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Breaking Dawn till Dusk

Summary:
Edward and Bella have been married for 3 months. Edward is well into his first semester of law school at Washington State and it is time for some major changes to take place in their lives. Things, however, do not go exactly as planned.


Notes:
1. Edward’s POV: Phone Call Three months into my marriage and fourteen weeks into my first semester of law school, I was blissfully happy with one and rapidly beginning to regret the other. Medical school had stimulated my brain, challenged me time and time again. A true interest in the field, and of course a real longing to follow in the courageous and hardworking footsteps of Carlisle, had got me through, not once but twice. I had come to the bitter realisation many years ago that I was not capable of practising medicine – studying it would have to be enough. But times change, and life constantly brings with it new experiences and challenges. I was beginning to wonder if the dream of actually practising as a doctor was within reach. In the past two years, my tolerance of blood and my self control had improved beyond belief. Bella becoming a part of my life – the most important and loving part – was the reason. Dr Edward Cullen …… it certainly had a ring to it! Carlisle could easily mentor me through the practical aspects, just as I had mentored him through the theoretical side of things for many years now. Washington State offered a medical degree …. third time around I was guaranteed high distinctions in every subject ……… why was I hesitating? What was stopping me, for heaven’s sake! I had all the time in the world, didn’t I? Besides, the law was so damned boring! I glanced at my watch as the professor’s voice droned on and on. Would this never end? Were there really people out there that dreamed of a career in litigation? I pitied them. At last it was two o’clock, and as soon as the lecturer had left the room I snatched the cell phone out of my jacket pocket and flipped it open. I hit “7” on speed dial and listened as the phone rang 190 kilometres away in Newton’s Outdoors Sporting Goods. After several rings the phone was answered by Karen Newton’s youthful and polite voice, bringing forth a distasteful and unwelcoming image of her heavily made up face and her bottle-blonde immaculate hairdo. “Newton’s Sporting Goods, may I help you?” “Hello Mrs Newton, it’s Edward here”, I fought to keep the grimace out of my voice. “Could I have a quick word with Bella, if she’s not serving?” “Well! Edward …. hello!” she exclaimed. “Didn’t she call you? Honestly, she’s so vague at times …. such a darling, really. I would have thought she’d got in touch with you”. “About what?” I was confused and somewhat impatient. Karen Newton often tested the limits of my patience. “About going home”, she replied. “She was dreadfully pale this morning, and just before lunch she nearly passed out! If it hadn’t been for my Mike …….well I don’t know what would have happened. He caught her just before she hit the floor! I told him to drop her home and make sure she got to bed all right”. Her voice dropped to a hesitant whisper. “Not that it’s any of my business, of course, but there isn’t a chance that she could be ……. well …… expecting, is there?” I gripped the cell phone tightly in my hand and fought down the sudden panic that always accompanied any news about Bella being hurt or suffering in any way. It was a wonder, sometimes, that she managed to make it through an entire day without some type of injury. “Danger magnet” was an immense understatement to anyone familiar with Bella and her endearing clumsiness. “No, no chance of that, Mrs Newton”, I responded briskly. “I’ll catch up with her at home – please thank Mike for me”. “Well, of course I will! Its just that I’ve seen so many expectant mothers …….”. I ended the phone call, too impatient to indulge in her latest theory. I had little time for people so engrossed in gossip that they allowed it to rule their existence, and I couldn’t help wondering exactly how long it would take before the entire population of Forks was informed of the Cullens’ “impending parenthood”. I immediately pressed “1” on my speed dial and waited, growing more concerned by the second, as Bella’s cell phone rang out. I walked quickly to where I had parked the volvo, jumping into the driver’s seat and gunning the engine. I fought back the anxiety crawling its way up from my stomach to my throat, turning the car for home and pressing the accelerator to the floor. * * * “Bella?”, I called loudly as I closed the front door behind me. I raced up the staircase, straining to hear her reply but only encountering an ominous silence. The door to our bedroom was closed, and without hesitating I pushed it open, fearing the worst as I always seemed to do when it came to my beautiful and somewhat delightfully accident-prone Bella. She was in bed, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I moved towards her. Curled on her side, she lay on top of the covers, her knees pressed up towards her chest and her arms wrapped tightly around her abdomen. Her pallor was as pale as I had ever seen it, dark circles visible beneath her eyes, and the way she clutched at her stomach immediately led me to believe that she was in some kind of pain. I knew from experience that her monthly period always left her low on iron levels, and sometimes wracked her body with debilitating cramps, and this was the conclusion I came to as I sat beside her on the bed and gently cupped her pale face in my large hand, managing a smile as she opened her eyes and looked up at me, a mixture of confusion and relief in her expression. “Edward? I thought you had lectures all afternoon”, she spoke softly and I shrugged as my fingers curled protectively around hers. “I think I can keep up”, I told her and pressed my lips gently against her clenched hand. What’s wrong, sweetheart? What can I do to help?” “Nothing”, she shook her head slightly. “I’m just ….. tired, I guess”. Bella’s delicious scent was always stronger during those four to five days each month when she was having her period, but I was surprised to discover, as I bent over her, that this particular scent I had been expecting was absent. I kissed her lips softly, and was taken back when I saw what looked to be fear in her eyes as I met her gaze. “Tell me”, I encouraged her gently. “Is it cramps?” She nodded slowly, and I took both of her hands in mine and pulled them away from her stomach. “Straighten out your legs”, I told her and she did so obediently, uncurling her body and moving onto her back. Silently I unbuttoned her hipster jeans and pulled down the short zipper. I placed my cool hand onto her flat abdomen and began to rub in a firm but gentle circular motion, willing her body to relax under my touch. As I caressed her I watched her pale face, wondering if it was just my imagination or did it look thinner to me than usual. Had she lost weight or was I merely reacting because she all of a sudden appeared even more vulnerable to me than she normally did? “Bella”. I spoke softly. “Did you eat today? You missed breakfast, remember? What did you have for lunch?” There was a full minute’s silence before she replied. “I wasn’t hungry”. “So you last ate when?” I tried to keep the frustration out of my voice, but by the look of guilt on Bella’s face I assumed I had failed dismally. “Edward …. don’t ….” “When did you eat?” My left hand continued its gentle caresses whilst my voice unintentionally hardened. “Dammit Bella, no wonder you’re passing out! Why aren’t you looking after yourself?” “I am. I just ……” she took a deep breath. “I still feel a little queasy from that flu last week. I’ll eat when I’m hungry, Edward, I promise”. I sighed as I pressed my lips against her warm forehead. “I’ll heat up some of that chicken soup in the fridge. Esme made up a gallon of it for you and there’s still plenty left. Give me ten minutes and I’ll bring some up with a slice of toast, and if you don’t eat every damned spoonful I’ll call Esme and tell her you can’t stand her cooking. Oh, and I think you should know, you’ve got Karen Newton knitting baby bootees in between serving customers”. I expected a smile, and instead was shocked when she squeezed her eyes shut tightly and pulled away from my hands. She was breathing in and out quickly, and what little colour had been in her face drained away completely. “Bella? What …….. ?” Without a word she jumped off the bed and rushed towards the bathroom, her hand clamped tightly across her mouth. Seconds later I heard the unmistakable sound of retching. I followed her, pushing the bathroom door open slowly and stepping inside. Bella was on her knees beside the toilet, her hands clutched tightly around the seat, her dark hair covering her ashen face, looking as if she was steadily losing an ongoing battle to hold onto her consciousness. I noticed that the only thing she was bringing up was bile; there was obviously nothing in her stomach. I knelt down behind her and pulled her gently up against me, supporting her weight. She offered no resistance, as weak as she was, and leaned back against me. There was a fresh sheen of perspiration on her forehead and her eyes were tightly closed. The handtowel was within easy reach and I grabbed it, rinsing it briefly under the cold tap with one hand whilst I kept a firm hold on Bella with the other. I wiped her hot, flushed face, folding the towel and then pressing it against the back of her neck. “I’m sorry”, she whispered as I pushed the damp hair away from her brow. “For what?” I spoke soothingly. “I didn’t vomit on you, did I?” “No”, I managed a smile. “You missed me entirely. Just relax, okay? I’m going to take you back to bed. You need to sleep”. I picked her up easily in my arms and carried her through to our bedroom. I tucked her in and then sat beside her, my fingers brushing gently against her cheek. Bella’s eyes were closed, her breathing even although her face was still pale and drawn. Her fingers clutched my other hand and I swallowed, my throat tight with emotion. “I’ll stay home tomorrow”, I whispered as her eyes closed. “I’m not leaving you alone”. Her eyes struggled to open. “No, Edward, I’m okay! Please, please go on your trip. Promise me, okay?” “Let’s see how you are in the morning”, I sighed, and bent down to touch my lips against hers. “I love you, baby. Sleep well now”.


14. WELCOME

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3591   Review this Chapter

14. Edward’s POV: Welcome

I knew from the ragged breathing coming from the bathroom that Bella was having another contraction. As fast as I could I grabbed up my cell phone, the car keys and Bella’s overnight bag, only to drop all three items as a muffled scream reached my ears.

“Bella, I’m here!” I raced to the bathroom and shoved open the door. Panic overwhelmed me as I took in the picture before me: Bella bent over, in obvious pain, a damp stain spreading across her pink leggings and down each leg. She looked up at me, and the terror in her eyes stopped me in my tracks.

“Edward? Something’s happening!” Her voice trembled, and as I hurried towards her I could see her entire body convulsing in fear. She sank onto the floor, in a squatting position, and I crouched down in front of her, my arms reaching out to enfold her in a comforting embrace.

“It’s all right,” I spoke soothingly. “Your water broke, Bella, that’s all. It’s just another sign that you’re in labor. Don’t be frightened, love. I’m going to take good care of you, I promise.”

“Something’s pushing down . . .!”

“No, its not.” I hugged her close. “Just breathe through for me, sweetheart. We’ll be at the hospital in ten minutes.”

“No! It’s too late!” To my horror, she began to bear down, the exertion showing vividly on her face. “It’s coming, Edward!”

“Bella, no! Stop pushing!” I grasped her hands and met her eyes, her expression frightened, mine determined. “Breathe through instead, come on Bella, do it for me! I don’t want you to push!”

She let out a terrified sob, and I reached over to grab the cell phone, flipping it open and pressing “3” on the speed dial. It felt like an eternity, but was actually only four seconds before I heard Carlisle’s voice on the other end.

“Edward? Is everything . . .?”

“Carlisle, I need your help!”

“Tell me!”

“Bella’s in labor – I need you here!”

“Can you get her to the hospital? I’m . . .”

“No!” I closed my eyes, fighting against the panic rising inside of me. “She . . . she’s pushing, Carlisle. I don’t know if I have time!”

“All right,” Carlisle’s voice, as always, was calm and authoritive. “Tell her to do her best to ignore that urge to push, Edward. I’m on my way – I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“Okay,” I grasped Bella’s hand as another contraction gripped her. “For Christ’s sake, Carlisle, hurry!” I ended the call and focused all of my attention on Bella. “Sweetheart, listen to me, I don’t want you to push right now – it’s not time. Just breathe with me, breathe all the way through the contraction. I’m right here, Bella, I’ll help you. We can do this together.”

It was no use. She was pushing with all of her might, bearing down as the contraction peaked. I fought to regain my composure, terrified at the thought of delivering this baby, desperately praying for Carlisle to make it on time. She clung to me, her hands clenched around my shoulders, perspiration running down her face quicker than I could wipe it away with the wet flannel I still held in my left hand. I glanced down at her soaked pants and noticed blood was slowly spreading across the stain.

“Bella, listen to me,” I strove to keep my voice calm. “We need to take these pants off. Your water’s broken and . . .”

“I can’t!” she gasped. “I don’t . . .”

“I’ll help you,” I told her, and my hands went to her waist, gripping the pink leggings and gently easing them down, along with her underwear, tossing the soaked clothing onto the bathroom floor. Her black maternity top reached to just above her knees, and I could see the blood on her thighs, her legs slick with dampness. Suddenly my cell phone rang, and I snatched it up, identifying Carlisle’s number as the return caller. “Tell me you’re nearly here,” I spoke tersely as Bella’s grip tightened on my other hand. “She can’t stop pushing, Carlisle!”

“Edward, I’m three minutes away. You need to have a look – if you can see the baby’s head, encourage her to push. If you can’t, do your best to get her to breathe through the contractions.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No! Come on Edward, get a grip!”

“Carlisle, I can’t ….” I broke off before I could speak the words that would panic Bella even more. “I can’t do this! I can’t deliver a baby!” Somebody had to be in control here, and I knew that somebody had to be me. Bella needed me now, more than ever, and I had no intention of letting her down. “I can handle it,” I gritted my teeth as I spoke into the phone. “Don’t worry Carlisle, it’s under control.”

“Good boy, Edward.” Carlisle’s voice was filled with relief. “Give me two minutes and I’ll be there.”

I snapped the cell phone closed and turned to Bella. She was breathing slowly, her eyes tightly closed, no doubt anticipating the next contraction. I took both of her small, trembling hands in mine and kissed them tenderly. “Now, listen to me,” I spoke to her gently. “I have to look – to see if the baby’s coming. From everything I’ve heard, first babies take a while so we still may have plenty of time . . .”

“No!!” She wrenched her hands from my grip and braced them against the bathroom floor as another contraction hit suddenly. “There’s no time!! It’s coming!!” Her legs were bent up, almost to her chest, and without waiting for her consent, I carefully lifted her dress up and parted her thighs.

Much later, I would not be able to explain the absolute calm that spread through my entire being, the wonder that gripped me and forced all of the panic out of my system in seconds, as I saw the tiny head of my child, covered in golden bronze fluff, slowly emerging from Bella’s body. All I knew at that moment was that, after ninety years of believing I was nothing more than a monster, doomedto an eternity of hell, I had finally been blessed. An overwhelming confidence rushed through me, and I reached up to brush my fingers along Bella’s face, smiling as she met my eyes.

“Okay, you can push,” I nodded to her. “We’re going to have a baby.”

She shook her head wildly. “No, Edward! No, I can’t do this, I can’t . . .”

“Yes, you can.”

“Listen to me!” She screamed suddenly, hysterical sobs beginning to tear from her throat. “Why isn’t anyone listening to me!”

“Bella, stop!” I placed both hands around her face and forced her to look at me. “Do you trust me?”

Her breathing was ragged.

“Answer me, Bella. Do you trust me?”

“Y..yes.” Tears ran down her face as she reached up to grab one of my hands with her own.

“Then listen to my voice and do what I say. Keep your eyes on me, sweetheart. We’re going to do this together.” She nodded, and I knew I had her back in control. “When the next contraction comes, I want you to push – just like you’ve been doing.”

“Edward, please!” Bella’s hands were clenched around mine so tightly that my fingers actually had more color than hers. Her eyes, wide with terror, were huge within her small, pale face. “I can’t do this! I…I don’t know what to do!”

“It’s all right, silly, I do.” I concentrated on making my voice calm and soothing. “Piece of cake, Bella. I’ll talk you through it.”

Was I fooling her? I had no idea whether or not my acting skills, or lack thereof, were convincing enough, but I was sure that I sensed a small release of tension in her grip. Her eyes never left mine, and I smiled reassuringly as the next contraction began.

“Here we go,” I whispered. “Remember – we’ll do it together.”

“Oh, no! Oh, God!” The pain gripped her and she clenched her teeth together, a fresh sheen of perspiration breaking out on her forehead.

“Big breath in,” I told her firmly. “Now hold it, and push down – hard as you can.”

I could see the effort on her face as she bore down with all of her strength. When I looked again to check for progress, I could see the tiny head advancing even further. It was beginning to crown – that moment when the widest diameter of the baby’s head was presenting – and some instinct, some long-forgotten university professor’s words, had me reaching down quickly to press my fingers against the head, controlling and guiding its descent.

“Bella, stop!” I fought to keep the panic out of my voice as I saw that the baby’s head was coming too quickly. Bella was going to tear – and badly – unless I could somehow coach her through the next few moments. “Stop pushing.” I glanced up at her to see her watching me, listening . . . and obeying. She instantly held her breath again, no longer bearing down. “Good girl,” I relaxed slightly. “Just blow, sweetheart. No more pushes. Small blows, all right? You’re doing beautifully, Bella.”

And she was. I watched, amazed, as Bella breathed our baby out, perfectly controlled, calm at last, until the entire head was out, and I was able to place a hand on either side, waiting patiently for the shoulders to rotate into a vertical alignment. Bella sank back against the bathroom wall, her eyes closing with exhaustion, her chest rising and falling with shallow, rapid breaths.

“Slow it down, love,” I spoke gently. “The hard part’s over. The baby’s head is out. One last push when the next contraction comes, and he’ll be in your arms.”

She nodded weakly, and then her face began to contort with pain. “It’s starting,” she whispered fearfully, and I braced myself, waiting for both the contraction and Bella’s push together to birth our baby.

“Downward pressure on the head, Edward, to release the anterior shoulder.” The sound of Carlisle’s calm, professional voice had me almost gasping with relief. I spoke without taking my eyes off Bella.

“Don’t just stand there, Carlisle!” I let out a sharp, hysterical laugh. “Get over here!”

“I don’t think so.” My muscles tensed at his words. “You two seem to be doing just great on your own. I’ll just observe.”

My sharp retort was bitten back, as the expression on Bella’s face warned me that the contraction was peaking.

“Push now, sweetheart,” I told her, and very carefully used gentle force in a downwards motion until first one shoulder, then the other, was released. I struggled not to let go of the tiny, slippery body as it emerged seconds later. Covered in blood, smaller that what I had envisaged, our child was already opening its mouth to cry before I had even placed the tiny miracle on Bella’s chest. I took her trembling hand and gently wrapped her arm around the baby, then I bent down and pressed my lips against her brow. “Congratulations, mom,” I smiled as my eyes met hers. “We have a daughter.”

“Oh!” she whispered, and the expression of awe on her pale, exhausted face caused my throat to clench shut with indescribable emotion. Her fingers tenderly stroked the golden fluff on our baby’s head, and tears began to run down her cheeks. “She’s a girl? Really?”

“Absolutely,” I struggled to speak coherently. “The most beautiful baby girl in the entire world.” I reached down to touch the tiny hand that was pressed against Bella’s breast. I gazed in wonder as her fingers instantly curled around mine, and it felt as if my silent heart had suddenly swelled to ten times its normal size.

I was only vaguely aware of Carlisle beside me, clamping the umbilical cord and efficiently delivering the afterbirth. He held out a small pair of scissors, and then raised his eyebrows at my confused expression.

“Fathers always cut the cord, Edward. Don’t tell me you didn’t know that.” I grinned shakily back at him and took the scissors, severing the umbilical cord half an inch from the clamp. Now separated from Bella, I was able to move the baby up closer against Bella’s breast. Carlisle covered them both with a blanket, and Bella cuddled her close.

“Oh, Edward,” she looked up at me and I brushed away the tears on her cheeks with light fingers. “She’s . . . you.”

“She’s both of us,” I whispered. It was true that our daughter had exactly my color hair, and her chin was definitely familiar, but I could see Bella’s nose, and her cheek bones. I wondered if she would have my human green eyes, or Bella’s chocolate brown ones. As if reading my mind, Bella spoke.

“I hope she has your eyes, Edward. My color would clash with her hair, don’t you think?”

“She’ll be perfect either way,” I told her. “You are absolutely amazing, Bella. I am so proud of you.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you.” The tears overflowed once again as she took my hand and squeezed it weakly. “You never told me you knew how to deliver a baby!”

“I don’t!”

“You just did,” Bella smiled. “Thank you, Edward. I love you, so much.”

I bent down to press my lips warmly against hers, before reaching even further down to kiss my baby daughter on her soft, warm head. Her eyes were wide open, framed by long, beautiful lashes. Already her tiny fist was in her mouth and she was sucking vigorously.

“Bella, would you like to nurse her?” Carlisle spoke softly.

“Um . . . I don’t know what to do . . .”

“I can show you, if you like.” I watched, fascinated, as Carlisle positioned the baby close to Bella, guiding her searching mouth towards Bella’s breast. She gasped, surprised, when the baby attached perfectly and began to suck.

“She’s so clever!” she breathed. “She knew exactly what to do!”

Carlisle met my eyes, and we exchanged a smile.

“Congratulations, grandpa,” I murmured, and laughed as his smile slowly disappeared. “Sorry, Carlisle, you’re going to have to get used to that one.”

“Not right now, I don’t,” he mumbled, and this time Bella joined in my laughter.

* * *

Because of Bella’s perfect control at that crucial moment, she did not require any stitches. I was stunned when, 30 minutes after Holly Elizabeth Cullen was born, Bella announced that she wanted to take a shower. I opened my mouth to protest but closed it again when Carlisle placed a hand on my shoulder.

“That’s fine, Bella. Just let me check your blood pressure first – and I need to feel your tummy.”

I had had a fixed image in my head (obviously old-fashioned) of Bella spending at least two weeks in bed, with me waiting on her hand and foot. Carlisle must have interpreted my thoughts from the horrified expression on my face, because suddenly he was laughing.

“Edward, really, Bella is not sick – and she’s not an invalid. We encourage new mothers now to get up as soon as they feel ready. Here, I’ll take my granddaughter while you help Bella to the shower.”

He handled the baby expertly as Bella passed her over. I placed my arm around Bella’s shoulders and helped her into a sitting position. She shivered suddenly, despite the towels and blankets that Carlisle and I had placed underneath and around her, protecting her from the cold of the bathroom tiles. “Bella, are you sure?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “I’m just . . . wait a second . . . just a little dizzy.”

“Then you need to rest for longer,” I told her firmly. “You lost quite a lot of blood, love. Let me carry you to the bed, and . . .”

“No, Edward, I really want to get cleaned up,” she took a deep breath. “Okay, its better now.”

Reluctantly, I helped her to stand. She was unsteady on her feet, and I supported her for a moment, anxiously awaiting some color to return to her face. From the bedroom, I could hear Carlisle humming to the baby.

“Just turn the taps on for me, Edward. I’ll be fine – go and see Holly.”

“I am not leaving you, Bella. I’m staying right here until you’re finished.” I helped her undress, lifting her top over her head and turning on the hot water. I stayed close whilst she showered, and afterwards walked her slowly to our bed where Carlisle had drawn back the covers. I tucked her in, smiling as her eyes closed almost immediately.

My fingers caressed the wet hair back from her forehead; why was she so pale still? Why was her breathing so shallow and accelerated?

“Edward, stop it.” Carlisle’s voice was suddenly beside me. It never failed to amaze me just how well he could read my every thought, my every expression. “She’s just given birth. She’s supposed to look pale and exhausted. She worked very hard.” He smiled as he held the baby out to me. She was swaddled in a pale blue blanket, sleeping now, and I took her carefully, holding her upright against my shoulder, my hand automatically rubbing her back gently and soothingly.

“You could have got the color of the blanket right,” I frowned at him. “How hard is it, Carlisle?”

He grinned across at me. “Hey, I’ve only been a grandfather for an hour. Give me a break.” His hand clasped my shoulder, tightening for an instant. “You did great, Edward. I’m very proud of you, son.”

“Thank you,” I whispered, and then pressed my lips to my sleeping daughter’s brow. “Bella did it on her own, really. I held her hand – that’s all.”

“As modest as ever. You’re going to make a wonderful doctor, Edward. Especially if you decide to specialize in obstetrics.”

I managed a nervous laugh. “Believe me, Carlisle, I am never doing that again!”

“What a shame,” he sighed heavily. “You have a real talent for it.”

I stayed beside Bella as she slept, comforted and soothed by my baby’s quick, warm breaths against my neck. Some time soon, I knew it would hit me – the fact that I was a father. A dream from long ago, over 90 years ago, when I had been a seventeen year old boy, desperately longing to become a man and counting the months, the weeks, until I could sign up for active service in World War I. A soldier, a hero – that had been my first goal, and then, a few years down the track, a wife, children . . . All of those dreams had ended catastrophically on a cool September morning in 1918, when I had awoken after three days of intense, burning pain – awoken with no heartbeat . . . no hope . . . no dreams.

Looking back, how had I got through over eight decades of loneliness, desperation . . . nothing. Nothing that mattered, that meant anything . . . until Bella. Until a cold, rainy day in January 2005, when my non-existent existence had turned upside down as my casual, bored glance had reached across a school cafeteria to hers – to her startled, chocolate brown eyes. Eyes that had changed everything – that had changed existing into living.

Her shocked, glazed eyes after I had stopped the van from crushing her. The utter happiness and pleasure on her face as I had pressed my ear against her chest, indulging in the sound of her heartbeat, as the serenity of the meadow surrounded us. The confusion, the terror in her eyes as I had left her in the forest behind her house, had walked away from her, my own chest twisting in agony, telling myself it was for the best – the only choice I could possibly live with. And yet, I hadn’t. I had lasted eight months. I had already been planning my trip back to Forks when Rosalie had called – that unforgettable telephone call that had sealed our fate. The expression of absolute love and longing on her face when she had crashed into me, under the clock tower in Volterra . . . saving my life. That long, endless night when I had held her close as she cried after saying goodbye to Jacob Black, and to any chance of a normal, healthy, human life. The joy and delight in her smile as she had walked towards me, glorious in white on her father’s arm – anxious to become Mrs. Cullen. The warmth of her body beneath mine on the sands of Isle Esme . . . her wide, excited eyes – grabbing my hand and pressing it against her stomach, our baby daughter’s first kick making itself known as a faint flutter against my palm . . .

Wonderful, unforgettable memories. An entire lifetime ahead of us to create even more. The future lay ahead – and for the very first time, it was worth living, every moment, every second.

I lay down beside Bella, my cheek against hers, our daughter cuddled between our chests. Six pound, two ounces of amazing, miraculous warmth between us.

We were complete.

The End.