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It has taken him over nine decades, but he has finally found her, his True Mate.

After so many years with his unique sort of family, he thought he'd be alone forever. There was no mate for him. Not Rosalie, even though Carlisle had seemingly handpicked her as a women who would match his otherwordly beauty as well as his temper.

No, Rosalie was always for Emmett.

And while there had surely been others who'd been tempting, whose allure may have come close to convincing him to shed his eternal virginity, he knew they weren't right.

Edward Cullen was a gentleman, and the act of making love should be something shared with only one person, and that should be his mate. And if he never found her, well, then he would remain unsullied, rather than devalue such a sacred act.

And then he saw her. She was in the corner of the biology classroom, and an oscillating fan blows some of her heady scent his way. She's close to ripe, burgeoning, and his fingers dig into the lab desk, chipping away the granite countertop as he fights for control.

He wants her to be his. But she can never be.

He's wanted a mate for so long, but she's all wrong for him. She's fragile, and breakable, and he dreams of watching her bloom, of bearing fruit, swollen and sweet.

At first, he flees. Touching her would only bring her harm. And she isn't his to own, to possess. He flees to Alaska, where the vampire coven long rumored to be succubi still live. He and Tanya have always been friends, but when she offers herself to him--her beauty, her curves--it is still so easy for him to resist. When he rejects her yet again, she rails at him, at his inability to be normal, to accept what he can have instead of his need to have what he cannot. He accepts her fury with weariness; everything she says is true.

The long drive back to Forks gives him ample time to daydream. To think of splitting her open, of delving his tongue into the lush sweetness she bears. He resigns himself to accepting whatever she will give him, and when he meets her before school, he takes her into the forest. She looks like she belongs here, although it's colder than he thinks she likes.

He bares his chest in the sunlight, showing her his sparkling skin, his inhumanity. He reveals himself to be the monster that he is, but she says nothing about his horrifying nature. Her calm acceptance is more than he could have dreamed of, and he takes her back to the car, convinced it is time to introduce her to his family.

Esme is cooking dinner, excited for her arrival, thinking to make something from her heritage. It will break her heart when she discovers she won't eat the dinner she's prepared for no one other than Edward's mate, because monsters don't eat, but his angel, his mate, won't be able to handle the dinner either.

He waits until the entire family is assembled before he brings her forward, introducing her to his family. She is Bella, a perfect name for one so beautiful. He hopes that his family will accept her, no matter how different she may be, that they will be fine with him revealing their secret.

But Rosalie breaks the salad bowl, muttering about how she's wasted her time making a meal no one will eat. Esme smiles uncomfortably, but she is the only mother he's known for so long; she would do anything to make him happy. Jasper offers a strained grin before Alice leads him away. Carlisle steps forward and rests his hand on Edward's shoulder.

But it's Emmett who's crass enough to actually say something about their unusual pairing. "Dude, if you don't get that ficus back to the biology lab, there's gonna be hell to pay. And how are you going to take it to prom?"

He stalks to his room with her, angry that his family can't be supportive of someone who has ended his long loneliness. He turns on the stereo, and the soft notes of Debussy's "Clair de lune" play. Bella seems to enjoy it, and her leaves appear to bend toward the sound.

He can give her everything if she'll let him. He touches one of her leaves and gasps. Perhaps one day he'll have the control he needs to not destroy her.