Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own Twilight. I just borrow the characters for a bit. No copyright infringement is intended here.

Author Notes

As always, big hugs and kisses and gingerbread with coffee to my beta and friend, Dooba. She helps more than she realizes to make this better. Please go check out her fics.

And thanks to my friend and pre-reader d_inspiration. She gives feedback that always helps make this better. Her Mysteryward is one of my very favorite Edwards. Check him out.

Thanks to all of you who read, review, alert and favorite. I can't express how much it means and the thrill I get when those emails appear in my inbox! Love you all so much.

A couple reviewers have asked questions about how Bella knows the difference between things like canned goods. It's too long an answer to put here, but I will answer that in a future chapter through a conversation with Bella.

Now, something you've all been waiting for! Enjoy, and I'll see you at the bottom with some Edward recommendations!


Alice arrived at the Swan home at precisely 9 the next morning. She'd had a difficult time containing her enthusiasm. She'd wanted to arrive much earlier, to help Bella get ready, but after thinking it over, she decided that sort of thing should wait till Bella knew her better. She already understood that Bella would not take kindly to anyone trying to take away her independence or even implying that she could not do something for herself. Alice did not want Bella to think, that helping her get ready was an act of pity. Soon enough, Bella would know Alice well enough to understand her obsession with fashion. So, Alice spent a lovely evening with Jasper, hunting and making love till the time came to get ready for the day ahead.

Bella was ready when Alice arrived. Charlie had left early for the station, planning to put in a few hours to catch up on paperwork, while Bella was out. It was the first time she'd been alone in the house since her arrival, and it felt good to have the solitude for a while. Not that Charlie made much noise. It was one of the many traits they shared, a quiet way of living, each needing alone time in order to function and to feel at peace. She'd taken her time getting ready for the day, and though she didn't necessarily look forward to the hours of shopping ahead, she was eager to spend time with Alice.

"Good morning, Bella!" Alice sang, when Bella opened the door to her knock.

"Hey, Alice, let me just grab my back pack and I'm ready."

Once they were on the road, Alice began to chatter nonstop.

"Oh, Bella, this is going to be such a fun day," she began, "Now, Port Angeles is a small city, so we won't find the kinds of shops we'd find in Seattle, but I know we'll come away with some wonderful things for both of us."

"Whatever you say, Alice," Bella laughed, "I guess I could use some new jeans, and I do need a better rain coat."

Alice glanced at Bella, noting the baggy jeans and sweatshirt she was wearing. She was a beautiful girl, and she'd be stunning in more flattering clothes. Alice would have loved to be able to be a personal shopper at one of the upscale stores like Nordstrom. She loved fashion and loved to help others with their clothes and style. She always helped pick out the clothes for the rest of the family, and they indulged her for the most part. She had a feeling Bella would be more stubborn, so Alice intended to stick with Bella's own preferences and just try to get her into styles that suited her better. For now, anyway, she laughed to herself. Eventually, she'd get Bella to step out of her comfort zone a bit.

"Is there a book store in port Angeles?" Bella asked after a few minutes, "I'd really like to see if there are any new audio books, something I haven't read yet."

"Yes, there's a book store, but I'm not sure if it has audio books," Alice replied.

'Well, that sucks," Bella said, "I guess I could get a couple print books for when my scanner arrives, but I expect I'll be so busy with homework, that I won't have time to sit and scan books for pleasure reading."

She sighed and shrugged.

They were on the highway now, and Alice was speeding in the way all the Cullens like to drive. She was thankful Bella couldn't see the speedometer, not sure how her new friend would feel about driving 100 miles an hour. She decided to tell Bella about the rest of the family.

"My parents invited you to come over for a while after we finish shopping," she told Bella, "In fact, Esme can hardly wait to meet you."

"That's very sweet of her, Alice, but you don't have to do that."

"Oh yes I do," Alice laughed, "They're all looking forward to it."

"What is it like, being part of such a large family?" Bella asked, "I'm an only child, you know, and I've always been curious what it's like to have a lot of brothers and sisters."

"It's the best!" Alice exclaimed, "I love having a big family. Let's see, well, Carlisle and Esme are our parents. They couldn't have children of their own, but they always wanted a large family, so they started adopting. Edward was their first, though he's not the oldest. He's our age. He likes to read as much as you do, I think, and he has an incredible music collection. He's kind of brooding though, but he'd do anything for those he loves."

Bella smiled at the description.

"Charlie says Carlisle is a doctor at forks General?"

"Yes, Carlisle is a doctor, an amazing doctor," Alice continued, "His compassion knows no bounds, that's for sure. Esme is his match, with a heart so full of love; she adopted the five of us and wouldn't flinch at having more! Emmett, well, he's huge, well over six feet and full of muscles. But he's nothing but a big teddy bear, the kind of big brother anyone would love to have. He and Rose are together. Rose had a hard life before she and Jasper came to the family—they're twins by the way—so Rose is quite stand-off-ish and seems cold and angry on the surface. Emmett understands her and helps her find peace."

"Wait, wait," Bella interrupted, "You said Emmett and Rose are together. You mean as a couple? How do your parents feel about that?"

"The only ones among us who are related are Rose and Jasper," Alice explained, "Emmett and Rose are together, as are Jasper and I. Carlisle and Esme are ok with our relationships. They understand."

She was silent, knowing that there were just some things Bella wouldn't understand till she knew the truth about the family.

"Wow, I bet that has raised a lot of eyebrows in Forks," Bella said quietly, "Even in Phoenix it might have raised eyebrows among small-minded people, I guess. I think it's wonderful. What about Edward? Is he involved with one of the girls in school?"

"Not yet." Alice was grinning. No, not yet, she thought, not till this evening, when he meets you, Isabella Swan.

"Tell me about Jasper," Bella said.

"Oh, Bella, just wait till you meet my Jasper. He is the kindest, sweetest man ever. He has this gift, a way of understanding the feelings of people around him, and he just seems to know how to calm everyone down. Carlisle always says it's good Jasper and I are together, because his calm laid back style balances my energy."

She laughed again, and Bella joined with her.

"I can believe that," Bella said, "I have a feeling you never run out of energy, Alice. I'm looking forward to meeting them all—shit Alice, how fast are you going?"

"Um, why do you ask?"

"Alice, I can feel how fast we're going, and I can tell we're going faster than the speed limit. Damn, Alice, I am a cop's daughter. Slow down."

Alice sighed.

"We're coming into Port Angeles now anyway. All my family drives fast, Bella, and we've never gotten a ticket."

"Whatever. I'd rather we didn't get in an accident."

"Oh, Bella, Bella, soon you'll learn that nothing like that will ever happen when I'm driving."

Alice was smiling, thrilled that Bella had picked up on the speed. She knew that nobody believed Bella could figure out their secret, since she couldn't see them. Alice had a feeling Bella would figure it out, and she was happy that Bella had noticed the first unusual thing about the Cullens.

"Ok, we'll park here and then walk to the shops from here," Alice said, turning off the car and opening her door, "What works best for you? Do you want to take my arm or follow me with your cane?"

"I'll take your arm," Bella decided, "I don't know the area anyway, and besides, this way, we can continue chatting."

She put her backpack on, unfolded her cane, holding it in the opposite hand from the one with which she reached out to grasp Alice's upper arm. She noticed that Alice's arm felt hard as stone under her fingers.

"Wow, Alice, do you work out or what? Your muscles are like granite."

"Just lucky, I guess," Alice laughed, shrugging. Emmett had thought it would be easy befriending Bella. They'd all thought that a blind girl would not be able to figure out their secret. Alice was learning however, that Bella was smart and shrewd. She noticed things nobody had ever seemed to catch before. Alice was ecstatic, and yet, she understood that she needed to tread carefully. She wanted Bella and Edward's relationship to be solid before the big reveal of all the Cullen secrets.

The morning went by quickly. Alice was truly a shopping fanatic, and in no time, it seemed, she and Bella were loaded down with bags. Bella had gotten several new pairs of jeans with some tops and sweaters. Somehow, Alice had talked her out of buying more sweats. How did that happen anyway, Bella wondered. Alice was like a force of nature.

They stopped back at the car to drop off the packages and then went looking for a restaurant for lunch.

"We need to keep our strength up for round two," Alice said, as they settled at a table in a small café.

"Round two?" Bella said, "Haven't we gotten enough now, Alice?"

"Bella, we need to get shoes next, and you still need to find a good rain coat. You said that yourself on the drive, remember."

After they ordered their lunch, Bella a club sandwich and Alice a salad, Bella began to ask about Forks High.

"I'm kinda nervous about Monday," she explained, "What are the other kids like? How are the teachers and the classes in general?"

"It's always unnerving starting out at a new school," Alice said, "We've done it several times. Forks High is like any school, only with it being so small, everyone really does know everyone else. You have your typical groups, the popular kids, the geeks, the guys who ogle anything female, the girls who ogle anything male. We tend to keep more to ourselves, so I've never gotten to know most of them beyond a superficial sort of thing. Everyone is excited about you coming. You know, they haven't met any new people since we came, and since we don't interact too much, they don't know us and are even kind of afraid of us."

"I can't imagine anyone being afraid of you, Alice," Bella said.

"In the beginning, when we first arrived here," Alice said, "people were shocked at our family. They gossiped a lot about the young doctor and his five adopted kids. Then, of course, there's the fact that we're paired off, well, most of us, anyway. Several of the girls have tried to get Edward's attention, with no success, I might add."

"I guess you all were like shiny new toys, and now it's my turn."

"Hey, Bella, I just had a brilliant idea," Alice exclaimed. She'd been planning it all along, but she wanted to wait to see if Bella seemed comfortable in her company before suggesting it.

Bella grinned.

"Another brilliant idea, Alice? What is it this time?"

"Well, I know you're not looking forward to being driven back and forth by your dad, in the police cruiser," Alice started, "Why don't I come by and pick you up for school? I could come by a little early and help you get ready."

Bella frowned and started to interrupt.

"Bella Swan, before you start assuming I said that because I think you need help or can't do it yourself, hear me out."

"Sorry, Alice," Bella muttered, blushing, "Go ahead, what are you thinking?"

"My family can tell you that I get everyone ready for school," Alice said, "I tell them what to wear everyday. Except for Rose, because she's good with clothes anyway."

"Ok. Do your brothers put up much of a fight over you picking out their clothes?" Bella asked.

"No, not really. We all tend to indulge each other's quirks. They all know how much I enjoy doing that kind of thing, so they let me. Besides, what makes you think they could stop me?"

The girls laughed together.

"Yeah, force of nature, just like I said," Bella said through her laughter.

"Anyway, Bella, it's your first day at Forks High. I was thinking I could come by, do a little make-up for you, fix your hair, that kind of thing. I really do enjoy doing it, and I don't mean, in any way, that you can't do it yourself. I just know that when I'm nervous about something new, it helps if I know I'm looking the best I can. It gives me confidence, I guess. I know you're going to be nervous, so I wanted you to have that assurance, that you look completely hot when you walk into that school the first time."

Bella could not doubt Alice's sincerity. She felt guilty for having questioned her motives at all. She didn't exactly jump at the idea of getting dressed up for school, but if she knew anything about Alice Cullen, she knew her friend would not do anything that would make her feel uncomfortable.

"Please, Bella? Please, please, please, please?"

"Oh, God, Alice, not the puppy dog voice," Bella laughed and gave in, "Ok, you can give me a ride to school and come over first to help me get ready. Charlie will be relieved not to have to worry about me getting to and from school."

Alice squealed and clapped her hands gleefully. In truth, she was gleeful. She knew exactly what outfit she wanted Bella to wear, knowing already how much Edward would love it. But she had also meant what she said about feeling confident, and she was sure this would help Bella's first day jitters.

After lunch, they strolled along, checking out the shops. They bought shoes and a coat for Bella, while Alice seemed to find hundreds of things that she herself just had to have. They enjoyed the afternoon together, getting to know each other, laying the foundation of a friendship that would prove important to them both, beyond what Bella could understand at this point.

At last they decided that if they were going to stop by Alice's house and still get Bella home in time to cook dinner for Charlie, they'd better get on the road.

"Try to stick to the speed limit this time, Alice," Bella said.

Alice only laughed. She took out her cell phone and sent a quick text to Jasper, letting him know they were on their way.

They spent the drive home talking about Arizona. Alice asked many questions about Bella's life there, her relationship with her mother, her school years.

"Renée, my mom," Bella explained, "Well, you know, she's flighty in many ways. I always made sure the bills got paid on time, the chores done, the cooking, things like that. She's got Phil for that now, but I miss her. She's my best friend."

Alice began to see a picture of a young girl who had grown up way before her time, stepping into the role of parenting her parents. She had made sure her mother was safe and well cared for, and now she was doing much the same for her father. Alice thought that Charlie might do more of a job of being a parent, but still, Bella was caring for him, cooking healthy meals, doing laundry. When did she just have fun? When had anyone spoiled her or taken care of her, just because they loved her? Bella was truly a perfect match for Edward. Edward had a heart that wanted to care for someone, coming from a time and place in which a man did take care of his wife and family. Alice smiled, looking ahead to the battles Bella and Edward would have, and the ways they would compromise, to meet Bella's need for independence and Edward's need to nurture those he loved. It was going to be fun to sit and watch it all unfold.

"Here we are," Alice said, turning down the long hidden driveway that led to the Cullen home.

"Wow, you guys sure do live off the beaten path, don't you?"

"We like our privacy," Alice explained, "Esme loves interior design. She found this house and remodeling it from top to bottom. It's her passion, besides the family."

The car stopped, neither girl saying anything for a moment. Bella was feeling suddenly overwhelmed with shyness. She was about to go in and meet this large loving family, and a part of her wanted to turn around and rush home instead. Alice was swiftly flipping through possible futures in her mind, trying to see how this meeting would go. It was a situation in which her gift could not help her, as nobody had met and so no decisions had been made. She was worried about Jasper, newest to their lifestyle, but he'd hunted the night before, glutting himself on big game, in order to be safe with a human in the house. Emmett would put Bella at her ease in no time, but Edward? How would Edward react? Alice simply could not predict, and though she knew Edward and Bella were mates, she just didn't know how this first meeting would come off.

Sighing, knowing that nothing could happen until it did, she opened her door and moved to Bella's side.

"Ok, here we go, Bella," Alice said walking toward the front door, "There are five steps here leading to the front door."

Just then the door opened, and Esme stood there, smiling.

"Hello, Bella, I'm Esme Cullen. Welcome to our home. Come in, please."

Bella felt her shyness melting away under the warmth of Esme's greeting. She reached out her hand toward Esme smiling in return.

"Hello, Mrs. Cullen," she said, "Thanks so much for inviting me."

"Call me Esme, dear," Esme replied, grasping Bella's hand carefully.

Esme's hand was cold, Bella noticed, like Alice's hand. The skin was hard too. She wondered idly, if the Cullens had some kind of condition causing them to be cold, or did they just not use heat much?

"Everyone's in the living room," Esme went on, "Did you girls have a nice shopping trip?"

"Oh we did!" Alice said, leading Bella forward, "We had so much fun and we both got tons of new things. Here we are everyone. Meet Bella Swan."

Bella blushed, looking down, letting her hair fall across her face. She did not like being the center of attention. She felt uncomfortable with everyone just sitting there in the living room waiting to meet her. She took a deep breath, raising her head and smiling around at the room.

"Hey everyone," she said quietly.

"Bellarina!" Emmett's voice boomed out, "Welcome to the family!"

Emmett strode to her, picking her up around the waist and swinging her in a circle.

"Emmett, put her down this instant," Carlisle chided.

"Hi Emmett," Bella was breathless but laughing, "Alice did tell me you are nothing but a big teddy bear. I think she was right."

Emmett laughed and hugged her, as he set her carefully back on her feet.

"I get carried away, sometimes," he smiled.

"Hello, Bella, I'm Carlisle," his voice was calm and gentle, "It's good to meet you at last. Your father has been so excited about your arrival."

He took Bella's hand between both of his and squeezed softly.

"Hi, Dr. Cullen," Bella said, "Charlie can't say enough good about you."

"It's Carlisle, please," he said, "We are so glad to meet you. Alice has spoken of almost nothing else. Please come and meet the rest of the family."

Carlisle offered Bella his arm, as Alice danced ahead of them.

"This is my Jasper," Alice sang, "Meet Bella, Jas."

"Hello, Bella," Jasper grasped her hand briefly, "Did Alice tire you out with the shopping today?"

"Not too bad," Bella replied, "We had a good time. I don't think I've ever shopped that much in my life though."

Everyone laughed.

Alice moved on quickly. Jasper was doing well so far, but she thought it best to keep on with the introductions. She looked deeply in Jasper's eyes for a moment, and he smiled back at her with assurance.

"I'm ok, darlin'," he said so quietly no human could hear, "But I'm not sure about Edward."

Alice's glance flashed to her brother. He looked strained, tense. His fists were clenched at his side, and his eyes were black as if from thirst. Everyone was looking at him now. His expression grew frustrated, as if he was straining to hear something. Carlisle moved quickly to his side in concern. Alice moved back to Bella, anxious to distract her.

"Oh, Bella, this is my sister Rosalie."

Bella put out her hand but Rose did not take it.

"Hello, Bella," she said. Her tone was cold, almost unwelcoming.

Esme stepped in, also trying to distract Bella long enough for Edward to get himself under control before they met.

"Can I get you anything to drink, Bella?" she asked, "We have water, orange juice, coke?"

"I'd love a glass of water, Mrs. Cul—uh, Esme. Thank you."

"Of course, dear," Esme smiled, "I'll be right back."

"Actually, let's follow her into the kitchen," Alice suggested, "I know you enjoy cooking, and Esme will love showing off her kitchen to you."

Alice wanted to get Bella out of the room, while the others tried to figure out what was going on with Edward. As she led Bella to the kitchen, Alice quickly flipped through the possible futures, trying to determine what Edward would do.

In the meantime, the men gathered around Edward.

"Son, are you ok?" Carlisle asked.

"Carlisle, her smell, I-I, I've never smelled anything like her," Edward's answer sounded as pained as he looked, "And I can't hear her. I mean, I can't hear her thoughts. She's completely silent to me."

Carlisle was shocked.

"You can't hear a thing?"

"No," Edward said, "Nothing. I'm trying."

"This has never happened before, has it?" Carlisle asked, "Alice's gift works on her. What about you, Jasper?"

"I can sense her emotions," Jasper said, "She's feeling nervous but happy right now."

"Why can't I hear her, Carlisle?" Edward asked.

"I don't know son."

Carlisle did have an idea actually. He wondered if somehow, because Bella was Edward's mate, she had the gift of being silent to him. Edward often hated his mind reading. He had often longed to have mental silence. He complained about the shallow thoughts of the people around him, the inane thoughts of the students in school. If Carlisle had needed more than Alice's visions to convince him that Bella Swan was made for Edward, this was the thing to convince him once and for all. Edward could never love a woman whose thoughts he could hear, Carlisle suspected, and now he had met one who was completely silent.

"What about your thirst, Edward?" Carlisle asked, "Are you going to be ok?"

"I think so, but Emm, Jas, stay close, just in case. I've never known anything like it."

Edward was feeling out of control, on the edge of breaking. Bella Swan smelled like nothing he'd ever known. He wanted her blood badly. He wanted to grab her, run away to have her to himself, sink his teeth into her neck and drain every last drop. He was disgusted with his thoughts, ashamed that after so many years, he could be so tempted, almost beyond endurance. On the other hand, he felt drawn to Bella's silent mind, wondering what it might be like to spend time alone with her. He couldn't decide if he wanted to kill her or hug her right at that moment. He was afraid of the answer, afraid of what he might do.

Emmett and Jasper moved to stand near him, their hands ready to restrain him if he tried to move toward Bella.

Alice and Esme had casually engaged Bella in prolonged conversation in the kitchen, to keep her distracted and away from Edward, until they all knew if it would be safe. Listening into the discussion coming from the living room, they returned to continue the introductions and to spend more time with the entire family. Alice was still flipping through the possible futures, but as Edward determined not to hurt Bella, things settled down, and she felt confident to bring Bella back and let them meet at last.

"You haven't met Edward yet," Alice said, "Bella, this is my brother Edward. Edward, this is Bella Swan."

"Hey Edward," Bella said, reaching her hand out to him.

"Hi Bella."

Bella thought his voice sounded like velvet, soft and musical almost. He took her hand and she seemed to feel something like an electric shock go through her. She jumped slightly and blushed.

Edward felt the spark as well and his hand tightened briefly around Bella's before letting go. What the hell was that, he wondered. Edward could not tear his glance away from Bella. She was beautiful. Her deep chocolate brown eyes seemed to draw him in. Her smile made him feel warm. Her blush made his thirst burn like fire in his throat. He swallowed back the venom desperately. He wanted to look at Bella forever. He wanted to hear her voice, wanted to know what was going on in her mind. He wanted her blood. He wanted it all. He wanted her as a vampire wants a human, and he wanted her as a man wants a woman. He had never felt so completely torn in too many directions with too many conflicting desires. He wanted—he wanted—he couldn't think of what he wanted.

"Excuse me," he blurted out. He jumped to his feet and ran at vampire speed up to his room.

"Is he ok?" Bella asked, turning in the direction she'd heard him move, "He sounded like he was in pain. Did I do something wrong?"

"Oh, that's just Edward," Alice said, "He probably forgot something in his homework. He'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" Bella couldn't figure out why it mattered to her, but somehow, she felt drawn to Edward Cullen. She had a fleeting thought of wanting to go after him to comfort him.

"I'm sure, Bella," Alice moved toward the door, "I guess I'd better get you home, if you're going to be cooking dinner for Charlie."

"Yes, we'd better go, I guess," Bella said, "Thank you everyone. I'm sure we'll see each other again."

"Come back anytime, dear," Esme said, hugging her. "It's been a true pleasure having you."

Bella waved goodbye as Alice led her out the front door and back to her car.

"So, what did you think of everyone?" Alice questioned as they drove toward Bella's home.

"Everyone was great, Alice. Well, I don't think your sister liked me though."

"Rose is just that way," Alice said, "She doesn't like people in general, and she's very protective of the family, nervous about outsiders."

"You were right about the others," Bella continued, "Emmett is like a teddy bear. Esme is like comfort and warmth and home all in one. Carlisle has this aura of strength and honor about him that makes you feel like nothing bad can ever happen to you if he's around. Does that sound stupid?"

"I think we all feel that way about Carlisle," Alice said, "It's partly the doctor thing, maybe, but it's just him. What did you think of my Jasper?"

"He seemed very sweet," Bella was laughing, "Like you said, calm and laid back."

"And Edward?"

"Fine. He seemed fine," Bella answered too quickly. In reality, she could not get Edward Cullen out of her mind. She had not stopped thinking of him since they met. His voice, the touch of his cold skin that sent a shock through her. Even his scent drew her to him. He smelled like honey and sunshine. She had never felt like this before. It frightened her with its intensity, but she knew she wanted to get to know Edward Cullen, wanted to get to know him very well. She sighed. What made her think for one second that Edward would want to know her? He'd certainly rushed away from her back there after they met. She didn't believe it had anything to do with homework.

"Are you ok, Bella?" Alice asked.

"Yes, of course. Just tired, I guess."

"Well, we're here," Alice said, "Let me get your bags out of the trunk. Your dad's car is here, so he must be home. We're parked next to it on the right."

Bella took some bags and the girls made their way to the front door. As they entered, she could hear the TV and knew Charlie was watching a game.

"Hey Dad," she called to him, "We're back. Let me just get this stuff upstairs and I'll get your dinner. Leftover lasagna ok with you?"

"Sure, honey. Hey Alice."

"Hi Charlie," Alice waved, "I'm just going up with Bella with some of these bags."

They got everything upstairs and hung up.

"I'll be over about 7:30 Monday morning," Alice said when she was ready to go, "I think you should wear those new black jeans and that blue sweater we got. You'll look great in that outfit."

"Ok, Alice," Bella said, "Whatever you say."

"I'm never wrong about these things," Alice laughed, "Oh, Bella, please don't worry about Edward. He was kinda stressed today, worried about something, but he's fine. It wasn't you, seriously."

They went downstairs and Alice stopped in the living room to say goodbye to Charlie.

"I'll see you Monday, Bella," she said as she stepped out the front door, "I have a feeling Monday will be a very special day."

Bella just laughed, standing in the door, listening as Alice got in her car and drove away.

"Did you have a good day, Bells?" Charlie asked as they ate.

"Yeah, Dad, it was great. We shopped for hours it seemed. Then Alice took me to meet her family on the way home. It was a good day."

Later, as she lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, Bella could not get the day, particularly the visit to the Cullen home out of her mind. There was something about them, they seemed special, different, but she couldn't figure out just what it was. They each had beautiful voices, musical in a way, from Alice's wind chime tones, to Edward's rich velvet.

They even had their own unique fragrance. She noticed Edward's immediately, but Alice smelled like silk and daisies, like happiness and springtime. Esme reminded her of homemade bread and apple pie, like all the comforts of home. Carlisle reminded her of a redwood forest she had visited with Charlie once on a trip to California, like strength and honor, like a place of safety. Emmett was like cinnamon, spicy and wild; Jasper like leather and old books. Even Rose, though their interaction had been brief, reminded her of orchids, exotic.

There were other anomalies about the Cullens. Every one of them had cold hands and hard skin. She wondered again if they all had some kind of illness, something they shared, maybe even something they had in common, a reason Carlisle and Esme had adopted them specifically.

Bella could not go to sleep. She found an old book to read, something she had read often and lay there, trying to make her mind relax. At last, she fell into sleep, warm and deep. She had the strangest dream. She dreamed she heard her window open, and that someone came in and watched over her through the night. Instead of scaring her, the thought was oddly comforting, and it drew her deeper into sleep, feeling safe under the watchful eyes of her guardian.

Edward, she thought, as she drifted off again.

From her rocking chair, across the room, Edward jolted at the sound of his name on her lips. Had she woken? Had she heard him slip into her room? He stayed perfectly still, but Bella didn't move or say another word. He smiled, thinking that she must talk in her sleep. Maybe this would be a door into her silent mind.

Edward had not meant to sneak into Bella's room, like a thief, like a sick stalker. He had gone for a run after he rushed out of the living room so abruptly earlier that evening. He needed to hunt. He needed to think away from the clamor of his family's thoughts and reactions to Bella. He needed to be away from their fear and concerns over his response to Bella. When he felt sated, he ran back toward town, ending up in the woods behind the Swan home.

Maybe, if I could get used to her scent, he thought, maybe I could be around her more easily. Maybe, I could just stand out here and guard her, watch over her.

His phone buzzed with a text message. He looked at it and laughed. Alice, of course.

"I'm watching, Edward, and it's going to be ok. Good idea."

He closed the phone and stood there, staring at the room he guessed was Bella's. He could smell her, and he wanted to be closer. He saw a tree near her window and he climbed it easily, slipping quietly into her room. The scent flooded him. His throat burned. It was everywhere, surrounding him, wrapping him in its beauty. He froze by the window, feeling unable to move into the room, but unable to leave as well.

The part of him that he called the Monster seemed to roar in its cage, yearning for him to take her and drink. He longed to taste her, to know if her blood would be as sweet on his tongue as her scent seemed to indicate. It would cause problems, with her father being the Chief of Police, but the Cullens were resourceful, and they could make it work. Maybe he could just take one little taste, a drop of her blood as she slept. She'd never know what happened. The Monster jeered, for it knew that once Edward tasted that ambrosia, he'd never be able to stop. He swallowed down the venom flooding his mouth and thought desperately of all the reasons he did not want to kill her, could not kill her.

She was a beautiful fragile human girl. He wanted to know her, and he wanted to want that even more powerfully than he wanted to taste her blood. Being in her room gave him a sense of peace, and he wanted to understand that, to learn why he was so drawn to everything else about her. He'd never learn the mysteries of her mind and heart, if he killed her. He'd never forgive himself if he killed her either, and the all too brief satisfaction of his hunger would never be enough to let him forgive himself.

He watched Bella sleep, covers pulled up to her chin. He wanted to touch her hair where it spilled across her pillow. He wanted to know what she dreamed and what book was on her MP3 player. He wanted to learn what was her favorite color, if she, as a blind person had a favorite color. He wanted to know her favorite book, and song, how she liked living in Forks, where she wanted to go to college, what she wanted to study, and on and on. He wanted to know everything about Bella. Soundlessly, he moved to sit in her rocking chair, watching over her through the night, getting used to her scent. Somehow, he knew his life was never going to be the same.

When morning drew near, he left as silently as he'd arrived. During that long night, he had considered what would be best to do. He could leave, go to Alaska, and stay away. He could satisfy his thirst and take Bella; he knew the family would cover for him if he made such a mistake. He could stay and get to know her, become her friend, become, something more? As he finally left her room, he knew he would not run away. He didn't think he could leave her now. He prayed he would not give into his temptation and kill her. But one thing he knew, he could not leave her now. He would stay, get to know her, be a part of her life, somehow, he would stay strong. He wanted her in his life, even more than he wanted to drink her blood. With his mind made up, he ran home, where Alice met him, dancing with joy.

"Thank you, Edward," she cried, throwing her arms around him, "I promise you, you will not regret this decision."

"I hope you are right, Alice," he said.

"I am brother, believe me, I am right."

She hugged him again, dancing away to find Jasper.

Edward moved to the piano. A song was in his mind, something like a lullaby, something sweet and soft for Bella. He sat down and began to compose.

In their room in another part of the house, Esme and Carlisle smiled with relief.


End notes

Well? Did you like the meeting? Please let me know what you thought.

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Recs:

In honor of the meeting of Bella and Edward, I've decided to recommend some Edward stories. First, though I'm sure there are dozens of them, my very favorite EPOV of the twilight series are by sunray16. She gets into Edward's head in amazing ways and does more than just rewrite the books with a few Edward thoughts thrown in. Here's the link to Moonless Night, her Edward version of New Moon. She's just started her Breaking Dawn and it's already fantastic. Let her know I sent you.

Moonless Night

www fanfiction net/s/5005070/1/Moonless_Night

And an all human rec for you, all EPOV, The Bigger they Are. Edward is a soldier home from Iraq and he meets Bella, a widow, and her four amazing sons. This story is warm and wonderful and one of the best. It's one of those stories I go back and reread just to fall in love with it all over again. Enjoy!

www fanfiction net/s/6023650/1/The_Bigger_They_Are

Next week, the first day of school with lots of Cullens, and a few meetings of some other old friends.