May 1, 2009
7:21 am
Somewhere along the northern shore of Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada

Sunlight bounced off the frozen lake, shimmering and refracting a thousand colors. It was so vast, so wide, that when she looked out across, all she could see was bright, glimmering white meeting vibrant, almost electric, cerulean on the horizon. Miles away, the distant shore was beyond the limitations of her human sight. To her eyes, the white, glassy plain was endless.

Despite near constant daylight, it was frigid outside, and the chill wind whipped across the bluff. But the air was clean and fresh, untainted and unpolluted by man. It smelled of pine, earth, snow, and there was a hint of woodsy smoke drifting from their cabin's chimney. Here, there was true stillness and quiet; only the sounds of the wind, a smattering of chirping birds, and her own breathing reached her ears. Here, it was possible to believe that they were truly alone.

They sat side by side, perched on top of a rocky outcropping overlooking the lake. The sheer rock wall was startling in its height, but more so in the way the earth seemed to fall away beneath them. It was impossible not to admire the scenery; unable to look away, her marveling gaze traveled up and along the shoreline, taking in the rough, glacier worn cut of the land. For a long while, they said nothing, instead, simply sitting in companionable silence, staring at natural beauty so few would ever see.

Buried deep in multiple layers of down and fleece, she didn't feel cold, but every time she breathed out, clouds of steam floated and dissipated through the air. Glancing over, she couldn't help but to notice that Edward's breath, however, was invisible, matching their frozen surroundings.

It had been more than a week since they had left Forks to head north into Canada. As they'd driven away, while it was never said, Bella knew that they would never return. Once, Edward had told her that, on occasion, the Cullens returned to cities and places they loved, always making sure that enough time had lapsed so they would not be recognized. But Forks held too many memories, too many ghosts. There was nothing but pain and devastation there.

Just as Edward had physically healed before, so had Esme and Rosalie. The moment they were well enough to travel, Rosalie had insisted that they depart. She had given some rambling reasoning but everyone knew it was pretense. Everyone knew that being in their home where Carlisle had been and where his mark was so plainly seen and felt was just too much. So, when she asked to leave, there had been no arguments.

Outwardly, Esme seemed to fare far better than Bella had predicted. She sat upright the day after she and Edward had made their peace. She had offered some semblance of a half smile when Emmett had made a joke. She had even gone hunting on her own when they crossed the border. But each time their eyes met, Bella could see the truth. She could see the tremendous sorrow and weight, the flatness, the despair.

But then, they were all still grieving. And they would be for how long Bella didn't know. Had she not mourned for months over her mother? Was she still not grieving for her father? She wasn't sure how her human experiences carried over into the vampire world. With never-ending time, Bella wondered what lay in store.

Her eyes flickered over to Edward's still form. He was bent at the waist, looking down, his gaze trained somewhere below them. His elbows lightly rested on his knees, and his hands were clasped firmly together, almost as if he were deep in prayer. Unlike her, he was not wrapped in coats and fabric. His sleeves were pushed up exposing his pearl-white skin. It was so pale and so unyielding, like freshly polished marble. It was almost as if she were looking at a statue, like a man carved from stone. The only part of him that moved was his wild bronze hair whipping back and forth in the wind.

While she couldn't see his expression, she knew the one she would see. Since they had left, she had yet to see him smile. And at night when she slept, he crawled into bed with her and held onto her like a child holding onto his mother, afraid of the unknown. Every morning, she awoke to his eyes soft and pleading, asking for what she didn't know.

"Will she be okay?" Bella asked quietly. In the stillness, just a whisper carried and echoed.

Edward looked up and met her gaze. His eyes were honeyed amber with only a tinge of red circling the irises remaining. Softly, he asked, "What do you mean?"

Bella took a deep breath, feeling the cold air stab her lungs. "Esme, is she… will she survive?"

Because that was the question that had plagued her mind. Before, Edward had explained the concept of vampire mates. The connection was deeper, more profound, more tying than most human relationships. They were soul mates in the truest sense. And for the past week, she'd questioned, If one died, could the other survive?

Edward's eyes bored into hers and then quickly glanced away, focusing on something off over her shoulder. At some unspoken thought, his lips pressed together into a tight grimace and his brows lifted. After a moment, his lips parted and then clamped back together. When they opened once more, she could barely hear his response.

"Yes and no."

A minute passed and neither spoke. When their eyes met again, Edward swallowed thickly and palmed his chin, as if he were trying to determine how much to say.

Carefully, he continued, repeating some of what she already knew but then, divulging far more. "You see, when we… mate, it isn't like it is for humans. It isn't something that can change over time, wear away, or be shoved back into rarely accessed memory. When we find our other half, it's permanent; it becomes part of who we are. We change. And we never change back.

"I don't know exactly how to describe it – the connection, the change that takes place – so that you'll understand. But… it would be no different than if one of my limbs were to be removed and replaced. We're … altered in every way. The feelings and emotions you carry never wane and they never shift.

"When mates are physically separated, even across a short distance, there is an emptiness and ache that you feel in your entire being. And that ache never relents or fades as times goes on. It only grows stronger. Your mate is your other half. So when one dies or whatever it is that we do, part of the other remaining dies along side."

The impact of his statement was undeniable and immediate. She felt the stinging in her eyes, the pooling tears threatening to spill over. Bella wanted her emotion to be for Esme, and some part of it was. But deep down, she was contemplating their own connection and what could have happened.

His velvet voice was rougher than she'd ever heard it as he went on. "Can she survive? Yes. We can. There are those of us who have and who have managed well.

"Will she? As in will she choose to? Yes, I think so. Carlisle would want that for her and she would do anything for him and his memory.

"Can she find happiness? Yes to that, as well. I think. We are a family. And she will never be alone. But it will never be the same and it will never be what it once could have been."

He sighed and rubbed his fingers along his temple. "I know I've told you this, Bella. But perhaps not in this context. With our expanded minds comes infallible memory. I remember every mark, every dip, every curve, every inch of your body. I remember everything you have ever said to me. Everything.

"But you see, along with our memories, we also possess the ability to think of many things at once.

"So, someday, down the road, when she might be happy and laughing and smiling, there will be some small part of her that will always be thinking of Carlisle. It's both a blessing and curse. He'll always be with her in her thoughts, always by her side, but the absence of him will never go unnoticed. Ever."

With his last words, Bella felt the throb in her chest turn to a piercing, burning wound. When Edward's eyes suddenly jerked back to hers, she knew that her heart had given away her reaction.

"If I had died?" she rasped shakily.

He was immediately in front of her on his knees and grabbing for her gloved hands. Edward's expression was one of intense pain, and his eyes seared into hers. In a choked moan, he answered, "Please, Bella. Please don't ask me to think of that. I've been trying so hard not to think about that. I can't."

For a long moment, there was nothing but silence. Then, mutely, she nodded, understanding his words.

His thumb traced her hand, searching up and underneath the layers to find her bare skin. He looked down, refusing to meet her eyes. In a voice so low she almost mistook his words, he whispered, "I would have found a way to follow you."

Edward's words registered instantly. Wide eyed and horrified at his implication, she stammered, begging, "Edward, don't say that. You can't say that to me. I won't think about that.

"Look at me, Edward," she continued.

Hoarsely, he answered, "Bella, I won't live in a world without you. It's impossible. I know that now. For just a few moments, I felt that fear, that complete and utter misery. For a few minutes, I lived that hell of thinking you might be… I can't, Bella. It's not in me to be without you. I'm not as strong as Esme. I'm not."

She wanted to argue, throw things even. The thought of Edward not existing, regardless of her own life, was too much to bear. Yet she understood. She couldn't help but to understand. The idea of living without him was excruciating. Would I choose anything different? she wondered. She doubted she would.

At that instant, she knew that it was time. While things were not right – God only knew when they would be – there was no point in delaying her change. There was no point in delaying their future. Her decision had already been made.

"Change me," she murmured, moving her hand to his cheek.

His hands stilled and he said nothing. The air between them felt hot and almost electrified. Bella watched as his jaw flexed, like his teeth were clamping down. But he only stared. After a long moment of silence, he moved his hand to her neck, pausing with his thumb under her chin. Feeling my pulse, she realized.

"Edward, I can't be without you, either. Before this, I made my decision. And it hasn't changed. Don't tell me that you don't understand. Change me. Today. Right now."

"You're certain?" he exhaled, finally answering her. His breathing was shaky, stuttering. She could feel his icy breath pulsing across the bare skin of her face.

Bella closed her eyes and smiled. "I've never been more certain of anything."

May 1, 2009
10:13 am
Somewhere along the northern shore of Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada

He carried her into their cabin, a small two-bedroom A-frame buried in the tree line overlooking the lake. When they had arrived the previous Friday morning, it had surprised her to find a modern home so deep in the wilderness. More so, it had surprised her that they would not be living with his family – at least not for a while.

It had been Esme who had quietly suggested that they not. With a small, knowing smile, she had said that they would need privacy. At first, Edward had worried that her insistence was borne from his presence and constant reminder of Carlisle. Yet when he heard her thoughts, they conveyed nothing but understanding, concern, and love. Esme wanted Bella as a daughter as much as Edward wanted her as a mate and wife. Despite her grief and mourning, she wanted them to have time together away from everything. You need it, Edward, perhaps more than any of us ever have, she had said.

The few rooms were spacious and warm. Bright light filtered in through the tall, tinted windows, bathing the room in soft, muted yellow light. The russet-colored cedar logs gave the space a musky, earthy smell. Other smells mixed and mingled, but more than anything he could smell her perfume. Once inside, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, wondering how it would change once she did. Like nothing else, he dreaded her final breath, and part of him wanted to delay it as long as possible. Yet simultaneously, he felt unparalleled joy.

"Are you going to miss that?" she asked, her lips grazing the skin of his throat. They were cooler than normal from exposure to the outside air, but still, they blazed against his flesh.

"What do you mean?" he asked, as he set her down and began slowly removing her layers.

"The smell of my blood, my heartbeat, my warmth?" There was a hint of a smile playing across her lips, a certain glint to her eyes. His lips involuntarily turned up at her levity; Bella was teasing him. Embedded in her tone, however, there was something slight, just a twinge of worry or unease. Whether it was due to what was to come, he wasn't sure.

He chuckled in response, but his voice sounded nervous even to his own ears. As he peeled off a final layer of outerwear, his fingers lingered and outlined her collarbone. So soft, so warm, his mind sighed.

How can I do this? Edward wanted to cry. Yet he knew his answer before he even thought it.

"Perhaps. But what I'm gaining far outweighs what I might lose," he said softly, pulling her close and wrapping his arms around her. It was such a dichotomy of emotion, that war between sorrow and elation. The feelings were so tightly bound together, it was impossible to experience one without the other. For their future, she had to perish. For a moment, he felt like he was suffocating, like a human man drowning.

But before his welling disquiet could overtake him, it was cut short by fiery lips climbing up his neck to reach his. Small hands darted underneath his shirt and ran along the planes of his chest and abdomen. They were so hot and demanding, and as they trailed across his skin, he shivered. Her want was written across her features as plainly as if it had been spoken.

He kissed her with abandon, pressing his tongue inside the warmth of her mouth, feeling and listening to her body's responses. She needed his touch. And he was in no different position, desperately needing more and feeling more than he had allowed before. Bits and pieces of his careful control were shed along with their garments. While their movements were unhurried, there was an urgency there, a necessity to be closer, a pull that refused to be ignored.

When he lifted her up and carried her to their bedroom, Bella smiled against his lips and her heartbeat thundered in his ears. For hours, his fingers and lips followed her curves, reverently touching and coaxing her silken skin. Every part of her was explored and revered. He kissed her instep, the soft, pale flesh of her inner thighs, the roundness of her hips. When his mouth found her breast, she quivered and gasped. When his fingers drifted down and slipped inside of her, she came undone and begged him not to stop.

The taste of her skin was so pure and strong, and the smell of her arousal was nearly maddening. It was so different than her blood but so tormenting, Edward fought his body's urge to bury himself inside of her and take her swiftly. This, he wanted to last; he wanted to relish the feel of her against him. He wanted to hear her gasps and quiet moans and to feel her body shudder and quake. He wanted her final human memory to be the love and ecstasy that only he could give her.

When he finally entered her, Bella's back arched and she cried out his name. Over and over, in instinctual rhythm, their bodies came together and parted. The feel of being inside of her like this was like nothing else. It was sublime in its heat and friction; he never wanted it to end.

With each thrust, he felt her body tighten, and her fingertips pressed into his back and tugged at his hair. As the heat built in his abdomen, their motions sped, driving them both to climax. When he felt her body clench and shake around him and when heard his name leave her lips in a wailing cry, his release immediately followed, obeying her unspoken command.

Afterward, they lay together in a tangle of limbs. Her eyes were half closed and her arms wrapped loosely around his waist. When she looked up at him, there was a moment of wordless communication. Yes, she said. Now.

Tenderly, he lifted her slender wrist and ran his nose up and down her skin, memorizing her perfume one last time.

"I love you, Bella. Please, tell me again that you are certain that this is what you want," he murmured, locking his amber eyes to hers.

She ran her fingers down his chest and reached up to kiss his lips once more. Quietly, she whispered, "I'm certain, Edward. I need you. I love you more than life. And I'm not afraid; I trust you. No more delays."

He swallowed and fought the sharp sting in his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he pressed his lips against her skin, once, twice, and then, a final time. Never breaking eye contact, he opened his mouth and sank his teeth into her flesh.

May 3, 2009
2:49 am
Somewhere along the northern shore of Great Bear Lake, North West Territory, Canada

It had been less than two days since he had done what he had once considered the unthinkable. When his teeth had sliced through the thin membrane of her skin, for the briefest of moments, he felt the beast inside rear its head back and rejoice. The taste of her blood, hot and still pumping, was unimaginable in its perfection, far more alluring than the dated bag that James had used to tempt him. Some minute part of him, the predator, howled in delight and savored the thick, coursing wine flowing down his throat.

But just as soon as it appeared, the beast had vanished as memories and images of her suddenly flashed and danced before his eyes. While divine in taste, his body had immediately wanted to expel her from it. It was wrong and unnatural; he recoiled from taking any pleasure in her pain. As soon as enough of his venom had entered her bloodstream, he'd licked the wound to seal it.

Carefully, he cleaned her body, removing any signs of spilled blood, and he dressed her in something he knew would be comfortable, knowing that she would be disoriented and confused when she awoke. Anything he could do to ease her transition, he would do. Gently, he laid her underneath fresh white sheets.

And then, he waited.

Eyes always on her, he counted her heart's slowing beats. For hours, Edward held her hand and relived their moments together, replaying her smiles and touches. Silently, he prayed that she was being spared the pain he recalled too vividly. But he knew despite her unexpected stillness and silence, that was unlikely, so he kissed her lips, her forehead, and he palmed her cheeks hoping his cool touch could grant her some reprieve.

As he watched her features slowly shift and her skin harden, a range of emotions circled in his mind. There was still guilt, enormous guilt, that he had caused such pain and suffering in her life. He wasn't sure if that would ever completely go away, regardless of her forgiveness. Regardless of all of their forgiveness.

There was still so much left unsaid and unresolved. Edward didn't know how long, how many years, if ever, they would resemble the family they once were. They had all suffered enormous loss, but deep down, Edward had faith that someday they would be close to whole again. Where that faith came from, he could only guess. But for the time being, his focus was purely on Bella.

Beyond the guilt, there was a twinge of fear that he had made a mistake somehow in changing her, that he'd not allowed enough venom, that he had somehow failed. Rationally, he knew that to be untrue. She was healthy and beautiful – almost luminescent in the dim lamplight – and he could already smell her vampire scent. He couldn't help but smile when he realized how closely it resembled her human essence. Already, the burn he constantly felt in his throat when she was near had waned to near nothing.

With each beat of her heart, he mourned for her death and for the loss of her humanity. His mind wanted to weep like a widowed man laying his wife to rest. But it was her choice. And she had chosen him forever. So he quelled the swelling despair, forcing himself to acknowledge that hers was not death but instead a passage to new life. Life she chose, he chanted.

He could not deny that intertwined in her death, his unbeating heart thudded in satisfaction and contentment. For decades, Edward had been so alone – more so than he had ever realized until she entered his world. It was as though the day had dawned, as though his mind and soul had been cracked open and laid bare. And she had been the one to piece him together and to mend him.

Edward longed to show her the world, to share the world with her. He wanted to wrap his body around hers and make love to her time and time again, to never let go. He wanted to be with her, to love her, to worship her.

And deeper still, there was some new emotion, one he wasn't sure he had ever felt in his existence as a vampire. He felt light, as though some heavy weight or pressure in his chest had lifted. With Bella, there was hope. Hope for what once was and for what would be.

When she awoke, their future would begin.

May 8, 2009
11:16 pm
Alleyway off of Sedgewick Street, Chicago, Illinois

High above, dark clouds drifted, hiding the light from the moon and leaving the sky almost pitch black. The ever-shining lights of street lamps and city buildings and skyscrapers cast an eerie white glow all around. Deep inside the alleyways, however, little light permeated, leaving concealed black pockets where men gathered.

From the roof of an old and crumbling tenant building, she watched as three men exchanged their drugs and money. Earlier, when she had heard the warnings of this place, she had laughed. As if any mortal man could pose a threat to me, she scoffed.

Here, in this particular section of the city, where so few would dare enter, she could gorge herself and no one would ever be the wiser. Their bodies would mean nothing, would go unnoticed. Not that she had concerned herself with discretion before, but she wanted to play, to inflict pain. She wanted to crush skulls and suck men dry, and she wanted no interruptions. For her bloodlust was strong, driven by the need of her still-healing body and the immeasurable rage that bubbled inside her veins.

For the past weeks, all Victoria could think about was how her mate had been stripped away from her. There was an emptiness inside that she filled with hatred and spite and malice. She was consumed by it. She had fed almost every night since she had escaped that tiny vampire in the field and ran east, but she could not be sated. Her eyes were coal-black with need.

By human standards, the men were rough, fighters. Tucked inside of waistbands, there were glints of black steel, and their dark pigmented skin was decorated with black ink in pictures and meaningless drivel. The men were arguing, and Victoria watched, amused, as their words became shouts. The largest one, a tall, muscular man with a shaved head, stood menacingly over a shorter, plumper man with tight black curls.

With their curses, human odors floated upward: stale alcohol, something pungent and herbal, like burned sage, and sticky, salty sweat. But overpowering the lesser smells was the scent of fresh, pulsing blood. The large man in particular was delectable; his blood was tangy and piquant, and her mouth filled with venom, coating her teeth and tongue.

A smirk spread across her lips when she decided her course of action. Then soundlessly, Victoria vaulted off the roof and landed on the asphalt behind them. The soft rubber soles of her boots absorbed the impact of her fall; the only sound around them was the rising volume of their voices and the distant sound of sirens.

Delicately, she cleared her voice, startling all three. When they whipped around, each wearing expressions of both fury and incredulity, Victoria purred, "I seem to have lost my way. I don't suppose any of you gentlemen would like to assist me?"

She watched as their features transformed from surprised outrage to sudden, unveiled lust. Their eyes raked down her form in salacious delight and she could already see the evidence of their arousal. She knew precisely where their minds were; their gaze unapologetically lingered over the tightly covered curves of her thighs and breasts. Their preconceived notions were pathetic and infuriating. But it made them such disgustingly easy targets. Humans are so predictable, she spat silently as she swayed toward them.

"Hey, baby," the largest one called, taking in her out of place appearance and pale complexion. "I think you're in the wrong part of town. Unless you're looking for something you can't find over on your side."

The other two men catcalled and leered, each momentarily forgetting their argument and drugs. But she paid them no mind, knowing she would take care of them in short order. Licking her lips, she sidled up to the man who had spoken and ran her fingers down his chest muscles to the seam of his low-slung jeans.

"Maybe I am," she whispered, leaning up and whispering in his ear. She felt him shiver as her icy tongue traced the shell of his ear. Tingling venom pooled in her mouth as she heard his heartbeat race in anticipation. "Do you think you could entertain me? Let's say I'm up for some… sport tonight."

His large palm reached out and grabbed her hipbone, roughly jerking and pulling her against him. "I think I can take you."

The two other men shouted obscenities and urged him to let them have a turn.

"Oh, really?" she laughed. Over her shoulder, with a wink, she called out, "You'll get your turn, don't worry about that."

And then, without warning, she broke contact and launched herself at the shorter man behind her. None had been prepared for her abrupt movement, and her vampire speed rendered them helpless and dumb. Before he could even turn to run, she latched onto the shorter man's shoulders and pulled him toward her.

"How about now?" she growled before sinking her teeth into the meaty flesh of his throat.

His skin offered no resistance as her teeth pierced, cutting through tissue and sinew and then, finally, arteries and veins. His blood pumped down her throat, thick and hot and alive. Against her hard, unyielding flesh, his flailing arms felt like feather taps. Without pausing, she sucked, drawing the blood into her mouth.

Only vaguely did she note the man's strangled cries, for they were buried beneath the screams of the other two men. Still locked to his throat, she grabbed a second man as he tried to dart past and snapped his neck, effectively halting both his shrieks and escape.

When her first victim was drained, she released his still body and threw it to the side and out of the way. She glanced up to find the larger man backed against a far wall in the alley, terrified of what he'd seen and heard.

"Come now, I thought you said you could take me?" she sneered, stalking toward him.

His body shook with fear and she noted the smell of urine.

That's it, fear me, human, she thought.

With a flash of bloodstained teeth, she whispered, "I'll tell you what… let's play a game."

His eyes widened and he stammered, "Please, just let me go. I swear I won't tell anyone. God, ple-,"

Her palm clamped down onto his mouth, interrupting his pleading. "Tell me your name," Victoria ordered, running the nails of her free hand across the cotton of his shirt. Where they passed, clean slices through fabric appeared.

"Name!" she yelled when he didn't respond.

"Sh-Shaun," he mouthed as tears rolled down his face.

The man's fear was almost incapacitating. His eyes rolled back as if he were passing out. Violently, she grabbed him and shook him, bringing his mind back to cognizance. As his head lolled back and forth, she could hear the clacking of his teeth snapping together.

"Very good, Shaun. We're going to play a game, okay?" she said almost cheerfully.

Repeating words she had heard countless times over the decades, Victoria continued. "The rules are very simple, Shaun. You are going to run and I am going to chase you. If you do not comply or if you scream, I will end the game and kill you. You will suffer an excruciating death. I will kill you slowly, mercilessly. And I can. Unlike most, I possess that kind of control.

"But if you run and keep quiet like a good boy, I will kill you quickly and painlessly when I find you. Do you understand?"

All she heard was a garbled, incoherent moan.

"Did you hear me or not, Shaun?" she snarled, shaking him again.

"Ye-yes. Please, God, please!" he sobbed.

"Excellent. I think you might have a chance. If you are fast. Are you fast, Shaun?" she taunted, latching her cold fingers to his chin and pulling his face down to meet her stare.

When his brown eyes met her black eyes, he flinched and moaned again. Purring, she ran her nose along his stubbled jaw, inhaling the tantalizing scent of his blood spiked with adrenaline.

"Mmm-mmm," she hummed. "Lovely. I'm going to enjoy this."

"Now, go!" she laughed, releasing him and shoving him toward the mouth of the alleyway.

For a moment, he stood frozen like an animal caught in a snare. His head whipped back and forth, his eyes wide and petrified. When he glanced back at her, she licked her lips and raised her eyebrows in question. The next second, he was gone, racing out of the alleyway and into the glowing streets.

She chuckled as she waited, purposefully giving him a head start. The man's scent was so powerful and alluring, she could locate him anywhere, anytime. Maybe she would even allow him to leave the city. Maybe she would stalk him for days, watch him run as far from her as possible, living off his fear.

Prompted by their age-old game, images of James assaulted her mind and washed across her sight. She could hear his voice whispering in her ear, could feel his skin upon hers. He was gone and her chest heaved painfully. Shaken by the sudden onslaught, her breath caught and choked in her throat.

"Cullen!" Victoria roared into the night, slamming her fist into the nearby brick wall. "If you think James had patience, if you think he was calculating and vicious… you have seen nothing. Nothing! Do you hear me? I will kill you all. If I have to raise an army, you will all suffer for this! I will take you down when you least expect it. Your lives are mine."

Blood tinged venom spilled from her lips, running down her chin and spotting the ivory of her shirt. And her vision turned vibrant red, as red as the very blood she'd just consumed. Pure, uncontrolled rage shot through her body, rushing and filling her limbs, leaving her quivering and convulsing.

She would have her revenge. Today, tomorrow, or after a century, it made no difference.

Time, she thought.

That was the one thing she had left… she had all the time in the world.


Thanks for reading!