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Things Aren't Set In Stone

One shot cullen challenge.

Why does a relationship feel like it involves more than two people?

Because there is always the family.
***** "So did Alice see me coming?"

I tensed. "Something like that." I turned away, hoping my face wouldn't give it all away. That would not be her fate. I would not let her heart stop beating, especially if I was the cause. Things aren't set in stone.


1. Things Aren't Set In Stone

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6094   Review this Chapter

I watched her sleep, feeling calmed by the familiar rising and falling of her chest... the way her hair tangled while she slept. The gentle sweeps of weak, silver moonlight filtered between the fine, gossamer strands of brown, that dusted lightly across her pale cheek, in and out with her breathing. Everything was magical.

Last night I had heard the three most powerful words of any language in this or any other world. Words that drilled to the very core of my granite corpse, cutting through me easily, straight to my dead heart, making it jolt and feel the most powerful emotion in the history of my existence. Though having seen it portrayed in many relationships and poured over in many thoughts, never was the experience of hearing the words truly mine. I had always felt like I was an audience, and not feeling it to the full extent and capacity possible. To the hear the words uttered...

I love you.

And though the words are touching every time said, the way she specifically said them, sent my dead heart thrumming as if it were indeed, alive again. When whispered through her soft, gentle lips, each time felt as significant as the first.

I had inhaled her beautiful perfume, that clung to my nostrils, even when I ducked out her window, to change.

At my house, I had warned Jasper, as well as the others, I intended on taking her to meet them today. I didn't even try to deal with the tempest known as Rosalie. Alice was ecstatic, and after giving her a death glare, I returned quickly to Bella's room as the first dashes of sun fought feebly to break through the opaque clouds that padded the sky.

I settled again into the rocking chair, and now I watched, replaying the moment again and again in the buttery glow that was merely hinted through the murky Forks sky.

"Edward," she sighed. I leaned forward gently, reassured by her slow pulse and her the steady breathing that my favorite moment had arrived. "I love you," she breathed, before readjusting slightly.

I froze, shock -- and something else -- lighting through me. I had suspected that much; her accepting I was a monster and still wanting to see me was absolutely crazy and one wouldn't just risk their life for a tiny crush, but hearing it uttered through her soft lips was something else entirely. Hearing it spoken was another conformation altogether.

I smiled, as I remembered. The electricity... it had shot through me with such force.

I focused again on the present Bella, her arm slung across her eyes, as I heard her heartbeat thrum, gradually getting faster.

She rolled over and moaned, and I tried not to chuckle.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, sitting up so fast she looked dazed.

"Your hair looks like a haystack . . ." I teased, seeing her as beautiful as ever anyways. "But I like it," I added.

"Edward! You stayed!" Without much warning, she fearlessly threw herself into my lap. I couldn't help but smile as I watched her mind catch up and she peered up at me. Worried.

"Of course," I laughed, slightly surprised that the monster within me was easily controlled at the smell of my Singer's blood in such close proximity with my venom filled mouth. I rubbed her back, pleased.

She rested her head softly on my shoulder, inhaling deeply. I guess we both held a pleasing aroma, to put it lightly, for each other.

"I was sure it was a dream."

"You're not very creative," I said, humored.

"Charlie!" she yelled and flew from my lap, heading towards the door. I was surprised she didn't trip and injure her delicate self.

"He left an hour ago - after reattaching your battery cables, I might add. I have to admit I was disappointed. Is that really all it would take to stop you, if you were determined to go?" I had experienced Bella's tenacity for myself, remembering the way her brown eyes caught fire. Not very easily averted.

She looked torn, standing at the door, obviously indecisive. But about what? I opened my arms, encouraging her. "You're not usually this confused in the morning," I observed. Was she regretting being with me? But she had said she loved me. Was it possible to lie in your sleep? If so, it would be for the best.

"I need another human minute," she said regretfully.

Relief flowed through me. That's what this was about? Wanting to disagree, but still not wanting to make her feel self-conscious, I complied. "I'll wait."

She skipped away to the bathroom, and I felt the soft smile spread across my face. Was she on the same level of delight as me? I heard her trying to hurry, and chuckled. Her heavy footsteps announced her advent, and I realized my arms were still spread wide. She entered the room and I knew I would never get used to the look on her face when she found me waiting. Her heart thumped unevenly.

"Welcome back," I greeted her, bringing her close to me and rocking her. Every breath left me dazed, every heartbeat left me soothed. Just every moment with her was golden and vitally important.

"You left?" she touched my collar, pouting.

"I could hardly leave in the clothes I came in - what would the neighbors think?" I knew very well that no neighbors had seen me.

Her lower lip was pushed out slightly, her gorgeous forehead crumpled slightly.

I felt my eyes light up. "You were very deeply asleep. The talking came earlier," I grinned evilly.

"What did you hear?" she groaned. Just the reaction I expected, especially after her terror when she first found out I listened to her talk in her sleep. She had asked me to stay this time. She had to pay the price.

But my joking ended abruptly as I told her. "You said you loved me." As I said it, the same electricity ran through me, lighting every nerve. Just remembering it was phenomenal. I would do anything to hear her say it again... Every day, for the rest of existence, wouldn't be enough.

She pushed her head into the crook of my shoulder, letting her soft brown hair fall into a curtain in front of her face. "You already knew that."

"It was nice to hear, just the same," I murmured softly, wanting to gather her hair in my hand, and reveal her stunning eyes.

"I love you," she whispered, and I absorbed the state of euphoria she could cast upon me at her will.

"You are my life now." There would never be anything to live for if she wasn't always in my arms, her warmth heating my frozen skin. Her heart served as mine as well, beating for me. If it no longer beat -- I couldn't venture into that option for too long -- I would no longer live. She was wholly my life now, after yesterday, and nothing could change that. There was no turning back.

We sat in silence, as I tried to deceiver the workings of her silent mind. As the murky light slowly became more prominent I remembered her need to feed.

"Breakfast time." I tried to keep my voice casual.

Shock crossed her face, as well as fear, and she raised her tiny hands to guard her throat. My eyes widened as I realized how she took the statement. I was hurt. Did she really think I would do that to her?

Smugness saturated her face and she snickered. "Kidding! And you said I couldn't act!"

I was surprised how she could casually kid on this subject, and it made me love her more -- which I didn't think was possible -- but I did not let it show on my face. I frowned. "That wasn't funny." The fact she could joke about it was slightly disturbing. She shouldn't take this so casually. She was risking her life.

"It was very funny, and you know it," she replied, but she assessed me cautiously.

"Shall I rephrase?" I raised my eyebrows. "Breakfast time for the human." She could find no error there.

"Oh, okay," she said innocently.

I draped her over my shoulder carefully, hearing her exhale in surprise.

I ignored her protests, enjoying the warmth of her skin on mine. I wanted to hold her for the rest of eternity and never let her go. But I would not do that to her. I couldn't think those selfish things.

I set her carefully in one of the three mismatched chairs clustered around the tiny kitchen table and couldn't help but notice the way everything around her seemed to light up in her luminous glow.

"What's for breakfast?" she said cheerily, but did I detect the smirk she was trying to hold back?

"Er, I'm not sure," I admitted. The last time I had fixed a meal of human food to actually be consumed was about one hundred years ago. "What would you like?"

She just smiled, and bounced out of her chair.

"That's all right, I fend for myself pretty well."

"So you say," I muttered much too low for her to hear, remembering the countless times I had saved her life.

"Watch me hunt," she teased.

I turned my attention to her as she prepared cereal. I would learn to cook for her, I vowed.

She paused, and I wished I could open her mind and read the thoughts that were still latent to me.

"Can I get you anything?"

I scoffed and rolled my eyes. "Just eat, Bella."

I watched her every movement as she scooped the cereal into her mouth, hypnotized by the foreign practice of eating. But who was I kidding? I would watch her do anything. She was amazing in every way.

She cleared her throat awkwardly. "What's on the agenda for today?"

"Hmmm . . ." I pondered how to ask her. Bluntness might be the best path. "What would you say to meeting my family?" I watched carefully for any emotion she might try to hide. But there is was, fear obvious on her face.

"Are you afraid now?" Maybe she was actually absorbing the potential danger after my demonstration in the meadow yesterday.


"Don't worry. I'll protect you." But now I was scared she wouldn't want anything to do with me. Was she scared of me, but too afraid to tell me?

"I'm not afraid of them. I'm afraid they won't . . . like me. Won't they be, well, surprised that you would bring someone . . . like me . . . home to meet them?" She asked tentatively.

"Oh, they already know everything," I said, mad at the relief that flooded me. This was bad. I want her to stay away from me. It wasn't safe for her. This internal struggle tore me two ways, impossible to accomplish both and stay happy. But that was selfish. Bella's safety is my top priority, but staying away from her seemed an impossible alternative.

"They'd taken bets yesterday, you know" -- I felt my lips curl up around my teeth and forced my snarl into a dark smile. My voice strained with the effort -- "on whether I'd bring you back, though why anyone would bet against Alice, I can't imagine."

But things can change. No, they will change. I remembered Alice's vision of me turning Bella. Red eyes. "At any rate," I continued," We don't have secrets in the family. It's not really feasible, what with my mind reading and Alice seeing the future and all that."

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

I smiled, proud she remembered. "You paid attention."

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

I tensed. "Something like that." I turned away, hoping my face wouldn't give it all away. That would not be her fate. I would not let her heart stop beating, especially if I was the cause. Things aren't set in stone.



"You like it?" I asked smiling, but partially anxious.

"It . . . has a certain charm," she responded, and I could tell she was nervous.

I pulled her ponytail and laughed, getting out of the car and opening the door for her. "Ready?"

"Not even a little bit," -- and indeed, she looked terrified -- "Let's go." She ran a hand through her hair and I grabbed her other one softly.

"You look lovely," I murmured.We walked through the shade to the porch that wrapped around the first story. Her whole body was tense and my cold thumb rubbed circles on her hand soothingly. I was trying to block the family's thoughts, Rosalie's especially, and focus on Bella.

Bella. My girlfriend. The word girlfriend, could be cast off as something disposable.... soul mate was more like it. Despite the lack of my possession of a soul. All the same, I felt so close to her. There was nothing, ever, that could outshine her. My family would love her, I knew, and even though it was hard to think of Bella anything but sweet and compassionate, I desperately hoped she returned the affection. We were more than family, somehow, and I hoped that Bella could see that. See us for . . . our personalities, trapped inside the cold, hard bodies we were.

Taking a slow breath of unnecessary air, I opened the door, revealing Carlisle and Esme, standing cautiously.

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

She's beautiful, Edward.

Oh, what a pretty girl, Edward.

"You're very welcome, Bella," Carlisle assured her warmly.

"It's nice to see you again, Dr. Cullen."

"Please, call me Carlisle."

"Carlisle," she repeated grinning. I suddenly felt relieved.

"It's very nice to know you," Esme said, as she stepped forward to shake Bella's hand.

"Thank you. I'm glad to meet you, too." Bella grasped Esme's cold hand as if shaking one the warmth of her own.

"Where are Alice and Jasper?" I wondered, already knowing they were waiting to be announced. Alice had been poised on their bed like she was going to jump at any second when we first pulled into the driveway. Fifteen seconds ago, she had resorted to pacing up and down the hall, letting me know she was getting impatient. Now, she and Jasper were waiting at the top of the staircase.

Thank god, Edward. I know you were waiting just to annoy me!

"Hey, Edward!" Alice greeted, sarcasm hinted only to those who had read her thoughts just before. I smirked.

Alice bounded down the stairs much faster than Carlisle and Esme wished, and they threw cautioning looks her way.

My goodness, she's going to give the poor girl a heart attack. And Edward fancies her so... Oh, I do wish Alice would calm down.

Alice, slow down. Does she even know we go that fast? I suppose Edward told her . . .

Carlisle looked in my direction and I tilted my head forward slightly.

But it might still shock her.

I tried not to wince, remembering what I had demonstrated in the meadow. She had seen our speed plenty.

"Hi, Bella!" Alice skidded gracefully to a stop in front of her.

My parents looked stern, and Esme was planning to have a talk with my buoyant sister.

Alice rocked forward and kissed Bella's cheek happily. Bella looked shocked, but there was a pleasure in her eyes. Acceptance. If we weren't vampires I would've worried about my mother going into cardiac arrest. Poor Esme.

She smells wonderful, Edward. I can't imagine how hard it is. Alice tried to prevent what thoughts were triggered next, but she recalled another vision she had had before we arrived.

Bella writhing on the ground, her skin pale, then stilling. Her eyes snapped open at an inhuman speed, and she shot up, her bright ruby eyes glinting. I was in the room, looking pained as well, and the beautiful, brown haired woman danced up to me, securing her arms around my neck tightly as she buried her face in my shoulder.

Sorry, Edward, but it's an option. I can't help it. But you can...

The vision was very blurred, to my relief, and that meant it was an option, but it wasn't a promise.

All these thoughts flowed in a matter of seconds, and Alice just pulled away from Bella.

"You do smell nice, I've never noticed before," Alice told Bella, pulling me out of my stiff daze, but not entirely.

While Bella flushed, I muttered quickly and too low for Bella's hearing, "That won't happen, Alice."

What, Edward? Carlisle was suddenly concerned it was about some nomads coming, and something to do with Bella. I frowned in confusion and he relaxed.

I could tell Jasper felt my sudden whirl of emotion and was concerned as he followed Alice down the staircase slowly, testing himself.

"Hello, Bella," Jasper greeted her softly.

He filled the room with comfort and ease, and I raised an eyebrow at him.

You needed it. Both of you.

I allowed that. It was true.

"Hello, Jasper." Bella smiled shyly, then put her gaze on all of the family. "It's nice to meet you all -- you have a very beautiful home."

"Thank you." Esme glowed. She really liked Bella. "We're so glad that you came," she said with emotion.

Edward, she is so wonderful. So brave, too.

Esme has been so happy since I met Bella, insisting I loved her since the day I saved her from the truck, totally ignoring my excuse of not being able to control my thirst if she had been cut badly.

Carlisle's thoughts interrupted Esme's.

Edward? I met his gaze. There have been... visitors Alice has seen. I think you should keep a close eye on Bella until they're gone. Alice doesn't exactly know how long they'll be here... they haven't decided. They'll probably be here early tomorrow.

I nodded.

If she and Edward played that would be wonderful! Esme caught my attention, where she had seen Bella admiring the piano.

"Do you play?" Esme inquired innocently.

"Not at all. But it's so beautiful. Is it yours?" Bella asked curiously.

"No. Edward didn't tell you he was musical?"Esme laughed.

"No." Bella turned and shot dagger eyes at me. I gave her a cherubic expression as Esme raised her eyebrows, confused at our exchange. Edward, what did you do?

"Edward can do everything right?" Bella huffed.

"Apparently everything," I muttered, an answer to Esme's thoughts. She pursed her lips.

"I hope you haven't been showing off -- it's rude." She joined in glaring at me.

"Just a bit," I laughed, knowing well she wouldn't resist. Esme's face softened, but then she looked smugly at me. Are you trying to charm the dear? How sweet and romantic. You should play some songs for her. I tried not to squirm under her gaze, feeling much more like the physical seventeen year old I was. Getting advice from my mother...

"He's been too modest, actually," Bella assured her, and I internally groaned.

"Well, play for her," Esme insisted, thinking, You were so boastful before? Well, now it's coming back to bite you, dear.

"You just said showing off was rude," I countered her.

"There are exceptions to every rule." She was persistent.

Everyone else was watching our easy quarrel, very entertained.

"I'd like to hear you play," Bella offered.

"It's settled then," Esme pushed me towards the piano, and I reached out and snatched Bella's hand, towing her along. I huffed and stared at her, exasperated, before letting my cold ivory fingers flow over the keys, starting with Esme's favorite. Bella's mouth dropped open and my family, who was used to the complexity of it, laughed softly behind us.

"Do you like it?" I asked her, winking. I heard my family quietly leave the room, filtering through the kitchen to the living room; some going upstairs.

"You wrote this?" she gasped.

"It's Esme's favorite," I replied, then she shook her head slowly, closing her eyes. "What's wrong?" I asked, concerned, though the music didn't let up.

"I'm feeling extremely insignificant," she said softly.

I transitioned into her lullaby, remembering how I had thought of it in Denali, after I had encountered her blood for the first time. The sweetness of it had been converted into this song, my feelings too confused to realize it until I sat down at a piano and let it flow.

"You inspired this one," I murmured, breathing in her wonderful scent, swirling around her and dancing to the intricate hum of the piano. Having her right beside me put the song to shame, but it was nice, watching the emotion in her face. "They like you, you know, Esme especially."

"Where did they go?" Bella looked behind her.

"Very subtly giving us some privacy, I suppose," I replied, and sure enough, they were trying to keep their thoughts low and easier to tune out. I felt a surge of gratitude and heard Jasper for a short moment, Glad to help....

"They like me" ---- You have no idea, I thought, hearing Esme's hushed thoughts about how amazing this was and how happy she was for us---- "But Rosalie and Emmett....." Bella trailed off uncertainly.

"Don't worry about Rosalie, she'll come around," I assured her and Rosalie's thoughts were practically roaring when she heard her name. She was now listening in to our conversation, haranguing me in her head.

Bella gave me a wry look, and I could almost see the thought bubble above her head... 'Sure she will...' Before she moved on. "Emmett?"

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

You are a lunatic.

"What is it that upsets her?" Bella asked timidly.

"Rosalie struggles the most with . . . with what we are. It's hard for her to have someone on the outside know the truth. And she's a little jealous," I tried to drown out my sister's thoughts in my head.

Edward, why are you talking about me?! But there was the hint of shame when she discovered the truth in my words.

"Rosalie is jealous of me?" Bella's face obviously showed she didn't buy it.

"You're human. She wishes that she were too." I shrugged.

"Oh," she murmured. "Even Jasper, though. . . "

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

"Esme and Carlisle . . . ?" Bella skipped on, trying to hide a shudder.

"Are happy to see me happy. Actually, Esme wouldn't care if you had a third eye and webbed feet. All this time she's been worried about me, afraid that there was something missing from my essential makeup, that I was too young when Carlisle changed me. . . . She's ecstatic. Every time I touch you, she about chokes with satisfaction." I almost laughed when Esme thought jokingly, Edward I don't choke!

"Alice seems very . . . enthusiastic." Bella mused, humor in her deep brown eyes.

"Alice has her own way of looking at things," I said tersely. She already sees Bella as her sister vampire... she's relying to much on her vision and deciding that if that's the future, she doesn't need to worry about slipping. I pushed her sad thoughts out of my head.

"And you're not going to explain that are you?" Bella asked. For a moment we connected. She knew there was something I was hiding from her, and she accepted that I wasn't going to tell her. The intensity of the connection broke when she spoke, leaving me slightly hazy.

"So what was Carlisle telling you before?" she ventured, surprising me again, with her perceptiveness.

"You noticed that did you?" I asked, furrowing my eyebrows.

"Of course," Bella replied simply.

"He wanted to tell me some news -- he didn't know if it was something I would share with you." I said thoughtfully.

"Will you?"

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

"What's wrong?" She caught on immediately.

"Nothings wrong, exactly. Alice just sees some visitors coming soon. They know we're here, and they're curious." I said soothingly.


"Yes . . . well, they aren't like us, of course -- in their hunting habits, I mean. They probably won't come into town, but I'm certainly not going to let you out of my sight till they're gone."

She shuddered.

"Finally, a rational response! I was beginning to think you had no sense of self-preservation at all!" And it was true. I was getting worried from her lack of fear.

"Not what you expected is it?" I changed the subject as she avoided my gaze, looking around the room.

"No," She admitted.

"No coffins, no piled skulls; I don't even think we have cobwebs . . . what a disappointment this must be for you." My voice was wry.

"It's so light . . . so open," She murmured, ignoring the sarcasm.

"It's the one place we never have to hide."

"Thank you," Bella said as her lullaby drifted to an end.

A saw a tear roll down her cheek and she wiped it away, missing a drop. I brushed my cold finger across her face and quickly, licked it. She stared at me questioningly and I just watched her face, before asking, "Do you want to see the rest of the house?"

"No coffins?" Bella joked.

"No coffins," I guaranteed.

"Rosalie and Emmett's room . . . Carlisle's office . . . Alice's room . . ." I made my way down the hall, gesturing to rooms. Bella stopped at where a large cross hung on the wall.

"You can laugh. It is sort of ironic," I allowed. She didn't. She raised a finger, as if to touch it, but just sat there, concentrating on the old wooden ornament.

"It must be very old," She finally spoke.

"Early sixteen-thirties, more or less," I answered back, bracing myself for the questions.

"Why do you keep this here?" She wondered.

"Nostalgia. It belonged to Carlisle's father." I said carefully.

"He collected antiques?" Bella asked hopefully.

"No. He carved this himself. It hung on the wall above the pulpit in the vicarage where he preached," I responded cautiously, watching her face. She was going to flee. Run away screaming never to return. I would have to move to keep myself from ever interfering again. Let her live a normal life.

But she didn't flee. She merely turned and studied the cross with a polite, disinterested air. I could see the turmoil underneath. I waited for her to speak as my family's worried thoughts swarmed my head. I tried to ignore them but after much force, they grasped my attention.

Oh, the poor dear. Comfort her, Edward!

She's disbelieving, Edward, but just give her a little time.

Edward! You idiot, just talk to her! She's not going anywhere.

Esme, Jasper and Alice's thoughts rattled around inside my mind while Carlisle tried to politely give us our privacy, though he was concerned what she thought of him. I directed myself away from Rosalie's maliciously happy thoughts at Bella's loss for words, and Emmett's concern over the belligerent expression that consumed his wife's face.

"Are you alright?"

"How old is Carlisle?"

"He just celebrated his three hundred and sixty-second birthday," I responded quietly, bracing myself not to follow when she ran.

Rosalie was still hoping for the worst, and when Bella started to move, I flinched. She merely turned, and when I met her questioning gaze, I felt slightly relieved, for she wasn't running yet.

"Carlisle was born in London, in the sixteen-fourties, he believes. Time wasn't marked as accurately then, for the common people anyway. It was just before Cromwell's rule, though," I informed her, pausing to gage her reaction.

I studied her, realizing how hard she was working to keep her features neutral. She knew I was analyzing every expression. I continued carefully, trying my best to encapsulate Carlisle's life during the early seventeenth century London.

I told her the story of Carlisle's father, and how Carlisle was put in charge of the raids. And then when he chased an actual vampire, weak with hunger, who turned and attacked. I made the actual attack very vague, not wanting to give her any hints on how an actual vampire is made. She had no need to know.... ever, hopefully.

"It was over then, and he realized what he had become," I concluded.

Her face looked calm at first glance, but it was getting easier to decipher her expressions. There was something she was hiding.

"How are you feeling?" I worried, observing her closely.

She bit her lip, and I could see the many questions wishing to burst out.

"I expect you have a few more questions for me," I said expectantly, smiling.

"A few," she agreed.

I gently grabbed her hand and tugged her down the hall. "Come on then, I'll show you."


After telling her in Carlisles's study, and with much more detail, Carlile's story, which included the Volturi, and after regretfully informing her of my rebellious past, curious at the obvious understanding she felt, we finally made our way down the hall.

"My room," I announced, and escorted Bella onto the gold carpet.

I dwelled on her expressions as she took it all in. The way her face brightened and shifted and comprehended would never cease to amaze me.

"Good acoustics?" she teased, and I laughed, nodding.

To prove the point to her, I picked up a remote and pressed gently down on a button, causing a flow of soft jazz to inundate the room.

I watched her creamy skin; the way her face seemed happy, and carefree, just as I did. The way she could make me feel, just with the simple turn of her lips, was overwhelming. Her eyes scanned my CDs.

"How do you have these organized?" she wondered, puzzled.

So that's what had caused her to bite her lip ever so slightly, and what made her delicate brows pinch together subtly. Amazing.

"Ummm, by year and then by personal preference," I responded vaguely, surprised the words even came coherently out of my mouth, because of amount the thought I gave them, which was second to none.

Bella noticed my distraction and turned to me. "What?"

"I was prepared to feel . . ." I paused briefly, searching for the right word. "Relieved. Having you know about everything, not needing to keep secrets from you. But I didn't expect to feel more than that. I like it. It makes me . . . happy." I tried to shrug it off, but a small smile appeared on my face.

Bella returned it. "I'm glad."

I looked at her carefully, and as usual, she guessed correctly, "You're still waiting for the running and screaming part, aren't you?" There was a slight note of exasperation.

My smile returned and I nodded. I had been.

"I hate to burst your bubble, but you're really not as scary as you think you are. I don't find you scary at all, actually," she lied. I could tell by the slight increase of her heart beat.

"You really shouldn't of said that," I growled playfully, crouching down. It seemed as though she liked tricking me into these little demonstrations.

She narrowed her eyes at me. "You wouldn't."

Oh, but I would. I flew at her and snatched her gently, keeping her safe in my protective arms as we crashed onto the sofa, which skidded until it hit the wall.

Alice's thoughts perked up and she started to drag Jasper to my bedroom along behind her. Baseball.

"You were saying?" I asked, realizing with total shock my voice was very flirty. I was still trying to accept that as Bella spoke a bit out of breath.

"You are a very, very terrifying monster."

"Much better," I approved.

I told you she wasn't going anywhere, Edward, Alice's thoughts taunted from the hall.

"Um, can I get up now?" Bella struggled fruitlessly against my strong arms.

I laughed.

"Can we come in?" Alice called, just being courteous to Bella, trying to let her be aware of her presence.

Bella squirmed, but I merely shifted her on my lap, smelling the blood rush to her cheeks and chuckling with pleasure. "Go ahead," I assured my sister.

Jasper followed, and was immediately shocked at how close I could be to Bella. He stopped in the doorway

How can you handle that thirst, Edward? Truly unbelievable.

I couldn't answer, for Alice spoke up.

"It sounded like you were having Bella for lunch, and we came to see if you would share."

Bella stiffened in my arms and I laughed, entertained by the current situation. Or maybe it was just the high of love. Bella made me unquestionably giddy.

"Sorry, I don't believe I have enough to share." I clutched Bella territorially to my chest.

"Actually," Jasper said, and now moved to enter the room, "Alice says there's going to be a real storm tonight, and Emmett wants to play ball. Are you game?"

I could feel excitement pulse through me, thanks to Jasper, but hesitated when I remembered the beautiful girl in my arms.

"Of course you should bring Bella," Alice assured me, understanding easily. But wouldn't this be enough for one day for Bella?

She'll be fine, Edward.

"Do you want to go?" I left the option open to Bella.

"Sure . . . Um, where are we going?" She was obviously confused, but she had to see it for herself.

"We have to wait for thunder to play ball -- you'll see why," I informed her, wondering how she would take this. But I couldn't wait to play. It had been awhile.

"Will I need an umbrella?" she asked innocently, and we all chuckled.

"Will she?" Jasper asked Alice curiously.

"No. The storm will hit over town. It should be dry enough in the clearing."

"Good, then."

Alice jumped up. "Let's go see if Carlisle will come," her tinkling voice suggested. And give them some privacy.

"Like you don't know." Jasper smiled, following in his smooth stride.

"What will be playing?" Bella turned back to me once the voices faded to her ears.

I tried not to imagine Bella injuring herself trying to play a sport, let alone with vampires, and held back a snicker. " You will be watching. We will be playing baseball."

She rolled her eyes. "Vampires like baseball?" she asked defiantly.

"It's the American pastime," I retorted solemnly.

She smiled and tilted her head back onto my chest, exhaling a huge breath of air. I breathed it in, then buried my face in her hair.

Meeting my family had gone well for her, just like I knew it would, with the exception of Rosalie.

And I had avoided Alice's vision. I had brought her to meet the family... human.

That just goes to prove . . . things aren't set in stone.