When she first stepped into this room, she thought it looked like the office of a college dean, and the man who sat behind the desk, too young to play the part. It felt aloof, cold, and off-putting. But the room has changed, or maybe she has, and now it’s her favorite room in the house. Maybe it’s because Charlie Swan and Renee Dwyer aren’t the type to own antiques, but Bella never imagined she’d be given free rein in this room, and not only allowed but encouraged to pore over every first-edition and folio. To get as close as she liked to the paintings, and even, with clean hands, to run her fingers across the ridge of oil paint.

She remembers how her heart had skipped a beat that moment when she saw the cross which hangs in the hallway, the way the wood is so old it is like satin, and how she had asked Edward about it, and he had answered with Carlisle’s age.

Father-in-law. She is still getting used to using this word, and technically, it isn’t true until tomorrow. But because Edward can’t hear her, she can try it on inside her head, just as she tries on husband for him.

It sounds only a little less strange now than it did weeks ago.

She doesn’t realize how far her mind has wandered she realizes that Carlisle has fallen silent. When she looks up at him, he is smirking.

“I’d ask what it is you are thinking, Isabella,” he says gently, “but having never been a bride, and only once a groom, I can imagine that you have quite enough thinking to be going on with.” He nods to the book which he has open; it is a weathered translation of the Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese text which he had been studying during his time in Italy and which Aro had, for reasons that even Carlisle still doesn’t understand, sent to Carlisle’s new home in Massachusetts not long after he’d arrived in the new world.

She protests. “No—I’m interested, it’s just…”

“Bella.” The kind smile is wider now. “It’s my fault in the first place, trying to cram in another lesson before tomorrow. I suppose I enjoy our time together too much. No one else listens to me like you do.”

This isn’t true. Perhaps no one else sits still to hear history the way she does, but if Bella could have a dime for every time a sentence from Edward begins, “Carlisle thinks…” she imagines she could be as wealthy as any of them.

All she says, however, is, “I find that hard to believe.”

But he isn’t looking at her. He’s staring up at the paintings that litter the wall of his study, spelling out his history one lithograph and oil painting at a time. Everything from the Waggoner, to the Solimena, to the Gris—a cubist painting he’d bought during what Carlisle only refers to as Edward’s “sojourn,” which is a remarkably tempered word, Bella thinks, to be used by someone who had his heart ripped out.

It’s the Gris he’s looking at, she realizes.

“That one is so interesting,” she says.

His head jerks as though somehow, impossibly, he’s forgotten that she’s there. But then he nods.

“I’ve been wondering if I ought to take it down.”

She shoots him a puzzled look as he stands up and walks over to the wall to study the painting more closely. He stands in front of it, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I kept this,” he says, “because I needed to remind myself what could happen if I wasn’t careful. That he can hear everything I think, but that he doesn’t always understand what I mean when I think it. That if I’m not careful, the best thing in my life will walk out the door, because he has legs of his own.”

Then he turns around. “But I don’t need that reminder anymore.” He smiles. “You, Bella—you have given me, and our family, a gift beyond measure. You’ve brought Edward the peace I’ve longed for him for so many decades. aAd then one day, here you are, walking into the high school having no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, and then never running, when by all practical accounts, by now you should have…”

It’s the same thing Edward says. “I’m just waiting for the running and screaming to start.” But coming from Carlisle, it’s a different proposition altogether. He doesn’t hate himself the way Edward does, and it’s not an invitation to reassure him that he is a good person. It’s simply a statement of fact.

“There’s nothing practical about loving Edward.” She finishes her thoughts aloud.

Carlisle laughs. Bella likes the sound of his laughter, which she hears so often these days. Edward says he’s hasn’t seen Carlisle and Esme so happy since they were the newlyweds.

“You’d think,” he says, “that this fact would be something about which I was already aware.” He turns to her, grinning. “And yet, I seem to forget.”

Then he’s fumbling in his pocket, and pulls something out. It’s a yellowed piece of what once must have been white satin, about eight inches square. Its edges are finished—a handkerchief. He hands it to her. “I was planning to give this to you before the wedding,” he says. “I have no real use for it, of course. So perhaps you ought to have it.”

She holds it up. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about it. The puzzlement must show on her face, because Carlisle says, “It’s from Edward’s christening gown. I carry it because people expect someone like me to carry a handkerchief. But also because I never got to hold my son as a baby, and this—well. it reminds me.”

Then he’s pressing it into her hand, cold hand against thin cloth against warm hand. She takes it, and folds it carefully into quarter squares.

She looks into his eyes. Carlisle is careful never to get too hungry, and she’s never seen anything more than a slightly darker shade of gold. Today his eyes are light, in preparation for a houseful of humans tomorrow. Even more so than Edward, Carlisle’s eyes are deep—even when her father-in-law is laughing, centuries of loneliness and sorrow have taken their toll on him and his expression always has the slightest hint of desperation. She didn’t notice this at first, but she sees it now, now that she is almost a member of this family. Carlisle loves all his children with the boundless, inhuman love that is the vampire trait that defines him, but Edward was first. Edward was special.

And even though it’s Charlie who will stand up tomorrow and utter the old-fashioned words, she realizes it’s Carlisle who is actually giving his child away.

“Thank you, Carlisle,” she says.”

He smiles. “Take good care of it.”

She folds it carefully, and slides it into her own pocket, feeling its thickness there against her hip. Then, knowing exactly what Carlisle means, she promises him:

“I will.”


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