The Twilight Saga


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So, I have to admit that I ignored Stephenie Meyer's plea and went ahead and read the first 12 chapters of Midnight Sun on her website. I read it side by side with Twilight (which takes us only partway through Chapter 11), so I could compare the text of Bella's perspective to that of Edward's. I finished with an overwhelming sense of disappointment as I read the last lines of the released version. I wanted more! And since we have no word from Meyer as to when she might complete (if ever) the novel in Edward's view, I decided to make up my own version to satisfy my own yearning for a glimpse into Edward's soul (and yes, I do believe he has one).

I tried to keep with the same context for those of you who've read Midnight Sun already. For those who haven't I recommend you do not read this forum until you've caught up.

Click Here for Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun Partial Draft

I also suggest you read it next to Twilight at least for those scenes that coincide. It really gives you a whole new perspective!

All creative credit goes to Stephenie Meyer. Most of the dialog used in this story is the same as found in her book, Twilight. No copyright infringement is intended. But I have created new scenes, and interpreted Edward’s perspective to the best of my knowledge based on the Midnight Sun partial draft on her website.

Thank you for reading!
Jillian Shaw



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Ch. 12 Complications
Ch. 13 Balancing
Ch. 14 Confessions (Parts 1 & 2)
Ch. 14 Confessions (Part 3)
Ch. 15 Mind Over Matter (Part 1)
Ch. 15 Mind Over Matter (Part 2)
Ch. 15 Mind Over Matter (Part 3)
Ch. 15 ¾ The Wager (Part 1)
Ch. 15 ¾ The Wager (Part 2)

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Chapter 12 Complications (continued)

As soon as I was clear of her sight, clear of her electric pull if I was being honest with myself, I accelerated to my more normal speed. It was only for Bella’s sake that I drove so slowly. And yet she still seemed surprised when we arrived to Charlie’s house so quickly. As I pulled off on our hidden drive, I immediately sank with a sense of dread. The thoughts of my family were screaming at me as they listened to my approach. I parked beside my Vanquish. I frowned as Rosalie contemplated turning it into a giant lump of scrap metal. Definitely ostentatious…. I hardly ever got to drive it. With a resounding sigh, I headed toward the house. I might as well get this over with.

Carlisle was home from the hospital having received a worried call from Esme. Alice was resolved; Emmett’s only concern was Rosalie’s fury. Jasper and Rosalie were taking it the worst.

How dare you! Idiot! Moron! What were you thinking? How could you do this to us?

She is a danger. She can’t be allowed to know so much. She is going to ruin everything!

Aww, damn, man! You know whose side I have to choose here. You’re losing it!

It’s okay, Edward. I saw this coming eventually. Does this mean I can…?

She is obviously good for Edward. I haven’t seen him this happy in decades. When can we meet her?

Edward has been alone so long. He is strong enough to make this work. Now our family can be complete.

I didn’t say a word as I came through the door. Everyone immediately congregated in the dining room once again. It was clear another family meeting was an order. I took my place at the head of the table. I didn’t even need to look up to know all eyes were on me. The angry thoughts were verbal daggers in my head. I winced anticipating the firing squad. Rosalie spoke first.

“How dare you risk everything we’ve made for ourselves here! “ Rosalie screamed. “What if she talks. What if you… what if she gets hurt!”

“You know that this puts us all at risk.” Jasper was always methodical. “Rules have been violated. She can’t be allowed to know so much about our world. Our entire existence is now in jeopardy. If they catch wind of this…”

“I doubt the Volturi would bother themselves over one little girl in the Olympic Peninsula, half way around the world.” I countered.

“I think we have to trust that Edward knows what he is doing in this case.” Carlisle was always too trusting. If he only knew the torment of my own decisions; I am already in too deep. And he was also very wrong. I had no idea what I was doing. How selfish am I to subject this girl to all the danger that came with being a Cullen? “So the girl now knows our secret. Okay, we have to deal with the ramifications of that. We all knew it might come to this. Let’s deal with this rationally.”

Rosalie just pouted and glared menacingly at me. She stayed silent apart from the mental abuse towards me piercing through her mind. Of course she was more concerned with how it would affect her, not the family.

“I don’t see any harm in her knowing.” I had to warm a little to Emmett. “I am more concerned with… what happens after?” After he eventually kills her.

“That won’t happen!” I objected.

“Sorry, man.” Emmett muttered. But you know it could happen. I wouldn’t blame you…

I just frowned in retort. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Alice’s only two outcomes she saw for Bella’s future. Neither were permissible. I still was desperate for a third option, but I didn’t see anything I could do to change the path.

“We don’t have to worry about that happening. I have faith in Edward. He knows who is he. I am not concerned at all that he will cause any harm to Bella.” It was comforting to know Carlisle truly believed his words. His undoubted trust in me made me want for him to be right. Made me want to be the man Carlisle saw in me. Yes. I could be strong for my family.

“Bella won’t say anything.” Alice looked off into space. I saw where her thoughts were taking her. She smirked lightly. “See Edward? It will be very soon.” And… Rosalie will come along… eventually.

Esme didn’t say a word through the entire discussion, but afterwards just came and gave me a mother’s embrace. Just be happy, son. If she is what brings out this new joy I see in you now. That makes me so happy. Esme was always filled with such unconditional love for her family. I didn’t want to challenge that love by making a mistake with Bella… I calmed myself in that notion as I made my way to my piano. At first I played for Esme, who seemed pleased, but soon was back to being distracted with her blue prints. Esme had a soft spot for remodels. So my fingers directed me to another tune I had recently perfected. The song that I didn’t know who it was for until I was done composing it. Bella’s Lullaby.

I heard Rosalie’s complaints from the other room. She was sick of hearing this song. I also knew that the underlying reason was entirely vane. She really did like the song, she more tired of it because of its reference. It was a song for Bella. Not for her… for Bella. She also hadn’t composed her own music in quite some time. She resented the fact that I was better at it. She was the next best pianist apart from me, but only because I practiced more than her. She and Emmett spent most nights together, often just staring at each other, unmoving, for hours on end. Sometimes their love was expressed more physically and I tried to ignore their thoughts in those instances. It was just one of those unspoken things that was part of being a Cullen. It was hard sometimes living with three happy couples.

From what Carlisle has said, the love is intense. It is not normal nature for our kind to love… but once the emotion is experienced, the change is permanent. In my own solitude, I normally escaped to my piano. The music that flowed from my mind to my fingers was normally enough to drown out my family, whose thoughts I tried to suppress most courteously. So what brought me to the piano now? Not solitude, surely not. What was this feeling I was so recently blind to… hope? I smiled in spite of myself as I lingered on the final keys of the sorrowful lullaby and my thoughts were immediately back to the source of the newfound hope. Bella…

Bella who couldn’t get one day without injury it seemed. I was grateful her forehead had not bruised from her badminton incident. I don’t think I could have bared knowing she was hurt in such a way, and I shuddered to think what the monster in me would consider of the gathering of blood. She seemed like such an easy bruiser, though. Her skin so pale I could quite literally watch the flow of blood through her cheeks when she blushed. How I loved to see that involuntary rouge of her face. How I longed to see that face again. I searched in my own memories of her face but decided it wasn’t satisfying enough. I had to see her again. Now. I couldn’t wait to be with Bella again.

I waited in the shadows of the woods behind her house. I could vaguely watch her through Charlie’s thoughts as he watched her prepare dinner for them. It was clear he cared intensely for her, but he was also filled with a father’s worry. He also felt faintly bad that she was so grown up. He had missed much of her childhood and they were virtual strangers. And now she was too grown up. Already the mother, he thought, taking care of me, when it should be the other way around. He felt guilty about leaving her alone so much. He wondered if there was something they could do together so she wasn’t alone all of the time. He also briefly wondered if Bella might find a boy she liked in this town to brighten her life a little, but quickly dismissed the thought out of his own discomfort at the idea.

Bella and Charlie did not converse much during dinner. She asked him about work, and he said it was slow, but he was thinking about the animal attack recently that boggled his deputies, however he didn’t want Bella to be concerned so failed to mention it. He in turn asked Bella about school. I was pleased again to notice through his thoughts that blush I craved to see when she replied, “We watched a movie in Biology today.” The conversation ended there, with Charlie having even more unspoken questions in his head. But those questions were forgotten as soon as he turned on the television to watch a game, and Bella did the dishes.

I was annoyed that I could no longer see her through Charlie’s thoughts, so I repositioned myself so that I could watch her through the kitchen window. She was staring off in space. She seemed deep in thought, and I suppressed a chuckle when the dish she was rinsing slid through her slippery fingers and broke in two pieces on the counter. I heard the shatter, and the violent curse that followed through her lips. She guiltily turned her head to the living room to listen… but Charlie hadn’t even noticed. I held my breath after Bella dried her hands and went back to retrieve the broken pieces. Please don’t cut your hands! I wanted to scream to her, but the worry was unnecessary. It seemed even Bella was capable of avoiding the sharp edges of the broken platter. She disposed of the pieces into the garbage and paid much more attention with the last few items in the soapy water.

When she was done she said goodnight to Charlie and I heard her creaking up the stairs. A few slams of drawers and doors and I heard the shower running. I normally would give women the respect of privacy in such situations, but I couldn’t help to wonder what she was thinking as the hot water streamed over her delicate figure. I heard her sigh once and reveled in the idea of it. I inhaled deeply. Even from here I could appreciate what the steaming water did to her scent. Intensified it. Floral almost. And what flavor was her shampoo… hmm. Strawberries. Interesting. It wasn’t a moment too soon when the water was off and she was back in her room. I repositioned myself again outside her bedroom window and propped myself against the foundation in front of her house. I heard the creak of her bed and within minutes her breathing had slowed and I knew she was asleep.

I once again climbed through her window and took my customary place in the rocking chair, but soon I became very restless. I wanted to get closer. Without even thinking twice about it, I was beside her. I leaned towards her still wet hair and breathed in deeply. The burn was still there in my throat, but not as violent, and with it replaced a deeper sense of desire. I had to touch her again. The need was so intense I didn’t even think about resisting. Her arm was draped lazily over her chest atop her blanket and I consciously held my breath as I reached towards her dainty fingers. One sensation was enough to control in this case. I paused only briefly before my fingertips lightly caressed the back of her hand. Ouch! The monster growled within. This was as exhilarating as it was painful. She is so warm. I braved another sweep down her arm and watched the goose bumps that resulted. Why did I have to be so cold?

I slumped. There was so much wrong with me wanting to be here, to touch her like this. Never before did I have to try so hard to suppress my natural urges. Never before would I have dared to be this close to any human, let alone one that I was so hungry for… and in so many more ways than one. Ugh! Enough for now. I dragged the blanket softly from under her arm and pulled it back over her, taking care not to let our skin touch again. The movement stirred her and she opened her eyes and immediately met my own. “Edward…” she sighed. Oh no! How am I going to explain…? But before I could even complete my own thought, her eyes were closed again, fast asleep. She said my name once more and something about electricity? But I doubted she’d remember anything in the morning.

I left her side then and started planning on what I may ask her tomorrow when it was my turn to interrogate. I decided I had no idea where to start. I started to look around her room for ideas. I scanned her CDs and the mess of books stacked on a nearby shelf. She slept restlessly and awoke several more times and I wondered if she could sense my intrusion. But her possessions gave me little information about her and I soon was frustrated once again that sleep evaded me. If my family didn’t have to keep up the façade of normal nighttime human needs, or better yet, if sleep wasn’t a necessity for Bella, how much more could I know about her? But the thought angered me… for Bella should never be lacking of the need to sleep. And I once again fought Alice’s vision out of my head… Bella with hungry red eyes. No! It couldn’t happen! I made myself relax back on the chair, and by early morning, Bella had finally relaxed herself into a deep sleep. Hmm, interesting… perhaps our bodies are more in tune with each other’s physiologically.

It was clear Bella would dream no more and only hours remained until we would be back together (as far as she was concerned), so I left to head back home so I could change for the new school day. I was mildly aware that Rosalie was still fuming about Bella knowing our secret, but she was also too vane for her thoughts to long be away from her most favorite subject… herself. She was busy in front of the mirror deciding what to wear that day. Emmett was upset because Jasper had beaten him at chess once again, (no doubt with a little help from Alice).

Esme was busy replacing the food in the refrigerator with a new stock. We never had visitors, yet we still liked to keep up appearances, just in case. People would be suspicious if we didn’t keep food in the house. Alice was helping her by artfully displaying a bowl of fruit on the island counter. Carlisle’s car was gone; he had already left for work.

I ascended the stairs and entered my own bedroom, however ironic the name, since I didn’t own one. I walked past the shelves that housed my library of books and music. Bella seemed to enjoy reading. Perhaps I should ask her about the sort of books she likes tomorrow. It is likely I have read most of them. Another effect of having an over-abundance of alone time these past decades, I have read the most books of anyone else in the family, except perhaps Carlisle. There was no rhyme nor reason to this library. Probably anyone could find something of interest on these shelves. From Science, Philosophy, and historical references to cheap romance novels, mystery thrillers, and a Expert’s Guide to All Things Aston Martin. My CD collection was even more extensive. Music has just always been a part of my… existence.

I entered my closet and sighed at the rows of plastic wrapped garments that were my wardrobe. Alice did most of the clothes shopping in this house… for everybody besides Rosalie who had her own taste of luxury. I swear she thought it a sin to wear an item of clothing more than once. I sniffed out a long-sleeve cotton shirt and a pair of denim. Perhaps if my skin was more adequately covered, I could be closer to Bella without fear she'd cringe at my chilled touch. No, I shouldn’t think that way. But if it would make her more comfortable… I changed quickly and stared at the clock impatiently for two hours, barely moving. When it was FINALLY time, I breezed through the house to the garage and sped off towards Charlie's in my Volvo.

I was still a couple miles away, but I only just heard just the tail end of the conversation.

“It’s a girl’s choice.” Bella uttered. What was a girl’s choice? What did I miss? What was she talking about??? I wanted to know.

“Oh” was all Charlie offered. What do I know about her choice of boys? And he left it at that.

A wave a jealousy swept through me. What about her choice of boys? But then a stronger wave interfered and I realized it was happiness, because I was the one she said yes to. Perhaps she had told him about our Seattle trip. That made me feel better. I had to wait around the corner to their road until I heard Charlie’s cruiser pull away from the house and it was safe to pull into her driveway behind her truck. I heard Bella stomp down the stairs and I was slightly concerned she had fallen until the front door opened and she appeared in the frame. She looked tired, but at the very least happy to see me. She didn’t even bother to lock the dead-bolt. That was so Bella- so trusting to leave her house open to danger- not like a lock on a door would stop most predators.

As she approached the car, all worries left me for the moment and I couldn’t help but smile as she blushed shyly before opening the car door. “Good morning.” It’s about time. It was only then I noticed the bags under her eyes. She had slept rather restlessly last night. “How are you today?”

“Good, thank you.” She was very cheery, despite how exhausted she looked.

“You look tired.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” she confessed. She flipped her hair over her shoulder. Did she know what effect that had on me?

“Neither could I,” I teased. She smiled softly as I started the car and pulled out of the driveway. Then she laughed as if to her own joke.

“I guess that’s right. I supposed I slept just a little bit more than you did.”

“I’d wager you did.”

“So what did you do last night?” she asked. For a brief moment, I thought she was going to call me out, but I glanced quickly and her expression was totally aloof.

I chuckled because if she only knew what I was doing last night, I could only imagine the embarrassed fury she would fling at me. “Not a chance. It’s my day to ask questions.”

“Oh that’s right” she frowned disappointedly. ‘What do you want to know?” Her forehead creased in such a way that it made me wonder what she wanted to hide from me. Didn’t she know that everything about her was interesting to me?

Although desperate for my turn as the interrogator, I was not quite prepared with questions. So I asked the silliest question, which was the first to pop in my head. “What is your favorite color?” Did I seriously just ask that? She’s not four! But she didn’t seem to mind.

“Probably brown.”

I snorted. I actually snorted. What a strange girl. What a strange choice! But I quickly smoothed my face. Hmm, maybe there is a story there? “Brown?”

“Sure. Brown is warm. I miss Brown.” The corners of her lips fell. “Everything that’s supposed to be brown- tree trunks, rocks, dirt- is all covered up with squashy green stuff here,” she complained.

Fascinating! I gave her a quick once over. Her brown hair looked so warm and inviting. I would love to be able to run my fingers through it, and those eyes… those brown eyes. So penetrating and so warm. “You’re right,” I concluded. “Brown is warm.” And before I knew it, my hand was in unison with my thoughts. I swept the hair out of her face and behind her shoulder. I didn’t like when she hid any part of her face from me.

My head was swimming with desire from that touch. I still had traces of her scent on my fingertips and I was trying so desperately to keep my hands from touching her again. I pulled into the school lot and watched her as I found a parking space. I needed another distraction. Just keep her talking. She must keep talking… and I had to know more. “What music is in your CD player right now?” I asked as seriously as I could muster.

She squinted her eyes trying to remember and then her expression calmed as she said the name of the band. I smiled when she said it. I opened the CD compartment and fished around the three dozen or so CDs I had stored in there and pulled out the same CD. Her eyes popped open in recognition. Interesting choice, I thought. I usually listen to this CD when I particularly want to drown out the thoughts of others. “Debussy to this?” I said, raising an eyebrow to tease her just a little. She hid her eyes in what I can only assume was a bit of embarrassment.

I walked Bella to her English class, and then headed to Calculus. I took my seat and immediately started scanning the minds of students in Bella’s English class. Mr. Mason was already deep in discussion about the novel they were currently studying. Nobody was paying any notice of Bella, so I wasn’t able to watch her. I caught a brief glimpse of her through Mike, who was trying very hard to ignore Bella. Huh… what’s up with that? He seemed to be upset with Bella for some reason. I wasn’t sure how I felt about his harsh thoughts towards her now. I didn’t particularly like listening through Mike when I could help it, but I had sort of counted on him in his awareness of Bella. I scanned the rest of her classmates with no luck, so I gave it up to a bad job. Instead I concentrated on preparing the deluge of questions for Bella once we were alone again during lunch. By the time I picked her up after her Spanish class, my mind formed enough questions to last an entire evening.

We walked in silence to the cafeteria and we walked through the lunch line together again. This time I allowed her to choose what she wanted and I took the same for myself in case she wanted more. Not until we sat down at “our” table did I begin the rampage of questions. I asked her about her mother, what her favorite activity was in Phoenix. I asked about her childhood and her favorite movies. We had a fairly extensive discussion about books – I was right- reading was a passion for her. I was pleased she enjoyed so many of the classics I also was very familiar with. She blushed often and I feared she would eventually find a question too embarrassing or difficult to answer, but she kept replying to them so I kept on asking. I was asking them so fast and with such deliberation, most of her replies were becoming one word answers. Only when she flushed did I push further for more detail.

“What is your favorite book?”

“Wuthering Heights.”

What is your favorite breakfast food?”

“Scrambled eggs.”

“What is your favorite gemstone?”

“Topaz.” Flush. Hmm. Why would that be so embarrassing? I had to ask for more details on this one.

“Why topaz?” I inquired.

She just shook her head and motioned for the next question. But I wasn’t going to let her off that easy- not after all the difficult things I revealed about myself (and therefore my whole family) yesterday. I tried to “dazzle” the answer out of her. I was getting fairly good at figuring out how to do that. I found if I looked her right in the eyes, her face would kind of go blank and she’d blurt out just about anything. But alas, she absolutely refused to look at me, no doubt for this very reason. This ought to be good, I thought, and decided I would not take no for an answer. What is she trying to hide from me?

‘Tell me.” I demanded.

She finally peeked up at me and sighed. “It’s the color of your eyes today.” She played nervously with her hair. “I suppose if you asked me in two weeks I’d say onyx.”

I contemplated that briefly. It clearly bothered her to reveal so much. It also stirred a new ocean of conflicting emotions on my part. Did I want her to feel so intensely about me? Yes. Yes I did. But should she feel so intensely? No. Definitely not. But she said it was too late. Maybe she was right, although I couldn’t think that way. Well, I would just leave that to deal with later. My hesitation lasted all of two seconds.

“What kind of flowers do you prefer?” I kept it up all through lunch and during our walk to Biology.

Only when Mr. Banner entered the classroom hauling the video equipment once again did I allow her to catch her breath from the last hour of inquiries. I also needed a break. She gave me much to think about. I moved my chair slightly further away from hers than I wanted to, but I needed the extra distance to be able to make room in my head for some seriously needed introspective time. I could see now from her reaction that she clearly was still adamant in her belief about feeling stronger for me than my own reciprocation for her. How could she really believe that? A trait of our kind is that all of our sensations are intensified. Our sight is so crystal clear, we could distinguish each individual beat of a hummingbird’s wings from across a city block. Our hearing allowed us to pinpoint a single heartbeat in an arena of populace. Our sense of smell could locate our prey miles out. A human’s view of the world was so hazy in comparison to what we experience. I above all knew that to be true after viewing the world through countless human eyes during my existence in this life. This damned life. So wouldn’t it also be true of love?

Most of our kind travel alone or in groups of no more than two or three, often out of convenience or necessity of the kill, rather than a sense of camaraderie. If ever the partnership becomes inessential, they will part ways without hesitation. My family is the largest coven of vampires in the world, as far as we’ve come across so far. Our closeness is deeper than a random pairing of hunters. We are quite literally a family in that we would do anything for each other. Fight for each other. Die for each other. But once that sentiment is experienced by a vampire, that bond endures perpetually. So definitely the vampiric emotion of love was much more in intensity to that of a human, whose minds were so fickle.

No. I am a monster and I am dangerous. Dangerous for Bella. She should not feel this way about me. But it also made me so intensely happy that she seemed to care about me regardless how irrational it may be.

Bella didn’t look at me all through class and seemed to actually be interested in watching the video, so I let her be, though I paid no attention at all to the random moving imagery. By the time Mr. Banner turned the lights back on, I decided I didn’t care. I was still deep in thought as class ended and I walked her to Gym. She looked concerned at my apparent ambivalence and I wanted to reassure her that I was still hers as long as she wanted me. I reached out to stroke down her jaw line with the back of my hand before I turned to walk away.

Spanish went by in a haze. Mike was still angry at Bella and was ignoring her completely during Gym. After yesterday, I imagined Bella was keeping out of everybody’s way. And apparently no one was paying any attention to her, so I once again couldn’t watch her like I wanted to. It was very frustrating. As soon as the bell rang I ran the back way around the classroom buildings at a much faster speed than I ought to have towards the gym, only alarming one couple on the way who were making out in the shadows. But they quickly dismissed me.

I waited for Bella to exit the gym before I carried on with my probing. There was so much more I wanted to know about her. I really just loved to hear her talk. I asked more difficult questions which required more thoughtful, drawn-out answers from her. We sat in the car for hours in front of her house. The more she talked, the more fascinated I became, and the more questions I wanted answered. It wasn’t until I heard Charlie’s cruiser approach down the road did I hesitate.

“Are you finished?” she breathed with relief. No doubt Bella was not used to being the center of attention for so long. But she better get used to it. She was the center of my world.

“Not even close- but your father will be home soon.”

“Charlie!” she gasped. She looked towards the sky. “What time is it?”

“It’s twilight,” I answered thoughtfully, looking towards the western sky, though hidden behind clouds. I thought of the thousands of sunsets I had seen in my time and the dusk that followed. How I had taken them for granted until now. Twilight occurs just before the sun rises in the morning and just after the sun sets in the evening. The sky generally remains bright and blue for some time after the sun sets. The French call it L'heure bleue. The Blue Hour. Most romantics cherish this hour and it is favored by photographers and painters.

I turned to Bella and saw her head was tilted in apparent confusion. “It’s the safest time of day for us,” I explained. “The easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way… the end of another day, the return of the night.” I allowed myself an awkward smile for her benefit. “Darkness is so predictable, don’t you think?”

“I like the night." she countered. "Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.” But then she frowned. “Not that you see them here much.”

I actually had to laugh at that. She had told me all about Phoenix this afternoon and I was certain that in the desert at night, without all the ambient intrusion of city lights, the stars would definitely be a glorious sight to see.

“Charlie will be here in a few minutes. So unless you want to tell him that you’ll be with me Saturday…” I raised an eyebrow. Then I could stay here and be introduced properly, and give me some more incentive to bring you back.

“Thanks, but no thanks.” She started to gather her things and flexed her shoulders. Humans weren’t used to sitting still for so long. “So is it my turn tomorrow then?”

Ugh. What more could she possibly want to know about me? Plus there was still so much I wanted to know… “Certainly not!” I faked anger. “I told you I wasn’t done, didn’t I?”

“What more is there?” Oh, if she only knew…

“You’ll find out tomorrow,” I said simply. And I reached past her to open her door and reveled in the flutter her heart made when I leaned past her. Just then, I heard another car approaching… closer than Charlie even, and heard the unmistakable thoughts of one Billy Black. My hand froze on the door handle. Billy was a Quileute elder and was very much aware of my family and what we truly were. Our story was passed down from his grandfather, whose treaty we were now obliged to.

“Not good,” I grumbled.

“What is it?” The concern in her voice startled me. I glanced at her briefly and she looked truly worried.

“Another complication.” It would be best to leave right now. Perhaps he would think this was crossing the line. I pushed her door open with unnecessary force and immediately distanced myself from Bella as the car pulled up to the curb in front of us.

“Charlie’s around the corner,” I warned. I stared right into Billy’s eyes and his alarmed and confused expression only equaled the fury of his thoughts of finding me near this house. How dare he! He has no right to interfere. I have not broken his mighty treaty. He has to only look beside him to see the true offender in that regard! My own defiance crept up and I revved the engine and peeled rubber as I sped away from Bella, who watched in true confused horror as I disappeared down the road.
Chapter 13 Balancing

I raced home in a frenzy only to find the house empty apart from Alice. She was waiting on the porch, looking very smug as I parked the car in the garage. A fraction of a second later, she was there, leaning on the hood of my car. I stared at her through the windshield.

Have a nice afternoon? She twirled over to my door and went to open it for me. But my hand was already on the handle. I was just about to swing it open full force to knock her out of the way… but of course she was too quick- always a step ahead of me, and I saw in her thoughts, my own intentions. She hopped out of the way just in time.

Nice try, Edward. I got out of the car and Alice turned to walk back towards the house. I followed her. With her back still to me, I crouched down, feigning readiness to pounce at her. Don’t even think about it. We both laughed.

“Where is everybody?” I asked.

“Hunting,’ she said matter-of-factly.

That didn’t make sense. I knew the others had just hunted last Thursday. It was too soon for any of them to have the need to hunt. And Emmett and I spent the entire weekend at Goat Rocks. “Hunting?” I asked skeptically.

Carlisle’s idea. “In preparation for Sunday.” I frowned at her in confusion. Instead of explaining, she ‘showed’ me what she meant.

“Oh, “was all I could say.

I figured they should be ready, you know, just in case… Especially Jasper.

“So, why didn’t you go with them?”

“I thought you might want some company tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” I was even more confused.

To answer my question, she once again showed me the same vision she had during lunch. Bella and I in the field. It’s the same place, Edward. “If you think I am going to let you take Bella there without taking proper precautions…”

“Fine then, we’ll go tomorrow.” It actually wasn’t a bad idea. But then I had a second thought. “After lunch.”

“I know,” she sang. And she skipped the rest of the way to the front door.

While we waited for the others to return, Alice challenged me to a game of chess. We were fairly evenly matched. But I have to admit Alice did have the advantage. I could read in her mind what she was planning for her next move, but Alice had perfected the art of thinking about one thing, and actually performing another. Sometimes when she was especially trying to hide something from me, she’d intentionally concentrate on something else, such as reciting prime numbers, or translating War and Peace into Greek. So I never actually knew if the move I heard her plan, was the move she’d actually make. Sometimes she would trip me up and actually use that move…. It was difficult to tell when she was bluffing. I, on the other hand, had a few of my own tricks up my sleeves. Alice’s visions only show her what move I’d make based on my current decision. So I could decide on one move, and then change my mind quickly and make a different one. So it made the game very complex. Often our matches became so involved, that I would eventually give up and just ask her who wins. Usually she did. But on rare occasions when she was particularly distracted by something else, I could catch her off guard. This was just one of those occasions.

“Checkmate!” I proclaimed jubilantly.

“Aww, dang!” Nice game. I’ll get you next time.

By the time I made it over to Bella’s later that night, she was already in a deep sleep. She was probably very tired from speaking so much that afternoon. She looked so peaceful; like an angel. I wanted to get closer. I braved forward and knelt on the floor next to her bed. I was tempted to climb in and lay beside her, but I thought the movement may wake her. I also thought she would become cold being in such proximity to my body. So I settled for resting my head next to hers. I repositioned myself so that we were face to face. If she were to wake up, I would give her quite a shock. But her breath was so even, so deep, I knew she would be out until morning. So I just watched as her chest rose and fell with each breath. I inhaled her scent in deeply. It was wonderful. If I could dream, I would dream of this moment.

The next morning, I pulled into the driveway seconds after Charlie left for work. I heard Bella running through the house towards the front door. She looked positively radiant as she climbed in the passenger seat. I smiled and noted the flutter of her heart with relish.

“How did you sleep?” I asked.

“Fine.” Just fine? Well I knew that she had had a much better night sleep than the last two nights anyway. “How was your night?”

“Pleasant,” I smiled. If I could only tell her how pleasant my night was, resting my head beside hers.

“Can I ask you what you did?”

Not a chance. I could only imagine how that conversation would go. “Well, Bella, I broke into your house, snuck in your room, and breathed in your face all night while I watched you sleep.” Um, yeah… no.

“No.” I said forcefully. And I forced a huge grin. “Today is still mine.”

I asked her a lot about her family today. She talked a lot about her mother, Renée, who seems to be a habitual hobby junkie- someone who tries one activity after another, but never sticks with one. Bella was almost nostalgic explaining how her mother once came home with a trunk full of scrapbooking supplies, eager to catalog Bella’s childhood in artful albums. She finished a few pages of one, but by the next week, she had bought a bicycle and joined a bike-riding group, instead. A month later, all of it was collecting dust in their garage, she having moved onto her next interest. Some of Renée’s hobbies were quite costly, while others were fairly inexpensive. Bella was always tolerant when her mother was particularly insistent she participate in an activity. But she never got attached to anything, because she learned her mother would move on to something else eventually. Renée also encouraged Bella to try new things. She had enrolled her in various classes, groups, music lessons, but nothing ever took.
I started to understand why Bella was the way she was. Her mother was very loving, yes, but rather eccentric. Bella definitely got her risk taking from Renée. I had a feeling Bella had to grow up quickly. Renée as a mother was more like having a big sister that was always causing ruckus. “Let’s just say that my mother got bored with men as often as she did her hobbies, Bella had said. But then she met Phil, he is much younger than my mom – but she is young for her age, too. In many ways they are perfect for each other.”

Our conversation moved to her friends. She said she had a few school friends she was close to in Phoenix. She was in an accelerated studies program in school and most of her friends shared many of her classes. I carefully broached the topic of boys, but she didn’t have anything interesting to say about it. When I asked her why, she shrugged and only replied, “Nobody was ever interested, I guess.” How skewed her view was of herself. I recollected how the male population had assessed her on her first day of school here. Sure, some were interested because she was new and exciting, but others genuinely found her appealing… and in the normal way… not in the dangerous way I found her appealing. It boggled my mind that she was so oblivious to the way men responded to her.

“So you never met anyone you wanted?” I asked very seriously.

“Not in Phoenix.” She answered, with slight rouge in her cheeks.

I pursed my lips. Of course she would only find what she was looking for in the form of a monster. I pondered that while Bella and I walked through the lunch line and she chose a bagel for herself. As we walked towards our usual spot, my attention was summoned from my family’s table.

We should leave soon, Edward. Are you nearly ready?

“Alice, I told you, after lunch!” I spoke too low and too fast for any human to hear.

Okay, okay!

“I should have let you drive yourself today.”

“Why?” she asked harshly.

“I’m leaving with Alice after lunch.”

“Oh,” her shoulders slumped in disappointment. “That’s okay, it’s not that far of a walk.”

Did she honestly think I would just leave her to her own devices? It’s true it wouldn’t be a long walk for any normal person. But for a magnet for trouble, like Bella, there could be a thousand deaths traps lurking along the way, just waiting to swallow her whole on her walk home. “I’m not going to make you walk home. We’ll go get your truck and leave it here for you.”

She sighed, “I don’t have my key with me.” She must seriously underestimate me if she thinks that would cause the slightest delay on my part. “I really don’t mind walking.”

Was she not listening? There was no way I would let her loose on the highway. Magnet for trouble doesn’t cover it for Bella. She seemed to dive head first right into it. I shook my head. “Your truck will be here, and the key will be in the ignition.” She eyed my doubtfully. “Unless you’re afraid someone might steal it,” I chuckled.

“All right,” she finally agreed. But her tone was skeptical. She probably didn’t think I would be able to pull it off. She definitely underestimated me.

“So where are you going?” she asked while taking another bite of her bagel.

“Hunting.” I tried to put some menace in my voice, always trying to warn her, try to get a normal reaction. “If I’m going to be alone with you tomorrow, I’m going to take whatever precautions I can.” If she could only see how dangerous it is for her to be alone with me, miles from any witnesses. “You can always cancel, you know.” Her choice. Always her choice. I looked her directly in the eye, trying to portray the risk.

It took her a moment to answer. It pained me to know she was considering it. But also gave me hope that she would finally be rational. I was not strong enough to be away from her. But if that’s what she wanted, I could do that for her. I think.

“No. I can’t,” she finally whispered.

So I was defeated. “Perhaps you’re right.”

I was very pleased she graciously directed the conversation elsewhere. “What time will I see you tomorrow?”

“That depends.” The earlier I picked her up, the longer we could spend together… but also the longer I would be so close to her with nobody else around for miles if she were to scream. The echo of Alice’s vision was pounding at my retinas. “It’s Saturday, don’t you want to sleep in?

“No,” she said bluntly. I bit my lip to keep from grinning.

“The same time as usual, then.” But still, it might be prudent to make sure her father knows who she’ll be with. Rather, better for me knowing someone else besides Jessica and her strainer mind could account for Bella’s whereabouts tomorrow. Jessica was mentally bouncing up and down in Bella’s Trigonometry class earlier, excited for Bella, planning on extrapolating every detail of our Seattle date, come Monday. I would be less likely to put my family at risk with the implications that would follow if things end badly tomorrow if someone a bit more reliable knew of our plans than Jessica. “Will Charlie be home?

“No, he’s fishing tomorrow.” She smiled wildly as she said this, as if she was getting away with a bank heist.

“And if you don’t come home, what will he think?” I snapped.

She rolled her eyes. “I have no idea. He knows I’ve been meaning to do the laundry…. Maybe he’ll think I fell in the washer.”

I just scowled. I just wish she would take this seriously. Was she trying to get herself killed?

“What are you hunting tonight?” she probed.

It was amazing she could be so nonchalant when it came to my diet, as if she were asking what I were choosing from a restaurant menu, rather than killing a living creature for my own sustenance. “Whatever we find in the park.” The Olympic National Park was about 1400 square miles. Deer and elk were prevalent. But there were also cougars and bears. The carnivorous animals would be the best preparation for tomorrow, but I wasn’t going to be picky. I was mostly humoring Alice. I just hunted on Monday. I was fairly certain I would be able to control my appetite for another few days, but I understood the pretense. “We aren’t going far.”

Olympic National Park, Washington

“Why are you going with Alice?” she wondered.

“Alice is the most…” How should I put it? “… supportive.” I finished. And yet I still deny her Bella.

“And the others?” She recoiled. “What are they?”

Questioning my sanity, no doubt. “Incredulous, for the most part.”

Bella glanced toward my old table looking sorrowful. “They don’t like me.”

“That’s not it,” I tried to convince her. “They don’t understand why I can’t leave you alone.”

“Neither do I, for that matter.”

Again, she underestimates herself. “I told you- you don’t see yourself clearly at all.” I have never met anyone so unselfish before. “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. You fascinate me.”

It was evident from her expression that she didn’t believe me. “Having the advantages I do…” I tapped my forehead for emphasis, “I have a better than average grasp of human nature. People are predictable. But you… you never do what I expect. You always take me by surprise.”

Her eyes wandered off again toward my family and I remembered she had been disappointed when she thought perhaps her mind didn’t work the same as the rest of the world’s. Calling attention to that now… hardly seemed appropriate.

“That part is easy enough to explain,” I offered. I wanted her to look at me so I knew she understood, but she hid her face. “But there’s more… and it’s not easy to put into words…“ I paused because just then Rosalie interrupted my thoughts. She was glaring at Bella.

Look at her sitting over there. She looks over here like she thinks she’s one of us. I don’t understand what Edward sees in her. She is so plain. So ordinary. What good can possibly come of this? I hate you. Leave my brother alone so he can snap out of it already. I wish Edward would just get it over with. Go off with your petty little friends where you belong and leave my family alone!

“Leave it be, Rosalie! Mind your own business and if you even dare try anything I will make sure you spend the next century regretting it!” Only my family could have understood my rant.

She finally looked away guiltily, but her thoughts were relentless. Bella looked, well, terrified. Finally a somewhat appropriate reaction. This is how normal people usually felt when they looked us in the eye. A deeper instinct tells them to stay away, even if their mind doesn’t register it rationally. But still, Rosalie has no right.

“I’m sorry about that. She’s just worried. You see… it’s dangerous for more than just me if, after spending so much time with you so publicly…” I couldn’t finish. I had to look away.

“If?” she urged.

“If… this ends… badly.” The shame was overwhelming and I put my face in my hands. Her heartbeat slowed fractionally.

After a moment she broke the silence. “And you have to leave now?” There was concern in her voice.

“Yes.” I finally recovered, looking up to reassure her. I stressed a smile of encouragement. “It’s probably for the best. We still have fifteen minutes of that wretched movie left to endure in Biology – I don’t think I could take any more.”

And then Alice was there, standing behind me, feeling very self-satisifed. “Alice,” I greeted.

“Edward,” she sang. Introduce me already, you oaf!

Sigh. “Alice, Bella – Bella, Alice.”

“Hello, Bella.” It’s about freaking time! “It’s nice to finally meet you.” Because Edward has kept you all to himself. He is SO selfish! Poor guy… never learned to share.

I just gave her an evil look.

I know, I know. I will wait… even though there is no sense in it anymore, is there? I’m going to see her Sunday, anyway. You might as well, get used to it.

“Hi Alice,” Bella replied sheepishly.

“Are you ready?” Alice was anxious to get moving.

“Nearly. I’ll meet you at the car.” And then she was gone.

“Should I say ‘have fun,’ or is that the wrong sentiment?”

I grinned, “No. ‘Have fun’ works as well as anything.”

“Have fun, then” she tried to sound like she meant it.

“I’ll try,” I rolled my eyes. “And you try to be safe, please.”

“Safe in Forks – what a challenge.”

“For you it is a challenge.” I set my jaw. “Promise.”

“I promise to try to be safe,” she pouted. “I’ll do the laundry tonight – that ought to be fraught with peril.”

“Don’t fall in,” I teased.

“I’ll do my best.” I stood up, unwilling to leave her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” There was forlorn in her voice, which I found slightly amusing.

“It seems like a long time to you, doesn’t it?” I kidded. She nodded. “I’ll be there in the morning.” I reached over and caressed her face, wishing I could do more.
************************************************

Alice was waiting in the car when I reached the parking lot. We didn’t speak the whole ride to Bella’s house. As we pulled into the driveway, Alice could not control her excitement. She was very anxious to see inside Bella’s house. She had already seen it in a vision, of course, but you can’t touch and feel… or smell visions.

“It’s locked,” she declared, before we even approached the door.

“That’s okay. I’ll just climb through her bedroom window the way I normally do, and go around. Wait here.”

“Or…” she sang as she pirouetted onto the porch. ‘We could use a key.” She grinned and grabbed a spare key from under the eave. She flashed to the front door before I could grab it from her.

We both went in different directions when we entered the house. Alice was off to Bella’s bedroom, which annoyed me. She was just as curious as I had been, but more so of her wardrobe. I looked for her car keys in the living room and kitchen. I hadn’t seen much of the downstairs of her house yet- apart from what Alice had already foreseen and what little I could see through Charlie.

The little kitchen was tidy, with a table for two facing the same window where I’d watched Bella do the dishes two evenings ago. The appliances were in good shape, but original to the house. One of the doors of the yellow painted cupboards was ajar and I noticed a ceramic jar inside labeled FOOD MONEY. I approached and curiously peeked inside before emptying the entire contents of my wallet into it. Below on the counter was a white pad of paper on which was written a grocery list. Items had been checked off, so I knew it was no longer important. The list was in Bella’s handwriting, but even if I did not recognize her messy scrawl, it still had traces of her scent on it. I pocketed the entire notebook. Another souvenir to accompany the bottlecap. Innocuous little items. She’d never notice.

I heard Alice rifling through Bella’s closet and giving a disgruntled sigh. “Alice! Quit playing around! We have to find her keys!”

In an instant she was back by my side. “I already checked her closet,” She smiled innocently. But when I didn’t play along she continued. “She didn’t tell you where they were.” It wasn’t a question.

“I didn’t ask. I think she’s under the impression I’d be unable to locate them.” We both shared a quick laugh.

“They must be in her room.” I said as an excuse. “I’ll go check.”

“This could be much simpler.” Alice complained.

“Well Alice, it’s not like I can just sniff out metal.”

“True, but you’ve decided to locate her keys. I could just save you some time and tell you where you would have found them.”

I grunted. “Just tell me where they are, Alice.”

“I’ll get them,” she sang, and disappeared from the room. A fraction of a second later she was back by my side, dangling the keys in front of me. “Meet you at the house?”

Alice made a start for the truck. “Wait.” I held my hand out for the keys she was holding. “I will drive it back to the school. Besides, I can run back faster than you.”

Alice pouted but grudgingly traded keys with me. She took off in my car and Bella’s truck roared to life at my touch. It was a shame Rosalie was cross with Bella. She had a knack for fixing up older model cars. She refurbished a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible before she bought her BMW. Of course, she’d probably put her nose up to tinkering with this beast. No glamour in old Chevy trucks. But she could have this thing purring like a kitten.

Rosalie's 1957 Chevy Bel Air

When I pulled into the school I automatically searched for Bella. I knew she would be in Gym by now and so Mike was the obvious choice to look. As luck would have it, he had decided to speak to her again. He was talking to her about the dance, hopeful she had changed her mind about going. Her reply sounded exasperated. I was relieved she had turned him down, but I couldn’t help but think. Surely the dance would be safer than spending an entire day alone with me, even for Bella. She’d likely trip all over herself and split her head open perhaps, with her luck, but in the end, she’d heal. But there is no going back from the injuries of which I could inflict, simply by accident.

I pondered that briefly but decided Alice was waiting for me and that I should go. I left the keys in the ignition, but before I shut the door, I took out the pad of paper I’d filched from her house. I ripped out a sheet and I scrawled two words on the paper before folding it and placing it on her driver’s seat. Be Safe. How those two words could never possibly be enough, but for the moment, appropriate enough for Bella.
************************************************

Hunting with Alice was rather uneventful. We found a gang of elk fairly quickly. I was satisfied after one cow, but Alice insisted we weren’t done until I had some predator blood in me. She anticipated a pride of cougars coming along. By the time we got back to Forks late Friday night, my thirst was satiated and I was utterly bloated from my feast.

I watched Bella sleep another dreamless night. I was pleased she was getting another good night’s sleep, but I missed the mumble of unintelligible insight into her mind that she revealed in her dream state. When I was confident there was nothing I would miss, I resolved to spend the rest of the early hours back at home until I could pick her up at a reasonable time. I decided to bathe to rinse off the grit from the hunt. Then I carefully decided what I would wear for the day. After that, there was nothing to do but just wait. I returned to staring at the clock and watching the minutes tick by until a little past sunrise before I departed.

I arrived to Bella’s with a sense of thrill as I knocked on the door. Why is this so exhilarating for me? She took a little time unlocking the door for me. When she opened it, the first thing I noticed was the pounding of her heart and the shortness of her breath. Not the usual way when she was around me, but like was had been running around all morning. The next thing I noticed was the waft of breeze that flowed through her hair from the abrupt opening of the door. Finally, I noticed she looked absolutely breathtaking, if that word had any meaning to me. And her outfit, even more comical, was very similar to my own. I had to laugh at the symmetry.

“Good morning,” I manage mid-chuckle.

“What’s wrong?”

“We match.” She looked down at herself and then at me and her face remodeled into a sort of half-smile that I couldn’t quite place or comprehend. She turned around to secure the house. Just as I heard the lock click, my thrill immediately metamorphosed into anxiety. I had to be good today. Stay in control. Be a gentleman. No, actually I had to be gentle man.

Bella had insisted she drive today; I did not forget her ‘one favor’. I waited outside the passenger door, proving to her that I respected her wishes. She gave me a smug look and said, “We made a deal.” She climbed into the truck, and reached across to unlock my door. “Where to?” she asked once I’d taken my seat.

First things first. “Put your seatbelt on.” Bella needed all the protection she could get. “I’m nervous already.

She rolled her eyes, but put her belt on anyways. I thought I saw her take note that I’d not bothered to wear my own. ‘Where to?” she repeated.

“Take the 101 North,” I instructed.

She pulled out of the driveway cautiously and kept her eyes on the road. She was driving very attentively, which I found endearing… but also very annoying. If she would have only let me drive, we would be halfway there by now. “Were you planning to make it out of Forks, before nightfall?” I gibed.

“This car is old enough to be your car’s grandfather,” she scoffed. “Have some respect.”

I smiled to myself, but decided to let her be. I figured I shouldn’t be in such a hurry. After all, the idea was to spend time with her, and this was time with her. I was just anxious to get to our destination. Anxious, excited, nervous, terrified… I couldn’t quite exact the emotion I experienced.

Bella drove out of town without further direction from me, but as we approached our intersection, I spoke up. “Turn right on the 110.” She did so without question. So trusting. I could probably lead her to her own death right now, without objection. The thought was somewhat amusing to me, I had to smile. But I wanted her to trust me. “Now we drive until the pavement ends.”

“And what’s there, at the pavement’s end?”

“A trail.”

“We’re hiking?” she shrieked.

Uh oh. “Is that a problem?”

‘No,” she lied. I could feel the worry in her voice.

“Don’t worry, it’s only five miles or so, and we’re in no hurry.”

She didn’t respond in words, but her heart thudded at a rapid pace and her cheeks went just slightly pinker than before. She looked around into the trees passing us by and then down at her own hands on the wheel. I just wanted her to talk to me, tell me what was causing this sudden anxiety. Was she changing her mind about spending time with me? If she was, it would be the first sensible decision she’s made in recent days. But she just kept on driving in silence. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“What are you thinking?”

She hesitated. “Just wondering where we’re going.”

Normal enough question. “It’s a place I like to go when the weather is nice.” It was a place I came to visit often, always by myself. I’d found it hunting once. The canopy of the tall trees left a constant shadow on the forest floor, but there was a small clearing that the sun reached the ground. The light breaking through in that one area beckoned to me one day and I found myself there, laying in the sun’s rays. It was the first time I had felt peace in countless years. It was a place I was free from the constant hum in my head from other people’s babbling minds. Over the years of going there, I had expanded the clearing. It was my own little private oasis. And for the first time, I wanted to share it with somebody else. With my Bella.

“Charlie said it would be warm today.” Bella interrupted my reverie.

“And did you tell Charlie what you were up to?

“Nope.” I figured as much.

“But Jessica thinks we’re going to Seattle together?”

“No, I told her you cancelled on me – which is true.”

Fury… panic… anxiety… The words were barely appropriate for what I was feeling now. “No one knows you’re with me?” I spat.

“That depends… I assume you told Alice?

“That is very helpful Bella,” I snapped. How could she take this so lightly? How could she seriously be this careless? Did I not specifically announce to her that it would be safer for both of us if someone knew she was with me? That me just knowing the fact that nobody could place her with me at this very moment could be her own death sentence? And mine soon afterwards? For surely, I could not live with myself if I did anything to harm her. To have her blood on my hands. On my conscience. To know she will no longer be…. No. I couldn’t exist like that. I wouldn’t. I would soon join her, though our paths might go in very different directions. I would find a way.

Bella ignored my remark and just kept on driving. That made me even more furious. “Are you so depressed by Forks that it’s made you suicidal?”

She looked at me with a hurt expression. “You said it might cause trouble for you… us being together publicly.”

Unbelievable. She took my words and completely twisted them. I thought it was excruciatingly obvious that my words were for her protection, not my own. “So you’re worried about the trouble it might cause me…? If you don’t come home?”

She nodded but kept her eyes on the road.

“Bella, I swear, how you’ve even survived to this day, is beyond me. Why do you insist on making it so much harder for me to control myself? And so much easier for me to get away with it? I wish I could knock some sense into you, in the non-literal sense of the word, of course.” I spoke very quickly, knowing she’d not comprehend a word of it, speaking too low and too fast for human ears. It was mostly for my own sanity… trying to let off a little steam, so to speak, without causing alarm to her. Not that a little alarm wasn’t called for at this moment.

The rest of the car trip went by in absolute silence. She refused to look at me, but I could tell she was doing so consciously. Her eyes looked guilty, as they should. I was still completely irked and balanced the options in favor of turning back now and bringing her to the safety of her own home. But then a part of me was being selfish of wanting to keep her for myself today. And another small part of my conscience was trying to convince myself that I was strong enough to carry on the day as planned and resist my yearning for her.

As we reached the end of the pavement, Bella slowed and parked on the shoulder. She got out of the truck and still did not give me the favor of her glance. I wanted to comfort her, but I was still very upset also. She tied her sweater around her waist and waited by the sign marking the trail. I got out and pushed the door shut with excessive force, trying to startle her into looking at me. No luck. She continued to ignore me. Fine, two can play at that game.

I walked to the edge of the woods with my back to her. I glanced back at her confused expression. “This way.”

“The trail?” She was clearly paying attention now… and panic was written all over her face. And I thought I could place her trepidation. I didn’t take Bella for much of an outdoorsy-type of girl. She hurried around the truck and stumbled along the way. Yes, surely hiking was neither a normal, nor practical pastime for Bella. But as usual, I found her clumsiness oddly endearing. I instantly warmed to her.

“I said there was a trail at the end of the road- not that we were taking it.” I let that settle with her.

“No trail?” she gulped.

“I won’t get you lost.” I teased. I smiled at her and then turned towards the forest, ready to lead her. But she didn’t move. I turned back to her and she was just staring towards me, but didn’t meet my gaze. Her eyes were shifting awkwardly like she was making a tortured decision and I wanted to help her might the right one. Anything to make this easier. “Do you want to go home?”

“No.” she took a few tentative steps towards me. I wanted her to look at me. So I could read what I could in those revealing pupils.

“What’s wrong?” I asked softly.

She took a slow breath before answering, “I’m not a good hiker. You’ll have to be very patient.”

Patience. I am a vampire with all the time in the world! If I had one thing more than any… it was patience. After all… how long had I waited for her? “I can be patient.” I smiled and added, “if I make a great deal of effort.” She was finally returning eye contact so I didn’t waste the moment. I didn’t break the connection. She tried to smile back, but it looked more like a grimace. Perhaps this was a bad idea. She was afraid, but she would feel compelled to come along. But I couldn’t be sure where her reasoning was coming from. I would leave it up to her.

“I’ll take you home.” I let the offer stand.

At my words, Bella’s stance changed perceivably. She stood straighter, her shoulders went back and she whipped her hair over her shoulder. She was trying to be brave for me. “If you want me to hack five miles through the jungle before sundown, you’d better start leading the way,” she asserted.

I hesitated, trying to gauge whether it was a good idea to let her fake bravura for me. But she remained adamant and I understood that her decision had already been made. So… I led her into the forest.
************************************************

The hiking went really slow, mostly because Bella was unsure of her footing most of the time. I tried to make the path as easy as possible for her. Whenever there were tree branches in the way, I pulled them aside for her. I remembered her scraped hands when she said she fell at the beach. I didn’t need such extra temptation as the scent of her blood to worry about. I pointed out the mossy ground covering so she’d take care not to slip. But she did anyway, often. I assisted her over downed trees and boulders when they blocked our path, enjoying the excuse to touch her. Each time her heart would race and I found it easier and easier to bare.

But I was patient with our progress. I was in no hurry. I was nervous to step into the sunlight in front of her and I needed time to work up the courage. I’d given her no indication of what to expect and I was terrified to show her what a freak show I was. Would she think of me differently? Would she finally be afraid? Would she scream? No, I was in no hurry to find out.

I tried not to think about it. To pass the time, I distracted myself by asking her more about her childhood. When I asked about pets that she’d kept, she admitted to killing fish in triplicate. I guffawed at that remark. Fish are rather resilient animals. I once said it was laughable to think Bella was a danger to anyone but herself. Of course I didn’t take into account goldfish.

By mid-morning, the sun was shining overhead and backlit the canopy to a fluorescent green. Her spirit was instantly lifted. And as she became more relaxed, so did I. We’d been traveling nearly four hours and our trek through the woods was nearing its end. Only then did Bella wonder of our progress.

“Are we there yet?” she whined.

“Nearly,” I smiled. “Do you see the brightness ahead?”

She squinted, patrolling the landscape. “Um, should I?”

“Maybe it’s a bit soon for your eyes.” I teased.

“Time to visit the optometrist, she said sarcastically rolling her eyes. I simpered as we continued forward.

Her eyes were still squinting and I thought I noticed the moment when she finally recognized the lighting up ahead. Her eyes opened wider and her heart sped in what I hoped was excitement, rather than fear. But she ambled forward more quickly, so I knew it was the former. As we approached the clearing, I let Bella pass me and lead the way. I held myself back. I was still apprehensive about stepping into the direct sunlight.

I watched her absorb her surroundings. I wanted her to enjoy the beauty of the meadow, the colors of the wildflowers, the scent of the floral breeze… before ruining the moment by showing her the monster I truly was. She ventured further into the clearing and looked back, startled when she noticed that I was not right next to her. And then, her expression changed as she realized the reason for my reluctance. She looked towards the sun, and then back at me, understanding the significance.

She waited, expectantly. There was no sign of fear or revulsion. She was… eager, curious. This moment was why I was in no haste during our journey. This could be the defining moment which could solidify our fate. Either she would reject what I was, or accept it unreservedly. My hesitation was all but unacknowledged. She took a step towards me. She smiled warmly and waved me forward. She took another step. I wasn’t ready. I put a hand up motioning for her to be patient just a while longer. She waited.
I just had to get it over with. The moment of truth. I watched her carefully. I took a deep breath, and finally stepped into the sunlight.
Chapter 14 Confessions (Part 1)

Bella didn’t say anything for a long while. I couldn’t quite gauge her reaction. Her heart had quickened initially, but was now pumping at a normal pace. She had taken a sharp intake of breath, but now her breathing was steady and even. At first I took her loss of words to be terror, rather than wonder. But she did not flinch, did not scream, did not make any sort of movement at all. She just stared at me wide-eyed, her expression unreadable. It was making me feel very self-conscious. A part of me wanted to turn and run away in shame. But leaving her alone in the woods was not an option.

I stood very still. I feared if I moved I might startle her. I didn’t want to see the proof of her terror. I could not look directly in her eyes. I was positive that in them, I would see only revulsion and disgust. So I waited, shifting my gaze to her trembling hands, towards the ground by her feet, watching locks of her hair sway in the light breeze- everywhere except where I wanted to look most. I was only too aware of my own unnaturalness. I was mentally preparing myself for the inevitable rejection.

Several minutes passed by before she moved. And it wasn’t in the direction I was anticipating. She moved… towards me. Not away. She was coming closer? My miscalculation was both welcomed, yet baffling at the same time. I instinctively glanced up to finally meet her eye. But the effort was unrewarded for there was nothing I could conclude about her demeanor.

She took a few tentative steps towards me and paused. She tilted her head to the side before she continued closer. She was very near now. I could reach out and touch her which was my only desire, though I resisted with extreme care and effort. She circled around me, and I could sense her scrutiny. When she was facing me once again, she smiled. She smiled? And with her eyes still locked on mine, she turned her body and wandered further into the clearing before she looked away. She stopped and turned her head around, nodding it towards the meadow, motioning for me to follow her.

****************************************

Bella had walking to the very center of the meadow and then turned to me before she dropped to her knees. I sat down as well, a few feet away from her. We gazed at each other for a moment and so far, she had shown nothing to indicate fear to warrant my feelings of inadequacies. I wanted her to know everything, and I had the impulse to let her see me, all of me.

I slowly unbuttoned my shirt to reveal more of my skin to her. I pulled the fabric aside to reveal my chest and watched as a million tiny spectrums reflected off my cells and danced over her face in the sunlight. She gasped and whispered one word, “Diamonds.”

My lips rose slightly at her remark. Diamonds. What a perfect comparison. Cold, hard, and sparkly. But diamonds were a girl’s best friend, so they say… so that was encouraging. I tried to relax. I laid back in the grass to watch the lazy patches of cloud sliding over the sky. I closed my eyes and waited for Bella to say something with a little more bearing. In my nervousness I sang to myself.

Bella must have noticed.

“Your lips are trembling.”

“Sorry, I am just singing to myself,” I admitted. “Nervous habit.”

Bella would not relax; instead she sat with her head resting on her knees, all the time refusing to look away from me. I wish she would just say something! It had been over an hour since I’d first stepped in from the tree line and I still had no idea what Bella thought of my peculiar skin condition. I continued to mumble words to my favorite ballad, Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls.


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Every once and a while I would hear Bella shift positions. I had gotten used to this. Humans repositioned themselves for comfort, to flex their muscles, to prevent blood pooling. So when I heard Bella stir, every few minutes, I didn’t even think anything of it. That’s why I was so startled when suddenly, I felt her warm fingertip graze my hand. My eyes flew open in shock. She released her breath, I’d just realized she’d been holding. She looked, happy.

Could it be? Was this actually possible? Once again I had misjudged Bella. She was taking this so, well… so unnaturally well. I smiled in embarrassment when she caught me looking. If it were possible, I would have blushed. So many times I had wanted to reach out and touch her, but afraid of what her reaction might be. And now here she was touching me of her own free will.

“I don’t scare you?” I asked curiously. I tried to ask her lightly, but I really needed to know. This last hour, plus has been pure tormented silence. She still looked hesitant.

“No more than usual.” I should have known Bella would be so cool about this. She never had the correct reactions to what normal people would have found extremely frightening. This was one of the biggest rules of being a vampire, to stay out of sun because people would notice we were different. Keep our existence a secret at all costs. This was instilled in me for almost nine decades now. It was disconcerting to feel completely at ease for breaking that very rule this day.

But still, accidents did happen. Occasionally somebody would catch a glimpse of us in sunlight. Even on really cloudy days, the sun could still peak through for just a moment and give us away. That is why my family had chosen the Olympic Peninsula as our home. It was rainy over 300 days of the year, usually. Luckily people in general, are so stubborn to accept things they don’t understand… that even if they did catch the briefest of peaks of us in the sunlight, they would undoubtedly convince themselves it was a trick of the eye. Perhaps someone’s watch had caught the sun just right and reflected on to us, they would think.

In reality, humans should fear us. There were other covens that dabbled in vegetarianism from time to time, but humans were our natural food supply. People should fear me. Bella should fear me.

I flashed her my bright, razor sharp teeth towards her, trying to illicit some sort of reaction. Nothing. Instead she moved closer. Closer? This was so confusing! Everything was the opposite of how I was used to people acting around me.

Bella spread her fingers and caressed my forearm with her fingertips. It felt amazing. I closed my eyes to fully enjoy the moment. “Do you mind?” she asked.

“No.” Thousands of electric pulses were shooting up my arm at her touch. Her fingers were so warm and soft, and her trembling touches had me dizzy with desires unknown to me. I felt my very core warming at her touch. She continued up my forearm and the soft tickle claimed my entire concentration. “You can’t imagine how that feels,” I sighed.

She took that as an invitation to explore further up my arm. I felt a new sense of dizziness, as she found the inside of my elbow, full of sensitive nerve endings. Now her other hand was on me. She tried to turn my hand over. Realizing her wish, I obliged. I was only too eager to please her. I flipped it over in haste, desperate to know what she’d do next. But for a brief moment she froze and her heart skipped a beat.

I thought I could interpret the change. She wasn’t ready for all of me quite yet, I didn’t think. I had just shown the love of my life that I glitter in the sun. Perhaps it was too early to demonstrate all my other super-human abilities quite yet. I looked to her quickly to access her expression. Her eyes looked leary, but her body still looked at ease, so I wasn’t sure.

“Sorry.” She turned to look at me. “It’s too easy to be myself with you.”

The corner of her lip went up into a half-smile. She picked up my hand and held it close to her face. She rolled it back and forth, and watched as it sparkled. She was squinting in concentration, studying every angle. I wished I knew what she was thinking. It was a new annoyance having to ask every time. Of all the times I wished I didn’t have this gift, and the burden of it all. How ironic that it should fail me when I wanted it most.

“Tell me what you’re thinking.” I demanded softly. “It’s still strange for me, not knowing.”

“You know, the rest of us feel that way all the time.” She avoided the question. Her eyebrows were raised in challenge.

“It’s a hard life.” A relatively normal life until I came into the picture. “But you didn’t tell me.”

She took a deep breath before she spoke. “I was wishing I could know what you were thinking…” she trailed off. So it wasn’t just me frustrated about wanting to know more.

“And?” I urged when she didn’t continue.

“I was wishing that I could believe that you were real. And I was wishing that I wasn’t afraid.”

Ugh. Instant dread. My stomach fell. So she was afraid. It was my worst fear realized. Up until now, I knew that she should feel afraid, wishing she would put our unhealthy affair into perspective. But now to hear that she really was afraid, I wanted to take it all back. It didn’t make me feel any better. I realized it was the opposite that I wanted to be true.

To respond to her first wish, I also covered the last. “I don’t want you to be afraid.”

“Well, that’s not exactly the fear I meant, though that’s certainly something to think about.”

Something to think about? Is she joking? What did she mean? Help! Would this frustration never end? Would this ever get any easier? But she didn’t clarify. My yearning to know was overwhelming. I shot up very closely to look directly in her face, trying to read anything I could from her eyes. Maybe I could dazzle the answer out of her. It’s worked before.

“What are you afraid of then?”

She didn’t answer. She was a master of torture in that regard. I was getting impatient waiting for her reply. I started to hyperventilate, my breath cold and hard in her face. But she denied me a response.

And then she leaned closer, closing her eyes. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Her breath was intoxicating. My throat burned at her proximity. My mouth watered with venom reflexively. And she was still coming! A deeper demon inside roared with an unquenched craving. The scent of the blood pulsing through her neck, tempting me, inviting me, almost driving me over the edge for just a little taste…

No! She was too close! Get away! I clenched my jaw, biting down on the teeth that very nearly reached their mark. Fighting the temptation that was dangling in front of me. The rabbit willingly hopping into the fox hole. And Alice’s vision piercing through my mind with fresh urgency.

In an instant, I was back at the tree line, several yards away from Bella. She had snapped out of it and was looking around frantically until her eyes met mine. She looked abhorred.

“I’m… sorry… Edward,” she whispered. She looked hurt, embarrassed, her cheeks rosy with mortification.

“Give me a moment,” I called to her.

She sat very still waiting for me to collect myself.

It took a lot of effort to regain control. But finally, I walked back towards her, eventually sitting again, this time, several paces away. I watched her carefully. I took two deep breaths, trying to suck in her very aura. Pummeling myself in her scent. Torturing myself with the draw of her blood. It was calming and spine-tingling at the same time. I wanted to immerse myself in her appeal.

She watched, waited, her hurt expression causing me internal turmoil. I smiled, apologetically. “I am so very sorry.” For so many reason that I can’t even mention. “Would you understand what I meant if I said I was only human?”

She nodded once. It seemed all she was capable of.

My smile became more pronounced. “I’m the world’s best predator, aren’t I?” I leaned towards her. ‘Everything about me invites you in – my voice, my face, even my smell, “I huffed. “As if I need any of that!”

I stood up and took off running, circulating the meadow in milliseconds, stopping at the tree line. “As if you could outrun me.”

I reached up and grabbed a thick branch above my head and tore it from the tree. I held it up, demonstrating my strength, and then hurled it against the trunk of another tree. Then I rushed to where she stood. “As if you could fight me off.”

And then I saw it. True fear plastered all over her face. Her face was white, as if the blood had drained from her head.

“Don’t be afraid,” I lamented. “I promise…” that word did not seem strong enough. “I swear not to hurt you.” You are the only woman I’ve ever loved, and you believe in me. Why can’t I believe in myself?

“Don’t be afraid,” I repeated softly, pleading now. I slowly edged towards her, worried she would flinch away from me. But she accepted my approach.

“Please forgive me. I can control myself.” As unfathomable as it seemed, I had come very close so many times to losing it. But I had resisted. Every moment was easier. “You caught me off guard. But I’m on my best behavior now.”

And then I gave her a moment to steady her heart and breathing. She still had not responded, verbally or otherwise. This was going to be a very long day.

Chapter 14 Confessions (Part 2)

“I’m not thirsty today, honestly,” I winked.

Bella laughed nervously but I was not reassured.

‘Are you all right?” I consoled, reaching to take her hand in mine.

She glanced down at our hands. I wondered if this touch was welcomed or not. Her silence was causing me despair. She looked back up to me, reservedly. I willed her to give me some indication she was alright. And her response was answered just as silently. She looked back to our hands and began retracing the lines with the tip of her finger. The life line was by far the most pronounced. And then she looked back to me and smiled… only slightly… but it was there.

Relief washed over me. And my answering smile was fierce with gratitude for her forgiveness. “So where were we, before I behaved so rudely?

“I honestly can’t remember.”

So my smile has not lost its dazzling effect, I rejoiced.

“I think we were talking about why you were afraid, besides the obvious reason,” I reminded her.

“Oh right.” But she did not say anything more.

“Well?” I prompted.

Bella averted her eyes again, circling her fingers absentmindedly across my palm. She did not answer right away. Bella, please! She really did know exactly how to make me suffer, waiting for her response. I wished she would just look at me! I’ve got to know what she is thinking! PLEASE! I urged silently.

I sighed impatiently. “How easily frustrated I am.”

Her eyes flew back to mine at my words. “I was afraid…” she finally began, “…because, for, well, obvious reasons, I can’t stay with you.” She can’t stay. I can’t leave. What a sado-romantic nightmare! “And I’m afraid,” she continued, “that I’d like to stay with you, much more than I should.” She looked back down, her expression pained.

“Yes,” I agreed. “That is something to be afraid of, indeed. Wanting to be with me. That’s not really in your best interest.” That was an understatement. Me, the monster of flesh and too much blood.

She frowned.

I sighed, “I should have left long ago. I should leave now. But I don’t know if I can.” And those words were never truer. I can’t leave. I won’t. I don’t want to take it away from myself. I’ve got to stay here!

“I don’t want you to leave,” she agonized.

“Which is exactly why I should.” I ought to leave, get out of her life. I couldn’t do it, but I knew damned well I should. “But don’t worry. I’m essentially a selfish creature. I crave your company too much to do what I should.”

“I’m glad,” she cheered.

“Don’t be!” I withdrew my hand. I held her gaze with severity. “It’s not only your company I crave! Never forget that!” Never forget that I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else.” The demon inside stirred, and again I was reminded that we were here in this forest, alone, and no human on earth knew Bella was in here with me. Stop it! Don’t think about that! I glanced desperately into the woods, preparing to flee before the demon could win this battle. The internal conflict that raged within- and Bella the catalyst.

Bella pondered that for a moment. “I don’t think I understand what you mean - by that last part anyway.

She still doesn’t get why I am more hazardous to her in particular? “How do I explain…? And without frightening you again. Hmmmm.”

I placed my hand back in hers and my confidence waivered. She clasped her hand around mine and a wave of heat, nothing to do with the temperature of her hand, shot up my arm. “That’s amazingly pleasant, the warmth.” I breathed.

I took a moment to consider the best way to explain how difficult it was to ignore the allurement she held for me.

“You know how everyone enjoys different flavors?” I volunteered. “Some people love chocolate ice cream, others prefer strawberry?”

She nodded, but recoiled subconsciously.

“Sorry about the food analogy – I couldn’t think of another way to explain.”

She smiled, and I was relieved to be forgiven.

I continued. “You see, every person smells different, has a different essence.” Okay, maybe this was the wrong way to explain. I tried a new approach. “If you locked an alcoholic in a room full of stale beer, he’d gladly drink it. But he could resist, if he wished to, if he were a recovering alcoholic.” I paused to let her consider that. “Now let’s say you placed in that room a glass of hundred-year-old brandy, the rarest, finest cognac - and filled the room with its warm aroma – how do you think he would fare then?”

I stared deeply into her eyes, willing her to understand. To see once and for all the near gravitational pull her blood’s effect had on me. But she made no indication any of it had sunk in. Surely Bella had tasted neither stale beer nor fine cognac in her life. She had no basis for comparison.

“Maybe that’s not the right comparison. Maybe it would be too easy to turn down the brandy. Perhaps I should have made our alcoholic a heroin addict instead.” Even people who’d never used narcotics had some comprehension of that.

She considered that briefly. “So what you are saying is, I’m your brand of heroine?” she asked jokingly. Oh Bella, darling, this is no joke.

But instead of getting upset, I smiled quickly to hide my agony of her revelation. “Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroine.” I was at least glad the tension had ebbed.
“Does that happen often?” she wondered.

First time for me, I thought. Never before you waltzed… or more appropriately, tripped into my world. The only one in my family who could empathize was Emmett. I recalled his memory of the ill-fated woman hanging her laundry in the field, the smell of seasoned apples in the air (see page 47, Midnight Sun). And I glanced at the treetops in pained realization that Bella and I were in a similar type setting. Alone in a field, the warm breeze swirling the aroma of wildflowers- intensifying Bella’s already floral scent. My mouth watered at the thought. Stop it! How many times do I have to say that to myself?!?

“I spoke to my brothers about it,” I hesitated. “To Jasper, every one of you is much the same. He’s the most recent to our family. It’s a struggle for him to abstain at all. He hasn’t had the time to grow sensitive to the differences in smell, in flavor.” I immediately regretted adding that last part.

“Sorry,” I deplored.

“I don’t mind,” she insisted. “Please don’t worry about offending me, or frightening me, or whichever. That’s the way you think. I can understand, or I can try to at least. Just explain however you can.”

So unselfish. Bella was always more concerned with others’ comfort over her own… even mine. I took a deep breath for self-assurance.

“So Jasper wasn’t sure if he’d ever come across someone who was as…” I stopped myself from saying delicious, “… appealing as you are to me. Which makes me think not. Emmett has been on the wagon longer, so to speak, and he understood what I meant. He says twice, for him, once stronger than the other.”

“And for you?”

“Never.”

She took a steady breath. “What did Emmett do?”

My grimace was involuntary. I had intentionally omitted his experience so that I wouldn’t have to relive the memory in front of Bella. I clenched my hands into fists and turned away hastily. Please, Bella, don’t make me elaborate.

“I guess I know,” she said finally.

Whew! Bless you, Bella. I was sure if she had insisted, the knowledge would have made the terror all too real for her. For both of us. The myth has too much substance.

I looked back to her, “Even the strongest of us fall off the wagon, don’t we?”

“What are you asking?” She asked sharply. “My permission?” But her voice lightened, almost sorrowful. “I mean, is there no hope then?”

“No, no!” I repented. “Of course there’s hope! I mean, of course I won’t…” I couldn’t say the words. I looked meaningfully into her eyes. You must understand! “It’s different for us. Emmett… these were strangers he happened across. It was a long time ago, and he wasn’t as practiced, as careful as he is now.”

But I fell silent. A lot of good ‘practice’ has done for me, though. It has been decades since my rebellion away from Carlisle. Yet, here I am, struggling with my very existence. The existence that would be completely meaningless without Bella.

“So if we’d met… oh, in a dark alley or something…” she let the question hang.

The truth would be terrifying. “It took everything I had not to jump up in the middle of that class full of children and-" I looked away, ashamed. “When you walked past me, I could have ruined everything Carlisle has built for us, right then and there.” And you have no idea how close I came. “If I hadn’t been denying my thirst for the last, well, too many years, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself.” I scowled, looking away.

When she didn’t immediately react, I glanced back at her. She was surely reliving that day, as I was, as well as reassessing the sequence of events. I felt remorse at our shared remembrance.

“You must have thought I was possessed.”

“I couldn’t understand why. How you could hate me so quickly…” she gulped a sob.

“To me, it was like you were some kind of demon, summoned straight from my own personal hell to ruin me.” To ruin what I had with my family. “The fragrance coming off your skin… I thought it would make me deranged that first day. In that one hour, I thought of a hundred different ways to lure you from the room with me, to get you alone. And I fought them each back, thinking of my family, what I could do to them. I had to run out, to get away before I could speak the words that would make you follow.”

I watched her expression turn from confusion to shock.

“You would have come,” I said, certain.

“Without a doubt,” she breathed calmly.

I frowned down at my hands. Recounting that first agonized day to Bella was nearly as difficult emotionally as was the actually day was physically.

“And then, as I tried to rearrange my schedule in a pointless attempt to avoid you, you were there – in that close, warm little room, the scent maddening. I so very nearly took you then. There was only one other frail human there – so easily dealt with.”

Bella shuddered visibly.

“But I resisted. I don’t know how. I forced myself not to wait for you, not to follow you from the school. It was easier outside, when I couldn’t smell you anymore, to think clearly, to make the right decision. I left the others near home – I was too ashamed to tell them how weak I was, they only knew something was very wrong - and then went straight to Carlisle at the hospital to tell him I was leaving.”

Bella’s eyes widened in surprise.

“I traded cars with him – he had a full tank of gas and I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t dare to go home, to face Esme. She wouldn’t have let me go without a scene. She would have tried to convince me that it wasn’t necessary…” But she was wrong. It was indeed very necessary.

“By the next morning, I was in Alaska. I spent two days there, with some old acquaintances… but I was homesick. I hated knowing I’d upset Esme, and the rest of them, my adopted family. In the pure air of the mountains it was hard to believe you were so irresistible. I convinced myself it was weak to run away. I’d dealt with temptation before, not of this magnitude, not even close, but I was strong. Who were you, an insignificant little girl…” I grinned because how so much has changed since then. Bella was very significant to me now. “… to chase me from the place I wanted to be? So I came back…

“I took precautions, hunting, feeding more than usual before seeing you again. I was sure that I was strong enough to treat you like any other human. I was arrogant about it.

“It was unquestionably a complication that I couldn’t simply read your thoughts to know what your reaction was to me. I wasn’t used to having to go to such circuitous measures, listening to your words in Jessica’s mind… her mind isn’t very original, and it was annoying to have to stoop to that. And then I couldn’t know if you really meant what you said. It was all extremely irritating.

“I wanted you to forget my behavior that first day, if possible, so I tried to talk to you like I would with any person. I was eager, actually, hoping to decipher some of your thoughts. But you were too interesting, I found myself caught up in your expression… and every now and then you would stir the air with your hand or your hair, and the scent would stun me again…

“Of course, then you were nearly crushed to death in front of my eyes. Later I thought about a perfectly good excuse for why I acted at that moment – because if I hadn’t saved you, if your blood had been spilled there in front of me, I don’t think I could have stopped myself from exposing us for what we are. But I only thought of that excuse later. At the time, all I could think was, ‘Not her.’”

I took a break from my monologue. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to taste the air for Bella’s reaction. It was hard for me to admit all of this to Bella. To divulge the anguish I felt. At the same time a weight was lifted. I was surprised to feel the relief that came having just unburdened myself with this information to her.

Bella spoke then, finally, her voice soft and raspy. “In the hospital?” Of course. The first time I broke a promise to her.

I quickly looked to her. “I was appalled. I couldn’t believe I had put us in danger after all, put myself in your power – you of all people. As if I needed another motive to kill you.” I shuddered at the memory, as did Bella. “But it had the opposite effect. I fought with Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper when they suggested that now was the time… the worst fight we’ve ever had. Carlisle sided with me… and Alice.” My face twisted as I recalled that Alice had always been on my side. And yet I had refused her Bella, whom she admittedly loved, though not in the same way I loved her. She’d backed me, even argued with Jasper, her eternal companion. I owed her big time. I must repay Alice in the biggest way I know how.

“Esme told me to do whatever I had to in order to stay.” I shook my head because Esme did not know what she was asking of me then. “All that next day I eavesdropped on the minds of everyone you spoke to, shocked that you kept your word. I didn’t understand you at all. But I knew that I couldn’t become more involved with you. I did my very best o stay far from you as possible.” And Alice had been right at how impossible that proved to be for me. I frowned again at my lack of appreciation I had shown my sister. “And every day the perfume of your skin, your breath, your hair… it hit me as hard as the very first day.

“And for all that,” I concluded, my eyes gentle, “I’d have fared better if I had exposed us all that first moment, than if now, here – with no witnesses and nothing to stop me – I were to hurt you.”

Bella looked at me with her soft endearing eyes. “Why?” she asked. Because I know you now, silly girl. Because I love you!

“Isabella.” I said very seriously. Too seriously. I ruffled her hair playfully to lighten the mood. “Bella, I couldn’t live with myself if I ever hurt you. You don’t know how it’s tortured me.” I looked down. She was everything to me now. Everything I could imagine. Everything and much, much more.

“The thought of you, still, white, cold… to never see you blush scarlet again, to never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses… it would be unendurable. You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever.”

Bella did not answer at first. She looked down at our hands, still in intrinsic embrace. “You already know how I feel,” she replied finally. “I’m here… which roughly translated, means I would rather die than stay away from you.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

She frowned, “I’m an idiot.”

“You are an idiot,” I joked. And our eyes met and we laughed freely now. Tension suspended, comfort ours.

“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…” I whispered.

She looked away, sheepishly. How adorable! “What a stupid lamb,” she sighed.

“What a sick, masochistic lion.” I looked over the treetops towards the sun as it started its descent in the sky. Bella repelled the darkness for me. She stopped the pain I had been afraid to admit to her. And here she was, telling me now that it was all right.
Chapter 14 Confessions (Part 3)

For the briefest of moments, my imagination permitted me to believe that somehow, some way… this could be happening. But how could this ever work? I had never experienced anything like this with a woman before, with anyone. The feeling was new and foreign to me. I wasn’t quite sure where these new yearnings would take me or if I dared to explore them further, risking harm to this fragile little girl, my Bella.

“Why…? Bella interrupted my uneasy contemplation.

There was hesitation in her expression. Don’t let me stop her. I smiled in encouragement for her to continue. But she did not right away. So irksome.

“Yes?” I urged.

She shied away from me slightly. Whatever she was about to ask was clearly making her uncomfortable.

“Tell me why you ran from me before.”

I let my smile drop. Surely it didn’t need an explanation. And verbalizing it aloud made the truth sound even worse. “You know why.”

“No, I mean, exactly what did I do wrong? I’ll have to be on guard, you see, so I better start learning what I shouldn’t do.” She looked down at our hands. “This, for example,” she stroked the back of my hand with her free one, “seems to be all right.”

All right? It is better than all right! That is precisely the problem! It could never be enough. I would always want more. The burn in my throat was almost too much to bare! “You didn’t do anything wrong, Bella. It was my fault.”

“But I want to help,” she insisted. “If I can, to not make this harder for you.”

There she goes again, worrying about my feelings over her own. “Well…” I began. I wanted to explain this to her as to not hurt her feelings more. Ensure her that the blame was not hers. “It was just how close you were. Most humans instinctively shy away from us, are repelled by the alienness…. I wasn’t expecting you to come so close.” She was so confident in my undeserved trust. “And the smell of your throat.” I stopped right there. I couldn’t believe I just said that out loud. I looked up at her quickly to make sure I hadn’t repulsed her with my inherent darkness.

“Okay, then,” she said cheekily, and then dropped her chin. “No throat exposure.”

I laughed. Only Bella could take this so lightly. “No, really, it was more the surprise than anything else.”

She looked up at me, her head still in a bow. Her eyes were filled with care, so tender. She shouldn’t have to consciously try so hard to make it easier for me. I wished she didn’t need to. I wanted her to believe I could handle this. Heck, I wanted to believe that for myself. I had to comfort Bella.

I tentatively reached for her with my free and placed it on her neck. She froze at the contact. I hoped it was because she sensed the danger here. It helped. The slightest movement on her part could defeat my resolve. I was very careful with my touch. I registered the rhythmic pulse of her blood pumping through the sensitive veins, just under the surface of her delicate skin. Her heart was beating so fast! And I could feel every beat beneath my fingertips. I couldn’t prevent the burn in my throat from creeping. But it was manageable. Better than ever before.

“You see?” I said. “Perfectly fine.”

Her cheeks swelled pink. I would never tire of seeing that involuntary flush. “The blush of your cheeks is lovely.” I slid my hand across her neck, over her jaw line, and finally caressed her warm cheek. I gently reclaimed my other hand from her grasp so I could cup her face in my hands. Her heart, if possible, thudded at an even faster pace than before. It was making what I was about to try much more difficult.

“Be very still.” I warned softly.

Our eyes locked as I slowly leaned closer to her. Easy, I warned myself, gentle now. Don’t go too far. The sweet stench of her blood was a wrecking ball to my admonition. The desire raging throughout my body was indescribable. I leaned even closer now, with eager anticipation. I slowly, ever so carefully, placed my cheek against the base of her throat. The heat was overwhelming now. The difference in temperature was fire and ice. And how her blood raced!

I slid my hands down the sides of her neck, feeling her blood flow freely under my fingers. And Bella trembled so that I caught my breath. Be still, PLEASE! This is hard enough! The temptation was too much, to linger over the throbbing arteries there. I paused only when I reached her shoulders.

I can do this. I had to be able to do this.

I turned my head so that my nose traced down her clavicle. My breathing was labored. Each time I inhaled her savory scent, I fought to tether the monster I knew could surface at any moment. And as my throat burned with unyielding torture, the rest of my body burned with a different desire, both burns in complete opposition to the other. Whichever was the higher intrigue, I didn’t know.

I rested my head on her chest, listening to the steady thump inside that meant life to Bella. How many thousands… or hundreds of thousands of heartbeats had I heard in my life? Forever ignoring the temptuous thudding of would-be victims? And this heartbeat, the one I have allowed myself to be so dangerously close to, which I once wanted to destroy… was now my only reason for existing. From now on, this will be my duty, my burden, my responsibility. Protect this heart, for it was now mine.

“Ah” I sighed finally. I had done it. I had quelled the monster within me… at least for now. He wasn’t gone forever, but I knew if he ever reared his head again I would be able to defeat him. I was strong enough, I had lived up to the strength that Carlisle saw within me.

I lay there, on her chest, for several more minutes. It was the amount of time it took for her heart to reach its normal rhythm. I listened as the air whooshed and whistled in and out of her lungs. That’s it, Bella, keep breathing. Only then did I release her.

“It won’t be so hard again,” I said with profound satisfaction.

“Was that very hard for you?” she asked timidly. More than you will ever know or understand!
“Not nearly as hard as I imagined it would be.” And I realized in all this, I hadn’t even bothered to guess how Bella was handling all this. “And you?” I asked politely.

“No, it wasn’t bad… for me.” There is that blush again!

“You know what I mean,” I smiled.

“Here.” I reached for her hand and brought it to my face. It was still warm, having drawn some of her own body heat from lying on her chest so long. The warmest part of the body with all that rich concentration of blood, and having the most important job. “Do you feel how warm it is?”

And her lips went up in the tiniest of smiles. “Don’t move,” Bella whispered.

I stilled myself like only a vampire can. I was good at this. Our bodies did not require constant movement. There was no blood flow to account for. I closed my eyes, curious, anticipating her next move. I jumped slightly when I felt her hand graze my cheek, and she softly tickled over my eyelids. Her fingers trailed over my nose and I slowly inhaled, tasting the air at her touch. She traced down and paused at my lips. She stroked them so carefully. The pleasure I felt at her caresses made me wish I could do more with those lips. What I wouldn’t do to be able to kiss her, to taste her. I wouldn’t bite, no, but to lick those lips, Mmmm. Without conscious thought, my lips parted at the idea, to be able to enjoy this very human desire with Bella. I could let her fondle me this way forever, ignoring all other hungers.

Too soon, Bella leaned away from me. My eyes flew open. I wasn’t ready for her to stop. Keep going! I begged silently, but the reddening of her cheeks was soothing enough. The thrill that blush awakened in me was… mouthwatering.

“I wish,” my voice was a whisper, “I wish you could feel the… complexity… the confusion… I feel. That you could understand.” I ran my fingers threw her soft hair, and then brushed her cheeks with my fingertips. Her cheeks were rosier than I’d ever seen them.

“Tell me,” she insisted.

“I don’t think I can. I’ve told you, on the one hand, the hunger – the thirst – that deplorable creature that I am, I feel for you. And I think you can understand that, to an extent.” A tiny imperceptible extent. “Though,” I smiled, “as you are not addicted to any illegal substances, you probably can’t empathize completely.” Because God only knows I am addicted to you.

“But,” I continued, reaching for her again. I wanted her to feel the intense pleasure her fingers on my lips had caused. There are other hungers…” I grazed her lips with my fingertips, making her quiver. I wondered, if I could touch her like this, so carefully with my fingertips, could I also dare to believe I could to touch my own lips to hers? “Hungers I don’t even understand, that are foreign to me.”

“I may understand that better than you think.” Of course. This would all be new to Bella as well. Human desires awakening in her much more easily than they had in me.

“I’m not used to feeling so human. Is it always like this?”

“For me?” she pondered. “No, never. Never before this.”

“I don’t know how to be close to you. I don’t know if I can.” The monster was vanquished, for now, but I still had to be very careful. I could hurt her easily with the wrong movement, simply by accident.

Bella slowly leaned towards me, watching me carefully, and dropped her head to my chest, echoing my own actions from a moment ago. She laid her head softly over where my heart should be, though eternally silent. She would only hear me breathing. Unnecessary as it was, it was imperative I demonstrate some sign of life. “This is enough,” she sighed.

How I wished that to be true. It was strangely comforting to hear those words exit her mouth. But could I ever really be enough for Bella? Be the man she deserves? I embraced her lovingly, my arms gently hugging her closer to my body, pressing my face into her hair to get another whiff of heaven.

“You’re better at this than you give yourself credit for,” she announced.

“I have human instincts. They may be buried deep, but they’re there.”

We lay there, silently, enjoying each other, unwilling to move. The sun had fallen low in the sky, unseen through the thick forest. I cursed the fading light. It meant our time here was coming to an end. As if answering my thought, Bella sighed in frustration.

“You have to go,” I said simply.

“I thought you couldn’t read my mind.”

“It’s getting clearer,” I lied, teasing. It would be dark soon, and Bella certainly wouldn’t enjoy traveling through the forest in the dark. It had taken us nearly four hours to hike to the clearing from her truck. With the forest floor already a hazard to Bella, surely a different means of travel was an order.

“Can I show you something?” I asked, suddenly excited.

“Show me what?” she asked curiously.

“I’ll show you how I travel in the forest.” I had already shown her the scariest parts of myself today, I was certain she could handle just a little more. And I could show her how we normally advance from point A to B. This would be fun!

“Don’t worry, you’ll be very safe, and we’ll get to your truck much faster.” Lightening fast, I thought to myself. I smiled crookedly at my personal joke.

“Will you turn into a bat?” she asked warily. Her teeth pressed into her lips.

I laughed. Humans and there misguided myths. “Like I haven’t heard that one before!”

She rolled her eyes. “Right, I’m sure you get that all the time,” she added sarcastically.

“Come on, little coward, climb on my back.” She looked up to me tentatively, her eyes squinting in confusion. Yes, Bella, I’m totally serious! I smiled at her hesitation. She made no motion whatsoever towards me, so I reached for her instead. I hoisted her up and swung her swiftly onto my back. She immediately clamped her arms and legs into a death lock around my body. She was terrified. Just wait, Bella, I have a feeling you will enjoy this.

“I’m a bit heavier than your average backpack,” she said.

“Hah!” I huffed. She was as light as a feather! I could barely even register the extra weight. And the way her arms and legs hugged my body, I could feel her warmth… everywhere. I reached down to her hand, clinging to my chest with all its strength, and brought it to my face, inhaling deeply. That coupled with the surge of electricity flowing between our bodies made my head go fuzzy, but in the very best of ways.

“Easier all the time,” I murmured to myself in satisfaction.

And then I took off running. Of all the quirks of being a vampire, running fast was definitely one of the perks. Emmett had the strength of the family… but I had the speed. I was smug about it. The trees flashed by us, but I barely took notice. I was thinking about her fingers on my lips. It was pure ecstasy. And she had shivered when my fingers brushed hers. Was it because my fingers were cold, or did she feel the longing I felt? Was hers congruent to my own desires? I wondered if an ache accompanied hers, as it did mine.

We were back to her truck much too soon. What had been a four hour journey this morning, had taken roughly four minutes now. Bella was breathing heavy and her heart was pounding!

“Exhilarating, isn’t it?”

But she didn’t respond. She was frozen on my back, silent.

“Bella?” I asked, concerned now.

“I think I need to lie down,” she gasped.

“Oh, sorry.” I leaned back slightly to help her down. But she still clung to me with all her strength.

“I think I need help,” she admitted weakly.

I laughed softly and gently pried her locked fingers open. I was worried if I slid her to the ground, she’d lose her footing, so I pulled her around to face me, cradling her in my arms. And I placed her carefully on the soft ferns.

“How do you feel?” I asked tenderly.

“Dizzy, I think,” she croaked.

“Put your head between your knees.” I suggested.

She immediately dropped her head and took several deep breaths. I sat down beside her, wanted to put my arm around her, but I resisted. I felt bad enough at having caused her this distress.

“I guess that wasn’t the best idea,” I wondered.

“No, it was very interesting,” she lied. The blood had completely drained from her face.

“Hah!” I exclaimed again. “You’re as white as a ghost. No. You’re as white as me!”

“I think I should have closed my eyes,” she said.

I should have known better. With my vision, everything looked crystal clear. But to a human, to Bella, everything was probably a blur. I regretted putting her through that. I should have known better I repeated to myself. “Remember that next time.”

“Next time!” her expression was so amusing. I could help but laugh.

“Show-off,” she scowled. She couldn’t be upset now. I quickly repositioned myself so I was sitting directly in front of her.

“Open your eyes, Bella,” I said quietly. She did, and was stunned by how close I was.

“I was thinking, while I was running…” I paused, afraid to vocalize what I was about to say.

“About not hitting trees, I hope,” she interrupted.

“Silly Bella. Running is second nature to me. It’s not something I need to think about.”

“Show-off,” she repeated.

I smiled. “No, I was thinking there was something I wanted to try.” And I took her face in my hands.

I knew this was going to be very difficult. I was terrified to get too close to her. I had no idea how my body would respond to this sensation. I hesitated, trying to work up the courage. If the monster wasn’t so tightly bound, I would never attempt what I was about to try. I leaned in closer to her, watching her lips carefully as I advanced. Bella was trembling; her heart quickened in anticipation. I was very cautious. Surely she knew to be just as careful.

My breath was coming in shorter gasps, now. It felt like a lifetime went by. An electric current buzzed through the air between our faces, so close now. I could feel the warmth emanating from her body, the delightful aroma circling tastily in my nose and throat. I craved the taste of her sweet lips.

I pulled my face back, only millimeters, in one last attempt to fight the desire that could be fatal. But she exhaled forcefully into my face, and my in an instant, my resolve cripple. My need won the battle. I forced my face forward, before my cools lips finally met hers. They were so hot! Venom swirled in my mouth. I swallowed reflexively. My instincts were telling me to bite. No! This was too much! I couldn’t take any more!

Suddenly, Bella locked her fingers around my head, tangling them in my hair, pulling me closer. Her blood boiled, rushing to her face. I could smell the hot blood that pooled. Fire burned through my entire body! And then she parted her lips, ever so slightly. Bella, the poison! My teeth! But I couldn’t say anything. I just froze. I shut down my entire body. I gently pushed her face back, and she opened her eyes to notice the danger clearly plastered all over my face.

“Oops,” she whispered under her breath.

Oops? I could have just killed you! “That’s an understatement.”

“Should I…?” she trailed off, trying to squirm away. But I didn’t want her to go away. I wanted her right where she was, forever.

“No,” I pleaded. “It’s tolerable. Wait for a moment, please.”

I clenched my jaw and tried to relax my body. It was as painful as stopping mid-hunt. I stopped breathing, trying to rid her scent from my nasal passages. It helped. I stared into her eyes, finding peace there.

“There,” I finally said, pleased with myself.

“Tolerable?” she questioned.

I laughed in relief. “I’m stronger than I thought. It’s nice to know.”

“I wish I could say the same. I’m sorry.” Her eyes fell.

“You are only human, after all,” I taunted.

“Thanks so much,” she huffed.

I stood abruptly to my feet and held my hand out for Bella. She tried to stand, but wobbled. I held her up more steadily.

“Are you still faint from the run?” I asked. “Or was it my kissing expertise?” Please let it be the latter.

“I can’t be sure, I’m still woozy,” she managed to say. “I think some of both, though.”

“Maybe you should let me drive,” I offered.

“Are you insane?” she shrieked. What? Was she still worried about my driving, after she had just willingly kissed a poisonous vampire? Only Bella….

“I can drive better than you on your best day.” I mocked. “You have much slower reflexes.”

“I’m sure that’s true, but I don’t think my nerves, or my truck, could take it.” Was she trying to bait me? How adorable!

“Some trust, please, Bella,” I begged. My eyes burned into hers, trying to dazzle her to get my way.
Her fingers were in her pocket, and I could hear the clinking of her keys as she jostled them with her fingers. She pressed her lips together into a tight, playfully evil grin, deciding.

“Nope. Not a chance.” She was so stubborn! Perhaps I was losing my touch, I mused.

“Bella, I’ve already expended a great deal of personal effort at this point to keep you alive. I’m not about to let you behind the wheel of a vehicle when you can’t even walk straight. Besides, friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” I chuckled.

“Drunk?” she objected.

I grinned widely. It was too funny that I had offended her with my innocent statement. “You’re intoxicated by my very presence,” I teased.

“I can’t argue with that.” She scowled as she dropped the keys. I thrust my hand out to grab it before it had even fallen inches. “Take it easy. My truck is a senior citizen.”

“Very sensible,” I approved.

“Are you not affected at all?” she asked, annoyed. “By my presence, I mean?”

On the contrary. How could she even think that? I softened my face for her benefit. Instead of answering her aloud, I once again brushed my lips along her jaw line, tracing back and forth from her ear to her chin. If she couldn’t feel that tension, then I didn’t know how to explain to her any other way.

“Regardless,” I muttered finally, “I have better reflexes.”
Chapter 15. Mind Over Matter (Part 1)

I helped Bella into the car and we took off down the highway, after I’d made sure she had buckled in, of course. I kept the truck under 50MPH, but I wasn’t prepared to take any chances. I had already had driven her truck once before, and I had to agree with Bella. I don’t think her truck could handle going much faster than that. I felt the frame quake with the strain at this speed, with the roar of the engine threatening the structural integrity of the old clunker.

I turned the radio on to drown out the noise, and flipped to one of my favorite oldies stations. The last few chords of ‘Twilight Time’ by The Platters, was playing. I smiled at the irony as I glanced towards the setting sun. Not quite Twilight, but close enough. And when the next song came on, I smiled again thinking the universe must be trying to tell me something. The song that was playing was one of very familiar to me. One of the lesser known hits by The Everly Brothers. I started singing along to ‘(‘Til) I Kissed You’. I reached over and pulled Bella’s hand into mine as we continued down the road.

Twilight Time by The Platters
(‘Til) I Kissed You by The Everly Brothers

“You like fifties music?” Bella asked mid-chorus.

“Music in the fifties was good. Much better than the sixties or the seventies, ugh!” I pretended to cringe. “The eighties were bearable.” At least the latter half of the decade.

I was watching Bella consider that. She looked down to her lap and took a deep breath before asking, “Are you ever going to tell me how old you are?”

I wondered when I would have to answer this question. I rather wished she had not asked, but I couldn’t deny Bella anything she wanted, as long as it was within reason. I thought I hid my disappointment rather well. “Does it matter much?” I asked, smiling weakly.

She looked up at the sky out the windshield for a moment, considering. I held my breath, waiting for her answer. If I told her how old I really was, how many decades I had seen pass by, would she find it discomforting? I was old enough to be her great-grandfather. No, actually... I was old enough to be her great-great grandfather.

“No,” she finally answered. “But I still wonder….” She grimaced. “There’s nothing like an unsolved mystery to keep you up at night.”

I had to agree there. But not in the same sense she meant. Bella was my unsolved mystery, and she certainly kept me up at night. Not that I could fall asleep, no… but while I watched her sleep, I tried to open up all my senses, trying to pull whatever information from her that I could… from her body language, the way she tossed in her sleep, to the sporadic mumblings she uttered in her dream state.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bella watching me. Now it was she, waiting for an answer. I let my breath go. “I wonder if it will upset you.”

I bit my lip. Why was this detail, of all others, so difficult for me to admit? I was such a coward! She had accepted the strangest, scariest things about me already today. Why should I think my age would make any difference to her? Long life tends to give a different perspective. Minutes slipped by in silence.

“Try me,” she finally insisted stubbornly.

I sighed, and then searched her eyes for some courage. And while I did find some there, I realized it was hers and not mine. She was the brave one here, in this moment. I looked away, partially in shame, but also because it was easier to concentrate on what I was about to admit, without having to also watch her reaction, just in case she blanched at the confession.

“I was born in Chicago in 1901.” I looked to her quickly, suddenly requiring her acceptance of this truth. I searched her face for any sign of fear or disgust, but what I found there was only warmth and curiosity. The smile of relief that reached my lips was involuntary. I continued, breathing easier now. “Carlisle found me in a hospital in the summer of 1918. I was 17, and dying of Spanish influenza.”

Bella caught her breath momentarily and I looked into her eyes again, wondering which part of what I said caused the hitch.

“I don’t remember it well. It was a very long time ago and human memories fade.” I had only vague recollections of my childhood. And I held on tight to the last image I retained of my mother’s face. I couldn’t remember my father at all, but Carlisle says I looked like him.

Carlisle… my new father.

“I do remember how it felt, when Carlisle saved me. It’s not an easy thing- not something you could forget.”

Bella gulped loudly. “Your parents?”

“They had already died from the disease. I was alone. That was why he chose me. In all the chaos of the epidemic, no one would ever realize I was gone.”

“How did he… save you?” she asked tentatively.

I hesitated. This was one tidbit of information I swore to myself I’d shelter from Bella. She didn’t need the details of the transformation process to haunt her nightmares. So I decided to give her the sugar-coated version. Or perhaps at least the cherry-flavored cough syrup version. Tastes better than the cheap stuff, but still difficult to swallow… or so I’ve heard.

“It was difficult. Not many of us have the restraint necessary to accomplish it. But Carlisle has always been the most humane. The most compassionate of us. I don’t think you could find his equal throughout all of history. For me, it was merely very, very painful.”

I pursed my lips. That last part slipped out before I realized what I was saying. I had already said more than I’d intended to reveal to her. So I continued in a different direction, lightening the discussion.

“He acted from loneliness. That’s usually the reason behind the choice. I was the first in Carlisle’s family, though he found Esme soon after. She fell from a cliff. They brought her straight to the hospital morgue, though, somehow, her heart was still beating.”

I remembered when Carlisle brought her home for the first time, her eyes bright red from the change. The memories flooded from both of them. Carlisle had perfect recollection, naturally, of the girl whose bones he had once helped mend. And Esme recognized the face of a man whose beauty stunned her over ten years before, unchanged by time. Their love was instantaneous and I couldn’t help but feel the intensity of it through their thoughts. Esme, my mother, was born.

“So you must be dying, then, to become…” she trailed off as her voice cracked. I saved her from the words she couldn’t get out.

“No, that’s just Carlisle. He would never do that to someone who had another choice.”

Carlisle. A very respectable man, indeed. He gave me life, and love, and taught me how to be decent, despite the challenges we face. There is a mythology that those of our race are without pity. I suppose that may be true for the most part. There are many vampires who believe humans are no better than slaves, or a food supply… or both. But not Carlisle. He rejected what he was and his strength empowered him to overcome… Created himself a family and made it possible for that family to co-exist quite harmoniously with our human counterparts. A very respectable man, indeed, I thought again.

“It is easier he says, though, if the blood is weak.” I watched the road, cursing silently to myself, angry for slipping again. I didn’t want Bella to know of this. The truth is painful… excruciatingly frightening.

“And Emmett and Rosalie?” she pressed. And I was glad she had spared me from divulging further detail.

“Carlisle brought Rosalie to our family next. I didn’t realize until much later that he was hoping she would be to me what Esme was to him.” Too bad I’d insulted her with my very first words. “He was careful with his thoughts around me. But she was never more than a sister.” And the rivalry was definitely sibling in nature. “It was only two years later that she found Emmett. She was hunting – we were in Appalachia at the time – and found a bear about to finish him off. She carried him back to Carlisle, more than 100 miles, afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do it herself. I am only beginning to guess how difficult that journey was for her.” I shuddered, as Rosalie’s own memory of the incident entered my vision. I was still hard to see my brother, bloody, near-death, even though now he is one of the strongest vampires I know.

“But she made it,” Bella encourages, saving me again.

“Yes.” I murmured. “She saw something in his face that made her strong enough. And they’ve been together ever since. Sometimes they live separately from us as a married couple. But the younger we pretend to be, the longer we can say in any given place. Forks seemed perfect. So we all enrolled in high school.”

I laughed. Perpetual high school students, oh the monotony. Was it only two months ago that I found it to be my own personal purgatory? Again with the irony. My least favorite place to be had turned out bringing me my most favorite creation in this world. High school had lead me to Bella. I shook my head again.

“I suppose we’ll have to go to their wedding in a few years, again.”

She smirked. At least she found it as amusing as I did. “Alice and Jasper?” she continued.

“Alice and Jasper are two very rare creatures. They both developed a conscience. As we refer to it with no outside guidance. Jasper belonged to another… family. A very different kind of family. He became depressed, and he wandered on his own. Alice found him. Like me, she has certain gifts above and beyond the norm for our kind.”

“Really?” Bella cut in, curiously. “But you said you were the only one who could hear people’s thoughts.”

“That’s true. She knows other things. She sees things. Things that might happen, things that are coming. But it’s very subjective. The future isn’t set in stone. Things change.”

And as I said those words, a single pulse of panic pulsed through my body. Things change. I set my jaw. I wonder if Alice saw this coming. I would wager she would be none-too-thrilled when she found out how close I came to enacting her vision today. I kissed Bella, today. My teeth were within millimeters from her flesh! I had been careless, yet so careful. Carefree, in fact. I flashed a quick look to Bella but looked away before she could register the chill.

“What kinds of things does she see?”

Anything…? Everything…? Nothing… “She found Jasper and knew that he was looking for her before he knew it himself. She saw Carlisle and our family, and they came together to find us. She is most sensitive to non-humans. She always sees, for example, when another group of our kind it’s coming near. And any threat they may pose.”

“Are there a lot of your kind?” she asked hesitantly.

“No, not many. But most won’t settle in any one place. Only those like us, who’ve given up hunting people…” I glanced sideways to Bella for reaction… Nothing. “…can live together with humans for any length of time. We’ve only found one other family like ours in a small village in Alaska. We lived together for a time, but there were so many of us that we became too noticeable. Those of us who live differently tend to band together.”

“And the others?”

“Nomads, for the most part. We’ve all lived that way at times. It gets tedious, like anything else. But we run across the others now and then, because most of us prefer the North.”

“Why is that?”

I had to suppress a laugh as I parked in front of Bella’s house. She seemed surprised we had arrived already. Obviously lost in the conversation. I turned off the engine and looked to her seriously. “Did you have your eyes open this afternoon?” I teased. “Do you think I could walk down the street in the sunlight without causing traffic accidents? There’s a reason why we chose the Olympic Peninsula, one of the most sunless places in the world. It’s nice to be able to go outside in the day. You wouldn’t believe how tired you can get of nighttime in eighty-odd years.”

“So that’s where the legends came from?”

“Probably”

“And Alice came from another family, like Jasper?”

“No, and that is a mystery. Alice doesn’t remember her human life at all.” I recalled when Alice tried to “show” me once. There was nothing. Only black. I was just as frustrated as she was.

“And she doesn’t know who created her. She awoke alone. Whoever made her walked away, and none of us I understand why, or how, he could. If she hadn’t had that other sense, if she hadn’t seen Jasper and Carlisle and known that she would someday become one of us, she probably would have turned into a total savage.”

And as in response to my final word, Bella’s stomach growled loudly. It was only then I’d realized that I had kept Bella all day, hiking, wandering in the woods, without even so much as thinking about her need for water… or food. I must be more perceptive about that in the future. And my carelessness once again caught me off guard.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I’m keeping you from dinner.”

“I’m fine, really,” but her stomach groaned in protest of her lie.

“I’ve never spent much time around anyone who eats food. I forget.”

“I want to stay with you,” she complained sheepishly.

“Can’t I come in?” I suggested. I wasn’t ready to leave her yet either.

“Would you like to?” she asked hopefully.

“Yes, if it’s all right.” Her choice. Always her choice. That was beginning to become my new mantra.

“Very human,” she teased.

“If definitely resurfacing.”

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Chapter 15. Mind Over Matter (Part 2)

We walked up the brick path to her front door. I could feel her eyes on me, and I was all of a sudden very excited. This would be the first time I would be invited into her home, as far as she knew… and I was enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to sneak in this time. As we passed under the eave, I reached for the spare key. Thanks Alice, I thought to myself.

I rushed forward to unlock the door, returned the key to its hiding place, and was back at Bella’s side before she’d even registered my absence. Again I opened the door for her. She’d better get used to the chivalry.

“The door was unlocked?” she asked, concerned, stopping with only one foot past the threshold.

“No, I used the key from under the eave,” I smirked.

Bella stepped the rest of the way inside and raised her eyebrows at me, in almost an accusatory manner.

“I was curious about you,” I replied guiltily.

“You spied on me?” she asked, with a slight smile.

I looked at her and shrugged. “What else is there to do at night?”

She walked down the hallway towards the kitchen. But I made it there first, of course. Having just enough time to deposit a roll of bills into the grocery jar before Bella walked through the door. By the time she entered, I had already taken a seat at the table, eager to make myself look comfortable in her presence. She paused for a moment, staring at me with a curious expression before she turned away towards the refrigerator and began preparing dinner for herself.

She removed something foil-wrapped from the fridge, scooped a helping into a dish and placed it in the microwave. I found the whole ordeal rather fascinating. It had been literally ages since I’d seen anyone prepare a meal in the normal way. The ease of instant gratification. We didn’t have microwaves the last time I could have stomached real food. And I honestly couldn’t remember a single dish I may have favorited while I was human.

Bella watched her meal revolve slowly in the microwave, seemingly mesmerized. Almost immediately the cooking food filled the room with a sickening aroma. I didn’t like it. It made Bella smell less appetizing as a result. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering her current company. With everything that had happened today, she was more appealing to me than ever before, and thirst had nothing to do with it.

I watched her every movement in earnest. From the stance she took, putting all her weight on one foot while she tapped the other, to the rapping of her fingers on the counter while she waited for her food to finish heating. I saw the movement of her lips before sound even escaped them, having been staring at them at that very moment, I realized, thinking of them ever since we’d left the woods.

“How often?” she asked. She was feinting nonchalance, but the pink in her cheeks betrayed her.

“Hmmmm?” She’d awoken me from my private interlude.

“How often did you come here?” She still did not turn.

I decided that honestly was the best policy. I would never lie to my Bella. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I correctly myself mentally. “I come here almost every night,” I finally confessed.

That got her attention. She twisted around, nearly losing her balance, the pink in her face becoming more pronounced now.

“Why?!?” she gasped.

“You’re interesting when you sleep,” I answered simply. “You talk.”

“No!” She gasped again. The pink had now darkened to a deep crimson. She clutched the counter for support as I saw her legs wobble unsteadily.

I hadn’t expected her to react this way. And instantly I was in damage control mode. “Are you very angry with me?”

“That depends!” she said breathlessly.

I waited but she didn’t elaborate.

“On?” I pressed.

“What you heard!” she cried.

And I left my seat to join her at the counter. I took her hands carefully into mine. “Don’t be upset!” I begged. But her cheeks were still reddened. She was embarrassed as I thought she may be, but I held her gaze.

“You miss your mother,” I explained in a whisper. “You worry about her…. And when it rains, the sound makes you restless.” I’d suddenly recalled that it had been raining that night, when I’d been exploring her bedroom for clues, and felt less like an unwelcomed invader. Perhaps it was the rain that was to blame for her restlessness, not my intrusion.

“You used to talk about home a lot…” I continued. “But it’s less often now.” Um, what else… Oh! “Once you said, ‘it’s too green,’” I laughed softly.

“Anything else?” she demanded.

I racked my brain and thought about the countless ramblings she’d uttered in her sleep, of which I had taken mental notes, hopeful someday to decipher their meanings. But she was asking about something more specific and I decided I knew exactly what she was referring to. “You did say my name,” I admitted.

She sighed. “A lot?”

“How much you mean by ‘a lot’ exactly?”

“Oh no!” She hung her head in defeat. Embarrassed again.

I pulled her closer, embracing her against my chest. “Don’t be self conscious. If I could dream at all, it would be about you. And I’m not ashamed of it.”

Just then I heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway and the flash of headlights shining through the windows. Bella tensed in my arms. Charlie was home.

“Should your father know I’m here?”

“I’m not sure…” A panicked expression crossed her face.

“Another time then…” And I disappeared through the door.

“Edward!” she hissed.

I laughed hidden in the shadows. I escaped through the back door and waited in the trees behind her house where I’d hid the first time I eavesdropped on their dinner. This time I knew she would be aware of me listening.

Charlie walked through the front door and called out “Bella?”

“In here!” she called.

I listened as Charlie made his way into the kitchen. I caught the scent of the food again through his thoughts and grimaced. “Can you get me some of that?” He obviously didn’t share the same sentiment. “I’m bushed.”

I heard Bella rummage through the refrigerator once again and the crackling of aluminum foil as she prepared a helping for Charlie. And the hum of the microwave was the only sound besides the two beating hearts.

“Thanks,” I heard Charlie say a few minutes later after Bella placed his food in front of him.

“How was your day?” Bella asked in a rush. Her heart was pulsing just as rapidly as her words.

“Good. The fish were biting. How about you? Did you get everything done that you wanted to?”

“Not really. It was too nice to stay indoors.”

“It was a nice day,” Charlie reflected.

As Charlie took a first bite of his food, Bella was chewing on her last. He watched her drink the last few mouthfuls of milk, by the looks of it, and I felt the suspicion arise in his mind.

“In a hurry?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m tired. I’m going to bed early.”

Charlie wasn’t buying it. He thought she appeared way too energetic to claim tiredness. The detective in him was emerging.

“You look kinda keyed up,” he noted. Charlie was much more observant than I originally gave him credit for. Must be where Bella gets it from.

“Do I?” she asked guiltily.

Charlie tried to act casual, in the middle of this familial interrogation. He had never had to deal with a rebelling teenage daughter before. “It’s Saturday. No plans tonight?”

“No, Dad. I just want to get some sleep.”

Charlie took a mental note of her lie, and pressed on. “None of the boys in town your type, eh?” He was fishing now. Hilarious. He was envisioning Bella and a secret rendezvous. I smiled to myself. I wonder what Charlie would think of his daughter spending time with me today.

“No, none of the boys have caught my eye yet.” I felt a momentary tinge of hurt at those words, but I knew she was only trying to spare Charlie an awkward conversation. Bella, ever the peace keeper.

“I thought maybe that Mike Newton…” Charlie probed. “You said he was friendly.”

“He’s just a friend, Dad.” Those words made me feel much better.

“Well, you’re too good for them all anyway.” He was finally giving up. “Wait till you get to college to start looking.” I laughed again as Charlie’s fatherly worry entered his thoughts. Of course he wouldn’t want to think of Bella being with a man until after she had left his home.

“Sounds like a good idea to me.”

Charlie watched Bella leave the kitchen towards the front stairs. “Night honey,” he called after her.

“See you in the morning, Dad.”

I heard Bella ascend the stairs, slowly. I rushed to scale the house and climb through her window. By the time she had reached the top of the stairs, I had already closed the sash and sprawled myself across her bed. She walked through her bedroom door, and I watched as she walked straight to her window. I put my hands behind my head, and rested it back on her pillows, trying to look like I’d been waiting ages for her. Well, in truth, I had been waiting ages for her.

Bella threw open the window and leaned out. “Edward?” she whispered. I just laughed quietly. After I had just given her credit for inheriting her observant nature from Charlie, yet she still had not noticed I was behind her already, positioned comfortably on the mattress. I suppose that wasn’t her fault. Humans were very easy to sneak up on.

“Yes?” I replied, unable to hide my amusement.

She whirled around. Her heart missed a beat, the blood draining from her face. Her hand flew to her neck. “Oh!” She shrieked. And her knees buckled as she slumped to the floor.

“I’m sorry.” I said, trying not to smile.

“Just give me a minute to restart my heart.”

I sat up very slowly I leaned forward to pick her up and set her down on the bed beside me. “Why don’t you sit with me?” I suggested resting my hand on hers. “How’s the heart?”

“You tell me-I’m sure you hear it better than I do.”

I laughed quietly. Of course I hear, Bella.

“Can I have a minute to be human?” she asked

“Certainly.” You can have all the minutes you need. I would wait forever for you. I motioned for her to proceed.

“Stay.” She commanded, her eyes penetrating, as if training a new puppy.

“Yes ma’am,” I mocked, and then froze, trying to ‘play dead’.

Bella grabbed some pajamas and an overnight bag off her desk, left the bedroom and slammed the bathroom door loudly. I heard her brushing her teeth and then the sound of the shower running. After several minutes, the water was turned off and I listened as she scrambled to towel herself dry. She bounded down the stairs to tell Charlie goodnight.

“Night Bella!” I heard Charlie say. And then Bella was diving back up the stairs. She entered her bedroom hurriedly and carefully closed the door behind her.

I watched as she shyly entered the room. She looked quite comical. Her t-shirt was full of holes, and her grey sweatpants fell loosely over her slim legs. She actually looked quite cute, in an awkward sort of way. I raised my eyebrow. “Nice,” I smiled.

She grimaced. She thought I was joking.

“No. It looks good on you,” I promised. Everything looks good on her. And I secretly found myself envying her clothes.

“Thanks,” she whispered awkwardly. She approached the bed and sat cross-legged beside me.

“What was all that for?” I asked her calmly.

“Charlie thinks I’m sneaking out.”

“Oh.” She was right, of course. His thoughts were exactly along those lines. He was downstairs right now trying to figure out a way to hinder her escape, without looking like an overbearing father.

“Why?” I wondered aloud.

“Apparently, I look a little overexcited.”

I reached my hand to her face and lifted her chin to meet my gaze. “You look very warm, actually.”

Her cheeks went slightly pink and I bent my face slowly to rest my cheek against hers. I was right. She did feel warm.

“Mmmmm,” I breathed.

Bella took a deep breath after her heart had steadied and then spoke. “It seems to be much easier for you, now, to be close to me.”

I smirked. “Does it seem that way to you?” My nose ran over her jaw and I brushed her hair back so that I could kiss below her ear. All my senses were magnifying. As they were in Bella. A flush of pleasure warmed her neck and she smiled lazily. I watched her pupils dilate.

“Much, much easier,” she gasped.

“Hmm,” I replied simply, continuing to explore her neck and throat, as I also explored these new desires awakening in me. I kissed her ever so lightly again, just behind her ear, feeling the thud of her heart beat through her entire body.

“So I was wondering…” she began as pulled her hair back once again. Adding to her distraction, I traced down her clavicle with my fingertips.

“Yes?” I breathed.

“Why is that do you think?” she asked, her voice shaking.

I laughed silently. I was exhibiting more control than I would have imagined myself capable of. Years have gone by without crossing paths with someone that so much as interested me in the remotest way, and without finding anyone nearly as attractive, and I use that word openly, as Bella was to me. And yet here I was, sniffing her, tasting her, caressing her, while her heart still beats safely in my embrace. Who would have guessed it possible?

“Mind over matter,” I finally answered.

She pulled back and I froze holding my breath. We stared at each other for a long moment. The electricity between our faces was gradually strengthening. The message in her eyes was one of acknowledgement, of mutual interest and arousal. I had to force myself to hold back from ravaging her. Slowly I relaxed and wondered why Bella looked so strange.

“Did I do something wrong?” I asked.

“No the opposite, you’re driving me crazy,” she exclaimed.

I considered that and was amused that I solicited the same driving pull for Bella as she did for me. “Really?” I smiled widely in satisfaction.

“Would you like a round of applause?” she asked sarcastically.

I just grinned. “I’m just pleasantly surprised. In the last hundred years or so, I never imagined anything like this. I didn’t believe I would ever find someone I wanted to be with… in any other way than my brothers and sisters. And then to find, even though it is all new to me, that I’m good at it…. at being with you…”

“You’re good at everything,” she complained.

I shrugged in agreement. Sure, I will take that. And we both laughed in whispers.

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Chapter 15. Mind Over Matter (Part 3)

“But how can it be so easy now? This afternoon…” Bella trailed off, her eyes still moist from our laughter.

“It’s not easy,” I sighed. “But this afternoon, I was still…” How did Alice put it? “…undecided,” I finished. “I am sorry about that.” Sorrier than I would ever care to admit aloud. “It was unforgivable for me to behave so.”

“Not unforgivable,” she disagreed.

“Thank you,” I smiled. “You see,” I continued looking away in shame, “I wasn’t sure If I was strong enough…” I picked up her hand and pressed it lightly to my face. “And while there was still that possibility that I might be… overcome.” I inhaled the scent of her warm body. “I was… susceptible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would, that I could ever…” I couldn’t find the words to continue.

“So there’s no possibility now?”

“Mind over matter,” I repeated. I smiled at the revelation.

“Wow, that was easy,” she teased.

For whatever reason, her insight was humorous. I couldn’t help but laugh. I had just finished telling her just how uneasy this was for me. Insanely difficult, in fact. “Easy for you!” I exclaimed as I pointed gently to her nose.

And she thought I was good at everything? Sure, I was holding my own so far. But ‘mind over matter’ was a very literal expression in this case. Every second I was with Bella requires my whole mind, my complete awareness. I have to consciously calculate every movement, every touch, so that I don’t inadvertently injure her… or worse. I was instantly serious again. “I’m trying,” I whispered. “If it gets to be… too much, I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to leave.”

She scowled at that remark.

“And it will be harder tomorrow,” I continued. “I’ve had the scent of you in my head all day, and I’ve grown amazingly desensitized. If I’m away from you for any length of time, I’ll have to start over again. Not quite from scratch, though, I think.”

“Don’t go away, then,” she replied amorously.

“That suits me.” My face relaxed into a gentle smile. “Bring on the shackles – I’m your prisoner.” I grabbed her wrists, encircling them with my own hands, forming human handcuffs. I laughed again. Prisoner was more than an appropriate description. For I was trapped, snared by her affection, a willing captive of her love.

“You seem more… optimistic than usual. I haven’t seen you like this before.” She squeezed my hand as she spoke.

“Isn’t it supposed to be like this? The glory of first love, and all that. It’s incredible, isn’t it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in pictures, and experiencing it?”

“Very different,” she agreed. “More forceful than I’d imagined.”

“For example, the emotion of jealousy. I’ve read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand different plays and movies. I believe I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked me…. Do you remember the day that Mike asked you to the dance?”

She nodded. “The day you started talking to me again.” And in her voice was a hint of pain. And I recalled that day in perfect clarity and saw how it must have seemed to Bella. She had been resentful, guarded. I flinched at the memory for it was I who had been responsible for her anguish that day. She had accused me of resenting saving her, and I had accosted her for it. I was rude, and had allowed my own jealousy and irritation to seethe through. But I realized now, that in my entire existence to date, and all the days to come… nothing I have ever done or will ever do, will be as important as intervening that fateful day when I had very nearly lost my destiny.

“I was surprised by the flare of resentment, almost fury, that I felt-I didn’t recognize what it was at first. I was even more aggravated than usual that I couldn’t know what you were thinking, why you refused him. Was it simply for your friend’s sake? Was there someone else? I knew I had no right to care either way. I tried not to care.” But just had Alice had predicted, it proved impossible to ignore Bella. “And then the line started forming,” I laughed again, and Bella scowled, unamused.

“I waited, unreasonably anxious to hear what you would say to them, to watch your expressions. I couldn’t deny the relief I felt, watching the annoyance on your face. But I couldn’t be sure.

“That was the first night I came here.” Bella blinked twice and I paused for a second wondering if she would react. But she kept silent, so I went on. “I wrestled all night, while watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew what was right, moral, ethical, and what I wanted.” How selfish I had been. “I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.”

“And then,” I continued, my voice dropping almost to a whisper, “you said my name. You spoke so clearly, at first I thought you’d woken. But you rolled over restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The feeling that coursed through me then was unnerving, staggering. And I knew I couldn’t ignore you any longer.” I fell silent, allowing Bella to absorb my words.

“But jealousy… it’s a strange thing. So much more powerful than I would have thought. And irrational! Just now, when Charlie asked you about that vile Mike Newton and…” I shook my head in disgust.

“I should’ve known you’d be listening,” she groaned.

“Of course.”

That made you feel jealous, though, really?”

“I’m new at this. You’re resurrecting the human in me. And everything feels stronger because it’s fresh.”

“But honestly,” she teased, “for that to bother you, after I have to hear that Rosalie –Rosalie, the incarnation of pure beauty, Rosalie- was meant for you. Emmett or no Emmett, how can I compete with that?”

“There’s no competition, I promise.” I stretched her arms around me into a hug.

“I know there’s no competition. That’s the problem.”

Someday, I wished Bella would see herself in proper light. “Of course Rosalie is beautiful in her way, but even if she wasn’t like a sister to me, even if Emmett didn’t belong with her, she could never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me.”

I had never acknowledged just how lonely I was before meeting Bella. I would hear the sympathetic thoughts of my family over the years, hoping I would find a mate, and I had shut out those thoughts with such fierceness, ignorant to the validity of their insight. I had ignored the emptiness, unaware there was any other option. Believing it was part of the curse that was my existence.

“For almost 90 years I’ve walked among my kind, and yours, all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren’t alive yet.”

“It hardly seems fair,” she whispered. “I haven’t had to wait all. Why should I get off so easily?”

“You’re right. I should make this harder for you, definitely,” I mocked. “You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that’s surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity… what’s that worth?”

“Very little. I don’t feel deprived of anything.”

“Not yet.” And I was filled with such remorse because I knew that someday she may come to resent me for it.

She pulled away from me then but I kept my grip on her my hands locked in manacles around her wrists.

“What…” she started to say. But I stopped her, my body tense, for Charlie had chosen that moment to check on Bella. I released her and swiftly hid myself in the shadows of her bedroom.

“Lie down!” I whispered sharply.

Bella did not hesitate. Faster than I even thought it possible for her, she was in bed, under her quilt, and positioned for sleeping. Charlie cracked the door and peeked inside, certain he would find an empty bed. Bella was breathing deeply, unnaturally, and I thought for sure Charlie would notice. But after a long moment, he finally left, closing the door behind him.

Bella was still feinting sleep. I took that opportunity to climb into bed beside her. Something I had imagined doing since the very first time I snuck in her room. I was lying next to her, under the covers, and it was not a moment too soon that my arms were around her in loving embrace.

“You are a terrible actress,” I teased. “I’d say that career path is out for you.”

“Darn it,” she muttered, her heart fluttering.

At that moment I realized that I was right where I wanted to be. And such elation swept through me. I hummed the lullaby I had written for my Bella. “Should I sing you to sleep?”

“Right,” she laughed. “Like I could sleep with you here!”

“You do it all the time,” I reminded her.

“But I didn’t know you were here,” she replied coldly.

“So if you don’t want to sleep,” I left the question hang.

“If I don’t want to sleep?”

I laughed. “What do you want to do then?”

She was quiet for a long moment. “I’m not sure,” she finally said.

“Tell me when you decide.”

And while she thought about it, I couldn’t resist drinking in her scent. How I’ve wanted to be this close to her, thinking it in impossibility, and yet here I was, right where I should be. Where I wanted to be. Where I belonged. At least for now.

“I thought you were desensitized.”

“Just because I’m resisting the wine, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet. You have a very floral smell, like lavender… or freesia. It’s mouthwatering.”

“Yeah, it’s an off day when I don’t get somebody telling me how edible I smell.”

My laugh turned into a sigh.

“I decided what I want to do,” she announced. “I want to hear more about you.”

“Ask me anything.”

“Why you do it?” she asked. “I still don’t understand how you work so hard to resist what you… are. Please don’t misunderstand, of course I’m glad that you do. I just don’t see why you would bother in the first place.”

I thought about my answer before responding. “That’s a good question,” I stalled. “And you are not the first one to ask it. The others –the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot- they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we’ve been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn’t mean we can’t choose to rise above –to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.”

I let Bella mull things over in her mind. It was several minutes before I decided to speak up, desperate to know what my new revelation had meant for her. “Did you fall asleep?” I whispered. I knew she had not; I could tell by her breathing that she was still awake. Plus the room, which might appear very dark for Bella, it was not very dark for me. And I could see her eyes, open, staring at the ceiling. But I thought I would give her the option to pretend.

“No.”

“Is that all you were curious about?”

She rolled her eyes. “Not quite.”

“What else do you want to know?”

“Why can you read minds? Why only you? And Alice, seeing the future, why does that happen?”

I shrugged. “We don’t really know. Carlisle has a theory. He believes that we all bring something of our strongest human traits with us into the next life, where they are intensified, like our minds, and our senses. He thinks that I must have already been very sensitive to the thoughts of those around me. And that Alice had some precognition, wherever she was.”

“What did he bring into the next life, and the others?”

“Carlisle brought his compassion. Esme brought her ability to love passionately. Emmett brought his strength, Rosalie her…” Hmmm… “tenacity. Or you could call it pigheadedness.” I laughed. That was being kind.

“Jasper is very interesting,” I continued. “He was quite charismatic in his first life, able to influence those around him to see things his way. Now he is able to manipulate the emotions of those around him- calm down a room of angry people, for example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It’s a very subtle gift.”

Bella seemed to consider this before asking her next question. I allowed her all the time she required. It was a lot to take in.

“So where did it all start? I mean, Carlisle changed you, and then someone must have changed him, and so on…?”

“Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation? Couldn’t we have evolved in the same way as other species, predator and prey? Or, if you don’t believe that all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both of our kinds together?”

“Let me get this straight. I’m the baby seal, right?”

“Right,” I laughed again, as I kissed the top of her head. I haven’t laughed this much in a long time.

“Are you ready to sleep? Or do you have any more questions?”

“Only a million or two.”

“We have tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…” I said, happy that I could say this truthfully now.

“Are you sure you won’t vanish in the morning? You are mythical, after all.”

“I won’t leave you,” I promised with my whole heart.

“One more, then, tonight…” And whatever she was about to say, I knew would be good, for the blush that reached her cheeks, was enough to warm the space between us, if only fractionally.

“What is it?” I urged.

“No, forget it. I changed my mind.”

“Bella, you can ask me anything.”

But she didn’t respond, aggravating me like only Bella could, with her infinitesimally private mind. I groaned in irritation.

“I keep thinking it will get less frustrating, not hearing your thoughts. But it just gets worse and worse,” I complained.

“I’m glad you can’t read my thoughts. It’s bad enough that you eavesdrop on my sleep talking.”

“Please?” I was begging.

She shook her head causing me even more anguish.

“If you don’t tell me, I threatened her, I’ll just assume it’s something much worse than it is. Please?” I pleaded again.

“Well,” she began, blushing again.

“Yes?” Come on, Bella. The suspense is killing me!

“You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon. Is that… marriage… the same as it is for humans?”

The laugh that followed from my body was powerful and unpreventable as I interpreted her meaning. It was perhaps the most unexpected question she could have asked.. “Is that what you’re getting at?”

Her uncomfortable silence was all I needed for confirmation.

“Yes, I suppose it is much the same. I told you, most of those human desires are there, just hidden behind more powerful desires.”

“Oh,” was all she said.

“Was there a purpose behind your curiosity?”

“Well, I did wonder… about you and me… someday…”

And as the full blow of her insinuation struck me, I became instantly rigid with seriousness. “I don’t think that… that… would be possible for us.” Not that I hadn’t wished it could be… but we could never…. It had never occurred to me as a possibility. I had not even allowed myself to consider physical intimacy would ever be an option for us to consider. But of course Bella would wonder about it, though. How could I have not seen that coming? It was such a very human thing to be curious about.

“Because it would be too hard for you, if I were that… close?” she asked.

If that were only it…. “That’s certainly a problem. But that’s not what I was thinking of. It’s just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to mind my actions every moment that we’re together so that I don’t hurt you. I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident.” I reached out carefully to cup her face in my hand. “If I was too hasty, if for one second I wasn’t paying attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake. You don’t realize how incredibly breakable you are. I can never, never,” I stressed… “afford to lose any kind of control when I’m with you.”

And with all the intensity of my declaration, Bella did not react. “Are you scared?” I asked tentatively.

She took a minute to respond, every second her hesitation making me uneasy. But to my intense relief, she finally replied, “No, I’m fine.”

But her line of questioning had effectuated questions of my own. “I’m curious now, though,” my voice almost to whisper now. “Have you ever…?” I realized that I couldn’t even say the words. I was glad I didn’t have to worry about blushing, for this topic was just as embarrassing for me to discuss. I couldn’t believe how quickly the conversation had turned.

“Of course not,” she flushed. “I told you I’ve never felt like this about anyone before, not even close.” And I took immense solace in her words, comforted that I was spared the jealous rage of imagining her with anybody else besides me.

“I know. It’s just that I know other people’s thoughts. I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.”

“They do for me. Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all,” she sighed.

“That’s nice,” I said, satisfied. “We have that one thing in common, at least.”

“Your human instincts… Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?”

I laughed, and playfully ruffled her damp hair. “I may not be human, but I am a man,” I assured her. And I lamented inwardly, because that was just one more hunger that I must keep on a tight leash. Another thirst that would be forever unquenched. For I could never be that man who Bella deserved. Our love could never be expressed in that most intimate of ways. And I cursed at the invisible shield that would always keep us apart.

Bella yawned.

“I answered your questions, now you should sleep,” I insisted.

“I’m not sure if I can.”

“Do you want me to leave?” Please say I can stay!

“No!”

I laughed, and struck up Bella’s Lullaby, humming softly in her ear. And within minutes, I felt her body relax, her breathing slow, as she fell asleep peacefully in my arms.

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Chapter 15 ¾. The Wager (Part 1)

I did not have to wait long for the talking. Bella, if possible was more verbal than usual that night. Most of it was the same old incoherent mumblings. I interpreted my name a few more times than usual, much to my satisfaction. She had certainly absorbed quite a lot that day and surely her brain required processing of all the new information she’d learned about me.

My own mind was getting its own feverish workout. She had asked a very touchy question, and in its own way, the scariest, most painful, yet most important question of all. She had asked about marriage and all that matrimony entailed. This was to be the soft spot of our relationship because I could never share our passion in that way with her. It was impossible. I would break her. I could kill her.

“Diamonds.” Bella mumbled. Even though I could guess where her dreams were taking her now, I still frowned again at the word. Diamond, from the Greek adámas, meant unalterable. How true that was of me. Forever a teenager, my body never-changing. I could not grow with Bella, become old with her. A diamond is also the strongest, most unbreakable material in existence, capable of cutting through steel and iron, crushing concrete and grinding brick without suffering a scratch. Such were the characteristics I possessed. I can do all those things, too. I too, am so destructive in fact, a bubble like Bella stands no chance against me.

“Mind over matter,” Bella breathed. Yes, mind over matter. I had said those words today. But therein lies the rub. Was my mind strong enough to forever vanquish this tethered demon within? Her blood would forever be the apple in our Eden. The forbidden fruit filled with such potent yearning, could I resist? It all seemed too easy in the wide open air of the wilderness. But she, here in my arms, in this warm little room, and her insinuations of marriage marinating in my mind, swimming with new desires. Was being of strong mind going to be enough?

“Stupid lamb.” How true. It was irresponsible of Bella for falling so deeply for me, a vampire after her own blood, no pun intended. Even more irresponsible on my own part, allowing her to do so, allowing myself to be so close to her, waving the temptation, so to speak, in her unknowing perceptions. Masochistic indeed.

Just then, Bella whispered, “Don’t go away.” It was as if she was sensing my current train of thought. I blinked away the anxiety and hugged her closer to my chest.

“I’m here Bella. I’m here for you always and forever.” Forever. Forever. Forever.

“I love you, Edward.”

We had declared ourselves in the meadow, but somehow, hearing it expressed in this way, drew all negative thoughts from my mind. And somewhere, I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly, a hole in my heart was filled, yet I felt lighter as a whole. It was truly an uplifting moment for my spirit. My mind finally at ease.

Those were the last words she had spoken and those three little words echoed over and over in my ears. She loved me. “I love you too, Bella,” I whispered softly in her ear. “More than you could ever know or comprehend. You are my life now.” And with one final sigh, Bella succumbed to a deep sleep.
**************************************************************************************

For the remainder of the night, she was giving me a memory. No longer did I crave for release from the coiled springs of violence. Our impossible love, requited with all the makings of a romantic epic. Not once did I ever feel I deserved such passion in this damned life I lead. But for once, I accepted it greedily and without reserve. Nothing, nothing, would ever shatter my devotion to her.

In the early hours of the morning, I left my Bella’s side. I couldn’t bare to leave her, but things needed to be dealt with back home. I had brushed it off at first, but if Alice’s premonition were indeed coming to pass, then I needed to prepare my mind, body, and… soul, if such a thing existed, for what that meant for me and my family.

I kissed Bella’s forehead before I jumped silently from her window. And as I ran through the forest towards the outskirts of town with the wind in my hair, and my love at my back… I felt free for the first time in I couldn’t count the years.
Chapter 15 ¾. The Wager (Part 2)

When I arrived home, the house was eerily quiet, for six vampires whose minds and bodies didn’t require rest. I became immediately suspicious. The last time their minds were this quiet was when I returned home those many years ago after I’d… but I didn’t want to think about that….

I entered the house with apprehension. I half-way expected to find everyone in the dining room, but instead they were all gathered in the living room. Esme and Carlisle were standing by the fireplace. Jasper was in the corner by Esme’s prize curio. Alice and Rosalie were sitting on the couch. Emmett was standing behind Rosalie with his hands on her shoulders.

I met Alice’s eyes and knew immediately that she was responsible for calling this informal meeting. She had foreseen it of course, probably the instant I decided to leave Bella’s bedside this morning. All of a sudden it was clear the reason for the subdued tones of my family. She had prepped them for an awkward conversation. And also consequently Alice knew that the “formality” of the dining room would have made things that much harder for me to handle.

I had always held nothing but utmost respect for Alice. She was the closest of my family to understanding the burden I feel in knowing others’ thoughts. I appreciated her even more now because she returned that faith in me. She had seen Bella here and urged the others to hunt in preparation. She had faith in me before I even had faith in myself. We exchanged a quiet nod of acknowledgement.

It seemed everyone was waiting for me to speak first. There wasn’t any other way around this. “So, uh, I would like to formally introduce you all to Bella today.” As if they didn’t already know what I was going to say.

Rosalie who had not looked at me since I had arrived, shot a cold glance towards me. There were no words in her thoughts, but I could nevertheless interpret the repulsion in her mind. Without a word, verbal or otherwise, she left the room in a heated rush. Emmett motioned to follow her but Carlisle spoke up.

“Leave her be," he said morosely. Emmett held back.

She’ll come around, Alice eyed me meaningfully.

“Bella is welcome to our home any time,” said Carlisle.

“We will be very happy to meet her,” Esme smiled sincerely. She and Carlisle exchanged a loving glance and quietly left the room.

Alice looked very pleased with herself. “I am going to go get ready,” she announced. But before she left the room, I felt her eyes on me. Go easy on them, she thought. I tilted my head and squinted in confusion. She grimaced slightly and replayed for me a conversation that took place early yesterday afternoon, not long after, I realized, when I had found myself cowering at the tree line. Back when I was still… undecided.

God, was that only yesterday? It seemed so long ago. Because my future is so solidified now that surely any wavering in my resolve must be in some distant past. But it wasn’t. It occurred to me that the reality of it just wasn’t so. The revelation made me flinch. And anger quickly took its place.

Alice looked suddenly alarmed. Go easy on them, she repeated, pleading now, and then dashed towards the stairs to change.

Emmett, Jasper and I were alone in the room. My temper flared. “You two took bets that I wouldn’t bring Bella home?!?”

Ugh, Alice!

“Don’t blame this on Alice! You really thought you could keep this from me?”

“Easy man, it was just a little wager. We didn’t mean anything by it.”

“A little wager? Didn’t mean anything by it? Who are you trying to kid? This is my life now. She is my life now. And you took bets over whether or not I would KILL her?”

“Well, we wouldn’t have blamed you. We would have… understood.”

“No. You obviously DON’T understand. You just don’t get it at all. If anything were to happen to Bella…” I didn’t want to think about it…. “If anything….” I took a deep breath. “I couldn’t live with myself, okay?” I continued. “I couldn’t bare it. Can’t you understand? She is everything! And you Emmett, I cannot believe you would bet against me. You are insane to have thought I would take this lightly.”

“Insane? What about you? I thought Alice was pulling our leg the other day when she said Bella would be coming here today. I wouldn’t have bothered, but Carlisle insisted we all hunt as a precaution, anyway, just in case. Dude, you got to be out of your mind bringing her here! I thought you cared about this girl.”

“I DO care about her which is precisely WHY I am bringing her here. I want to share my life with her and not just the life we pretend to live every day in this godforsaken town! And to call me crazy for wanting my family to be a part of it? How dare you!”

“Well just so you know, Rose won’t be a part of it. She wants nothing to do with it. I’ll try to talk some sense into her, but you gotta know why I can’t be here today. I think she would literally kill me! So I’m taking her to stroll the park instead. Keep her a chance to cool off.”

“Fine!” It was a lame thing to say back but it was all that I could manage. Emmett didn’t hold any personal grudges against Bella, I could see that, but he would stand behind Rosalie and I couldn’t blame him for that. I would expect nothing less of a man in love.

Sorry, dude, was Emmett’s last thought as he left the room in search of Rosalie.

I turned to Jasper and felt him gauging the atmosphere around himself. “Jasper, I just want to say thank…”

“Hold up,” he interrupted. “Before you get all sentimental on me…. I may not be stupid enough to go against Alice, but that doesn’t mean I am behind you one hundred percent either.” I could see it was hard for him to admit this, but at least he was being honest. “Bella isn’t one of us and I think it is a mistake bringing her into all this. It puts her and us at unnecessary risk,” he rationalized.

And I saw a distant muddled thought swimming in his mind. He didn’t think I would kill Bella yesterday, but a part of him wished I could have. He still was not over wanting to take matters into his own hands. Not that he wanted Bella dead, but he thought it would be easier if she wasn’t in the picture.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

He considered it for a moment. “You’re right," he answered finally. “I am resolved about that. For one, Alice would not allow it. And she would never forgive me. But also, I see now, that you would never forgive me either.” And Jasper’s distant muddled thought suddenly disintegrated, vanished completely, and I could see that his words were sincere. A wave of calm swept over me and I wasn’t entirely sure if it were merely relief or if it were Jasper’s uncanny gift which was responsible. Probably a little of both, but either way, I was grateful.

“Jasper, there is something else.” I felt disgusted for having to ask this of him.

Jasper's stance cahnged as he sniffed at the air again. “What do you have to feel guilty about?”

“Well. I’m just saying… no offense… but I have to ask you to… to keep your distance today. Just… back off, okay? Please?”

I could see the comprehension dawn on his face when he realized my implications. I could see the pain and shame my words had caused in him, too. This was what I was least looking forward to asking of him when I decided to come home this morning. But I was only too aware of Jasper’s agonizing plight with humanity. I knew his constant struggle to live so closely to humans. Alice nagged me about it nearly every day. And every day was an endeavor for Jasper. Like a drunk counting the days of sobriety. My family was his support group. We were his AA. And I had been his biggest booster of encouragement. Because I had been there.

I knew Jasper’s conflict. I knew what it felt like to be the monster. Just as Alice and I were burdened with knowing more than we should… as were I and Jasper in a different way. And I was once again immersed with guilt for betraying him in this way. But it was guilt of the past. Jasper’s involuntary recollections of his past reawakened a horrible past of my own. A time when I rebelled from our way of life.

It was not the first time today that I had been reminded of that darker period in my existence. I had the unfortunate curse of knowing my victims thoughts, seeing the terror through their eyes, seeing me for the monster I was. Jasper, likewise, could not see, but he could certainly feel his own victims’ fears and terrors. The life was hard on him for that reason. It had changed him, hardened him. And then Alice found him and showed him a new way. Alice was his second chance. His redemption to a better life. Now he feels guilty for all his past misdeeds. He is committed to being a vegetarian. But he still struggles. He still has desires. And I just couldn’t take that risk around Bella.

The air was thick with tension as I waited for Jasper to respond. And I could see in his reasoning that he knew I did not think any less of him. He was ashamed and hurt, but only in knowing that there was merit behind my request. He was strong… but not quite there yet and he owned that. He felt the guilt I felt but understood why I had to ask this of him and he did not hold it against me. Not betrayal, he thought, only prudence. And with a single firm nod, he disappeared up the stairs after Alice.

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Bella was still sound asleep when I arrived. I did not disturb her slumber by climbing back into bed with her. I decided to prove my patience and allow her to wake up naturally. Charlie had awoken shortly after dawn, and I had to momentarily hide behind Bella’s bedroom door, as he cracked it just wide enough to ensure she was still safely in her room. Once satisfied, he prepared a pitiful breakfast for himself and a thermos of coffee. And then he departed noisily in his cruiser, but not before re-enabling Bella’s truck for use. The Chief definitely thought his daughter had planned to sneak out. I could find only amusement there.
I waited through sunrise as I rocked in her chair, watching her chest rise and fall with each breath. Until the dull light from the lace-lined window reached her eyelids and finally roused her. She rolled over onto her side, blinking away the night, and joining me once again for a new day.
“Oh!” she cried suddenly, having shot straight up in her bed. She was a mess, but oh, so adorable.
“Your hair looks like a haystack…” I teased. “But I like it.”
“Edward! You stayed!” she cried with a tone of surprise in her voice. She bounded out of bed and clumsily tossed herself into my lap. I had to laugh.
“Of course.” I replied, rubbing her back.
She laid her head on my shoulder. It was so comforting that this all felt so natural to me. “I was sure it was a dream.”
“You’re not that creative,” I jibed. I was thinking about her poor acting skills about Charlie last night.
And then Bella tensed. “Charlie!” she exclaimed and then shot up towards her bedroom door.
“He left an hour ago.” She relaxed a little. “After reattaching your battery cables, I might add.” I allowed myself a smile. “ I have to admit I was disappointed. Is that all it would take to stop you, if you were determined to go?”
She lurched forward, alarmingly so that I almost went to catch her if she were to fall. But she caught herself.
“You’re not usually this confused in the morning,” I observed aloud. I held my arms out, eager for her to return to my lap.
“I need another human minute.”
I crossed my arms. “I’ll wait.” Forever, if necessary. But it was not. She was back in mere moments and I once again held my arms open for her. “Welcome back.” This time she obliged, curling herself back into my embrace.
We rocked in silence for a while, keeping time with her thudding heart. The rhythm was strangely meditative. To feel at ease with Bella in my arms was rewarding in the most complex of ways. Impossible to describe.
Bella looked up, realization donning on her face, though I didn’t know right away what sparked it.
“You left?” she accused feigning hurt. Ah! So she noticed my change of clothes. Ever the observant one. She stroked my shirt collar.
“I could hardly leave in the clothes I came in. What would the neighbors think?” Ha! As if neighbors would have noticed my comings and goings even if there were any around here to speak of.
She pouted. So adorable.
“You were very deeply asleep. I didn’t miss anything.” My eyes smiled this next part. “The talking came earlier.”
She groaned. “What did you hear?”
In all truthiness, I had never known Bella to be quite so verbose in her sleep then she had been last night. I could tell her any number of mumblings I had interpreted. But experience told me that was not what she was after. Better to just cut to the chase.
“You said you loved me.”
“You knew that already,” she said matter-of-factly.
“It was nice to hear, just the same.”
She blushed and hid her face. Why did she always have to hide her face when she was embarrassed? I suppose it was a normal human reaction, but for Bella… well… I really did enjoy seeing that reddening. Endearing.
“I love you,” she whispered again.
Now I smiled lightly and wished it were possible that I could muster a blush in return… but alas…. “ You are my life now,” I said simply, repeating what I had muttered just hours ago, though she could not have heard me then.
87 chair rocks and heartbeats later, I recalled my promise to myself last night about being more vigilant of Bella’s human needs. She had rested her head on my shoulder absently caressing my necklines with her fingertips. I glanced down and she was watching me.
“Breakfast time,” I announced. Her reaction was jolting. She reached up and grasped both hands to her throat, leaning away with a horrified expression on her face. My returning expression was none other than shock! How could she think I meant….!
“Kidding!” she sang, and then giggled moronically. “And you said I couldn’t act.”
“That wasn’t funny,” I complained. Why couldn’t she ever just act normally. Could this be some sort of defense mechanism?
“It was very funny and you know it.” She gave me that puppy dog face which I couldn’t stay angry at.
“Shall I rephrase?” I asked. “Breakfast time for the human.”
“Oh, okay,” she replied smugly.
I grabbed her teasingly and threw her over my shoulders. I half-way expected her to fight me and I was not disappointed. She squirmed all the way down the stairs which gave me the mildest bit of amusement, to get back at her for her little joke upstairs. I flipped her around and sat her on the chair I always had seen her sit at in Charlie’s thoughts.
“What’s for breakfast?” she asked, looking at me expectantly.
Uh. I had no idea. What kind of food could I prepare for her. I had never had to prepare a human meal before (unless it was a meal made of one- but I didn’t want to go there). I racked my brains for breakfast foods. I suppose I could fry some eggs for her. I had never tried cooking real food before, but it couldn’t be that difficult if humans could do it. Only I couldn’t do it by taste, and even the smell was nauseating.
“I’m not sure.” I mumbled at last. “What would you like?”
However her ruse ended in a toothy grin. “That’s all right,” she said. “I fend for myself pretty well. Watch me hunt.”
She rummaged the cupboard for a box of cereal. It was the same cupboard the money jar was in, I noted. And then she retrieved a gallon of milk from the refrigerator. I watched, fascinated. She sat back down in her chair, spoon in hand, ready to feast.
“Can I get you anything?”
I rolled my eyes. “Just eat, Bella.” And she took her first tentative bite. It was so strange, absorbing such normal things I had never really noticed befor, such as a human eating. How many school lunches did I sit through with my brother and sisters watching the other students eat? Yet I never really paid much attention. Somehow, watching Bella feed herself… I mean, really watching her, it all felt so new. Beautiful and repulsive all at the same time.
“What’s on the agenda for today?” she asked between mouthfuls.
“Hmmm…” I already knew what was on the docket… Or at least I hoped I knew based on the some-what reliable source that is Alice, what we might be doing. However, I knew all too well that things change. So I thought I would leave it up to her to decide. “What would you say to meeting my family?”
She said nothing, yet swallowed whole whatever was still in her mouth.
“Are you afraid?” I asked surprised, but almost hopeful of a normal reaction.
“Yes,” she admitted bluntly.
Finally! I thought. “Don’t worry.” I smirked, “I’ll protect you.”
“I’m not afraid of them!” she exclaimed.
Then why…?
I’m afraid they won’t…” she hesitated awkwardly. “…like me,” she finished. “Won’t they be, well, surprised that you would bring someone… like me… home to meet them?” She bit her lip. “Do they know that I know about them?”
“Oh, they already know everything. They’d taken bets yesterday, you know,” I had to force a smile, “on whether I’d bring you back, though why anyone would bet against Alice,” Emmett’s taunts raced to my mind, “I can’t imagine.” I shrugged it away for now. “At any rate, we don’t have any secrets in the family. It’s not really feasible, what with my mind reading and Alice seeing the future and all that.”
“And Jasper making you feel all warm and fuzzy about spilling your guts, don’t forget that.” She smiled.
“You paid attention,” I smiled back.
“I’ve been known to do that every now and then.” And then she grimaced. “So did Alice see me coming?”
Alice saw you coming before I saw you myself. It was only a matter of time, Alice had said over and over. Though I had given her such little credit. And denied her Bella. At least that would be remedied today, once and for all. “Something like that.” I turned away so she wouldn’t noticed my pained expression. I tried to change the subject.
“Is that any good?” I eyed the soggy remains of her breakfast. “Honestly, it doesn’t look very appetizing.”
“Well, it’s no irritable grizzly…” she scoffed.

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