Edward had to give Emmett some serious credit. When Esme dropped straight down to sit on Emmett's shoulders and covered his eyes with her hands, causing him to run smack thru a rather large tree, he had not broken his concentration even once. While Edward was laughing so hard he almost fell out of his own tree, he was also still being treated to vomit worthy images of Rose and Emmett's weekend.

Realizing too that none of his other siblings had dropped their blocking efforts and only he and Esme were laughing, Edward dropped from the tree and helped his mother to her feet. After brushing the bits of wood off her, he spun around to face the others who had been standing still since Esme's attack. Looking at them, he began to feel uneasy. They all wore serious, hesitant expressions. Not one hint of mischief showed, not even on Emmett's face. Probing their minds brought him nothing but more blocking thoughts. Worry and fear began to consume him before they were suddenly replaced with a strong dose of calm. He felt Esme step up and slip her hand into his. She intuitively knew something more than a practical joke was coming.

Narrowing his gaze on the one responsible for the emotional change, Edward sought answers, "What's going on Jazz?"

Instead of answering him, Jasper called out, "Emmett, Rose" while nodding towards Edward. Edward watched as they both stepped behind him and took tight holds on his arms and shoulders, conceivably to prevent him from running. Whatever was coming, Edward knew it had be bad to justify the measures they were taking. Logic told him that meant it must have something to do with Bella.

Terrified now that he was about to learn his beautiful mate was dead, but yet unable to feel it under the forced calm, Edward pleaded with his brother "Jasper…Bella isn't…she can't be."

Hurrying to reassure him, Jasper spoke, "She's alive brother."

The relief that flooded him then was strong enough to drive Edward to his knees, Emmett and Rose following him down, not yet releasing him. He knew the bad news was still to come, but Bella was alive. So long as that was true, there was hope. He heard Esme's soft voice exclaim, "Oh thank God." Knowing his siblings were not this cruel - they hadn't set this up just to scare him - he looked up, "but she's hurt?"

Bracing himself against the emotional onslaught he knew was coming, Jasper answered, "There is no easy way to say this brother, so I'll just spit it out. Bella's been shot." From the moment Jasper uttered the word 'shot' Edward's face froze in a horrified expression. His body flooded with so much terror that despite anticipating the impact Jasper collapsed to his knees and had to force the rest of the words out. "From what Alice has seen it's bad, however, Carlisle got to her in time. None of us have working phones so we haven't spoken to him as yet."

Esme gasped and covered her mouth with her left hand while tightening her right still held in Edward's grip. Edward turned to Alice, probing at her mind but finding her blocking efforts still in place. "Alice, please…" so much pain was contained in that one small word.

Knowing what her brother was asking for, but unable to hurt him by allowing him to witness Bella being callously cut down, she walked up to him and dropped onto her own knees. He felt her gentle hands wrap around his face, "Listen to me Edward, Bella is alive. But you've got to stop looking into my mind, you don't need to see what's past right now."

Searching her eyes, Edward saw sincerity written there. Though it was a decidedly difficult thing to do, Edward choose to trust Alice's opinion. Instead of continuing his mental search, he begged, "Then show me what you will, please Alice, I need to see Bella."

Alice hesitated and then nodded her head before closing her eyes in concentration. Edward sighed in relief as a vision of Bella became discernible in Alice's thoughts. It was fleeting, as Alice was carefully blocking the rest from him, but it was enough to see Bella lay sleeping in Esme and Carlisle's bed at the Cullen house. The covers were pulled up to her shoulders, with the exception of the hand Carlisle held. She was deathly pale, and had nasty bruising visible along the edges of a bandage on her forehead, but her chest clearly rose and fell with each breath she took. As the image started to fade, Edward could see her eyelids struggling to rise.

"Alice, how did this happen? Bella told me was staying at our house today, Carlisle was planning to cook a special dinner for her?"

Her voice breaking, Alice began describing the attack, "Bella did stay at our home today. She was there, alone, when two robbers broke in. She heard them but assumed it was Carlisle home early. She surprised them when she walked into the kitchen. One of them recognized her as Charlie's daughter and immediately shot her in the side of her abdomen. She hit her head as she fell – that's why you saw her forehead bandaged. Thank God she had her new phone in her pocket - she was able to text Carlisle without them realizing she was alive. Carlisle seemed desperate when he first got to her – he made no attempt to get her to the hospital. Instead he worked on her there, and he had to give her a lot of blood, but she came through the surgery alive. He moved her to their room and has been sitting with her since. She's still sedated right now but as you just saw, she will come out of it shortly."

Attempting to reassure him, Alice finished with, "I can't tell you how bad it truly is, but Carlisle hasn't decided to change her, and you know he wouldn't hesitate if she was dying."

"Thank you Alice." Seeing that Edward had himself under control, Emmett and Rose released him. Edward immediately wrapped Alice in a heartfelt hug.

Jasper had recovered himself while Alice was speaking, and now he walked up and placed his hand on Edward's shoulder in a show of support, "Let's all get to the cars. You will have cell reception there and Alice has seen that Carlisle will be ready to call by then."

Bella came to awareness slowly, wondering who was breathing rapidly and moaning as if in pain. It wasn't long before returning cognizance brought with it the understanding that she was the one creating those noises. Though she didn't yet remember being injured, the pain she felt pain radiating through her left side and forehead explained the sounds she was making. Forcing herself to think, she recalled Carlisle cradling her cheek as she fell asleep. With that came the memory of being shot.

"Bella, open your beautiful eyes for me Sweetheart." She felt a cold hand squeeze hers as she heard these words. Obeying the request, Carlisle's concerned face swam in her view.

"There you are Sweetheart. You are safe Bella, and you are going to be just fine."

"Ca…Ca…Car," Bella's attempt at speaking failed. Her mouth was so dry it was almost painful. She found it impossible to articulate Carlisle's name, let alone ask what was happening. She tried to bring her arm up to pat her throat but it felt leaden.

The attempt didn't pass unnoticed by Carlisle, who squeezed her hand again.

"Shh, honey. I imagine you are very thirsty right now. I will get you some water, along with something for the pain in just a moment. Can you try calming your breathing for me?"

Bella's brain stilled seemed sluggish so it took her a moment to comprehend what Carlisle was asking her to do. Once she did, she tried her best to slow down the pain induced, gasping breaths she was taking. She made some progress but it didn't seem like much to her. Honestly, to her Carlisle's presence spelled true safety and without fear as a motivator, she just was not able to summon as much control over the pain.

She tried her best to explain this, however, all she managed was a soft, "Hu…Hurts".

She felt Carlisle squeeze her hand again, "I know honey. You are doing really well. I just need you awake for a quick exam to check on your head injury and then you can have the pain medicine. It will help you sleep."

Following his instructions Bella's eyes tracked the finger he held up in front of her face. Mercifully the exam was over quickly, even though it was limited to her human pace.

"Alright Bella, everything tests normal," Bella watched as Carlisle reached to the bedside table, then swabbed and injected something into the IV line running down to her elbow. The bag itself must be somewhere over and behind her head, as all she could see was the line running back, then straight up. She blinked and then he was holding a glass of water as he reached to lift her head. There was a straw already sitting in the glass and bent towards her at the adjustable point.

"Small sips now Sweetheart, I do not want you to choke. I promise the pain medication will kick in quickly."

Following his advice, she carefully took small sips of the water, sloshing it around her mouth before swallowing. After a few more swallows she shook her head to indicate she'd had enough. Carlisle settled her back down to the pillow and set the glass on the bedside table.

Turning back to her, he sat on the edge of the bed and took her left hand in his right. She felt the comforting coolness of his left hand as it cradled her cheek.

"Is the pain receding Bella?"

"Yes," finding it easier to talk now that she had drank her fill, and her breathing slowing with the lessoned pain, Bella wanted to know how bad her injuries had been. Clearly Carlisle had not seen a need to make her immortal, but it would seem he also had not involved other humans, or she would have awoken in the hospital. Also wanting to enjoy the comfort his presence brought her, she fought the fatigue that was rapidly increasing. Believing talking would help with that effort she asked, "Carlisle, how bad was it?"

She watched as venom caused Carlisle's eyes to shine. He seemed to consider her for a moment before he sighed and began to answer, "The bullet shredded your spleen in several places. This caused a considerably high rate of blood loss. In truth it was as bad as it could get without forcing my hand in turning you. Though I tried my best to safe the organ, in the end there was no other recourse but to remove it."

"The wound on your head required stitches and likely left you with a concussion. Beyond that is only bruising from the fall itself. Now, if you are to make a full recovery – and I will accept nothing less – then I must insist you rest. We can discuss this further when you wake again, if you would like."

Bella could tell that her injury had hit Carlisle hard, but she knew he was right. She needed rest and the fact of the matter was the pain medication was working to pull her under now. Still she needed to ask one last question, "Edward?"

"I have not yet spoken with him, although I will be doing so shortly. You know he will not hesitate to return to your side. Sleep now Sweetheart, you are safe and I will be right here watching over you."

The feel of his thumb caressing the back of her hand was a soothing motion that soon lulled her under.

Carlisle observed as Bella slipped into a deep, healing sleep. Although her lungs remained clear and her breathing had eased significantly, it was shallower than he would prefer to hear. Her heart also continued to work harder than it needed to. He determined he would go ahead with the additional transfusion and start her on supplemental oxygen. Both would ease the strain on her body, allowing for an easier recovery.

Although there was no early signs of infection, he also wished to start her on precautionary antibiotics.

Slipping the hand he held under the covers, Carlisle made certain Bella was well tucked in before sliding off the bed and heading into his office. As he gathered the blood, tubing, oxygen bottle and medication he kept his senses tuned to her body, continually monitoring.

Returning to her room, he added the antibiotic bag and the unit of blood to the IV stand, deftly hooking them into the additional line adapters. Setting the flow rate for each, he watched for a moment as the liquids began to run down to her veins.

Satisfied all was correct, he next shifted his night stand away from the bed, placing the oxygen bottle in the new space. Attaching the line, he then gently placed the mask over Bella's nose and mouth. Using careful movements to avoid waking her, he slipped the elastic band around her head, ensuring the mask would remain in place. Reaching back to the bottle, he twisted the knob to allow the oxygen to run.

Settling once again in Esme's chair, he allowed himself a few minutes to just observe Bella sleep. She was still far paler than her normal, but he could safely say she was stable. His enhanced hearing detected the start of slight changes in the rhythm of her heart. The transfusion was already beginning to have a positive effect.

Since his kind was able to hold conversations completely below human hearing range, Carlisle didn't need to leave Bella's bedside even to make his call to Edward. While part of his brain continued to monitor Bella, he pulled his phone out. In the hopes of minimizing Edward's fear, Carlisle decided it would be best to tell Alice first. Fully expecting his phone to ring before he finished dialing, he was surprised when he not only completed the connection, but the call was never answered. About to call Jasper next, his phone finally rang, but the call was coming from Edward.

"Hello son," Carlisle answered the phone neutrally, unsure of how informed Edward was of the situation.

"Carlisle, Alice said you were trying to call. How is Bella's condition?" Skipping right to the point, Edward made it clear he knew Bella had been injured.

"How much has Alice told you?" On the surface Edward sounded calm, but Carlisle knew his son well enough to hear the hidden stress in his voice.

"Most of it, I believe. She's told me Bella was home when the house was broken into. That the bastards shot her when they recognized her. She's said the wound seemed bad, that you seemed worried and had to give Bella transfusions. She was also able to show me Bella alive, waking up in your bed. Tell me she's alright Carlisle…" Edward pleaded with his sire.

Sighing, Carlisle responded, "She is stable son. I am sitting by her side as we speak, she is breathing on her own and resting comfortably. She did awaken not long ago. She was in pain but coherent and able to converse with me. At present I see no reason to change her, nor do I fear for her life. But Edward…Alice is correct. The wound was a dreadful one. Her spleen was damaged beyond repair, I was forced to remove it. She is currently receiving her fifth unit of blood. Edward - I do not mean to hurt you by telling you this but you will glean it from my mind when you arrive anyway – she had only minutes left when I got to her. Disregarding the fact that the humans remaining in the house as a further threat her, Bella would never have made it to the hospital alive. Her recovery will not be an overnight one." He could hear Edward quietly sobbing on the other end. He waited him out, allowing Edward time to compose himself. Carlisle also recognized the sounds of Esme and Alice's sobs in the background. As expected with vampires, they had heard every word.

"Thank God she finally accepted that cell phone and had it on her. Carlisle – Alice saw most of what happened but both her and Jasper's cell phones were damaged. As were Rosalie and Emmett's. We had all split up, by the time they found Esme and I, Bella was close to waking. Alice had no way to get help to her."

Understanding now why he had not heard from Alice, Carlisle closed his eyes and spoke a silent prayer of thanks to God for ensuring Bella's safety.

"Carlisle – I know how much Bella means to you, so I know I don't need to say this, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being there for her."

"There is naught I would not do for Bella, she is as much my daughter as you are my son, so you never need thank me for caring for her. We will all need to discuss matters when you arrive. Bella will need to remain in my care, yet Charlie is due home Monday. We will need to figure out what to tell him, as well as deal with the future possibility of his ever glimpsing Bella's scars – there is no way the chief of police will fail to recognize a gunshot wound should that occur. Let alone the long surgery scar. Also there is the small matter of two dead bodies currently chilling in our garage."

"Alice sees us arriving by late tomorrow morning. We'll have plenty of time to figure out answers before Charlie returns from fishing." Edward had practically growled his response into the phone.

"Carlisle…if Bella's condition should worsen…don't hesitate." This situation was proving how far his son had come in accepting Bella's future transformation.

"You know I would see it done; should it become necessary son. However, I assure you at this point in time she remains stable, and though I do not intend to leave her side this night, you have my word I will remain within hearing range."

"Thank you Carlisle. When Bella wakes next, tell her I love her."

"I will tell her son. Give Esme my love, and hurry home." At that Carlisle ended the call and returned to his vigil over Bella.