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Sunset

Summary:
Twelve years ago Edward left Bella thinking she would be safe and happy away from the dangers of his world. She wasn't. How can he make it up to her? Each chapter written from a different POV with some overlap as the same incident is seen from a different perspective. Some new characters of my own imagination.


Notes:
You know, all the recognisable characters are not mine. They belong to Stephanie Meyer and I hope I've used them in the spirit in which she created them.


18. Lizzie - Visiting

Rating 0/5   Word Count 6910   Review this Chapter

No one had told me exactly what Edward Cullen looked like. But I guessed that if Carlisle, Tanya and Irina were anything to go by he would pale skinned and gorgeous. I should have asked Angela for a description. But I had a look around the Arrivals hall in the hope that I would spot him. I did. ‘Ha, so you’re Edward Cullen’ I said in my mind. His head snapped in my direction. It appeared to have annoyed him that I had spotted him first. ‘But yes, I see what the problem is’ I thought while he looked puzzled. ‘You are utterly gorgeous. No wonder Isabelle always had an inferiority complex around you. You would make a super model feel plain. And there is no point in giving me that dirty look either. Just because you don’t like the facts, it doesn’t make them less true. So, are you going to greet me or do we stand here like lemons all day while I yabber on at you in my head?’ That was when I decided that I liked him. He smiled at me and just shook his head. ‘My goodness! Don’t smile like that. I like to think of my husband as the most fanciable man on the planet, it won’t do for you to change my mind. That’s right, glower like that. Jake is certainly easier on the eyes than that glower. Since I expect that Isabelle will be waiting for us, why don’t you turn round and lead me to your car. You can keep silent if you want. It’s not often I get to hear silence and it’s remarkably restful.’ Still without saying anything he did as bid and led me to his car. ‘Oh wow, I do hope Jake never gets to see that or he’ll be wanting one. I bet Isabelle doesn’t particularly like it though.’ He inclined his head which I took to indicate agreement. ‘She never did like fancy cars. I expect you remember that old truck she had. She told me once that she loved that truck. It was before I knew her. I used to be so jealous of her. She had Jake and all his friends looking out for her and I couldn’t believe she wanted someone else. After a while I realised that second best is just that. For years I thought I was second best to Jake. But Isabelle doesn’t have the same pull that Bella had for him. And he likes knowing that he comes first with me. Isabelle used to say he was like her sun, he kept the dark clouds at bay. To me he is the sun, moon and stars and that is pretty potent to Jake. Of course my real rival is the possibility that there is some woman out in the world that Jake will one day see and imprint upon. Not even Charley and Clint will be able to hold him to us if that happens. He doesn’t like it, but I have had to take financial precautions just in case it does.’ “Do you always tell complete strangers your deepest worries?” he asked. ‘Aha, he speaks.’ “And still you don’t.” ‘Why would I when you can hear just fine? I thought that it would be better to deliberately let you know rather wonder if you were reading them. In some ways it is such a shame that you can’t read Isabelle, but she said she always preferred that you didn’t since it was bad enough that you heard her talk in her sleep. And back to Isabelle. She said that she always knew that one day you would leave. You were beautiful, brilliant and perfect, her words not mine so stop glaring at me. She said that she was nothing more than ordinary and couldn’t see how she could possibly have held on to you. Now she thinks of herself as less than ordinary, you will have an even harder job of convincing her that you want to hold on to her. The task is going to be that much harder than I thought it would be before I caught sight of you.’ I sighed and looked at him with disapproval. “What task?” he seemed to be puzzled. “The task of convincing Isabelle not to kill herself at the end of the school year” I finally spoke. “She is going to age further, get more scars, become even less of an attractive proposition in her own eyes while you are still going to be beautiful, brilliant and perfect. She already lives with physical pain every second, why add mental torture to your every day menu?” “I am doing everything I can to show her that her physical appearance has no bearing on my love for her. It’s who she is, not what she looks like that I love.” “I know, christening the Jacuzzi, indeed” for the first time since we met I laughed. “That one was her idea. I thought I was being adventurous enough for the time being getting her to make love on our bed in daylight!” “No, it was a very good start. I hope you worshiped every single scar.” “Nope, not enough time to worship them all. I just had to follow the path of a few strategically placed ones. I’ll get around to them all eventually. You know you are the first person to encourage our sex life rather than try to encourage us to embrace celibacy.” “If you hadn’t embraced celibacy twelve years ago she might not have been convinced that you didn’t really want her that much. But then it might have been even harder for her when you left. Even in hindsight I don’t know what would have been the correct choice, except not leaving her in the first place. So, tell me, why did you leave?” This, I thought was crunch time. Would he tell me the truth or would he tell me to butt out? To my surprise he slowed down, I hadn’t realised until then how fast he was driving, and talked to me. I got the distinct impression that he told me everything. ‘Well, at least I now know what I’m up against’ I went back to thinking instead of talking. ‘You really were an idiot not just by leaving but practically the whole time you were together. But at least I can understand why now.’ “Lizzie! It’s great to see you! Come in. Was it a good journey? I see the flight was delayed because with Edward driving I expected you here nearly half an hour ago.” “I have a confession to make” Edward interrupted. “I’ve arranged to go hunting with Emmett tonight so I thought Lizzie could share with you. I won’t be back until Sunday morning so you two have plenty of time to talk and solve the problems of the world and I’ll stay in here on Sunday night. You should go into town and see what the good people of Carcrix make of seeing you with a strange woman this time.” “I don’t know if we’ll have time to do anything so boring. I want to talk Jacuzzis” I laughed. “But I have to say Isabelle, having a bad reputation seems to agree with you. You look ten years younger than you did the last time I saw you. In fact, if we get your hair sorted, I expect we could knock another five or ten off. When was the last time you had it cut? At least your clothes are not as boring as they used to be.” Isabelle always hated doing girlie stuff unless she was just the bystander rather than the victim as she had put it. “Why don’t I ask Alice to come over too?” Edward suggested, a little slyly I thought. Isabelle looked like she was about to explode. I gathered that Alice was always trying to improve Isabelle’s appearance. Then she became calm and turned to Edward. “Sure, if you want to disturb her reunion with Jasper, or return from your hunting trip to discover I’ve moved out.” And she smiled at him. An evil ‘I know who is going to win this argument’ smile. I spent most of the evening being an observer of their routine. I was fascinated. Edward made our evening meal - he was a better cook than Jake - and did all the clearing up. He changed the bedding, told me he had cleared his bedside table (what did he do in bed while Isabelle was sleeping?) and said that there was heaps of room in the closet for my stuff. “Speaking of stuff in the closet, Bella, there’s some new night wear for you to sleep in since I guessed you would prefer to wear something while sharing with Lizzie” Edward said. “Why? What happened to my old sweats that I used to wear?” “Alice thought they were rags and used them to clean the house” Edward replied dryly. “She did what? Now I have to think of something to do to her to pay for taking my stuff.” “It’ll give you something else to talk about when you get fed up with talking about Jacuzzis!” Their conversation fascinated me. Isabelle was more alive than I had ever seen her before. She was arguing, but it didn’t appear to stress her out, and she was smiling, actively happy. I had never seen her like that before and I didn’t know this new Isabelle. Emmett was lovely. I wanted him to be my brother. “I’m surprised you’ve not chucked him out yet. Doesn’t he get on your nerves all the time or has he improved his technique?” he said to Isabelle after greetings were exchanged. “He frequently gets on my nerves as I no doubt get on his, but he is so very handy to have around the house. Besides, unless Lizzie turns out to have hidden talents, Edward is going to prove to be much better in bed. It is so nice of you to agree to take him away for a couple of nights while we find out.” Emmett looked like he had suddenly turned into a stuffed trout. Edward looked shocked as he turned to Isabelle. She then touched her own cheek in a way that was clearly a message of some sort which made him laugh uproariously instead of being offended. “Nice one, love” Edward said to Isabelle. “Have fun, but not too much. Carlisle is at home if you should need him. We’re not going too far so call me if you need me to come home. I love you.” I had to look away as Edward used his hands to frame her face and kissed her. That man adored Isabelle. How the hell had he managed to survive without her for twelve years? “I take it you’re not really planning a little lesbian experimentation and you said that just to wind up Emmett?” I was fairly confident as to her answer, but I wanted to be sure, just in case. “Yes” and I breathed an audible sigh of relief which earned a grin. “I used to blush all the time and I don’t mean a little gentle colour, I mean bright red. Well I haven’t blushed in twelve years and apparently Emmett has decided that his new goal in life is to make me blush again. I’m teaching him not to bother.” I stared at this Isabelle. “You know you are very different with them then I’ve ever seen you.” “I feel more alive, more me when with Edward. I don’t have to pretend anything, I can just be.” That was when I started to get worried. She was turning into Bella again. Bella whom Jake had loved, been in love with. I knew he wouldn’t get a look in with Bella, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t want to. “I’m sorry, but I still need to get to bed quite early. You can watch some TV if you like before turning in” Isabel said as she took her night time medications. “Thanks, but I’ll natter on the ‘phone to Jake for a while then turn in. I usually have to be up early with the kids so don’t keep too late hours.” “I spend about ten to fifteen minutes in the Jacuzzi before bed. As you saw, it’s plenty big enough for two, do you want? I find it very relaxing.” “Thanks, not tonight, maybe tomorrow.” “Okay, ‘night Lizzie. I’m glad you’re here.” “’Night Isabelle. I’m glad to be here too.” But it was a lie. I had made some hot chocolate and was about to call Jake when I heard Isabelle calling. “What? What is it Isabelle?” She was lying in the Jacuzzi with a look of desolation on her face. “I’m sorry, Lizzie. I have gotten so used to having Edward or Alice around to lift me that I haven’t worked out how to get out of this thing without some assistance. I’d forgotten how much I hate this stupid broken down body.” Now tears of frustration were running down Isabelle’s cheeks. “Well, hon, let’s try to look at it logically. Put this towel on the bottom of the tub and work your way so that you’re on top of it for some traction. Now put your left arm on the side and give me your right arm and let’s see if we can lever you up.” It took a little manoeuvring but we soon had her up and out. While she was drying I went to get her night wear. “Bella” and it was the first time I had ever used that name, “Edward Cullen adores you so much that if you don’t love him back I think I might just swop allegiance. Look.” I showed her the pyjamas that Edward had provided. They were made of beautiful royal blue silk but that wasn’t what had got my attention. Instead of button holes there were small squares of Velcro sewn over where the holes had been and under the matching buttons. He had even thought to make sure that she could do up and undo her top. “I tell you Jake, she’s different here” I said to my husband. “What do you mean? How can she be different?” “She’s happy in a way that I don’t think I have ever seen her happy before. She smiles, she smirks she even laughs.” “Bells? Our Bells laughs?” “Yes. Jake, she is not the Isabelle I’ve known for years. She’s Bella. I like her more.” “In a way I liked Bella better than Bells; she was much better company for starters. But I imagine too much of her could be very wearing. You’d need infinite patience to keep up with her.” I hoped my relief didn’t show. “I think Edward has it. Jake, that guy worships her. He totally adores Bella. I have no idea how he was able to survive without her. He even made her forget how much she hated her body.” “What? But she ...” “I know, but that’s what she said. Jake, I don’t think you should accept the offer of the Cullen house and land yet. I think a lot of stuff is going on and you need to think things through very, very carefully. I was prepared to hate the Cullens, or at least be sceptical as to their real goodness, but I like the ones I’ve met. I even like Tanya, and I think I could have liked Irina if she hadn’t wanted to kill you all.” “Quil said something similar. He thinks that there has been subtle change in the alignment of our world that means alliances and enmities need to readjust and that the pack needs to evolve to take account of the changes.” Jake might be the tribal leader, but he often took counsel from Quil. I foresaw a big get together some time in the future. Quileute and vampire. As long as everyone could keep their temper it would be quite fun. “Oo, ow, oo, oo, ow.” That was not what I usually woke up to. “Isabelle, are you alright? What can I do?” “Nothing, I’m just putting my massage on. Go back to sleep, I’m sorry I woke you.” “S’ okay. I’m awake now. Does this usually happen?” “Not since Edward started working my muscles two times a night while I sleep. He usually has to wake me at six to take my meds I sleep so well. Ooh, that does feel good!” “Now I know why your neighbour thought you were having hot sex all the time!” “It’s a good job she never knew that Edward stayed with me or I would have lost my job for sure.” “How old is Edward legally and actually?” I was curious and wondered if she would tell me to mind my own. “Eighteen since October the first, actually, one hundred and twenty-one.” “Wow, and I thought Jake looked good for his age. Do you ever think about that, that he’s over a hundred years old?” “No, I can’t get over the fact that he is forever seventeen, which is how old he was when he was converted. I wish I could focus more on the hundred bit, I might feel better about being thirty. Still, there’s nothing anyone can do about it now.” As Isabelle went through her morning routine I realised how much she had come to depend on Edward. She was constantly reaching for things that weren’t where she clearly expected them to be and had to go and get them. I wondered if it had dawned on her yet how much she was waited on hand and foot. “Oh yes. At times it can be a bit irritating, but for the most part I love it. Perhaps I wouldn’t if I didn’t go to work and have to look after myself there. But I love the fact that he seems to just know what I need and when. And on the off chance that he hasn’t spotted something, I just have to hint and he’s doing what I want. It can be a heady feeling so I have to make sure that I don’t take it, or him for granted and that I do give back.” “Isabelle, how can you possibly even think of giving all this up? I know the physical pain will always be there, but to have this level of care and love surely goes some way to making up for it?” I hoped I wasn’t being too heavy handed, but she had to know what she would be throwing away if she were to end her life. “Yes, the physical pain is well worth putting up with to have what I have now. But I still wonder why I had to have the physical pain to start off with. I know why Edward says he left me, but I still don’t understand how he could, how he did not know that without him I barely existed. And until I fully understand, part of me will always be waiting for him to leave me again.” I thought about her words. Yes I understood where she was coming from. But thanks to our talk yesterday, I also understood Edward’s point of view. “Isabelle, when you were seventeen you thought he was brilliant and perfect and never felt good enough for him. Well you were wrong. He might have been brilliant at some things, but he was far from perfect. And he still is. He thought you were beautiful and perfect and he never felt good enough for you. Well he was wrong too. At least he now knows that you are beautiful and perfect for him, just as he is perfect for you. Two imperfect people who are perfect together. He knows it now, he didn’t before. How long are you going to make him pay for being a bit of a prat twelve years ago?” “I don’t mean to make him pay, at least not consciously. But I still don’t know what I want long term. No that is not true, I do know what I want, but limited to what I can have I don’t know what I want” and for the first time since I got here I heard desolation in her voice. “What do you mean hon?” “I want him to change me, to keep me with him forever. He can’t do that now. My heart would fail and I would die rather than be converted. So since I can’t have that, all I can have is to get older, frailer and be in more pain, more of a burden. I don’t know if what I have with Edward would be worth what I would have to live through in the long term.” “Then you have to tell him that. All of it so he knows where he stands. And while it is your measurement of how much pain you are in, it is his measurement of how much of a burden you are. And from what I’ve seen, he doesn’t think of you as any sort of a burden so you have a long way to go on that front before it becomes too much.” “I know. When did you get to be so wise?” “When I started hanging out with a girl who told me to speak with Jake about my fears for our future and accept that which could not be changed but take whatever precautions I thought necessary to limit the damage to myself and family if the worst should happen.” “I hate know-it-alls first thing in the morning” Isabelle finally said so I decided that was enough meddling for the time being. We did do as Edward had suggested and went shopping in Carcrix. I didn’t think that I had ever been stared at quite so much since my wedding. We called at the supermarket to get decadent foods for our dinner. Admittedly they still had to be easy for Isabelle to digest, but we didn’t stint on the cost. I didn’t even think about the fact that I carried the shopping until Isabelle was asked if she wanted it delivered. “Of course they’re all hoping to catch a glimpse of something incriminating, like food for two people, or men’s toiletries or something to stir up the gossip about me again but unsurprisingly they’re not finding anything! By christmas it will probably all be over and forgotten about” Bella said when we were back in her car. I asked if anyone had seen her with Edward. “Only the once when he acted like the typical sulky teenager doing a favour for his parent. Otherwise he has been very discreet. It helps that I don’t buy food or any toiletries specifically for him – he just uses my stuff. One thing I need to think about is what our public relationship would be if we are to have a life together. A part of me would want to be open about the nature of our relationship. The backlash of gossip would be sure to hurt him, but to be honest, I would probably revel in it, as long as it didn’t mean I would lose my job.” “You really didn’t mind being the subject of the gossip then?” “No. I found it better than being talked about for being the crazy one who drove her car onto the train tracks. Besides, I thought it was quite a compliment. Could you imagine any man who had Esme as his wife looking at another woman, let alone me?” “I’ve never met Esme, but I take it she is just as gorgeous as all the others?” “There is only one who is lovelier: Rosalie. She has to be the most beautiful woman on the planet. She’s Emmett’s mate. She designed the underfloor heating and the power system for my house. She did most of the construction of it as well. Rosalie services and repairs all the family’s cars.” “God, what a bitch, beauty as well as brains. Life’s just not fair.” “No, but she would swop it all to be human and be able to have children. So if you ever meet her and feel inferior, just remember that she’s as jealous as hell of you.” It sounded like I might need that little snippet of information. Isabelle didn’t say, but I got the impression that Rosalie was the only member of the Cullen family that she didn’t like. I was looking forward to meeting the rest of them. “Will I get to meet any more of your family?” “We’ve been invited round to their house for lunch tomorrow. Don’t be surprised if they go overboard with the food. I think they would enjoy having Jake as a guest, even they would struggle to prepare enough food!” Back at her house Isabelle asked if I would mind reading a book or something while she got on with her lesson plans. I took the opportunity to call Jake and the children. I was even starting to miss the little horrors! Then I had a wonder around her back yard. It was enormous. A lot of the land would take forever to cultivate to a garden, but Isabelle was not likely to be there long enough to make it worthwhile, but there was something that I thought the Cullens could do. Isabelle had shown me what the house looked like before they had started work and they had achieved so much in just two weeks. I was sure they would be able to do the more simple task. In Edward’s absence, Isabelle had me assist with some of her exercises. I was not as good as Edward, but I was better than she would have been if she didn’t have someone to help. It was yet another example of how much Edward did for her. Yet again I was woken up by sounds I did not usually hear. “Shush love, go back to sleep. I’m just stretching your muscles.” I could see the outline of a male manipulating Isabelle’s leg. When he had done with that one he moved to the other. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you” he whispered to me. ‘S’ okay. I thought of something your family can get Isabelle for christmas if you’re interested.’ “Go on” and he started to hum a tune, one that I had never heard before. ‘A swimming pool. Could Rosalie’s power system be adapted to heat the water? It wouldn’t need to be very big, but swimming is one of the exercises that Isabelle was advised to do more of but she wouldn’t go to a public pool. There’s loads of land out back to house it.’ “Surprise?” And he went back to humming. ‘While in hospital, recuperate at your family home. Even tell her she’s being kicked out so that you can make her present without her seeing. The fact that you’re taking time to make something would really appeal to her.’ In a move so quick I didn’t see it, he had Isabelle lying almost on her front and he was straddling her thighs. I could see that he was massaging her back. When he had finished he had her returned to her back. He bent to whisper words that I couldn’t catch that may have made their way deep into her sub-conscious. “I’ll talk to them and see what they say” he said quietly. “It sounds like a good idea. See you in the morning.” I woke again to hear Edward waking Isabelle. “Come on love, it’s just on six. While you have your human minutes I’ll get you a snack and your meds.” I half opened my eyes to see him lift her and carry her to the bathroom. I just mumbled to myself and went back to sleep wondering if Isabelle knew how much she was loved. I walked into the living room and saw that Isabelle was sat in Edward’s lap, in an odd angle. “So I can support her back and shoulders to help prevent stiffness” Edward explained clearly reading the question in my mind. And I thought again how much he did to make Isabelle’s life so much more comfortable, seemingly without any effort on his part, almost as if it were natural. I looked at his face as he read my thoughts. Although he gave a wry smile, he didn’t indicate how much of an effort all this care was for him. ‘Did Isabelle know?’ I wondered. This time Edward did answer my question, with a shrug to indicate that he didn’t know either. “Yes, he is absolutely brilliant at knowing when and how to move me so I barely notice that he’s doing it. And his physiotherapy lessons are reaping real dividends for me” Isabelle joined in the conversation. “You’ll have to think about what you are going to do when you have finished your course” she looked at Edward. “I was wondering if I could go back to school after christmas. I know Alice would like it if I did.” “And how would you react to the gossip about me if it hasn’t all died down by christmas?” And that, I thought, was a very good question. From what I had seen I couldn’t imagine any scenario where Edward would ignore malicious gossip about Isabelle. “And you would hear all the comments because you’d pick them up in people’s thoughts as well as their words” she added. “That’s a good point. I’ll have to think about it. Esme suggested I look to see what other courses are available in Anchorage. She thinks I might find it a pleasant change to learn skills rather than just academic subjects.” “Hmm. It’s up to you, but as long as you could ignore all comments about me, you did the sulky teenager brilliantly before, and could pretend that I was nothing more than your teacher and your parents’ friend, I wouldn’t have a problem with you being there.” “We’ll see. Lizzie, what can I get you for your breakfast, or would you like to eat a little later?” “Coffee as soon as possible, please, black, one sugar. Food after I’ve woken up.” I watched as Edward stood and placed Isabelle on the settee without her seeming to move a muscle. A steaming mug of black coffee was soon in my hand. The aroma alone was enough to help me move into the land of the intelligent. “Did you two get all your talking about Jacuzzis done while I was away?” Edward asked. Isabelle laughed. It was still such surprise to me to hear it. “Some. Lizzie had a great idea that we could try later” she said. “After I’ve gone” I hastily put in. “Just let me know how it works out one day. Isabelle said that we were invited round to your family home. What time and how are we getting there?” “Noonish. Bella is driving you, I’m running so I’m not seen arriving with you.” That made me think of the hassles they had to go through to prevent knowledge of their relationship getting out. It must be hard for both of them. Edward grimaced to show he agreed. “How would you have met if Isabelle had arrived a year later, or you had already left school?” I wondered. “Carlisle would still have been my doctor. In many ways it would have been easier. I wouldn’t have had the fear of losing my job hanging over me which might have made us less careful. But we can’t really know, so we deal with what is.” After we had breakfasted Edward took me on a walk while Isabelle finished her lesson plans. “I spoke to Esme about your idea. She thinks it’s excellent. They can prepare a prefabricated building at the main house so that they are here as little as possible. Carlisle also said it was a good idea. All they have to do now is talk Rosalie into making any adjustments that need to be done to the power supply. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thank you.” “You move around. Why don’t your friends in Denali do so?” “They live near to Denali, but not in and don’t mingle so while glimpses are caught of them no one knows how many live there or is sure what they look like. I wouldn’t want to live like that. It must be so much harder to combat boredom. I think that’s why Irina took Laurent’s death so much to heart. He wasn’t her mate, but he alleviated her boredom so she liked to pretend he was. Since she was pretending to be his mate, she had to avenge his death or die trying. We take the death of a mate very seriously. It is a wound from which we cannot recover.” That was why Edward had to keep Isabelle safe. If she died, he died it was that simple. “Yes” he agreed. “And in answer to your earlier question, it is sometimes a hassle learning how best to help Bella, but once I have the information there is no hassle at all in carrying it out, provided Bella lets me of course.” “She does love and appreciate you. She’s just worried about being a burden to you; that you’ll get tired of having to look after her. But it has only been a few weeks, you’ve made great progress, it’ll come together after a while. You’ll just have to be patient.” “Patience is not one of my qualities. But being a macho, chauvinistic jerk does mean that I enjoy taking care of my woman. For some reason I have always felt very protective of Bella, even before I got to know and love her, and I feel about ten feet tall every time I do something that helps her.” “Then tell her.” I didn’t like Rosalie: she was mean. I remembered what Isabelle said about her being jealous of me. I had two children and would probably have grandchildren one day, things that Rosalie wanted but could never have. So I decided to pity her and let her know it. She did not like that! “I should have asked Angela if she wanted to come too. She would have liked to have seen you again, Alice” I said in a moment of silence. “But she would have seen that I’m exactly the same as I was twelve years ago.” “I know, but she was imprinted on by a pack member so she was told everything.” Embry’s relationship with Tanya meant that they all knew the details of the imprinting for the wolf pack. “But I thought she and Ben Cheyne would make a match of it” Edward said. “They broke up after they started college, just grew apart, I guess.” Then Edward asked how come I was told it all since Jake didn’t imprint on me. “I’m the Chief’s Wife. I have to know it all. If Jake were to die, I would be responsible for making sure that Charley and Clint know everything too. Charley and Clint are my two children” I added in explanation. “Isabelle was the first outsider to attend a Council meeting, I was the second when I got engaged to Jake. Angela doesn’t count as an outsider since she was imprinted on. Wouldn’t it be strange if Tanya ever decided to go?” It was nice that they could all laugh with me at that idea. Isabelle had guessed correctly, there was so much food that there was no way we would be able to eat it all. “Was Embry expected as well?” I asked innocently. Once more they showed that they had a sense of humour and laughed along with me. Other than Rosalie, I liked them all, especially Emmett. Why was it that the one I liked the most was mated with the one I didn’t like at all? Odd. Alice clearly had a friendship with Isabelle that went beyond the fact that Isabelle was living with her brother. It must have really hurt her too when they left Forks so suddenly. And what did it do to Jasper and why? I saw the way he watched Isabelle, almost as if he were expecting her to collapse at any moment and he had to be prepared to catch her. And Edward looked up with an arrested expression on his face as that thought flashed through my mind and he studied Jasper intently. “Jasper, you don’t need to worry, I’m listening to her heart beat all the time now” Edward clearly realised that I had got it exactly right. “What happened in Denali won’t happen again.” Jasper looked sheepish and apologised for being so obvious. Emmett teased Isabelle all the time. He asked how our experimentation went. At that all eyes went to Isabelle’s face in clear expectation. “Not so good Emmett” Isabelle began sadly. “Edward is definitely better in the Jacuzzi than Lizzie, and you know there’s more to a sex life than the bed.” There were looks of disappointed chagrin on most of the faces. “But I am open to suggestions Emmett and you did once wonder if Edward was doing it right so perhaps you should come and give us some lessons, practical of course, or maybe Edward and I could watch you and Rosalie.” Once again Emmett looked like a stuffed trout while Alice burst into laughter, Carlisle and Esme chuckled together and Edward buried his head into Isabelle’s hair to laugh. “That’s it!” Rosalie declared. “This joke has gone far enough. Emmett, you are clearly not going to get Bella to blush, in fact out of the two of you, you are the one who has come closest. Give it up. Jasper, you have won that bet. What does Emmett have to do?” “Ermm” and Jasper looked like he would blush if he could. “He has to do a strip tease in front of everyone, but we didn’t include guests” and he looked at me defiantly. “Right, well guess what Emmett’s doing the next time the family are all together. And what do you think the likelihood is of you winning the bet to get her to blush by easter?” Rosalie was still in charge of the conversation. And I have to admit I was starting to like her. “Judging by how she’s reacted so far to everything, not very good.” “And do you want to put yourself through the same as Emmett just to find out?” “Actually, no, not at all.” “Good, so what is your forfeit?” “I have to do the same” Jasper admitted so quietly that I struggled to hear while everyone else burst into loud guffaws of laughter. “Lovely, something to look forward to, a double act.” “Are you sure that I can’t watch? Are you including the Denalis in the family circle?” I asked. “I think we need a vote on that one, besides, Jake’s my brother, that makes you my sister, which makes you their sister” Isabelle said with a laugh. Everyone looked at Isabelle as if she were mad. “We decided to become blood siblings when we broke up so we cut our fingers and mingled our blood. Pretty unsanitary but we wanted to keep a connection.” I could see the vampires look at each other. “Sorry little sister but that doesn’t count” Emmett finally said. Isabelle had the deceptively simple look on her face that I knew meant that the other person had already lost the argument. They just didn’t know it yet. “Tell me Emmett, how did you all become siblings?” “That’s different. Carlisle brought us all into the family – he created us.” “Not Alice and Jasper. When were they considered part of the family?” Edward chuckled. He knew that the vampires were beaten. “She’s got you there Emmett. We referred to them as our brother and sister easily within five years of them joining us.” “And Jake has been my brother, by both our choices, for eleven years now. But I am interested, how will the vote go as to whether to include the Denalis as part of the wider family?” Rosalie once again took charge and asked everyone’s vote. Not surprisingly everyone bar Emmett and Jasper voted to include them in the showing. “Then you have an even wider audience to look forward to” Isabelle was once again all sweetness and light. “Embry is technically brother to all the pack, that includes their mates.” “Now that is it! That is too far! Emmett, the bets were just between us two; do you agree we both just forget them?” Jasper was sounding a little harassed. “Good idea Jazz. We have cancelled the bet” Emmett looked at everyone, especially Isabelle with smug relief. I started to feel sorry for the vampires – and wasn’t that a kick in the teeth? They had no idea what Isabelle had gone through really and how mentally tough and strong she was. Emmett had called her little sister, which was probably how he saw her twelve years ago. But she had changed, grown one heck of a lot in that time and I expect Isabelle thought of herself as his big sister. The poor sod was going to end up doing her bidding, he just didn’t know it.