"I would say so."

"Anyway, I'll talk to Bella about it, too. She doesn't need to feel bad. This one's on me."

"I already told her that."

"Of course you did. Is she okay?"

"She's sleeping now. Rose is with her."

So the psycho was "Rose" now. He'd completely crossed over to the dark side.

He ignored that thought, continuing with a more complete answer to my question. "She's... better in some ways. Aside from Leah's tirade and the resulting guilt."

Better. Because Edward was hearing the monster and everything was all lovey-dovey now. Fantastic.

"It's a bit more than that," he murmured. "Now that I can make out the child's thoughts, it's apparent that he or she has remarkably developed mental facilities. He can understand us, to an extent."

My mouth fell open. "Are you serious?"

"Yes. He seems to have a vague sense of what hurts her now. He's trying to avoid that, as much as possible. He... loves her. Already."

I stared at Edward, feeling sort of like my eyes might pop out of their sockets. Underneath that disbelief, I could see right away that this was the critical factor. This was what had changed Edward - that the monster had convinced him of this love. He couldn't hate what loved Bella. It was probably why he couldn't hate me, either. There was a big

difference, though. I wasn't killing her.

Edward went on, acting like he hadn't heard all that. "The progress, I believe, is more than we'd judged. When Carlisle returns - "

"They're not back?" I cut in sharply. I thought of Sam and Jared, watching the road. Would they get curious as to what was going on?

"Alice and Jasper are. Carlisle sent all the blood he was able to acquire, but it wasn't as much as he was hoping for - Bella will use up this supply in another day the way her appetite has grown. Carlisle stayed to try another source. I don't think that's necessary now, but he wants to be covered for any eventuality."

"Why isn't it necessary? If she needs more?"

I could tell he was watching and listening to my reaction carefully as he explained. Tm trying to persuade Carlisle to deliver the baby as soon as he is back."

"What?"

"The child seems to be attempting to avoid rough movements, but it's difficult. He's become too big. It's madness to wait, when he's clearly developed beyond what Carlisle had guessed. Bella's too fragile to delay."

I kept getting my legs knocked out from under me. First, counting on Edward's hatred of the thing so much. Now, I'd realized that I thought of those four days as a sure thing. I'd banked on them.

The endless ocean of grief that waited stretched out before me.

I tried to catch my breath.

Edward waited. I stared at his face while I recovered, recognizing another change there.

"You think she's going to make it," I whispered.

"Yes. That was the other thing I wanted to talk to you about."

I couldn't say anything. After a minute, he went on.

"Yes," he said again. "Waiting, as we have been, for the child to be ready, that was insanely dangerous. At any moment it could have been too late. But if we're proactive about this, if we act quickly, I see no reason why it should not go well. Knowing the child's mind is unbelievably helpful. Thankfully, Bella and Rose agree with me. Now that I've convinced them it's safe for the child if we proceed, there's nothing to keep this from working."

"When will Carlisle be back?" I asked, still whispering. I hadn't got my breath back yet.

"By noon tomorrow."

My knees buckled. I had to grab the car to hold myself up. Edward reached out like he was offering support, but then he thought better of it and dropped his hands.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I am truly sorry for the pain this causes you, Jacob. Though you hate me, I must admit that I don't feel the same about you. I think of you as a... a brother in many ways. A comrade

in arms, at the very least. I regret your suffering more than you realize. But Bella is going to survive"  - when he said that his voice was fierce, even violent - "and I know that's what really matters to you."

He was probably right. It was hard to tell. My head was spinning.

"So I hate to do this now, while you're already dealing with too much, but, clearly, there is little time. I have to ask you for something - to beg, if I must."

"I don't have anything left," I choked out.

He lifted his hand again, as if to put it on my shoulder, but then let it drop like before and sighed.

"I know how much you have given," he said quietly. "But this is something you do have, and only you. I'm asking this of the true Alpha, Jacob. I'm asking this of Ephraim's heir."

I was way past being able to respond.

"I want your permission to deviate from what we agreed to in our treaty with Ephraim. I want you to grant us an exception. I want your permission to save her life. You know 111 do it anyway, but I don't want to break faith with you if there is any way to avoid it. We never intended to go back on our word, and we don't do it lightly now. I want your understanding, Jacob, because you know exactly why we do this. I want the alliance between our families to survive when this is over."

I tried to swallow. Sam, I thought. It's Sam you want.

"No. Sam's authority is assumed. It belongs to you. You'll never take it from him, but no one can rightfully agree to what I'm asking except for you"

It's not my decision.

"It is, Jacob, and you know it. Your word on this will condemn us or absolve us. Only you can give this to me."

can't think. I don't know.

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