Saturday, October 24, 2009


Bella took in a deep, ragged breath and tightened her hold on my hand.

"The nightmare is almost over, beautiful." I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to me. It had been twelve years since we had last seen Victoria. She had finally lost her last appeal, and we were sitting in the viewing area waiting to witness her execution. I noticed the DA and a few reporters were amongst the other witnesses in attendance.

Victoria stayed in the media spotlight throughout her imprisonment. She was the first woman on death row in the state of Washington. There was a huge debate over the option of hanging or lethal injection. Victoria wouldn't commit to one or the other. Human rights activists argued that capital punishment was wrong and that hanging was an inhumane form of execution. Victim's rights groups vehemently defended the practice of capital punishment. Victoria's case was their favorite one to argue. Of course she played to the attention and granted any interview that was requested.

Tommy and Bayleigh sat in the seats behind us. Tommy gave Bella a reassuring pat on her shoulder before he settled next to Bayleigh, rubbing her pregnant belly. Their first child was due in October.

Tommy and Bayleigh's connection was unbreakable after Victoria was arrested. Bayleigh worked her way through college waiting tables. She and Tommy attended the University of Washington together. Tommy received a full academic scholarship. She graduated with a teaching degree. Tommy received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history. They were married after graduation and started teaching at Forks High School afterwards.

"Is Drew coming?" Tommy asked.

"Yeah. She should've been here like ten minutes ago." Bella glanced at her watch, then at the door with a worried look on her face.

"Don't worry, love. She'll show up. She needs this as much as you." Bella hesitantly nodded her head and sighed.

Drew and Bella grew closer after Victoria's trial. They bonded over the loss each had suffered at the hands of James and Victoria. Drew had no family left and fit seamlessly into our combined family. She was able to live off the investments her parents had made and the life insurance they had purchased, which enabled her to spend her time healing. She attended extensive therapy over the past twelve years. It took her three years to feel safe enough to leave the mental hospital.

Drew moved into an apartment that was ten minutes from our home. It took about five years for her to finally be comfortable living in the real world. For the last four years, she had been spending her time volunteering with victim advocates groups and being a "sponsor" for victims of violent crimes. She had been dating one of her fellow volunteers named David for the past two years. We were expecting him to propose to her any day now.

"I'm so sorry I'm late," Drew said breathlessly as she sat next to Bella.

"You're not that late. We still have about ten minutes before they start." Bella grabbed Drew's hand and squeezed it.

"Who has the kids?"

"Carlisle and Esme took the kids for the week. They took them to Disneyland." Bella rolled her eyes. My parents loved to spoil their only grandchildren. Rosalie and Emmett had been married for five years and had no luck conceiving yet. Alice and Jasper were set to be married at Christmas. Esme was looking forward to the arrival of Tommy and Bayleigh's baby.

Bella and I truly had a blessed life. I sailed through college and medical school and received a great residency position at Legacy Emmanuel Medical Center, the same hospital where Carlisle worked. I specialized in obstetrics/gynecology and was offered a position in a prestigious private practice that was housed in the hospital. After two years I had a respectable amount of patients that was growing every month.

We lived in Portland with our children. We were blessed with a baby girl, Elizabeth Grace, five years ago. She stole my heart immediately and became Daddy's little girl. I couldn’t deny the precious child with her mother's eyes and my bronze-colored hair. Elizabeth was excited to become a big sister. Charles Thomas graced us with his presence two years ago. He looked exactly like his Grandpa Charlie and the entire family called him CJ, short for Charlie Jr. We adored our children and couldn't wait to have more.

"Bells, Dad said he would call you next week. He and Anne took a trip down to Phoenix. He felt it was appropriate for someone to visit Mom's grave this weekend." Tommy had a sad look on his face as he talked about his mother.

"I'm glad he went. I want to take a trip soon too."

Charlie started dating Anne, the receptionist at the station, about three years ago. They fell in love after their first date and ran off to Vegas to elope. They were a great match. She loved to watch sports, play poker, and fish. It was a match made in heaven.

The curtain blocking the view of the execution room slowly pulled back revealing Victoria strapped to a gurney. She was surrounded by a few medical professionals, two prison guards, and the warden. The guards stood stiffly at the door while the medical staff scurried around the room preparing Victoria for the lethal injection she was about to receive. Victoria never chose which method of execution she preferred. In that situation, the state decides on lethal injection for the condemned prisoner.

The warden stepped in front of the window and cleared his throat. "We will begin in a few minutes. Once the injection is administered it will take no more than ten minutes for the fatal dose of drugs to take effect. The prisoner will first be injected with sodium thiopental, which will render her unconscious. The next drug she will receive is pancuronium which will paralyze her. The final drug administered will be potassium chloride which will cause death by cardiac arrest. The first two drugs will ensure that she feels no pain and passes peacefully."

Bella took in a weary breath. "What's wrong, beautiful?"

"It just amazes me that someone who treated all of her victims so cruelly gets to die such a peaceful death."

"I know. It doesn't seem fair," I responded.

"No, it doesn't seem fair, but at the same time I don't think I could bear being responsible for a cruel death for anyone. Yes, the things she did were horrible, but I think we should still be compassionate human beings when it comes to ending another human life."

My wife continued to amaze me. I was in awe that she could show such compassion for a woman who took so much away from her. I squeezed her hand and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. "You never cease to amaze me. I love you so much."

Bella blushed and laid her head on my shoulder. "I love you too."

The warden stepped next to Victoria and began the proceedings. "Victoria Anderson, in accordance with the laws set forth by the state of Washington, you have been sentenced to death for your participation in the kidnapping, torturing, and killing of the Sinclair family. Do you have any final words before we proceed?"

Victoria got a wild gleam in her eyes. "James, I love you, baby. See you in a few minutes."

Bella lowered her head and shook it in disgust.

The warden gave a quick nod to the doctor in charge of the administration of the drugs and the execution began. The first drug was administered, and her eyes slowly fluttered closed within thirty seconds. The second drug was then administered, and her breaths slowly stopped due to the paralysis of her diaphragm. The final drug was administered, and her heart monitor slowly flat lined. Seven minutes after the first drug was injected, the doctor pronounced Victoria Anderson dead. I looked to my left and saw both Bella and Drew let out sighs of relief and embrace each other in a comforting hug.

The nightmare officially ended with the final beat of Victoria's heart. Our lives had already been on the path to a great future, but now we were able to move forward with no ghosts to haunt us.

I pulled Bella into my arms and reveled in the realization that I could face anything life threw my way knowing that this amazing woman loved me.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chapter 1

I stayed with Bella in the hospital and held her all night. I refused to sleep. I was terrified I would wake up and she would be gone. That it would have all been a dream and I wouldn’t have made it in time to save her from James.

Those few hours she was missing were pure hell. My heart ached continually the whole time we were separated. The worst possible scenarios kept running through my mind. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had been too late. I couldn’t live without the angel sleeping in my arms. I wasn’t living before I met her. I was merely existing. I put on a good show for my family and friends, but they had no idea how miserable I truly was.

My parents were killed in a car accident when I was eight. I was in the car and the only survivor of the accident. A junkie was in need of a fix and decided to rob a convenience store to get the money. He was running from the cops when he ran a red light and hit our car head on. I didn’t understand why they were dead and I wasn’t. I literally walked away without a scratch. Everyone in the ER was calling it a miracle. I saw it as a curse.

Carlisle was finishing up his shift when he heard the news of the accident and the boy who miraculously survived. I was curled up in a ball on the exam table when he walked in. I had refused to respond to anyone who attempted to talk to me. Something about Carlisle, though, put me at ease. I wouldn’t talk to him, but I did latch on to his arm and refused to let go.

Esme was unable to have children; therefore, she and Carlisle had gone through the process and were approved foster parents with the state of Oregon. Carlisle had made a few phone calls, and they were appointed my emergency foster parents. I had no other family, so Carlisle and Esme adopted me.

I went through the motions of day to day life, but I was suffering in silence. I was only content when I would immerse myself into my music. I spent every free hour at my piano. I composed several songs reflecting my anger, sorrow, and loss.

I had never truly been happy after my parents died. I learned fast what to say and how to act to make people not worry about me. Esme was never fooled. She understood my misery and never pushed for anything, and I loved her even more for it.

Esme was the person who noticed the changes Bella caused in me. I hadn’t even noticed how Bella affected me until Esme pointed it out. She said I was more responsive and actually initiated conversations with everyone, but the biggest change was the sparkle in my eyes.

I was in the middle of remembering when Bella’s voice brought me back to the present. She was mumbling in her sleep again. I was afraid she would have nightmares, but I was pleasantly surprised to find her dreaming of our future again. My heart swelled with the love I had for the amazing woman in my arms.

I was almost too late tonight. I couldn’t hold back the rage I felt when I saw that monster on top of my angel, molesting her. I had never felt rage like that before. My love for Bella was so intense that I would do anything to protect her. If she hadn’t stopped me, I would’ve killed him.

Bella started to stir and slowly opened her beautiful eyes. I smiled at her and stoked her cheek.

“Good morning, beautiful. Did you sleep well?”

She stretched and yawned. “Most definitely. Of course I always sleep best in your arms. Can I get out of here yet?”

“A doctor should be in here soon and let us know when you get to leave.” I kissed her forehead and gently stroked her hair.

“I can’t wait to get out of here and put this nightmare behind us.” I couldn’t agree with her more. I was ready for us to have a normal life.

I was surprised when my father was the doctor to check on Bella. “Morning, Dad.”

“Edward, Bella. How was your night?”

“I haven’t slept that good in years,” Bella said.

My father flipped through Bella’s chart and made a few notes. “Everything looks good. I think you will be able to get out of here before lunch. I want you to take it easy today and tomorrow. Bed rest both days. Monday you can return to classes and your normal routine. Your wrist will remain in the cast for about four weeks. Your leg will take a little longer, probably six weeks. Edward or Alice can help you bag your casts for bathing. Do you have any questions?”

Bella shook her head no. “I’ve broken several bones before. I’m an old pro at bagging a cast,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Very well then. I will finish up your release papers. You can go ahead and change.” Carlisle handed me a small duffle bag. “Alice ran home last night and dropped this off at the nurse’s station. She thought both of you would like a change of clothes. Remember, take it easy today and tomorrow.”

My dad patted Bella’s leg and headed to his office to finish her paper work. We quickly cleaned up and changed clothes. The nurse showed up with Bella’s release papers about ten minutes before noon. I took Bella back to the dorm and got her settled into our bed. It was nice not to have to worry if James was watching us. This was the first time we were truly alone in our room.

“Edward, could you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What do you need, love?” I knelt on the floor beside the bed and stroked her cheek with my thumb.

“James said one of the tacks on my Beauty and the Beast poster is a camera. Could you please replace all of them? I don’t want any reminders of him around here.” She shuddered.

“Your wish, my command,” I replied, smirking.

She breathed a sigh of relief when I had disposed of all of the tacks. It was so nice to realize that there were no more cameras tracking our every move.

I spent all day tending to Bella’s every need. I refused to let her do anything. The only time she left the bed was to go to the bathroom. Around nine o’clock I finally relaxed and crawled into bed with Bella. I had missed having her wrapped in my arms. I had refused to cuddle with Bella today. I knew she needed rest, and if we cuddled I wouldn‘t have been able to control my actions.

Bella started smiling while staring off into space. “What are you thinking about that has you smiling like that?” I asked and tightened my hold on her.

“Just earlier when you refused to hold me.” I knew exactly what put that smile on her face.

I smirked and started placing butterfly kisses all over Bella’s face. My lips found their way to hers and I captured her lips in a passionate kiss. She licked my bottom lip, begging for me to open my mouth to her. I obliged and greedily sought her tongue with mine. Our tongues tangled until we had to separate to breathe.

I continued to place kisses down her neck until I reached the collar of her shirt. I concentrated on the spot just above her collar while I slowly raised the hem of her shirt over her head and threw it on the floor. I couldn’t help but gasp at the sight of her bare breasts. It had been too long since I’d laid my eyes upon their magnificence. A small smirk graced her lips at my gasp. I kissed my way down to her right breast. I slowly circled her nipple with my tongue before taking it into my mouth. My left hand rolled and pinched the nipple of her left breast while I lavished her right one with my mouth. She moaned and writhed at my ministrations.

“Bella, your moans are the most glorious sound I’ve ever heard.”

She was so lost in sensation that she couldn’t respond. I kissed my way down her flat stomach and ended at the top of her midnight blue boy shorts. I slowly dragged her panties down her legs and threw them on the floor with her shirt. She lay completely bare before me. I was in heaven.

I kissed my way up her right leg and massaged her left leg as I moved up. I lightly nipped at her inner thigh before I spread her legs further apart. I glanced up at Bella and was stunned by the beauty of her face displaying nothing but pure pleasure and passion. I gave her my crooked grin and slowly ran my tongue from her dripping entrance to her swollen clit. A loud moan escaped her lips.

I pulled her nub into my mouth and slowly sucked and nipped it. I slid two fingers into her depths and was rewarded with another loud moan. I started pumping my fingers in and out of her slowly but picked up my pace with each new moan. Bella started thrusting her hips in time with my fingers. I added a third finger and continued pumping faster. I curved my fingers looking for that sweet spot that I knew would bring her over the edge. I knew the moment I found it. She let out a loud cry and fisted the sheets. I continued to stroke the spot while I continued stroking her clit with my tongue. I gently bit down, and she came violently. I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of her orgasm. I greedily lapped up all of her juices. She tasted so sweet.

I kissed my way back up her body and finally claimed her mouth once again. My cock twitched when I realized that she was tasting herself when I kissed her. She seemed to be turned on by it.

“You taste so sweet, love. I don’t think I could ever find anything that compares.”

“This isn’t very fair. I’m completely naked and you are fully clothed,” she pouted.

I quickly pulled my shirt off and threw it into the growing pile of clothing on the floor. I teased Bella by slowly unbuttoning my pants and lowering my zipper. I could see the frustration in her eyes. I stood up and continued the slow removal of my pants and boxers. She let out a sigh of frustration at my teasing. I smirked at her and finally stood before her completely naked.

“Bout damn time. Now get over here,” she demanded.

“As you wish.”

I lay next to her and kissed her slowly. She fisted her hand into my hair and pulled me closer to her. I rolled on top of her, supporting myself with my arms. She grabbed my painfully hard erection in her good hand and started stoking me slowly. It was such sweet torture.

“Bella,” I moaned.

“Edward, I love you. I need you, now.”

I grabbed her hand and placed it above her head. I laced my fingers through hers while I settled myself between her legs. I looked deep into her eyes as I slowly pushed into her warmth. We both groaned when I was fully sheathed inside her. I was home. I moved in and out of her at a torturously slow pace. The feeling of our connection was so wonderful that I wanted to prolong it as long as I could. She let out a frustrated sigh.

“Edward, please move faster. I need more.” Bella raised her hips to meet my thrusts. I increased my pace, and we found a wonderful rhythm. I gently squeezed her hand then ran my hand down her body and cupped her ass and pulled her closer to me. I was getting so close, and I wanted Bella to come with me.

I kissed my way up her neck and to her ear and softly whispered, “Come with me, love.” I gently sucked and nipped the spot just behind her ear. That was all it took to push her over the edge. Her muscles clamped down on me and I started to pulse inside her. We were both crying each other’s name. I finally came back down from my high and dropped my head onto her chest.

“I love you so much, Bella.” I kissed her tenderly.

“I love you too.”

We curled up under the covers together and drifted off into a blissful sleep.


My eyes popped open and I was screaming, but no sound was coming out. I finally calmed down and realized I was still in bed with Bella. She was curled up on her side with her back to me. I glanced at the clock and let out a frustrated sigh. It was only 12:15. I hadn’t even been asleep for two hours. There was no way I could get back to sleep after that nightmare.

In my dream I got to Bella too late. I ran into the room and found Bella screaming and James pumping in her hard. I kicked him off of her and started beating him like I had done earlier. Bella curled into a ball, screaming and crying. James was finally unconscious, so I ran to tend to Bella. She screamed louder when I touched her. She cringed away from my touch. I was shattered.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” She screamed over and over. I was so busy trying to calm Bella down that I wasn’t paying attention to James. He threw me across the room. I looked up in time to see him choking Bella with a piano wire. I grabbed a screw driver that was covered in blood and thrust it into James over and over. I threw him away from Bella and pulled her into my arms. I realized she wasn’t breathing and started screaming. That was when I woke up.

I was covered in sweat and couldn’t stop shaking. I was terrified to close my eyes again. I don’t know what image was worse, James raping my angel or her holding her dead body in my arms. Both were equally horrifying. Thank God I did make it in time to save her from either fate. I pulled Bella close to me and held her tight the rest of the night.

The next morning, Bella turned over in my arms and started placing kisses on my chest and up my neck. I stroked her hair while she continued her path up to my lips. I gladly kissed her back fervently when she reached my lips.

She pulled away and we were both panting for air.

“Good morning, love,” I chuckled.

“Morning,” she said smiling.

“Sleep well?” I questioned.

“Each night my sleep gets better and better. I feel like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders with James gone. Honestly, I don’t think I would sleep as well if you weren’t here,” she said sheepishly.

I smiled at her and kissed the tip of her nose. We were lying in bed wrapped in each other’s arms when Alice bounced into the room.

“I’m so sorry. I forgot I have to knock and make sure you two are decent before I walk in.”

Luckily we were fully concealed under the comforter so we didn’t put on a show for my sister. I rolled onto my back and pulled Bella into my side.

“What did you need, Ali?”

“I wanted to see if Bella felt like going shopping. I haven’t been since Black Friday and I’m dying to go.”

“I hate to burst your bubble, but Bella is on bed rest today. Doctor’s orders.” I could feel Bella’s relief at the thought of missing a shopping trip with Alice.

I groaned when I heard Emmett laughing in the doorway.

“Looking at both of you, I would say there wasn’t much bed rest going on last night. I wonder what the good doctor would say about your form of rest,” Emmett smirked.

“Bella is just fine, Emmett. Would you like my foot up your ass?”

“My virginal ass puckers at the thought of anything being inserted,” he shuddered. “Don’t worry. I won’t say anything to Dad about little Eddie taking care of Bella.”

I could feel the heat from Bella’s blush at my brother’s teasing. “Thanks a lot, Em,” I said sarcastically. “Would you both please give us about ten minutes?”

“Honestly, I wouldn’t have a problem seeing Bella naked, but the thought of seeing you naked just takes away the fun of it all.” Emmett was laughing as he walked into Alice’s room. Alice followed him and closed our door.

I looked down and saw the last remnants of Bella’s blush from Emmett’s comment about seeing her naked.

“Sorry about that, love.” I kissed the top of her head.

“Don’t worry about it. I know it’s just Emmett teasing. I need to get used to it,” she said, shrugging.

We spent the day watching movies with everyone. Bella and I curled up together on the bed while the other two couples made comfy spots on the floor with pillows and blankets. It was nice to spend the day with my family and Bella and not worry about a psycho ruining it.

I had the same dream that night. I was thankful I hadn’t screamed out loud each time I woke up. I didn’t need Bella to wake up and worry about my nightmares. She had been sleeping so soundly each night. I didn’t want to be the one to disturb it. I finally relaxed again and drifted off to sleep for a second time. The nightmare woke me again. I wondered how long this nightmare would haunt me.

I spent the rest of the night holding Bella, stroking her hair and placing light kisses on her face. Classes started back in the morning, and I was hoping it would be enough of a distraction to stop the nightmares. If the nightmares didn’t stop by the time finals were done, I would talk to Dad about it.

My thoughts drifted to Bella’s dream. She seemed to be having the dream of our wedding and kids every night. I loved hearing her talk in her sleep while she dreamed. I was ready to start making her dream come true. I needed to get my mother’s jewelry box from Esme. I needed to be sneaky and find out Bella’s ring size. I was more worried about when and where to ask her to marry me. I wanted it to be perfect.

Bella sighed in her sleep and mumbled, “Mrs. Edward Cullen.” My heart swelled.

I kissed her forehead and whispered in her ear, “I promise you will be Mrs. Edward Cullen as soon as possible.”

Chapter 2

Sunday night was complete torture. I only got two hours of sleep before my dreams started. Tonight’s dream was different. I was in the car with my parents, but I wasn’t the terrified eight year old. I was nineteen. Every time I dreamed about the accident, I would simply just relive it. My mom was turned around in the front seat and talking about Bella.

“Edward, she is such a lovely girl. Please tell me you still have my ring and are planning to give it to her.”

“I love her so much, Mom. Esme has been keeping your ring safe for me. I will be giving it to Bella over Christmas break.”

“I’m so glad the Cullens found you. I couldn’t have picked a better man and woman to raise you. We are so proud of you, son. You have grown up to be a fine young man.” A tear rolled down my mother’s cheek.

I was leaning in to hug my mother when my dream turned into a nightmare. My father turned around to look at me but I was not facing Edward Masen. James was in my father’s place. “Hello, Edward. You may have saved Bella, but you were never able to save your mother. Now I get to spend eternity torturing her.”

I wanted to jump in the front seat and protect my mother from James, but I couldn’t. The seatbelts in the backseat wrapped around me. I struggled to get free. It was no use. I had to sit there and watch James torture my mother. I was screaming and crying for him to leave her alone. James pulled a red scarf from his pocket and dangled it in front of my face before he placed it over my mother’s eyes. I let out a primal scream and sat up. I was drenched in sweat and my heart was pounding.

“Edward, what’s wrong?” Bella was clearly shaken.

“Nothing, love. Go back to sleep.” I kissed her forehead and wrapped her in my arms.

“I’m not stupid, Edward. You are soaked in sweat and you were screaming. What were you dreaming about?” Bella slowly stroked my cheek.

“It was nothing. Please go back to sleep.” Bella had seemed so serene the past few days. I didn’t want to upset her with my nightmares.

“Don’t shut me out, Edward. I know you haven’t been sleeping. The circles under your eyes get darker every day. Did you forget that I lived with little sleep for three years? I know all the signs. Please talk to me. I want to help.” I melted when I looked into her eyes. She was so sincere. How could I burden my angel with my fears?

“Bella, you don’t need to worry about me. It was just a silly dream. I will be fine.” I gently kissed her lips and started humming her song.

“No. I’m not going back to sleep. You are going to talk to me. Damnit, Edward, I love you and refuse to let you do this.” I forgot how stubborn Bella could be.

“Bella, it’s late. There really isn’t time to get into my dreams.”

“I don’t care about how late it is. I want to know what is bothering you. Please, let me help.” Bella stuck her bottom lip out and gave me her best Cullen pout. She was absolutely adorable.

“How about a compromise? We go back to sleep and then tomorrow after classes I’ll tell you all about my dream. Will that work?”

“I guess so. I won’t forget. Tomorrow after classes you are all mine, and you will tell me everything.”

I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. I held Bella in my arms and thought about my dream. I had been missing my mom so much since Bella came into my life. I knew my mother would’ve loved her. My dream had been unbelievable until James showed up. I should’ve known that even in death he would find a way to make my life miserable.

I hadn’t had nightmares about my parents’ death since I was ten. That was when I learned to shut myself off from everyone. I found it the easiest way to deal with my loss and stop the nightmares. I had slowly opened myself up to Bella after I met her. The nightmares had stayed away until now.

I wondered how long it would take both of us to fully recover from all of the damage James had caused. I knew as long as I had Bella by my side I would get past it. I just needed time to work it all out. I just hoped Bella could hang in there until then.

The alarm finally went off, and Bella reached over to shut it off. She turned back into my arms and snuggled into my neck.

“Did you get any sleep last night after your nightmare?” she asked between kisses.

“No, love. Don’t worry. I’ll be okay. Hopefully tonight will be better.” I gently kissed her lips and dragged her out of bed.

I still insisted on escorting her to her classes. I knew James was gone, but I couldn’t shake the bad feeling I was having. It was the same feeling I had the day Bella left to meet James. There was no way in hell that I was going to ignore that feeling again. I was so thankful that my classes were all cut short. My professors quickly went over a few things that would be included on the final and let us go. Luckily, all of my professors didn’t want to see us until the day of the final.

I was headed across campus to wait for Bella when I that bad feeling became unbearable. I started running toward her class. I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I finally reached the building her class was in. Bella was on the ground cradling her left arm, and some guy was hovering over her. I pushed my legs to run faster. I had to get to Bella.

“What the hell is going on?” I yelled as I got closer. Bella looked at me and had a few tears rolling down her cheek.

I finally reached Bella and shoved the guy out of the way. “What did you do to my girlfriend?”

He put his hands up palms facing me to show he was backing off. “Look man, I wasn’t watching where I was going and accidentally ran into her. I was trying to help her up when you ran over here and went all caveman on me.”

“Maybe you should watch where you’re going next time,” I spat.

He looked at Bella, “I’m really sorry I knocked you down. Obviously Prince Charming here will make sure you’re okay.”

“Edward, I’m fine. I just scraped my elbow.” I gathered Bella’s books and put them back in her bag. I put it over my shoulder and helped her up. She was all right; her elbow was just scraped. I pulled her into a tight hug.

“I’m sorry, Bella. I just panicked when I saw you on the ground crying and that guy standing over you.”

She sighed. “Edward, you need to calm down. Not every guy is James. They don’t all want to rape and kill me.”

“I know. It’s going to take me a while to not panic when I see something like that. Please be patient with me, love.” I placed a quick kiss on her forehead and led her to our dorm.

I was so nervous when we closed the door to our room. I was dreading the inevitable conversation that was creeping up on me. We had pizza delivered. Once we finished eating, Bella sat on the bed and pulled me down next to her. She grabbed both my hands and started the dreaded talk.

“Edward, please tell me about your nightmares. It kills me to see you in such pain.” She kissed both of my hands.

I sighed and looked into her eyes. “Do you remember me telling you that I was adopted?”

“Yes. You never told me anything about why,” she whispered.

I told Bella about the accident that claimed my parents’ lives. She stayed quiet through my story, and I noticed a few tears escape from her eyes. She smiled when I mentioned Carlisle visiting me in the ER. She truly loved my family. I squeezed her hands and gave her a sad smile when I finished telling her about shutting myself off to the world.

“Edward, please don’t ever shut me out like that. I couldn’t handle it if you ever did.”

“I don’t think I ever could. You are my reason for living. As long as you are in my life, I have no reason to shut down.” I gave her a tender kiss.

“Can you tell me about your nightmares now?”

She listened intently as I told her how I had been dreaming the last few nights about not getting to her in time. She gasped. I could see the sadness in her eyes. “I’m so sorry you’ve been dreaming about what could’ve happened that horrible night.”

“Last night’s dream was different. I dreamed in was in the car with parents the night of the accident, except I wasn’t that naïve eight year old. I was nineteen, and my mom was talking to me about you. I was overjoyed. I’ve been missing my mom since you stumbled into my life. I kept wishing she was here so I could tell her all about the wonderful woman who has captured my heart.” I kissed her hand and continued. “My mom said she really liked you and hoped I would ask you to marry me. Then she told me how pleased she was with Carlisle and Esme. She was proud of the man I had become.” I couldn’t stop the tears that started to fall.

Bella gently wiped my tears away and leaned her forehead against mine. “Edward, I’m sure she’s been watching you from heaven and meant every word she said in your dream. She should be proud of you. Not just anyone would have saved me the way you did.”

“I’m not done with my dream. I wish my dream would have ended there.” I shuddered as I thought about the end of my dream.

Bella was speechless when I told her about James and how he tortured my mother. She was shaking when I told her how I was bound to the seat by the seatbelts. She pulled me close to her and held me with all the strength she possessed. She started sobbing.

“It’s okay, love. I woke up when he put a red scarf over my mother’s eyes. I would rather dream of the accident every night the rest of my life than see James hurt my mother again.”

“Oh, Edward,” she sobbed. “I’m so sorry my screwed up life has done this to you.”

“Shh, Bella. Please don’t. This is why I didn’t want to tell you. It’s not your fault. This is just my screwed up head’s way of dealing with what happened.” I rubbed her back trying to soothe her.

“I ruin everyone’s life I touch. Edward, you should run away from me as fast as you can before I can make your life worse,” she sniffed.

“I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. You haven’t ruined my life. You actually saved it. I would still be a lifeless zombie if you hadn’t come into my life. Alice, Esme, and Emmett would kill me if I ever let you get away from me.” I held her tighter.

“I guess I can’t let them plot your demise. Besides, I kinda like having you around at night,” she smirked.

That smirk told me we were done with the serious conversation. We enjoyed the rest of the evening just cuddling and talking about our finals. I was anxious to get past finals and finally have Bella back at my house. We always seemed to forget our worries at home. We finally turned off the lights and attempted to sleep around ten. I said a silent prayer that the dreams would stop before I finally drifted into unconsciousness.

My eyes shot open and I was sweating again. I glanced at the clock and saw it was three o’clock. I was surprised to get that much sleep. My dream started with James hurting Bella and slowly drifted into the night of the accident that killed my parents. I was thankful that I didn’t have to see James kill Bella or my mother. It would’ve been unbearable to see both of them dead.

Bella didn’t know I was awake when the alarm went off. I kept my eyes closed. I didn’t want her to worry. I think our talk did help. I got more sleep last night than I had in a week. I loved the beautiful smile that graced her face when I opened my eyes. She seemed relieved at the thought of me actually getting some sleep. I would do my best to keep that smile in place.

I didn’t have any classes, so I went to the gym with Emmett and Jasper while Bella attended hers. I missed just hanging with the guys. We always seemed to drift apart when soccer season was over. We were taking turns spotting each other when the guys ambushed me.

“So, Eddie, I think it is time we have a serious talk about safe sex.”

“Em, you’re a little late. Dad had that talk with me about six years ago,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Yeah, but you weren’t having sex then. I don’t think the world is ready to have little Eddies and Bellas running around.”

“Don’t worry, Em. We’re covered. Trust me; the last thing I want right now is a kid. I love Bella, but neither one of us is ready for that.”

“How is she doing?” Jasper asked.

“She’s doing great. She sleeps so peacefully, and she’s having pleasant dreams. I think James dying was the best thing that could’ve happened to her.”

“Then what’s wrong? Something isn’t quite right with you, man. I can’t put my finger on it, but something is off.” I forgot how perceptive Jasper could be. I guess Emmett’s discussion was meant to distract me so I would talk.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I lied. They didn’t need to worry about me. It was bad enough Bella knew. I needed to change the subject. “So, you guys staying in the dorm next semester?”

Jasper gave me a frustrated look but understood that I wouldn’t be talking anytime soon. “We were thinking about getting an apartment. I am so tired of dorm life,” Emmett sighed.

“Yeah, I plan on talking with the head of housing. I heard that there is an apartment opening up next semester in the Birchwood Apartments. Hopefully he’ll be sympathetic to our situation. I don’t think I can come back to the dorms after Christmas.” I shuddered at the thought.

“I don’t blame you, man. Bella has been through enough these past few months. I think she needs a change of scenery next semester to help her heal.” Jasper’s comments made me feel better about wanting to get Bella out of the dorms. I hadn’t talked to her yet, but I really didn’t see her having a problem with the change. So, you two gonna get an apartment together, or are you getting something with the girls?”

“We’re not really sure yet. We’re planning on talking with the girls tonight. I know they can’t bear the thought of being in the dorms either. Especially Rose. She still has nightmares about Tanya’s death. I hope getting away from the dorm will help stop them.” Emmett actually looked helpless. I had never seen him look so lost. I didn’t realize how much he truly loved Rose until that moment.

“Em, she doesn’t have nightmares about you anymore, so I’m sure she’ll get over it,” I teased. He smacked me on my arm, and we continued our workout. I missed hanging with the guys. I still missed Bella, but I realized that guy time was important. We finished up at the gym and agreed to set up a time once a week to work out and do guy things.

The rest of the week dragged. I spent most of the days studying for finals and the nights holding Bella and fighting off sleep. I couldn’t bear the thought of closing my eyes and seeing James again. If he wasn’t hurting Bella, then he was hurting my mother. I couldn’t take it anymore. I usually stayed awake by composing in my head. I had completed my third masterpiece by Thursday night. I couldn’t wait to get home and get the compositions down on paper.

I caught Bella staring at me disapprovingly on Friday morning. I know the circles under my eyes were getting worse. I was getting more irritable as well. I was trying my best to hold on until we left the dorm. I was hoping that being back home would stop the nightmares and I would be able to sleep.

Bella’s phone started ringing and I recognized Tommy’s ringtone.

“Hey, little brother,” she answered cheerily.

“Yeah, Edward is here.” There was a pause. “Sure, hang on a sec.” Bella put the phone on speaker. “Go ahead. You’re on speaker.”

“Would you guys be able to come to Forks for just a day? I want you guys to meet my new girlfriend.” I thought Tommy was dating some girl named Bitt.

“I thought Bitt was your girlfriend,” Bella stated, confused.

“Oh. Sorry, I forgot you didn’t know. Bitt and I are better off as friends. The funny thing is we were both feeling the same way. She is a phenomenal kisser, but unfortunately kissing alone isn’t enough to base a relationship on. We’re still best friends.” I was very impressed with Tommy. Most guys would ignore that the relationship wasn’t working just to see how far the girl would go with him.

“I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you and Bitt. I really like her,” Bella said.

“Don’t worry, sis. She’ll still be around. She actually introduced me to Drew.”

“So, your new girlfriend is Drew?” Bella asked.


“Tommy, our last final is on Tuesday morning, so we could be in Forks by five. How ‘bout we all go out to eat?” I needed to get Bella to class, so I decided to bring the call to a close.

“That would be great. Drew gets out of class at four, so we could meet her at Bella Italia around seven for dinner,” Tommy said.

“Where does Drew go to school?” Bella sounded confused.

“Peninsula College in Port Angeles,” he answered proudly.

“Oh. I definitely want to meet her. We’ll be there by five at the latest. I gotta head to class. Love ya, little brother.”

“Love ya too, sis. Later, Edward.”

“See ya, Tommy.” We hung up and rushed out the door to Bella’s class.

I needed to come up with a way to get some sleep this weekend. There was no way I would be able to concentrate on my finals if I kept dozing off, and the drive to Forks on Tuesday would be brutal if I was exhausted. It was time for me to call Carlisle and ask for help. I hated to do it. I would have to tell him everything in order for him to help me. I grudgingly grabbed my phone and dialed his number.

“Hello, Edward. Is Bella well?”

“Yeah, she’s actually perfect. We can’t wait to finish our exams and get away from here for a while. We’re taking a quick trip to Forks but should be home late Wednesday.”

“Esme can’t wait to have everyone back home. I know you don’t want to talk about your mother, so why don’t you tell me why you called,” Carlisle stated.

“Well, I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I was hoping you would be able to help me out a little,” I said meekly.

“Why haven’t you been sleeping? I can’t just write you a script because you say you need it.”

“I know. I’ve been getting only two hours of sleep each night due to nightmares. I don’t have time to deal with them properly until after finals. I promise once we get home from Forks I’ll make an appointment with Dr. Young. Please, just help me out until I can do that,” I begged.

“Edward, I’m happy to see you admitting your weakness. I remember a few years ago you would have denied having any problems until we forced you to. I will call you in a script that will get you through Wednesday night. Go ahead and call Dr. Young’s office and set up an appointment for next week. Please tell Bella what is going on. I’m sure she will want to accompany you to Dr. Young’s office and wait through your appointment.”

“Bella already knows everything. There was no way to hide it from her when I woke her up screaming. She handled it all pretty well. Knowing her, she’ll be happy that I’m going to make an appointment with my therapist.”

“I’m glad to hear that you are being so open with Bella. That is the basis for a strong relationship. I need to get back to work. Good luck on your exams and give Bella a hug for Esme and me.”

“Thanks for your help, Dad. Any sleep I can get will make the drive to and from Forks a lot safer for us.” I ended the call and made an appointment at Dr. Young’s office for next Thursday.

I was waiting at the pharmacy and starting thinking about our night in Forks. Tommy sounded really happy to introduce his new girlfriend to Bella. I remember feeling like that the first time we brought Bella home. She wasn’t mine at the time, but I was so excited for Mom and Dad to meet her. I wondered if Charlie had met Drew yet.

Thinking of Charlie made me realize that this impromptu trip to Forks would work out better than I could’ve imagined. I would get the chance to talk to Charlie face to face and prepare him for my proposal to Bella. There was no way in hell I wasn’t going to hold up my end of the deal with him. The thought of Charlie pointing a loaded gun at me terrified me.

I grabbed my prescription and hurried back to campus to pick Bella up from her last class of the day. I needed to let her know about my conversation with Carlisle. There needed to be no secrets between us. I needed her full support to overcome my nightmares and go back to a normal life. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her walk out of her class.

We embraced quickly and headed to the dining hall to grab a quick bite to go. I agonized over how to tell Bella that I would be taking sleeping pills for the next week. I felt so weak relying on medication to sleep. My nerves jumped into overdrive when we stepped into our room. They were so bad that I picked over my food. Bella noticed me not eating.

“Edward, is something wrong? You’ve barely touched your dinner.” She rubbed soothing circles on my hand while she spoke.

“Actually, I need to talk to you about something. You know I haven’t been sleeping the past week.” She nodded her head yes. “Well, I called Carlisle today, and he called me in a prescription for sleeping pills. He only wrote them through Wednesday night. I have an appointment with my therapist on Thursday. I want to get past these nightmares and not be dependent on narcotics to rest.” I held my head down in shame.

Bella grabbed my face between both of her hands and forced me to look at her. “I’m so proud of you. I was worried you would let this eat away at you and slowly drift away from me. I couldn’t handle watching you deteriorate. I love you too much. So, did Dr. Young help you after your parents died?”

“No. I started seeing her when I turned sixteen. I was terrified to learn how to drive. I was afraid of being in an accident that would result in someone dying. I had no problem riding in a car, but the thought of driving freaked me out. I would be bumming rides or taking the bus everywhere if it hadn’t been for her.”

Bella pulled me into a tight hug. “I’m glad you told me about that. I want to know everything about you. Please don’t ever hold back.”

“I promise.”

I took a sleeping pill after I ate dinner. We spent the next hour studying for our finals. My head started getting foggy, and I knew the medication was starting to take effect. Bella and I quickly changed and cuddled under the covers. I fell asleep shortly after my head hit the pillow and slept dreamlessly all night.

Chapter 3

Friday night was the best night’s sleep I’d had in quite a while. I don’t think I moved at all after my head hit the pillow. Unfortunately, the rest of the weekend was not as restful. I continued to take the sedatives my father prescribed, but the dreams started back up on Saturday. The medication just allowed me a few extra hours of sleep before the nightmares started up.

We spent all day Saturday cramming for finals. Sunday we packed up the dorm room. Emmett and Jasper agreed to load up Bella’s truck and move everything to our house on Wednesday. Bella agreed that she did not want to return to this dorm for the spring semester. She still didn’t feel comfortable being alone anywhere in the building. She loved the idea of us getting an apartment. I couldn’t wait to meet with Mr. Weston, the head of housing, tomorrow.

Bella and I both had finals all day Monday. I was only able to walk her to her first class. It made me anxious to think I wouldn’t be able to see her until six that evening. We stopped just outside her class and I pulled her into a tight embrace and gave her a gentle kiss before she walked into the classroom. I sighed as I turned to leave the building. I couldn’t believe the conversation I heard as I approached the doors.

“Yeah, she’s the reason all those people were killed. I honestly don’t see what is so special about her. Someone said that guy was her psycho ex, and he went crazy when she screwed him and left him. Apparently all she wanted was sex, and the minute she got it she lost interest in him.” I didn’t recognize the two girls who were huddled in the corner talking about my angel.

“Wow, what a slut,” the other girl replied.

I was furious and couldn’t stop myself from jumping into their conversation. “Where the hell did you hear that load of shit?” I yelled.

The girls both jumped and stared at me frightened. “Everyone is talking about it,” the first girl whispered.

“I suggest you don’t listen to bullshit gossip. That guy was not her ex, and she never had sex with him. He was just a crazy stalker obsessed with her. She has to live with the guilt every day that those people died because she came to this school and he followed her. I would appreciate it if you would not spread anymore false information about my girlfriend.” I turned and headed toward my class, not giving them a chance to say anything. I vaguely heard both girls apologize before I turned the corner.

Finals were brutal. I was exhausted and having a hard time concentrating on the questions. I suffered through it and was relieved to turn in my last test for the day. I had one more final to face on Tuesday, and then I would be done for the semester. I hoped Bella was having an easier time with her tests than I was. I took longer than expected on my last test and had to run across campus to make it to my housing appointment on time.

I ran through the door with two minutes to spare. I informed the secretary who I was and sat down to wait. I laid my head back against the wall and slowly slid my eyes closed. I was so tired, and it felt wonderful just to close my eyes. I was starting to drift off to sleep when a whiny, high pitched voice startled me.

“Mr. Weston will see you now,” the secretary said.

I thanked her and walked into Mr. Weston’s office. I closed the door behind me and sat in one of the chairs in front of his desk.

“Mr. Cullen, how can I help you today?” Mr. Weston was a short, portly man. His brown hair was thinning to the point he had a terrible comb-over.

“Sir, I understand there will be an apartment open in Birchwood next semester, and I would like to obtain that apartment with Ms. Isabella Swan.”

“Is there a problem with your current dorms?” Was this guy serious? Did he have no clue what happened with James?

“So many of our friends were killed this past semester in and around that dorm. James stalked Bella in that dorm and there are bad memories around every corner for her.” I tried my best to sound forlorn.

“I didn’t think of it that way. I’m sure we could work something out to change Ms. Swan to another dorm.” Mr. Weston started searching through the housing database. “We have had several requests for housing changes out of the Old Dorm Block, but with Sitka House being delayed we have been denying most of them. Due to Ms. Swan’s circumstances, I believe we can fit her into a different room.”

“Ms. Swan and I can easily move into the open apartment, and you can have the spot in the other dorm for someone else.” I flashed Mr. Weston my best smile.

“Mr. Cullen, university policy strictly prohibits the cohabitation of male and female students in the same room or apartment.” Mr. Weston looked at me disapprovingly.

“I’m aware of the university’s policies. Ms. Swan and I are engaged to be married. If you cannot aid us in an apartment on campus, my family and the Hales will find housing off campus. Of course the expense of that would dramatically decrease the amount of money our families are able to contribute to the alumni fund. I know that we are more than generous with our donations.” I couldn’t help the smug smile that appeared.

“There is no need to go to extreme measures. Please give me a moment to check something out.” Mr. Weston dug further through the database. Three minutes later he smiled victoriously. “I have some good news for you, Mr. Cullen. There appears to be three open apartments in Birchwood. We can easily set you and Mr. Hale up in one; Ms. Swan, Ms. Cullen, and Ms. Hale in one; and your brother can have the one bedroom that is available. What arrangements you make from there are between the six of you.”

I stood and shook Mr. Weston’s hand. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate all that you have done for me today. I’m sure my father along with Mr. Hale would like to extend their thanks as well.”

Bella was so excited when I told her we would be moving into the Birchwood Apartments next semester. I think her favorite part was that Alice and Jasper and Rose and Emmett would all have apartments there as well. Bella was always happier and stronger when surrounded by the people she loved. We told Alice, Jasper, Rose, and Em about their new apartments. They were happy they could remain on campus and that we could all still be so close together.

We both breezed through our final on Tuesday morning and met back at the dorm by eleven. We finished with the last-minute packing. I left everything neatly stacked in the corner so Emmett and Jasper could easily load the truck up tomorrow. We grabbed a quick bite to eat in the dining hall and then left for Forks. Bella was excited to go home and see her family. I couldn’t help but push my car well above the speed limits.

We pulled up to her father’s house at four. I couldn’t believe I drove that fast. Bella jumped out of the car and ran into the house. I grabbed our bags out of the back and found Bella standing in the middle of the kitchen with her eyes closed and inhaling deeply. Seeing her like that was truly breathtaking.

I quietly stepped behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist. “What are you doing, beautiful?”

“I’m just taking in all of the wonderful smells of home. I forgot how much I missed it.”

I gave her a quick squeeze. “Why don’t we go upstairs and get ready for dinner?”

Bella grabbed my hand and pulled me upstairs. I placed our bags on the bed and began rummaging through them for my clothes for dinner. Bella wrapped her arms around my waist and started place open-mouthed kisses along my neck.

“Bella, you’re killing me here.” I turned in her arms and she pulled me into a passionate kiss. I reluctantly pulled away and stroked her cheek with my thumb. “I would love nothing more than to make love to you right now, but we have to meet Tommy and Drew in Port Angeles at seven. We don’t have time.”

“I guess you’re right,” Bella pouted.

I only needed a quick shower and shave. I wasn’t sure how long Bella needed, so I decided to use the bathroom first. I hurried through my shower and was back in Bella’s room in fifteen minutes.

“You know, Mr. Cullen, that is cruel and unusual punishment,” Bella purred.

“What am I doing that is so cruel?” I questioned.

“Leaving me here to sort through my fantasies of you naked, wet, and soapy. I’m already aching with desire for you, then I had to hear you in the shower and my imagination went wild.” Bella ran her finger down my chest and wrapped her arms around my waist.

I gave Bella a tight squeeze, gently kissed her lips, and removed her arms from around my waist. “Love, I really wish we had time but we don’t. Please get ready. I promise to make it up to you later.”

“You better,” she said as she walked into the bathroom.

I sighed and tried to calm my body down. I finished getting ready and went downstairs to wait for Bella to finish. I pulled one of her yearbooks off the shelf and flipped through the pages. It was from her senior year. There were only three pictures of her in it. Of course there was the usual picture of her in the senior section. There was a picture of her and Tommy sitting in the cafeteria. She was huddled in her chair attempting to hide behind her book. It looked like Tommy was trying to tickle her. I couldn’t help but smile. It was such a wonderful picture of both of them. The last picture was of her in the library. She had a ton of books scattered on her table, and she had a look of intense concentration on her face. She was so beautiful. I was so lost in the picture that it startled me when I heard the front door close.

“It’s nice to see you again, Edward.” Charlie walked into the living room and settled into his recliner. He had already removed his boots and gun belt. I was thankful for the absence of the gun. Bella wasn’t anywhere near being done getting ready, so I decided to take this time to talk with Charlie about proposing to Bella.

“Thanks, Charlie. Um, I'm really glad Bella is upstairs cause I really need to talk with you alone.” I was so nervous that I was wringing my hands in my lap.

“There’s no need to be nervous, son. My guns are all put away,” he smirked.

I gulped loudly and attempted to continue. “Well, I really love Bella. I can’t imagine life without her. My heart aches when she’s away from me. I want nothing more than to protect and take care of her. I would like to propose to her during the Christmas holidays. May I have your blessing to ask for Bella’s hand in marriage?”

“Edward, if anyone would have told me in August that my baby girl would find a man who was worthy enough to marry her, I would have laughed in their face. I never thought she would go on a date, let alone have a boyfriend. She was always so reserved after what happened with James. I was extremely shocked when she brought you home in October. The thing that surprised me most was you. I could see then how much you cared for her. I knew then you would die for her. You proved your love for my daughter a little over a week ago. I saw the love and devotion you have for her in the hospital. I don’t think I could’ve found a better man to care for my daughter. Edward, I would be proud to call you son one day.” Charlie pulled me into a hug. I was shocked. I never expected this discussion to go in this direction.

“Thank you so much, Charlie. I promise Bella is my top priority. My only goal in life is to keep her safe and happy.”

“It better be. Remember, I will not hesitate to use you for target practice if you hurt my baby girl,” Charlie said with a glint in his eye.

“Yes, sir.” That look in Charlie’s eye terrified me. There was no way in hell I wanted to cross this man.

“What are you two babbling about down here?” I turned to see Bella step off the last stair. My jaw dropped. She was breathtaking. She wore a simple midnight blue wrap around dress. The sleeves came to her elbow, and the hem fell to just above her knees. It hugged her waist and showed off just enough cleavage to tease. I grabbed her hand and brought it to my lips for a soft kiss.

“You look amazing.” She blushed at my compliment.

“Hi, Dad. Are you going to dinner with us?”

“Nope. You kids have fun. I’ll probably be asleep when you get back. I have an early shift at the station tomorrow.” Bella gave Charlie a hug, and I shook his hand before we left to meet Tommy and Drew.

The drive to Port Angeles was very quiet. Bella seemed lost in thought, and I didn’t want to disturb her. My mind wandered as I drove. I was nervous thinking about asking Bella to marry me. I had Charlie’s blessing and my mother’s ring. All I needed was to come up with the perfect proposal. I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted it to be something she would never forget.

We arrived at the restaurant and quickly made our way inside. Tommy and Drew had not yet arrived. The hostess seated us and informed us of the night’s specials before leaving us to wait for our waiter. Bella was looking at the menu when Tommy walked up.

He pulled a chair out for a gorgeous woman. She was definitely a woman. She was a few inches taller than Bella with brown wavy hair that fell just below her shoulders. Her eyes were dark brown, almost black. She had a narrow face with full, pouty lips and high cheek bones. She looked like she stepped off the page of a magazine. She wore a tiny black dress that left very little to the imagination. After meeting Bitt, I had a hard time seeing Tommy with this woman. She was the complete opposite of Bitt.

Tommy gave Bella a hug before he sat next to Drew. “Bella, Edward, this is my girlfriend Drew.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” I answered politely and looked at Bella. Bella seemed uncomfortable. She hunched her shoulders a bit and looked down at the table. I had a feeling she was feeling self conscious next to Drew. She had absolutely no reason to. No one could ever be as beautiful as my Bella.

“It’s so good to finally meet the famous Bella,” Drew said. She let a little venom leak through her words. I don’t think anyone else caught it.

Bella slowly looked up to Drew and offered her hand. They quickly shook hands, and Bella looked back at the table. I wrapped my arm around her waist and leaned into her ear. “What’s wrong, love?”

She turned to my ear and whispered, “Nothing.”

I pulled her chin up and looked into her eyes and could see the pain there. Why was she hurting? “Something is wrong. Please talk to me, beautiful.”

“Something just doesn’t feel right. I can’t figure it out,” she shrugged.

I placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure it out later. Let’s just enjoy our dinner with Tommy and his new girlfriend.” She nodded and placed her head on my shoulder.

“So, sis, how did finals go?” Tommy finally joined the conversation.

“They were fine. I’m glad we’re done and have a month away from school. I needed a break.” I slowly saw Bella coming out of her shell and back to the wonderful woman I love.

“I bet. Will you be in the same dorm next semester?” Tommy had his arm around Drew’s shoulders and was stroking the back of her hand. He seemed to be completely infatuated with the vixen at his side.

“No. Edward and I will be getting an apartment together. Em and Rose and Alice and Jasper will be in apartments next to us. I’m so glad. I couldn’t have spent another night in that awful place. Enough about me. I want to hear all about the two of you. How did you meet?” Bella leaned in, not wanting to miss any details.

“Actually, Bitt introduced us. She met Drew at the mall in September. They hit it off as friends. When Bitt and I decided to just be friends, she thought Drew and I would be a perfect match. She set us up on a date and we have been together since then.” Tommy placed a kiss on Drew’s cheek. It almost looked like she flinched. I was obviously tired and over-stressed. My eyes were seeing things that didn’t happen.

“Baby, I’ll be back in minute. Could you please order my usual?” Drew placed her hand on Tommy’s chest as she spoke.

Tommy placed his hand over hers. “Of course I will.” Drew sauntered away toward the bathroom.

“Wow. I can’t believe you’re dating a sex kitten,” Bella teased.

“Bella,” Tommy said sternly. “She is not like that. Yes, she is gorgeous and has an awesome body, but there’s more to her. She is so intelligent. I’ve been blown away by the things we talk about. You wouldn’t think she was only eighteen. She seems so much older.”

“I thought she was at least twenty six. I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions. It’s just hard when she dresses and acts like that.” Bella lowered her head again.

“Don’t worry about it, sis. I hope you two can get along. She is pretty amazing.” Tommy was a goner. He had that look in his eye I got when I talk about Bella. I agreed with Bella, though, that something wasn’t quite right. I was starting to get that bad feeling. I hoped Tommy knew what he was getting into with this Drew.

Drew returned from the rest room, and we had a pleasant dinner. We learned that she was from California. Her parents moved to Port Angeles last year. She was attending Peninsula College to get through her basic subjects. She was undecided on a major and what university she would transfer to once she received her associate’s degree.

I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that she was only eighteen. Everything about this woman screamed late twenties. It was easy to see why Tommy was so entranced by her. I just had this sick feeling that she wasn’t who she was letting everyone see. I needed to keep up with Tommy and make sure how things go in their relationship. I considered Tommy a brother and didn’t want to see him get hurt or taken advantage of.

Bella seemed distant throughout dinner. Drew truly made her nervous. I hadn’t seen her this edgy since she received the first note from James. We would definitely talk about this on the way back to Portland.

Tommy rode back to the house with us. Drew had picked him up after school today and brought him to dinner. Bella started in with the third degree when we were safely on the highway.

“So, how do you really feel about Drew?”

“B, I can’t put into words how I feel. She is amazing,” he said, dreamily.

“Please tell me you two have not had sex.” Bella’s face scrunched up in a disgusted look.

“No. We’ve only been dating for a few weeks. We started going out after Thanksgiving. Do you think I’m some kind of man whore or something?” Tommy teased.

“Of course not,” Bella said horrified.

“I was just teasing, B. Lighten up. Look, I really like Drew. I would like for you two to get along. I don’t think I could handle it if my sister couldn’t stand my girlfriend.”

“Don’t worry, T. I promise not to be ugly. Something feels off, but I won’t say or do anything to make your relationship with Drew tense. I love you and only want you to be happy. If Drew makes you happy, then I won’t make it difficult.” Bella reached into the back seat and squeezed Tommy’s hand.

“Thanks, sis. Give her a little time. She will open up to you, and you will see how awesome she truly is.”

Tommy spent the rest of the drive home telling us all about school and what the guys were up to. He got detention because he helped Bill and Harvey hijack the PA system and broadcasted part of the movie Serenity during lunch. Bella laughed but also reminded him that he needed to not let those two get him involved in their schemes.

I was extremely nervous going up to Bella’s room that night. The last time we were here we had just started our relationship and hadn’t gone beyond kissing. There was no doubt that we would only sleep during our last visit. I had no clue what we would be doing when we traveled up the stairs.

Bella looked beyond amazing in that dress tonight. My body was reacting to her all night. I was going out of my head with want for her. She turned and looked seductively at me as she closed the door to her room.

“I couldn’t wait to get through dinner so we could get home and finish what we started earlier,” she purred. She accused Drew of being a sex kitten, but Drew had nothing on my Bella. She was sex personified.

I pulled her into a passionate kiss. Our lips parted when we needed to breathe, but I continued to attack her neck with my lips. She moaned when my lips reached the spot just behind her ear. I was pulled out of my lusty haze by a knock on the door.

“Hey, B, I think you need to keep it down. I can hear you all the way in my room. I don’t think you want Charlie rushing into your room with a gun drawn.” Tommy laughed as he spoke.

“Thanks, Tommy. Go away,” she said, frustrated.

“What am I going to do with you? Do you think you can keep quiet?” I teased while placing feather light kisses all over her neck.

“I’ll put a pillow over my head if needed. Either way, you better not stop. I won’t be held responsible for my actions if you do.”

Bella threw me onto her bed and proceeded to attack my body. I don’t know how we did it, but I made love to my beautiful Bella and didn’t wake up Charlie or disturb Tommy. I was so thankful Charlie didn’t come crashing through the door with a shot gun pointed at me. That was more terrifying than facing James again.

My dreams were weird that night. James wasn’t in any of my dreams. I was dancing in a meadow with Bella, and we were laughing and kissing. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt that happy and free. It was amazing. I was shocked when Drew came dancing into the meadow with Tommy. It was strange, but I couldn’t place what was wrong. Tommy twirled her out and back into his arms. Tommy turned and his back was to me. I saw Drew lift a hunting knife in the air and started to plunge it into Tommy’s back.

I jumped up and screamed. I was drenched with sweat. Bella was still sleeping peacefully by my side. I must not have actually screamed. I slowly slid out of bed and into the bathroom. I splashed cold water on my face and decided to take a quick shower. I couldn’t believe how vivid that dream was. It started out so wonderful. Why would Drew try to kill Tommy? I knew I wasn’t getting good feelings from her, but why would my subconscious think she would want to kill him?

I was thankful that I only had one more day before I would see Dr. Young. She was a great therapist. She helped me overcome my fear of driving. I just hoped she would be able to help me figure out why I was having nightmares. I couldn’t continue with little sleep. I could feel the effects more and more every day. I wanted to be the man Bella deserved, and the nightmares kept that from happening.

My life was falling into place. I was doing well in school, composing music again, and in love with the best woman in the world. I couldn’t wait to get rid of these dreams. I had a feeling Bella would be the key to helping me overcome my demons. I felt like I could do anything as long as she was by my side.

Chapter 4

We woke up in time to say goodbye to Tommy before he left for school on Wednesday. Charlie had already left for work, so we dropped by the station on our way out of town. Charlie appreciated the gesture and insisted we call him when we made it to my house.

The first hour of our drive passed in silence. Bella stared out the window and sighed every now and then. I couldn’t let it go any further.

“Hey, beautiful, what’s got you so distracted?” I pulled her hand to my lips and placed a gentle kiss on it.

“Nothing,” she answered with a sigh.

“You’re a terrible liar. Something is bothering you, so spill, Swan,” I said, teasingly.

“I’m just worried about Tommy. Something isn’t quite right about Drew. I can’t put my finger on it. I just get this creepy feeling about her.” Bella looked out the window again and shuddered.

“I get the same feeling, love. There is no way she’s eighteen.” Then I added, “You were distant throughout dinner last night. Is something else wrong?”

“Edward, if I ask you something, will you please answer truthfully? Please don’t spare my feelings. Be brutally honest,” she pleaded.

“I’m always honest with you, Bella. Why would that stop now?”

“I know you are. Please just let me finish this before you jump in, okay?”

“I promise. Now what is bothering you?”

She took in a deep breath then took me by complete surprise with her response. “Why do you love me? You are an amazing man who is devastatingly handsome. Why aren’t you in love with someone who’s gorgeous like Drew or Rose? There is nothing extraordinary about me. I’m plain, boring, and come with a ton of emotional baggage. I just don’t understand why you continue to put up with me.” Bella had a few tears rolling down her cheek by the time she finished.

I pulled the car to the side of the road and pulled Bella into the back seat. I cradled her in my arms for a few minutes before I pulled up her chin to look her in the eyes.

“Bella, you are the most beautiful woman in the world. No one can even compare. Yes, Drew and Rose are pretty, but their beauty pales in comparison to yours. I love you because you are loyal, honest, fierce, tenacious, highly intelligent, and truly fascinating. Your emotional baggage, as you like to call it, makes you the wonderful person you are. Honestly, I have emotional baggage too and can’t believe you still love me. Please don’t ever doubt the power you hold over me.” I gently pressed my lips to hers. She hesitated at first but suddenly attacked my lips with intense passion. I greedily accepted. We kissed for a few minutes before I pulled away, leaving her pouting.

“I’m sorry, love, but we really do need to get back on the road. Charlie will worry if we don’t call him in a reasonable amount of time. The last thing we need is the chief calling out a search party for us.”

Bella hesitantly nodded her head and climbed back into the front seat. I settled in the driver’s seat and pulled back onto the road.

“So, what are we going to do about Drew?” Bella asked me. “I don’t trust her, and I’m worried about Tommy.”

“I’m not sure yet. I want to talk to Emmett and Jasper about it. They might have a few suggestions. I thought about inviting Drew here for Christmas, but I’m not completely comfortable with her knowing where my house is. It feels like our only safe haven.” I grabbed Bella’s hand.

“I know what you mean. It’s the only place James never knew about, and it feels like my security blanket. When I step through your front door I feel so safe. I don’t want that to ever change.”

“Don’t worry, love. I won’t let it.” Bella smiled and started staring out the window again.

We made it home about one o’clock. Esme pulled Bella into a motherly hug the moment she stepped into the house. I needed to find time to be alone with Esme. I needed her advice on proposing to Bella. I was so nervous about screwing the whole thing up, and I wanted it to be so perfect.

I took our bags to my room and joined Bella and my mom in the kitchen. They were both beaming when I walked in the room.

“I’m so glad you’re home for a while. I’ve missed both of you terribly.” Esme was beaming.

“We’ve missed you too. We actually need your help. We won’t be returning to the dorm next semester. I was able to get us into an apartment, so we need your help shopping for furniture.”

Esme’s smile widened, and she started bouncing where she stood. That was the first time I saw where Alice got her energy from. “Oh, Edward, I would love to shop with the two of you. When do you want to go?”

“Well, I need to do some Christmas shopping today, so how bout we go furniture shopping this weekend.”

Bella started pouting. “I don’t want to shop at all.”

I stepped behind Bella and wrapped my arms around her waist. I leaned into her ear. “Love, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. I actually don’t want you there when I go Christmas shopping.” She groaned. She obviously knew I wanted to shop for her. “If you don’t want to shop for furniture, Mom and I can go, but you can’t complain about anything we buy.”

Bella thought about that for a few minutes. She turned in my arms and wrapped her arms around my neck. “I promise not to complain about anything you and Esme buy if I don’t have to go with you.”

“You’ve got a deal, beautiful.” I sealed our agreement with a kiss.

Alice and Emmett came home an hour later. We heard Bella’s ancient truck coming down the drive. Mom told me to store all of Bella’s items in the basement for now. We decided we could use a few of her appliances in the new apartment as well as her bookshelf. We were going to donate the rest of the items we wouldn’t need to Good will.

Alice kidnapped Bella and was holding her hostage in her room. She was torturing her with manicures and girl talk. I had decided that was the perfect time to do my Christmas shopping. I was relieved when Esme asked to go with me. I really needed her advice on proposing to Bella. I was so nervous. I wanted everything to be perfect.

I was distant and fidgety the entire time we were shopping. Esme finally had enough and called me out on it.

“Edward, what’s wrong? Your mind isn’t here. You know you can talk to me about anything.”

I sighed. “I know. I’ve tried to work this out on my own, but I just can’t get it right in my head. I want to propose to Bella. I want it to be perfect, but I can’t seem to get it right. Do you have any suggestions?”

Esme gasped. “I can’t believe it. I was excited when you told me to get Elizabeth’s ring cleaned and sized, but I didn’t realize you would be asking Bella so quickly. I’m so proud of you. She is truly your other half. Do you have any ideas?”

“Well, I’ve already played her the song I wrote for her, so that’s out of the question. We had a quiet dinner at home when I told her I loved her, so I can’t do that again. Do you remember that meadow that’s nestled in the woods behind the house?” She nodded her head yes. “Well, I was thinking about taking her on a romantic picnic in the meadow.”

“Oh, Edward, that would be perfect. I’ll pack the picnic for you. Is there still a clearing in the middle for a small fire?”

“Yes. You are a genius, Mom. I want to do this as soon as possible. I don’t think tomorrow would be good. I have an appointment with Dr. Young, so the mood wouldn’t be right. Maybe I could do it on Friday.”

“That sounds wonderful, Edward. Why don’t I keep the picnic simple? I know Bella doesn’t like it when people make a fuss over her. I’ll have some fresh fruit, cheese, sandwiches, and some chocolate to dip the fruit in. Do you think she would like that?” Esme was making a list as she spoke.

“That sounds perfect.” I gave her a quick hug, and we made our way to the grocery store.

We snuck everything into the house once we arrived home. Mom and I brought Chinese takeout home for dinner since we took so long shopping. I rescued Bella from Alice, and we ate dinner alone in my room. It was nice having a peaceful evening wrapped in each other’s arms. We talked about our new apartment and the type of furniture she liked. She gave me a lot of ideas to work from for when Esme and I went shopping this weekend.

Bella agreed to go with me to my therapy tomorrow. I didn’t think Dr. Young would want her to join me in the session, but I felt comforted knowing that Bella would be in the waiting room when I was done. I had a feeling this would become a regular appointment for me and would eventually like Bella to join me. I had a feeling she could benefit as much as I would from the sessions.

I slept a little longer that night. It was comforting being at home. Bella being in my arms all night only made it better. I still had nightmares, though. I had the same one with Drew killing Tommy. My subconscious really didn’t like this girl.

Dr. Young’s office hadn’t changed since I was last here. It was comforting. The walls were a warm beige color. She had several fluffy couches and chairs lining the walls. I checked in with Leah, the receptionist, and sat with Bella on one of the couches. She grabbed the latest Reader’s Digest that was on the side table and started reading. Dr. Young opened her door a minute later.

“Hello, Edward. Please, come in.” She smiled warmly at Bella and motioned me into her office, which was warm and welcoming. The walls were beige like her waiting room. There was a plush couch along the wall beside the door and two beige overstuffed chairs in front of her desk. She had several cherry wood bookshelves behind her desk. They were full of different books, movies, and children’s games. Dr. Young had patients of all ages, but she specialized in children. I saw her calm a terrified child in the waiting room once and was in complete awe. She was amazing. I was lucky to have found her.

I sat in one of the chairs in front of her desk.

“It’s nice to see you again, Edward. I just wish it was under better circumstances. Tell me what brings you to see me today.” She pulled out a fresh legal pad and started taking notes.

“It’s good to see you again, too.” I looked at the floor, trying to gather the courage to open up to Dr. Young. “Well, I’ve been having nightmares and can’t sleep.”

“The last time you were here we briefly touched on your dreams. They didn’t seem so severe. What has changed?”

“Everything. I met the woman of my dreams,” I said wistfully. Dr. Young smiled.

“That’s wonderful, Edward. Please tell me about her.” I told her all about how we met, how she made me feel, and finally all about Bella and James and the ordeal we recently survived. She didn’t say a word, but her pen was going nonstop on the paper. We sat there in silence for about five minutes while she finished writing her notes.

“You’ve had quite a lot going on the last few months. Bella sounds like a wonderful young lady. She’s very lucky to have found you,” she smiled.

“No, Dr. Young, I’m the lucky one. She makes me want to be a better person.”

“I’m very proud of you, Edward. You have grown so much from the sixteen year old who sat in my office a few years ago. I think your mind is trying to deal with all of the stress of the ordeal with James and your relationship with Bella. I can see how much you love her. I would like to see you on a regular basis for a while. I would also like to have Bella join you every now and then.”

“I will do whatever it takes to get through all of this. Bella means everything to me, and I want to be the man she deserves.”

“Edward, you are the man she deserves. Don’t ever think otherwise. You said your father wrote you a prescription for sleeping pills. How are those working for you?”

“Fine. They’ve helped me get a few more hours of sleep the past few nights. I don’t want to take them unless I need sleep. They helped me get through finals and stay awake during the drive to and from Forks.”

“Again, I’m very proud of you Edward. A lot of people would use the sleeping pills as a crutch. I will write you a new prescription so you will have them if you need them. I would like to see you once a week for the next month. I would also like to have Bella present during your next session. I want to get a chance to know her and see the two of you interact. I have a feeling she will be key to conquering your dreams.” Dr. Young handed me the prescription and walked around the front of the desk.

I shook her hand and thanked her for all of her help. Bella was patiently waiting where I left her when I returned to the waiting room. She looked up at me and smiled. It was so glorious.

Dr. Young told Leah to set me up with weekly appointments for the next month. She then turned to us and introduced herself to Bella. “Hello, I’m Dr. Emily Young. It’s wonderful to meet you, Bella.”

Bella timidly took Dr. Young’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Dr. Young.”

“If you wouldn’t be opposed to it, I would love to have you join one of Edward’s sessions in the next few weeks. You are a huge part of his life, and I would love to see the two of you interact.”

“I would like that very much.”

“Great. I will let Edward know which session I would like that to be and make sure he brings you with him. Remember to use the prescription if you need to, Edward. Everyone needs help sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.” Dr. Young shook my hand and headed back into her office.

It was nice to talk with someone and get everything off my chest. I hoped these weekly appointments would help me deal with what was bothering me and allow me to move on. I wanted to have a fresh start with Bella and not have ghosts haunting our future.

We arrived home to find everyone gathered in the living room watching a movie. Mom had actually ordered pizza for dinner and left some in the fridge for Bella and me. We quickly ate dinner and joined everyone in the living room. My father tapped me on my shoulder and asked me to join him in his office. I quickly followed him.

“Edward, how did things go today?”

“It went fine. I’ll be seeing Dr. Young weekly for the next month. She wants to have Bella join one of the sessions. I have a really good feeling about this. I think it’ll be a huge help.” I couldn’t help the smile that graced my lips.

“It is wonderful to hear you being this receptive to therapy. I still remember the fight you put up the first time we mentioned it when you were sixteen. If you didn’t want to drive so badly, I don’t think we would’ve ever gotten you into a single session. I think joining one of your sessions will be great for Bella. I know she has a therapist in Forks, but I really feel that she could benefit from a few sessions following the incident with James.” I could see the wheels in Carlisle’s head turning. I agreed with him. Bella seemed to be handling everything wonderfully, but a few sessions could only solidify her closure with the situation. Maybe Dr. Young would be able to help with that.

“How are your classes going?”

I was wondering how long it would take Carlisle to get around to my classes. I was still undecided on my major. Music was such an intense passion, but I also wanted to be a doctor. I had been trying to find the balance between the two. I was leaning more towards majoring in pre-med and taking a few music courses as electives. I felt a stronger calling toward medicine, especially after meeting Bella. I wanted us to have a solid future, and being a doctor made more practical sense.

“Classes went really well this semester. I’m ready to focus more on my required classes for my medical major this semester.”

Carlisle’s eyes lit up. “So, you’ve decided on medical school over music?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way. Music will always be close to my heart, but a career as a doctor makes better sense. Just because I don’t choose music as a career doesn’t mean I have to completely give it up. I can compose and play for the pure joy of it without the pressure of being a success.”

“I’m proud of you, Edward. You are thinking like a man planning for a future. Possibly a future with a family?” I knew what Carlisle was thinking.

“Yes. I plan on making Bella my wife and want nothing more than to have children with her. I don’t want us to have to worry about where the next pay check will come from. I truly love the idea of being a doctor and helping people, so it’s a win-win situation.”

The rest of the night was spent watching movies. Bella fell asleep in my arms in the middle of the second movie. I happily carried her to bed shortly after she was sleeping. I crawled into bed with her and pulled her close to me. This was home. Bella wrapped in my arms in my parents’ house was pure bliss.

I felt happier than I had in a long time. Between my therapy session, my plans for Bella’s proposal, and my plans for my career, I was flying high. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I wasn’t nervous about asking Bella to marry me. Her sleep talking gave me the confidence I needed to ask her that most important question.

I closed my eyes and expected to lie there over half the night just imagining how perfect tomorrow would be. I quickly slipped into the peaceful oblivion of sleep. It felt like I had only shut my eyes a few minutes ago when feather-light kisses pulled me out of my peaceful sleep. I slowly opened my eyes to find the sun shining bright and Bella kissing down my neck.

“Good morning, handsome,” she purred.

“Morning, beautiful. I like being woken up like that. Think we can make that happen every morning?” I tightened my arms around her waist.

“Actually it’s not morning. It’s one in the afternoon. I don’t mind waking you up that way when I actually wake up before you. That was a rather pleasant surprise. I hated waking you up, but I just couldn’t resist any longer. My lips are drawn to your skin like a magnet.”

“You can wake me like that any time. You will never hear complaints from me. I have a special day planned for us. I need you to dress warm, wear jeans, and comfortable shoes. We’ll be spending some time outside today.” I kissed the tip of her nose and rolled out of bed.

Bella pushed out her bottom lip into an adorable pout. “What are we doing?”

“It’s a surprise. I promise you will love it. I’m going to take a shower down the hall. Take your time getting ready and find something to occupy your time until I’m ready to start our day.” I gathered my clothes and headed for the door.

“Don’t I get any other hints?” She continued to pout.

“Nope,” I said, popping the p.

“Fine,” she whined.

I blew her a kiss as I walked out the door. I quickly took a shower and dressed for the day. I found Esme downstairs putting the finishing touch on our picnic feast. I took my time wandering through the house gathering all the essentials we would need for our time in the meadow. I gathered a few thick quilts and fluffy throw pillows, my anywhere speakers for my iPod, and some firewood and lighting materials for our campfire. I grabbed the picnic basket in my free hand on my way out the door.

The meadow was only a five minute walk into the woods. I quickly laid out the blankets and arranged the pillows. I set up the speakers and my iPod next to the blankets. Esme was kind enough to include a bottle of champagne in the picnic basket. She was as confident as I was that we would have something to celebrate. I set up the wood in the small clearing. Everything was ready, so I hurried back to the house.

Gathering everything and setting up the meadow took up most of the afternoon. It was four o’clock by the time I made my way back to the house. I was anxious to get our romantic picnic started.

I found Bella in Alice’s room. I rushed in and threw her over my shoulder. I finally put her on her feet when we made it to the bottom of the stairs. I handed Bella her coat and gloves and quickly put mine on. I grabbed her hand and pulled her out the back door. She got a nervous look on her face when we started walking into the woods.

“Edward, I’m not the best person to take on a walk through the woods, especially in a cast. I trip over air, so avoiding roots and rocks are not something I’m good at,” she teased.

“No worries, love. We won’t be walking long. I promise.” I brought her hand to my lips and placed a small kiss on it.

She sighed and continued walking. We were almost to the meadow when I stopped her. I stepped behind her and placed my hands over her eyes. I surprised her, and she gasped.

“Trust me, love. I want you to be surprised when you see where we are.” She nodded and relaxed for me.

I slowly pushed her into the meadow and stopped her once she had taken five steps inside. “Please keep your eyes closed until I say open them.” She nodded, and I quickly sprinted to the blankets and took a seat. “Okay, love, open your beautiful brown eyes.”

She slowly opened her eyes, and her hand flew to her mouth as she let out a gasp. “Edward, this is beautiful.” She was frozen in place in complete awe of the natural beauty of the meadow. “I’ve dreamt of this place. It is exactly like my dreams,” she said wistfully.

“Come, sit with me.” I held my arms out to her. She stood there another minute, taking in the beauty of the meadow. She sighed and slowly made her way to the blankets. She sank into the blankets next to me. I pulled her close to me and slowly stroked her cheek. She was beautiful in the light of the setting sun. She shivered.

“Are you cold, love? I can start a fire.”

“That would be great.”

It took me a few minutes to get the fire going. Once it was started, we both warmed up pretty quickly. It was enough to keep the cool air from freezing us. I grabbed one of the extra blankets I brought and draped it over our laps. I reached behind me and started my Love playlist on my iPod. It was all of the sappy love songs that reminded me of Bella. She smirked at me and leaned in to place a chaste kiss on my cheek.

“This is wonderful, Edward. Thank you so much for doing all of this for me.”

“We’re just getting started, love. There’s still a lot more to come.” I gently kissed her lips then reached back to the basket. I pulled out the fruit, chocolate dip, and cheese first.

I picked up a strawberry and dipped it into the chocolate. I held it to Bella’s lips and slowly traced them with the chocolate-covered fruit, leaving a light coating on her lips. I put the strawberry down on a plate and leaned in to slowly lick the chocolate from her lips. She moaned and pulled me closer for a kiss. Our tongues mingling together with the remnants of the chocolate were heavenly. We continued the same routine until all the fruit was gone. Bella pouted when I told her there was no more.

We finished eating the sandwiches and cheese Esme packed for us. Bella seemed to be enjoying herself.

“Did you do this picnic all on your own?” She smirked.

“No. Esme planned the wonderful food, prepared it, and packed it for us. I will be sure and thank her tomorrow for an excellent job.” I slowly kissed my way down her neck while I was talking. Bella shivered, and I pulled away from her.

“Please don’t stop,” she begged.

I stood up and held my hand out for her. “Please dance with me.”

She grabbed my hand and slowly stood up. She wrapped her hands around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder. We slowly swayed to the music for about ten minutes. I was in heaven. My mind wandered, and I thought about her dream of us being married in a meadow. That was when her earlier words finally clicked. This was the meadow she saw us being married in.

I stopped dancing and looked deep into Bella’s eyes.

“Bella, I can’t begin to tell you how much I love you. You are my world. Every decision I make revolves around you and your happiness. I love everything about you. I love the way you bite your bottom lip when you’re nervous or are concentrating extremely hard. I love the way you mumble my name in your sleep. I love the way you mold perfectly to my body when I pull you in for a kiss. Bella, I was made for you,” I slowly dropped to one knee and pulled my mother’s ring from my pocket, “and I pray that you will do me the honor of becoming my wife. My life is nothing without you, and I want you by my side forever.”

Bella gasped when she looked at the ring. Tears were falling down her cheeks. She was beyond beautiful. She pulled her beautiful bottom lip between her teeth and slowly nodded her head. “Of course I’ll marry you,” she whispered.

I slid my mother’s ring onto her finger and jumped to my feet. I pulled her close to me and gave her a gentle kiss. The kiss quickly turned passionate, and we had to pull away to breathe.

“Edward, this ring is beautiful. When did you have time to look for it?” My mother’s ring was a beautiful eighteen-karat white gold Edwardian style ring with a one carat diamond in the center. The band was ornately decorated with smaller diamonds throughout.

I couldn’t stop the smirk from forming. “It was my mother’s ring. Esme had it cleaned and sized for me and ready to slide onto your finger.”

“Oh, Edward, I can’t believe you would give me your mother’s ring. I will treasure it always.”

“I wouldn’t want this ring on anyone else’s hand. It looks perfect on yours. You have made me the happiest man on earth. I love you, Isabella Marie Swan.”

“And I love you, Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. I can’t wait until the day I can be Mrs. Cullen.” She pulled me in for another passionate kiss.

I wanted to stay all night in the meadow holding my wonderful fiancée. Unfortunately, we both started shivering, so we packed everything up, put out the fire and doused the embers with water, and slowly made our way back to the house.

Everyone was anxiously waiting for us when we walked through the door. Alice darted straight into Bella’s arms.

“Let me see the ring,” she demanded.

Bella held her left hand out for Alice to examine. “It’s perfect. Bella, this ring was made for you,” she gushed. Bella blushed and squeezed my hand.

Everyone hugged Bella and shook my hand. The entire family was excited that Bella would soon be an official Cullen. I looked at Bella and noticed she was beaming with pride. She was proud to be my fiancée. My heart swelled with the love I felt for this amazing woman.

We were finally able to pull away from our family and make our way up to my room. Actually, we were now able to start calling it our room. That sounded so wonderful. From this day forward, everything that was mine would be hers. I couldn’t believe she said yes and this wonderful woman wanted me.

We made love well into the night. It was even sweeter knowing that she had agreed to be my wife. My life was slowly falling into place. I had my mother’s ring on my love’s finger, I had decided on my career, and was actually looking forward to my sessions with Dr. Young. My life felt like it had fallen into place and life was great. I couldn’t imagine what life could throw my way that I couldn’t face with Bella by my side.