Bella’s final scream cut me to the core as her hand clamped down on mine. Then it faded away, melting into the shrill wail of the new baby.
“A girl.” Carlisle said, and my heart leapt yet again. A girl. A precious baby girl. Another daughter. And a son too. Two new children for our little family. Edward Jacob and …
I turned to Bella; she'd spoken right away before, instantly giving EJ his name, but she hadn't made a sound yet. I froze solid when I saw her. Her body had slumped back, her other arm hanging loose where Esme had released it to take the baby, her eyes closed and mouth slack. I squeezed her hand, limp in mine, and said her name, but there was no response. I breathed in; the sharp tang of the fluid that coated the babies filled the room, but I could still smell the floral scent of Bella’s blood, fresh and flowing, though I couldn't see where it came from.
“Carlisle,” I choked. “She's bleeding.”
He looked up and nodded grimly. He smelt it too.
Heavily and internally, his analytical mind thought, working through all the details he could gather using the heightened senses of a vampire. I’m sorry Edward, it's not something I can deal with here, and we can't get her to the hospital. Not fast enough to help her, at least.
I fell to my knees, feeling my features twist in agony as I stared into the beautiful face of my unconscious wife. I knew I had to make a decision, and fast; her life was slipping away with every passing second, with every drop of blood that left her body. I could hear the babies begin to cry again as Esme and Rosalie tended to them, heard their minds calling out for their mother, wondering where she was. If I hesitated any longer, she might be gone. They would never know her, and she would never see the result of her incredible efforts to give them life. I knew I could never live without Bella, and I couldn't leave my children orphaned at such a young age. The fear of being a single parent loomed in the back of my head as I contemplated that reality; a world where I remained after Bella was gone. Unthinkable. Unendurable.
All this passed through my head in a second. It took only that amount of time for the decision to solidify in my mind. I stood, and Carlisle seemed to understand, as if he could read my mind for once.
The syringe? He thought, picturing the tube full of my venom that still sat in the little fridge on the other side of the room.
I nodded. “And morphine.”
My voice was terse, as was his answering nod. I knew it might not have any effect, but I had to try and reduce her pain in any way I possibly could.
As he prepared the needles, I turned back to Bella. Her heart was still beating strongly; soft breaths, like those of someone deeply asleep, blew from her lungs in a regular, even pattern. But I could hear the slight exertion beginning to set in, the weakening of her pulse by minute degrees as she lost more and more blood from whatever vessel had been severed.
I gently folded her sprawled limbs into a more natural position, pulling down the now too large t-shirt she was wearing to give her a bit more cover. Alice would probably insist on dressing her up as soon as possible, so I didn't bother to do much else. If I backed up the injection with bites, as I planned to, I would need access to her major pulse points anyway.
Carlisle returned, syringes in hand. He passed the larger of the two to me and pushed the smaller one into Bella’s arm, forcing the morphine into her veins. Her heart slowed even more, and I had to restrain my panic while we waited for the medicine to spread. Just as I was getting really impatient, Carlisle gave me a nod to let me know I could proceed. I moved immediately, reaching inside Bella’s shirt and carefully pushing the needle through her skin, past her rib-cage, into her heart. Then I pushed the plunger down, ignoring the sick feeling it gave me to cause my love pain of this magnitude and focusing on the surety that this would keep her with me always.
As soon as I removed the needle, Bella’s body gave a sudden jolt like she'd been given an electric shock and her heart began to beat furiously, pushing the poison around her body with each squeeze of the tired muscles and each pump of thick, sweet blood. I knew the process would go faster if there was more venom in her, so I quickly worked my way over her body, blocking out everything else and focusing on my control; I bit her wrists, the insides of her elbows, her inner thighs and both sides of her neck. Her blood flowed across my tongue as my teeth pierced her carotid artery and her jugular vein, hot and wet, but I refused to allow myself to swallow, pushing venom into the wounds instead.
“I'm so sorry,” I whispered in her ear once I was finished, moving back to kiss her forehead. She didn't move, didn't wake, and I hoped that meant the morphine was doing its job and keeping her unconscious, free of pain.
Carlisle pushed his desk chair towards me and I sank into it gratefully, moving closer to Bella’s side and taking her hand in mine. I was determined to stay here until this was over; I would not abandon my wife in her greatest hour of need. I looked up at the sound of Esme thinking my name. She was standing beside me, a small bundle of blankets in her arms. Shrill cries sounded from inside; a baby, crying for its mother.
“She needs a name Edward,” Esme said softly, holding the bundle out towards me. I took it from her carefully, cradling my howling daughter in my arms.
“Shh,” I murmured soothingly, rocking her slightly. “It's alright darling. Don't cry, Daddy's here. Daddy's got you. ”
She quieted almost instantly. Across the room, her brother's crying also faded to silence. She stared up at me, her little face curious and a little frightened. She was perfect; beautiful, just like Nessie. Just like Bella. Her hair was bronze, though not as thick as Nessie's, just a light dusting on the top of her head. She was smaller too, by at least an inch, about two ounces lighter, and her eyes were wide and shining, a beautiful emerald green. She made me think of my mother; one look at those eyes brought back a flood of memories that I had thought were lost forever. Memories of carefree summer days and afternoons at the piano and cosy evenings by the fire. Just like that I knew I had the perfect name for the tiny child in my arms.
“Elizabeth,” I said softly, stroking her cheek with one finger. Then I looked up at my sister, standing nearer now, holding my son. Rosalie, who had been through so many awful things, been so angry and bitter, but so strong and determined to make her life better. Rosalie, who had saved the life of a human man she didn't even know and found her soul mate in him. Rosalie, who had agreed to care for my children if Bella and I ever weren't around. Rosalie, who I owed so much to, who I had yet to repay for everything she had done for me in the last 70 years. Sure, she wasn't perfect, and we had our ups and downs and our falling outs, just like any siblings. But we still loved each other and cared for each other deeply, our comradeship formed in the early days when we were both awkward, lonely third wheels to a happy couple. Now I knew I had the perfect gift to thank her for all the good she had done.
“Elizabeth Rose.” I said with finality.
Rosalie’s eyes widened. “Really?”
I smiled and nodded. “It suits her. And you've done so much for us, more than I could ever hope to deserve. This is all I have to give you in return. I hope it's enough.”
She shook her head, but smiled. “It's more than enough. It's too much actually. Thank you Edward, I’m honoured.”
Elizabeth cooed happily in approval; she liked her name. I smiled down at her adoringly.
Rosalie came closer then, offering me her bundle. “Here. You hold
him for a while.”
I carefully shifted Elizabeth, using the arms of the chair to help me balance her on one arm. Rose gently placed EJ in my other arm in the same way, making sure I had him before she let go, and then she, Esme and Carlisle all slipped quietly out, leaving me with my family.
I looked down at my son, and couldn't help smiling. Like his sister, he had a smattering of bronze hair, already sticking out at odd angles, and wide green eyes. He was bigger than her, but still smaller than Renesmee had been as a newborn. As soon as the two were close, their previously separate minds synchronised perfectly, just as they had when they were inside Bella.
“Incredible,” I whispered, listening intently. They wondered where their mother was, and why she wasn't here. I sighed, knowing this would be hard to explain to them in a way they would understand.
The door creaked open behind me, and Nessie poked her head around the edge.
“Daddy?” she said nervously, worried that she was intruding.
I smiled at her warmly. “Come in darling.”
Slowly, tentatively, she crossed the floor until she stood in the thin gap between me and the bed.
“Are you alright?” I asked her softly, hoping she hadn't been frightened by all the screaming. She nodded slowly, her eyes fixed on the bundles in my arms. I felt my smile turn knowing; she was preoccupied, understandably, and I knew I wasn't going to get much out of her until I satisfied her curiosity.
“You can look if you want,” I told her, nodding towards the objects of her fixation. She looked at me for a moment, slightly startled, then moved closer. She was still a little too short to see clearly, but there was a tiny bit of space left on my lap, so she clambered up until she was kneeling there, sitting back on the bed behind her slightly. Then she peered over my arms, her gaze curious. The twins gazed back, just as curious to find out who this new face was.
“They're so small,” Renesmee whispered, her voice full of wonder. “Was I ever that small Daddy?”
I chuckled and shook my head. “Not quite. They're a little smaller than you were, but not by much. They'll get bigger very soon though; like you, they won't be small for long.”
She took a moment to process that before she asked her next question.
“What are their names? Are they boys or girls?”
“One of each, just like you wanted,” I told her and she beamed. “This is Elizabeth,” I said, nodding to her and lifting her up slightly, “And this is EJ.”
Nessie leaned in closer as the twins gurgled, already recognising the sound of their names. Then her wondering expression turned into an excited smile. Her voice was soft and gentle when she spoke, adoring as she greeted her brother and sister.
“Hey guys,” she said, and they stared up at her in amazement. “I'm Renesmee, your big sister. We're going to have so much fun. I’ve got tons of things to teach, when you get bigger. You're going to love it here.”
The twins listened intently, their expressions utterly fascinated. Nessie leaned in and kissed them each very softly on the forehead, as if sealing a promise. It filled my heart with happiness to see my children bonding, and I wished Bella could see it too. I looked over at her still form on the bed and wondered why she hadn't moved or reacted to the venom yet. Her heart was thudding out of control, and her breathing was also racing, but other than that she seemed to just be deeply asleep. Her eyes were closed and her muscles were relaxed. Carlisle had covered her with a thin hospital sheet, so she was concealed from the neck down, and her hair was tangled, matted to her forehead as if she'd been tossing and turning with nightmares.
Nessie noticed that I was looking, and her attention was drawn for the first time to her mother. Her little face fell as she took in her still form, and she scrambled further back onto the bed beside her.
“Momma,” she whispered, touching the back of Bella’s hand, which lay outside the sheet where I had been holding it. She turned back to me, clearly upset.
“Is she okay?” she asked frantically, her eyes begging me for the truth, but also for reassurance. I nodded, and Nessie relaxed minutely. She still wanted to know what was happening, and now they had caught up with what was going on, so did the twins.
“Momma's going to be fine,” I told them gently. “She's sleeping right now, and she's going to sleep for a few days. But when she wakes up, she'll be all better and then we'll be together forever.”
The babies cooed and gurgled happily, but Nessie didn't look convinced. I raised an eyebrow at her in silent question.
She's changing, isn't she? she thought. Momma's becoming like you.
I nodded, and she relaxed fully, convinced that things were going to work out. She scooted up to sit beside Bella’s head, stroking one little hand across her matted hair soothingly.
There was a knock at the door, and when it opened, Esme was standing outside with two bottles.
“I thought they might be getting hungry.” she said softly, coming in with a smile on her face. I could see in her mind how we looked, a little family gathered together. I smiled back at her in thanks and prepared to hand her one of the babies.
“Can I feed EJ?” Renesmee asked, and I smiled wider at her eagerness.
“Of course you can.” Esme said. “Sit up against that pillow there and I’ll help you.”
Nessie got into position and Esme gently lifted EJ from my arms, letting me get Elizabeth settled more comfortably before handing me one of the bottles. I watched as she guided Nessie into a good position to hold him. Nessie seemed perfectly comfortable with her brother in her arms, though he was only a little less than half her size. As if she had years of experience, she guided the bottle into his mouth, and he began to suck greedily. Elizabeth squawked impatiently in my arms, so I gave her what she wanted and soon she was gulping down the blood-and-milk mixture enthusiastically. I could hear her mind, still linked to her brother's, thought they were now having a conversation rather than thinking together. EJ could see Bella from his place in Nessie's arms, and he was relaying the image to Elizabeth. They discussed their appreciation of the food, the differences in the way Nessie and I held them, how we felt different, and how loved they both felt.
I like it here. Elizabeth thought happily.
Me too. EJ replied. There's more room out here.
Let's stay. Momma will be better soon, and then everything will be perfect.
They settled into contented silence then, focusing on their meals. I smiled, feeling an incredible sense of fullness as I stared at the family I never truly believed I would have.
I laid Bella gently onto our bed, leaving her on top of the covers. I knew the confusion that accompanied a newborn's first minutes, and that being restricted would be the last thing she would want; in fact it was very likely to make her panic. She was still and silent save for her breaths and heartbeats; she hadn't moved at all since the venom entered her system almost five hours ago, and only Carlisle’s continued reassurances were keeping me calm. I was dangerously close to panicking, sure that I had done something wrong.
Nessie had stayed with us until bed time, when Rosalie and Esme came to take her and the twins away. I had kissed each of them on the forehead and told them that I loved them, but I needed to stay with Momma. She needed me, I explained, but they could come in and see us if they wanted to, whenever they wanted. Nessie had been very understanding, kissing her mother softly and doing her best to calm the twins, who were decidedly less happy to leave. I could hear her determination to be of some use, to help Rosalie take care of EJ and Elizabeth as much as she could. My heart swelled with pride at that, and I knew right then that Renesmee would grow up to be just as kind, gentle and selfless as Bella.
They were all sleeping now, after the twins had met everyone, and a peaceful quiet had settled over the house. Alice had cleaned Bella up and dressed her in a dark blue dress that was rugged and stylish at the same time, paired with simple black flats. She had wanted to go for a silk cocktail dress and stilettos, but I convinced her that it might make Bella’s first hunt easier if her clothes were sufficiently practical. Alice had conceded, grudgingly. She'd also brushed Bella’s hair smooth, leaving it lying in it's usual flowing waves. The dried blood, sweat and tears that covered her skin had all been washed away, leaving her skin once more flawlessly smooth. Looking at her now, I could see that her skin was in fact very slightly paler, her hair slightly thicker, the red tones more prominent. Her stomach, initially loose with stretched muscles after the twins were no longer inside her, had sucked in to give her back a more slender shape, just the slightest extra curves of motherhood to augment her former petite figure. Her cheekbones and jaw were more defined; every part of her was minutely sharper and more even, with the possible exception of her lips, which were still that little bit out of balance. I knew these tiny changes would continue over the next few days, and that they would add up to a very big change indeed, but I was confident that she would still be herself at the end of it. As I had promised her all those months ago when our biggest problems were graduating and defeating Victoria’s army, she would still be my Bella. She would still be herself, and look like herself – almost.
It took two days for those changes to take place. Two days of agonising waiting and worrying, wondering what Bella was going through, and feeling horribly guilty that I was the cause. Two days of complete silence, except for her thumping heartbeat, working to pump the venom through her veins as it changed every cell, one by one, into something new and entirely different. The only interruptions to my brooding were the daily check-ups from Carlisle and the visits from the children every couple of hours. Nessie had made it her mission to stop me from moping, at least for a little while. She came in three times a day, bringing the twins with her every time. The three of them then proceeded to tell me everything they had done so far that day; first thing in the morning they told me about their dreams, at lunch time they recounted their morning, and before bed they reviewed the afternoon, with each conversation including a bit of general discussion. Nessie talked a lot more than usual, while EJ and Elizabeth had yet to begin talking properly, though they gurgled and cooed and began to form the rough outline of words, and they spoke perfectly in their thoughts.
In Nessie's head, I saw that she'd been talking to Jacob, who had told her that sometimes people in very deep sleeps like comas could hear people talking around them. He had suggested she try talking to Bella to give her some comfort, and to tell her what was going on so that she didn't feel left out and behind when she woke up. I had no idea whether it would work; most people could hear what was going on around them while they changed. I knew I had, and so had Rosalie and Emmett and Esme, but there was no telling what effect the morphine would have on Bella’s level of consciousness. I didn't mention anything to Nessie, and she carried on talking to her mother regardless.
They had found that the twins' talent for shared thought extended further when Renesmee touched them, allowing all three to think together. Elizabeth took it upon herself to try it out on me, and found that the same thing happened. However, it didn't work with anyone else in the family, so we assumed it was restricted to people who had a genetic relationship with EJ and Elizabeth. It intrigued Carlisle, and he was eager to try it out on Bella, to see if it might just be our talents that allowed us to connect that way.
It was just after lunchtime on the third day when things changed. Bella began to breathe more heavily, though the pace of her breaths never slowed. Her heartbeat kicked up another notch, and the fingers of the hand I held in mine twitched minutely. It was the first movement she had made, and I leaned forward waiting for more, hoping it wasn't a one-off.
“Bella?” I whispered. “Bella, can you hear me love? Can you squeeze my hand?”
She didn't respond, but her eyes clamped more tightly shut, and her body began to shake and shudder violently. Her frozen lips parted and a soft whimper escaped from her throat. I waited with baited breath to see what she would do next.
Suddenly, her eyes snapped open, her back arched as she gasped, and her hands clenched tight, one in a fist and the other pressing on my hand with a crushing force that was almost painful. Her skin was no longer blazing hot on mine; instead it merely felt warm, comfortable... normal. The same temperature as mine.
It must be almost over.
“Edward,” Bella whimpered as she flopped back onto the mattress, still shuddering. Ice stabbed at my heart because I was the cause of that pain, while relief rushed through me as she spoke, knowing that she was alright.
I threaded my fingers more tightly through hers and reached over to stroke her cheek with my knuckles.
“I'm here Bella.” I said gently. “It's alright love, just a little bit longer. It's almost over, I promise.”
She whimpered again, clutching my hand tightly. Then she rolled over towards me, reaching out her other hand to grab hold of my shirt and pulling sharply. Taking the hint, I gently wrapped her in my arms and pulled her onto my lap. She clung to me tightly, as if holding on for dear life. I did my best to soother her and make her feel better, but I knew there was very little I could do; the very end of the transformation process was the worst part, more painful than any other and seeming to drag on and on forever.
Bella managed to position herself on my lap with her arms around my shoulders and her face buried in my neck. I rocked her gently back and forth, humming her lullaby in an attempt to calm her and keep her grounded in reality. Over her head, I saw the door open and the rest of the family, minus Rosalie, Jacob and the children, came into the room quietly, standing against the wall out of the way. I spared them only a short nod before returning my attention to Bella. Her eyes were closed again, squeezed tightly shut, and her heart was beating so fast it was difficult to hear the separate sounds of each beat. Her body was stiff in my arms, completely unmoving as her final human organ thundered towards its end. I could do nothing but hold her and whisper soft words of encouragement and promises that the end was in sight.
Suddenly, her breathing stopped dead mid breath. Her racing heart thudded loudly once... twice... then was silent. Everyone became absolutely still. No one so much as breathed. For one long second, the only sound was the fluttering of heartbeats downstairs as the eight of us sat like statues, frozen in time, waiting for something, anything, to happen.
Against my neck, I felt Bella’s eyelashes flutter, soft and gentle as the wings of a butterfly. She sucked in a sharp breath and jerked away from me. Though I was expecting it, the speed of her movement still surprised me, as did her face when she was still again. Her skin, already pale despite living in the Arizona sun for seventeen years, was even paler, stark white, almost opalescent and shimmering, without so much as a freckle marring the flawless surface. Her rosy lips were plump, soft and inviting, still just a little bit unbalanced with the top too full to match the bottom. Her hair shone, the red far more prominent despite the lack of sunlight, and it framed her face in dark waves that hung almost down to her waist. Her cheekbones and jawline were more defined, and her eyes blazed a vivid crimson I hadn't seen since Emmett’s newborn days seventy years ago. They were wide, startled and a little frightened, flitting back and forth as she took in my face just as I was taking in hers. She was stiff, tense, not even blinking, and I slowly removed my arms from around her to see if it would calm her down. She relaxed the tiniest bit, but she still seemed worried. I had a sudden flash of panic; what if she was like Alice and couldn't remember anything, couldn't remember her life before waking up? How would she react to being told she had a husband and three children?
Say something son, Carlisle prompted me. She's likely to be confused and disorientated, and she needs something familiar.
Of course. I remembered the first thing Carlisle did with each of us after our changes finished was to say our names and offer reassurances, explanations, and answers to as many questions as he could.
“Bella?” I said softly, cautiously, trying not to startle her. “It's alright Bella, you're safe. It's over now.”
She stared at me with a look of fascination on her face, as if the very sound of my voice enchanted her. Still, she made no sound of her own.
She was still perched on my lap, her hands resting lightly on my shoulders. After a moment or two of silent staring, her lips parted and she finally spoke.
“Edward,” she said, and her voice was unlike anything I had ever heard. It was an entire glorious choir of angels in a single voice, in a single word. The memory of her human voice was rough, coarse and almost ugly by comparison. My name had never sounded so beautiful in all my one hundred years.
I focused back on the here and now when Bella frowned.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
Her eyes flitted around the room as she spoke, but something seemed to be distracting her, as she wasn't getting very far.
“What... How... Where... I... Is that me?” she stuttered, and I realised her problem; she didn't recognise the sound of her own voice. I chuckled.
“Yes love, it's you. I know this is all very confusing, and I’ll do my best to explain everything if you would like, but it will be easier if you tell me what you remember.”
She frowned, her marble forehead crinkling as she thought. I couldn't hear her mind – much to my chagrin – but I could still read her face, and I could almost see the wheels turning in her head as she struggled to remember the end of her human life.
“I remember... the babies,” she began hesitantly. “I remember EJ. I remember pushing for the other... and blacking out. Then the fire came.” She shuddered and winced, and I nodded in understanding. On the outside I was calm and cool, but on the inside I was dizzy with relief that everything was okay. I couldn't even find it in myself to feel bad about causing her pain in the first place; I felt only gratitude that it was over.
“Was everything okay?” Bella asked me, frowning worriedly. “With the babies I mean. They're alright?”
I nodded and smiled reassuringly. “All the children are absolutely fine. Rosalie's with them now, and she's been taking care of them.”
“Can I see them?” she said excitedly, perking up slightly. Carlisle took that as his cue to step in.
“You should probably hunt first Bella.” he said gently, pulling her attention away from me for the first time. “You seem to be incredibly controlled for a newborn, but I have a feeling there's a limit to how long that can last.”
That made Bella frown, which made me wonder what on earth she was thinking. I stood up, placing her on her feet and gently taking her hands off my shoulders, holding them in mine.
“Come on love,” I said with a warm smile. “Let's hunt.”
Bella as a vampire was stunning. Her physical appearance had been enhanced of course, but it was more than that. My clumsy little human had been replaced by a creature so graceful and poised that it was hard to believe that they were the same person. She dropped out of the window – because using the door meant a potential run in with Jacob and the children – landing on the ground below like a cat, balanced delicately on her toes. After watching me go first, she took a flying leap across the river and ended up holding a tree branch, swinging back and forth like a gymnast and laughing with startled exhilaration. And when she descended upon her first kill, a mountain lion she managed to cross the trail of all by herself... There were no words to describe how I felt watching her circle the big cat, pounce on its back, sink her teeth into the pounding blood vessel in its neck and take gulp after hungry gulp until there was nothing left to drink. It was one thing to see her bent over a deer or elk that I had caught and brought back for her, another entirely for her to be taking down a large predator for her meal. The lust which only worry for my wife's well-being could truly subdue reared its head once again, and I embraced it, letting it fill me and warm me down to my toes. When she stood up, revealing the jagged tears in the front of her dress from the lion's claws, and wiped the tiny traces of blood from around her mouth, I couldn't help the growl that tore from my teeth, making her stare at me heatedly. In less than a second I had her pressed against a tree, kissing her with a force I had never dared to exert when she was human. She gasped in surprise before responding with just as much fervour, threading her fingers into my hair and opening her mouth to my probing tongue. My hands gripped her waist and hers tugged at my hair. The crackling energy sparked between us as the kiss went on and on, growing gradually deeper, until I could taste the blood that she had drunk in my mouth; my two favourite flavours – mountain lion and Bella – combined into one glorious mixture that made my head spin. Unneeded air passed from one set of lungs to the other as we panted, moaned and groaned. I knew that soon we were going to take things too far, and as much as I missed and craved her touch, I also wanted to make her first time in this life special for her, and I certainly wasn't going to accomplish that in the middle of the forest up against a tree. Carefully, I ended the kiss, pulling back slowly. She pouted adorably, opening her eyes wide and trying to pull me closer. She was strong enough that she managed to get my head down to her level, but I didn't let her distract me, offering an alternative.
“Bella,” I sighed, moving my hands from her hips to her face. “I'm sure you haven't hunted enough yet, and I know you want to get back to the children as soon as possible. As much as I would love to continue, there will be plenty of time later.”
“You started it.” she grumbled, and even sulking she was beyond gorgeous.
I just laughed and kissed her nose. “I won't apologise for that.”
“I don't want you to apologise.” she said cheekily. I smiled and ran my thumb across her bottom lip tenderly.
“I love you.” I murmured softly, not realising until I said it that this was the first time I had told her I loved her since she woke up. I wondered how I could go so long without expressing the most sure and fundamental truth of my entire existence.
“I love you too.” she replied almost shyly, looking up at me in a way that made me feel mildly befuddled. I pulled away before she could tempt me with her feminine charms and took her hand before we took off running again. I just managed to keep up with her; anyone else would have been left behind very quickly, but my higher than average speed allowed me to keep pace.
We both hunted this time, taking down a large proportion of a herd of deer. Bella was finished before I was, making me realise how long it had actually been since I last fed. I hadn't actually gotten around to feeding the day the twins were born, though I'd meant to; the hunt was a cover for a project we were working on as a family, the end result being a gift for Bella which we were still trying to keep a secret.
Bella insisted we race back to the house, delighting in her new-found abilities, and she managed to beat me by jumping for the river sooner. Her exultant laughter and impromptu victory dance had me laughing along with her as I picked her up and spun her around in a circle. That made her squeal, which brought us to the attention of the rest of the family inside. One member in particular, whose excited shout made Bella’s smile even wider.
“Momma!” Nessie called out, barrelling across the lawn towards us with Jacob hot on her heels. I could see his concern for her, knowing the frenzy newborns went into when faced with fresh blood and worrying that Bella might unintentionally hurt both Nessie and herself due to a momentary loss of control. He needn't have worried however; Bella had no trouble with either of their scents, and didn't even seem interested in Jacob at all as she bent down to catch Renesmee and wrap her in a hug that was tight and loving without using her full strength and crushing her. Her control continued to astound me; with every new challenge, she carried on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. I couldn't help but smile along with my girls as they embraced. Soon though, Nessie's impatience got the best of her. She dropped to the ground and began to tug Bella towards the house.
“Come on Momma,” she said, a touch of excited anticipation in her voice. “You have to come meet the babies.”
Inside the house, Jasper was carefully monitoring Bella’s emotion, and through him I saw her sudden spike of nervousness at Nessie's words. Of course, I couldn't miss the slight stiffening of her shoulders and the glance back at me that accompanied it. I just smiled at her calmly and stepped forward, placing my hand on the small of her back.
“Come on love,” I murmured, guiding her towards the back door gently as our excited daughter bounced ahead of us and Jacob followed calmly behind. “They're waiting for you.”