Chapter Notes

Well, dear readers, this is it. We've come to the end of the Screamers' journey, and I can't thank you all enough for taking this wonderful ride with me. Your ongoing support and love of these characters has been truly astounding, and I thank each and every one of you.

I was extremely touched and surprised to find out that Screamers had won a Faithful Shipper award recently for Best Secondary Pairing. I'm sure Alice and Jasper will celebrate by giving each other many orgasms.

To my amazing beta-Goddess and friend, Irritable_Grizzzly – You've been with me from the very beginning, baby, and I can't tell you how much you've contributed to this fic, and me personally. I'm a better writer for having you as my beta, and I'm a better person for having you as my friend. I love you so much. Thank you.

Okay, I'm going now cause the snot-sobbing has started.

Enjoy.


Chapter 38 – The End of the Beginning (Part 2)

BPOV

I watched as he put the car in gear, his face stunning as he frowned in concentration.

Dear God...that man driving this car? Hotter than Hades.

"Besides," I said, placing my hand on his thigh, "if you want something to take your mind off whatever the hell is getting you so uptight, just think back to what you did to me in the car the last time we went to the Hollywood Hills.

He moaned and screeched out of the parking lot.

"Fuck, Bella, if we weren't running late I would do that to you all over again."

A flash-fire of goose-bumps erupted all over my body as I thought about what we did. More specifically, what he did. To me. Two weeks ago. On the hood of this fucking magnificent car.

Two weeks ago

"Cullen, both hands on the wheel please."

We were speeding up into the Hollywood Hills, our headlights sweeping across the road as Edward wove around tight bends at a velocity that was making me nervous. The fact that he was driving one-handed made me even more nervous.

"Edward..." I warned, slapping his hand on my thigh lightly, "Both hands on the wheel please."

He kept his eyes on the road, deliberately ignoring me. In fact, not only did he not remove his hand from my thigh, he actually moved it even higher, brushing his fingertips over my inner thigh and making me squirm in my seat.

A traitorous moan fell from my mouth.

Dammit.

"You okay, honey?" Edward asked innocently as his fingers stroked me expertly, setting my skin on fire and making me ache for his fingers to be higher and deeper.

Bastard. He knows exactly what he's doing to me. He's enjoying it.

Ever since I'd made the mistake of mentioning the possibility of fucking on the hood of the Porsche earlier in the day, he'd been obsessed with the idea. I appreciated his enthusiasm. After all, being fucked on the hood of a Porsche had always been a fantasy of mine, and that was before I managed to land a sex-God boyfriend with a cock that just wouldn't quit. Inserting Edward into my hood-fuck fantasy made it exponentially fucking hotter.

Of course, I'd never tell him that.

"Edward Cullen," I snarled, "If you crash this car and we both die, I'm going to fucking kill you."

He glanced over at me and smirked, his eyes sparkling with mischief in the light from the Porsche's dashboard. His hand moved higher.

I suppressed another wanton moan.

I scowled at him.

"Oh, Bella, come on," he said, laughing, "You wear that fucking micro-mini leather skirt with no panties underneath and you expect me to keep my hands to myself? Not fucking likely. Don't put it on display if you don't expect me to handle the goods, baby."

I looked over at the huge bulge in his pants.

"I could say the same thing, baby," I mimicked.

He looked down at his lap quickly and then back to me, quirking an eyebrow.

"Oh, I fully expect you to handle my goods, sweetheart," he said in a voice he knew very well would make my pink bits explode. "In fact, I'm so confident in the quality of my goods that I'm going to offer you a satisfaction guarantee."

I stared him down.

"Oh, really? What are the terms of this guarantee?"

"I'll give you a two-for-one deal. You get two orgasms to my one."

I laughed.

"Lover, I usually get two orgasms to your one. You're going to have to do better than that."

His hand migrated up my thigh even farther.

"Fine. Three to one."

"Four to one and I'll throw in a blowjob."

"Deal!"

I'm pretty sure I could convince Edward to do anything if I promised a blowjob. He was such a guy.

"Edward, why do guys like blowjobs so much?"

He glanced over at me and frowned.

"You're joking, right?" he said in disbelief.

"What?" I said, laughing, "I really want to know."

He squirmed in his seat and adjusted his erection.

"Bella," he began, "having a woman's mouth...no, wait...not just any woman's mouth...having YOUR mouth wrapped around me is...oh, God...it's...well...how can I explain? It's like...fuck...it's just so warm and amazing and that thing that you do with your tongue is ridiculously fucking hot...and...then, when you look up at me with those fucking unbelievable eyes of yours and you moan around Godzy? Oh..oh...Jesus...this conversation is really starting to make him ache."

He winced as he rubbed his erection through his pants. I watched in rapt fascination.

Fuck me.

If I thought him driving this car was sexy, then watching him touch himself while driving this car was beyond hot.

Without thinking about it I reached over and pushed his hand away, replacing it with my own.

"Oh...God," he moaned as his hand went back to my thigh, "yes, please touch me...Jesus...Bella."

I lifted his hand off my lap and put it back on the steering wheel, ignoring him whining like a five-year-old.

"Just keep your hands there and drive carefully," I warned him as I ducked under my seatbelt and leaned over toward him, unzipping his pants and unconsciously licking my lips. "I wouldn't want to bite down suddenly."

I reached into his pants and eased Godzy out, reveling at the thick weight of him in my hand.

"Oh, fuck, Bella," he groaned as I wrapped my hand around him and squeezed gently. "I've...fuck...no one has ever done this to me while I'm driving. Jesus...I don't...is this a good idea?"

I flicked my tongue out, lightly running it around Godzy's head.

"I don't know, Edward," I teased, "You tell me. Is this a good idea?"

I lowered my mouth over him, sucking gently, testing his control.

"Holy shit," he whispered, his legs tensing, "Don't stop. Oh, fuck that feels incredible."

I continued to love Godzy with my mouth as Edward decreased his speed and increased his moaning.

I loved bringing him pleasure like this. I loved knowing that I had power over his body. I loved him so damn much and it made me happy to show him.

It helped that I completely adored his cock. It really was magnificent. I'd seen my fair share of penises in my time, but nothing compared to the phallic perfection of Godzy. He was truly gorgeous.

"Bellaaaa," Edward moaned as I continued to lick and caress him, "Oh, Jesus, beautiful...your mouth...wow...just fucking...wow."

I pushed him deep into my throat, using my hand to stroke him at the same time, loving the feel of him under my fingers, hard and pliant at the same time.

I looked up at him. He was frowning and biting his lip, his breathing was choppy and uneven and he was groaning low in his chest.

He glanced down and saw me looking at him.

"Ohhhhh Jesus fucking Christ," he groaned, "That. Right there. Sexiest fucking thing in the whole damn world."

I moaned, sucking hard, and suddenly his hand was in my hair, pulling me gently off him.

"Holy Jesus and all the goddamn saints, Swan," he panted, "You are too fucking good at that. I don't want to blow our deal before we've even begun."

I sat back in my seat as he shoved himself back in his pants and swerved off the road. I looked up to see that we'd pulled into a small wooded area with a dirt road leading to a small clearing overlooking the lights of L.A. It was stunning.

He turned off the engine and unclipped his seatbelt, turning to me breathlessly and pulling me onto his lap.

"You are the sexiest fucking woman to ever draw breath, you know that, right?" he said as his mouth devoured mine.

We kissed frantically as our hands roamed desperately, trying to grind against each other but frustrated by the lack of space inside the Porsche.

"As sexy as this car is," I panted, "we'd have heaps more space in a mini-van."

"Yeah, well, I don't need a lot of space to make you cum," he rasped, tugging on a lever so that his seat reclined all the way back. He pulled me so that I was straddling his chest, and then he proceeded to slide down the seat until his face was directly underneath me.

Holy Mother of Imminent Cunnilingus, YES!

My thighs were trembling with anticipation.

"I've been waiting all goddamn day to do this," he whispered as his mouth came up to meet me.

"Ohhhhhh, Jeeeeezuz," I moaned as his lips closed on me, his tongue doing something completely incredible, sending massive jolts of thick pleasure straight through me. I gasped loudly.

How the fuck does he know how to do that? I mean really. It's like he's memorized all of my erogenous zones and knows exactly how to make me cum in the shortest possible time. I don't think I could get myself off as quickly as he does.

One of my hands braced against the ceiling of the car while the other one tangled in his hair. He moaned against me and I was suddenly panting, a quaking, coiling orgasm building quickly inside me.

"Oh, God...oh, God, Edward. Jesus Christ, yes."

His hands stroked my thighs as his mouth continued to work its magic, and I was writhing above him, suddenly lost in the sensations he was drawing out of me. I couldn't think. My breath was ragged and uneven, every rough exhale bringing me closer to what I was craving, what he was doing to me.

He started flicking his tongue over me quickly and that was it – I was flying apart and screaming his name, everything inside me expanding and contracting simultaneously, making me shudder and tremble.

"Edward! Jesus! Yeeeeeessss!"

I groaned once more before collapsing on the other seat, my whole body quivering, my liquid muscles dripping over heavy bones.

"That's one," he said breathlessly as he reached over to stroke my hair.

Oh God. Three to go? I can't. I'll spontaneously combust from that much pleasure.

"Bella?"

"Yeah...one. Cool."

My brain was fuzzy and dull. I barely registered him getting out of the car and coming around to my side.

I was vaguely aware of cool air as he opened my door and helped me out of the car. I wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, my mouth automatically going to his throat, tasting the delicious skin there.

He groaned and closed the door, leaning back against it as I unbuttoned his shirt, needing to taste more of him.

God, he tasted amazing.

I licked his throat as my fingers worked automatically, tugging his shirt free from his pants and pushing it open, revealing his magnificent chest.

"Uh...Bella," he moaned as his hands came up to stroke my arms, "I'm supposed to make you cum three more times before I get my reward. That's...Jesus...that's really not going to happen if you keep touching me like this."

I ran my hands over his chest, trailing my mouth after them, tasting and nibbling every piece of skin on the way. I bit down lightly on his nipple and his hands smacked loudly against the side of the car.

"Bella..." he said in a low warning tone, "our deal?"

I ignored him. I was ravenous for him. His taste filled my mouth and my mind, and the parts of me that he'd just made explode with pleasure were desperate for him again. The more I had the more I needed. I was giddy with lust. Nothing mattered to me but the feeling of his skin on mine. His pleasure. My pleasure. The desperate electricity that constantly passed between us.

"Fuck," he groaned softly and spun me around so my back was against the car, glaring at me with toe-curling intensity. "I refuse to fucking orgasm without fulfilling my promise to you, Swan. So prepare to cum violently three more times. At least."

His hand pushed up my skirt impatiently, his fingers finding me quickly and roughly, making me gasp.

"Oh shit...Edward," I moaned as his mouth took mine roughly, his tongue finding mine, insistent and hard, his fingers moving around me, inside me, making me pant and gasp.

So soon? How can he have me on the edge again so soon? He's like an orgasm savant.

I wound my fingers in his hair and tugged. He responded by groaning and circling his fingers faster, bringing his other hand up to tease my nipples.

"Fuck, Bella," he said as I alternated between panting and holding my breath, "Watching your face as I touch you...watching your orgasm build...feeling your body respond to my hands...and mouth..." - he ground his erection against me and I moaned - "...and cock...there's no sight on the planet more incredible than you cumming. And there's no satisfaction greater for me than making you cum."

I lifted my leg and hitched it around his hip, allowing him to push his fingers inside me.

Oh, God.

The pressure was too much. My muscles couldn't tighten any further. The tension inside me was stretching and teetering, like a strand of spider web, only needing only the slightest pressure to make it snap.

And then his fingers were inside me and his mouth was on mine and his thumb was circling deliciously and everything flew apart and I was crying out with the absolute ecstasy of it all.

"Oh, God...Edward...yes...yes...ahhhhhhh."

I felt myself being lifted off the ground as my body turned to jelly.

Suddenly my ass was sitting on something warm and Edward's mouth was at my ear whispering, "That's number two."

I draped myself around him like a scarf, my body heavy and beyond satisfied. I lazily played with his hair and sighed into his chest.

God, I just wanted to crawl inside his skin and go to sleep. He smelled so good. His hair was so soft.

"I hope you're not getting tired," he said as he started kissing my neck, "Because I'm just getting warmed up."

My skin ignited beneath his mouth.

God. How is this possible? Surely I don't have any endorphins left. He's used them all up.

He pushed between my legs and when my body registered his erection pressing into my thigh, my girl-parts went from zero to please-fuck-me-now in about three seconds.

Without giving them permission my hands reached out and starting stroking Godzy, fumbling to release him as Edward continued his marathon orgasmathon.

"Oh...God, Bella," he moaned as he lifted my shirt up and nuzzled my breasts, "I need to be inside you. Immediately. Please."

His voice and words jolted me into action. There was nothing sexier than Edward begging to be inside me.

Nothing.

Suddenly, my body was alive with fresh intensity and my hands were frantic as they tried to extract him from his pants.

His mouth came down over my right nipple and I nearly slid off the hood with the force of my moan.

"Bella," he groaned, "That fucking sound is killing me. Seriously. Are you trying to make me cum with the power of your voice alone?"

My hand wrapped greedily around his erection, stroking him slowly as the ache inside me intensified once more. His mouth went to my other nipple and the blooming need he ignited in me mad me -desperate for him. I needed him to fill me and take away the uncomfortable throb inside.

"Edward," I panted, urging him toward where I need him the most, "Please. Now."

"Fuck, yes," he rasped as he pushed my legs apart even further and entered me, slowly.

A long, low groan oozed out of him as his body merged excruciatingly with mine.

Holy Jesus.

How can it always feel this good? How is it possible? Every time is like the first time I've felt the utter perfection of his body joining with mine. Every time my mind struggles to comprehend that I get to experience the wonder of him over and over again.

When he was completely in, his head dropped to my shoulder.

"Dear God," he muttered, obviously not to me, "please don't let me shoot my load immediately. I need to give my woman two more orgasms or else risk being downgraded from sexual-genius to a regular old great-lay, and that would be unacceptable.

"Edward, you don't have to..."

"Shhhh," he said urgently. "Don't talk. Don't move. If you could stop breathing for a minute that'd be awesome. And for fuck's sake don't do that thing with your inner muscles that you know makes me lose my shit."

I squeezed my inner muscles around him firmly. He groaned and glared at me.

"Okay...sorry. Just checking if that was the thing I shouldn't do."

He dropped his head back into my neck as his hands clenched into the leather of my skirt. After a few moments he started to move slowly, withdrawing almost all the way out before pushing himself back in.

The feeling was indescribable.

"Lie back," he ordered softly as he pulled me to the very edge of the hood, "And take off your shirt."

I did as I was told, quickly pulling off my shirt before lying down, feeling the warm metal hood against my back.

Edward looked down at my body, his hands slowly traveling over every inch of skin as he moved inside me, his face a masterpiece of concentration in the dim light.

"You have no idea how fucking incredible you look at the moment, do you?" he whispered, increasing the strength of his thrusts. "No...idea. I've been dreaming about fucking you on the hood of this car ever since I saw it in the showroom. I'm pretty sure that's the main reason I bought it."

I gripped the edge of the hood as he bent over and kissed my stomach, my ribs, my breasts; his mouth and tongue lathing over my skin and shooting sharp jolts of pleasure through me as his thrusting became more demanding.

"Oh, fuck, Edward...oh, God...

He grabbed my right leg and pulled it up until my thigh was over his shoulder, turning me onto my side.

Oh Holy Mother of Clit-Twitchingly Deep Penetration – that feels fucking AMAZING.

I could feel myself groaning every time he thrust inside me and part of me was paranoid that I sounded like a squeeze-toy, but I didn't fucking care. It felt so damn good.

"Oh, Christ, Bella," he rasped, "You feel fucking incredible. I never want to stop."

Electrical impulses were firing inside me and everything was tightening, keeping me on the edge, every thrust threatening to release the excruciating tension that was stretched to breaking point.

"Oh, God...oh, God...Edward...yes..."

He groaned loudly, and the sound of his voice was all I needed to bring me undone. I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath as the pleasure rocketed through me, exploding in waves as Edward kept moving...thrusting harder...and deeper.

"Three," he grunted, as he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me up to his chest, still thrusting, his pelvis never missing a beat.

The waves kept coming as he kept moving, his own groans matching mine as I impossibly started to cum again, my muscles fluttering and spasming as Edward came hard inside me moments later, his mouth covering mine as he emitted a loud groan.

We kissed passionately and our mouths stifled our mutual moans as the last tremors of ecstasy shuddered through us. Finally, Edward stilled, pulling back to look at me in astonishment as we both panted and gasped for air.

"Fucking hell," he wheezed, dropping his head and stroking my back, "Four."

I wrapped my arms around his neck and collapsed onto his chest, panting like a dog on a hot day.

"You're...oh, God, Edward, you're...I just...you...orgasm savant..." I stammered incoherently.

Can't think. Brain is full of multi-orgasmic haze.

"Uh huh," Edward mumbled, equally inarticulate, "That was...fuck me...four...I need to lie down."

We both collapsed back onto the hood, drained and dazed and mind-blowingly satisfied.

Mission hood-fuck? Completed.

By the time we turned into the driveway of the Hollywood Hills mansion, I was squirming in my seat at the memory of the epic orgasmasplosions of the Porsche hood-fuck two weeks ago. Obviously Edward wasn't reliving the experience with me because he seemed far from relaxed. On the contrary, as we drove up the steep driveway he seemed even more nervous, and suddenly intent on making a three course meal out of his cuticles. His face was tense and anxious, and although it made him look as sexy as fuck, it worried me.

I looked out the window as the house came into view, huge and white and lit up like something out of a storybook.

This was the third cocktail party we had attended at this house. It was owned by Edward's record company and I had to admit, it was stunning.

When I was a girl my dad would often drive up into these hills on the weekends and we'd look at all the pretty houses. They always seemed so unattainable. An impossible dream meant for the chosen few. I never thought in a million years I would one day be attending a party inside one of them.

Edward and I had been looking at houses and apartments for two weeks now, but my thoughts kept coming back to this house. There was just something about it.

I never thought much about what sort of house I'd want to live in if I had the choice. For so long the mere thought of having a roof over my head – any roof – was so elusive, I didn't dare dream further that four walls and a dry bed. I certainly never thought that I would be so infatuated with something so...grand. But there was a certain energy in this house that made it feel...homey. I'm pretty sure Edward felt it too because in our quest to find our own place, every house we looked at failed to get either of us excited.

Yeah, because you're likely to end up in a house like this, right? Can't you just picture it?

I tried to picture myself living in this dream house, cooking omelets in the giant, shiny kitchen; lounging in the living room as Edward and I played pornographic scrabble; catching some rays by the pool in a swimsuit I didn't yet own.

No.

It didn't work.

Even in my fantasies I didn't belong in a place this beautiful.

Edward did. I could easily see him living somewhere like this because he was a star. This was the sort of place stars lived, not ex-homeless people.

I almost laughed out loud at the fact I was coveting a house that was so far out of my reach it was ridiculous. I used to live in a cardboard box, for fuck's sake. From that to a mansion in the Hollywood Hills? I don't think so.

The fantasy was nice though. No matter how unlikely it was, the fantasy kicked ass.

Edward pulled up near the front door and I frowned.

"Where are the valets?" I asked, looking around.

He glanced at me quickly.

"Uh...it's a much smaller party tonight. I don't think they thought they'd need valets."

Before I could question him further he got out of the car and came around to open my door, holding his hand out to me and helping me out. As he closed the door he leaned in and I couldn't help brushing my fingers over his face. He looked at me in surprise, his eyes showing panic before he relaxed and closed them, sighing deeply as my fingers traced his cheek and jaw.

"You're tense," I stated simply.

"Sorry."

"Want to talk about it?"

"It's nothing."

"Doesn't seem that way."

"I'm just nervous."

"About the party?"

"Among other things."

"What can I do to help?"

He opened his eyes and pulled me into his arms, a small smile curling his lips.

"Tell me you love me."

I smiled and wrapped my arms around his neck, idly stroking the hair at the back of his head.

"Edward...I love you. So much."

He stroked my back, his fingers light and warm on my skin as he hugged me, sniffing my hair in the process.

"Tell me you need me," he whispered softly, his warm breath sending shivers through my body.

"I need you," I whispered back, unsure why he suddenly needed so much assurance, but determined to give it to him anyway. "I'll always need you."

"Good," he mumbled as he sighed and stepped back, taking my hand and leading me to the front door. "I really need you to remember that if you get the sudden urge to murder me tonight."

Before I could ask what the hell he meant by that he pushed open the double doors revealing a throng of people standing inside the grand entrance hall who yelled, "SURPRISE" so loudly I almost peed in my pants.

My hand flew to my chest as I found myself confronted with a wall of faces and noise, all beaming and singing 'Happy Birthday' at the top of their lungs – Alice and Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie, Rob, Renee and Charlie, and a middle-aged couple I didn't know.

I turned to look at Edward. He was shrugging and singing with them. When he finished he hugged me tightly and whispered, "I'm sorry. Alice insisted. She threatened to make me record a duet with Celine Dion if I didn't let her do this."

"How did you know it was my birthday?" I asked, pulling back and looking into his face.

"It was in the information Jay Jenks gave me after the Bree incident." He looked down and fiddled with my fingers. "I was waiting for you to tell me...to maybe bring it up, but...you never did. Then Alice found out, and...well..."

He gestured to a huge glittered sign, dotted with fairy lights that hung in the entrance hall above our heads. It read, "Happy Birthday, Bella!" and flashed insistently, like it was yelling at us.

Before I could explain to him that I would have told him if I'd remembered, I was engulfed in hugs and well-wishes from my friends and family.

Charlie was first, passing me a glass of champagne as he hugged me, and presenting me with a monogrammed wool blanket and an expensive bottle of wine. I laughed and accepted it gratefully.

Then Emmett and Rosalie tag-teamed me, Emmett taking it upon himself to swing me around like a rag-doll, spilling my champagne everywhere as Rosalie screeched at him to put me down before he hurt me. Emmett gave me several books on relaxation and meditation and I hugged them both.

I could see Edward watching from a few feet away, the small smile on his face doing nothing to distract me from his tense stance, his hands shoved in his pockets and his shoulders high.

I smiled at him as Alice and Jasper came over to me, wanting to reassure him that I wasn't mad at him for the surprise party, but he just kept staring at me, a look of restlessness moving behind his eyes.

"Do you hate me?" Alice said with a pout as she hugged me fiercely.

"No more than usual," I shot back with a smile, struggling to breathe in her iron embrace.

"Please tell me you had no idea," she said as she released me. "I've been planning it for weeks and I thought for sure that Pattinson was going to fucking ruin it this morning."

"Hey!" Rob said defensively as he came to join us. "I told you I was useless at keeping secrets, evil short-person, and yet you insisted on telling me anyway. Any ruining that may or may not have happened was your fucking fault."

"Rob," Alice said with mock-patience, "how do you survive in Hollywood with zero filter between your mouth and your brain?"

He smirked and raised his eyebrows, snagging two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter. "It's not fucking easy, shorty, that's for sure. I'm fairly certain I've given my manager an ulcer."

I laughed as he leaned in and kissed my cheek, passing me a fresh glass of champagne in the process.

"Cheers, birthday girl," he said with a smile, "Despite your constant torture of my nipples and self-esteem, I'm extremely grateful you were born."

"Well, I'm thankful you're grateful, Pattsy," I laughed, toasting him and sipping the bitter alcohol, "Apart from Alice, you're the closest thing to a girlfriend I've ever had."

He choked on his champagne.

"Excellent," he coughed, wiping his mouth, "That's what every mildly-attractive heterosexual male wants to hear. Thanks."

I hugged him and laughed, pausing when I saw Edward talking to the well-dressed couple I didn't know. He was running his fingers through his hair as the man patted him reassuringly on the shoulder, and then the woman hugged him.

Oh shit. Are they his...?

"So, Bella," Alice said excitedly, turning me to face her and pulling a small aqua-blue box from Jasper's jacket, "I wanted to get you something special for your birthday, and I know you don't own much jewelry so..."

She handed me the box and bit her lip nervously, her eyes flicking between my hands and my face. "I really hope you like it."

My knowledge of things like jewelry was limited to say the least, but even I knew where the small, pretty box had come from. I also knew that whatever was inside was probably outrageously expensive.

I lifted off the lid and stared at what lay inside.

Earrings.

Love hearts.

Diamonds.

Small.

Beautiful.

Perfect.

Just like Alice.

More than I could ever hope to deserve.

I looked at Alice and swallowed as insistent tears prickled behind my eyes.

"Please tell me you like them," she said softly, her face braced for disappointment. Her eyes were bright and expectant. I felt like hugging her and never letting go.

I took a breath and tried to keep my voice even.

"They're beautiful, Alice. More beautiful than anything I've ever owned. You...you...well..." I sighed, trying so hard to tell her how much it meant to me and failing miserably. "I love you," I said finally, kissing her cheek and hugging her desperately.

"You're my sister in everything but blood, Bella," she whispered into my shoulder, her voice hitching. "You've given me so much, just by being you. You've made my brother happier than I ever thought possible. I...I can't express how much you mean to me." She pulled back and wiped her damp cheeks. "You deserve more than I could ever give you, because nothing I buy you will ever equal your true value to me," she smiled, "but I'm certainly going to have fun trying."

She picked up the earrings and gently put them in my ears, stepping back to appraise them.

"Beautiful," she said, welling up again.

"Yeah, the earrings aren't bad either," Jasper offered, kissing me on the cheek before wrapping his arms around his over-emotional girlfriend. "Happy birthday, Bella."

"All right, all right," Rob said quickly, fanning away his own tears, "Enough of the Hallmark Movie of the fucking week." He put his arm around me and pulled me away from Alice and Jas who were quickly becoming too wrapped up in each other to care that we were leaving. "Time to break out the cool presents, Swan."

He ushered me over to a side table where there was a large plastic bag.

"Went to a lot of trouble with the wrapping I see," I laughed.

"Who do I look like? Martha fucking Stewart? I'm a man, Swan. I don't wrap."

He picked up the bag and held it out to me, his eyes excited and expectant.

"Go on. Open it."

I opened the bag and pulled out a large box. I read the label and laughed.

"The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus Collector's Edition Megaset?"

I looked up into Rob's proud face.

"Do you like it?" he asked nervously.

"Rob, I love it," I said, looking at the list of skits listed on the box. "Where did you get this? I've been looking for it everywhere."

He rubbed the back of his neck and shrugged, looking embarrassed.

"I bought it for you ages ago but haven't had the chance to give it to you. The Spanish Inquisition's on there."

I swallowed and nodded, remembering how we had immediately bonded over that skit when we'd first met. I knew then that we were going to be good friends.

There are just some people who come into your life you know will be with you forever. They're people you can be totally natural with, who you don't need to try to be anything other than yourself.

Rob was one of those people.

I completely believed in the concept of soul mates, but I didn't believe there was just one soul mate for everyone. I mean, I obviously knew without a doubt that Edward was my mine – the one person I was destined to be with for the rest of my life - but I also believed those friends we loved the most, the ones we couldn't imagine living without – like Alice and Rob – were our soul mates too.

I'd felt it the first time I'd met them and I was so immensely grateful to have them in my life.

I looked at Rob and tried to smile without crying. I think it came out more like a grimace.

"Jesus, Bella," he said leaning back, "you're not going to vomit on me again, are you? Because as much as I love you, that would be the last fucking straw in our friendship."

I laughed and put his gift down so I could pull him in for a hug.

"Don't tell anyone I said this," I said, a light sob creeping into my voice, "But you are one of the best people I've ever met."

"Jesus, don't cry, Bella," he whispered, hugging me back, "You know I can't fucking hold it together if you cry."

"I'm not crying," I said defensively, "I just...well...I really liked your present, and...I really like you too."

He patted my back as I pulled myself together.

Goddammit. Didn't really expect to come undone because of a set of DVDs.

"Thank you for being my friend," I said, getting myself under control.

He pulled back and smiled one of those smiles that made it impossible for me to not smile with him.

"Thank you for letting me," he replied softly.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see Edward standing there.

He looked devastatingly handsome, but there was still a hint of tension in his face.

"Sorry to interrupt," he said, smiling, "but I kind of need to borrow Bella for a few minutes, if that's okay with you, Rob."

Rob raised his eyebrows and sighed.

"I don't know, Edward," he said, seriously, "Bella and I were just bonding over absurdist British comedy and reminiscing about the time she regurgitated all over me. You'd need to have a pretty bloody good reason for disturbing us."

Edward looked at me, his eyes warm but guarded.

"Well, Rob, I was going to introduce Bella to my parents. Is that a good enough reason?"

Oh. God.

He wants me to meet the parents?

My anxiety levels rocketed off the charts.

Rob nodded in defeat.

"Yep. That'll do."

He downed the rest of his champagne before putting the glass down on the table and wrapping his arms around both Edward and me.

"Okay, kids, you have a nice time. Thanks for inviting me." He stood back and looked at me.

"I hope you get everything you wish for, birthday girl," he said sincerely.

"Thanks Rob," I said, squeezing his arm before watching him wander over to Rosalie and exclaiming loudly, "So, Rosie. Did I tell you about the time I thought Emmett was going to ass-rape me?"

Edward smiled and took my hand, running his fingers gently across mine.

"I really want to hear that story," he said, as his skin hushed over mine.

"We could hear it," I said, trying to hide my nerves from him. "I mean, it would only be a few minutes. We could...well...I could...ah...meet your parents later if you like. I mean...it's no big deal, right? Surely a few more minutes won't make a diff..."

He stopped my nervous rambling by kissing me, his right hand wrapping around my waist as his other hand cupped my cheek. I immediately zoned out on everything except the feeling of his mouth on mine, moving gently, calming and exhilarating me simultaneously.

He pulled back and the moment his lips left mine, my nerves started jangling again.

"Is it really necessary for me to meet them?" I asked, dropping my head and twirling the button on his suit-jacket. "Can't you just show them a picture of me and assure them I'm awesome?"

"Bella," he said as he tilted my head up to look at him, "they're going to love you."

"Yeah. Of course they are," I said, dropping my eyes as I put my hand on his chest and fiddled with his tie, "I mean, really, what's not to love? An ex-homeless person who nearly killed her stepfather is dating their son. They'll do the dance of joy, I'm sure."

"Bella, look at me," he said firmly. I looked up into his incredible green eyes. He cupped my cheek and ran his thumb over my skin, his eyes looking at me with so much adoration I was finding it difficult to breathe.

"I love you," he said softly, "My sister loves you, and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my parents are going to love you." He kissed me softly and I sighed in resignation. "They want what's best for me, Bella, and it's pretty fucking obvious to anyone with eyes in their head that what's best for me is you."

I nodded and drew in a shaky breath.

Regardless of how nervous I was, I knew I had to meet them. Part of me really wanted to shake the hands of the couple that produced such a remarkable son.

"Let's go," I said, trying to replace my nerves with enthusiasm.

Edward laced my fingers through his and led me across the room to where his parents were waiting. I tried desperately to look confident as we approached them, but I was immediately intimidated.

Damn, they're so fucking pretty.

His mom had a bronze tint to her hair and the same stunning green eyes as Edward. His dad had obviously passed on his devastating jaw and bone structure, and had Alice's pale blue eyes. As I approached they both smiled warmly, looking between Edward and me with obvious affection.

They looked like those ridiculously perfect couples in the photos you got when you buy picture frames – smiling and beautiful and unrealistically happy.

There were plenty of pictures like that of Phil and Renee when I was growing up. They were scattered around the house. Phil would have his arms around Renee and they'd both be beaming, seemingly perfectly in love. To an outsider, they looked like they didn't have a care in the world.

I wanted to grab every single one of them and write 'violent alcoholic' across Phil's forehead in Magic Marker.

They say pictures don't lie.

Bullshit.

I suddenly wondered what Edward and I would look like in a picture together.

The only picture I'd ever seen of us was the one taken at the very first cocktail party we had gone to. It was just when we had started to admit we were attracted to each other and he defended me to that skank-bitch-whore Tanya Denali. Then, on the balcony, he'd kissed me until my legs buckled, and Alice caught us. Then I punched out skank-bitch-whore Tanya Denali in the ladies' room before drinking myself into oblivion. By the time the picture was taken I was rolling-drunk and Edward was desperately trying to usher me into the limo as I shouted to the world that he was hung like a stallion.

Ah, good times.

I was suddenly wrenched back to reality by Edward whispering, "Here we go."

Oh, God. I'm not ready. I'm not ready. I'm not ready.

"Mom...Dad," Edward said, inhaling deeply as we reached his parents, "I'd like you to meet Bella Swan. Bella – my parents – Esme and Carlisle Cullen."

He squeezed my hand before letting it go and placing his arm around my waist.

Ready or not, here I come.

I cleared my throat and held out my hand to his mother first.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Cullen," I said, suddenly feeling like a nervous twelve-year-old and hoping she didn't notice my clammy palms.

"Oh, Bella," she said, bypassing my outstretched arm and engulfing me in a warm hug. "Please call me Esme. I've been waiting for this day for so long. You can't even imagine how happy I am to finally meet you."

She squeezed me tightly and after I recovered from the surprise of her embrace, I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed back.

She smelled like citrus – fresh and vibrant.

She pulled back and looked at me, and even though I tried really hard not to, I could feel myself blushing under her scrutiny.

"So beautiful," she sighed, stroking my hair. "No wonder Edward fell in love with you."

I didn't know what to say. I was so damn emotional tonight anyway, and having a virtual stranger say stuff like that was seriously messing with my ability to not completely lose my shit.

I settled for nodding and smiling. She seemed to appreciate that.

I turned to Edward's dad and held out my hand. He took it in both of his and leaned in to kiss me gently on both cheeks as he said, "Edward has told us so much about you, Bella, I feel as if I know you already."

I suddenly felt bad that Edward had told me virtually nothing about them.

Jesus. Didn't we talk at all? What the hell did we do with our time?

Oh, yeah.

The sex.

Swan, Do NOT think about having sex with Edward while you're shaking his father's hand. That's just wrong on so many levels.

"Uh...nice to meet you, Mr. Cullen," I stammered, suddenly very uncomfortable with just how much Edward's dad looked like him.

"Carlisle, please," he corrected gently, "Calling us Mr. and Mrs. Cullen makes us feel very old."

I relaxed a little as their warmth enveloped me. They had the same easy likeability that Edward and Alice had except it was more nurturing and mature. I immediately felt the weight of their acceptance.

"So, Bella," Esme said, "I hope you don't mind that Alice organized this little soiree for your birthday. Carlisle and I have been dying to meet you for such a long time, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Plus when Alice makes up her mind about something there really isn't any changing it."

I smiled.

"Yes, I know that too well," I said, looking across the room to the dance floor where Alice was wrapped around Jasper like a limpet. "I'm really having a good time. I'm not used to people making this much of a fuss about my birthday. It's nice...for a change, although a little nerve-wracking."

Edward's arm tightened around my waist.

"You think it's nerve-wracking?" he said with a laugh, "I've been in a state of constant terror for weeks, not knowing who was going to murder me first – you or Alice. I was betting on Alice considering her daily threats to rip off certain body parts if I didn't let her be as extravagant as she wanted, even though I kept telling her you didn't really care about those things."

I looked up at him. I could still see the tension behind his eyes.

"Everyone who's important to me is in this one room," I said, trying to ease his mind, "that's the most extravagant thing I could have ever imagined."

Edward's eyes locked onto mine, and for a few moments nothing else existed except for him and me.

"And what a beautiful house," Esme said, gesturing around her, "Alice couldn't have chosen a more gorgeous setting."

Edward shot her a quick look which I didn't understand, but Carlisle quickly covered it by pulling an envelope out of his jacket.

"Bella, Esme and I selfishly got you a birthday present that we will benefit from. I hope you don't mind."

He passed me the envelope and I looked quickly at Edward. He smiled and rolled is his eyes at his parents as I opened the envelope to reveal two round-trip tickets to Seattle.

"It's really just an excuse to kidnap you both for a few days and completely spoil you," Esme laughed. "The last time I had Edward home he was nursing a rather painful broken heart and was incredibly unpleasant to be around."

"Mom, I've apologized for that."

"I know, sweetheart, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let you forget it. I'm your mother. Inflicting guilt is one of my rights."

"That and telling embarrassing childhood stories, honey," Carlisle said with a serious face, "That's actually both our rights."

"Yes, and I'm sure we'll be exercising those rights very shortly. I think Bella would love that."

Edward groaned and sighed.

"I'll pay you a million dollars to skip the embarrassing childhood stories. Bella has no interest in that sort of thing."

"Wrong!" I said, holding his hands and laughing. "I need to hear all about baby Asstard."

"Asstard?" Esme said with a giggle. "Oh, Bella, I need to hear the story of that nick-name."

"You think my nickname's funny," Edward said, standing behind me and wrapping his arms around me, "Her nickname is Piss-Girl."

Esme and Carlisle both laughed loudly.

"Well, that's a story I personally can't wait to hear," Carlisle said with a smile.

I quickly told the story of how Edward and I met, cautiously watching Esme and Carlisle for any signs of revulsion. There weren't any. There wasn't even any pity, although I'm pretty sure that's because Edward told them I can't stand that shit.

Nevertheless, several minutes later, Esme and Carlisle were still laughing about Asstard and Piss-Girl.

Edward and I laughed with them.

I can only imagine how they'd react if I told them about Giney and Godzy.

Yeah. Maybe not.

"Well," Esme said, "I know it's a ways off, but we'd be honored if Asstard and Piss-Girl would join us in Seattle for Thanksgiving. It would be a great time to use those tickets. Please say you'll come."

A small thrill of excitement ran through me at the thought of spending Thanksgiving with the Cullens. I hadn't celebrated the holiday in a long time. Just the thought of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie got me just a little bit turned on.

"I'd love that," I said sincerely.

"Bella," Edward said seriously, "Before we go I'm afraid we'll both have to get extra stomachs inserted in our bodies. My mother doesn't believe something is worth doing unless it's worth overdoing, and she always insists on cooking enough food to feed the entire US army. And their allies."

Esme laughed and put her hand on Edward's arm.

"And yet, you always manage to polish off the leftovers before you leave, my dear first-born."

"I don't think you'll have any problem with leftovers this time, Mom," Edward replied. He looked down at me. "Bella is quite capable of eating her own weight in food. It's really quite disgusting. And sexy. Couple that with the fact that you've also invited Alice, Jasper, Emmett, Rosalie and Rob, and I think we're completely going to wipe out Seattle's entire food stocks."

We talked and laughed about Thanksgiving for a while before Esme and Carlisle started telling embarrassing stories about Edward's childhood. I howled with laughter as they told me about the time Edward stood on the front lawn of their house when he was five, serenading the neighbors with nursery rhymes as he used the vacuum cleaner hose as a microphone. There was also the story about the two weeks when he was three that he refused to wear clothes. He'd take them off as soon as Esme dressed him and then run around the house naked, screaming as she chased him, desperately trying to get him to at least put on underpants.

I chuckled at the irony because I usually chased him around the apartment and tried to get him to take his underpants off.

After several more highly embarrassing stories that involved both nudity and poop, Edward was so red with embarrassment, he would have stopped traffic if I'd shoved him out into the street. Thankfully, before he could strangle both his parents, Alice dragged us all over to a table that housed an enormous cake that could have fed a small African nation for a year.

After everyone sang happy birthday to me...again, a DJ started playing dance music.

I spent the next hour dancing with my friends, laughing and clapping as everyone took turns showcasing their most outrageous moves. Rob was particularly spectacular, performing a truly heinous robot to shrieks of laughter.

I frowned when Edward excused himself after a while and disappeared.

Eventually the music changed, becoming less frenetic and more mellow.

I took turns dancing with all the guys before looking for the one person I really wanted to dance with, but Edward was nowhere to be found. After scouring the room for him, I finally spotted him out by the pool, pacing nervously. It looked like he was talking to himself.

I went over to the glass doors and watched as he walked the length of the pool and back again, his steps long and elegant despite him obviously being agitated about something.

What the hell is going on with him tonight?

At the beginning of the evening I thought he was nervous about my reaction to the party. Then I thought he might have been concerned about how his parents would react to me, but here he was, both of those things no longer a concern and still more uptight than I'd ever seen him.

"He doesn't want to disappoint you," a quiet voice said behind me. I turned to see Renee watching Edward pace, her eyes sympathetic. "He's been on edge all night, trying to make sure everything was perfect for you. That boy has it bad."

She looked at me and smiled.

"And obviously you do too. I can't tell you how happy I am that you found each other."

"So am I," I said as my eyes were drawn back to Edward.

We stood beside each other and watched him pace. It was oddly soothing.

"I hope you don't mind that I'm here tonight," she said, "Edward invited me and...well...I really wanted to come. But if it makes you at all uncomfortable please say so. This is your night. I'd hate to do anything to upset you."

I frowned as I processed what she was saying.

Was I upset that she was here?

When I first walked in tonight and saw her and Charlie, I didn't even question her presence. The room was filled with the people who meant the most to me, and surprisingly, she didn't seem out of place.

What the hell does that mean? That I want her here? That I'm ready for her to be...important to me again?

I had no clue.

All I knew was that my mother was helping me celebrate my birthday, and for the first time in a long time, I didn't want to hit her.

"I'm glad you're here, Mom," I said, turning to look at her.

She swallowed and looked at the floor.

"Thank God," she said with a laugh in her voice, "because I really wanted to stay."

We looked at each other for a few moments and I could almost imagine what it would be like if things weren't completely fucked-up between us.

"Sweetheart...sorry... Bella," she said, remembering she wasn't supposed to use terms of endearment yet, "I didn't know how you would react if I got you a present, so I didn't get you one...just in case it was...inappropriate." She dropped her eyes to the floor. "I know that things are a long way from being right between us, and I never want you to feel like I'm forcing you to...forgive me...or connect with me, or whatever. But please know that if you ever need anything...I'll be there for you. It might be hard for you to believe that after my less than stellar track record, but I'm committed to trying like hell to make up for all the times I let you down, and I really hope that one day, you'll let me."

She reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope, holding it out for me to take.

"Here," she said, "this is for you. It's not exactly a birthday present but I thought you should see it."

I took the envelope and opened it. Inside was a piece of newspaper. It read - "Obituary. Phillip John Dwyer, aged fifty-three years. Died on Tuesday 9th of September at UCLA Medical Center."

All the air went out of the room.

"Phil?" I whispered, looking at Renee with wide eyes. "He's dead?"

She nodded. "His mother sent it to me. I think it was her way of apologizing for everything her son did to me. To us."

I swallowed hard as a dizzying array of emotions rushed through me. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe as a huge bubble of relief expanded around me.

He was dead.

That rat-bastard motherfucker wouldn't live to hurt anyone ever again.

I felt like screaming and singing and dancing and crying all at once.

He was dead.

Best. Birthday. Present. EVER.

"How did he die?" I asked quietly, my eyes still closed.

I hope it was painful. I hope he felt what it was like to not be able to breathe it hurt so fucking much. I hope that asshole suffered.

Does that make me a bad person?

Fuck it, I don't care. That motherfucker deserved to rot in hell for what he did to us.

"Cirrhosis of the liver," Renee said with a sigh. "The alcohol finally killed him. I always knew it would."

I looked at her.

She was frowning and there was a haunted look in her eyes.

Jesus. Don't tell me she's sad he's gone. That fucker beat us both for YEARS. She can't possibly feel remorse for his death.

"Mom," I said, trying to keep the incredulity out of my voice, "please tell me you're not sad he's dead."

She looked at me sharply.

"Hell, no," she said emphatically. "I feel bad that I'm ready to dance around on his freshly-turned grave singing Hallelujah. I mean, I'm so damn happy that he's dead it's scary. I just really hope that bastard suffered before he passed. An easy death was too good for him."

Finally, we agree on something.

We both stood in silence, watching as Edward continued to pace and mutter to himself.

A strange sense of solidarity for my mother washed over me as I sensed how incredibly freeing Phil's death was for her.

I felt the same way.

For both of us it was the chance to close the door on that part of our lives and lock away the hurt, pain, and betrayal that had ruled us for so long. It was our chance to start again, in a world where Phil cocksucker Dwyer couldn't hurt us anymore.

I sighed and pushed thoughts of Phil from my mind. Tonight was about me. Finally. Not him.

Me and the people I loved.

"You should go to him," Renee said, gesturing to Edward's agitated form. "He obviously needs you."

I looked at him running his hands through his hair compulsively and sighing intermittently.

"I'm worried that he's going to give me bad news," I said, surprising myself with my honesty, especially in front of my mother.

"Bella," Renee said, turning to face me and hitting me with her 'mom' voice, "that man would kill or die for you. I doubt very much you have to fear anything he has to say."

I looked out at the man I loved. I knew what she said was true, and yet I couldn't help the crawling unease that prickled across my skin, making me shudder involuntarily.

There was something going on with him tonight. Something big. It made me nervous.

"He's a special man, Bella," Renee said, smiling at me, "You got one of the good ones."

I smiled back at her and nodded.

Yeah, I did.

I pushed open the glass doors and walked over to Edward. The pool was filled with tiny floating candles and the water bobbed and sparkled with countless reflected flames.

He looked up as he heard me approach and exhaled heavily, his eyes closing for a few seconds as his lips moved noiselessly.

He was using his serenity techniques to calm himself down.

A sharp pang of panic stabbed through me.

Something's wrong. I can feel it.

He opened his eyes as I stopped in front of him.

"Hey," he said softly, stepping forward so he could wrap his arms around my waist, "are you having a good time?"

"I'm have a great time," I said, the hard edge of anxiety coloring my voice, "except that I've been watching my boyfriend freak out all night and I have no idea why."

He dropped his head, his face showing his regret.

"Has it been that obvious?"

"Yes. And it's scaring the hell out of me, Edward."

"I'm sorry. That's the last thing I wanted to happen."

"Would you please tell me what the hell is going on?"

He looked down.

"There are two things I need to talk to you about. Important things. I just...I'm just not sure how you're going to react. I've been trying to figure out how to tell you."

"Tell me what?"

"Well if I could bring myself to just blurt it out then I wouldn't be having a hard time, would I?" he snapped.

He rubbed his hands over his face.

"Fuck. Sorry. See, this is the part that's difficult. Maybe you should sit down."

"Why?"

"Because we could be here a while."

I huffed and put my hands on my hips.

"Edward, just tell me."

He started pacing again.

"Bella, I have a very bad feeling that you're going to kill me. And not in a 'I'm-going-to-suck-your-cock-til-you-brain-explodes-with-pleasure-and-you-think-you've-died-and-gone-to-heaven' kind of way either."

He grabbed me and led me over to a stylish loveseat, sitting me down before straightening up and standing in front of me.

"Okay," he said, exhaling heavily, "here goes."

I crossed my legs and tried not to look impatient. It wasn't easy.

"So, ever since I found out your birthday was coming up, I've been wracking my brain trying to think of what to get you. I mean, you're...well...you're you. I love you. I wanted to get you something that showed you how much I loved you...how important you are to me."

I nodded.

"But that's harder than it sounds," he said, starting to pace again, "I mean, so many things are just clichéd – perfume...lingerie...jewelry. They're predictable presents for a boyfriend to buy his girlfriend. Millions of men do it every day. I wanted to get you something different. Something special. Something you would love."

His eyes flicked to mine but he kept pacing.

"So I started thinking about you...and your life...and how you'd been deprived of so much for so long, and how I wanted to make sure you'd never be deprived again because when I think about you being homeless and hungry I get fucking insane with anger because you're beautiful and perfect and you should never have anything less than perfection in your life, and even though I know you love me and don't care about how I have a shitload of money, the fact is I do have a shitload of money, and I want to use that money to provide for you in any way I can and make you happy and give you everything you could ever need or want because you deserve it, more than anyone I've ever met. You deserve to be happy, and I want to be the one who makes you happy because...well...fuck, I don't want to sound like an asshole or anything, but...you're mine. Do you understand what I mean by that? Not like a possession, but like you were made for me. Christ, this is coming out all wrong."

He exhaled again and closed his eyes, and I could see him trying to calm himself.

I stood up and walked over to him, gently cupping his face and stroking his jaw.

He sighed and his eyelids fluttered but stayed closed.

"Bella," he whispered, "I want to make you happy."

"You do make me happy," I assured him, stroking his face with my fingertips. "I'm happier than I've ever been and you're the reason."

His eyes opened and he looked at me.

My breath caught in my lungs.

See? This is why I love him. When he looks at me like that...I'm beautiful. I'm the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. He loves me and I can see in his eyes just how much.

"I wanted to get you something you loved," he said, running his hands down my arms to my wrists and back up to my shoulders. I shivered as warm electricity tingled over my skin.

Well, you could have stripped naked and wrapped a big bow around yourself. I would have LOVED that.

"Edward, whatever you've gotten me for my birthday, I'm sure it's beautiful."

"It is beautiful," he said, his eyes reflecting the hundreds of candles floating in the pool. "But it's extravagant. I don't want you to feel...embarrassed to take it. Please promise me you'll accept it."

God, I've already been given so many extravagant presents tonight – diamonds, plane tickets, news of asshole-Phil's death. How much more extravagant could it be?

"Fine," I said reassuringly, "I promise I'll accept it. Now please, the suspense is killing me. Show me my present."

He took a deep breath and turned me around to face the doors at the back of the house.

"Happy birthday, Bella," he said into my ear.

I frowned.

"So, where's my present?" I asked, confused.

"There," he said, gesturing to the doors.

"What, inside the house? Where inside the house? Are we going to play a game of hotter/colder, 'cause that could be fun."

He walked around in front of me and held my hands.

"Bella, we've been looking at apartments and houses for weeks, and I know that nothing has gotten you excited. But this?" he gestured to the house, "Every time we come here you rave about it. I can see your eyes light up when you talk about it. I feel how connected you are to it. Please say you like it."

Comprehension slammed into my like a freight train, stealing my breath and making my legs go weak.

"Edward," I wheezed as he noticed my distress and put his arms around me, "You...bought me...a house?"

Even in the dim light of the candlelit pool I could see his blush.

"Uh...yeah."

I closed my eyes and tried to comprehend the absurd reality of what he was telling me.

A house.

He bought me...a house.

Nope. Cannot comprehend. Does not compute. Not possible to accept.

"Bella? Please say something."

I can't. My brain is too busy trying to comprehend that you BOUGHT ME A FUCKING HOUSE to be able to form consonants and vowels into actual words.

"Bella, open your eyes."

Nope. Then I'll see the house. The house that is impossibly mine. Can't deal.

"Please. Look at me."

I shook my head.

"Why not."

I still couldn't speak.

I felt warm hands stroking my arms.

"Bella, I want you to have this. Please."

I managed to find my voice but it was small and unsteady. I kept my eyes shut.

"Edward, it's too much."

"No, it's not. You love it. I want you to have it. I want you to have everything you've ever wanted."

"You're everything I've ever wanted."

"We need a place to live, Bella."

"I've managed without a place to live before."

"Yes, and it will be a cold day in hell before I let anything like that happen to you again. Bella, please..."

"It's a HOUSE, Edward. A giant, beautiful, perfect house."

"I know that. It's our house. Please look at it."

I couldn't deny him anything when he said 'please' like that.

I opened my eyes.

He was looking at me with concern...and love. Jesus. So much love.

I looked over his shoulder at the house.

I could see everyone inside having a good time – eating and drinking and dancing.

I had the sudden urge to ask them all to take their shoes off and make sure they used coasters when they put their drinks down on the furniture.

"I'm sorry," Edward said softly, "I know that it's too much. I know I shouldn't have. But..." He took my hands in his and stroked my fingers. I watched as our hands intertwined. "I knew how much you loved it. I loved it. I wanted to live here with you. I figured...why waste our time looking for something we both love when we've already found it? I convinced the record company to sell it to me."

He reached out and touched my face. My eyes automatically drifted up to his.

"Please say something."

My God, he was beautiful. And I'm not just talking physical beauty, because even though he was the most stunning man I'd ever seen...it was more than that. It was everything about him.

He was my everything.

"Thank you," I said, once again trying to push down my runaway emotions.

Jesus, am I PMSing today? I feel like a crazy person.

I stood on my toes and kissed Edward, my emotions still raging through me like angry bull. His arms tightened around me as he kissed me back, his mouth falling into the familiar pattern of making me crazy with lust for him.

I couldn't handle it.

I pulled back, panting heavily.

I felt an uncomfortable quivering in my chest.

"Bella?" Edward said with concern, "What's wrong?"

My heart was beating too fast. I felt like I was having an anxiety attack.

Everything that happened today just seemed like too much.

Don't ruin the moment for him. Get it together for God's sake.

"I can't swim," I finally said turning to look at the pool, still half-dazed, my words sounding slurred.

Edward looked confused.

"What are you saying?" he asked, wrapping his arms around me from behind.

"I took a few lessons when I was a kid, but not enough to do more than flail and try not to sink to the bottom. The one thing I learned was to not panic. When you panic you fight against the water until you get tired and then it drags you down. And when you're down you won't have the energy to realize that all you have to do to survive is let go. You'll just sit on the bottom and let the water win. That's why so many people drown."

"Sweetheart, what are you talking about?"

"But you have a choice. That's what a lot of people don't realize. You can float. Anyone can float. You just have to accept that you can. Floating doesn't take skill. You just have to let it happen. Don't panic."

I turned and looked at the house – huge and beautiful and glowing from the inside.

I turned and looked at Edward – handsome and perfect and mine.

Too perfect. Too much.

"I'm trying not to panic," I said honestly, my body, mind, and emotions pulling me in different directions, each one trying to force me under, "But tonight...I feel overwhelmed. How could I go from having nothing to having all this? How is it possible? I don't understand."

Edward wrapped his arms around me and I buried myself in his chest, breathing deeply, trying desperately to float.

"I'm a pretty good swimmer," he whispered, gently kissing my forehead, "but occasionally I forget to not panic. Maybe I could teach you how to swim and you could teach me how to float."

I closed my eyes as his scent invaded my lungs, giving me a brief hit of what I constantly craved.

"Maybe," I said tentatively.

He pulled back from me and tilted my head up to his, kissing my lips reverently, his mouth soft and warm and tasting of non-alcoholic cider.

"Bella, there was one other thing I wanted to talk to you about tonight, and I guess now's as good a time as any."

He took a moment to study my face, his eyes calm but burning with passion.

"I want you to be happy," he said, still staring at me with quiet intensity, "I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy. Please let me."

His voice was soft. Undemanding. I almost missed the meaning in his words.

"I...Edward...you said...uh...what?"

He smiled.

"Wow," he said more to himself than to me, "I thought I would be more nervous about asking you, but suddenly, the only thing I'm nervous about is your answer."

He stepped back from me and walked over to a small wrought-iron table near the pool. He picked something up and walked back, stopping in front of me.

My heart started pounding erratically.

"Bella," Edward said, looking into my eyes with an intensity I had never seen, "I spent a lot of years running around, desperately trying to find something to soothe the restlessness I felt inside me. Trying to satisfy the raw ache that I'd always had. I did so many things that I'm ashamed of...hurt so many people, including my family...but nothing worked. I felt empty. Like I had holes in me that were never filled, no matter how many drugs I took, or how much alcohol I drank or how many women I slept with. The holes were always there. I'd almost come to accept that they were just a part of me and I'd have to get used to feeling incomplete.

But then I met you, and suddenly, the restlessness went away. The holes got smaller and less empty until eventually, they didn't exist anymore.

You did that. You filled me up in ways I never thought possible. You made me feel like I was worthy of having something amazing and remarkable.

You made me whole.

For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to not have to search for something because I'd already found it.

I'd found you."

He took a breath and I could see that he was getting emotional. My chest tightened in response.

Please don't cry, Edward. If you do I'll shatter into a thousand pieces and collapse in a gasping, weeping mess on the floor. I'm having enough trouble accepting all of this is real without that happening. Please don't cry.

He drew in a long breath and continued, his voice steady but quiet.

"I never really believed any of the romantic bullshit I'd heard over the years. All the love songs and poetry and gushing declarations of destiny and forever. It all seemed too much. I thought people were making it up. Acting the part. I never truly believed love that was all-consuming, and passionate, and earth-shattering actually existed. But now I know it does. I have it. With you. And it constantly boggles my mind that I find new ways to love you every day."

Edward brought his hand up, and in his palm was a small, black velvet box.

A ring box.

My heart tried to crack through my chest it was thudding so hard.

I watched in absolute shock as Edward kneeled on the ground and opened the box to reveal the most beautiful ring I'd ever seen. It flashed and sparkled in the candlelight.

I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing.

"Isabella Swan," Edward said as he looked up at me, his voice low and dark with emotion, "I never want to be without you. Please don't make me. Say you'll be mine forever. Marry me."

Time stopped.

Rough air rasped inside my lungs as his words rushed through my mind, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality in one blinding instant.

Holy fuck.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you kind of step outside yourself and look down at where you are and what you're doing and just think, 'How the FUCK did I get here'?

Well that's where I was right now.

It was like I was floating above us, watching the scene unfold.

My hands were covering my mouth, a look of absolute astonishment frozen on my face, and Edward Cullen - the most beautiful, magnificent, amazing man ever to draw breath - was looking up at me with absolute love and adoration, his face breathtakingly beautiful as he waited for my response to the question I never thought I'd be asked.

"Bella?" he said softly, "did you hear what I said?"

I saw myself nod slowly.

This can't be happening. It really, really can't.

His face was heartbreakingly hopeful.

"I don't want to pressure you, beautiful, but...do you..." he swallowed heavily, "do you have an answer for me?"

I was sucked back into my body as everything went into slow motion.

There wasn't enough room inside me for all the things I was feeling.

Suddenly, the air was too thick. My skin was too warm. My head was pounding with the unbelievable unreality of what was happening to me.

"Bella? Are you okay?"

Good question. I don't think so. 'Okay' is in another universe to how I'm feeling right now.

I couldn't speak. I couldn't think. I could barely breathe.

"Bella?"

One part of me screamed that I was going to disappoint him, no matter what I said. The other part whispered that I deserved this. I deserved him. That the fairytale was so close I could touch it.

But fairytales don't exist, right?

My heart was beating out of my chest.

"Bella?"

His voice was far away, floating through me and making me dizzy.

I couldn't stop looking at him. He was still on one knee, frowning. Worried. His eyes dark with concern.

His eyes. God, I love his eyes. Everything I've ever wanted. Right there. So close.

"Bella, I love you. I'm always going to love you."

He swallowed hard, his eyes pleading with me, gut-wrenchingly uncertain, begging for an answer.

"Please...say you'll spend the rest of your life with me. I...God, Bella...I need you. I'll always need you. Please. Marry me."

I tried to swallow but I couldn't. I was choking on so many emotions it was hard to tell which one was crushing my lungs and which one was making me feel like I could fly.

The world started to spin, lurching and swaying beneath me.

"Bella?"

Before I realized what was happening, the blackness rushed over me and I fell.

The last thing I remembered was Edward's arms catching me before I hit the ground, his worried voice ringing in my ears.


When I came to I was lying on a couch. Edward was beside me, stroking my hair.

He proposed to me. He proposed to me and I passed out.

Not cool, Swan. At all.

Carlisle's face appeared in front of me. He cupped my face in his hands and looked into my eyes.

"How are you feeling?" he asked as he lifted my wrist and took my pulse.

My chest hurt. My skin was clammy. I needed to do something...say something to Edward...but I didn't know what.

"I'm fine," I said, sitting up, realizing that everyone was crowded around the couch, looking at me with concern. "I think I just...um...well..."

Oh God, this was embarrassing.

"I think I forgot how to breathe."

Carlisle suppressed a smile. He looked exactly like Edward in that moment. It was kind of adorable.

Edward was watching his father examine me with wary eyes. I took his hand and squeezed it.

"I'm fine," I said, trying to reassure him as well as myself. "I'm sorry...I...I didn't get to answer you."

I felt strange. Everything felt surreal.

Edward's hand in mine flinched imperceptibly.

Can he feel my unease? Does he know just how much I'm freaking out right now?

I mean, I'm still coming to grips with him being my boyfriend, and suddenly he's buying me houses and asking me to be his wife?

I guess, looking back, there were clues.

He was very secretive leading up to the party. I'd often walk into a room and find him on the phone, only to have him quickly hang up or start talking about baseball. He hated baseball.

If I'd been more aware I would have probably noticed. As it stood, I was apparently living in the land of Clueless, surrounded by a sea of Fuck I'm Oblivious because the house and the proposal took me completely by surprise.

And now I was having a major anxiety attack in a room filled with my nearest and dearest.

Excellent.

"Your pulse is a little high," Carlisle said as he released my wrist and stood up. "Just take it easy for a few minutes, and we'll see if it settles down. Have you eaten anything tonight?"

I shook my head.

Esme handed me a plate with some small sushi pieces on it.

I wasn't hungry but I popped one in my mouth and chewed it anyway. Carlisle seemed to relax as I forced myself to swallow it.

I could feel Edward's eyes on me.

I glanced over at him and he looked away.

Carlisle pressed his fingers against my wrist once more, seeming happier with my pulse as he released my hand.

"That's better. I'd like you to rest for a few minutes and then I'll check it again. In the meantime, please don't forget how to breathe, it causes my son severe distress. Although it is kind of amusing to hear his voice get screechy and girl-like. He hasn't screamed for me like that since he was hit in the groin with a baseball bat when he was fourteen and was convinced his scrotum was broken."

Well, that explains his aversion to baseball.

I heard several people chuckle, Rob and Emmett included.

Edward ran his hand through his hair and sighed. "Thanks for that, Dad. Nothing like mentioning my scrotum to really kick a party into overdrive."

Carlisle smirked at Edward who was blushing.

"What the hell was going on out there that made you forget how to breathe, Bells?" Emmett asked, looking at Edward with a raised eyebrow.

"Not what you think, perv," Edward said, his voice low and lacking any of the teasing humor he usually shared with Emmett.

"I find that hard to believe, Miley," Emmett smirked, not noticing the difference. "You two were out there for more than fifteen minutes. Usually that much alone-time means excessive amounts of inappropriate touching."

"We were just talking," Edward said, glancing at me quickly before looking at the floor.

He was tense, and I hated that he wouldn't look at me.

Can you Blame him, Swan? He just asked you one of the most important questions a man could ask a woman and you still haven't given him a damn answer.

I needed to talk to him...tell him how I felt.

He looked over at me, watching the nervous rise and fall of my chest, then looked down again and started biting his fingernails.

I wished we were alone. I couldn't say all the things I needed to say to him in front of all these people.

I sat up straight, trying to get my lungs to expand. They wouldn't.

I reached over and pulled his hand away from his mouth, holding it in both of mine, stroking his fingers gently.

"Edward," I said quietly, willing him to look at me, "I need to talk to you alone…"

Before I could say anything else, Renee walked over and handed me a glass of water. I thanked her and took a sip, suddenly conscious that everyone was looking at me.

I looked around the expectant faces, blushing.

"Wow. This is exciting, huh?" I said breathlessly, trying to not look like I was drowning on dry land, "You all come to party with me and end up watching me be all unconscious. I sure know how to show you a good time, don't I?"

I tried to laugh but I couldn't.

"We're just happy you're okay, Bells," Charlie said. "Besides, I was kind of expecting something like this. You'd had more than two glasses of alcohol and we all know what a lightweight you are."

Everyone laughed.

I concentrated on breathing.

"At least you didn't puke," Rob offered helpfully. "I speak from experience when I say that we can thank God for small mercies."

I gave him as much of a smile as I could manage and looked over at Alice.

She was frowning.

No, correction.

She was scowling.

She kept looking between Edward and me suspiciously and I could almost feel what she was about to say.

"What the fuck is going on here?" she asked, her eyes narrowing at her brother. "Edward, what the hell were you two talking about out there?"

"Alice," Edward said in a warning tone, "I'll talk to you about it later..."

Alice gasped.

Oh shit.

This is not going to be good.

"Edward Asstard Cullen!" she seethed, "You asked her to marry you without fucking telling ME? ME! The person who has been dreaming about this moment for fucking MONTHS? What the FUCK?"

Edward groaned and rubbed his eyes.

Suddenly the room was buzzing with noise. Everyone was throwing questions at us. They wanted to know what he said. What I said. Where's the ring? Had we set a date?

I closed my eyes to block it out.

Edward's hand tightened around mine, but he felt far away. I needed him closer.

"Please, everyone, just calm down," I heard Esme say. Her voice was soft-edged and echoey.

Dear God, please don't let me pass out again. That would fucking suck.

I opened my eyes and looked at Edward. He looked forlorn. I wanted to comfort him but my head was swimming. I felt like I was on a boat in a storm. The faces around me were going in and out of focus.

Alice walked over and glared at her mother.

"Mom? You KNEW about this?" she said with incredulity.

Esme sighed.

"He asked me for Grandma Cullen's ring, Alice. I kind of guessed."

Alice's breath hitched.

"Oh, fuck," she said softly, as she turned to me, "Bella, that ring must look so fucking beautiful on you."

"Alice, language," Esme chastised.

"Well?" Alice said, looking at me expectantly, "Show us."

I looked up at her, trying to focus on her face. I couldn't.

My mind was screaming that I should tell them I didn't get to answer, but I couldn't get the words to leave my mouth.

I looked at Edward. He was staring at the ground, his shoulders hunched and tense. My left hand was still clasped in his right. Then he gently removed his hand, revealing my naked fingers.

"Edward..." I whispered, but I didn't think he could hear me.

I could feel everyone's shock hit me like a punch in the gut. My ribs tightened even further.

"Bella?" Alice said in horror, "You...Jesus fucking Christ...you turned him down?"

Her voice was small and hushed, but in the absolute quiet of the room it sounded like she was screaming.

"Alice, please stop," Edward said quietly.

He thinks I rejected him. .

"Edward, no," I managed to wheeze before I started gasping.

Black shadows crawled around the edges of my vision.

Carlisle appeared in front of me, blurry and shimmering.

"Bella, breathe," he ordered quietly.

I tried to. I got a small amount of air into the top of my lungs but it rushed out too quickly.

I needed to tell him I hadn't rejected him, to reassure him that I wanted him more than anything else in my whole life, but I was terrified that as soon as I did that, I'd wake up to find it was yet another fantasy and be overwhelmed by devastating disappointment.

Edward had asked me to marry him. He'd bought me a house.

It was the most outrageous fantasy I'd ever had.

My lungs ached for air.

The blackness was dragging me under.

I groaned and closed my eyes.

Stop fighting, Bella. Just relax and float.

I felt warm arms surround me...warm breath on my face...

"Bella, please," Edward's voice said, pleading and desperate, whispering in my ear, "Breathe."

I sucked in air. It smelled like him. My chest released a little but it wasn't enough.

I felt his lips on my cheek...my forehead...his hand on my face...his fingers soft and gentle.

I needed to tell him...he needed to know...

"Breathe," he urged again.

I pulled in more air. It tasted like him. I drew it deep inside me, letting it massage the frozen, frightened muscles.

The shadows in my head faded a little, paling from black to grey.

Stop fighting. Tell him, Bella. Tell him what he means to you. Just fucking do it.

My eyelids were heavy but I lifted them anyway, fighting the dizziness.

I tried to focus on the shape in front of me.

He was there. His arms around me. His eyes on me.

"Bella, I love you. Forget what I said tonight. It doesn't matter. I just want to be with you, in any way you'll let me. Please. I need you."

His voice reached inside me and snapped the steel bands around my lungs, making them disintegrate and fall away.

There was nothing more important to me than what he needed. Nothing. Not my doubt or my fear or the outrageous possibility that a happy ending was really, truly available to me. And in that moment with his arms wrapped around me and his desperate eyes searching my face, everything became clear.

Him. That's all I need. That's all I'll ever need. Just him.

He's real and he's here and he loves me. Nothing else matters.

I gasped as a huge lungful of air rushed into me, pushing away the shadows and doubts completely.

"Edward," I whispered as I reached out to touch his face.

"Oh, thank God," he said, relief flooding his face, "Keep breathing. Jesus, Bella, don't fucking scare me like that. You can't...Christ, you can't do that again, okay?"

"Are you all right?" Carlisle asked, his hand on my pulse again.

"Yes," I said a little louder, the pounding of my heart roaring in my ears. My breathing was still shallow, but the air was full of him. It filled me.

I floated.

"I panicked," I said, looking into Edward's eyes, hating that I'd caused him distress. "I should have known better. But everything you said..."

He swallowed hard.

"Forget about it," he said, stroking my hair. "I didn't mean to upset you. I'm sorry."

"No," I said, gripping his shirt in my hands, "I don't want to forget about it. It was..." I took a deep steadying breath, "It was beyond beautiful. I just...I don't know what the hell happened to me...but, God, Edward, my answer is yes."

This time he stopped breathing.

I touched his face gently, smiling at his shocked expression.

"Edward, breathe."

He blinked and inhaled noisily.

"Your answer's...?"

"Yes. Of course it's yes. I just..." I steadied my breathing as my pulse rate finally calmed down, "I just panicked because...well..."

I looked around at the faces around me, every single one of them meaning something different to me. Every one important...special...

But his face. That was beyond special. It was essential. I tried to just concentrate on him.

"For so long I was miserable," I said, struggling to make him understand how completely I needed him, "I went through each day just trying to survive. I'd gotten so used to a life without joy, that I didn't think I'd ever feel happy again.

But then you came into my life and turned everything upside down, and suddenly...Jesus, suddenly everything that I've been fantasizing about for the past three years was coming true, and to be honest, I'm freaking the hell out because shit like this doesn't happen to a girl like me. At least that's what part of me believes."

I took another breath and closed my eyes for a second before opening them again to look at him.

"And for a moment, that part kind of took over, and I'm sorry that I scared you. But Edward, please understand that you...you give me so much just by being, so when you turn around and buy me the dream house I never knew I've always wanted, and then you say the most beautiful things to me about what I mean to you? I kind over overloaded.

"I didn't think I could love you any more than I already did, but then you said those words, and looked at me like I was some priceless piece of art...and...I felt...so overwhelmingly happy that I thought my chest was going to crack wide open because it couldn't hold all the love I have for you inside it."

I watched as a single tear rolled down his cheek.

He took both my hands in his, gently stroking my fingers as he looked in my eyes.

"So...Bella...you're...you're saying...?"

"I'm saying yes, Edward, I will marry you. I want to marry you. God, I want to marry you so much."

Suddenly the room exploded with applause, but all I could concentrate on was the utter and complete joy that spread across Edward's face.

It was breathtaking.

He took a deep breath and beamed at me as he slid his grandmother's ring onto my finger and softly kissed my hand.

It looked perfect. It felt perfect.

"Thank you," he whispered as he leaned in to kiss me.

Before I knew what was happening, I was on my feet and people were hugging me. Esme and Carlisle were first, followed by Alice and Jasper. Alice almost cracked a rib she hugged me so hard.

Emmett sniffled his congratulations before crushing me against his giant chest and sobbing openly. Rose gently pulled him off me and led him away to a quiet corner.

Rob appeared in front of me and gave me a bittersweet smile before pulling me into him.

"So, I guess you really like this guy, huh?" he asked as he hugged me.

"Yeah, you could say that," I replied, smiling up at him.

"Well, he's a lucky man."

He swallowed and stepped away from me, running his hand nervously through his hair.

"So, I'll be expecting to be a bridesmaid for the wedding," he said, matter-of-factly. "Please keep in mind that I can't wear lemon or lavender, and anything with ruffles just makes me look hippy."

I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

"I'll try to remember."

He nodded curtly.

"Good. Now, I'm going to leave because I've started losing feeling in my legs and I'm pretty sure if I drink anymore tonight I might take Emmett up on his offer of a three-way with him and Rose."

I choked on my own saliva.

"Just kidding," he said with a laugh before leaning in and whispering, "He actually didn't mention Rose coming along."

I slapped his arm and laughed.

"Say goodnight, Rob."

He smirked.

"Goodnight, Rob."

He turned to Alice and Jasper who were gathering their coats and getting ready to leave.

"Oi, can I get a ride with you two? I have no transport."

Alice frowned.

"Rob, what about the car you drove here tonight?"

His face crumpled in confusion.

"I drove here?"

"Yes," Alice said patiently, "In a green Audi convertible. You backed it into a rather large and obvious brick wall."

"Wow," Rob said, "I guess one of my friends is missing a car. A now-dented car. I wonder whose it is."

"Get in my car," Alice sighed as she walked over to me and kissed me goodnight, "It's the yellow Porsche."

Rob eyed her and Jasper suspiciously.

"Have you two fucked in it?"

Alice glared at him. "I'm not answering that."

Rob threw up his hands in exasperation.

"Jesus fucking Christ. What is it with you people and the need to fuck in foreign sports cars? It's like the national pastime. Don't you realize how appalling your sex-juices are for the upholstery?"

"Rob," Alice said impatiently, "get in the damn car. You're obviously in no condition to drive and I'm sure we can call all two of your friends tomorrow to find out who you've subjected to grand theft auto."

Rob clutched his chest theatrically and groaned.

"Has anyone ever told you how deeply your words hurt, evil dwarf?" he asked, sniffling loudly. "You're going to have to get your boyfriend to give me free therapy for all the fucking psychological damage you inflict on me."

"Pattinson! Car! Now!"

"Night all!" he called as he scurried out the front door, lighting a cigarette as he went.

Jasper hugged me and followed him, muttering something about him stinking up the interior and fiddling with the radio settings so it played only Van Morrison and hippy-emo-crap.

Alice watched them go before picking up my left hand and gazing at the ring nestled on my finger.

"Fucking beautiful," she sighed before looking up into my face and saying, with scary intensity, "Bella, I hope you realize I've been planning your wedding to my brother ever since you asked him if he wanted to fuck you in the middle of a busy restaurant."

I sputtered.

"I...oh...God, really?"

She looked at me without blinking.

It was fucking freaky.

"Really. I'll bring over the files tomorrow. I'm going to marry the fuck out of you two."

"Um...well...Jesus, Alice...I..."

"Just say, 'Okay, Alice.'"

"Uh...okay, Alice."

"Excellent."

She kissed me on the cheek and waved over her shoulder.

"Sleep well, sweet bestie, for tomorrow I'm going to annoy the fuck outta you!"

"What else is new?" I called after her, shaking my head at how much I loved her crazy ass.

Esme and Carlisle said goodnight next, making me promise to call them the next day so they could discuss the wedding and Thanksgiving. Then they hugged Edward and me before heading off to their hotel in a taxi.

Emmett was still sniffling when he said goodnight, enveloping Edward in a huge bear hug, and only letting him go when he wheezed that he couldn't breathe.

He left with Rose who whispered soothing words of impending blowjobs.

Finally, Charlie and Renee were the last to go.

Charlie hugged me before giving Edward the stink-eye and warning him that he still had his service revolver loaded and ready, just in case he hurt me in any way.

Edward paled and shook his hand solemnly, looking at me quickly before escorting Charlie outside, I guess to give Renee and me some privacy.

"I can't believe you're getting married," Renee said softly, her eyes bright with moisture.

"Me either," I said, trying to smile.

"Edward's a wonderful man," she said, stepping closer to me, "and he loves you so very much. I know you'll both be incredibly happy together."

"Yes, we will," I agreed, never being so sure of anything in my life. "I...uh..."

I paused as I thought about what I was trying to say.

I knew Edward was it for me. I knew he was everything I could ever want, and more.

I was happy, and I suddenly hoped that one day, my mother would be as happy as I was.

"Charlie's a wonderful man too," I said, feeling a sudden rush of affection for my surrogate father, and knowing that if anyone could make my mother forget the tragedy of her last relationship, it was him. "I hope you...he's..."

I took a deep breath.

"He's nothing like Phil," I finally managed.

I wanted to say that she deserved more than Phil ever gave her. She smiled at me and nodded, and I knew that she knew.

"He reminds me a lot of your father," she said, not looking at me.

I smiled as I remembered how happy Renee was with my father. I hoped Charlie could make her that way again.

"Me too."

"Thank you...for a lovely party," she said, finally looking at me. I could see how much she wanted to say to me. It was bubbling behind her eyes.

But we both knew we needed time to say the things that had been left unsaid for so long.

I nodded.

"You're welcome."

"And congratulations, Bella. You're going to be a beautiful bride."

Her voice caught as she said it and for some reason, that tiny sound...that little hiccup of breath made me come undone.

I tried not to let the tears come, I really did. I clenched my jaw and tried to swallow them down, but they'd been denied all night and they wouldn't take it anymore.

I didn't make any noise. I just let them tumble down my cheeks, ashamed as my mother watched me fall apart in front of her.

She looked at me with such sorrow and empathy, her own tears mirroring mine, that I didn't have the energy to protest as she moved forward and wrapped her arms around me.

She smelled exactly how I remembered – sweet and floral.

Without thinking, my arms came up around her.

We stood there and cried together, neither of us saying anything, our hug wonderful and awkward at the same time.

I was ashamed at how good it felt to hug her...and how much I'd missed it. I really needed a mom right now.

I pulled away and wiped my face, feeling strange and conflicted about what I'd just done.

"Bella?"

I looked at her. She hadn't bothered to wipe her tears. They streamed boldly down her face.

"Thank you. That was the best hug I've ever had."

I swallowed heavily.

"You're welcome."

She walked to the door and turned back to me.

"Goodnight...sweetheart."

It was still too early for her to call me that, but I didn't have the heart to tell her.

I let it pass.

"Night, Mom."

She walked out the door and a shiver of cold night air washed over me.

I closed my eyes and breathed it into me, listening to Charlie's car drive away before reveling in the quiet stillness of the huge, empty house.

My house.

Edward's house.

Our house.

I kept my eyes closed as footsteps came toward me. They stopped and I sighed deeply when he wrapped himself around me, all warm arms and manly Edward smell. I wound my arms around his waist and laid my head on his chest, breathing him in.

"You okay?" he said, his voice rumbling beneath my ear.

"Uh huh," I sighed, and I actually meant it.

He reached down and tilted my head up, gazing at me as I opened my eyes. He ran his thumbs over my damp cheeks.

"You've been crying?"

"A little."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Yes. But not tonight."

I ran my fingers across his face, memorizing every curve, every inch of skin.

"You asked me to marry you tonight," I said in awe.

He smiled.

"Yes. Yes I did."

"And I said yes."

"You did. Eventually. I have witnesses."

He took my left hand and brought it up to his mouth, gently kissing my palm before laying it flat against his chest, his fingers toying with the cold diamond.

"You're wearing my ring," he said proudly.

"Well, technically, it's your Grandma's ring," I corrected, "but yes, I'm wearing it."

"It tells people you belong to me."

"Really? How remarkable. A talking ring."

His eyes flashed with fire and I knew I was walking a thin line with my sarcasm before he felt the need to punish me.

It turned me on incredibly.

"Do I get to give you a ring?" I asked, raising an eyebrow. "It seems unfair that you can stake your claim on me and I can't do the same. I mean, The Screamers need to know you're off the market, once and for all."

His stare intensified.

"You want to give me ring?" he asked, his voice low and dark.

"Yes," I said, trying desperately to match his unflinching gaze, "In case you haven't noticed, rock-star, you're quite the hot property – gorgeous...intelligent...sensitive...awesome ass. Everyone woman who meets you wants to have you to herself. I want everyone to know you're not available. That you're mine."

His eyes focused on my mouth as his hands tightened on my waist.

"Say it again," he ordered.

The tone of his voice immediately lit up my thighs.

"You're mine," I said, reveling in the fierce sense of possession the words inspired in me. "Every mind-blowingly incredible inch of you belongs to me. I own you."

"Christ, Bella," he snarled under his breath, "that is so damn sexy. And so damn true. Again."

I reached up and ran my fingers through his hair, tugging it as I went. His eyes blazed into mine.

"Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, you're mine. Now and always. Get used to it."

"Fuck, yes," he groaned as his mouth covered mine and he kissed me passionately, his lips and tongue owning me completely as I clasped my hands at the back of his head, desperate to get closer, to have more of him.

All of him.

His hands cradled my face as he kissed me, his fingers stroking my cheek before entwining in my hair, moving my head where he wanted it to be.

I lost track of all time as we kissed, our bodies becoming more demanding with every pass of our tongues.

"You're not tired, are you?" he panted as I ripped off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt, trailing my hungry hands over his chest before running them around his waist and up his back, gripping the muscles that were flexing and releasing as he cupped my ass and pulled me against him.

"Not anymore," I gasped as he lifted me up, wrapping my legs around his waist in the process, connecting us where we were aching to be joined.

"Good," he said, pulling me against him and kissing me fiercely, "because before this night is over I intend on making love to you on every horizontal surface in our new house...and even some of the vertical ones."

"Awesome," I exhaled as I wrapped myself around him and he strode purposefully up the grand staircase.

He kissed me as we reached the top of the stairs and headed toward the master bedroom.

When we walked into the large room I looked around in awe. There were candles everywhere, bathing the room in gentle, flickering light. The giant king-sized bed was covered in crisp linen. Gentle jazz music floated out of speakers attached to his iPod on the side table next to a bowl of luscious-looking strawberries, and a bottle of champagne sat in an ice-bucket near the bed.

"Mr. Cullen," I said in mock-horror, "were you planning on seducing me in this den of sin this evening?"

"Absolutely," he said as he placed me gently on my feet, brushing his fingers gently around my jaw, his face stunningly beautiful as he gazed at me.

"What if I'd said no to you tonight?"

"Then I would have had a very romantic night with my right hand as it helped me forget about the shameless hussy who broke my heart."

I ran my fingers down the center of his chest, grazing over the warm skin of his abs and back up again, continuing the pattern over and over, fascinated as I watched his breathing become fast and shallow.

"Did you honestly think I was going to say no to you?" I asked.

His hands mirrored mine, running up and down the length of my spine over my dress, stopping at the top of my ass before trailing back up to the skin on my neck.

"For a horrible moment, yes I did," he said, looking down at me and bringing his hands up to my face. "When you collapsed without giving me an answer, I...God, Bella I felt like I was in purgatory. I thought it was my fault - that you'd freaked out because you were horrified I'd proposed. That you didn't think we were ready to commit to each other like that. It terrified me to think that I was so consumed with you – with making you part of my future – and you didn't feel the same way."

I ran my fingers over his collarbone, stopping at the small indentation at the bottom of his neck. God his neck was beautiful.

"How could you possibly think I didn't feel the same way?" I asked as I stroked his neck, "Don't you understand how totally and pathetically addicted to you I am?"

"Tell me," he demanded softly as he unzipped my dress, his fingers brushing lightly over my skin.

"You remember how you felt when you were suffering withdrawal from drugs? The all-consuming craving that obliterated every other rational thought?"

"Yes," he said as my dress dropped to the floor and his eyes raked hungrily over my body, clad only in a strapless bra.

"Well that's how I feel about you," I said as he walked behind me and unclasped my bra, bringing his hands up to cup my breasts as the bra fell noiselessly to the floor.

"I know how you feel," he said as his hands caressed me and his mouth grazed over my naked shoulder. "Touching you? Kissing you? Being inside you? There are some days where I think I'll go insane if I have to endure one more second being away from you."

He pressed his lips against the juncture between my neck and shoulder as his fingers gently squeezed my nipples. I groaned as my head dropped back against his chest.

"Today was one of those days," he said, his warm breath tumbling over my skin as he pressed his lips across the length of one shoulder before crossing to the other side. "I was so damn nervous about the party and the house and the proposal that all I could think about was it all being over so I could do this to you. I want to do this always."

"Edward," I said as my hands covered his, stilling them on my shoulders, "Tell me why."

"Why what?" he asked, pressing his cheek against mine.

"Why you chose me?"

He dropped his hands to my waist and turned me around to face him, his eyes traveling over my naked body with unashamed lust.

"Bella," he said, exhaling heavily, "you are the most stunning woman I've ever laid eyes on. You honestly take my breath away. But what you look like is nothing compared to how you make me feel. When I'm with you...God...I feel like a good person. No...I feel like a great person. A great man, a great lover. You make me feel like all the mistakes I've ever made weren't a waste of time because if I hadn't gone through all that bullshit I wouldn't have found you, and finding you is the greatest achievement of my entire life. Does that sound crazy?"

"Not at all," I said breathlessly, endlessly astounded by his beauty, inside and out, "I feel exactly the same way. Exactly."

My breathing became labored as he traced his hands all over my body, his eyes following their path faithfully, every piece of skin he touched erupting with love and need.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," I said, unable to look away from his face as I watched him run his hands across my skin.

"Tell me what?" he asked, not looking up as his fingers grazed my collar-bone.

"About my birthday. I wasn't hiding it from you. I just forgot."

He stopped what he was doing and looked at me.

"You forgot your own birthday?"

"I just didn't have much reason to celebrate it for the past few years," I said honestly, "but now...I do."

"Bella," he said, taking my face in his hands and looking me squarely in the eye, "I can safely say that the day of your birth is the single most important date in the historical calendar, bar none. And as long as I have breath in my body, I'm never going to let you forget that. Ever. It should be a national holiday. There should be a parade...with giant floats...and ticker tape...and Giney-shaped balloons."

I laughed and he kissed me gently...reverently...and I had never felt more loved or more special.

"Edward," I said, tracing random patterns on his chest, "does it bother you that there's so much we don't know about each other? That we still have so much to learn?"

"No," he answered simply, restarting his fingers' journey across my skin. "We have the rest of our lives to learn about each other, and as much as I know I'm going to treasure every detail, I'm in no rush. Discovering new things about you is...intoxicating...and I want to spend the rest of my days being drunk on your history...your past...your future. I want to savor every second."

I stroked his arms, watching in fascination as his fingers trailed over me, stopping at parts that he found particularly interesting, alternating between gentle caresses and restrained strength. My hands traveled from his wrists to his neck and back again, but I couldn't stop watching his face as he studied me like I was something precious and rare.

"God, the things you do to me," he groaned as his hands gently cupped my breasts. "Touching your body is like a religious experience."

His hands revered me, trailing over every dip and curve, his face stern with concentration as he made sure to stroke every inch of tingling skin.

I closed my eyes as my breathing became unstable, small gasps coming out of me as he found areas that made me shiver with desire.

After a while it became unbearable. I needed to feel him under my hands. I needed to explore his body in the same way he had mine.

I grabbed his hands and put them at his sides. His eyes snapped to mine, communicating his displeasure with not being able to touch me.

"My turn," I said as I pushed his jacket off his shoulders and let it drop to the floor.

His white shirt was open, and I ran my hands across his chest before also pushing it off him, grazing my hands over his shoulders and down his arms as I tried to comprehend that, against all odds, the magnificent man in front of me was mine. All mine.

I could feel his eyes blazing across my skin as I touched him, slowly ridding him of all his clothes until he was naked in front of me, standing there oozing raw masculinity and more sex appeal than any one man had the right to possess. Just looking at him made everything inside me ache.

"Do you think it will always be like this?" I asked as I stepped forward and pressed myself against him, a thick current of electricity sparking between our naked skin, his erection pressing into my stomach making us both moan.

His fists clenched at his sides and I could tell he was resisting the urge to throw me down and fuck me roughly.

I was resisting the urge to let him.

"Like what?" he asked as his jaw tensed.

"Like I'm starving to death and your body is an all-you-can-eat buffet?"

"Fuck, I hope so," he said as his hands wound into my hair and his mouth covered mine.

The moment our lips touched our rampant desire erupted with ferocious intensity. Our bodies wrapped around each other as our hands and mouths and tongues danced across desperate skin, searching for the places that made us moan with impatient pleasure.

His mouth moved across my body with unerring accuracy, every flick of his tongue and suck of his lips adding more fuel to the impossible flames blazing across me, making me more desperate to be joined with him with every passing second.

He walked me back until my legs were against the bed, and then, without his mouth leaving mine, he lowered me to the soft bed, easing me back until my head was against the pillow and he was nestled between my legs.

My hands roamed over his back hungrily as the weight of his body pressed down on me, making me moan loudly as his hard muscles molded to my softness .

His erection pressed against me and I squirmed, desperate to have him inside me.

"I'll never get tired of making love to you, Bella," he whispered as his mouth traveled down my body – my breasts, my stomach, my thighs - "I can never get enough of you. Even after I've just had you I need you again. I've never felt anything like it. And the way you taste? Fucking incredible."

Then his mouth was hovering above me as he pushed my thighs over his shoulders and began kissing me...licking me...driving me insane with the soft warmth of his mouth and tongue.

"Oh...God...Edward."

I weaved my hands into his hair, barely breathing as the pleasure built inside of me. His hand kept stroking me, moving across my hot skin as he moaned against me, dragging me higher, and making me pant with anticipation.

Then his fingers were on me, circling, faster and firmer, winding me tighter until I fell apart, my back arching while my muscles pulsed with pleasure. I held my breath as the blinding waves rocked through me.

And then his face was above mine and he was inside me, filling me, moving slowly, watching me as I gasped, moaning as he eased the aching void that needed him so completely it hurt.

"I love you so much, Bella," he groaned as my body gripped him possessively, "Watching you as I'm moving inside you? Jesus fucking Christ. Incredible."

He continued looking into my eyes as our bodies moved against each other, and the love and passion and absolute adoration I saw there made my heart swell to the point of bursting.

This man...this beautiful, remarkable man...for whatever reason, had chosen me. Chosen me to give his heart and body to, and as much as I wanted to doubt that I was worthy of everything he gave me, at this moment I couldn't be anything but grateful. Grateful that he'd run into my alley all those months ago. Grateful that he'd taken me in and cared for me when no one else had. Grateful that he'd seen through all my bluster and defense mechanisms and not taken one ounce of my bullshit.

I'd never believed in destiny before I met him. I was convinced that our lives were a collection of random choices leading to random results. But now? Now I believed that everything that happened to me in my life was a predetermined map of events leading me to him. My father dying, Mom marrying Phil, my physical abuse, those long years on the streets – all of it contributed to that fateful night in the alley. The night destiny, in the form of a group of Screamers, chased Edward into my life and changed it forever.

And now, as I watched him above me, his face stunning in candlelight as his body made mine coil with outrageous pleasure, and he looked at me with boundless, unconditional love, I thanked any God that was listening for making him for me. For letting me have him, at least for this lifetime.

My hands gripped his shoulders as my body quivered and strained, the diamond ring on my left hand dazzling in the low light, reminding me that he was mine and I was his and soon we'd stand up in front of the whole world and promise each other forever.

"Oh, God, Edward," I groaned as the impossibly tight coil of anticipation snapped suddenly, releasing dazzling waves of pleasure through me, "I love you...God, I love you..."

I couldn't stop telling him I loved him as his thrusts became more desperate. His face crumpled as his own climax burst out of him, and he buried his face in my neck as he chanted my name, over and over again, his moving slowing until finally we were both still and silent, lost in the sweet serenity of each other's arms – our breath fast and shallow, washing over heated skin...our fingers gently stroking, our hearts pounding and full.

Eventually, Edward rolled off me, lifting me in his arms as he pulled back the bedcovers before laying me down gently. He crawled in beside me and I snuggled into his chest, toying with his chest hair as he sighed and kissed my forehead.

"That was..." he sighed, "Well, that was just...swell."

"Swell?" I laughed, "Have we magically transported back to the nineteen-fifties?"

He chuckled and I looked up to see his beautiful smile.

"Just trying something different," he said, looking down at me. "I figure you'll get tired of me calling you 'fucking incredible' all the time."

"Uh...no," I said with a heavy edge of 'duh' in my voice, "Please feel free to call me fucking incredible for the rest of my life. In fact, when we get married, I'm thinking that I should forget about taking your last name and just become Bella Fucking-Incredible instead. It would certainly be a conversation starter."

Suddenly, his mouth was on mine and his tongue was doing that thing where it sucked on mine and made me explode with lust, and then it was over and we were both looking at each other and panting.

"What the hell?" I said breathlessly.

"Sorry," he said, looking a little shamed, "but when you talk about us getting married, it drives me fucking insane. How the hell did that happen? One minute I'm a bachelor who's happy to have no romantic attachments, and the next minute the mere idea of standing at an altar with the most beautiful woman on the planet, promising to spend the rest of my life with her, sets off a bizarre possessive frenzy inside me."

He sighed and raked his fingers through his hair, looking down at me with desperation.

"I need to marry you as soon as humanly possible, Bella," he said seriously. "I'm not fucking joking. I NEED to marry you. Let's get in the car right now and drive to Vegas. You could be Mrs. Edward Cullen within hours."

Mrs. Edward Cullen.

Holy Jesus, that sounds good.

I traced his face gently with my fingertips, swallowing a fresh wave of choking gratefulness.

"Well," I said, inhaling a steadying breath, "I'm pretty sure that Alice would hunt us both down and murder us horribly if we denied her the chance to plan the world's most extravagant wedding ever, but..." - I kissed him tenderly - "if you want to start calling me Mrs. Cullen in the meantime...well...that would be just...swell."

He smiled and kissed me deeply, a low groan of satisfaction rumbling in his chest.

"Fuck, I love you, future Mrs. Cullen," he whispered.

He kissed my neck, his fingers moving across my body and lighting fresh electricity beneath my skin.

"Have you had a nice birthday?" he asked, his mouth opening as he suckled my throat.

Nice wasn't really a word I'd use to describe any part of today. More like remarkable, gut-wrenching, fantastic, perfect.

"I've had an amazing birthday," I replied, rolling on top of him and kissing his chest.

He grasped my hips as he pushed his head back into the pillow and moaned, Godzy already insisting on round two, tantalizing me with his mouthwatering hardness.

We made love again, and again, and again...all over the house, screaming louder with every consecutive orgasm because we could. Because no one could hear us. It was just us. At last.

When Edward eventually carried me back to bed, my muscles had melted over my bones from the extraordinary amount of pleasure he had perpetrated on me. He practically poured me in-between the sheets, and once he was beside me I lowered my ear over the thick thudding of his heart and sighed as his arms closed around me.

Once again, I was in my personal cocoon of bliss – beautiful and happy and loved – embracing the closest thing to Prince Charming I would ever encounter.

"I love you, Piss-Girl," he murmured as his breathing deepened and steadied.

"I love you too, Asstard," I said, kissing him gently over his heart.

His beautiful, remarkable heart.

I fell asleep listening to its heavy rhythm, my head filled with joy and destiny and excitement for a new chapter in my life.

Did I believe in 'happily ever after'?

No.

That stuff was meant for fairytales, and what I had with Edward was real. Real and powerful and incredible.

I had no doubt that the road ahead of us would be hard, and that we'd fight and make-up and have good days and bad days and piss each other off every now and then over inconsequential things that ultimately wouldn't matter.

But I knew that it would all be worth it in the end because loving someone means overcoming all of that crap and remembering to be grateful for everything you have together...for each other. Grateful for that fickle finger of fate that allowed you to find each other among the millions of other souls on the planet and spend the rest of your lives together.

Fairytales didn't cover any of that stuff.

So no, I didn't believe in fairytales, but I did believe in him, and I intended on spending the rest of my life letting him know that.

Happily ever after?

No.

This was just the beginning.


Author Notes

*sniffle* Aw, crap.

I told myself I wouldn't cry. *bawls*

I can't tell you how much I'm going to miss writing these characters, but don't forget, outtakes WILL be happening.

I still owe #TeamGodzy a one-shot from the last Fandom Gives Back auction (I'm sorry, girls, I haven't forgotten), and if anyone wants to start a #TeamScreamers and bid on a future-shot for the upcoming FGB Eclipse (maybe Asstard & Piss-Girl's honeymoon?), please do. Screamers has a Twilighted thread, so please feel free to use it to hook up. (Take that however you want.)

Screamers has been nommed in the Twilight All-Human Awards for 'The Fanfiction That Had You Crying With Laughter'. If you wanna vote, well, in the words of Asstard, that'd be...swell.

. (Don't forget to replace the dots.)

If you want to chat to me, come find me on Twitter. I have Robporn. Over eighteens only though please, I'm quite filthy.

And so, darling readers, I bid you farewell from Screamers-land for now, and offer you all massive bewb gropes and ass grabs. Without amazing readers like yourselves, I'd have absolutely no reason to write. Other than the fact I'm an enormous perv, of course.

I invite you to come check out my other fics –

Grasping Darkness is currently seven chapters in with a particularly pervy and horny WindowWard, and I'll be starting work on The Diva Diaries very shortly. A sneak peek of that one is on my profile.

Please drop me a line as you bid Asstard and Piss-girl goodbye.

I love you all. Seriously.

Kiya x