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Missing Dawn

Summary:
This is a series of missing moments from Breaking Dawn, beginning with the scene where Bella realizes she's pregnant, from Edward's POV. (Please see my author's page for details on where you can read the version beginning with their wedding night.) Will encompass the entire book. Mostly Edward POV, but will contain Bella POV chapters as well. Thanks so much to achelle131 for the gorgeous banner!


Notes:
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight franchise and am making no money from writing this. No copyright infringement is intended. Note: The first chapter of this story is actually chapter four. Since there was no way of toning down the smut in the first three chapters to make them acceptable for posting at this site, I've chosen not to post them here. Please see my author's page for the link to my LiveJournal, where you may view the first three chapters, the first of which begins with their wedding night at Isle Esme. If you enjoy this story, you may also enjoy In Pursuit of Normalcy. Thanks so much to achelle131 for the gorgeous banner!


1. The Unforeseen

Rating 5/5   Word Count 7423   Review this Chapter

Chapter Four: The Unforeseen

***

My fingers threaded in Bella’s chocolate locks while I pretended to concentrate on CNN. My mind was elsewhere, however. I couldn’t stop thinking about how she’d gotten sick abruptly and unexpectedly a couple of hours previously. She’d claimed, of course, that it had been food poisoning, the result of eating bad chicken, but I couldn’t stop myself from being concerned. I couldn’t help but worry that she’d contracted something distinctly more serious.

After several moments of running a list of local communicable diseases in my head, Bella suddenly twisted around to kiss me. I responded immediately, leaning in to meet her lips with mine, but she stiffened suddenly, an odd look on her face.

Before I could so much as voice my concern, she was staggering off the couch and away from me, her hand clasped tightly over her mouth as she raced to the kitchen.

I was right behind her, holding back her hair from her face as she emptied the contents of her stomach into the sink.

When she’d finished, I handed her a glass of water, watching her apprehensively as she rinsed her mouth out. Once again, I found myself wondering what she could have contracted on this island. It didn’t seem very likely that she could have caught something, given that we’d been isolated on this island save for the singular visit from Gustavo and Kaure, but I couldn’t help but worry. If this illness was more serious than she was making it out to be and she became gravely ill, I didn’t think I could bear to know it could’ve been avoided had we visited a doctor sooner.

“Maybe we should go back to Rio, see a doctor,” I suggested, voicing my concern out loud as she finished rinsing her mouth out.

Bella wiped her mouth on a clean dishrag before moving toward the hall, shaking her head in obvious anxiety over my suggestion. I knew she had a thing about needles, but it was a silly excuse not to see a doctor if there was a possibility that this could be something more serious than food poisoning.

“I’ll be fine right after I brush my teeth,” she replied before ducking into the bedroom and shutting the door.

I stood outside the door for several minutes, waiting for her to reemerge.

After many more long moments, I growled in agitation and began pacing up and down the hall as I debated internally on whether I should just go in there or not. Certainly it had never taken her this long to brush her teeth before. After several more anxious moments, impatience won out. I settled on knocking on the door rather than intruding on her privacy. “Are you well?” I asked through the door, my voice saturated with unease. “Did you get sick again?”

There was a brief pause. “Yes and no,” she finally said, her voice sounding… odd. “Bella? Can I come in please?” If she denied me I was prepared to break the door down, her privacy be damned. If she was sick again I was prepared to make her see a doctor.

“O…kay?”

I opened the door and crossed the room in a flash, unsure of what I was expecting to see. I hadn’t, however, expected to see her sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her open suitcase, a blank expression on her face as she stared at seemingly nothing.

I was next to her immediately, worst-case scenarios running through my mind as my hand went to her forehead. It was a useless gesture, however, because she always felt hot to my perpetually cool flesh.

“What’s wrong?” I asked as gently as I could, but I was on the verge of panicking inside.

“How many days has it been since the wedding?” Her voice was a low whisper.

“Seventeen,” I answered, feeling slightly confused as I wondered where she could possibly be going with this. “Bella, what is it?”

In response, she held up one finger, her lips moving slightly as she obviously attempted to calculate something in her head. I stared at her in apprehension, waiting for her to say something; anything. I felt like I would go mad if she didn’t tell me what was going on, and tell me very soon.

“Bella!” I finally whispered when I couldn’t stand it any longer. “I’m losing my mind over here.”

As if in response, Bella silently turned to dig around in the open suitcase, her trembling hands emerging several long moments later with a small, blue box. She held it up in front of me as if this explained everything.

I stared at the box of tampons she was showing me in utter perplexity. “What?” I asked, meeting her wide, staring eyes. “Are you trying to pass this illness off as PMS?” She couldn’t possibly expect me to believe that. I may be a vampire – a male vampire at that – but I knew enough about human physiology to know that sporadic and acute nausea was most decidedly not a symptom.

“No,” she replied, her voice sounding strained. “No, Edward. I’m trying to tell you that my period is five days late.”

I stared at her, suddenly frozen by the implications of her words. For the briefest moment in time, I actually considered the unlikely possibility that my heightened hearing had heard her wrong, or that some sort of weird synaptic misfire in my preternatural brain had translated her words incorrectly. I only considered this for a miniscule fraction of a second, however. It was impossible that I had misunderstood her.

“I don’t think I have food poisoning,” she added for good measure.

No. What she was suggesting was impossible. It was something else completely. It wasn’t entirely unreasonable to think that her period was simply late, and that she also had food poisoning in conjunction with that. That possible scenario certainly wasn’t outside the realm of sanity. What she was suggesting, however, was another story entirely. There was simply no conceivable chance.

“The dreams,” she was murmuring lowly, her eyes wide with disbelief. “Sleeping so much. The crying. All that food. Oh. Oh. Oh.

I stared, unseeing, as the truth of her words reverberated through my brain… that night that she’d awoken in tears of desperation, practically attacking me in her intense desire… the dozens of empty egg cartons… the sleeping for twelve-hour stretches at a time, and then sleeping some more… and then more recently, the nausea. If I didn’t know any better I’d say that the evidence indicated one thing and one thing only.

But I did know better. It was impossible. It was…

“Oh!” I heard her squeak as if from a great distance away.

I saw Bella as if she were at the end of a long, narrow tunnel. She slipped out of my hands, practically staggering to her feet. She had yanked up her silky blue camisole and was staring at her stomach, a stunned expression on her face.

No. It simply couldn’t be. If such a thing was possible, Carlisle would have told us. If he’d ever, in his entire three-hundred years of immortality, seen any evidence that indicated that it was possible for a human to conceive a child with a vampire, he would have warned us. Since he hadn’t, that meant it was either simply impossible, or else it was something that happened so exceedingly rarely that not even Carlisle had ever heard of such an occurrence. The latter just didn’t seem probable to me, which left the former.

It simply wasn’t possible.

“Impossible,” I heard her whisper, her stunned voice echoing my thoughts.

However, the solid, tangible proof of the contrary stared me in the face in the form of a small but unmistakable rounded bump jutting conspicuously from beneath the silk of her camisole. I was positive it had not been there last night, and given my recent… knowledge of Bella’s body, there was no way I could not have previously missed such an obvious change in her physique.

My preternatural brain was doing overtime, running quickly over my storehouse of vampire knowledge and lore, trying to find some small nugget of information shoved in the far-reaching recesses of my mind that I’d never given much thought.

A secondary part of my brain, however, took note that Bella was now twisting her lower half, studying her swollen stomach from various angles. Her fingers ran over the small bulge in stunned disbelief.

“Impossible,” she said again.

All this I was only partially aware of as the larger part of my brain continued to mull over the possibilities. There were the succubi and the incubi, of course, the sadistic ones of our kind who used their beauty and charm to their advantage in order to have sex with their victims before going in for the kill.

And then there were the stories about female victims of such encounters surviving to birth the half-demon offspring of the incubus. This was a myth, of course. It was practically impossible for a human to survive sex with a vampire, Bella being the obvious exception to that rule. Even if the vampire didn’t succumb to the temptation of his/her victim’s blood, there was the restraint necessary to perform the sex act itself without crushing the human’s body, a feat almost impossible for a vampire – I myself being the obvious exception to that particular rule.

There was absolutely no documented proof – no known evidence whatsoever – to support the idea that these stories were anything more than a pretext to explain away sexual misconduct, mainly originating in Medieval times when preoccupation with sin was at an all-time high; particularly preoccupation with female sin.

These stories of human women giving birth to half-vampire children were beyond absurd, and were certainly not rooted in fact. Assuming that a human female was capable of conceiving such a child, how could her frail body ever support it, much less birth it? The idea was utterly ridiculous.

All that aside, however, it all came down to the fact that no human in known vampire history had survived a sexual encounter with a vampire.

Before now, a treacherous voice somewhere in the back of my mind whispered. A rather disturbing thought had occurred to me in that moment. If I was the first known vampire to have had sex with a human without killing her, and Bella was the first known human to have survived sex with a vampire, then how would we know that conception isn’t a possibility? If it’s never been done before? I felt chilled to the core; frozen so completely with this revelation that I felt as if I may never recover.

It simply can’t be.

Such a disturbing possibility put into question all the conclusions Carlisle had come to know about vampire physiology – that our bodies were frozen still in time; unchanging. Certainly our bodies were incapable of replenishing a sperm supply, even if said sperm were capable of surviving in the venom that comprised our bodily fluids. The idea that our bodies were capable of producing sperm was beyond improbable, if not impossible.

But then, despite all of Carlisle’s research there was much he didn’t know or understand. Among many things, he had yet to find a scientific explanation as to how we could even be alive without a beating heart. We had no heartbeat; no pulse; no blood coursing through our veins; and no use for oxygen. In point of fact, by all scientific definitions we were quite literally dead. However, the fact that we were walking around, talking, and generally aware made it rather easy to ignore the scientific concept of what it meant to be alive.

If according to science we shouldn’t even be alive, then what’s to say that we can’t defy the laws of science in this matter as well, and produce sperm? Nothing about the inner workings of our bodies seems to be logical anyway.

Carlisle’s means of scientific research was sorely limited, and as such he’d been forced to use a lot of guesswork in his theorizing and analyzing. After all, sonogram machines didn’t have the capability of penetrating our armor-like flesh, and taking a tissue sample was next to impossible. A dissection of a specimen of one of our kind was out of the question for obvious reasons, even if it was physically possible to perform one. (While it was certainly possible to dismember one of our kind, the tools necessary to perform such a decidedly delicate and precise procedure were incapable of penetrating our flesh – the same reason a tissue sample was almost impossible.)

Therefore, given Carlisle’s limited knowledge, was it entirely unreasonable to think that some of things he had concluded about male vampire physiology could be wrong?

No. I just couldn’t bring myself to accept it.

If male vampires were physically capable of procreation, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the female of the species would be capable as well? And since that very obviously wasn’t the case, then where did it leave us? Why should the male of our species be any different? It made no sense.

Despite all my reasoning, however, I simply couldn’t ignore the physical evidence in the form of Bella’s slightly swollen torso. There was simply no getting around it. Seemingly possible or not, it simply was.

The truth of what I’d done to Bella washed over me in an acutely agonizing wave, almost crippling in its ferocity. I did this to her. I shuddered internally, overcome by the terrible truth that my horrid, monstrous seed had taken root in her delicate, perfect human body; I was overcome by the idea that it was feeding off of her, and growing stronger every day.

But what would it grow to be, exactly? For certainly no spawn of mine could be anything other than a monstrosity – an atrocity of nature. I had known from the start that agreeing to Bella’s marital terms had been a bad idea, but I had agreed to it despite my better judgment. I had somehow managed to convince myself that our copulating wouldn’t end in disaster for Bella. I could never have possibly imagined this particular outcome, however.

And how could a pregnancy with a half-vampire child possibly culminate in anything other than tragedy for Bella? How could her frail, delicate human perfection actually carry such a child – the word child being used rather loosely, of course – much less birth it and actually survive the process?

After everything… after learning to control my thirst for her blood… after practicing the restraint necessary to make love with her without killing her, it turned out that I would be the death of her after all. Perhaps it had been the only possible outcome from our very first meeting, I thought darkly. I may not have stolen her life from her that day in biology, but I would do so when my demon offspring tore itself from her body, leaving her broken and bleeding.

Perhaps this was my punishment. I was being punished by the powers that be for my unnatural fascination with Bella, and she would pay the ultimate price for my inability to stay away from her.

A fresh wave of agonizing grief washed over me, engulfing my being in its intensity. Outwardly, however, I was as frozen as I had been from the moment when Bella had thrust the box of tampons in my face. I was vaguely aware that she was now standing in front of the mirror as she gently prodded her swollen belly, an astonished expression on her face.

No.

I would fix this. If it was indeed true, and I had somehow, impossibly… impregnated Bella – I abhorred the very thought – then I resolved that I would do everything in my power to make things right again. I comforted myself with the thought that Carlisle would be able to take care of it. No matter what, I wouldn’t allow Bella to come to harm over this… thing that had taken root in her body.

My thoughts became rambling and incoherent after that, and some of the nonsensical ideas that I entertained were a testament to my state of mind.

Abruptly, a part of my brain registered a shrill, high-pitched noise from somewhere close by, but my thoughts were racing so furiously that I couldn’t animate myself enough to respond to it. The noise was inconsequential; meaningless. My fault. The phrase repeated itself over and over through my brain like a mantra. My fault. My fault. I should have been stronger. Protecting Bella was my responsibility, and I had failed. She had depended on me to keep her safe. My thoughts were inundated with hopeless despair over what I should have done – or in this case not have done – in order to keep her safe.

Suddenly Bella was kneeling over me, her hands patting my clothing. At first I couldn’t make sense of what she was doing, but then my cell phone was in her hands – the source of the meaningless noise.

“Hi, Alice,” Bella said as she flipped open the phone, and a corner of my mind was able to focus on the conversation as the larger part of my mind continued to race with self-deprecating thoughts.

“Bella? Bella, are you okay?” Alice’s voice was clearly audible to my heightened hearing, issuing through the tiny speaker on the phone.

“Yeah. Um. Is Carlisle there?”

“He is,” Alice answered, concern evident in her voice. “What’s the problem?”

I snorted inwardly. As if Alice really needed to ask. I was certain of the reason she’d called.

“I’m not… one hundred percent… sure…”

“Is Edward all right?” Alice asked in apprehension before calling out Carlisle’s name away from the phone. “Why didn’t he pick up the phone?”

Am I all right? She can’t be serious. My monstrous offspring is growing inside Bella and she’s asking if I’m all right??

“I’m not sure,” Bella responded, and I saw her eyes flicker to my face.

“Bella, what’s going on? I just saw –”

“What did you see?”

Alice didn’t reply for the space of several long seconds, and I felt my stomach twisting in dread. What had she seen that was too horrible to say? Once again I envisioned the thing inside Bella’s body as a parasite, sucking the very life out of her from the inside out. I felt hysterical suddenly as I convinced myself that Alice had seen Bella dying. That’s why Alice couldn’t say. That thing that I’d implanted in her body was going to kill her from inside the womb. No offspring of mine could be anything less than a demon…

“Here’s Carlisle,” Alice’s voice broke through my thoughts.

I felt overcome by my anxiety in the split-second it took Carlisle to replace Alice on the phone. I remained frozen as I awaited Carlisle’s response. I dreaded it; I dreaded that Carlisle would confirm my worst fears, and yet I knew it was coming. Pregnancy was the only explanation for Bella’s symptoms.

I felt a sudden, inexplicable anger at Carlisle that he of all people hadn’t guessed at this possible outcome. Even though I wasn’t foolish enough to think him infallible, I always trusted that his judgment was right and good – even if I thought he put too much stock in his faith in me.

Alice too, dammit. Why hadn’t she seen this coming before just now?

“Bella, it’s Carlisle,” his voice interrupted my thoughts, and if I’d had a heart it would have pounded itself out of my chest with the strength of my foreboding. “What’s going on?”

“I – ” Bella hesitated momentarily, and I vaguely wondered how she was going to explain this to him. I might’ve laughed derisively if I wasn’t still frozen to the floor, unmoving. “I’m a little worried about Edward,” she answered. “Can vampires go into shock?”

Shock? Is that what I’m experiencing? Interesting sensation, to say the least.

“Has he been harmed?” Carlisle asked in all urgency.

Once again I felt like I might’ve laughed disdainfully had I not been frozen. Harmed? What does he think could’ve possibly happened to me?

“No, no,” she replied quickly. “Just… taken by surprise.”

“I don’t understand, Bella,” was his polite but confused response.

“I think… well, I think that… maybe… I might be…” Bella paused, and I saw her take a steadying breath. “Pregnant.”

Pregnant. Just hearing the word spoken out loud wracked my very being with pulsing waves of despair, almost crippling in their intensity. In that moment I felt that if I were capable of getting sick I might have thrown up.

I watched as Bella’s hand flew to her stomach, her chocolate eyes widening perceptibly.

“When was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?” Carlisle asked after a long pause. He’d switched to doctor mode, but I knew him well enough to be able to discern the slight shock in his voice.

“Sixteen days before the wedding,” she responded without the least bit of hesitation. I knew now that that’s what she’d been calculating when I’d first walked into the room.

“How do you feel?” Ever the doctor. Decidedly clinical.

“Weird,” she told him, and for the first time I detected a hitch in her voice, and then sudden tears were on her cheeks.

Again, I felt a rush of grief and self-loathing that I was the one that was causing her pain. It was my fault she was crying. Once more, I resolved that I would do absolutely anything in my power to make things right again.

“This is going to sound crazy –,” she continued, “look, I know it’s way too early for any of this. Maybe I am crazy. But I’m having bizarre dreams and eating all the time and crying and throwing up and… and… I swear something moved inside me just now.”

I looked up at her sharply, the first time I had moved since Bella had revealed her unexpected news. It had moved? She could feel it moving already?

As if in a trance, I wordlessly held my hand out for the phone.

“Um, I think Edward wants to talk to you,” she breathed, relief evident in her voice.

“Put him on,” Carlisle responded, his voice taking on an anxious tone.

Silently, Bella relinquished me the phone, looking slightly skeptical as she did so. I didn’t need the ability to read her mind to know that she was questioning my ability to speak coherently.

“Is it possible?” I whispered as I pressed the phone to my ear. Despite the evidence to the contrary, I wanted Carlisle to tell me that it was absolutely out of the question. I clung to that desperate denial with everything that I had.

“Edward,” Carlisle responded. “Before now I would have said no, most definitely not… but Bella’s symptoms… they seem to indicate pregnancy. I’ll have to examine her myself to know for certain, but according to her cycle there’s a high probability she would have been ovulating on your wedding night.” He paused momentarily. “Listen, Edward, this changes everything I’ve assumed about vampire physiology. If she is indeed pregnant, and I believe she is, this… child… that she carries is an unknown entity.”

He paused once more, and when he spoke again, the regret that leaked into his voice was apparent. “Son, I assure you that had I known that pregnancy was a possible… outcome, I would have warned you. But I’ve – I’ve never in my three-hundred years seen any evidence that a human was capable of conceiving a child with a vampire…” His words were an echo of my previous thoughts. “As far as I know, this is an unprecedented event.”

“And Bella?” I asked. I was only interested in what this meant for Bella. I had no interest in his apologies or assurances. Reaching out with my free hand, I wrapped one arm around her shoulders, pulling her into me. I had done this to her, but I would do everything in my power to protect her now.

Carlisle hesitated briefly. “I’m not entirely sure what this will mean for her… but I am almost certain that her human body will be too fragile to… accommodate the child.”

I wanted to tell him to quit saying the child. That implied something innocent; something adorable and pure. The monstrosity that I had impregnated Bella with was certainly no cute little baby. It was something decidedly more sinister.

“Edward, listen to me. You must get her home at once. I need to examine her, confirm that she is, in fact, pregnant, and establish the rate of the child’s development. From there we will take further action. She won’t die, son. You have my word that I won’t let that happen. Just… get Bella home, and I’ll take care of it.”

“Yes,” I answered mechanically, my thoughts racing with his words. “Yes, I will.” Carlisle would correct the problem. He would make it better.

Wordlessly, I hung up the cell and dialed the airport.

“What did Carlisle say?” Bella asked, an expression of supreme impatience on her face.

“He thinks you’re pregnant.” I loathed the words as they issued from my mouth. Pregnant with the offspring of a monster.

“Who are you calling now?” she asked as I pressed the phone to my ear.

“The airport. We’re going home.” As the phone rang on the other end, I felt my anger rising steadily and furiously. By the time I had navigated through the airport menu and got an agent on the line I’d managed to work myself into a positive rage.

As I attempted to book the next flight home with the idiot on the line, I moved about the room in agitation, throwing our things at random in the open suitcase on the floor.

As a part of my brain focused on the argument with the incompetent employee of the airline, another part played and replayed the events leading up to this moment and the conversation with Carlisle. The more I replayed the conversation and pondered over the incontrovertible truth of the matter at hand, the angrier I became.

A part of me was very aware of Bella’s apprehension as she hovered in the corner. I wanted to comfort her; to tell her everything was going to be all right, but I was too furious at the moment. Better to vent my frustrations on the inept ticket agent than to inadvertently let my anger seep into my voice while speaking to Bella. That just wouldn’t be acceptable. She was already going through so much. Because of me.

I felt a fresh wave of anguish at that thought as I threw a change of her clothes on the bed, silently indicating that she should get dressed. As I did so, I was abruptly reminded of a conversation we’d had only just this morning, but which already seemed like a distant memory, faded and warped. She’d come out of the bathroom in her blue camisole and matching pajama bottoms. So accustomed had I become to seeing the robe that she’d taken to wearing almost constantly over the past several days, that I’d been almost surprised to see her in something else.

“That’s different,” I’d said with a smirk.

She’d blushed slightly. “Well, I know the robe afforded easier access, but I thought I’d mix things up a bit today.”

And I had laughed. Laughed, dammit. There was no longer anything remotely humorous, and I found it amazing that there ever had been. While we’d laughed, my spawn had grown stronger in her body. It was what was causing her to be sick. It was what was causing her to have nightmares, and I had planted it there.

My anger renewed at these thoughts, I continued to hurl careless words at the annoyingly frustrating and unhelpful ticket agent while Bella dressed silently before moving to another part of the house. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to get as far from me as possible. I had done this to her, after all.

I found myself entertaining dark thoughts. I wondered if she’d leave me after this – after Carlisle had gotten rid of it. For surely she wouldn’t want a daily reminder of this, and the fact that I had done this to her would certainly serve as a reminder. I couldn’t imagine that she would ever allow me to… touch her after this.

I cringed inwardly, thinking that it was my touch that had brought this about, and on the very night of our wedding. I was sure of it. Bella had already been eating a lot and having nightmares and crying before we’d made love again, on the night when I had caved to her tears and to her irresistible body…

But I should have resisted her. I should never have made that preposterous agreement with her. She would be safe now if I hadn’t. She wouldn’t be in danger of a half-vampire parasite feeding off of her from within and growing stronger every minute. I couldn’t bear to think what might happen to Bella if it was allowed to grow to full maturity inside of her; the deadly havoc it would inflict on her breakable human body.

How could I ever think of… of what it had been like… the exquisite, unadulterated joy of making love with Bella, without it being tainted by… by this? I would need something of her to hold on to when she left me, but I couldn’t think of that without remembering the horrible consequences… what it had almost cost her.

Where would she go when she left me, I wondered? To Jacob Black? I found myself becoming even angrier at the thought of him… touching her… in a way that I couldn’t; a way that wasn’t poison to her. Because that’s what I was – that’s what my seed was that I had planted in her: poison

. After several more minutes of haggling with the airline representative, I’d somehow, miraculously managed to book two first-class tickets home. Thoughtlessly I thanked the agent and hung up the phone. My head was spinning with the intense desolation of my thoughts.

“Bella?” I said as I walked into the kitchen.

But then I stopped in my tracks as I realized there were tears glistening on her cheeks. Oh, God, she was crying. My fault. The two words – my mantra – raced through my mind repeatedly. “Bella!” I whispered as I crossed the room in a flash, placing my hands on her face. I’d heard the anguish that had seeped into my voice. Until that moment, I’d managed to keep my secret pain at bay, at least outwardly. Anger had been the key. If I was angry, I couldn’t be agonized. However, I couldn’t be angry with her. It was unbearable to think of causing her any more torment than she was undoubtedly already suffering.

My thoughts were assailed by mental images of the monster-child inside of her body, pressing outward already, hurting her. “Are you in pain?” I whispered, studying her face.

“No, no – ”

I pulled her to me, engulfing her in my protective embrace. Protective. I silently scoffed at the word. Since our very first meeting I’d done nothing but cause her pain, both physical and mental. “Don’t be afraid,” I whispered into her hair, my senses beset by the intermingled perfume of her shampoo, her blood, her skin. It was a scent I had memorized what seemed a lifetime ago. I despaired to think that she might leave me when this was over, but if that was her decision, then I would accept it. “We’ll be home in sixteen hours. You’ll be fine. Carlisle will be ready when we get there. We’ll take care of this, and you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.” And then you’ll be free to choose someone who can’t hurt you.

“Take care of this? What do you mean?”

I stared at her momentarily. Surely she didn’t think I would allow this thing to kill her? “We’re going to get that thing out before it can hurt any part of you. Don’t be scared. I won’t let it hurt you.”

“That thing?” she asked, her eyes wide.

I was distracted suddenly. At that very moment I became aware of the scent of human blood, and the rumble of human thoughts. I had been so absorbed by recent events that I hadn’t even registered the sound of the boat as it had approached. “Dammit! I forgot Gustavo was due today. I’ll get rid of him and be right back.”

Leaving Bella swiftly, I opened the front door and was slightly annoyed to see not Gustavo, but Kaure, standing there, one finger lifted in the act of ringing the doorbell. A dish reeking of odorous human food was clutched in her small arms. Immediately, I could read in her thoughts her true motivation for being here.

I wanted to roll my eyes. I was in no mood for dealing with this right now of all times. “I’m sorry you came all the way out here, but I’m in no need of your services today.” I said this stiffly in Portuguese, the forced politeness of my words beyond obvious. Eager to get rid of her, however, I reached into my pocket, my hand reemerging with a wad of several bills. I held this out to her without looking at it.

She stared at the money, but didn’t move to take it. “Yes, sir,” she finally said. Her voice was tinged with nervousness. “But I made dinner for you and your lovely bride.”

I frowned, shoving the money back into my pocket. It was a cover, of course. Despite my irritation at her presence, I felt a grudging respect that she would risk angering a vampire just to check on Bella, a complete stranger to her. “That’s very generous, but I regret that we won’t be staying much longer. We will be leaving very soon.”

I saw Kaure’s eyes widen, and in her mind I had all but confirmed that Bella was dead. “I’ll leave it anyway,” Kaure persisted. “Just in case you decide to stay longer than planned.”

“That really won’t be necessary,” I stated, the irritation creeping back into my voice. Despite my grudging respect, I wanted this infuriating woman gone.

“Please, sir, I insist,” she said, shooting a look over my shoulder. Her thoughts were practically screaming at me as she searched for any sign of movement from inside the house.

“Fine,” I said, reaching for the dish.

She took a quick step back, shooting me a suspicious look. “I’ll bring it in myself, sir, if you don’t mind.” She was scared, that much was obvious, but her tone of voice was one of fierce determination. I couldn’t help but admire her bravery despite my utmost annoyance.

However, my admiration wasn’t enough to counteract the utter inconvenience of this situation. Now of all times. “Just leave it with me, and I’ll make sure that Bella eats.” I said this in my most convincing tone, smiling at her in my way that Bella had once described as “dazzling.”

Kaure stared at me for a long moment while nervous possibilities raced through her head. By not allowing her inside, the woman was all but certain I had killed Bella. “Please, sir – I insist.”

“Fine,” I snapped, growling in exasperation. If confirming for herself that Bella was still alive was what it would take to get rid of her, then I might as well get this over with. I turned abruptly, moving back through the living area toward the kitchen. I didn’t have to look to know that she was following behind, timid but determined.

“I’ll just leave it and be on my way,” Kaure commented timorously from behind me. Her thoughts were laden with anxiety for Bella. Despite my annoyance, I was partly appreciative over her concern for my wife, but that didn’t change the fact that I was ready for her to be gone.

I growled something noncommittally, my tone completely devoid of all politeness, and I sensed her anxiety level rise. She was now scared for her own life as well as Bella’s, but it wasn’t enough to make her turn around and run.

I approached Bella where I’d left her standing in the kitchen and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “She’s insisting on leaving the food she brought – she made us dinner,” I murmured into Bella’s ear, my voice saturated with tension. “It’s an excuse – she wants to make sure I haven’t killed you yet.” My own words echoed in my ears. Haven’t killed you yet. It certainly seemed like a matter of time, didn’t it? It seemed that no matter how hard I tried that Bella’s life was in constant jeopardy because of me.

At that moment, Kaure appeared around the corner, shooting uncertain looks between the two of us. Even though she’d confirmed for herself that Bella was indeed alive, the older woman was still suspicious. She wasn’t oblivious to the tears in Bella’s eyes, and she was wondering what I had done to make her so upset.

“I’ll just leave this here,” Kaure mumbled, setting the dish on the counter.

“Thank you. You may leave now,” I snapped, eager for her to just be gone already.

Kaure turned to go, still doubtful but lacking an excuse for lingering, and as she did so Bella stiffened, her face going an odd shade of green. Gagging, she suddenly dashed for the sink.

I was behind her in an instant, my hands on her forehead as Bella emptied the contents of her stomach once again.

“It’s okay,” I murmured soothingly into her ear. “I’ll make it better.”

I released her momentarily, turning to place the offending food in the refrigerator. I turned back to her quickly, placing my hands on her flushed face as she leant heavily against the counter, a sheen of sweat glistening on her forehead. After taking a moment to recover, Bella bent her face under the tap, rinsing her mouth out while I continued to stroke her soothingly. I was at a complete loss as to what else I could do. Evidently, I’d done enough.

Gently, I turned her around after she’d shut off the tap, pulling her into my arms while her head rested against my chest.

Just then, there was a small gasp. Looking up, I saw Kaure hovering in the doorway, her arms half-outstretched. I knew she hadn’t left, but I’d been so distracted by Bella’s latest bout of nausea that I’d paid her no mind.

Now, however, I saw that Kaure’s eyes were widened as they stared at Bella’s midsection. Pulling away slightly, I looked down to see Bella’s arms crossed over her now very-visible bulge. I gasped as well. The bump seemed to have grown since Bella had first stood in front of the mirror, her shirt lifted above her belly.

Instinctively, I pushed Bella behind me, shielding her from the perusal of the older woman.

Turning toward Kaure, I saw that her mouth was wide open, her eyes popping in shock as I heard the thoughts racing through her mind. Spawn of a demon, she was thinking, her thoughts echoing my own.

“Libishomen! Demon!” Kaure suddenly shouted at me, and I was momentarily startled by her newfound audacity. Moments before, she had been so timid in her fear. “You – you’ve impregnated this child? You dare to spread your demon seed to the innocent? Back to hell from whence you came, monster! ” Her small fist had risen into the air as she’d spoken, and I didn’t know whether I should be angry or amused as she took two steps forward.

She continued to hurl insults at me for several more long moments, and had the situation been any different, I may have settled on amusement. The situation being what it was, however, I could find nothing humorous. This infuriatingly brave woman was voicing the very things I had thought of myself, and somehow hearing the words thrown at me accusingly made the situation more terrifyingly real.

I took a step toward her, feeling Bella cling to me as I did so.

I raised an arm out toward Kaure, my anger melting abruptly as I was suddenly overcome once more with agony. If she knew something… about what was growing inside Bella…

“Please,” I whispered, my voice an agonized croak as I switched to her native Ticuna tongue. “Please, you’re right about what I am, but I am different from others of my kind. I feed only on the blood of animals. I… I didn’t mean for this to happen… I didn’t know… You must understand that I would never intentionally hurt her. Please, I need to know what will happen to her. I love her.”

Kaure stared at me, and I caught her disbelieving and suspicious thoughts. After several moments, she finally seemed to have recovered her voice, her eyes narrowing as she spoke again. “It… is true then? This girl – this child – is carrying your spawn, the spawn of the libishomen?” Her tone matched her thoughts – wary and uncertain.

I nodded once, slowly, and she took a step back, crossing herself.

I reached a hand out toward Kaure, wanting to communicate my desperation, my anguish, but I was suddenly at a loss for words. Instead of speaking, I gestured wordlessly at Bella before placing my hand on her cheek. I snuck a glance at my wife, only to see confusion in her eyes as she watched the exchange between Kaure and myself. I was suddenly aware and thankful that Bella couldn’t understand what was being said.

“How dare you touch that child, fiend!” Kaure suddenly shouted angrily, gesturing at me. “Don’t you think you’ve already done enough damage? That… thing growing inside her womb – it’s unnatural. It can’t be allowed to be born into this world.” She then gestured toward me once more. “What you’ve done… it’s inexcusable. You’ve planted an abomination in that child’s womb.”

“Please,” I whispered once more. “You must tell me what will become of her if – if it continues to grow inside of her.” I paused. “If you have heard of this sort of thing before… I must know. This child is my wife. I will do anything in my power to prevent any harm from coming to her. Anything. But you must tell me what you know.”

Kaure’s eyes darted repeatedly between our faces as she gauged the sincerity in my voice. I could hear the confusion and doubt in her thoughts. She was unsure of whether or not I was telling the truth; unsure of what to make of me, the demon blood-sucker with the apparent torment in his face and voice.

Finally, she made a gesture with her hands, miming a balloon protruding out from her stomach. Even without the ability to read her mind, I knew she was telling me that it would grow very large, and very fast.

She stepped forward a couple of steps now, her eyes once more on Bella’s midsection. “How long ago was it conceived?” Kaure asked sharply.

“Seventeen days ago,” I answered, my voice tense.

“You’re certain of this?”

“Beyond a doubt.”

“She’s lain with no other man recently?”

“No,” I answered sharply, annoyance seeping through my grief.

There was a pause, and I spoke again. “Please, what will become of her?” I whispered, feeling overwhelmed by my anguish. I already knew the answer to my own question. I could read it in the woman’s thoughts, but I needed to hear it said out loud.

Kaure hesitated, shaking her head slowly. It was unendurable. I couldn’t bear this confirmation, and yet I needed it at the same time.

“Please,” I whispered once more, my voice laden with pain. “What will become of my wife if it’s allowed to grow inside her?”

Next to me, I was aware of Bella staring at me, shock written on her face as she registered the agony in my voice.

Kaure walked slowly toward us, stopping only when she was directly in front of Bella. She placed one age-spotted hand on top of my wife’s and spoke one word of Portuguese: “Morte.”