Chapter 1

Playlist selection: I'm Yours by Jason Mraz 

Bella POV
"Blood...I hate blood," I murmur to myself quietly, hoping that he won't hear me. "Why can't he clean this fucking mess by himself?"
I am far beyond seething.  I realize that I am so wrapped around his little finger that I can't tell him I don't want to do it anymore.  He expects me to help, says it will help us bond.  I despise the fact that he looks forward to this time together.  I have no intention of being supportive of his vicious attack on a precious life, but he blatantly ignores my protests that it's wrong - inhumane.
"It's only for a few more weeks," I tell myself, silently praying that I will never have to deal with this shit again.  The sooner I get to Tuscon, the better.  This is one thing I will never miss about living with him. 
The only thing.
I snatch the long, rubber gloves from the under the kitchen sink and bolt through the screen door into the garage.  I slide my hands into them, inspecting for any holes in the material.  I don't want this blood on my hands.
I grimace as I reach into the back of his truck, dutifully avoiding the gun case, and locate the flimsy, yellow toolbox that harbors the one thing that truly disgusts me about his new form of "entertainment".  I carry it to the utility sink by the work bench and gingerly remove the razor-sharp, hooked knife with my fingertips, laying it on the plastic bag next to the wash basin.  I try to keep the gore from tainting anything it touches.  The offending knife was my gift to him for Christmas last year, and I never thought I would be the one asked to dispose of the evidence of its use - the disembowelment of his latest victim. I know that I can refuse if I want, but I can never say "no" to him.
I breathe through my mouth so I don't smell the blood and fight the urge to gag as I notice the tiny, jagged remnants of torn muscle still stuck to the blade.  Oh, God...there's even some black hair still caught in the handle as it was violently ripped from the body.  I close my eyes and count to ten in order to refocus my thoughts to the task at hand and keep the nausea at bay. 
Bleach...I need bleach.
I frantically search the cupboard next to sink and sift through the various cleaning products, not finding what I really need.  I wonder if Windex will work.  I decide I'd better stick with what I know and continue my fruitless searching. 
Where's. The. Fucking. Bleach?!
"Hey, can you turn on the hose now?"  His voice breaks me from my sanitizing frenzy, and I shudder slightly, registering how light and carefree he sounds.  It's as if he's completely oblivious to the ferocity and cruelness of his actions.
"Sure." My voice reeks with repulsion. 
I turn on my heel and glare daggers at the back of Charlie's head as I see him standing on the bed of his pick-up truck, hose nozzle in hand, preparing to spray the partially coagulated blood into the yard.  I stalk toward the spigot, twist the knob all the way to the left, and cringe as I notice the red smudges on my glove.  My stomach heaves as I swallow the eruption of bile in my throat.  I head back into the garage to clean and disinfect both myself and the tainted weapon he used for this despicable act.
Charlie continues excitedly, "You should have seen him, Bells.  Once he saw me, he took off like a bat out of hell, but I shot him in the neck before he got too far."  He whips his head towards me with a face-splitting smile, apparently very proud of his most recent accomplishment. "We'll be eating him for months!"
"Great," I mutter, even more nauseated at his last comment. 
"Bear meat is really good.  We've got enough in the freezer now to last us until next year!" he exclaims.
It's times like this that I seriously consider converting to vegetarianism.  As far as I am concerned, the meat in my freezer comes from the grocery store and no furry, gentle creature had to be sacrificed and gutted to produce the delicious pot roast that Renee is making for dinner tonight.  I know that's not reality, but it makes me feel better not having to imagine or actually witness the remnants of fur, entrails, and blood littering the front lawn. 
As I hijack the bleach from the laundry room to clean the knife and disinfect the fuck out of the sink, I hear a familiar rumbling coming from the driveway and I smile uncontrollably.  All revolting thoughts of my savage father vanish as my knight in shining armor arrives on his trusty steed - or more appropriately in my case, in his crappy Chevy truck. 
Edward's unruly, auburn hair shines in the intense Arizona sun as he climbs out of the cab of the truck and saunters over to me with a wide smile and eyes sparkling with happiness.
"Hello, my beautiful fiancée," he says a bit louder than is necessary and turns to boldly tell my dad, "Don't worry Charlie, I won't violate her while you're home." 
No one can get a rise out of my father like Edward.  He winks at me as Charlie growls and narrows his eyes at Edward.  I smirk at his ballsiness and lean in for a chaste kiss on the cheek. Surely, Charlie can deal with that amount of affection.
Although my dad is Edward's godfather, there is no doubt that he would have hand picked Edward as the perfect man for me to marry.  However, just the thought of any guy claiming me as their own is enough to send Charlie's aneurysm-burst level to Def-con 5.  Edward is acutely aware of this and is taking his life in his own hands.  The coloring in Charlie's face is reaching a radiant purple.
"Calm down, Charlie. You know I'm just messing with you." 
Charlie only grunts and snarls in response, apparently regressing back to his Neanderthal ways. 
Unfazed by my dad's death glare, Edward flashes me a crooked smile.
"What are you doing today, Bella bug?  Wanna come with me to the sporting goods store?  I need to get a new lantern."
"What's wrong with the one you bought last month?"
"Nothing.  I just want to get a solar powered one," he shrugs and picks up the now sanitized hunter's knife as I lay it down to dry on a towel.  Eyeing it appreciatively, he yells, "Hey, Charlie, is this the Alpha Hunter that Bella got you for Christmas?"
As my dad's color fades slightly, he nods and replies with an articulate "yep" and turns to finish spraying down the bed liner of the truck.  His miraculous evolution back into a chatty Homo sapien is truly astounding.
Edward places the blade back on the towel and raises an eyebrow at me, indicating that I never answered his earlier questions.  I remind him of my plans for the day and that Angela will be here in an hour to pick me up. He bats long eyelashes and asks if he could at least see me this evening when I get home.  I smile brightly at the thought of being with him later today, and then I smile even wider knowing we'll have all the time in the world together once we move to Tuscon and start college in the fall.  
"Text me when you ladies are on your way back, and I'll meet you here.  I have some early graduation-slash-wedding gifts for you."
"What?!  Edward, you know how I feel about gifts."
"Don't worry, they aren't expensive.  Actually, I have to order one of them, so I will save it for before the wedding.  But the other one, I really have to get today because the guy is moving to L.A. this week, and I heard he is the one to get it from," he said cleverly trying to not give away too much information.
It drives me nuts when he does this.
"Just spit it out, Edward!  What are you buying me today?"
"Nu-uh, Princess, you'll just have to wait and see," he smirks, knowing how much the nickname perturbs me.  He will never let me live down my innocent misinterpretation of the erotica book we found under his parent's bed. 
"Fine, Captain Cryptic," I spit back at him while poking him in the chest, "just for that smart ass comment, I won't make you any of your favorite potato chip cookies for your camping trip."  I cross my arms over my chest and lift my chin defiantly.
He gasps in mock surprise, knowing full well that I will never follow through with my pitiful threat. Renee and I have been baking those cookies for the Masens to take on every camping trip since Edward and I were three years old. There's no way I'll stop the tradition now.
Which reminds me...I will need to make them Tuesday night. Crap. Just one more thing to add to my already hectic week.
This Wednesday is the last day of our senior year of high school.  Traditionally, Edward and his parents wait to camp until the school year is over, but this year our fathers have a law enforcement conference in Las Vegas the week following graduation, so they decided to leave this week instead.  Once graduation is behind us, we'll be focusing on wedding plans, and there won't be time for a camping trip then either. 
I internally sigh knowing we'll be apart for four, whole, bleak days.  Aside from these camping trips, Edard and I have spent some part of every day together since we were born.  Needless to say, when he goes on a trip without me, I'm utterly miserable.  I know they will be back on Sunday, but I feel so empty, so incomplete, when he's gone.  Thankfully this time, graduation parties and wedding plans should keep me plenty occupied while the Masens are traipsing around the Apache National Forest.  It's only about five hours away from Phoenix, but it might as well be on the other side of the world.  I know, busy or not, I'll be counting down the hours until he comes home. 
Jesus, is it normal to be so pathetic when you're in love?
After a tender parting kiss and a playful swat across my ass, Edward turns toward his monstrosity of a truck, sends a quick salute to Charlie, and climbs into the cab.  He cranks the engine and revs like an annoying street racer.  He can be so adorably irritating sometimes.  I watch him pull out of the driveway, cringing as he nearly hits the mailbox, and wave to him as he drives down the street.
A little more than an hour later, Angela and I pull into the parking lot of the mall and make a quick stop at the food court. 
She's a Sbarro junkie.
I make a meal out of a fruit smoothie and we set off on our shopping expedition. As we exit one of our favorite boutiques, we run into Angela's twin brother, Peter.  The Webers moved into the neighborhood five years ago, and live in the house between ours and the Masens.  It was no surprise that we all became great friends.  Their father, Pastor Weber, will preside over our nuptials in a few short weeks, and Angela will be my maid of honor.  Peter is going to be Edward's best man.  One big, happy neighborhood.
Edward and I have chosen to have a very small, private ceremony.  Only a few family and friends will gather to witness our union at the neighborhood park at the end of our street.  The ceremony will be held in a charming gazebo by the lake and the following reception will be held by the picnic area a few yards away.  I never wanted a huge, lavish wedding, and Edward couldn't give two shits.  He'd be happy if we went to Vegas and were hitched by an Elvis impersonator or eloped at the court house.  I, at least, want some small semblance of a traditional wedding - some flowers, a cake, white wedding gown, and all the superstitious things you're supposed to wear...or do...or not do.  I want all the hoopla but on a much, much smaller scale.  I'm actually going to make my own cake, Elizabeth will organize the food for the reception, and Renee insists on having a florist make a bouquet.  I'd be happy with some flowers that we pick from the backyard the morning of, but she vetoed that idea.  Whatever makes her happy, I guess.
"Hey, girls!"  Peter walks toward us with a small jewelry store bag in his hand.  I eye it skeptically. 
"What's in the bag, Peter?"
"Oh...uh...It's actually...uh...a little something I picked up for Charlotte," he mumbles and blushes minutely.
"Really?  So things are getting serious, huh?"
"Yeah, Bells, I think they are.  Maybe next year you and Edward will be coming to our wedding."
Angela and I gasp in shock at the same time.  She's obviously just as surprised by his comment as I am.  Peter and Charlotte have only been dating for a month or so, but it's apparent that he's completely smitten.  Jesus, I hope that's not an engagement ring in the bag.
"So, what's in the bag?"  I silently thank Angela for unknowingly reading my mind and persisting with my previous question.
"Um, it's a charm bracelet."
He hesitantly pulls it from a box inside the bag and holds it up for us to see.
"Oh, it's so pretty, Peter. I'm sure she'll love it."
He blushes again and quickly replaces it in its packaging.  His face suddenly changes from bashful to excited as he looks up to me with twinkling eyes.
"Bella, have you seen Edward this afternoon?"
"No.  He stopped by the house this morning, but he said he had something he had to do later today.  Why?"
"Oh, uh, no reason," he blurts out suspiciously trying to backpedal, "Well, I guess I'll catch you girls later.  Tell Edward to stop by, okay?"  He turns quickly and speeds toward the food court.
"Okay," I mutter, more to myself and Angela since Peter is already out of hearing range.  I turn to her and she shrugs her shoulders, both of us confused by his weird behavior.
As we make our final purchases at the mall, I send a quick text to Edward:
Hey handsome. 
About to leave mall now.
What time are u coming over? 
Ten minutes later, Ang and I are in the car on the way back home when my cell phone chirps, alerting me to an incoming message:
Hi beautiful.
Have Ang drop u off @ park. Meet me at gazebo.
See u in a few mins.
I climb out of Ang's Corolla, promising to call her tomorrow after "The Great Wedding Dress Crusade" with Elizabeth and Renee, and make my way through the soccer field toward the lake.  The sun is starting to set and the light is fading quickly.  I don't like being alone in the park after dark.  I get creeped-out, conjuring imaginary creatures lurking in the shadows - like vampires or giant, mutant wolves.  I hope Edward is here already.
As I make my way to the gazebo, I notice a figure sitting on the bench inside.  His silhouette is partially hidden behind the wood railing, but the unmistakable sight of Edward's wild hair shines like a beacon to me.  I step inside and he looks up at me with a small, worried smile on his face. 
He stands and I notice he's wearing a white, long sleeved, buttoned shirt, which is odd, since it's the end of May and still in the nineties outside.  He seems hesitant to approach me, and I don't understand why.  My heartbeat quickens and I feel anxious that he hasn't uttered a word to me.  For some reason my brain propels itself into paranoia.
Is he having second thoughts about marrying me?
Did he meet someone else?
Did something happened to someone in his family?  Or my family?
As I'm formulating more ridiculous scenarios in my head, he steps toward me and wraps his arms around my waist.  He leans in to place a soft kiss on my lips, apparently trying to deflate my increasing anxiety.  I look up into his eyes and see that his expression is lively but cautious.  Taking me by my hand, he pulls me back toward the bench and onto his lap.  The cuffs of his shirt ride up his arm slightly, and I notice the white bandage over his wrist.
I gasp, "Oh my God, Edward, what happened?"


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