Twilight and its characters are owned by Stephenie Meyer.
Thanks to arfalcon for her amazing beta work. I can't wait to hug her in person next month. :D
I apologize for the length of time between updates. *hangs head in shame* Since it's been a while, here's a brief summary of the previous chapter: Edward and Isabella are now married and enjoying wedded bliss. Edward catches Isabella watching him as he feeds, but she doesn't recoil in horror as he expects. Rather, she wants him to change her so they can be together forever. Edward finally agrees, but under one condition: Isabella must stand witness while he feeds from a human. If she is still willing after seeing his true nature, he will abide by her wishes.
Blood, pooling in crevices between filthy cobblestones.
Human blood, thick and piquant, spilt by my teeth.
Decades of painfully crafted control wiped clean in a single moment.
I open my eyes, the scene in my mind taking shape on my canvas.
Death brought to life by my brush, my creation a testament to my dark desires.
These desires linger in the forefront of my mind, distract me. Ever since I laid out my terms to Isabella, I can't stop thinking about tasting human blood.
Laid out my terms. Cold and unfeeling words. Bartering with Isabella's soul as if I were Satan himself.
Disgusted, I step back to look at the painting I've created; it's dark and foreboding, fitting my mood.
I've tried not to slip into despair, tried not to allow it to affect my new life with Isabella, but it's been difficult. Neither of us has spoken about it since that night, but there is an undercurrent of tension between us.
It's there during our day-to-day interaction. It's there at night when I make love to her. It's there when she's sleeping and I'm watching her jugular vein throb, threatening to pull me under.
Trying to drown me when I've only just surfaced.
I question my reasons for asking her to witness the taking of a human life. I only want her to understand the true nature of being a vampire. Despite my vow to consume only animal blood, the craving for human blood never goes away. It lies dormant, waiting for the perfect moment—the perfect person—to coax it from its slumber.
If she never knew the taste of human blood, would she still crave it? If I immediately introduced her to animal blood, would she never wonder the difference?
Everything is uncertain, so I continue to hold my tongue. So does Isabella.
I find it ironic the winter solstice is approaching, the darkest day of the year. Ancient people celebrated with a last feast before winter set in, uncertain if they would survive the harsh months ahead. But it also marks the reversal of the sun's ebbing presence in the sky. Hope that light will soon return. Rebirth.
I pray Isabella and I will survive, too.
I return from my hunt in the woods to find Isabella outside gazing up at the sky. It's a clear evening and the stars gleam bright against the black night. I stand beside her and together we contemplate the heavens.
"Breathtaking, isn't it?" she says after a few minutes. "All those stars—it's intriguing to imagine another world like ours somewhere out there. Sometimes I wonder if there's a creature on another planet looking up at the same stars and asking themselves the same question."
"I expect mankind might find out one day. We've made great advances in the past hundred years...imagine what the next hundred will bring?"
She turns to look at me and I know what she's thinking. We could watch it as it happens, live it together. Until the end of time.
"I don't want to imagine, Edward, I want to see it. My mind is made up."
Why can't I just take her now? It would be so easy. Every fiber of my being is screaming to bite her, savor her blood. Give her what she wants—what I want.
If it weren't for the nagging voice in my head, the one part of me that's never fully transformed into a monster, I would gladly grant her wish and change her. Right here, right now, under the moon and stars.
Damn my conscience.
I have to see this decision through. The longer I wait, the more difficult it will be.
But at the moment, I find procrastination more agreeable. I pull her into my arms, my hands twining in her hair. I nuzzle her neck and stroke my hands down her back. When I reach her backside, I squeeze gently and pull her hips flush to mine.
I can't deny I won't miss her warmth and the dangerous allure of her scent. The fantasy of biting her has taken root in my mind, growing stronger every time we make love. To pierce her flesh as I move inside her. To taste her sweet blood as she climaxes around me...I can think of no greater physical pleasure.
She presses her lips to my ear. "Take me to bed."
I take her hand and lead her into the house. Once inside, Isabella takes charge, undressing me before shedding her clothing. She pushes me onto the bed, hovering over me, teasing me with the roll of her hips. Sliding down my body, she takes me in her hand, her mouth. Crawls back up, grazing me with wet heat, bringing me to the brink with her tortuous assault.
She's wild and wanton as she moves over me. Lips parted, cheeks flushed—a living portrait, a study in unrestrained desire. I know what she's doing. She's trying to show me her physical prowess, her determination to have her way, and I allow her to do as she pleases because it feels so damned good. She nips at my bottom lip and scratches her nails along my flesh, testing my own resolve. Goading me into an act for which she thinks she's ready.
God, I want to taste her. Just a few drops of her blood on my tongue, enough to assuage the burning in my mouth. Surely it would do no harm? Surely I would be able to stop?
When she pushes her finger into my mouth, I falter. I bite down, just enough to prick her tender flesh. Just enough to break the tiny vessels in the pad of her finger and release a minuscule drop of blood.
Her blood, dear God, her blood!
It's sweet and tangy. Warm and thick. Pulsing with her essence, her desire.
It arouses me. It soothes me. It traps me. It frees me.
All these feelings from a single droplet of her blood.
How will I ever go back? How can I settle for less than perfection?
Isabella feels it a few moments after I do. Her eyes widen and she stops moving. We stare at each other, frozen in a mix of fear and desire.
Unable and unwilling to stop, I suck a little harder on her finger, draw a few more drops from her wound. Isabella inhales a deep breath and shudders, collapsing on me, panting into my neck, biting at my skin as if she were a vampire herself.
Her loss of control ignites a fire deep in me. I roll her onto her back and push inside her. Slow, deep. My face close to hers, our breath mingling. I remove her finger from my mouth, hold it tight in my hand as I continue to lick and suck at her wound. If she feels pain, she doesn't show it; all I see is pleasure.
We grunt and groan like animals. I'm insatiable, Isabella's blood a powerful aphrodisiac. My language becomes coarse and vulgar as I whisper to her how she makes me feel. What I want to do to her. She moans in response.
My inner beast has been unleashed.
I've never felt so out of control, yet in command at the same time.
I continue to stroke long and deep. I want to possess her completely. I want to make her feel as invincible as I do right now. If I had known tasting her blood would make me feel this way, I might have bitten her on our wedding night.
Isabella's movements become erratic as she nears her completion. I indulge one last time, sucking hard on her finger as she cries out beneath me. The taste of her blood sweetens ten-fold with her climax. Thoughts, images invade my mind. Sensations the like I've never felt before course through me.
Bite hard. Drink deep.
As Isabella comes down from bliss, I'm cresting. Holding on by a thread. It's only with the greatest of effort I release her finger. She pulls me close and with a roar, I empty inside her.
For the first time in many years, I feel out of breath. Alive and exhausted combined. As soon as I gather my wits, I open my eyes. Isabella is looking at me, her expression mirroring my own.
We stare at each other, our eyes communicating words our tongues cannot seem to form. I start to speak, but she places her finger—already healing—on my lips, hushing me. She snuggles into my side and we lie in silence; it's not too long before she drifts off. As Isabella sleeps, I replay everything in my mind.
Most of all, I recall how her blood tasted and felt in my mouth and how I want it again.
A sliver of dawn is visible from the window, a welcome symbol of the end of this eternal night. I can no longer suppress my need for her. I lay my head on her chest and listen to her heart, her breathing. My mouth finds her skin, warm and fragrant. I kiss one breast, then the other. Isabella stirs, her fingers weaving through my hair. My lips trail down her stomach, my hands part her thighs, my fingers caress her intimately. The pulse of her femoral artery tempts me and I press my mouth to the skin above it, feeling it throb under my tongue. I lick along its seductive course, from her inner thigh to the most sensitive part of her.
Just one more taste, one more drop...
My teeth press down, aching to cut through skin and muscle, my tongue longing to feel the spurt of hot blood. But I hold back the urge, because if I do puncture her flesh, I'm afraid I will destroy her.
So I turn my mouth back to her and lose myself in pleasuring her. After she quivers around me, I slide up her body and enter her. It's not long before I tremble in satisfaction.
Sated, yet still wanting.
We watch as the rising sun brightens our room. It lightens my mood, makes me feel less of a monster—until Isabella speaks.
"Why did you stop?"
I don't answer. She persists.
"I didn't want you to stop."
I rise and quickly dress. I walk to her side of the bed and run my hand through her tousled hair, then start to back out of the room before I change my mind.
"Neither did I."
It's the week before Christmas and Isabella has her mind set on putting up a tree. I haven't celebrated Christmas since I was changed, but I get caught up in her festive mood. I take her into the woods and she chooses a small pine tree which I chop down, carry home and place in the parlor.
"I don't have anything to hang on it. You'll have to be creative when it comes to decorations."
"It doesn't have to be fancy, Edward. We can cut out paper ornaments or use fruits, nuts, berries—whatever we can find."
"I have a better idea," I say, stepping behind her and wrapping my arms around her waist. "Let's go into town and buy tinsel and glass balls and candles or whatever else strikes your fancy." I turn her around to face me. "I want you to be happy."
"Being with you makes me happy, Edward. Although I do admit I would love to see the shop windows decorated for the season. Oh...do they also have a Christmas tree in the center of town?"
"They did last year. Electric lights and all. The large spruce near the entrance to our park."
"Perfect," she says, kissing me. "May we go right now?"
"Give me a few minutes to ready the trap. Dress warmly; the air will feel quite frigid once the sun has set."
Isabella nods as she pulls away from my arms. I set about hitching up the horse, looking forward to sharing an evening out with her.
I want to make the best of our first—and quite possibly our last—Christmas together.
The mood in town is festive. Shop windows are adorned with greenery and bright, colored balls. A group of carolers stroll the square, their voices sweet and clear. A street vendor sells roasted chestnuts from his cart. Children skate on the pond in the park. A Christmas postcard come to life.
Isabella clutches onto my arm, excitedly pointing out everything that catches her eye. She makes me feel light and merry; I'm swept up in the spirit of the season.
We stop in Mr. Elkins' shop to buy ornaments for the tree. He greets us warmly and ushers Isabella to his display of decorations. Thirty minutes later we emerge from the store, packages in hand.
"Is there anything else you'd like to do?" I ask. "We have a little time left before we should leave."
"The Christmas tree in the park…will they turn on the lights at dusk?"
"Yes, I expect so."
"May we stay to see the tree lit up? I would very much like to see it."
"Of course. If we hurry, we might be able to secure one of the benches surrounding the tree."
"Then what are we waiting for?" She laughs as she grabs my free hand, pulling me into the street.
We manage to find the last available bench, and we settle down, watching the sun disappear behind the trees. When the lights finally switch on, the audience gasps before clapping their hands in appreciation.
While Isabella is mesmerized by the twinkling lights, I only have eyes for her.
The wind turns harsh, biting hard. Isabella and I take the short route back to where I've left the trap. It runs through a sordid part of town, but I gamble that the cold weather has driven any criminals indoors. I'm not afraid of miscreants but I'd rather Isabella not witness any unsavory behavior.
Not tonight, this perfect night.
I hurry her through the dark, empty streets, both of us eager to return home and attend to the Christmas tree. I imagine myself sprawled on the sofa, watching her as she adorns the tree with the baubles we've purchased. When she's finished, I'll pull her onto my lap and together we'll admire her handiwork. I'll kiss her, run my hands over her body, coax the fire from within her. When she's burning hot, I'll slip my hands under her skirt, touch her, love her next to the warm glow of firelight...
We're nearly to the outskirts of town. The last few buildings loom ahead, run down and abandoned. The trap is hitched to a tree just beyond.
But we don't get that far, because that's when I smell him. Hidden in the shadows of a narrow alley. Alone. Vulnerable.
And I know this is the one.
God forgive me.
I stop and turn to Isabella, clasping her hands in mine, drawing her in close. I stroke a gloved finger to her cheek. She smiles.
"Remember that I will always love you. And I pray for your forgiveness."
Isabella frowns in confusion but her expression quickly turns to one of understanding. She has no time to protest, though; I pull her into the alley with inhuman swiftness, laying my finger against her lip in a silent command to stay quiet.
She's shaking as she presses herself against the wall. Before I change my mind, I turn from her and drop to my knees in front of the man sleeping in the shadows.
Adrenaline surges through me, dictating my actions. I'm losing myself.
Instinct takes over as I pull the poor soul from the ground, eyeing the pulse just visible beneath his tattered collar.
He opens his eyes, peering at me through heavy lids.
"What do you want? I don't have any money. Spent it all on whiskey and whores," he cackles, his words slurred.
"I don't want your money." I inhale deeply, ignoring his foul odor and fixing on the sweet aroma of his blood. It's diluted by alcohol, but still far more appealing than all the wild game in the world.
He tries to sit up. "Hey, hey now, I'm usually not that type of fellow, but if you can spare a few dollars, I'll tug on your prick for you."
I ignore his perverse proposition and lean in close. "You misunderstand my intent, sir. Allow me to ease your misery. Although you'll feel a little pain at first, soon you'll never again have to worry about being poor or drunk or riddled with disease."
His eyes are bloodshot and glassy; he struggles to focus. "Who are you?"
Ah, how I've missed this! This moment, the moment before I strike is like no other. The anticipation of the tear of human flesh, much more fragile than animal hide. The slight recoil as hot blood hits the back of my throat. The temporary easing of my never-ending thirst.
And right now I'm very thirsty.
"I'm your savior. Forgive me."
Deeper I fall, no longer cognizant of my surroundings. Focused on only one thing.
I wrench his head to the side and he cries out. I place my mouth to his neck and he starts to struggle. Pull back my lips and he goes limp. Just as my teeth press on his skin, something grips my shoulder, trying to pull me from my prey. I growl and spin around, prepared to protect what's mine. Through the red haze, I see a form fall to the ground, hear a voice call out.
"Edward, no! Stop, please!"
Isabella. Her voice pulls me from the darkness of my mind, back to the surface.
Horrified, I drop the man from my hold; he falls to the ground, unconscious now. Isabella picks herself up and grabs onto my arm with both hands, yanking me away. I slump against the wall and she follows, sobbing.
"I'm sorry, but I couldn't let you do it—I understand now, I understand!" she cries.
Images of the past few minutes bombard me. "Isabella, dear God, I, I attacked you...are you hurt?" I try to visually inspect her for injuries, but I'm still a bit disoriented. "I swear, if I harmed you, I will never forgive myself." She shakes her head, but she is still crying.
I am indeed an abominable creature.
I reach out to comfort her, hesitant, wondering if she will still have me. But before I can touch her, I hear voices in the distance. Reason takes over; finding my strength, I spring up and pull Isabella to her feet.
"Isabella, we have to go before we're discovered."
She wipes her eyes on her sleeve before glancing at the motionless figure sprawled on the ground. "Is he...?"
"He's alive. Drunk, but alive. Come, we must leave!"
I take her hand and as soon as I'm sure we're alone, I lead her from the alley. With one last look at the gentleman lying atop the cobbled stones, I can't help think how close my art came to imitating life.
As soon as we're far enough from town, I stop the trap and jump out. Isabella has not said a word to me since we left the alley. I'm filled with dread, sickened with disgust.
Waiting for her rejection.
It doesn't come. She stands silent while I agonize out loud. Berate myself for the danger I put her in, for even suggesting this foolish idea in the first place.
She will never have me now, I will lose her forever. She's with me for the moment, but once the horror of what she witnessed sinks in, she will slowly pull away.
And I will let her go.
"Edward? Please...talk to me." Her voice, soft, beseeching, plucking at my misery.
"I won't keep you here. Please don't feel as if you need to stay out of some sense of obligation. I have plenty of money, you'll never want for anyth—"
"What are you talking about? You can't possibly think I'm going to desert you?"
"I can disappear, Isabella. It will be as if I never existed." My words are thick as they spill from my mouth, threatening to choke me. "You will continue on with your life, meet a gentleman who will love you, who'll be able to give you children and a normal life, safe from harm."
"You stubborn man! Have you heard nothing I've said?" She sighs and gazes at me tenderly, as if she hasn't just witnessed a monstrous demonstration.
"How can you be so casual, so unaffected? For God's sake, Isabella, I had a man pushed against a wall, my mouth on his throat, ready to tear into his flesh! Why are you not running away?" I slump against the trunk of the tree and slide down until I'm on the ground, weary.
Isabella lowers herself onto her knees in front of me.
"Do you have so little faith in me? Have I not told you time and time again how much I love you?"
"Everyone has their limits, Isabella."
She reaches out and places her hands on my cheeks, looking deep into my eyes.
"You're a good man, Edward. I know you don't believe it, but it's true—your restraint in the alley proved that. You were kind to me when I needed a friend and never tried to take advantage of my situation."
"My thoughts were anything but kind. I desired you so very badly. Your blood, your body…"
"But you didn't act on those thoughts, you held them in check. Just as you did this evening. I was not unaffected by what I saw; I won't deny it was frightening. While I cannot pretend to understand the temptations you constantly endure, I do understand how you must struggle. Yet you don't act on your urges. A lesser man, I believe, would not fare so well."
"If you hadn't stopped me, I would have drained his body. I wanted to."
"If it wasn't for me, you never would have entered that alley."
"The urge is always there, Isabella. It never goes away."
"But you've learned to control it. And with your guidance, I will, too."
I fall silent, absorbing what she says.
"You stirred something deep inside me, Edward."
She still loves me. Still wants me to change her.
Isabella sits beside me, resting her head on my shoulder. "Do you realize you asked him to forgive you? No one without a soul would make such a request."
I press my face into her neck, overcome. Breathing her in, confirming she's real.
She shivers in my arms and I realize how cold she must be. I lift her up and carry her to the trap, wrapping her in a blanket before settling beside her.
Together we go home.
"Edward, they're lovely!" Isabella picks up one book from the stack surrounding her. Her fingers smooth over the soft leather cover before opening it and skimming through the pages. "I never dreamed I would own such a fine collection." She looks up at me, her eyes shiny with tears. "Thank you, they're perfect," she says quietly.
"I'm thrilled you're pleased with them" I say, pressing a kiss to her lips. "I look forward to lounging by the fire while you read passages to me. Your narrative voice is both relaxing and compelling, a dangerous combination." I grin and she lightly smacks my hand, tears abated.
"Now it's your turn," she says as she rises from the floor. "I'll be right back."
Isabella disappears from the parlor and my gaze turns back to the tree. In our haste to escape from the alley, we inadvertently left our packages behind; instead of tinsel and glass balls, we decorated with nuts and berries and paper chains.
That was three days ago. Tonight is Christmas Eve, and since nature decided to gift us with a snowstorm, Isabella thought it would be a perfect time to exchange presents.
She returns with a gold foil-wrapped package adorned with a red velvet ribbon and bow. She sits down beside me, smiling.
"Merry Christmas, Edward."
"What have you done, you vixen?"
Isabella is bouncing up and down on the floor. "You'll just have to open it to find out."
My first gift in seventy years. Feeling as impatient as a schoolboy, I tear apart the paper, set the box on the floor and lift the lid.
Inside rest six of the finest Kolinsky brushes I have ever seen. I pick up the mop brush, taking note of the handsomely varnished wood handle. I touch my fingers to the dark-tipped bristles of the filbert brush and delight in their bounce. I look with longing at the fan brush, imagining it thick with paint, gliding across my canvas.
"Edward? Are they suitable? Do you like them?"
Isabella's last question holds a tinge of doubt which I immediately put to rest.
"My darling, sweet girl. They're exquisite." I lean forward and kiss her softly. "Just like you. Thank you."
"Mr. Elkins said you've been waiting forever for these to come in. I begged him not to tell you they had arrived, as I wanted to give them to you as a Christmas present."
"They're the perfect gift. I can't wait to try them out."
I gather her into my arms and pull her down with me onto the rug in front of the fire.
"Your image will be the first one those brushes will help create."
"Surely you must be tired of painting me?"
"Never." I sit up and gaze down at her. Her eyes are bright, her cheeks flushed from the warmth of the fire. "In fact, I think I'll start right now." I pull her hair out from under her and fan it across the rug. "Mmm, beautiful." I reach for the belt of her robe, tugging gently.
"I've changed my mind—you're my favorite gift." I pull apart her robe, and then reach up to undo the thin ties at her bodice. "And I'm going to take my time unwrapping you."
I can see all of her underneath the thin fabric of her chemise. Taut nipples, dark curls—it would make for an erotic painting. I consider it briefly before I give in to lust and pull the garment off her. She holds her arms up to me and I strip off my clothes, lowering myself onto and into her welcoming body.
Isabella and I are still wrapped in each other's arms when the clock strikes midnight.
"Merry Christmas, Edward."
"Merry Christmas, my love."
"I do have something else for you," she says, shifting in my arms.
"Another gift? Whatever have I done to deserve such good fortune?"
"Opened your heart to me. Confided in me. Loved me."
"Isabella, I should be—"
"Shh." She takes my hand, placing my fingers on her neck.
Directly over her pulse.
"I'm ready, Edward."
The moment I've been fantasizing about, agonizing over for months is upon me. I promised her, but now that the time has come, I'm not sure I'm ready. Terrified I won't be able to stop.
She reads the doubt in my mind. "I believe in you, Edward. I always have."
I sit up and pull her with me. She takes my face in her hands; I search her eyes for resolve.
And I see it.
She breaks down, cries. Throws her arms around me, thanks me, when I should be thanking her.
How do I express my gratitude to her for offering me this ultimate gift? How do I find the right words? How do I thank her for pulling me out of a pit of loneliness and despair, for bringing me back to life?
I will honor her request and fulfill my dreams. I'll give her forever.
I stand up. Offer her my hand. She takes it and rises. I cover her with her robe. Pull on my trousers.
I lead her into the bedroom. Turn to her, embrace her softness, inhale her scent, commit her last human moments to memory.
Her heart, her lovely, fluttering heart, dances against my chest. I understand it all now, see it with perfect clarity.
"We were born to be with each other, Isabella, I know it. I just had to bide my time, wait for you to find me, in this place, this time. Wait for you to sing to me, to lift me up. Oh, my love, my sweet savior."
I lay her down on the bed. She's breathing rapidly now, and her heart is beating a furious rhythm.
I sit beside her, stroking her hair, trying to soothe her.
She is frightened.
Despite my joy, I'm frightened, too.
"Tell me again, will it hurt very much?" she asks, her voice wavering.
Her eyes look to mine for reassurance. I don't want to upset her, but I can't lie to her.
"Yes," I say, nodding. "But not for very long. I won't leave your side, I swear to you."
I wait for her to tell me she's changed her mind.
"Don't leave me," she pleads, clutching my shirt.
"Never," I say.
I lie down beside her. She turns on her side and I slide behind her, pulling her to my chest. I whisper words of comfort, tell her how happy she makes me. How beautiful she is.
How I can't wait to be with her forever.
A sense of calm settles over me.
I turn her face to mine and wipe away her tears. She reaches for my face and strokes my cheek. We lie in silence for a few minutes, staring at each other, memorizing these last moments. An angelic smile crosses her face and I know it's time.
"I'm ready," she says.
"I love you, Isabella."
"I love you, Edward."
She rests her head back on the pillow. I sit up and run my fingers through her hair. Touch her face. Lean forward and kiss her forehead, her lips, her neck.
I press my lips to the skin above her carotid artery. Feel the pounding of her pulse for the last time.
Open my mouth.
Press my teeth against her skin.
Push. Feel her flesh give.
Hear her gasp. Hold her tight to me.
Feel her blood rush over my tongue. Spurt down my throat.
Again and again and again.
Hold her tighter as she struggles.
I thought I was prepared.
I was wrong.
Sublime sensations wash through me. I'm lifted out of my body.
Time stops. Nothing else matters.
Nothing but this feeling of pure euphoria.
I finally understand.
Through the red haze that clouds my mind, I hear my name.
My eyes open, confused.
Closer now, the voice floats on the edge of my rapture.
Isabella's voice, weak.
Realization hits me and I pull back immediately.
Whispered words turn to shallow breaths. Her heartbeat stutters and I abandon all thought of drinking her blood.
I loosen my grip and frantically lap at her neck, sealing her wound.
Isabella whimpers. She reaches her hand out. I take it.
"Shh, my love. I'm here. I'm not letting go."
I want to cry. I would be bitten a thousand times over if it would ease her suffering.
"I know it does. You're so brave, my angel."
And she is. She knew what was coming and she still chose it.
She shudders. Her body is growing cooler.
I know what she wants to hear.
Isabella's eyes flutter open. Her gaze is unfocused as she struggles to hang on.
I lean in close, whisper into her ear.
"When you awaken, I'll be right here, by your side. I'll be here to guide you. Show you. Love you. Forever."
"Forever," she repeats, her breathing very shallow, her eyes closing.
Her heart will stop soon. Never again will I hear its alluring rhythm. Never feel it quicken when I kiss her.
I mourn the loss of her humanity.
But celebrate the birth of her immortality.
I wrap my arms around her rigid body, rocking her gently. Repeat her name over and over. Tell her I love her and how sorry I am for the agony she's about to endure.
Although no tears fall, I weep.
And with one final exhale, my Isabella is gone.
I hope she's not too afraid. I hope she believed me when I told her I wouldn't let go.
I roll to the side and settle behind her again. Pull her close to me. Hold her tightly.
I'm a man of my word.
I don't let go.
A/N: An epilogue will follow shortly. I can't thank you enough for reading and sticking with me. All your reviews, recs, kind words and support have meant so much to me! xo