisle. "His guard is laced with talent. Talent that I brought him. Another tracker, James. He's a little rogue, but he's given anything he wants in order to keep him happy. Jane, who looks younger than Alice, but her power is intense. She's mean, which Aro adores, but she can inflict pain...you think you're burning from the inside out. Aro loved her so much that he sent me back to where I'd found her to take her twin brother, Alec, so he could turn him. His power is disarming; it's this slow moving mist or fog, causing his victims to become disoriented, blind, deaf. They only use him on special occasions. There's Renata, a shield, but nowhere near Bella," I said, turning to look at her. "She has to touch Aro in order to protect him."

"How did you get them to go with you?" Bella asked, but the real question was just under the surface. She wanted to know how I'd planned on taking her if I'd decided that my freedom was more important than she was.

"It was easier than you'd think. When you offer an immortal lots of power, the opportunity to feed whenever they want, and a chance to use their talent, they come willingly. For those that didn't, the brothers manipulated them into service...like me."

"Why didn't you run?" Esme's voice was soft as she posed the same question Bella had.

"There was no running. Aro's trackers would have found me. He would've given them strict instructions to destroy me," I explained. "With every talent I brought him, Aro would mentally show me where Carlisle was. He kept tabs on you through his many contacts. You may trust others, but when it comes to the Volturi, some people will cave under threats and manipulation. And even if they didn't willingly tell him, all Aro had to do was touch them."

"Which brings us to Bella," Jasper said softly.

"Right," I sighed, nodding slowly. "The last time I was called to the main chamber, Aro offered me an out. He knew I stayed gone longer and longer just to be away from Italy, and I'd tried more than once to negotiate my leave. He told me of this talent that he wanted above all others," I said, looking over at Bella. "He said that if I brought him this talent, my contract would be terminated – the contract that was only between the two of us. When I asked for the details, he told me that Carlisle had powerful immortals with him now, that Isabella Swan was his newest acquisition, and he wanted her. He didn't even tell me what the talent was, but he just knew it was big. By this time, he'd learned to block me, so I had no idea what she was capable of. I agreed to come to the States, because I didn't know her and because I was desperate. I was supposed to offer her everything I'd offered all of them, but once I found the family, I hesitated. Despite my leaving, I held no ill will to Carlisle, but I desperately wanted out from under the Volturi. It wasn't until I actually caught a glimpse of Bella that my determination flew out the damn window."

Bella giggled, and Carlisle chuckled low, but Alice sat forward.

"That's why!" she gasped. "That's why we had to wait for you! It needed to be the right time. The safest time for you to get away!"

"I suppose," I sighed, shrugging a shoulder. "If your visions work the way I think they do, you would've never seen me make an actual decision, because I didn't have a set plan on how to approach any of it."

"You never made any decisions when it came to coming home," she countered, smiling proudly that she'd been correct the whole time.

"I tried not to think about home at all," I murmured, frowning down at my shoes. "I never meant for any of it to happen, but I did my damnedest to make sure nothing fell on Carlisle. It wasn't his fault."

"You could've called, written...anything," Rose countered, wondering if all hell would fall down upon the family now that I was back.

"No, he couldn't have," Jasper piped up softly, shaking his head, "because Aro would've seen it. The entire conversation would've been right there in Edward's head."

"Exactly," Carlisle sighed, sitting forward to rest his elbows on his knees. His mind was in awe that I'd been loyal to him the whole time, that I'd done things I normally wouldn't have done just to stay alive. "I'm proud of you, son. I'm sure when I say I know it wasn't easy will be an understatement, but..."

"I was a killer, Carlisle," I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "I played God, I decided someone's fate, and I threw away everything you ever tried to teach me."

"No, you didn't," he argued. "You protected the innocent when those around you didn't care, and you protected this family, even when you didn't know who the members were."

"We're all killers in this room," Jasper murmured in addition. "Except for Carlisle. We've all done things that will take lifetimes of penitent behavior to make up for them."

Of all the minds in the room, it wasn't Jasper's acceptance I was expecting to come unabated and with a calm demeanor, but it did. Bella accepted me, loved me...no matter what, I could practically feel it wrapping itself around me as she sat quietly, rubbing her thumb over my knuckles. Esme wouldn't have cared if I had blown up a school bus as long as I was home and was sorry about it. And Carlisle was currently wondering if there was indeed going to be a problem from Aro in the future.

But Jasper's mind opened up to me, silently telling me his story, because he didn't want to upset Alice or Esme with it. I saw a war...the Civil War...which caused my eyebrows to shoot up. I saw his change, his sire – a woman I recognized – and I saw his talent used against hundreds upon hundreds of newborns. He'd trained them for the Southern Wars, ending them when they were no longer useful. I also saw the most beautiful connection between two mates I'd ever seen as he showed me when he met Alice for the first time after his freedom from the South.

"That was you?" I asked, my brow furrowing. "You were in the Southern Wars?"

"Yeah," he sighed with a nod. "My talent was used to keep the newborns...submissive. I was Maria's right hand."

I nodded, thinking that explained all the scarring on his arms and neck. I could well imagine that he was covered in them. It also explained his feelings of respect and acceptance that I was getting from him, because he knew what it was like to be a pawn, to be used to do things that went against not only our human upbringing, but our beliefs, as well.

"You should know..." I started, locking eyes with him. "She's...no more. The Volturi ended her just over a decade ago. I was there." An enormous sense of relief and a touch of joy spread throughout the room, and I smiled at him, saying, "She tried to start rebuilding, but she was causing too much of a spectacle, so we had to destroy them all. I was sent to find any talents that may have cropped up. It's where I found James."

Jasper nodded once but said no more on the subject, opting to link his fingers with Alice's.

Grinning, I shook my head, waiting for Emmett to say what he was thinking.

"So not fair," he huffed like a pouting child, folding his enormous arms across his chest. "Volturi Guards...Southern Wars... All I did was get attacked by a damn bear. So boring."

The room broke into laughter, and despite how everyone thought that Emmett only had strength as a talent, I was beginning to think he had much more to him than that. It seemed he knew just the right time to break the tension in a room...or maybe that was something that just came naturally to him, something that had carried over from his human life. I wasn't sure.

Rose leaned over, whispering things in his ear that despite how softly she did it, I still heard in her mind. Gone was the angry blonde, and in her place was a mated woman that knew just how to get Emmett's attention. It was sexually explicit, almost vulgar, and everything I'd never wanted to know about the two of them.

"Ugh, stop!" I growled, holding my head in my hands, which only caused more laughter to explode into the room. I felt Bella's arm around me as she laughed, but I also felt a hand grip my shoulder.

I looked to see Carlisle standing there, wearing an overly amused expression.

"Like I said... Welcome home, son," he chuckled.

But it was Emmett that seemed to say what everyone else was thinking, "Yeah, he's gonna fit in just fine."

Bella sat forward, kissing my cheek, thinking only to me, Yeah...you'll be just fine.