It was all suddenly so surreal. The pain…the panic…my life…everything had become so trivial in one fated moment. I stared into his beautiful eyes—now so full of desperation as he clung to me, listening to my heart play out its final cadence.
Life can be so well ordered…so controlled that it carries the illusion of indestructibility. That illusion had been his gift to me as we’d toyed with tempting fate and planning for immortality.
The best laid plans…
I was vaguely aware that there should have been pain, and that the absence of it meant something much more final than I had ever imagined, but my mind would not allow for mourning. There was only the bright light of his angel face, and the fleeting indescribable memories of the eternity that would have been.
I smiled as my eyes grew tired. I had long ago embraced the darkness. Now, it was the light that called me home.
Chapter One: Communication
This was definitely not my happy place.
I was in the perfect little meadow—our meadow. The wildflowers were all around me, each singing their own fragrant song that somehow didn’t even come close to the aromatic perfection of the pale boy at my side. I sighed, taking in his flawless white skin once more. Then the sun escaped from behind the sparse cloud cover again, and his skin suddenly gleamed with a million pinpoints of light. I wondered silently if I would still be rendered so breathless by this sight in a few weeks. I hoped so with all my heart.
The day was oddly warm. The clouds had parted, allowing the sun a vain attempt to take back some of the moisture that fell on the Olympic Peninsula almost without ceasing. The meadow had taken on a happy yellow green, as opposed to the permanent dark tinges that seemed to cover everything else in our tiny corner of the world. The scene had all of the elements to become my happy place, but the perfect surroundings weren’t enough today. Today, Edward had other things in mind.
The dreaded conversation.
He had been building it up for days now, insisting that if I was willing to risk my soul to be with him, then he needed to be absolutely sure that I understood every harsh reality that it entailed. I had agreed, of course—who could disagree with a vampire when they truly wanted something—but under the condition that it occur in the place where he had first revealed to me his true nature. The meadow had, more often than not, been my happy place, and I was sure that I could fight off all of his attempts to change my mind if I was in my own territory.
Big mistake. In my dread of the impossibility of a battle of wills with someone who had been getting what he wanted for a century, I had forgotten that the meadow was over five miles into untamed wilderness without even the benefit of a trail. Whatever battle I had been preparing to give was lost immediately as I clung like an idiot to his icy neck, feeling the trees pass by us at frightening speed, and praying that I would at least be able to let him go without help when the run finally ended. So much for a dignified front.
His smooth, unnecessary breath brought me back. He had been brooding, no doubt contemplating how to begin. His furrowed brow caused my lips to twitch into a sympathetic smile. I was determined. This was one day that his beauty and charm would not prevail. I looked away in preparation, absolutely certain that one look into his caramel eyes would devastate my argument.
His first words caught me off guard. “I’m not going to attempt to convince you to wait any longer,” he said gravely. I looked up at him in surprise. His expression was regretful, but gentle. “You are capable of making your own decisions now. Your intuition is one of the features I find most appealing in you, and I must learn to trust it.” His mouth turned up in a playful smirk. “And, after all, you are an adult now.”
“Ugh! Don’t remind me,” I moaned, falling back a little too hard into the grass. The back of my head hit a bare patch of ground with a resonating thump. Edward was there even before the dull throbbing began, curling his fingers into my hair, looking for a sign of injury.
“Are you alright?” he asked with a slight smile. I rolled my eyes. My clumsy mistakes were a daily occurrence…possibly even an hourly one.
“I think I like where this conversation is going,” I said. “Continue.”
His lips thinned. “I asked to be prepared to be completely honest with me today, and to think of anything about the next few…months…” he said the last word through clenched teeth. “that might being worrying you. Did you?”
He suddenly looked nervous. The expression did not seem natural. No one as beautiful as him should ever have to be nervous. “And?” he asked.
I hesitated. I had been thinking about the things that worried me the most. Most of my preoccupations had already been discussed to some point—the pain of the transformation…the inevitable lust for blood…my inability to be anywhere near my friends or family. Edward knew all of these things. But then there were my own tiny, shallow fears, and these were what he was asking for today.
“You first,” I insisted.
He exhaled forcefully. There was a moment of silence as he contemplated his thoughts, and then continued. “Of course I’m afraid that you haven’t lived long enough to understand the enormity of the sacrifice you’re making.”
“Not negotiable,” I replied quickly. “Move on.”
He glared at me, but obeyed. “And there is the question of the loss of your soul…”
“Also not an arguable point,” I pushed. “We’ve agreed to disagree on that.”
“Bella, you are truly the most frustrating person I have ever met!” His eyes smoldered, and I struggled to maintain my stubborn glare in the wake of such dark beauty. After a moment that seemed like so much longer, he continued, nervous again.
“I am struggling to admit this,” and I could tell that he truly was. “The way you look at me, Bella—the way you can’t turn away, and the way that sometimes I am absolutely certain that I have you in a trance. My scent…my voice…my ability to…dazzle you…”
I smiled at him. I was dazzled now.
“They’re all a part of being…what I am. I’m designed to lure you in and take your life. But what attracts you to me so strongly now could simply be the weapons that I possess to feed.” I frowned. I could tell where this was heading.
“This is a first for me. I don’t know what to expect any more than you do. What will happen if the desire you have to become what I am disappears when my natural…gifts…lose their effect on you? What will you do if you discover that the choice you’ve made was based on nothing more than a chemical reaction, and you suddenly find yourself faced with an eternity based on nothing more than the deception of hormones?”
I stared at him, shocked. I was able to understand to a point the struggle inside him between the lust for my blood, and the need to keep me safe, but I had been so convinced that his reluctance to turn me had been due to a lack of attraction on his part that I had not even begun to consider that he may be worried about my attraction in the future for him. I found myself laughing, great bursts of freeing laughter. He looked at me confused and almost hurt. His radiance stopped the laughter in my lungs.
“To use your words, you’re utterly absurd!” I replied. His expression did not change. I took his hand and marveled at its cold beauty. “You think that I’m only attracted to your scent? To your beauty? Edward, I’ve told you this before…or I told Jessica knowing that you were listening, which is the same thing. Everything that I love the most about you is behind your…gifts, as you call them. All of your quirks and conflicts…all of your imperfections…the things that don’t change.”
He grinned fascinated. “Imperfections?”
“Yeah,” I continued. “Your tendency to overreact, for example.”
“Overreact?” His smirk was painfully enticing.
“Really, Edward! Four-thousand pounds of body armor? Missile-proof glass?”
He chuckled lightly. “I see your point.” Then his expression turned serious again. “Your turn.”
I sighed. My worries seemed so poorly thought out after his sweet soliloquy. “Well,” I began. “Speaking of being attracted to scent.”
His eyebrows lowered. “Yes?” he said gloomily.
“I was thinking about the way you react to me. About how you are always fighting against the smell of my blood.” I paused, gauging his reaction. He continued to glower.
“I was thinking that maybe you stay around me—only partly, I mean—because you think that you deserve to suffer like that…and maybe when I’m like you, and my blood doesn’t smell as…”
“Irresistible?” he suggested.
“Yes,” I continued, struggling to make my thoughts as eloquent as his were. “And when I’m not quite as…breakable…that maybe you won’t be as…drawn to me as you are now.”
His reaction was the exact same as mine had been. There was a moment to think of what had just been said, and then musical gales of laughter as he pulled me to his chest in a swift, natural gesture.
“Beautiful Bella,” he began, a radiant smile lighting up his perfect face. “You think I keep you near me to create my own personal purgatory!?” And spoken like that, in his incredulous tone, it sounded completely idiotic. I grinned helplessly, but his face had turned contemplative. “You’ll understand this when you…later, but my desire for your blood…it’s painful every second. I do not bear that pain as a penance for my past, but only out of the greatest desire to be as close as I can to you.”
He kissed my hair and breathed in the scent of it. I felt the chills begin in my spine. “I’ll miss the beat of your heart, and the stunning blush of your cheeks, but the selfish part of me is waiting for the day when I can kiss you passionately without worrying about controlling my instinct to drink your blood.”
We held each other in silence for a few moments, him, no doubt savoring the warmth of my skin against his, and me reveling in the last image he had left in my mind…kissing him passionately without restraints. My stomach was still tight when he pushed me gently away and held me at arms length, staring seriously into my eyes.
“Is there anything else?” he asked, looking at me as if he were trying to pick my thoughts out of my head. Good luck.
“Not that we haven’t already discussed,” I reassured him. He seemed satisfied. He let me go, and I moved to his side once again. It was clear by the look on his face that the most important part of the conversation was about to begin. Great. This is where he goes back on his word and tries to make me hold out until twenty.
“I wonder if you’ve thought much about what it is like to be immortal,” he began pensively.
“Sure I have,” I said cheerfully, attempting to avoid the dark turn that the conversation was threatening to take. “You don’t sweat, you don’t bleed, and you don’t trip all over your own feet. Sounds like heaven to me.”
A hint of my favorite crooked smile flashed on his face, but it was gone too quickly. I waited to hear whatever he had thought was so important that he had to schedule the conversation.
“You don’t sweat, that’s right…or cry, or eat, or even breathe if you don’t feel like it. You don’t do anything remotely human anymore, and that includes sleep, Bella. Have you thought of all of the hours that you pass in untroubled sleep?” I shrugged. Sleep had been somewhat elusive ever since I had agreed to marry Edward directly out of high school. “What will you do with the hours of the night that you can no longer use to unwind in unconsciousness?”
“Catch up on my reading,” I said simply. “I’ve been dying for a chance to read Wuthering Heights.” It was intended to be a joke, but Edward plunged on.
“And while all of the people you know are busy dreaming, you will be completely unable to do so. Are you willing to give up your dreams for an eternity?”
I brushed the back of his hand with my fingertips. “You are my dream,” I said.
His expression softened as I gazed into his eyes, but the frustration was still easily visible as he continued, taking my hand in both of his. I listened dutifully. “It’s not only the termination of all human necessities. It’s the overwriting of all human weaknesses. You’ll be stronger than you understand…stronger than me…stronger than Emmett!"
"It’s impossible to gauge your strength and speed as a neophyte. It takes constant self-control not to crush things to dust or to react with instinctive speed at any given moment.”
I smiled, remembering how he had always seemed to be by my side that first year to surprise me, or to catch something that I had dropped. He misread my expression.
“You think of it in terms of freedom. You’ve been so limited by what you must do to avoid personal injury that the thought of being invincible seems wonderful, but it is a constant chore that must be done to avoid detection. What happens one day if you shake a man’s hand and crush it to shreds?”
I shivered. Would I be able to do that?
“That’s what I’ve had to worry about for ninety years now. I have to keep complete control at all times around humans.” He flinched. “That is why your…last request is so difficult for me to grant.”
I blushed profusely and my heartbeat seemed to skip a beat. He noticed, of course, and his topaz eyes met mine again for a moment before I looked away, embarrassed. I saw him smile knowingly from the corner of my eye. I may have been the only one whose thoughts he couldn’t read, but my heart gave everything away just the same. Stupid beating heart!