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The Ripple Effect

What if Bella’s parents never divorced & she was a normal girl. Best friends with Jacob Black for all her life & suddenly the Cullen’s moved to Forks. Everything is Alternate Universe, Romance, drama and friendships galore.


11. Chapter 11, Interruptions and declarations

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Chapter 11, Interruptions and declarations

Falling asleep while someone is watching you isn’t exactly normal. Yet, falling asleep with someone you are falling in love with watching you is phenomenal. The things you dream about, everything is heightened, and the experience is out of this world.

My dream was so vivid, sleeping in Edward’s arms; I smiled looking for his cold chest as the morning sun touched my eyes. He was gone, a note left on my pillow making me sigh.

‘I will be right back.’ He promised as I held the note to my chest sighing.

It was a cold day, the weatherman was predicting snow and I wondered if the baseball game was still on. Sighing I rushed to the shower thinking of snow crunching under my feet. If it snowed would that be a hindrance? Could vampires still run at breakneck speeds and see just as well when visibility should be at zero?

When I finally had breakfast, Renee looked worried as I glanced at the tv in the living room, the sound was muted but the news flashed a story that was getting a lot of attention.

“What’s going on?” I asked, wondering where Charlie was so early in the morning.

“The station called your father in, there was another body found. A hiker this time, same markings as before.”

Renee looked nervous as she turned to me, wondering if I was next.

I smiled trying to reassure my easily scared mother as I looked back at the tv.

“Is Edward still coming to get you?” She asked, the horror-stricken look filled with wonder.

“I think so.” I answered as the doorbell rang.

Renee giggled like a schoolgirl as I rolled my eyes, willing my mouth not to copy her.

“Good morning Bella.” Edward smiled as I let him in.

“Good morning Edward.” I beamed. “Again.” I whispered, knowing he was the only one to catch it.

“Good morning Mrs. Swan, I brought bagels.” He smirked holding up a bag of fresh baked goods.

“Oh, that’s very nice of you Edward.” She glowed, turning to me before taking the bag pointedly.

“Bella already ate.” Edward smiled, looking down at me.

“We have an early movie to catch Mom.” I added, blushing at my Mother.

Edward gave a quick nod, trying to cover my horrible lie. Renee wasn’t that observant and smiled peeking into the bag.

“You guys be careful okay? No going near the woods, it’s dangerous out there.” I looked to Edward; his expression was stone cold as he nodded.

“Yes, Mrs. Swan I will take care of Bella not to worry.” He added with an awe shucks attitude that almost made me laugh. I bit my lip trying to cover a chuckle as I grabbed my winter jacket.

“Keep your phone charged Bella.” I smiled waving as Edward walked me out of the house.

When we were driving down the road and he turned on the highway I finally asked.

“The killings, is that... a vampire?”

He didn’t look at me but nodded. I let out a long sigh thinking.

“There are things out there more dangerous than I am Bella. Vampires who hold no values on human life.”

He added, giving himself the credit, which he so rightly deserved.

“It looks like it’s going to snow.” I commented as Edward smiled, breaking his steely demeanor.

“Yes, baseball night is off, Emmett is sulking at home.”

I laughed trying to imagine the large vampire sulking as Edward beamed at me, happy to see my reaction.

“I thought you might be disappointed?” He asked probing.

“No.” I answered. “We’re still together today and I don’t have to work, I’m far from disappointed.”

He smiled as the speedometer lurched forward. We had come to the highway, I even recognized the direction we were going. My teeth bit down on my lip, waiting in silence for us to arrive at our destination. When he stopped the car, I immediately recognized the clearing.

"I thought you told my Mother we wouldn't be in any danger." I teased as he laughed.

"You're always in danger Bella." He smirked as he put the car in park running to my door at full speed.

"How fast can you run?" I asked taking his hand.

He tilted his head. "I am pretty fast, faster than the others."

"I bet." I replied, grinning flirting shameless.

"Do you want to walk or me to carry you?" He pondered.

"No." I laughed, "I think I'll let you take me again." He beamed.

"If you really want to see how fast I can go, you should ride on my back."

"Sure." I gave in causing a devilish smile to spread across his beautiful face, he lifted me easily as my arms wrapped around his neck.

"You might want to close your eyes again." I complied as the wind whipped through my hair.

It reminded me of when I was younger and tried to stick my head out the window of Charlie's cruiser. We stopped as he gently eased me off his back, grabbing my head steadying me.

"You wanted to know how fast I could go, Bella."

"Yes." I replied, woozy.

"Is it okay that I took you here again?" His face was filled with wonder.

"Of course, it's beautiful here." I sighed, the chill in the air was nippy and the snow threatened to fall. The clearing was high enough in the mountains that the grass was still lush, making it through a few frosty nights.

"I came prepared." He laughed pulling out a blanket from under his jacket; a smile bloomed across my face as he laid the blanket down while we sat upon it.

"Do you guys have any idea who the killer could be?" I inquired.

He shook his head a pained look mixed with amusement.

"It's not like I know every vampire in the world Bella, there are many of us."

It sounded like a warning. I had been naive, thinking that Cullens were only ones, but there had been many more.

"How many more?" I asked.

He shrugged. "How could I know? I can only give you an estimate."

"Okay." I nodded.

"They like to keep our numbers down, because not all of us live off of animals." I swallowed hard, urging him to continue.

"A thousand to one." He gave the ballpark estimate. "It helps that more humans are born than die every day, and that animals have the same reproductive habits." He smirked and again I could imagine him blushing.

"I see." I replied. "Who controls everything?"

"We have rules, and with rules of course come leaders.

"Leaders, of course."

"They are called the Volturi." He answered my unasked question.

"They're in Italy; they are like our Council, our President, and our Kings. They keep order if need be. But like human leaders they are not without corruption, no-one is infallible."

"Oh yes, I guess that's true. Are there any other families like yours?"

He smirked, "We know a few, the Denali's in Alaska."

"The Denali's?"

"Yes." he nodded. "Carlisle is good friends with them."

"In Alaska, you must have become close in the last few years?" He smiled.

"We help each other when we can."

I smirked leaning back against his arm as I relaxed staring at the sky.

"In my one hundred years Bella, I have never met anyone like you. I don't think I could live another day without you."

I looked away; trying to think clearly, trying to process his words.

"We're at a crossroads Bella, there's this line..."

"We could always be friends." I said hopefully.

"I don't want to be friends with you Bella, I don't know if I can." He said exasperated.

”I don’t know if I could either, not now.” I admitted, quietly.

"You're friends with Alice and that makes sense." I looked down, waiting for the inevitable.

"You're not safe with me; I'm more dangerous than the others."

I looked back up dying to meet his eyes.

"Not this again Edward, I don’t believe you."

He shook his head reading my face.

"We can't smell you, it's true. We can smell your shampoo, what you've had for breakfast; but not Bella." He smiled thoughtless, a weight lifted from his eyes for a moment.

"But what makes me different from the others is I want to touch you, to hold you, to push myself and do things I shouldn't."

I blushed at the thought of being held by him, as his gaze lingered on me.

"That makes me more dangerous than them Bella. If I cross that line, there's no way I could go back. I don't want to do that to you."

I got lost in his eyes; they were filled with pain and confusion. My head shook unbelieving that this boy in front of me, this beautiful being might want me as much as I wanted him.

"It doesn't have to be like that."

"Doesn't it?" He asked. "I think I could live watching you, protecting you."

"What about me?" I shook my head; it was obvious I hadn't thought this through.

"I want you to live your life Bella."

"My life, I don't know if I can." It was true nothing was like it was two months ago.

“But maybe we have no choice.” He sighed closing his eyes.

“We always have a choice Edward, you coming to Forks that was fate. I was never going to be happy with a normal guy.” I laughed, trying to keep the conversation lighthearted.

"What is it?"

I laughed again shaking my head.

"It just figures, me the cynic who said high school romance was a cliché would fall in love."

I looked up meeting his golden eyes. My heart skipped a beat, I looked down nervous.

"I don't know why I say these things when I'm with you, I'm usually more..."

"I love you too Bella."

His words made me bite lip, suspended between disbelief and happiness; I could feel tears welling in my eyes. I shook them away taking a deep breath willing them not to fall.

"I don't think I can pretend you're not there, that I don't love you. I think you've ruined me Edward. There will never be another you."

I closed my eyes, hoping that without me looking he'd be more daring. I could feel the coolness emanating from his body as he fought with himself. Keeping his hand from touching my cheek.

"This is wrong." I heard him whisper the words caressing my face.

I pretended not to hear him as he lightly brushed my cheek. His breath caught, and I smiled opening my eyes. He was holding himself above me, most of his body suspended by an elbow as he studied my face carefully. I was ready for it, 'my first kiss' I mused. His breath latched and he shook his head.

“Please don’t move.” He begged. And I would have done anything he had asked.

He leaned down, his cold lips gently touching my forehead, then my nose. He pulled away, shocked that I had listened. He smiled, as I opened my eyes, willing him to kiss me again. He leaned back down kissing my cheek and then softly on the lips. I willed myself to stay still.

He pulled away again, checking his own composure; I opened my eyes and was lost in the pools of topaz as he smiled. I bit my lip as his gaze met the action and he slowly approached my lips again, a little more forcefully this time. I was afraid of moving more than my lips as his mouth opened, letting me in.

I had never been kissed before, but was sure that this was one for the record books. My heart leapt over and over within the concaves of my chest. Edward cupped my face in his gentle hands and yet I still stopped myself from pulling him closer. I knew the moment I did, the kiss would end and at this precise moment that would have been a disaster. He moaned slightly, stopping himself after a moment. Pulling away, panting as much as I was.

“Well that’s interesting.” He said, a painful smirk trying to make light of the situation. He pulled away struggling to keep a safe distance. I wasn’t sure what I had done wrong. My entire body was numb, my arms buzzing from the fight with my will.

“What is it Edward?” He shook his head, trying to calm himself.

“I can’t smell you Bella, but that kiss...” He paused. “I could taste you, and there is nothing more dangerous than me right now.” He arched his back, taking deep breaths. I sat in silence on the plush grass waiting for him to say something.

“Then you’ll just have to desensitize yourself.” I offered, hoping to see his face, for a smile even. He turned to me pained.

“You are the most complicated being I’ve ever met Bella Swan. I tell you that kissing you makes me want to kill you and you offer to do it again."

I shook my head smiling.

“Practice makes perfect Edward.” He laughed shaking his head mimicking my gestures.

I watched him quietly wondering as he put his hand to his face and took deep steadying breaths.

“Is it that difficult?” I asked.

He shrugged before answering me. “When I’m with you Bella I want to let go, but you are so delicate and breakable that is an impossibility. One wrong touch could lead to a broken bone, if I’m not careful I could kill you with a kiss of my venom.”

“Venom?” I asked shaking my head as memories of all the research weeks ago began to come back to me.

“You see how one kiss takes so much control?” I touched my fingers to my lips, the memory of his on mine kept them enflamed and crimson.

I smiled flirtatiously before answering. “And you have the control Edward, you just proved that.”

He sighed and we sat there silent. After a few moments, he stood up holding his hand out for me.

“I should take you home, I have to hunt.” I took his hand letting him pull me up.

Snowflakes began to fall as I smiled looking at him serenely. The look of anguish was barely visible on his face. I knew he had to hunt, that kissing me was like smelling the most mouth-watering steak after dying of hunger. But I tempted fate, staring at him like a love sick school girl.

“But we will try again?” I asked as he shook his head amused. Brushing my cheek lightly as a snowflake fell upon it.

“Why are you so willing to put your life in danger?” I shrugged.

“Because you’re worth it Edward Cullen.” I answered as he grinned before speeding through the woods, my hands wrapped tightly around his neck.

"I don't want to go home yet." I admitted as he raced towards Forks.

"Bella," He begged, as I looked him in the eyes. The dark rim that haunted his irises was growing in diameter, the golden glint giving way.

"I could wait in the car, while you eat." I offered smiling, treating the situation like a stop at Burger King.

"I would feel better if you were safely at home." I shrugged pouting as he sighed slowing the car on the side of the road.

"If anything happens you beep this horn, you promise?" He asked as he handed me the keys to the Volvo.

"Don't let anyone in except me; I'll be back in no more than thirty minutes." He smiled, excited to hunt as I gave a quick nod, happy I had won the argument.

He closed the door slowly placing his hand on the window for a minute, before disappearing into the woods. A few seconds later my cell phone rang, it was Renee. I answered it with a sigh.

"How's it going Bells?" My mother asked as I looked around the car, there were barely any cars on the road this far out.

"Good, Edward and I are about to have some lunch." I lied horribly laughing dryly into the cell phone.

"Oh, okay, but it looks like we're going to get a storm, you'll call me when you're on your way home right?"

I rolled my eyes, it was only two o'clock, and the flakes that were falling were light and breezy. I sighed before complying.

"Of course, Edward has a great car, we'll be fine. I think we're stopping at his house for a little bit and if it gets bad Emmett has a Jeep."

I could hear Renee sigh with relief, as she turned the volume of the weather channel down.

"Okay then, just call me when you get to the Cullens'"

"I will, love you." I clicked the phone shut, sighing ‘that only wasted ten minutes.’

My phone vibrated to life as I smirked at the caller ID.

"Hey Alice."

"I thought you would be bored." Alice chimed making me shake my head amazed.

"You two are coming here in an hour?" her question made me laugh.

"That's my plan." I answered as Alice chuckled musically.

"Good, Emmett is dying to show you how high vampires can make snow men." She sighed as I heard a thud.

"The snow is getting heavy here; I've already put snow tires on Emmett's Jeep for you two. You do like hot chocolate right?"

I grinned towards the open road, clinging the cell phone to my ear.

"Yes, who doesn't"

The line was silent for a moment, before I heard Alice sigh.

“You had your first kiss.” She giggled and I blushed shaking my head, looking out towards the wintery scene.

“Alice.” I winced biting my lip.

“I’m just happy for you that’s all.” She exclaimed and I hoped she wasn’t within earshot of the others.

“Thanks Alice.” I smiled, my heart beating erratically at the mere mention of kissing Edward.

“So...?” She asked, urging me to share some detail.

“So, it was amazing.” I laughed, hearing Alice jump up and down on the other end.

“I knew it, I knew it the moment I first saw you.” she squealed as I shook my head.

"Good, okay Edward's coming back, hurry home. See you in forty two minutes." The phone went dead, as a slight knock scared me.

Edward was smiling and still had eight minutes to spare.

I unlocked his door as he slid in quickly, keeping the heat in the car for my sake.

"Alice keep you in good company?" He asked amused.

I smiled nodding, wondering how much of the conversation he had overheard.

"Yes, there's hot chocolate waiting for me at your house." I teased as Edward pulled the car back onto the highway.

"Yeah, I heard." He shook his head exasperated as we sped down the highway.

”How much did you hear?” I questioned as he tilted his head a smile playing upon his gorgeous face.

“Enough.” He looked down for a moment as I shook my head embarrassed.

After a few miles, I sighed.

"Are you ever going to kiss me again Edward?" I asked, he looked at me, longingly.

"Do you want me to kill you Bella?" He was incredulous, shaking his head in disbelief.

"It would be a beautiful death." I retorted playfully, taking his free hand as we continued down the road.

I could feel his gaze lingering on me. He was fighting himself, the hunger satiated now with who knows how many elk. I hoped he was planning to test himself again, the way I felt when he kissed me was addicting. Now that I had been kissed by Edward I longed for it.

As we pulled into the garage, Edward tensed slightly. Alice was waiting for us atop Emmett's Jeep, a smile on her face but worry beneath it. Edward helped me out of the car before turning to his sister. A silent conversation played out between them as I waited.

“Alice will take you to the kitchen Bella.” Edward announced, “I just have to speak with Carlisle for a moment.”

He smiled tenderly at me before disappearing into the house.

“I told Esme you haven’t eaten yet Bella.” Alice chimed taking my coat before walking me into the foyer.

“Alice what’s going on?” My friend shrugged.

“Carlisle heard from some friends, nothing serious.” She smiled walking me up the stairs.

“So how do you feel about vegetable soup and grilled salmon?’

I laughed shrugging, following her into the kitchen. The open stove warmed the house as Esme beamed at us. There was the same underlying look of worry on her beautiful face as she welcomed me with a soft hug.

“Welcome back Bella.” She smiled.

“Alice has informed me you haven’t had lunch yet, so I have prepared something for you.” I shook my head embarrassed.

“Oh you shouldn’t have.” I apologized for my humanness, Esme smirked handing me a cup of hot cocoa.

“Nonsense, I really have to speak to my son about keeping you fed.” She flashed a toothy smile, it reminded me of a Vogue magazine or Woman’s Daily.

“Is everything okay Esme?” I asked as Rosalie glided into the room taking a stool next to her sister. I was surprised by the blonde’s behavior, it seemed she was interested in our conversation or in the company of women.

“Sure why wouldn’t it be dear?” She answered. It reminded me of ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ I pondered what kind of mother Esme would have been. If she had been a human, she seemed the type to write notes in her children’s lunches and kiss them off to school.

I smiled shaking my head at the thought, as she gently placed a bowl of soup in front of me.

“Let me know how it is?” She grinned tilting her head, as they all watched me eat.

“It’s very good.” I finally answered after a few spoonfuls.

“Thank you; it’s not every day that we get to use the kitchen. There are so many recipes I want to try.” Rosalie snorted her chin resting on her hand as she leaned against the counter.

As Esme placed the salmon in front of me, the blonde beauty got up to help her mother clean. They seemed to be keeping busy, trying to entertain me while working off anxiety. A snowball thudded into the side of the house, rattling a few pictures on the wall. Esme smiled at Rosalie who shrugged.

“Looks like the boys are eager to show off.” Alice giggled, as I put my fork down completely full.

“Let’s go Bella; Emmett won’t forgive me if we didn’t at least take a peek.”

I walked with Alice towards the living room, or what looked like a living room. The beautiful tile floors and lush carpet lined the large open room. The walls, a perfect white opened up to extremely high ceilings and the stairwell split the room evenly. There were so many windows and two bay doors that led outside. It was a lovely house and Alice glided across the floor towards the sliding doors that led to the backyard.

I hadn’t noticed Rosalie was behind me until a coat slid onto my shoulders and Alice helped me shrug into my jacket. Both girls didn’t need the protection from the cold as we walked outside. To see two teenage vampires rolling in the snow is quite a vision. As the flakes fell harder and harder, they seemed to enjoy themselves more and more. Rosalie and Alice smiled at one another, as they left me to join their loves.

“See, sometimes we can be as childish as everyone else.” Edward's voice danced off my back as he approached me from behind. I smirked as he took my hand and we watched his brother’s and sisters dodging snowballs.

“What do you think Bella?” Emmett called up to me as he put the final piece onto his snowman. The figure was as tall as the trees; he had used the limbs of the surrounding greens to add the large rotund pieces.

“Looks good.” I called down a shiver running up my spine.

“I should get you inside.” Edward added, feeling my shiver. I let him lead me into the house as he rubbed my arms warming my limbs through the jacket.

“Can I see your room?” I asked turning towards him, not wanting our day together to end.

He looked up towards the stairs and then back at me. I knew he didn’t trust himself, or maybe he didn’t trust me now. I seemed to be just as dangerous to myself as he was today. Edward had seen my room, plenty of times. But the idea of discovering a part of Edward that was still a mystery to me, was enthralling.

“Sure Bella.” He finally answered with a sigh.

I followed him up the stairs, taking in more of the pictures and paintings that I hadn’t noticed before. He followed my gaze, smiling with a quick nod.

“We had to take some things down on your first visit of course.” He answered my unasked question, a smirk playing upon his lips.

“Yes, of course.” I replied flirting a little. He shook his head, leading me to his door.

“So this is it.” He announced, opening the door to a spacious baby blue room.

The walls were covered in bookshelves, it resembled a live-in library, more than a bedroom. The top shelves had books, the bottom cds. The floor had plush warm bronze carpets covering the wood panels. A fainting couch was in the center of the room, where Edward could read and reach another volume easily. I walked closer, taking a peek at the titles.

“This is amazing.” I finally said, feeling Edward’s gaze upon me, watching me intently.

“It’s enough to keep me entertained, or at least was enough.” I blushed looking up meeting his gaze. He smiled beautifully at me, as I perked an eyebrow studying his features.

“So Alice mentioned you play the piano?” I finally admitted looking through his cd collection baiting him to give up more of himself. They were all alphabetized by composer and band the same as mine and I smiled, Alice wasn’t kidding when she said we were alike in some ways.

“I do.” He admitted taking the cd from my hand and placing the disc into the player quickly. Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ began to play, the overture playfully filling the silence.

I laughed shaking my head.

“I always felt for the Countess.” I admitted, turning towards Edward, admiring him.

“Oh, yes?” He teased making me laugh, nodding.

“I’m guessing you are a fan of Figaro himself.” He shook his head coming close to me narrowing his gaze.

“I actually think Cherubino is my favorite.” I shrugged smirking, as he turned away, unwilling to let me win in the seduction.

I was abashed and bit my lip, scanning the room as Edward avoided my gaze.

“What did you have to speak with Carlisle about?” He looked to me, shaking his head.

“Nothing.” I didn’t believe him as I sighed slightly annoyed.

“Did it have anything to do with the killings; they just found another dead body this morning, my mother was telling me...”

Edward looked down, and I knew I was close to the truth.

“You guys can stop it right? I mean you have to.” I felt like a fisherman’s wife, nagging as I shook my head looking away before he could even answer.

“Of course we will do something about it, it’s just these aren’t common vampires Bella. We believe they may have some quirks of their own. Alice hasn’t been able to pinpoint them exactly.”

I was scared finally, the enormity of the situation hitting me fully and hard. If Alice couldn’t find them, then could they be stopped? I started to hyperventilate a little as Edward came to my side, his arms hugging me protectively. I hoped he wouldn’t let me go, and wondered if this was the only way to get physical contact now.

“It’s okay, they will make a mistake and we will catch them.”

I gave a quick nod as Edward leaned towards me; I tilted away from him hoping for a kiss or something. He smelled my hair his lips barely touching my skin as he moved towards my neck.

“I love you.” He whispered, it was the second time he said it today, the second time ever. My will was melting and I hoped his was too.

My hands found his, as we stood there in the embrace. I didn’t want to push him further. I knew he would pull away, if I did.

“We must have patience.” He sighed pulling slowly away from me before kissing the top of my head.

“I know.” I whispered as another song began to play.

He sat me down slowly on the fainting couch; it was soft blue leather a perfect match to the paint on his walls. I wondered if Esme had designed his room.

“What are you thinking?” He asked, leaning his cheek against his palm as he watched me from another chair.

I blushed as his eyes flashed reflecting the moonlight; the wind whistled outside of his window and it felt magical.

“I’m thinking about you, how wonderful you are.” I smirked laughing slightly, as he leaned forward closer barely inching off his seat.

“I guess we are both hopeless.” He smiled flashing his beautiful perfect pearly whites.

“I suppose we are.” I replied, my uneasiness abating.

“And you, what are you thinking?” He looked down, before meeting my gaze.

“I’m thinking I should get you home.” He answered stiffly, I shook my head.

“Is that what you were really thinking?” I teased unwilling to stand up and comply.

“No, but my true answer would only encourage you. And you Bella Swan, are a bad influence.” He smiled holding his hand out, as I turned away from him slightly feigning annoyance.

“I’ll have you know I’ve never kissed a boy before.” I grinned turning towards him, he knew so much about me I wondered if this was my secret to tell.

He came closer towards me leaning down to my level and I could feel his sweet breath graze my neck.

“Well technically I am not a boy.” He smirked, his eyes shining.

I could barely speak, swallowing the lump in my throat before retorting.

“Technically you aren’t a lot of things.” I replied, my breathing becoming erratic as he lifted me to my feet.

“I should get you home, before Renee calls the house.” He laughed leading me out of his room.

I took a fleeting glance before following him down the stairs. When we reached the bottom step, his siblings greeted us. Emmett, his hair covered in snow shook the flakes onto the floor like a dog; smirking at the two of us. Rosalie rolled her eyes at him before quickly grabbing a towel. Alice met our gaze with a brilliant smile and a sigh, there was no doubt she knew what had transpired.

“You two missed a good time, although maybe not.” Emmett smirked to my blush and Edward scowled.

“Keys Em?” Edward asked as Emmett tossed the keys to his jeep.

“Be gentle Eddie.” He smirked as his brother shook his head grabbing my jacket.

“Goodnight.” I waved as Alice beamed and Carlisle holding hands with Esme saw us off.

“Is he always like that?” I asked, as Edward opened the door for me.

“Who Emmett?” I gave a quick nod blushing.

“Yes, he is always like that. You will get used to him.” He replied to my laugh.

I would get used to all of the Cullens, everyone had a different story to tell and a new way of making me look at the world. There was still so much I had to learn, and getting to know Edward's family brought me one step closer to getting to know him.